Enhancing Belief during Causality Assessments: Cognitive Idols or Bayes’s Theorem?
At the center of every risk assessment is a causality assessment. Causality assessments identify the cause-effect relationship for which risk is to be estimated. Despite
this, many ecological risk assessments pay less-than-warranted attention to carefully identifying causality, and concentrate more on risk quantification. The compulsion to quantify for quantification’s sake (i.e., Medawar’s
) contributes to this imbalance. Also, those who use logical shortcuts for assigning plausible causality in their daily lives
are often unaware that they are applying shortcuts in their professions. A zeal for method transparency
(e.g., U.S. EPA
) can also diminish soundness if sound methods require an unfamiliar vantage for assessing causality. Whatever the reasons, the imbalance between efforts employed in causality assessment and risk estimation is evident throughout the ecological risk assessment literature. Associated dangers are succinctly described by the quote, “The mathematical box is a beautiful way of wrapping up a problem, but it will not hold the phenomena unless they have been caught in a logical box to begin with.”