Monday, August 28, 2006

Cause and effect

I was planning to write a consise and insightful post on the concept of cause and effect, and then further describe necessary or sufficient causes. Sometimes in our desire to believe something, we want to ignore cause and effect.

But then, I remembered Carl Sagan’s description of cause and effect, re-read it, and it more than suffices to just quote him:

“Occationally someone remarks on what a coincidence it is that the Earth is perfectly suitable for life – moderate temperatures, liquid water, oxygen atmosphere, and so on. But this is, at least in part, a confusion of cause and effect. We earthlings are supremely well adapted to the environment of Earth because we grew up here. Those earlier forms of life that were not well adapted died......Organisms that evolve on a quite different world will doubtless sing its praises too.”


Now all that energy I was planning to spend writing that post on cause and effect can be saved and instead be used in something useful. Research perhaps.


Anonymous said...

ha ha, escapist...;)

many things in this world have been said in a "better way" than we would ever say it...many have lived a better life than us perhaps (at least than me)...but I plan to continue living my dreary life...and keep blogging to make it a bit more exciting...;)

hope i have made my presumptuous point...;)

of course, do your research...and write that post in your leisure. I would want to read it after you write it. (cause and effect...;)

Sunil said...

well.....we all enjoy the excitement blogging brings, don't we?

But some times, the responses of others are so much better that it really seems like a waste of space to write :-)

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Iyer the Great said...

Nice post Sunil.

Cause and effect indeed!! As researchers we spend most of our efforts in identifying this relationship.

On a personal level though, with the passage of time, cause and effect become muddled. Particularly, as you mention, when "desire" comes into the frame, rationality and thus terms such as "cause and effect" go out of the window.

I do agree with Arunn though... Even if you share the same view as Sagan, you would have brought your flavor to the concept.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me of another beautifully insightful quote that made me go "aha!". From Douglas Adams:". . . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for."

Sunil said...

Rahul.........absolutely. A lot of us just confuse cause and effect too often, especially if it fits in to our own theories or ideas.
And as far as writing my own thoughts go, sure, I might bring in my own flavor, but if the flavor is bland then it ain't worth it. :-)

Selva, that was absolutely wonderful. Makes my morning. But I can't expect anything less from Douglas Adams........the Dirk Gently novels are treasurehouses for quotable quotes. And there were so many in "The long dark tea time of the soul" that after about page 50, I even stopped marking them out :-). Now, that man was brilliant. I love this one ".........The system of life on this planet is so astoundingly complex that it was a long time before man even realised that it was a system at all and that it wasn't something that was just there."

Anonymous said...

Sunil: one more curiosity I was reading just now in the End of Time by Julian Barbour...

The processes in our Brain that make us think those thoughts (say, when we observe things); Let us say we coudl assume these "thoughts" to be the result of "brain states" - meaning some physical state of the brain "particles" (cells etc.).

Then the question is: do these physical states follow Newtonian physics?

Meaning, are cause and effect interchangeable for these physical states?

(I need to read more to see if there is any concrete answer...)

Sunil said...

Arunn......very interesting.......I haven't read that book....but it'll be good to know what you come up with once you've read it.