Duck's quack is getting louder

Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 05:21 PM.

I like the saying, “If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.” This folksy phrase is related to the old adage, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” I like these sayings because they make sense and generally are true. But not always.

Correlation does not imply causation is the phrase used in science and statistics that states that a correlation between two variables does not necessarily imply that one causes the other. In other words, just because it walks like a duck does not guarantee you’re looking at a duck.

But even though intellectually I understand that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, I still like the simplicity of smoke causing fire. It’s clean, simple. Black and white.

Unfortunately though, life isn’t always so clear-cut as much as most would like it to be. But those of us who have made the trip around the block a few times — in other words, old folks — we see the correlations a little more clearly than those with less experience. In some ways, life becomes “clearer-cutter” the older we get.

Take one of the latest studies released. I’m always a little suspect of so-called “polls” or “studies” that announce that this is that or that is this, that some percentage of us believes one thing or another. Maybe it comes from remembering my dad’s lesson, “Don’t believe everything you read.” Or my natural American inclination to question authority. But this particular study makes some sense to me. There’s smoke, so there’s most likely fire.

According to NBC News national political writer Carrie Dann, one in five Americans say religion does not play an important role in their lives. She reports that a new NBC/WSJ journal poll shows this as the highest percentage since the poll began asking participants about their focus on faith in 1997.

According to this study, Dann reports, “21 percent of respondents said that religion is ‘not that important’ to their lives, compared to 16 percent who said the same in 1999. In 1997, 14 percent of Americans said religion did not play an important role in their lives.”

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