In this post we will examine three popular sayings that have come under academic criticism recently. Are the criticisms justified? Are the sayings really nothing more than pseudo-profundity posing as tools for intelligent thinking? The sayings are: 

1. “Correlation is not causation.”

2. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

3. “The plural of anecdote is not data.” 

Correlation is not causation. The statement is true; that something correlates with something else does not mean one caused the other or had more than the remotest conceivable quantum-entanglement sort of connection. But this truth does not negate the possibility of direct connection. For example: the fact that Ted was in New York last Wednesday and a murder occurred in New York last Wednesday does not mean Ted committed the murder, yet maybe he did do it. “Correlation” has neutral value; that certain possibly evidentiary factors correlate in space-time may or may not have any bearing on the cause of an occurrence. How is it that intelligent people see something causal based solely on correlated data? One hypothesis would attribute it to unconscious awareness of a deeper truth: that, on a primal level, among all universes, all things are true. In some universe, Ted committed the murder, and in some universe Ted is unjustly imprisoned for a crime he did not commit because the jury did not understand the difference between causation and correlation. 

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In other words: just because one cannot prove Bigfoot exists does not mean Bigfoot does not exist. So the saying is true. Yet, just because one cannot prove Bigfoot does not exist, does not mean Bigfoot does exist in a given universe. Because, evidence, other than firsthand evidence, is never, in itself, proof; it is neutral material. Only the cloudiest mind can further miss the fact that “evidence” is not a process; evidence is not equivalent to making a reasoned evaluation—evidence is something presented for examination towards making judgment. If there is no evidence, judgment can only be suspended in a reasonable mind. 

The plural of anecdote is not data. This one is also true, if only because the plural of anecdote is obviously anecdotes, but such a straight-on perspective is irrelevant for those who prefer to obfuscate and treat all anecdotes—with or without corroboration—as likely fabrications or misperceptions. To further clarify: an anecdote does provide data, and many anecdotes provide more data. The concept of data is neutral; even hard data are neutral until examined according to some protocol, some systematic processing. Data are not inherently information, and no collection of mere data substitutes for knowledge. 

As annoying and unenlightening as “sound-byte intellectualizing” is, the above sayings are an encouraging sign. Because they indicate a breaking away from what Noetitek™ has revealed as “dyadic thinking,” which relates to the second-lowest neurological circuit, the one associated with fist-fighting, egoistic agendas, and either-or thinking. We see growing use of the above sayings as signifying a widespread half-step upward, a way to break from old habits of thinking, move up the neurological scale, and consider new meta-tools such as those made available by Noetitek™.


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