How Causation can drive us to make errors in every field of knowledge

Illustration of spacetime curvature.
Illustration of spacetime curvature. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, I have read a piece of news about a new physical theory that can explain our universe with less number of dimensions than the generally accepted by physicists. Although this should be a very difficult matter, I have spent some minutes thinking about it, and although I cannot provide a physical vision of the universe because I am far from physical research many years ago, this piece of news can be useful to understand better the errors that we can make due to our concept of causation and our definition of models.

Mankind has considered during several centuries that the universe had three dimensions. Thinking about the attraction between bodies, Newton established his general law about gravitation. Newtonian concept of gravity explains that a body moves from a point of the space to another one due to existence of a force associated to the bodies with mass. With this model there is a cause (gravity) and an effect (movement). In the last centuries, physicists have discovered and explained different forces that exist in the universe, as electromagnetism.

The most radical revolution in the field of physics and our understanding of the configuration of the universe is due to Einstein. Einstein introduced with his especial theory of relativity a very different concept of space. Einstein modeled a new physics where space and time were similar and the universe can be seen as a curved surface in this space-time of four dimensions. Bodies always move describing a geodesic curve (the shortest path) on this surface. He improved these assumptions with his general theory of relativity, explaining how gravity is affecting our universe. He introduced the concept of curvature of space-time due to gravity. With this model gravity continues being the cause of a certain movement.

Nowadays the more extended theory about our universe that tries to explain the effects of all known forces of the universe is the M-theory. This theory is not complete but it predicts a space of eleven dimensions (ten spatial and one temporal) that fits better mathematically the relations between the different forces of the universe and its evolution than a space with four dimensions.

The novelty of the last work presented shows that the universe can be flatter (having less dimensions), and gravity would not exist, being only the result of the combination of the effects of other forces. With this theory, what we have named during a lot of centuries gravity is not a cause of the movement. It should be then an effect that we can see produced by the movement due to other different causes. If we look at Einstein’s model, there is not absurd. For Einstein, the cause of movement would be the curvature of a surface in a four-dimensional space. We can establish a relationship between the curvature and a magnitude that we can name gravity but nothing implies that the curvature can have another cause.

As I have indicated before, the validity of the new hypothesis is not important for me here. What I have found interesting is to remark how the concept of causation and our natural predisposition to find a cause for all can drive us to make a lot of errors. Of course, this is not new, for instance, Saint Thomas Aquinas used causation to demonstrate the existence of God, and other subsequent philosophers have discarded this argument as a proof of it.

If we move from high level physics to our modern daily world dominated by economy, finances, rating of assets, politics, perhaps we can learn something about this discussion.

If we look at a row of pieces of a domino game falling, is the cause that someone has hit the first one?  I do not think so. I think that it is upside down. Someone has hit the first piece because, all the pieces were put in that disposition in order that we can see them falling. This is the concept of business strategy. Due to the work of strategists, in the business world, it is not easily identifiable what is the cause and what is the effect although there can be a lot of relations between variables. Making decisions following a cause-effect analysis can drive us to make erroneous decisions. One of the virtues of quantitative complexity analysis is an approach where cause-effect relationships are considered without identifying what is the cause and what is the effect.

As a corollary, I will make a question. Is the government of a country or the directorate of a business the cause of the success or failure? Perhaps, they are not the cause, but the effect. As Aquinas’s proof the existence of God, there are people that consider it a valid sentence, and other people that would doubt about it.

Do International investors enter a country or a business because of its government? Or is there a certain government in order that certain international investors can enter a country or a business? I only can affirm that independently of it, there is a cause-effect relationship between government or directorate and international investors.


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