Types of Causal Arguments

In the post for Assignment A08: Causal Argument, I’ve provided several examples of specific recommendations you might find helpful in crafting Causal Arguments for your research topics. While you put your arguments together, decide what sort of framework suits your argument best:

Single Cause with a Single Effect (X causes Y)
“Facebook Can Cost Us Our Jobs”
The premise is that something supposedly personal, about which our employers should have nothing to say, is nevertheless available to our employers, and to prospective employers, if we make it so. What needs to be proved is that information about our non-work lives, or information we post to Facebook about our work lives, can keep us from getting a job, from advancing in a job, or from keeping a job.

  • You may say that sounds illegal or unethical, but your objection is irrelevant to the causal argument.
  • You could examine how different professions handle social media differently (for example kindergarten teachers might be fired for indiscretions that wouldn’t cost an insurance agent her job), because your topic is still what costs the teacher and the agent their jobs.
  • You could argue that free speech should be protected if it’s true, and nobody should be fired for saying his boss cheats on his wife, but your objection is irrelevant unless there really are certain types of speech for which we can’t be fired and types for which we can (X causes Z, but Y does not cause Z).
  • You could certainly make a good argument that employers have different policies regarding social media activities of their employees (X causes Y at Company 1, while X causes Z at Company 2).

Single Cause with Several Effects (X causes Y and Z)
“We Are the Casualties of the War on Drugs”
The premise is that the War on Drugs has been counterproductive, subjecting the nation to increased drug use and drug-related death. What needs to be proved is that government interference in drug production and distribution creates crime, interrupts quality control, causes disease, and kills users, traffickers, and innocent bystanders of the illicit drug trade.

  • You could argue that the prohibition of certain desirable substances leads inevitably to a frenzied underground and by definition criminal enterprise to meet the demand.
  • You could argue that criminals aren’t always scrupulous about the quality of the contraband they deliver and that their product often harms or kills.
  • You could point out the countless people languishing in jails for owning small amounts of something that used to be legal.
  • You might want to mention that drug use, even sanctioned use of safe prescription drugs, can be very detrimental in and of itself, but your comments would be completely irrelevant to the causal argument.
  • You might also want to say that drug dealers get what’s coming to them when they deal in illicit materials and it’s wrong to blame cops for killing them, but again, that’s irrelevant to the question of whether the War on Drugs results in death.

Several Causes for a Single Effect (Both X and Y cause Z)
“There’s No One Explanation for Gangs”
The premise is usually employed to refute the “common knowledge” that a single cause can be blamed for an effect. If you’ve chosen a topic about which everybody “knows” the cause and effect, your causal essay will dispute the notion that there is in fact a single cause.

  • You could produce evidence that gangs are more prevalent in public housing projects than in suburban neighborhoods, but with special care. You still won’t have identified the cause, only the location of the cause.
  • You could produce evidence that a large majority of the kids in gangs come from families without a present, positive, male role model, but with great care in how you describe the situation, to avoid using misleading shortcuts like “kids with no dads.”
  • You could describe gangs as often engaged in petty criminal activity or as pointlessly obsessed with territorial disputes, but it’s completely irrelevant to your causal argument to describe what happens after a kid is in the gang when you intend to prove why he joined it in the first place.

A Causal Chain (X causes Y, which causes Z)
“Failure to Prosecute Rape Causes Rape”
The premise is that rape occurs because it’s tolerated and that every resulting rape reinforces the sense that it will be tolerated. Rapes of female students on college campuses are routinely reported to campus authorities, not local police, and are kept from local law enforcement to protect the reputation of the school at the expense of the rights of the victim. What needs to be proved is that the rapes are in fact kept secret, that the assailants escape justice, and that there is local awareness that sexual assaults are not prosecuted or punished.

