Explaining disease: Correlations, causes, and mechanisms [Book Review]

Minds and Machines 8 (1):61-78 (1998)
Why do people get sick? I argue that a disease explanation is best thought of as causal network instantiation, where a causal network describes the interrelations among multiple factors, and instantiation consists of observational or hypothetical assignment of factors to the patient whose disease is being explained. This paper first discusses inference from correlation to causation, integrating recent psychological discussions of causal reasoning with epidemiological approaches to understanding disease causation, particularly concerning ulcers and lung cancer. It then shows how causal mechanisms represented by causal networks can contribute to reasoning involving correlation and causation. The understanding of causation and causal mechanisms provides the basis for a presentation of the causal network instantiation model of medical explanation.
Keywords explanation  disease  medicine  causality  mechanism  causal network
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DOI 10.1023/A:1008286314688
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Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (2007). Interpreting Causality in the Health Sciences. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21 (2):157 – 170.
Daniel J. Nicholson (2012). The Concept of Mechanism in Biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):152-163.

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