Causal Argument Advice FA15

McDonald’s is Exporting Diabetes
Bigfoot9’s claim is that, by opening restaurants around the world, McDonald’s is ruining local culture and creating obesity and diabetes in countries where both were rare before the restaurants arrived. It’s an intriguing claim but will not be easy to prove. The best we can hope for is a persuasive case (or a preponderance of the evidence). So far, the evidence on diabetes and obesity is not conclusive. Correlation has been shown but not causation. Restaurants have been opened, and a high percentage of obesity and diabetes have been observed, but no evidence yet suggests that the medical problems are related to the restaurants. We haven’t seen evidence that regular customers are less healthy than locals who don’t eat at McDonald’s. We don’t know if the high rates of disease are increases over earlier numbers. We also haven’t seen any evidence of the impact on “culture.” One quote says that original Mexican dishes, for example, used goat and salsa. Those dishes most certainly are still prepared and consumed. Bigfoot also claims that Americans have “always” had fast food restaurants, which misses a couple of points. 1) American culture has not been ruined by Chinese restaurants, Taco Bell, or Olive Garden; they’ve been absorbed into the culture. 2) The best evidence of the influence of fast food on a culture would be here in America, where the sugar- and fat-laden drive-thru meals we consume have had demonstrably bad consequences.

Mormons Anger Jews
DouglasAdams claims that Mormons—by baptizing Jews into the Mormon religion without the Jews’ blessing, often without their knowledge, occasionally  against their expressed objections, sometimes even after their death!—are pissing off Jews; others too, but in particular, living Jews who sometimes lash out in return against the perceived insult. DA could investigate the psychological causes for this behavior. The facts are clear enough. Mormons want to offer salvation to non-Mormons, so they baptize them, which they believe will put them on a path to heaven. Consequence: Jews who are so baptized resent the action. Further consequence: one in particular has retaliated by offering to convert dead Mormons to homosexuality. That’s a simple and clear causation chain. Identifying it is half the job. The other half is to explain 1) what the Mormons get from their procedure, 2) why the surprised beneficiaries feel so abused. We’re clear on the actions but not on the causes.

Men Define Rape
As far as I can tell from CrossanLogan’s White Paper, the currently available causal arguments involve the two questions: 1) why do women suffer rape instead of gouging out the eyes of their assailants?; and 2) why do women not report rape to police and prosecutors? The only evidence available from the White Paper is that women have been considered the property of men since Hammurabi’s Law was the prevailing code of the world. Two examples are offered.

Kelly was coerced to perform fellatio by way of blackmail. Her rapist suggested that he would lie about her. He didn’t in any way avail himself of the ancient notion that women are property. He doesn’t appear to have considered Kelly his property. He took advantage of her vulnerability and recognized that she considered her reputation to be more valuable than her actual honor. The Causal Question is whether she consented by making that trade-off? Another causal question is whether her rapist would have been convicted. Neither ethical calculations appears to have been based on the concept of property.

The other woman, Maria, was forced by a more physically powerful uncle. No court would have considered his niece to be his property, so something else must have given him the idea that he could get away with it.

I’m sorry to say this, but if there are Causal Arguments here, they’re going to be distasteful. Maybe we can stipulate that men rape either for lust or power. The question why more women don’t drive a pair of scissors into their eye sockets is more complicated. Some comply because they’re physically threatened and fear death or grievous injury more than the loss of virginity or honor. Some comply for economy. Some to keep the peace at home. Some to save their reputations. Why rape occurs is at least one supremely relevant causal question, the only one crossanlogan has addressed so far.

Men Define Rape
Elephantasticday offers the same general thesis as crossanlogan, that the fact that men define rape places rape victims (usually women) at a legal disadvantage. ED doesn’t say so explicitly, but the argument is implied. Instead, the overt claims here are that “rape culture” blames the victims for sexual assault and “normalizes” male sexual violence. Beyond those bald claims, so far, the author takes everything else for granted. The argument says, for example, that only 16% of rapists spend a night in jail, but it does not explain whether that’s because the rapes are not reported, or the rapists are not known, or they’re not apprehended, or their lawyers get them released, or police don’t think they can or should be held, or . . . . The causal question of why men rape is not addressed yet. The causal question of why women can’t or don’t avoid victimization is not addressed. The causal question of why the culture persists is not addressed. What is addressed, and it’s a fascinating issue, is that by being “tolerant” or “multicultural,” we open ourselves to condoning distasteful practices of other cultures, such as violence toward women. If this line of reasoning can in any way be supported with evidence, it will make a very compelling argument.

The Marshmallow Test
Palal is writing about the Marshmallow Test, a famous experiment in which children purportedly demonstrated whether they were victims of an “immediate gratification” impulse, or whether they had the “willpower” or “self-control” to resist present temptation in order to achieve a return on their investment. The psychologist who conducted the experiment collected data on his subjects for decades and concluded that those who resisted the marshmallow in front of them for the promise of a second marshmallow in the future were more “successful in life” than their hungrier (more impulsive) counterparts.

Oddly, Palal begins the Causation Argument by suggesting that “self-control” isn’t an innate characteristic, but a skill to be acquired. Using the example of a medical student who needs to be ready for class every day, Palal suggests that the skill of self-regulation enables the student to resist impulses that would gratify immediate desires in favor of delayed gratification. That may well be true, but the Marshmallow Test results indicate (if they’re to be trusted) that impulsiveness and self-control were personality traits displayed in children and statistically maintained throughout their lives. Palal’s argument so far seems to indicate these “personality traits” are more like “techniques” that can be desired, pursued, and acquired. Sadly, Palal engages in a series of inconclusive Rhetorical Questions instead of claims when claims are most needed. So the essential Causal Question remains to be answered: can “self-regulation” be acquired, or is it hard-wired into our personalities? One aspect of the test not addressed here so far is whether some children trusted the testers and others distrusted them. Any sane person will eat the available marshmallow if the promise of a second marshmallow is dubious. Palal appears to believe that the evidence proves self-regulation can be taught, but this reader remains skeptical, awaiting something more conclusive.