  • You might want to investigate how it came to be that colleges got jurisdiction for sexual assaults on campus, but it’s probably irrelevant, unless you can demonstrate that they did so deliberately in order to keep assaults secret.
  • You might want to explain what you think are contributing causes, such as the loss of bonuses or jobs for administrators on whose watch the public learned of campus rapes.
  • You would need to argue that somehow, even though the outside world never hears of these rapes, students on campus learn that assault victims are not believed or supported and that assailants are not punished. This is essential to the chain.
  • You could make a suggestion that if victims of rape refused to be “handled” by honor boards and campus judiciaries and took their cases to the local prosecutors instead they could break the chain. Arguing how to break the chain is a confirmation of why the chain continues.

Causation Fallacy (X does not cause Y)
“Violent Games Are Not the Missing Link”
The premise of this causation fallacy argument is nobody has yet proved a causal link between a steady diet of violent video games and actual physical violence in the lives of the gamers.

  • You might be tempted to demonstrate that gamers are actually sweethearts who join the Boy Scouts and help old ladies across the street without knocking them down, but you don’t have to. You merely want to prove that they’re no more violent than players of other games.
  • In fact, you don’t need to prove anything positive of your own to produce a strong causation fallacy argument; you only need to discredit the logic, the methods, or the premises of your opponents who think they have proved causation.
  • For example, if an exhaustive study finds a strong link between kids who play violent video games and kids who kick their classmates on the playground, you argue this is mere correlation. It’s equally likely that the kids were violent first and attracted to the games as a result of their taste for aggression.
  • You could also question the methodology of the supposed proof. If a questionnaire measures hostility, the answer: “I am suspicious of overly friendly strangers” no more proves hostility than it indicates a healthy wariness of the unknown.

In-class Exercise

Consider what you know about your own Topic and Thesis.
Make 5 brief Causal Arguments derived from your own research, as I have done above.

As an alternative, if you aren’t prepared to argue about your own reading, make the same brief arguments in reaction to the “Mammogram Team Learns from its Mistakes” reading.

  1. Single Cause with a Single Effect (X causes Y)
  2. Single Cause with Several Effects (X causes Y and Z)
  3. Several Causes for a Single Effect (Both X and Y cause Z)
  4. A Causal Chain (X causes Y, which causes Z)
  5. Causation Fallacy (X does not cause Y)

Example Questions you could answer with Causal Arguments:

  • What caused the woeful 65% national “success” rate for radiologists reading mammograms?
  • What caused Dr. Adcock to believe he could improve this horrible situation?
  • What caused Kaiser Permanente to adopt the dangerous new strategy?
  • What were the results of publishing the news internally for the radiologists to see?

About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels. www.davidbdale.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Causal Archives, davidbdale, Professor Post. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Types of Causal Arguments

  1. abcdefg577 says:

    1. Video games increase our abilities to communicate with others. (X causes Y)
    2. Storytelling games can increase empathizing and sympathizing, as well as alleviate the symptoms of various cognitive diseases. (X causes Y and Z)
    3. The FDA’s arduous approval process for medical devices and a general misunderstanding of the outcomes of playing video games are the two reasons that medically-geared games have not been classified as a form of therapy. (Both X and Y cause Z)
    4. Neuoscience backed games can alleviate the symptoms of several cognitive disorders, including Asperger’s, Alzheimer’s, and ADHD. These medical findings are inspiring calls for video games to become a form of prescription drug. (X causes Y, which causes Z)
    5. Stating that those with Autism should not play video games because they are prone to becoming addicted to this virtual form of entertainment is a fallacy. (X does not cause Y)


  2. thirdlady226 says:

    1) We are the only ones who can create happiness for ourselves.
    2) Not having a true purpose or not knowing our true purpose in life can cause depression, loneliness, restlessness, lack of motivation, sadness, and a sense of personal failure.
    3) Accepting who we are, figuring out what we want in life, assessing our personal talents and staying true to who we are can all help us figure out our purpose in life.
    4) Finding a true purpose in life causes personal happiness, which inevitably bubbles over and spreads happiness to others.
    5) Having goals doesn’t mean we will be happy. Some people find happiness in the journey of life, others never find happiness in the goals they set for themselves because once they reach them they set higher goals to achieve.


