Fallacy of the single cause

Plus – How to have Better Arguments

“No one thing is the cause.” Tolstoy, War and Peace 

We live in a tumultuous world. Inflation is out of control, the war in Ukraine, Covid refuses to go away, severe famine, extreme climate, and Kroger’s is out of my favorite sausage. Serious, complicated problems. And each problem affects the others.

There are no simple answers to these complicated problems because they are multifactorial. When seeking solutions, our tendency is to take a mental shortcut and look for one cause. But there is no single cause.

We have the same tendency when analyzing successes. It’s convenient and seemingly efficient to identify one reason why the United States is a strong country, or why Djokovic won the 2022 Wimbledon tennis tournament, but there are many reasons for these successes. There is no single cause.

Resist quickly coming to singular causes. Take the time to identify multiple reasons something has happened.

      • Approach everything in life as multifactorial; everything is complicated and interconnected.
      • Most issues are progressing; factors are constantly changing.
      • Don’t be too confident or smug about your conclusions. At best you’re probably not seeing the entire story; at worst, you’re wrong.
      • Don’t discount other people’s thoughts and explanations. They too, have trouble seeing all the pieces, but they may see a piece that you don’t.

 Life is complicated; if we want to see it clearly, we need to embrace its complexity.

On a completely different topic, here’s a good article on How to Have Better Arguments. 

12 Replies to “Fallacy of the single cause”

  1. “Our tendency is to take a mental shortcut and look for one cause”—Guilty!
    Thanks for your article; I hope to have a more open mind and recognize that major problems are multifaceted, with multiple causes and interconnections.

  2. Don; I believe COVID place us in a constant fear of most anything & it was over sensationalized at the benefit of those who over dramatized it.

    Even today I see so many people wearing masks which have been to be of little benefit.

    The key is population density and especially older folks who were vulnerable due to other issues.

    When COVID was at its peak I tracked deaths in Collin County were less than other areas like NY.

    Fear is an element dispelled by faith.

    The mind’s reaction is much more likely to direct to illiness.

    I am near 76 years of age and never experienced an symptoms as I remained very active mentally & physically, such as walking my dog an average 3 miles a day.

    Over a period of about 3 years, Baron & I have exceeded 4,000 miles.

    I hacce a strong accounting background & career analytic lifestyle.

    # miles a day = near 1,100 miles a year times 4 years= the 4,000 miles

  3. DON, I always enjoy your insightful material, whatever the vehicle.

    As you know I worked for a lead pastor who’s in my opinion at bringing family of origin seminary training church experience and made him think things needed to be simple single calls single solution for him to grasp and succeed.

    Since I am completely from a different galaxy than you can imagine that’s why my six years there was hell on earth in spite of how good it was.

    My global universal concern for Christianity is that that is the kind of person who the world sees as representing what Christianity is.

    While it is biblically scripturally true that Jesus is the only one solution to Sam and the youngly one way to eternity with the Trinity it is also true that all through the Bible there are things that are true and in other parts of the Bible there are things that are equally true which appear in our small human minds specially our western minds to be completely contradictory.

    As you can probably surmise my last 30 years of interacting with church people has been interesting.

    If there is a blacklist somewhere among church pastors surely I am on it and if I am not I want to get there as soon as possible.

    Have a blessed day!
    Whatever your path
    Whatever your way

    David Ware

  4. The book “ life is simple book” obtainable from Amazon
    Explains how life for individuals can be easy so long as you live in a country that has freedom.

    It works for amazingly well for my 90 years
    And should work for most.

  5. Great reminder (and suggestion) for a politically polarized society…and for those of us who are so proud of our theological and doctrinal “correctness”. I think the more divided we become, the harder it is avoid the “smug” and the possibility there might be more than we have seen.

    1. Neil, life is not simple. As we embrace that thought it should cause us to be less confident and more open to others. thanks for writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *