Types of Causal Arguments

In the post for your Causal Argument task I’ve provided several examples of specific recommendations you might find helpful in crafting Causal Arguments for your research topics. While you put your arguments together, decide what sort of framework suits your argument best:

Single Cause with a Single Effect (X causes Y)
“Facebook Can Cost Us Our Jobs”
The premise is that something supposedly personal, about which our employers should have nothing to say, is nevertheless available to our employers, and to prospective employers, if we make it so. What needs to be proved is that information about our non-work lives, or information we post to Facebook about our work lives, can keep us from getting a job, from advancing in a job, or from keeping a job.

  • You may say that sounds illegal or unethical, but your objection is irrelevant to the causal argument.
  • You could examine how different professions handle social media differently (for example kindergarten teachers might be fired for indiscretions that wouldn’t cost an insurance agent her job), because your topic is still what costs the teacher and the agent their jobs.
  • You could argue that free speech should be protected if it’s true, and nobody should be fired for saying his boss cheats on his wife, but your objection is irrelevant unless there really are certain types of speech for which we can’t be fired and types for which we can (X causes Z, but Y does not cause Z).
  • You could certainly make a good argument that employers have different policies regarding social media activities of their employees (X causes Y at Company 1, while X causes Z at Company 2).

Single Cause with Several Effects (X causes Y and Z)
“We Are the Casualties of the War on Drugs”
The premise is that the War on Drugs has been counterproductive, subjecting the nation to increased drug use and drug-related death. What needs to be proved is that government interference in drug production and distribution creates crime, interrupts quality control, causes disease, and kills users, traffickers, and innocent bystanders of the illicit drug trade.

  • You could argue that the prohibition of certain desirable substances leads inevitably to a frenzied underground and by definition criminal enterprise to meet the demand.
  • You could argue that criminals aren’t always scrupulous about the quality of the contraband they deliver and that their product often harms or kills.
  • You could point out the countless people languishing in jails for owning small amounts of something that used to be legal.
  • You might want to mention that drug use, even sanctioned use of safe prescription drugs, can be very detrimental in and of itself, but your comments would be completely irrelevant to the causal argument.
  • You might also want to say that drug dealers get what’s coming to them when they deal in illicit materials and it’s wrong to blame cops for killing them, but again, that’s irrelevant to the question of whether the War on Drugs results in death.

Several Causes for a Single Effect (Both X and Y cause Z)
“There’s No One Explanation for Gangs”
The premise is usually employed to refute the “common knowledge” that a single cause can be blamed for an effect. If you’ve chosen a topic about which everybody “knows” the cause and effect, your causal essay will dispute the notion that there is in fact a single cause.

  • You could produce evidence that gangs are more prevalent in public housing projects than in suburban neighborhoods, but with special care. You still won’t have identified the cause, only the location of the cause.
  • You could produce evidence that a large majority of the kids in gangs come from families without a present, positive, male role model, but with great care in how you describe the situation, to avoid using misleading shortcuts like “kids with no dads.”
  • You could describe gangs as often engaged in petty criminal activity or as pointlessly obsessed with territorial disputes, but it’s completely irrelevant to your causal argument to describe what happens after a kid is in the gang when you intend to prove why he joined it in the first place.

A Causal Chain (X causes Y, which causes Z)
“Failure to Prosecute Rape Causes Rape”
The premise is that rape occurs because it’s tolerated and that every resulting rape reinforces the sense that it will be tolerated. Rapes of female students on college campuses are routinely reported to campus authorities, not local police, and are kept from local law enforcement to protect the reputation of the school at the expense of the rights of the victim. What needs to be proved is that the rapes are in fact kept secret, that the assailants escape justice, and that there is local awareness that sexual assaults are not prosecuted or punished.