  3. bigfoot9 says:

    Single Cause with a Single Effect- Increased Obesity Rate has increased Health insurance Rates
    Single Cause with Several Effects- Building up Fast Food chains have made people fat, lazy, and increased health risks
    Several Causes for a single effect- Modified meat is effecting health and animal raising
    A Causal Chain- Fast food causes people to get obese, obesity causes many health problems
    Causation Fallacy- Drive thrus are making people fat


  4. sixfortyfive645 says:

    1. Sensitivity and protection of rape victims cause the prevention of the discussion of rape culture.
    2. The teachings of rape culture train boys to be aggressive, sexual beings and girls to be quiet sexual organs and which normalizes rape.
    3. The lack of discussion of rape culture causes people to be unable to learn how to prevent rape, which causes rape culture to enhance and thrive.
    4. Victim blaming causes victims to not report to the police or tell anyone else about their assault, which then causes their rapist to get away with the rape.
    5. Both a victim and perpetrator’s denial of rape is beneficial to both parties.


  5. haveanelephantasticday says:

    What constitutes consent?

    The premise is that the justice system is continuing to fail by letting rapists roam free and victims be victimized even after their traumatic incident. The male definition of rape and consent is askew which sets a stigma of what it is like to be a rape victim.

    1. We might want to say that since rapists aren’t being properly punished they have no fear of getting into trouble for their actions, potentially enabling them to victimize others.

    2. Since the women aren’t receiving the proper justice they deserve, they may begin to resent all men based on their traumatic experience. They may also become emotionally unstable and unable to maintain healthy relationships in their future.

    3. Since the rapists often are not prosecuted they are released and the victims are seen as “wolf criers”. They aren’t believed because their attacker wasn’t punished.

    4. Men are defining rape more loosely so other men get an unclear idea of what rape and consent is. This gives men the idea that a woman is consenting even though she may not have been.

    5. Women do not cause their own rape. (No matter how many times men claim that “she was asking for it”)


  6. bj112295 says:

    1. Single Cause with a Single Effect (x causes y)
    “Chemicals Can Damage Your Hair”
    Hair chemicals such as relaxer can damage your hair, for example the application of relaxer causes your scalp to get a burning sensation if left on too long.

    2. Single Cause with Several Effects (x causes y and z)
    “Being Natural is Good”
    Choosing to go natural may involve a lot of work but it leads to growth in your hair, also leads to healthier stronger hair.

    3. Several Causes with a Single Effect ( Both x and y cause z)
    “Naturalism is a Way of Life”
    Going natural and not using your hair as a chemical test field can lead to a happier life style in many African American women’s lives.

    4. A Casual Chain (x causes y which causes z)
    “Relaxer is a Huge No, No!”
    Applying relaxer to the scalp is a simple process, but if left in for a while causes a burning sensation, which then leads to loss of hair.

    5. Causation Fallacy ( x does not cause y)
    “Men and their Views”
    The reason many choose to go the non-natural root is because Black Men like it. So women feel as though it is necessary to get weave or put chemicals in their hair to look pretty, if they didn’t , they would not get any dates.


  7. hiralp365 says:

    1) In Vancouver, failure of treating heroine addicts with normal procedure results in government forming Insite program to help intense heroine addicts.
    2) By having Insite programs open, heroine addicts will be further damaging their health and may increase risk of several infection from people to people.
    3) To study the effects of heroine treatment on heroine addicts and to prevent heroine addicts from going out of control, Insite program was started.
    4) Having open access to heroine from Insite causes more heroine addicts to be on street which results in people to be worried and concerned about their safety on Vancouver streets.
    5) Having Insite shops in Vancouver causes people to be concerned


  8. palal24 says:

