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Thread: Causality Effect - Settle a disagreement

  1. #1 Causality Effect - Settle a disagreement 
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    This is a true story unforunately.

    On thursday a girl was due to attend school. However on that day the school was closed. On that day the girl went to the park, she sat on a bench. A disaster was about to occurr, a tree banch fell struck and killed the girl.

    What's the cause and what's the effect here?

    What we know:

    That branch was due to fall there or abouts at that exact time and sitting under it would be deadly.

    Had the school not been closed the girl would have gone to school, and we can say with confidence (not 100%) she probably would have got there alive. She certainly wouldn't have been sat under the bench that day.

    Now on one side the cause is the tree striking and taking her life. However if the school was open she wouldn't have gone to the park and sat there.

    Now is the cause the tree branch or is what's central to these outcomes of events the school being open or closed?


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  3. #2  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    There is no cause here, only coincidence. There are a zillion possible directions our lives can go in each passing moment. For all we know, it's related to the toothpaste she used. You cannot assign cause in the way you are attempting and have any chance of being accurate in your conclusions... not in the described scenario, anyway.


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  4. #3  
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    Causality can be only one step removed.
    She died because she was struck by the branch, that is the cause that can be estabilished.
    She may have not died had she sat in a different spot or time.
    She may not have gone to the park .
    The school may not have been closed.
    It is impossible to estabilish causality for any other events other than the falling branch.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by MigL
    Causality can be only one step removed.
    She died because she was struck by the branch, that is the cause that can be estabilished.
    She may have not died had she sat in a different spot or time.
    She may not have gone to the park .
    The school may not have been closed.
    It is impossible to estabilish causality for any other events other than the falling branch.
    The root cause of death is birth. Everything else is minutae.
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  6. #5  
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    The school was already planned to be closed on that day. It was determined a week or so beforehand.

    She wouldn't have been at the park had school been open. That's guarenteed.

    We know for absolutely certainty she died in the park, based on the number of times she successfully walked to school without incident can we not say with almost certainty that had the school been open, she would have a) not gone to school and avoiding sitting under the tree at that time, and b) 99.9% chance would have made it to school as many millions of kids do every day?

    I know she may not have gone to the park even if the school closed but we know for certainty that she did, and she predetermined on that day she would.

    This makes my head hurt.

    How about if the school was due to be open on Friday, but (for whatever reason) the school board shut the school on friday. A total freak event caused the roof to cave in on part of the school at the exact time the school would have assembled for roll call.
    Did the school board save lives by making it's decision to shut the school?

    Assumptions:

    The school may or may not have been shut that day.
    The accident would have certainly resulted in atleast one death.
    The action to cause the accident was a certainty at time of roll call.
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  7. #6  
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    The branch hitting her could be said to be the proximate cause of her death; that is, the last event to take place before the event. However, there are more proximate causes than this - the branch perhaps causes internal bleeding, causing cerebral anoxia, causing death.

    There are also numerous other causes that contribute to the scenario, including ones not normally considered: gravity for instance. There is said to be a plurality of causes. These could be divided into necessary conditions and sufficient conditions. Sufficient conditions invariably produce a certain outcome. None of the events described seem to be necessary, other than perhaps the operation of gravity in the absence of an opposing force. Necessary conditions are those that were necessary for the event to take place, but in themselves would not cause the outcome. It was necessary for the unfortunate girl to make a number decisions which caused her to be in the park at that time. There were also a plethora of necessary causes involved in making the branch fall.

    Mill took the sufficient cause one step further:

    The cause... is the sum total of the conditions, positive and negative taken together, the whole of the contingencies of every description, which being realized, the consequence invariably follows. 1
    Having said all this, as the others have said, it is extremely unlikely we would ever know all these causes. However, as the Buddha said, there is no coincidence here - just causes we don't understand.

    This is philosophy. Mill and Hume wrote extensively on causality.

    1. John Stuart Mill: A System of Logic (1842); no idea what page.
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  8. #7 Re: Causality Effect - Settle a disagreement 
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    Quote Originally Posted by darkowl
    What we know:

    That branch was due to fall there or abouts at that exact time and sitting under it would be deadly.
    We don't know that at all. I would go as far as to say that it is the thing we least know of all.

    Perhaps the branch would not have fallen if a certain squirrel hadn't walked along it at the wrong time and caused the final weakening at the joint after years of decay. The squirrel would have walked over it earlier, but an old woman had left out some food that morning.

    Or a bus passing by in the distance caused the slight vibration in the ground that made the branch fall. Perhaps the bus had been delayed by emergency roadworks due to a burst gas pipe, or a car breakdown. Or perhaps it was on time for once.

    See where this is going?
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  9. #8  
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    You need to define causality.
    One thing we do know is that causality is repeatable, ie the same cause will lead to the same effect ( unless you're dealing with QM ).
    By this simple condition we arrive at the cause of death being the branch hitting her head. No matter what the other variables, if a branch of that size hits your head, you die. As a matter of fact if she had gone to school and got hit in the head with the same branch, she would have still died.
    For any of the other variable conditions you mention ( the school is closed ), but other variables are changed ( she doesn't sit under the tree ), the result is different and she doesn't die.

    Unless all other variables are isolated, causality cannot be proven.
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  10. #9 Re: Causality Effect - Settle a disagreement 
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpeedFreek
    See where this is going?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2W8XKK-3Rk
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  11. #10 Re: Causality Effect - Settle a disagreement 
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    Quote Originally Posted by SpeedFreek
    See where this is going?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2W8XKK-3Rk
    Heheh, I wonder what unseen chain of events was caused by that cat flushing that toilet at that particular time.

    I have to ask the OP .. why, exactly, was the school closed?
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  12. #11  
    Forum Bachelors Degree 15uliane's Avatar
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    like other posters have said, it is near impossible to determine the cause of an event as large as this one. You could be searching in a neolithic cave and still not find the answer. How many steps do you want to go back?
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  13. #12 Re: Causality Effect - Settle a disagreement 
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    Quote Originally Posted by darkowl
    This is a true story unforunately.

    On thursday a girl was due to attend school. However on that day the school was closed. On that day the girl went to the park, she sat on a bench. A disaster was about to occurr, a tree banch fell struck and killed the girl.

    What's the cause and what's the effect here?
    It was a coincidence. An ideal cause and effect relation must be reproducible. For example when water starts boiling at 100 C and normal pressure. A single event does not allow us to determine the cause.

    .
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  14. #13 Re: Causality Effect - Settle a disagreement 
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    Quote Originally Posted by darkowl
    This is a true story unforunately.

    On thursday a girl was due to attend school. However on that day the school was closed. On that day the girl went to the park, she sat on a bench. A disaster was about to occurr, a tree banch fell struck and killed the girl.

    What's the cause and what's the effect here?
    It was a coincidence. An ideal cause and effect relation must be reproducible. For example when water starts boiling at 100 C and normal pressure. A single event does not allow us to determine the cause.
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  15. #14 Re: Causality Effect - Settle a disagreement 
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    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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  16. #15  
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    If we were to analyze it with the objective of preventing similar events in the future, we would probably find that the cause was a failure of the park maintenance department to remove weak limbs from the tree, or perhaps a bad choice of location for the park bench.
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