  • You might want to investigate how it came to be that colleges got jurisdiction for sexual assaults on campus, but it’s probably irrelevant, unless you can demonstrate that they did so deliberately in order to keep assaults secret.
  • You might want to explain what you think are contributing causes, such as the loss of bonuses or jobs for administrators on whose watch the public learned of campus rapes.
  • You would need to argue that somehow, even though the outside world never hears of these rapes, students on campus learn that assault victims are not believed or supported and that assailants are not punished. This is essential to the chain.
  • You could make a suggestion that if victims of rape refused to be “handled” by honor boards and campus judiciaries and took their cases to the local prosecutors instead they could break the chain. Arguing how to break the chain is a confirmation of why the chain continues.

Causation Fallacy (X does not cause Y)
“Violent Games Are Not the Missing Link”
The premise of this causation fallacy argument is nobody has yet proved a causal link between a steady diet of violent video games and actual physical violence in the lives of the gamers.

  • You might be tempted to demonstrate that gamers are actually sweethearts who join the Boy Scouts and help old ladies across the street without knocking them down, but you don’t have to. You merely want to prove that they’re no more violent than players of other games.
  • In fact, you don’t need to prove anything positive of your own to produce a strong causation fallacy argument; you only need to discredit the logic, the methods, or the premises of your opponents who think they have proved causation.
  • For example, if an exhaustive study finds a strong link between kids who play violent video games and kids who kick their classmates on the playground, you argue this is mere correlation. It’s equally likely that the kids were violent first and attracted to the games as a result of their taste for aggression.
  • You could also question the methodology of the supposed proof. If a questionnaire measures hostility, the answer: “I am suspicious of overly friendly strangers” no more proves hostility than it indicates a healthy wariness of the unknown.

In-class Exercise

Consider what you know about your own Topic and Thesis.
As a Reply to this post, make 5 brief Causal Arguments derived from your own research, as I have done above.

  1. Single Cause with a Single Effect (X causes Y)
  2. Single Cause with Several Effects (X causes Y and Z)
  3. Several Causes for a Single Effect (Both X and Y cause Z)
  4. A Causal Chain (X causes Y, which causes Z)
  5. Causation Fallacy (X does not cause Y)

23 thoughts on “Types of Causal Arguments”

  1. 1. The clinical use of Mdma cures even the most extreme cases of ptsd.
    2. The clinical use of Mdma cures ptsd and makes veterans lives better after war.
    3. The clinical use of Mdma and psychological therapy will cure ptsd.
    4. When Mdma is used to treat ptsd it cures it, therefore making life more manageable for veterans coming home from war.
    5. Therapy alone will not cure ptsd in veterans.


  2. 1.
    Boats that traverse the ocean cause emission pollution.

    Trying to clean the waters of pollution can add further harm to the environment, as well as harm the wildlife that resides within.

    If people were to try to reduce the amount of litter and oil emissions that go into the ocean, the seas will be a cleaner place.

    Pollution enters the waters of the ocean, wherein people try to clean it up, which leads to a small percentage of pollution further being added so that the ocean can never be fully clean with modern techniques of cleaning.

    Although boats do cause pollution, the amount of pollution that boats add, in regards to people cleaning up existing pollution, is not as large a quantity of harm being added as there is in pollution being taken out.


  3. 1. Young kids who play violent video game s will have an increase in aggressive behavior
    2. A young individual exposed to violence in video games will acquire a decrease in empathy, desensitized in real life situations, and social life
    3. An individual with autism and an already aggressive behavior who plays violent video games will have an immediate change in behavior after exposure
    4. A young individual plays violent video games has increased aggression which then leads to improper actions against friends and family
    5. Violent video games do not cause an increase in aggressive behavior in young individuals


  4. 1. Applying the physics of earth to black holes limits creativity when studying them.
    2. Applying known physics to black holes limits our creativity when researching and prevents us from learning more abstract elements of black holes.
    3. General misunderstanding of physics paired with limited research causes a population wide naivety.
    4. Applying the physics that work on earth to black holes, limits our view of black holes, therefore limiting our ability to truly understand black holes.
    5. Applying the physics of earth to black holes does not limit our creativity but rather gives us a basis on which to primarily understand them.


  5. 1) Overreach from the executive branch causes a widening divide in congress.
    2)Executive power overreach causes a deep rooted divide in respective views to become even deeper and does not support bipartisanship.
    3)Both pettiness and failure to pass legislation through elected officials designated to do such work causes questions of the legitimacy of the passed order.
    4)When one party does not have the majority in congress, it causes executive orders to be passed which causes deeper frustration on the opposite side of the aisle.
    5)Executive orders do not cause a meaningful bipartisan dialogue.


  6. 1) Net Neutrality causes equality on the internet.
    2) Without Net Neutrality, personal lives on the internet aren’t so personal.
    3) Internet equality and personal lives causes Net Neutrality to thrive.
    4) Without Net Neutrality, governments can track what you do online and prevent certain websites you need.
    5) Net Neutrality does not encourage people to hack into things.


  7. 1. A community with a higher gun ownership rate leads to a higher rate of gun crimes.
    2. A community with a higher gun ownership rate leads to a higher gun crime rate, along with a higher homicide rate.
    3. A community that has higher gun ownership rates, a higher percentage of males, and a lower income rate, leads to a higher homicide rate.
    4. Higher gun ownership rates in a community leads to more gun violence, which then leads to more homicides.
    5. The increased amount of guns one owns, doesn’t lead to a higher rate of homicide.


  8. 1. Too many head to head hits cause football players to get concussions.
    2. Head to head hits cause football players to get concussions and miss time out their season.
    3. Head to head hits and poor helmet technology cause football players to get concussions.
    4. Poor helmet technology blinds coaches to how much impact their players have taken which is why players get concussions.
    5. Head to head hits don’t cause concussions


  9. 1. Mainstream White beauty standards caused Black people in American to chemically change their hair.
    2. White beauty standards caused Black people to chemically alter their hair for generations and develop self-hatred.
    3. Both White society and the Black people chemically altering their hair caused self-hatred.
    4. White beauty standards caused Black women to chemically alter their hair, which eventually caused self-hatred.
    5. White beauty standards did not cause Black people to chemically change their hair.


  10. 1. Restrictive abortion laws force women who have the will to terminate their pregnancy to access clandestine procedures.
    2. Restrictive abortion laws not only cause abortion-related deaths rates to increase, but also provoke indirect social exclusion to women with financial disadvantage.
    3. Restrictive abortion laws and the costs of safe, but illegal abortions causes women to die, especially those with economic disadvantage.
    4. Restrictive abortions laws lead women to access illegal and unsafe abortion, which causes maternal mortality rates to increase.
    5. Legalizing abortion does not increase abortion rates.


  11. 1. Not drinking enough water causes dehydration
    2. Not hydrating enough can cause dehydration and an individual can pass out.
    3. Drinking more water can help the inside organs of one’s body as well as help them to stay healthy and not pass out.
    4. Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration, which causes athletes performance to fail.
    5. Dehydration does not increase death rates.


  12. 1. Adoption of food technology causes healthy alternatives.
    2. Adoption of food technology causes healthy alternatives, benefits for the producer and consumer, and helps the environment.
    3. Bias towards organic products and radical anti-GMO advocates causes the suppression of food technology breakthroughs.
    4. Elimination of organic foods causes the remodeled classification of food, which causes genetically and technologically altered food alternatives to become more accepted and accessible to the public.
    5. Genetically altered food does not cause illness among humans or detrimental environmental effects.


  13. 1. The avid use of social media could be leading young adults into depression.
    2. Excessive social media use could be causing young adults to become depressed and anti social.
    3. The use of social media and its affect of depression on its users is leading them to become anti social.
    4. Excessive social media use is leading young adults to become depressed, which is resulting in anti social behavior.
    5. The use of social media does not cause depression in young adults.


  14. 1. Stricter gun laws decrease crime rate.
    2. Stricter gun laws decrease crime rate and make the streets safer.
    3. Higher crime rates and homicide rates lead to a need for more gun laws.
    4. Gun violence causes an increase in crime rates which causes a need for more gun laws.
    5. Gun laws do not affect crime rates.