Dangers of Extreme Breastfeeding
Grace opens by extolling the benefits of “natural” feeding but warning that the same benefits of breastfeeding an infant are outweighed by the psychological dangers of failing to wean a five-year-old. Grace offers a conclusion, early, without support, that late weaners “will not be able to evolve on their own.” So far in the essay there is no support for the various claims that being “attached” to the mother interferes in any way with the child’s socializing skills or acclimation to the environment. The suggestion that other seven-year-olds will ostracize a breastfed seven-year-old seems reasonable, but doesn’t calculate backwards to earlier weaners. An intriguing suggestion is offered that children who can “help themselves” to breast milk have not begun to learn body boundaries. Grace acknowledges but does not answer the difficult questions of Why the parent breastfeeds for so long. Grace refuses to speculate whether the motivation is narcissistic or nurturing, but suggests that a child who doesn’t need diapers shouldn’t be nursing. Both are milestones of independence and development. In short, the argument appears to be an overall appeal to “normalcy” without any attempt to demonstrate that normal is objectively better than the alternative.

Benefits of Video Games
ABC is making a familiar argument, which means the bar is set very high for excellence here. Those of us who have read dozens of essays advancing the same argument are a bit jaded and approach another with little confidence that we’ll find something new or more persuasive than what we’ve read before. The opening claim is modest: game play leads “to cognitive benefits.” The first logical claim is entirely “relational,” not causal: These brain chemicals that are released are involved in brain plasticity, which involves learning abilities. Chemicals “are involved” with plasticity, which “is involved” with learning abilities. (Pesticides are “involved with agriculture,” which is “involved with” nutrition, but that doesn’t make pesticides edible.) The analogy to educational games is more persuasive (still, nobody says dodgeball makes us smarter). These “relational” results are suspect both in their subjectivity and their vagueness. The burden may be on ABC to cite very specific examples of exactly what improvements were measured instead of depending on summaries like “marked improvement in areas of cognitive ability.” It’s also possible the opponent here is a straw man. Probably nobody would claim there’s no benefit to interactions conducted via a computer monitor. The harder argument would be to disprove what many people do say: that days and weeks of first-person shooting games don’t provide benefits outside the game. I suspect that harder argument could also be made persuasively, but it would require more evidence than industry-funded research that concludes: players have increased plasticity.

We Create Our Own Happiness
ThirdLady has taken up the challenge of writing an excellent essay on a topic that has thwarted many others. Before I offer specific advice, I’ll plug in feedback I’ve provided to TL’s predecessors.

Bglunk is making arguments on both sides of the debate about whether happiness can or cannot be pursued. Clearly some people are happy; others are not; the question is what makes them so. Most commonly, the argument is made that a superficial life of selfish devotion to immediate gratification is ultimately unfulfilling, whereas a life devoted to the selfless pursuit of a long term greater good not only results in happiness, but actually defines what it means to be happy. The Pursuit itself gives life the meaning that is the closest humans can come to happiness. The whole argument is cause-and-effect. Superficial results in despair; devoted commitment results in happiness, it says. Explaining why the formula is true would be the harder part for bglunk. Perhaps humans can’t ever be truly satisfied. If we accept that as a premise, satisfaction is a pointless and desperate goal. The cast of the Housewives of Atlanta should be satisfied, but they spend their agitated lives comparing what they have to what they should have. They’ll never be the world’s richest and most beautiful person, so they’re miserable. The only happy humans are those who don’t strive for perfection; they only strive to improve, to contribute, to do their best. They pursue something, and the pursuit is their happiness.

Username wants to prove—contrary to our Declaration of Independence, which declares our right to “the pursuit of happiness” unalienable —that happiness is not a goal that can be pursued. Either that or they mean to prove that the pursuit of happiness can itself be happiness. Either that or they mean to prove that happiness is a process, not a goal, or that a “meaningful life” with a “sense of purpose” is preferable to “mere” happiness. Or something else. They might want to talk with Username about the Paradox of Choice. Maybe the harder we strive toward unattainable goals the more likely we are to feel deprived, the more like failures. That’s a simple, if fuzzy, cause/effect relationship that would explain most of the material they’ve been presenting so far.

The nagging difficulty of this topic is that no matter how reasonable its conclusions sound, the opposite is always equally likely. ThirdLady says we achieve happiness by discovering our true passion and pursuing it. The argument is framed in terms of matching our “capabilities.” But it’s all too easy to imagine a life devoted to the pursuit of a major league baseball career, matching our natural abilities to hit and field with our passion for the game, which results in a life of misery when we’re not quite good enough to rise to the majors. It’s equally easy to imagine an extraordinarily happy person without much ambition who has a reasonable job and the personality to take enjoyment in all the small pleasures of daily living. None of these can be disproved, but neither are they universal. They’re all just one person’s opinion.

Confinement Causes Abnormal Behavior
Wild chimps confined in zoos will rock in place and eat their own feces. They do not do so in the wild. What we see in the zoo is not natural chimp behavior, however much we would like to think we’re observing animals as they are. We might as well try to generalize about human behavior by studying prisoners in solitary confinement. That simple but chilling observation at the heart of marinebio’s argument (not arguement) is the beginning of a powerful indictment of zoos as a pastime, and it most certainly debunks the notion that zoo visitors are learning much if anything about the wildlife they pass by on their way to the refreshment stand. The only challenge to making this case will be finding the illustrations of problem behaviors that demonstrate mental illness in the animals. If the case for the chimp can be made, what illustrates the anxiety, helplessness, or psychosis in the big cats, the reptiles, the killer whales? It will be easy to name the differences between their pre-capture lives and their lives in captivity, but we need to SEE the consequences to know that the causes are having effects.

