Cause & Effect

I went to London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) more than 10 years ago. And I read Economics there. I actually applied only to that university. Okay, I did apply also to Harvard, Yale and Princeton because they offered need-blind financial aid but I did not get in. No, this is not to brag about my qualifications. But one of the things I love about the LSE is the motto of the school, “rerum cognoscere causas” (latin for, ‘to know the causes of things’).

The LSE renders the proper English version of the motto as “To understand the causes of things”. And the original latin phrase was actually from a line in a poem book ‘Georgics’ by Virgil: “Felix, qui potest rerum cognoscere causas” (‘Fortunate, who was able to know the causes of things’). Fortunate indeed; yet this world is perhaps ridden with misfortune.

Thanks in part to politics, social media and perhaps lack of academic integrity, we lack a good understand of cause and effect. We confuse correlation with causation, and we are quick to attribute causes to a limited number of things, overlooking other partial causes which are just as important. This is similar to the behaviour of blaming things or others for a mistake. All of these, perhaps to gain a sense of control over the world.

We ought to do a better job helping ourselves and kids understand cause and effect better, and that may even make them better people, less eager to blame, more curious about the world.