    1. Single Cause with a Single Effect:
    The premise is a doctor was fired because of ten misdiagnosed mammograms. This was proved by bringing in women who the hospital thought may have had cancer based on second looks at their x-rays. After reviewing the cases, they found that ten women indeed had breast cancer who were told they were healthy previously. What still needs to be proven is if each missed cancer was this doctors fault and if firing him was warranted.
    2. Single Cause with Several Effects:
    The premise is that publishing the news internally caused doctors to become aware of how well they diagnosed mammograms and therefore raised their overall success rates. This proved that by making doctors aware of their abilities in their specialty, they can make an impact on saving lives. What still needs to be proven is if there are any negative effects on doctors from receiving backlash about their work. It is yet to be certain how this effects the mindset of most doctors themselves.
    3. Several Causes for a Single Effect:
    The premise is under qualified doctors and subsequent misdiagnosis led to a 65% national success rate. This proved that many doctors reading mammograms were not adequately trained and therefore, they let many unhealthy women walk away or let many healthy women scared for their lives. What needs to be proven is that colleges and medical learning facilities are not testing radiologists and doctors enough to be sure they can read these challenging x-rays.
    4. A Causal Chain:
    The premise is Kaiser Permenante adopted the dangerous new strategy which led to a harsher critique of doctors work and therefore led to less missed diagnosis. What still needs to be proven is if women are listening to the new success rates and going out to get their mammograms done.
    5. Causation Fallacy:
    The premise of the causation fallacy argument is that there is not yet a 100% accurate way to diagnose breast cancer and as a result there will still be misdiagnosis no matter how skilled the radiologists are.


  9. fromcasablanca says:

    1. The use of excessive force on unarmed victims has led to many deaths. (X causes Y)
    2. Improper racial profiling from police officers has led to one racial group being targeted more than others. (X causes Y and Z)
    3. There’s no need for the use of excessive force in every case of arrest, especially when the offender is unarmed and multiple officers are at the scene. (Both X and Y cause Z)
    4. Failure to fire and sentence officers who have been involved in police brutality cases has caused more cases of police brutality. (X causes Y, which causes Z)
    5. The amount of authority police officers have is a problem. (X does not cause Y)


  10. douglasadams525 says:

    1. Mormonism causes individuals to believe in the practice of posthumous baptism. (X causes Y)

    2. A desire for universal salvation causes Mormons to disregard differing religions, and also results in the baptism of non-Mormons by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (X causes Y and Z)

    3. The belief in baptism for the dead and an open-minded disregard towards religious differences cause members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to baptize non-Mormon individuals after their death. (X and Y cause Z)

    4. The belief in baptism for the dead causes Mormons to baptize dead Jews, which causes members of the Jewish faith to become outraged. (X causes Y causes Z)

    5. Posthumous baptism by the Mormon Church does not result in the conversion of a dead person’s soul to Mormonism. (X does not cause Y)


  11. breadpatrol99 says:

    1. Single Cause with a Single Effect (X causes Y)

    2. Single Cause with Several Effects (X causes Y and Z)
    3. Several Causes for a Single Effect (Both X and Y cause Z)
    4. A Causal Chain (X causes Y, which causes Z)
    5. Causation Fallacy (X does not cause Y)


    • breadpatrol99 says:

      1. Single Cause with a Single Effect (X causes Y)
      A lack of information about refugees leads to a lack of sympathy for them.
      2. Single Cause with Several Effects (X causes Y and Z)
      The creation of political borders gives many a sense of identity, but isolates anyone who has no place to call home.
      3. Several Causes for a Single Effect (Both X and Y cause Z)
      Political turmoil and war create more refugees.
      4. A Causal Chain (X causes Y, which causes Z)
      Colonialism lead to the drawing of fabricated borders across the world, which eventually created civil unrest in these places.
      5. Causation Fallacy (X does not cause Y)
      Political refugees do not cause their own displacement


  12. twofoursixohtwo says:

