Reality of Causality


From the main text, February 2007:

I once witnessed an example of how a person can credit the supernatural despite clear involvements of the natural universe. A friend of mine had a loved one that needed dangerous surgery. In informing those close to him of the situation, he mentioned two things: “We were able to get … one of the best [surgeons] in the world” and “I would really appreciate if you could keep her in your thoughts and prayers.” After the surgery went well, he said, “All I can say is the success of her surgery was through the grace of God!” and “Your prayers and good wishes and those of all of our friends have made the difference in the success of her operation.” Is that what really happened? What caused the success, the expert workings of a qualified doctor or good wishes magically thrown by friends and family? Which one actually had an effect on reality? If they had gone to a quack instead of a great doctor, what do you think the results would be? Would the consequences show the “the grace of God” or the reality of causality?


Many apologies to my respected friend for writing about his family’s medical situation without his permission. As he’s a Christian, I doubt he would support Individual Valuism, but I felt that his story illustrated my point very well, so I took out the identifying features and used it. I’m glad I did, because it led to the creation of one of my favorite phrases in the philosophy text, “reality of causality.” Basically, it means that things will happen as they’re made to happen. You reap what you sow in the universe and wishful thinking yields nothing. It is inescapable. If I hope to lose weight but eat a lot and fail to exercise, I’m still going to be fat, because that’s what I cause to happen. If I pray for success and never work, I will fail. When my grandfather felt heart problems and didn’t immediately seek medical attention, he died two weeks later. That’s the reality of causality. Cause makes effect.


I have another friend that is trying to watch his weight. Interestingly, whenever we get unhealthy treats like donuts and milkshakes, he often says something like, “I really shouldn’t have this.” Then he eats the items anyway. It seems to me that he fails to grasp the concept of “should not do something,” but that’s beside the point. The point is that I know that he is actually trying to rationalize away the reality of causality. In his mind, he is thinking that one milkshake won’t really be that bad, or that a few donuts will be a decent meal, or that he is very hungry, or that he will exercise more to compensate for the treat, or that he won’t make the same mistake in the future. Whatever he thinks, the reality of causality remains that he is what he eats. I’m not without blame on the subject either. I’ve also tried to think that drinking soda a few times a week won’t hurt me, that not reading nutritional information on the back of a candy bar will somehow protect me from the contents, or that forgetting to brush my teeth won’t affect my dental health. But rationalization does nothing; my actions guide my future.


Reality of causality will have a much better impact on your life than any sort of hope or faith or luck. Sometimes I use it as a guide in daily life. Should I buy a GPS device? No, then I couldn’t put my money to better use for something else. Reality of causality. Should I join a club? Yes, because then I will have more friends and activities available to me in the future. Reality of causality. Should I pray to a god to protect my health? No, because I have no reason to believe that will accomplish anything. Reality of causality. Should I wear formal clothes to a job interview? Yes, because it’s necessary to be taken seriously. Reality of causality. Should I drink Pepsi instead of water? No, because it’s less healthy. Reality of causality. But I want it. No, reality of causality. Just one time? Reality of causality! I don’t always make the right choice, but it helps.