Nature of science - 2.8

The ideas of correlation and cause are very important in science. A correlation is a statistical link or association between one variable and another. A correlation can be positive or negative and a correlation coefficient can be calculated that will have a value between +1, 0 and -1. A strong correlation (positive or negative) between one factor and another suggests some sort of causal relationship between the two factors but more evidence is usually required before scientists accept the idea of a causal relationship. To establish a causal relationship, ie one factor causing another, scientists need to have a plausible scientific mechanism linking the factors. This strengthens the case that one causes the other, eg smoking and lung cancer. This mechanism can be tested in experiments.