Sunday, December 02, 2007

Things that irritate (Part 1)

(Causation versus correlation)

I was in Chennai recently for a "family function". Here are a few general observations about people:
1. They get terribly offended if you don't do exactly as they do
2. The reason they get offended is that they think since your action isn't exactly what they would have done, they have to defend their choice.

Considering that there are a million things you can do which is different from what your relatives do this can lead to some fairly interesting conversations.

"You brush with your left".
Considering that I am a part lefty that's about the only thing that makes sense. However...
"I brush with my right. You know Vatsyayana recommended brushing with the right since it stimulates the karmic center of the wave function".
I refrained from mentioning that Vatsyayana may have recommended brushing with the right hand but it would certainly not have been the teeth.
"You use Close Up. I prefer Colgate since it's been proved to be effective in preventing plaque". And thus went the long afternoons...

One of the things which came under this category was of course the assertion that "the reason America has so many divorces is because they do not have so many rituals governing their marriage".


The statement above is a perfect showcase of bad thinking. Let's see how.

The statement hinges on the assumption that divorces happen when rituals do not happen. However even if we are willing to concede that rituals (or the lack of them) are a very important factor contributing to a divorce how do we know if they are the one all important factor which cause divorce.

This is a classic case of causation versus correlation. While countries with high divorce rate have lower rituals they also have higher GDP and happier citizens. Whoops! The point is countries with higher divorce rates also has a lot of happier women. In fact countries with a higher divorce rate all also lie to the west of India. Co-incidence. I guess not.

That's the problem with causation versus correlation. Something that anybody who took QT anytime in life should be able to appreciate. Guess our man hadn't taken that course.

P.S: The guy who made the statement did take a QT course in his lifetime. Guess he just doesn't feel like applying himself to the subject or the subject to himself. Watch out for Things that irritate (Education versus Literacy)

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