Correlation and Scientific Discoveries

In Hacking’s article he discusses briefly how we come to understand diseases by correlating the disorder to various other things (for lack of a better word.) He mentions how we try to correlate autism with everything. This brings up the interesting question of what do we find meaningful as something that is worth correlating to the disorder in the first place. While correlation does not equal causation in a more strict sense, it does seem to be important in deciphering which relations we should be investigating.

 

Hacking gives the example of how 4 out of 5 males have autism. This fact seems to be very telling at first glance and so this may warrant further scientific investigation in this area. This will advance and legitimize (to some extent) the definition and boundaries of the disease. Correlating as a practice, however, is a social means of association. It seems interesting to me that what sets up the potential questions for the scientific investigation of disease “X” is not grounded in something that’s strictly scientific (it is a social empirical claim but it is not a claim grounded in cause and effect.) He mentions how much people strived to find the genetic cause of criminal behaviour and it is easy to see this investigation having taken place by some seemingly telling correlations. Seeing these correlations as “proto-ideas” in Fleck’s terminology may be interesting in terms of thinking about how thought collectives, or scientific inquiries, are formed and carried out.

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