causality. Just because two things tend to be correlated positively (one usually accompanies, or is associated with the other), doesn't necessarily mean that a 'cause and effect' relationship exists.
In the extreme case, take this correlative study, which I just conducted myself in the The Braintenance Blog Laboratories (located in a concrete and lead bunker located deep below the desert in Area 52 -- as Area 51 was already spoken for when we were working with the realtors in our search for cheap laboratory space.):
Stupid, yes. Bad science always is. Numbers don't lie, but the inferences drawn from them can be manipulated or interpreted in many, many ways. The results of some studies could never, ever pass the common sense test.
The article excerpt and the video which are embedded below are made available though SmartPlanet, a wonderfully informative publication:
Scientists have found a curious similarity between a serial killer's murders and the firing patterns of brain cells.
Read the article which follows; After doing so, please hit the "BACK" button on your computer's browser to come back and read some interesting observations about this type of "science" and its drawing of sadly useless conclusions!
Not very interestingSo the scientists have found that serial killing is somehow associated with becoming agitated. Well that's quite a revelation. I guess we can rule out that they did it in their sleep.
You put the cart before the horse
bumps on the head
It's only a matter of time...
Wait for it... wait for it...
Fitting the curve
1) Define the data points
2) Run the software to find the curve
3) Publicise the curve
It really sounds like a "Publish or lose tenure" situation. You get into the soft sciences and they can play some real games with data. I remember seeing a Biology (borderline hard/soft science) paper where an R factor of 0.3 was considered good. I'm a chemist. If I got results like that I'd service my measuring device.
If 20% of people controlled 80% of wealth, that would be a stable, or normal situation. The problem now and either a symptom of or cause of instability is the fact that 80% of the overal wealth is controlled by a much smaller group than 20%.
Every time such a disparity has occured historically, a correction (or war or revolution) has occured.
The pareto law applies to optimum functioning of the economy
Unfortunately, the majority of economists and financial experts are too stupid (i.e. unable to be trained out of it) to understand this concept and usually adhere to the fallacy of unlimited markets.
Now, back to Douglas E. Castle (who I happen to be)...
A statistical relationship is only a means, ultimately, of lending credence and credibility to a common-sense 'cause and effect' hypothesis, and even then, only if the proper experimental controls and conditions required by the Scientific Method are rigorously adhered to.
When it is doctoral thesis time, or when a batch of university professors get a publish-or-perish ultimatum, expect a rash of bad science to make its way into the news. I'll bet you that my reasoning here is right.
I could go a step further and make some emotionally-charged comments regarding the large pharmaceuticals companies and the FDA, but I wouldn't want to get myself put on a pseudo-ephedrine restriction list in the event that I have nasal congestion from whatever it is that I have been breathing...or perhaps reading.
Grow that brain. Ask questions. Stray off of the main roads. The world is your laboratory. Your life is a learning opportunity - have some fun with it.