When we hear the rooster crow in the morning and then we see the sun “come up,” we make a huge mistake if we attribute the morning light to the rooster’s crow. Some ancient cultures made this error and ended up worshipping the rooster as the Sun God.
Today, we read message boards on the internet praising some cold remedy or other: “I took Brand X and in a few days my cold was gone.” Here’s the thing: Colds tend to go away on their own. The people spending billions on bogus cold remedies have confused causation with correlation. In contrast, causation is a proven direct link between one “event” and another. For example, eating a diet of Hot Pockets and Toaster Strudels while watching TV 20 hours a day does cause obesity. Driving while sleep deprived does cause an increased likelihood of a car accident.
How many fake panaceas, cures, and elixirs would lose their marketing appeal if the average consumer could distinguish between causation and correlation?
I read the rooster example in a book back in the early 1980s. I can't remember the book or author but wanted to thank him for an example that has stuck with me over the years.