Captivity Causes Harm
Jcirrs, like marinebio18, is arguing that parks like SeaWorld are harming the endangered wildlife they exploit for profit, but the draft begins with the claim that the trainers (not the animals) are at risk. The danger to inexperienced staff seems to be a side-line argument to the primary thesis. If the thesis is so broad that the paper just offers disparate reasons to shut down SeaWorld, I think the approach should be narrowed. There should be plenty of evidence that bringing animals out of their natural environment into captivity is harmful to them (and perhaps to the populations that are left behind).

Judging from what I see here, two sides of the harm conversation are being considered. 
1) The thesis at the top of the page says trainers are in danger.
2) The long paragraph emphasizes that the handlers are not vets nor biologists. The suggestion that they lack the training needed to properly interact with the animals is good evidence that they’re doing the animals harm, not the other way around.

I’d stick with that argument. Naming it is not enough: offer examples of the sort of mistakes that can occur from inexperience.

Rape Victims are Branded as Sluts
The causal argument here is part of a popular topic: that men define rape and that, therefore, they exonerate male behavior and blame women for failing to protect themselves. 645 dives right into a Causal Chain (calling it a “domino effect). The gist of the argument is that victims are “slut-shamed,” which results in their reluctance to report their rapes or prosecute, which results in a tolerance for rape, which leads to more rapes. But 645 can’t have all that cake and eat it too. If the victims don’t report their rapes, they don’t get shamed, and nobody knows that a rapist is running around free. For the chain to operate, public knowledge of the rape is essential. There can still be slut-shaming, but it occurs when the rape is acknowledged. THEN the victim can be blamed and shamed, THEN the prosecution can argue that what occurred was not actually rape, THEN the rapist can go free for everyone to see, THEN a culture of rape tolerance results. After that, rape victims will of course be reluctant to report their assaults since they know no good will come of it. To make the case that outcomes are similar for wives taking their husbands to court for rape, a current example from case law would be very helpful. Pointing back to 1670 doesn’t make the case for current attitudes. The second example of slut-shaming (the 12-year-old girl) is more effective than the introduction because it involves public knowledge of the details of the event. Still, it’s hard to conclude that any reasonable person reading the idiocy of the social media comments would be persuaded to agree with them. In fact, a counterargument 645 will have to address is that girls reading those comments, realizing that they are unlikely to have the community’s support if they themselves are raped, might take better care to keep themselves safe. The final example is a nice bit of argument, but doesn’t quite follow through on its own premises. The essay wants to show a domino effect, but these conditions are slightly different. There’s still a chain that results in a tolerance for rape, and which might contribute to many more victims and lifetimes of shame. The difference here is that the “common knowledge” is “you probably didn’t initiate it, but you’re so lucky your rapist did,” whereas the other was “you probably wanted it to happen.” That’s not a big difference, but it’s an important one: the reaction to one is “I most certainly did not”; the reaction to the other is “absolutely I did.” Shame cuts both ways.

Comedy Born of Tragedy
According to the introduction, 24602’s argument is that comedy can be light or dark. This is not yet causal, but when a causal argument emerges, we suspect it will be that balanced, positive, optimistic comics make charming, light pieces of amusing art performance, while their unbalanced, troubled, neurotic or even mentally ill counterparts mine much darker subject matter and still manage to be hilarious, but at greater risk. (That’s not exactly a line between comedy and tragedy; it’s two types of comedy; but since I’m still guessing, I could be way off base.) The summary statement drawn from McGraw and Warren’s “Benign Violation Theory of Humor” doesn’t exactly stand up to scrutiny. Presented with a landscape with a green sky, we don’t laugh. The off-color sky is a benign violation of our expectations, but its mere difference doesn’t make it comical. There must be something else at work in comedy. The distinction between the stubbed toe and the severed hand is useful, but what we’ve lost in this paragraph is what question we’re answering. Are we looking for comedians who specialize in the stub or the severing? Or are we looking for masters who can deal in both with success? And why? (The title is Comedy from Tragedy). 24602 can have it both ways, but only with careful organization. One paragraph tries to pair the comedian’s obligation to soothe the audience’s anxieties AND cure his own with the same material. (So, are we talking about types of comedians after all? Or types of comedy? And why?) By the end of the argument, its intention is clearer. The point is to identify comedians whose response to personal trauma is to craft an attitude that confronts the emotional devastation of severe experiences and in presenting them to an audience purges them. Audiences are invited to contemplate the devastation, perhaps resonate with traumas they have themselves suffered, and vanquish the pain by recognizing the inanity of continuing to suffer from old hurts. Or something like that. 24602 should consider flopping the order of the paragraphs because once we understand how the argument ends we’re much more likely to follow how this particular essay begins.

Fashion Oversexualizes Girls, Causing Slut-Shaming
This argument stops short of concluding that rape will be the ultimate result. Other arguments in this same semester have drawn connections between slut-shaming, rape culture, and rape. Here, instead of extending the argument to a further conclusion, brxttyb extends the chain backwards to blame the fashion industry for beginning the cycle that leads to a diminished social status for girls. A quote from one source tells part of the story: “Most girls as young as 6 are already beginning to think of themselves as sex objects, according to a new study of elementary school-age kids in the Midwest.” But this source does not blame the fashion industry for the trend, or not exactly. If brxttyb means to make this case, the evidence will have to be found. If, as brxttyb suggests, emulation of pop stars such as Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears is at the root of young girls’ sexualization, then entertainment, not fashion, is at fault. The fashion industry would only reasonably be expected to follow that trend by providing girls a way to imitate their idols. 