    1. It is believed that the psychotic traits comedian test for is what helps them create new and interesting material. (X causes Y)
    2. Mental illness, while seemingly helping performers do what they do, traditionally needs some kid of release, and while some use their performances as self-medication, many turn to drugs, alcohol, and other damaging substances instead. (X causes Y and Z)
    3. Mental illness comes about from any combination of biological, physiological, or psychological factors. (Both X and Y cause Z)
    4. A troubled, neglected childhood is a common factor in the “class clown” troupe in schools in which these children seek attention through disruption and cracking jokes and hang on to the attention seeking nature into adulthood, using the comedic skills they’ve learn to their advantage. (X causes Y, which causes Z)
    5. Mental illness does not mean a person has the skills or talent to be a comedian. (X does not cause Y)


  13. americangods01 says:

    1. Edward Snowden caused the original explosion of controversy over the NSA
    Most Americans did not even know what the NSA was before Edward Snowden exposed his information.
    2. The exposure of the NSA’s surveillance cause two very separate sides in the politcal debate.
    There are many politicians who support the surveillance and many that oppose it.
    3. Section 215 and Section 216 of the Patriot Act caused the level of surveillance of the NSA.
    Section 215 allows for physical things (phone call records) accessable to the NSA and 216 allows for online things (internet searches, email senders and recipients) accessable.
    4. Heightened terrorist actvitiy caused heightened surveillance from the NSA which caused fear and suspicion in Americans of their own government.
    Because of things such as 9/11 led the US to react to the terrorist activity by giving more power to the NSA which made Americans afraid of what private information was being let out to people that it shouldn’t.
    5. Required court approval is not causing any more difficulty for the NSA to access the information they want to access.
    The courts will approve anything the NSA applies for.


  14. alexmoran17 says:

    1. Only we can produce our own happiness. (X causes Y)
    2. We work throughout our lives so that the smile of family and friends provide the happiness we so desperately strive for, leaving those around us also with some sort of relieving satisfaction. (X causes Y and Z)
    3. In the end, the tendency to often buy material goods or experiences seem to be the only route towards happiness in the long run for most people who may take life for granted. (X and Y cause Z)
    4. Being able to say that we are happy with our lives at the end of the day because we are fortunate enough to have the ability to live, in turn, provides us with comfort that we are experiencing our lives in the right way. (X causes Y, which causes Z)
    5. In conclusion, money cannot buy happiness, but the comfort and love of family and friends can.


  15. ndb1996 says:

    1. Keeping score based on the Mammogram reading, was an assault on their autonomy and prestige.
    2.When Dr. Adcock would look and evaluate the numbers of success rates of the doctors, he saw a way to hold the doctors accountable for their poor performance or even praise them for their good work.
    3.An unsuccessful doctor is not only producing poor results but is also wasting valuable money.
    4. Not paying closer attention to the statistics of these doctors has kept incapable and poor performing doctors in the work and continuing their downfall.
    5.”I had to assume they might be dangerous.” Dr. Adcock assuming these doctors are dangerous is unfair. though it may be true, numbers aren’t always essentially the BEST way to judge the performance of his employee.


  16. themildewmuncher7 says:

    1. The government supplying free heroin for addicts leads to reduced violent drug-related behavior. (X –> Y)
    2. The initial funding of this project in various European cities has caused it to go viral; gaining popularity in Vancouver as well as more cities to come. (X –> Y + Z)
    3. A combination of violent drug-related behavior and a negative connotation directed towards the city led to the institution of a heroin-reduction program. (X + Y –> Z)
    4. It is not uncommon for addicts to return to a regular daily routine after being introduced into this program, effectively erasing the negative aspects of their addiction without actually doing so. (X –> Y –> Z)
    5. Successful participation in the Vancouver heroin program does not result in widely accepted rehabilitation from drug use. (X –><– Y)


  17. bigcounrty609 says:

    1. Inaccurate studies make taking multivitamins look like a good thing.
    2. Taking a multivitamin everyday does more harm than good, and could case disease, cancer among other things.
    3. Inaccurate studies, neglect to do research, and societies ways, cause half of all americans to take a multivitamin daily
    4. Most people neglect to do research on multivitamins, therefore they don’t know the harm and continue to purchase, and because of that pharmacies make large profit on everyday vitamin sales.
    5.Positive studies cause the purchasing of multivitamins.


