A friends blog mentions a NewScientist article relating to a tribe that apparently cannot understand numbers beyond three. The conclusion by the researchers is that language determines thought. Although i don’t have training in this field, I don’t believe the conclusion for three reasons:
1.The tribes understand three. So their thought works on “one, two, three, many” even though their language only describes “one, two, many”.
2.If language determines thought, how does language evolve? These new words come from somewhere, many are combinations, many are not.
3.Thingamajig. The universal word for something there is not a word for, yet. Similarly many of us, when writing blogs for example, have trouble putting thoughts accurately into words. If language was determining my thought, this would not be a problem.
Listed in the new words above is “edutainment”. I would like to add a similar word to the English language “Educution” a combination of education and execution, defined as the process by which evolution advances with a sarcastic touch of letting the soon to be deceased exactly why they are being removed form the gene pool. Some reciepients of darwin awards could be said to have been educuted.
JCDM points to the above research as an example of Bad Science, and repeats the mantra that many scientists will have been told “Correlation is not the same as causation”!
I ran into this recently in the strange field of archeoastronomy. This is a field of archaeology concerned with ancient astronomy. Was Stonehenge an observatory, are the pyramids an observatory? etc. Here we clearly see where the mantra of “Correlation is not the same as causation” needs to be applied.
For a given stone circle/megalith/passage grave I guarantee that you will find a significant lunar or solar or planetary alignment on a specific day. Given enough bits of stones (and imagination) you can come up with some extraordinary possibilities, for example that Stonehenge was an ancient computer or able to predict eclipses. I’ll leave the eclipse predictions for another blog, but lets assume that it is possible to predict eclipses at Stonehenge, and that it can be used as a computer of sorts. Does that mean that it was?
Just because we have a correlation (what the people of Stonehenge could have done) does not imply that this is what they did. Lets take a techie example, MIThenge http://web.mit.edu/planning/www/mithenge.html. Imagine in future archaeologists arrive to find an intact MIT campus. On Nov 11th the Sun shines through corridors much as the way it does through the passage grave at Newgrange. Nov11th is remembrance day. Correlation… only! MIT wasn’t built with commemorating the WW1 dead in mind.
“Correlation is not the same as causation”! You need more than correlation before you can state a cause.
This has implications for IT also. You may be able to correlate certain events, but not find the casue. For example say after you install a patch cluster, something stops working. Though the cause may be to do with a hardware fault, or configuration change, that did not trigger until the machine was rebooted, the obvious correlation leads you to blame the patch even though it wasn’t the cause. I have seen several cases where it turned out that the root cause of the customers problem blamed initially on a patch was actually a hardware fault.