Police Brutality
fromcasablanca, you appear to be coming at your thesis, whatever it is, from all sides at once. Your definition argument wants to investigate the causes of police brutality. Here, you seem to want to focus your attention on the results of police brutality. Maybe you’re working on a causation cycle here, in which you explain that poorly trained police engage in brutal behavior that dehumanizes and degrades suspects. Those suspects in turn suffer debilitating trauma and forever after are suspicious (at best) of police officers if not downright hostile toward them. When enough traumatized suspects pass along their negative attitudes toward law enforcement, new officers enter an environment that considers them to be the enemy. AND THAT, in turn, drives more anxious officers to over-react to any perceived threat with an excess of force. A vicious cycle indeed. Is this what you have in mind?

Edward Snowden Created Distrust
AG is writing about the revelations Edward Snowden (the former NSA contractor turned whistleblower) made regarding the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens in America. AG has forgotten that the Causal Argument must be a free-standing essay on its own. Readers unfamiliar with the Snowden case will need a bit of background before they’ll understand the first paragraph. The cause in this causal essay is clear: Snowden released thousands of documents and a ton of evidence. The effects are not as clearly stated. “Outrage” is not supported. Evidence for “reforms” is equally sketchy. Going back one step from Snowden’s actions, his reasons are not spelled out either. The essay may not require it (its scope is at the moment unclear), but this reader at least would like to be told whether Snowden has effectively described what caused him to act. If we’re told, we can decide for ourselves whether the effects of his actions met his goals.

Multivitamins Cause Harm
Bigcountry advances the theory that at best multivitamins are mostly useless and that at worst they are actually harmful, perhaps even fatal to susceptible users. The contraindications for multivitamins are that they don’t promote heart health, mitigate cognitive decline, or prolong our lives. Bigcountry’s apparent cause/effect argument is that we have somehow been convinced to buy and consume a useless product. What caused this persistent error? Well, for one thing, they can plug nutritional gaps for those whose diets don’t provide everything essential. But according to bigcountry, those gaps can easily be filled with proper nutrition. My guess is that they’re simply convenient for people who don’t know what their diet lacks and who consider the investment of a few cents a day to be an affordable way to insure their daily requirements are met. For my money, the more compelling argument would explain the tactics the vitamin industry has used to sell the effectiveness of their products. They’ve convinced millions that their diets don’t provide their needs (which bigcountry claims is mostly untrue) and that their additional doses of what we already get from food somehow promote our health (also disputed by bigcountry). So, how did they do that? seems to me to be the most intriguing cause/effect question. Still to be answered, also, is the question of just how many of us actually do have diets that provide us what we need. It’s fine to suggest that people eat better, but for those who never will, it’s hard to claim that a multivitamin “does more harm than good.”

Professors Indoctrinate Students
Belldere’s brief essay mostly makes categorical claims that repeat a few linked ideas. By and large, professors are liberal. They share their opinions in class. Therefore, they indoctrinate their students into thinking liberally. What’s more, their students are intimidated into keeping their own ideas to themselves, OR they suffer the consequences of disagreeing with their instructors. Those consequences range from course failure to graduating unprepared for the real world. If any of these claims are true, the story will be compelling, but for the moment there’s no evidence offered. It’s unclear what courses Belldere thinks are being compromised. It’s unclear what Belldere means by liberal. There’s no evidence that professors share their biases, that students feel intimidated, or that being exposed to a liberal viewpoint, if that’s what’s happening, would damage a student as Belldere suggests. I look forward to the research that will substantiate these claims. 

The Invention of Hair Relaxer
BJ blames the invention of hair relaxer for an important social division among African-American women. So far BJ has claimed that some women relax their hair “to conform to the European” standard. BJ further claims that nappy hair is “disrespectful.” To whom is not explained. Neither does the essay explain why women descended from Africa, now living in America, would feel compelled to adopt a European standard. I suspect the explanation is simple: more men prefer the relaxed look. The third paragraph repeats the claims of the first two and merely adds the terms Naturalist and Non-Naturalist to the explanations. BJ will need to step aside and allow the participants in this dispute make their own claims, I imagine. So far the summaries of their attitudes are not persuasive.

Wake Up the Nation
This essay is all causation, from start to finish. It details the effect of flagrant presidential corruption on the populace of Ukraine. After pilfering as much as he could from the country’s coffers, Viktor Yanukovich declined to join the European Union. Xchuki doesn’t say why, but should, particularly if the explanation is further evidence of presidential corruption. (Perhaps the EU would have scrutinized the country’s finances and exposed his misdeeds?) Students protested the failure to merge with Europe, and the president responded with a brutal physical police crackdown. That galvanized the country, a result the president cannot have expected. The revolutionaries established an “Occupy” camp in Independence Square, Kiev, and eventually prevailed, causing Yanukovich to flee his own country when armed attacks failed to disperse the protesters. Details are needed here, but the basics of the cause/effect relationships are in place. Remaining Causal questions: How did Yanukovich get elected in the first place? How was he able to divert so much of the country’s wealth to himself? What caused the general population to accept their gradual impoverishment? Why could the government not impose its will by force?

