A new study observed amazing correlation between ice cream consumption and drowning death. It is very likely that commercialized ice cream makers add harmful chemicals that interfere with human motor skills, or do they?
Everyday we are bombarded with information from ‘new medical studies’. Ordinary reporters present those stories in the most sensationalized manner, but intelligent readers need to do their due diligence before accepting the reported conclusions. Does drinking wine increase life expectancy? Is it unsafe to use cellphone, while driving? Do people eating organic food stay healthier? Some of the reported studies may have found ‘cause and effect’ relationship, but in other cases, we are observing the effect of a third variable. On hot days, more people have ice cream and more people like to go for a swim increasing number of drowning deaths. On cold days, very few people like to have ice cream or go for a swim. So, the above correlation shows effect of a third variable - weather.
Scientists are generally aware of ‘correlation is not causation’ principle in their own research, but when it comes to fields outside their own expertise, they take biased opinions of hacks at face value. Paul Krugman shouts at the top of his voice that WW II ended great depression, and therefore we need to start a war (a fake one with aliens, if no worthy opponent is found) to solve the current economic crisis. Did WW II really end great depression? Data shows that two events happened at the same time, but why ignore the presence of a third variable - social mood?