Re: NEWS: Pollution increases criminality

The Low Golden Willow (
Fri, 30 May 1997 13:45:31 -0700 (PDT)

Repeat after me class, correlation is not causation...
*General technical language question at bottom.*

On May 30, 6:53pm, Erik Moeller wrote:

} LONDON (May 29, 1997 00:49 a.m. EDT) - New Scientist magazine reported
} Thursday that polluted water can cause brain damage that turns ordinary
} people into violent criminals.
} He found a definite link between pollution figures and levels of murder,
} assault and robbery. Counties with the highest pollution levels had crime
} rates triple the national average.
} "The presence of pollution is as big a factor as poverty," Masters told New
} Scientist.

Data: pollution, poverty, and crime are found in the same areas.

Old idea: poverty caused crime.
Discovery: pollution is there too.
New idea: pollution causes crime.
Missing: what causes the poverty?
Possible extension: the crime! Or the brain damage from the pollution.

Extension of old idea: poverty causes crime. Poverty also "causes"
pollution, in that the rich make sure pollution says away from them, so
it ends up being dumped on the poor. (Not because anyone hates the
poor, but because no one cares.) So crime and pollution are correlated,
but separately traceable to pre-existing poverty.

Proposal for observational discrimination: compare pollution and crime
rates of American inner cities to Eastern bloc cities. South-central LA
to downtown Prague. My hypothesis is that one will find more pollution
in Prague but less crime (obviously to be serious you'd compare many
cities, or the average of each set.) My general prediction is that
if typical pollution does increase crime it is at best a high-order[1]
effect, and should not distract from the lower-order effects such as
poverty and lack of education.

[1] I'm using low-order to mean significant, high-order insignificant,
from the terminology of infinite series where you hope the first term is
dominant and that later terms slink off to zero. Is that the meaning
people think of, or do people, or lay people, assumie "high-order" means
more important than "low-order"?

Merry part,
-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-) <*>

"The problem with Danny was that he felt the entire human race was so
peculiar that no single peculiarity, unless it was harmful, made any
more impression on him than any other. He knew, mostly from painful
experience, that other people had different reactions, and he could make
you feel like a creep or a bigot in ten seconds." -- Pamela Dean,_Tam Lin_