Venetian sea levels, british bread prices, and the principle of the common cause

When two causally independent processes each have a quantity that increases monotonically (either deterministically or in probabilistic expectation), the two quantities will be correlated, thus providing a counterexample to Reichenbach's principle of the common cause. Several philosophers have denied this, but I argue that their efforts to save the principle are unsuccessful. Still, one salvage attempt does suggest a weaker principle that avoids the initial counterexample. However, even this weakened principle is mistaken, as can be seen by exploring the concepts of homology and homoplasy used in evolutionary biology. I argue that the kernel of truth in the principle of the common cause is to be found by separating metaphysical and epistemological issues; as far as the epistemology is concerned, the Likelihood Principle is central.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/52.2.331
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E. Sober & M. Steel (2013). Screening-Off and Causal Incompleteness: A No-Go Theorem. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3):513-550.
Mathias Frisch (2012). No Place for Causes? Causal Skepticism in Physics. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (3):313-336.
Luke Glynn (2011). A Probabilistic Analysis of Causation. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (2):343-392.

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