Archive for the 'correlation' Category

Full circle

December 13, 2011

When I was at the potluck supper last Friday night (mentioned in this previous post), where I’ve been going to services for the past few weeks, I ran into someone I know from another group.  And it struck me that I had ended up at the services indirectly because of somebody in that other group, somebody who has no connection to the services or to the person I ran into there, so in a way, it felt as if I had come full circle:  from the first group one person had invited me to join a second group, and someone at the second group had suggested these Friday night services, and then at the potluck at the services, somebody from the first group shows up.

So, I started thinking about how to look at that.  None of the groups has an overlapping mission with the others.  And it felt initially like a series of causes-and-effects, like a concatenation of invitations.  But then I thought, no, it’s on account of the fact that we’re all part of a (larger) community, maybe a sort of nebulous one, that shares some common characteristics about conformity (or not) and geography (greater Cambridge, MA).

Which by itself might not be particularly worthy of note, but what I liked about my series of thoughts was that it reminded me of how we sometimes see causation where there really is (only) correlation (including in medical, scientific, and social science research studies).  Each invitation did cause the next link in the chain, but really what seems to be going on is that we are one larger group that subdivides from time to time and coalesces into smaller groups, maybe like the way the pieces regroup inside a kaleidoscope when it’s turned.  From a bird’s eye view, the chain and its links are not primary, although that’s the way it may be experienced on the ground.