New post over at Science In My Fiction, on a subject I try to hammer into the heads of my 1203-1213 students every year -- the problem of untangling cause and effect.
It's a tricky one, even for those of us who think we're clever educated critical thinkers. Dr. Skull and I, for instance, duking it out with the kid recently. She doesn't want to learn to play a musical instrument; Dr. Skull wants her to learn one. He argues that learning to play an instrument well makes you smarter. She argues (we've made her a little lawyer, this kid) that correlation is not causation -- that maybe it's just that smart people tend to make good musicians. I have to agree with her that this makes sense.
It's something we want, though -- to believe that if we do this, that will follow. If I get my PhD, I'll have a job & finacial security & a happy life. If I wear my seatbelt, I won't die in a crash. If I wish upon a star. If, if, if. We're looking for a way to control what is, essentially, not within our control.
On the other hand, who can blame us? The anxiety that comes when we admit that our fates are outside of our control can be, in fact, a bit unnerving.