Vancouver Battles Heroin Addiction with Free Heroin
MM is 
writing about Vancouver’s free heroin for addicts program. The obvious contradiction in the very premise of providing free heroin to citizens is that the government has a clear policy of discouraging drug use (a War on Drugs, if you will), that does not seem well served by actively injecting local residents with powerful opiates. MM’s title is that “Rehabilitation Is Not a Cure,” but there’s no evidence of that argument here at all. The essay sketches out the barest argument that when heroin is free to addicts, they don’t have to “smuggle or hide” them. How that is supposed to reduce violence is unclear. Also not clear is whether MM believes anybody who wants heroin can get it for free. A little research might indicate that Vancouver has thousands of addicts compared to a couple hundred enrolled in the program. That small percentage probably would not reduce crime much (nor hospital visits, nor arrests, nor prostitution, nor muggings, break-ins, and other profit crimes). That contradiction disappears, though, if brettb considers the situation from a different set of causes and effects. MM also seems to conclude that as soon as addicts have a steady supply of junk, they will “settle down” with their everyday lives and spend more time at work and with their families. This will need to be proved. 

Vancouver Heroin (2)
Hiral is also writing on this popular topic. The first paragraph makes the single important claim that “addiction and crimes” caused the government to start the Insite program. (Of course, the mere possession of heroin is a crime, so it’s hard to conclude much from this claim. What crimes prompted the program and why must still be answered.) The cause/effect argument of P2 is that Insite’s goal was suicide prevention (or crimes), and that the program will not reduce drug use. Claims made here do not add up to a provable thesis. 

Vancouver Heroin (3)

Its2l8 concludes paragraph 1 with the observation that “programs were working the way they were designed to. They all prevented disease transmission to some degree and the use of drugs among people did not increase.” Further cause/effect material taken directly from Its2l8’s draft: Providing clean needles prevents a great deal of deaths that come from using dirty needles. The spreading of disease has gone down a great deal. These organizations and programs all around the world are literally saving people from contracting HIV and possibly AIDS. The National Institutes of Health declared that “individuals in areas with needle exchange programs have an increased likelihood of entering drug treatment programs.” This means that people who use the program have a better chance of recovery and overcoming addiction. The clean needle exchange program not only prevents disease but also makes the chances of a drug addict seeking help even greater. So far, this is the Vancouver essay that best commands research material to make and support causal claims.

Better Communicators Get Better Healthcare
Cuttlefish is arguing the improvement in healthcare outcomes that follow from better doctor-patient communication. Survey results offer the sad news that poor patients get poor health care. If doctor bias against patients is ruled out as a cause (this will take some explaining), the next best guess is that doctors and their poor patients aren’t communicating well. So far, it’s unclear how this conclusion was reached and the missing explanation is CRITICAL to the argument. Cuttlefish places the blame on the patients NOT COMMUNICATING WELL WITH DOCTORS, not the other way around. We don’t know the basis for this claim. Two explanations are offered for good care: 1) doctors and patients “develop a partnership”, 2) the patient is fully educated regarding the medical condition, 3) the patient who has “a say” in care is likely to report greater satisfaction. The first two need to be further explained. 1) Why is a partnership better? 2) What’s the benefit of patient education? Does it make the patient more cooperative or compliant with care? 3) Does giving a patient “a say” actually improve care or merely make the patient more likely to approve of treatment? As we look at these three examples again, it’s clear that 1) requires two-way communication, so both the doctor and patient could be at fault when communication is poor. However 2) and 3) are both the doctor’s responsibility. Nonetheless, MM’s conclusion blames the poor patient for not communicating well. Why, we wonder?

Notes from SP15

Change of Heart about Physician-Assisted Suicide
Casper has gone to lengths to distinguish between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide but without investigating the cause/effect difference. Perhaps it seems obvious: the effect in both cases is patient death. But that’s not true. Physician-assisted suicide places death in the hands of the patient, who leaves the office with pills that will bring about a swift and painless death whenever the patient elects to take them. The surprising result is that not everybody who has gone to considerable trouble to obtain these precious life-ending prescriptions eventually takes them. That crucial difference could be explained by a better understanding of what the pills were meant to accomplish. Were they acquired as a weapon to hasten death? Or did the patients who received them want something else: the power to decide? We must all feel quite helpless when we see our deaths coming. Suppose all we really need is something to balance that helpless feeling, as if death were the boss we hate, and who doesn’t much care for us either. It may be small comfort, but comforting nonetheless, to know that we can always quit before he fires us.

Massive Collaboration of Small Efforts
The Captain offers us a chance to contemplate the enormous engineering projects that can be accomplished by a massive collaboration of small human efforts. The cause and effect combination is pretty obvious. Millions (eventually billions) of people perform small tasks that, taken together, accomplish an unimaginably large job, like translating every page of wikipedia into a majority of the world’s 6000 human languages (or into enough languages that a large majority of the world’s people can understand them). Constructing the pyramids, landing men on the moon, required massive collaboration. What I hope the Captain will investigate is what will cause billions of people to contribute their small efforts. Will compulsion, competition, or compensation give way to some other motivator? Slaves were compelled to build the pyramids; thousands of Americans put a rocket on the moon to beat the Russians; millions now are helping to translate the web in exchange for free language instruction. The most compelling feature of this topic for me is what will cause the humans of the future to contribute to the big projects.

Technology Has Made Us Weak
Cypher’s entire project appears to be an effort to prove that technology has made humans stupid and weak, sort of. The actual consequences are not specifically stated (which makes them easier to declare). According to cypher, because of electricity, our physical ability, work ethic, and decisiveness have been “degraded.” As an illustration, cypher suggests that we are weaker because of elevators, as if before they were invented, we all climbed stairs to the 25th floors of our office buildings. While it’s true we don’t chop a lot of firewood now, was there a time when all of us chopped firewood? Apparently also we no longer innovate or think hard because we’re given calculators, which seems to argue in turn that there’s something innovative about following the rules of long division. The theory that we’re weakened by technology is certainly tempting, but a closer examination of what exactly is lost would be more enlightening. Could we build the pyramids today? Of course we could. Could we do it by sheer force of manual labor? Yes. Could we also accomplish the same task with a lot less physical exertion? Yes. Could the ancient Egyptians have sent a satellite to circle certain stars? No. Does the clerk at Wawa understand why I give him $11.14 for a $6.64 purchase? Probably not. Does he give me the correct change anyway? Yes. Certainly some modern skills and abilities do not align with those of old. Deciding whether that’s a loss or a realignment will make a good essay.

