Same cause, same effect? A guest blog on causation in science

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by Maritza Ilich Mauseth

This is a discussion of an article by J.C. Crabbe, D. Wahlsten and B.C. Dudek on the ‘Genetics of Mouse Behavior: Interactions with Laboratory Environment‘, Science, 284, 1670-1672, 1999. It is written for the course PHI302 Causation in Science at Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Mauseth is a Master student in Ecology at the Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource Management, with 170 credits in biology and an additional 15 (soon 20) credits in Philosophy. I asked her for permission to include the discussion in my blog as an example of how philosophical reflections about causation in science can be done in practice. Continue reading

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When a cause cannot be found

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There is a philosophical problem within medicine: how to deal with causal complexity and variations. While existing methods are designed for large scale population data and sufficiently homogenous sub-groups, a number of medical conditions are characterised by their heterogenic and complex nature: low back pain (LBP), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), tension-type headache (TTH), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and many others. Continue reading

One effect, many causes

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Typically there’s more than one cause for an effect. Even if one causal factor seems to have contributed in particular to a certain outcome, other factors were almost certainly involved. Often we tend to forget this when we look for causes, and end up focusing too narrowly on what might only be a triggering factor. Continue reading