False Cause (Fearsome Fallacies 5)

The fallacy of false cause is simple to understand: it is, as Copi and Cohen (1990) put it, “any reasoning that relies on treating as the cause of a thing what is not really its cause.” It can be called in Latin non causa pro causa.

Is common to see the claim that because something follows something else, it is the cause, it may be summed up as post hoc ergo porter hoc (after this, therefore because of this).

The common example is ‘the rooster crows and the sun rises, therefore the sun rises because the rooster crows.’  Which is clearly false. However, as Copi and Cohen (1990) state, “there are times when even the best of scientists, or statesmen, may be misled.”

The best remedy to false cause fallacy is remembering that ‘correlation does not imply causation.’

Sources:

I. M. Copi and C. Cohen. Introduction to Logic. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1990, p. 126.

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