The More Often We Access a Memory, the More it Changes
juggler has addressed a large amount of cause and effect material in a definition essay that identifies what causes us to produce memories that differ from factual reality. The explanations of several types of variables that act on our perceptions to produce deviant memories are all causal, but they merely indicate that such variables exist without describing how they operate, which means there’s plenty of work left for a good causal argument. A good causal argument could be made about the results of erroneous eyewitness testimony, but I’m hoping juggler will instead explain how the testimony comes to be erroneous in the first place. Are witnesses lying?; are they influenced by their prejudices?; do prosecutors coerce them?; does the investigative process urge them to draw certain conclusions about what they’ve seen? One paragraph of the definition essay claims that the more often we remember an event the less reliable our recollections. But what is the remedy for that? Not remembering it? Or are we forced to deal with the inevitability of memory decay? Presumably a statement made immediately after the witnessing would be the most reliable memory. So, does what we learn afterwards alter our memory? Or can we be influenced by the opinions of other witnesses? All of these are rich causal topics I’d like to see discussed.

Bitcoin Solves the Problems of Currency
Most of ginger’s definition essay claims are causal. Bitcoin solves the problems of other currencies; it will dominate the economy of the future; it will alter our perception of the very nature of currency; it will usher in an age of money not tethered to any national or international government (that last one is mine). So far, there has been no mention of the causes of Bitcoin, so I presume ginger has no interest in why its inventor(s) launched it. That’s OK by me, but if those “problems” Bitcoin is meant to solve are the cause of its origin, we might want to know about them. In fact, it would be hard to describe the solutions (the effects) without addressing the problems (the causes). OR. It’s possible Bitcoin’s inventors wanted only to make money, literally and figuratively. Insofar as they’ve made the money valuable, they can make as much of it as they like. Something is motivating millions of enthusiasts to invest other currencies and real tangible property into a very speculative commodity. Maybe that’s the best angle for cause and effect. From what little I’ve seen of ginger’s thinking, it’s too soon for me to tell. But there are certainly plenty of opportunities in this topic.

Multivitamins are at Best Useless, at Worst Deadly

Zoos and SeaWorld are Commercialized Cruelty
Skyblue can choose from a variety of cause/effect topics. The question of how animals, primarily elephants, are handled in entertainment, primarily circuses, raises many causal concerns. First is how responsible the visitors are for the way the animals are treated. It could be argued that without paying customers there would be no circuses, hence no need to capture and train elephants, hence no elephant abuse. That causality would hold whether the visitors understood their part in the abuse or not. Now that the abuse is being made public, visitors will be shamed away, so the immediate cause of the awareness of elephant suffering is the shutting of circuses or the elimination of animal acts. Zoos have had to react too, so their public relations teams have launched campaigns to distinguish their handling techniques from those of circuses. They will position themselves as conservators, educators, protectors of elephants and other wild animals. OR skyblue could approach the topic of animal training from a cause and effect angle. What does it take to break an elephant? How well do positive and negative techniques succeed relatively? OR skyblue could concentrate on the effect of hunting elephants on their native populations. OR . . . .

Apple Products Are Fashion Accessories
Sall’s hypothesis, that Apple products are successful more as fashion accessories than as superior technology is full of cause and effect claims. For starters, something about the first Apple products made them more desirable to a segment of the computer-buying public. Think of a causal chain here. Apple produces the Macintosh personal computer. It sports a graphical user interface that makes it much easier to use than IBM machines and their clones. Its different looks and attention to its own appearance endear it to artists, designers, and drones who aspired to being artists and designers. In other words, they were cool. That early success with a particular segment of the market compelled the company to drive further into its niche, and the widening gulf between Apple and IBM/Microsoft products became a turf war in which both consumer groups displayed fierce loyalty. Apple deliberately refused to run Microsoft programs even after Windows was released to mimic the interface features of Macs. To this day, the choice of one platform or another is as much a lifestyle statement as it is a decision based on functionality. All of that is driven by the single cause of wanting to capture the loyalty of a particular segment of a market.

Humans Are Subject to False Memories
Tagf is arguing that humans are subject to false memories. The definition essay for this project is more or less a summary of Carl Sagan’s formula for creating false memories as reported in a Scientific American article. Oddly, tagf submits as a rebuttal essay a convincing account of the ways humans come to accept photoshopped images of events even when they conflict with their own memories of those witnessed events. It shouldn’t be surprising that we will not insist our memories are perfect when we’re confronted with evidence that they are flawed. After all, we don’t pretend to remember in what order people were standing in a procession, to take a simple example. Instead, if we know something about the event, we apply logic to our memory. Bill had to be standing to Wayne’s left because he’s taller and the guests were arranged in height order. Unless we have that theoretical knowledge to convince us, a photo might easily convince us Wayne stood to the left.

Babies Learn in the Womb
Username doesn’t actually make a thesis claim in her proposal, so it’s hard to tell what her causal arguments would be. I surmise that since she is heavily influenced by a video called “What Babies Learn in the Womb,” she must accept the premise that babies do in fact learn before they’re born. This might be difficult to prove, but some evidence could be helpful. If, for example, babies are born with a preference for certain tastes or food types, we could use that to prove that they “acquired” those tastes by ingesting those food types through the umbilical cord. The tests for these sorts of claims are very subjective and dubious, so Username will need good clinical studies to overcome our natural inclination to doubt that what mommies say about their very special infants is in fact factual.