  18. belldere says:

    1. Students in college are subject’s to professors indoctrinating them with liberalism because there are more liberals in the education field.

    2. Professors are indoctrinating students leaving students with the fear of failing and not being adiquetly ready for the real world.

    3. Students are unable to express themselves freely and have a fear of failing due to the amount of liberals in the education field.

    4. There are more liberals in the education field causing more students to be indoctrinated with liberalism leaving them in fear of failing and ill-prepared for the real world.

    5. Indoctrination does not cause students not to study and fail.


  19. gemfhi says:

    1. (X causes Y)
    Exposure to horror causes a more stable state of mind, because it reawakens abandoned facets of the mind that aren’t applied anymore as a result of modern society.

    2. (X causes Y and Z)

    3. (X and Y causes Z)

    4. (X causes Y causes Z)
    The lack of survivalistic fear in modern society causes an unnatural mental state of which people aren’t programmed for, which leads to an underdeveloped mind.

    5. (X does not cause Y)
    Horror does not cause adverse mental conditions and is not responsible for a preexisting unhealthy mind.


  20. ohearnj8 says:

    1.(X causes Y) The excess number of inmates that are on death row leads to mass amounts of money taken from the state for legal expenses and to house them for long periods of time in prison.
    2.(X causes Y and Z)Racial profiling on juries in cases with African American males leads to a higher percentage of black males on death row, many of whom can not afford a satisfactory defense team. Often leading to their wrongful execution.
    3. (Both X and Y cause Z)States have yet to abolish the death penalty from their practices or racial discrimination thus leading to wrongful deaths .
    4.(X causes Y, which causes Z)Abolishing the death penalty saves the states money which they can spend in more needed areas.
    5.(X does not cause Y)Capital punishment does not have any higher deterrence rate than many non-lethal forms of punishment.


  21. xchuki says:

    1.Failure in signing agreements with European union provoked students to start protests.(X causes Y)
    2. Violence against students didn’t just increase people’s wish of being part of the European union, but it also galvanized the hate against the president and many government members.(X causes Y and Z)
    3. Cold weather and Christmas holidays forced many people to go back to their houses.(X and Y cause Z)
    4. After 2 months of protests government decided to legalize new dictatorial laws, which just made even more people to join the revolution.(X causes Y causes Z)
    5. Despite the fact that thousands of protesters occupied the center of the city, protest were peaceful and all the stores were untouched and open all winter. (X does not cause Y)


  22. jcirrs says:

    1. SeaWorld Parks contributes to the death of endangered species. (X causes Y)
    2. Animal captivity is wrong, many animals in zoos are starving and dying behind their cages. (X causes Y and Z)
    3. What helps animals lengthen their lifespan and help provide them with a better life is taking them out of its natural habitat, Sea World believes. (Both X and Y cause Z)
    4. A zoo capturing all these endangered animals lead other zoos to believe its ok to capture those endangered animals and take them away from their wild life. (X causes Y, which causes Z)
    5. Any animal at a zoo does not mean that animal is endangered. (X does not cause Y)


  23. crossanlogan says:

    Single Cause with a Single Effect (X causes Y):
    The prevalent definitions of rape, traditionally defined by men, often leave out the input of women and thus exclude the sex which is raped most often.

    Single Cause with Several Effects (X causes Y and Z):
    The fact that men tend to be the primary definers of rape can leave women feeling disenfranchised and can potentially lead to a more lenient definition of rape.

    Several Causes for a Single Effect (Both X and Y cause Z):

    A Causal Chain (X causes Y, which causes Z):

    Causation Fallacy (X does not cause Y):

    Feedback was requested! I’m having trouble finding causality 😦


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