  15. 1. Sharing false information about oneself online creates a negative self esteem.
    2. Sharing false information about oneself online lowers one’s self esteem and creates an addiction to the internet.
    3. Childhood trauma and the creation of a false persona online causes overuse of social media.
    4. Childhood trauma causes overuse of social network sites, which makes. adolescents create a false persona online to try to increase their self esteem
    5. Problematic social media does not cause a need to create a fake identity.


  16. 1. Employees that deal with ethical dilemmas in the workplace can cause people who don’t want to deal with it get involved.
    2. Insider trading causes people to have a desire to make money and to the ignore the rules.
    3. Insider trading and ethical problems with employees both can cause people to lose their jobs.
    4. A good business leads to profits which causes the business to keep going for another year.
    5. Ethical problems in the workplace does embrace fairness, integrity, or honesty.


  17. 1. Violent video games lead to more violent individuals
    2. Violent video games lead to more aggressive and more violent individuals
    3. Violent video games, played by people with health conditions such as autism or ADD, lead to more violence
    4. violent video games lead to violence which leads to more criminal activity
    5. Violent video games have no scientific link to aggressive or violent personalities


  18. 1. Due to massive fan following and clean image of Michael Jackson caused a shock to people to believe that he is dead.
    2. The support of people with Michael Jackson caused a shock to people on his death and still they think he is alive.
    3. With the shock of the death of Michael Jackson to his fans lead into depression of 12 people which ended up in committing suicide.
    4. due to massive fan following of people caused it hard for them to accept the stars death which lead to committing suicide for some and also developing a thought that he is still alive.
    5. with massive fan love it wasn’t hard for them to believe he was dead.


  19. 1. The assumption that bottled water is safer/cleaner causes people to not drink their tap water.
    2. The assumption that bottled water is safer causes people to not drink their tap water and the people of the United States spending billions of dollars annually on bottled water.
    3. The assumption that bottled water is safer and people not drinking their tap water causes the people of the United States to spend billions of dollars a year on bottled water.
    4. The assumption that bottled water is safer causes people to not drink their tap water which in return causes the people of the United States to spend billions of dollars annually on bottled water.
    5. Bottled water, in most cases, is more dangerous than tap water.


  20. 1. The establishment of Glassboro State University, now known as Rowan University, in Glassboro has been a driving factor in crime rates for the city.
    2. With delinquents, aka, students and teenagers that reside in Glassboro or attend Rowan University, petty crimes are on the rise, which in turn is driving up crime rates.
    3. Burglary, Shoplifting, theft, and many other crimes that are most likely to be committed by wild teenagers or young adults are driving crime rates in Glassboro.
    4. The raising acceptance rate of individuals into Rowan University has inconsequently linked itself to risinig crime numbers in Glassboro, which in turn leaves Glassboro with high crime rates.
    5. Crime rates of Glassboro will remain the way it is even if people where to move out.


  21. 1. Immediate political changes cause more harm to the individual than benefit
    2. Immediate change in immigration policies cause countries to have to devote resources to education and training, and also using resources the country may not be able to accommodate enough of.
    3. Both the cost of training new immigrants and the time it takes to fully assimilate them into the country takes a toll on that country’s economy.
    4. An immediate change in law regarding tariffs on foreign goods allows manufacturers that primarily use American products to see a benefit which causes most other producers see massive loss in sales
    5. Immediate political changes do not cause immediate negative effects.


  22. 1) Smoking marijuana causes a reduction in the suffering of anxiety.
    2) Pharmaceuticals worsen anxiety and lead to other health issues.
    3) Smoking marijuana can help reduce anxiety and allow those with it to do daily activities with more ease.
    4) Marijuana can reduce anxiety, which in return can be smoked for those suffering from it.
    5) Pharmaceuticals and marijuana have no effect on anxiety.


  23. 1. meat industry creates pollution
    2. meat industry creates pollution and climate change
    3.argriculture and economy affects climate change
    4. due to the meat industry it furthers the economy which affects climate change
    5. having meat does not make one rich


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