“Sleeping On It” Actually Improves Decision-Making
Username’s thesis is also unclear at this point, so she too will have to clarify it before she writes a good Causal argument. The topic is “Sleeping On It,” and the general premise seems to be that decisions made after a night of sleep are “better” than snap judgments. But even that is not clear. It’s possible that any sort of distraction (sleep or concentration on some other, unrelated issue) gives the unconscious mind a chance to deliberate on the problem with improved results. Either way, she’ll have to find a way to define “better decisions” in a way that truly convinces readers she can prove that anything produces them. If studies exist that control for distraction and non-distraction, sleep and not-sleep, we’ll still have to know what “better” is.

Westboro Baptist Church Creates Sympathy for Gay Marriage
Username’s topic is the hateful rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church and its recently deceased leader, Fred Phelps, the lovely people who bring us the GOD HATES FAGS protests outside the funerals of servicemen. His thesis, not clearly stated in his Proposal, is spelled out clearly in his Definition essay, that the rabid protests produce support for gay rights advocates. While it’s altogether persuasive to claim that sympathetic humans will rally to defend a vulnerable class as it’s being attacked, the harder proof will be to demonstrate that this sympathy translates into support or advocacy for the vulnerable group. In other words, does our revulsion against the WBC, our abhorrence for their tactics, our outrage at their terrible lack of decency and decorum, even our compassion for their victims last longer than a moment of pity? Once the church members depart the funeral and we calm down, do our open hearts translate into a desire for justice for the targets of that hate we witnessed? We might just rally AGAINST the WBC without rallying TO SUPPORT the gay Americans they condemn.

The More Choices We Have, The Harder it is to Choose
Username is investigating something called “the paradox of choice,” which concludes that we are less, not more, satisfied when we’re given a wide range of options from which to choose. Her proposal makes a causal claim that she might be able to prove with enough evidence: that given a small number of choices, we accept that we’ll be compromising and are satisfied with an option that is good but not ideal; on the other hand, when presented with a plethora of options, we expect to find the perfect choice available and are therefore dissatisfied with the option we select because it’s not ideal. That’s more than enough argument for an essay the size we’re writing, but she hints that there are other explanations (other causes) too for our dissatisfaction: 1) the fear that we’re not knowledgeable enough to make the right choice, 2) the theory that we want to exercise SOME control over our decisions but not MUCH control, 3) the possibility that we’re paralyzed by trying to process too many choices and will make no choice at all just to avoid the exertion (and still end up dissatisfied because we wanted SOMETHING, not nothing). She may be able to structure her essay by claiming the paradox as a given, then arguing for the best, most logical explanation for its existence.

Toms Shoes Do More Harm than Good
Username paints his thesis with a very broad brush, so it’s hard to pin down anything specific enough to summarize in a sentence, but in general, he’s not in favor of the efforts of Toms Shoes to do good in developing countries. His objections are several, and he’ll need to get selective to write a good paper, but the one that provides the best angle for a good causation argument is that donating shoes to the kids in a community undermines the local economy, thus doing more harm than good. That’s a very strong and damning causal claim that deserves to be either proved or disproved. Saying it certainly does not make it so. Plenty of critics make this complaint, and they cite examples of wrongheaded relief efforts as evidence, but those proofs are not persuasive; they merely support our prejudices and suspicions. My best recommendation would be to refute the claims of damage done to local economies and provide contrary evidence that the recipient communities benefit more than suffer from the donations of shoes.

The Shower Is Deadlier than Airplane Travel
Username’s thesis is already causal. He claims that we’re more at risk of dying or sustaining serious injury from a thousand little everyday activities than from the major or catastrophic traumas (plane crash, terror attack) we are more likely to worry about. That’s all cause-and-effect thinking. What he doesn’t do much of is investigate what we can DO about the fact that daily activities are so dangerous. Maybe he could write an essay called “How to Live Forever,” in which he suggests common solutions to the dangers of everyday life. Maybe grab bars in the shower are more effective at saving lives than staying out of race cars. Maybe the seat we choose in an airliner is more important than who runs that airline, or to what country we fly, or the experience of the pilot. After all, if we’re wrong about the likely causes of our deaths, maybe we should spend some time finding the most likely causes and eliminating them.

America’s Poor Conspire to Exploit Themselves
Username makes a causal claim as part of a very broad thesis she’ll need to narrow to make a persuasive argument: America’s poor conspire in their own exploitation. In other words, their own actions cause them to be exploited. They vote for politicians who then abandon them and their interests (It’s not clear what choice they have here). They accept whatever wages and work conditions they’re offered (It’s not clear what choice they have here). They receive less and less support from social service agencies (It’s not clear that this is even an action of theirs). The challenge for Username, who has made a causal claim, will be to demonstrate that the opposite behavior would benefit the poor. (If they fail to vote, will someone champion their cause?) (If they refuse the work, will they benefit?) (If they stop seeking services, will more help come to them?) If she can’t find alternatives to break the causal chain, she’ll be left saying, “Hey, it’s like gravity. Things fall. What can you do?”

On “Let’s Make a Deal,” It’s Always Wise to Swap
Username’s analysis of the Monty Hall Problem is almost entirely causal. He’ll be arguing the counterintuitive thesis that game players improve their odds of finding a car behind one of three doors by changing their choice (a demonstrable causal effect) when they’re shown that one of two unchosen doors contains a goat. Intuition says there’s no benefit to switching. Logical reasoning proves that there is. Vinny’s challenge is not to find evidence of causation but to carefully explain it so that it can be comprehended and eventually embraced by a doubtful reader. Examples will be helpful; a chart is almost required.

