Tag Archives: root causes

Steven Pinker

This version of historical pessimism may be called root-causism: the pseudo-profound idea that every social ill is a symptom of some deep moral sickness and can never be mitigated by simplistic treatments which fail to cure the gangrene at the core. The problem with root-causism is not that real-world problems are simple but the opposite: they are more complex than a typical root-cause theory allows, especially when the theory is based on moralizing rather than data. So complex, in fact, that treating the symptoms may be the best way of dealing with the problem, because it does not require omniscience about the intricate tissue of actual causes. Indeed, by seeing what really does reduce the symptoms, one can test hypotheses about the causes, rather than just assuming them to be true.

Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, New York, 2018, pp. 170-171

Thomas Sowell

Those who are constantly looking for the “root causes” of poverty, of crime, and of other national and international problems, act as if prosperity and law-abiding behavior were so natural that it is their absence which has to be explained. But a causal glance around the world today, or back through history, would dispel any notion that good things just happen naturally, much less inevitably.

Thomas Sowell, Ever Wonder Why? And Other Controversial Essays, New York, 2006, p. 3