Confusing Cause

Description of Confusing Cause and Effect

Confusing Cause and Effect is a fallacy that has the following general form:

  1. A and B regularly occur together.
  2. Therefore A is the cause of B.

Post Hoc fallacy, the error is that a person is accepting that A is the cause of B simply because A occurs before B. In the case of the Fallacy of Ignoring a Common Cause A is taken to be the cause of B when there is, in fact, a third factor that is the cause of both A and B. For more information, see the relevant entries in this program.

Examples of Confusing Cause and Effect

  1. Bill and Joe are having a debate about music and moral decay:
    Bill: “It seems clear to me that this new music is causing the youth to become corrupt.”
    Joe: “What do you mean?”
    Bill: “This rap stuff is always telling the kids to kill cops, do drugs, and abuse women. That is all bad and the kids today shouldn’t be doing that sort of stuff. We ought to ban that music!”
    Joe: “So, you think that getting rid of the rap music would solve the drug, violence and sexism problems in the US?”
    Bill: “Well, it wouldn’t get rid of it all, but it would take care of a lot of it.”
    Joe: “Don’t you think that most of the rap singers sing about that sort of stuff because that is what is really going on these days? I mean, people often sing about the conditions of their time, just like the people did in the sixties. But then I suppose that you think that people were against the war and into drugs just because they listened to Dylan and Baez.”
    Bill: “Well…”
    Joe: “Well, it seems to me that the main cause of the content of the rap music is the pre-existing social conditions. If there weren’t all these problems, the rap singers probably wouldn’t be singing about them. I also think that if the social conditions were great, kids could listen to the music all day and not be affected.”
    Bill: “Well, I still think the rap music causes the problems. You can’t argue against the fact that social ills really picked up at the same time rap music got started.”
  2. It is claimed by some people that severe illness is caused by depression and anger. After all, people who are severely ill are very often depressed and angry. Thus, it follows that the cause of severe illness actually is the depression and anger. So, a good and cheerful attitude is key to staying healthy.
  3. Bill sets out several plates with bread on them. After a couple days, he notices that the bread has mold growing all over it. Bill concludes that the mold was produced by the bread going bad. When Bill tells his mother about his experiment, she tells him that the mold was the cause of the bread going bad and that he better clean up the mess if he wants to get his allowance this week.

Sivashanmugam. P.,

#2, First street, New Colony
Tiruchirappalli – 620020 – India
Mobile: +91 – 73056 12200

My Nature, Your Nature & the Nature of Everything


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