Circuses Are Organized Torture
Username’s thesis is that we are deceived by the nature of the circus, which pretends to be a celebration of the amazing abilities of animals to cheerfully perform the feats they’ve proudly learned to delight us (that may be laying it on a bit thick), when in fact it’s a wanton display of the results of a life of torture for animals who have been whipped, starved, cattle-prodded and otherwise abused into submission. The “happiest show on earth” will come the day the animals revolt and slaughter their handlers. The maltreatment is easy to document and might not present much challenge. The cause and effect (besides that the torture—the cause—results in joyless performance—the effect) worth pursuing might be the effect of the show on its audience. We are taught several wrong lessons, aren’t we, Ben? That these massive beasts are “tamable”? That they somehow collaborate with us? That we have dominion over them? That they are our legitimate toys? That we are somehow preserving them by “rescuing” them from the terrible wild? Can you enumerate a dozen or so more?

Suicide Isn’t Murder
Suicide isn’t murder, it’s a senseless killing. Username’s thesis appears to be that suicide is entirely preventable. So the suicide is his effect, and the causes he will investigate in turn to demonstrate that they are all addressable. Eliminate the causes for suicide by first identifying and understanding them, and the effect will disappear. But before he gets started, he wants to assure us what suicide is not. Now either of these approaches might overwhelm a single paper; the combination is certainly too big for a short argument. Reading his descriptions of his sources, clearly he has more support for arguing what suicide is not. I would welcome such a paper. We Will Never Prevent Suicide Because We’re Wrong About What Causes It.

PTSD is Contagious
PTSD is Contagious. Username has a bit of a problem because he devoted much of his Definition essay to explaining the causes of secondary PTSD. Here’s what I’d recommend to bring some vitality and personality into his research. Do a side-by-side accounting of the Traumas faced by Dad in combat and his Son back home when Dad returns. How much is living with Dad (his nightmares, his day terrors, his unprovoked anger, his bursts of violence, his paranoia, his hypervigilance, his menu of symptoms) like living in a combat zone? Take us as much as possible through the day of the spouse or child of that traumatized, shell-shocked loved one who won’t stop threatening the safety of the household but also won’t go away. Show us the causes so we’ll understand the effects.

Protein Supplements are Dangerous
Protein Supplements are Dangerous and Unhealthy. Luke’s argument is strictly scientific, so his evidence will have to be scientific. He claims protein supplements are dangerous, but vague claims like “liver damage” aren’t persuasive to mildly demanding readers. Onions are supposedly “bad for” my dog, but until somebody makes an actual, responsible claim to distinguish “destroys liver function” from “gives the dog unpleasant breath,” I’m not inclined to deny him something he likes. “Build up of ketones” sounds impressive, but only if ketones are really dangerous. Username promises to provide “the good side” of supplements too, but this offer is irrelevant to the argument. He could deflect the good news in a phrase: “Except for consumers who don’t get enough natural protein in their diets, protein supplements are at best an expensive and worthless habit, at worst an inexcusable health risk.”

Child Euthanasia Is Completely Logical
Support for Child Euthanasia. Username makes two primary claims in his proposal, one causal and one ethical. Ethically, he argues that a patient’s age is irrelevant to end-of-life decisions. Causally, he proposes to refute someone else’s causal chain. Opponents of the law permitting children of any age to request and receive permission to hasten the end of their lives worry that removing the age restriction will result in a consensual massacre. They must think multitudes of children for whatever reason are only staying alive because they haven’t been given permission to kill themselves, haven’t been matched to a doctor willing to deliver them their desired demises. This objection is such a powerful visceral refutation of the rightness of Josue’s more compassionate position that once he counters it, the majority of his opponents will have to surrender. So his course is clear.

Multivitamins Are Useless, Expensive, and Deadly
Contraindications for Multivitamins. Well, they’re useless, expensive, and can kill us. Those are some serious contraindications. Username argument is scientific, so his evidence and his causal argument will be scientific. He doesn’t need to define vitamins; he needs to define vitamin overdose. He doesn’t need to define beneficial actions of vitamins on undernourished bodies; he needs to demonstrate the toxic effects of too many vitamins on well-nourished bodies. He will help himself too by illustrating how, to supplement low dietary vitamin B, for example, a multivitamin containing B might 1) not contain the right B to solve the problem, and furthermore 2) contain way too much of several other vitamins whose detrimental effects outweigh what would have been the benefits of taking the right single vitamin as a supplement.

Men Should Not Be In Charge of Defining Rape
Username thinks men have been in charge of defining rape long enough. She devotes considerable space to enumerating some of the insane male attitudes toward rape that would be funny if they weren’t so frighteningly misinformed. While there are not necessarily causal claims per se in her theses, causal arguments can certainly be made from the claims made here. Username could say, for example, that rapists go free when legislators, judges, and prosecutors are primarily male. She could identify the dehumanizing, devaluing, decriminalizing effects of an archaic definition of rape. The definition is far more important than a semantic exercise. It is legal language with very specific statutory requirements for law enforcement. Criminals have been exonerated by a reliance on fundamental flaws in the definition of what means consent, and when persuasion becomes coercion. Such are the effects of leftover language that causes behavior to be interpreted in the criminals’ favor.

China’s “One Child” Policy is Gendercide
Username promises to “talk about” genedercide in general and about infanticide in China and India in particular. In other words, she makes the classic error of failing to make an actual proposal or provide a thesis. Therefore, we cannot know whether she considers China’s one-child policy, for example, to be an effect of some historical cause, or whether she wants to argue that it will have some unintended consequences. Rather than provide a general survey of gendercide (for what reason?) she will be wise to choose a much narrower topic and make a specific argument. For example: What message does it send to Chinese girls that so many of them are killed before they can mature by a society that vastly prefers male children? How many generations will they have to suffer this underclass status before they begin to achieve equality? Are there any indications of a turnaround in this national attitude?

About davidbdale

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

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