Correlation vs. Causality

I'm really amazed at what passes for health news stories these days, especially in my favorite newspaper, Newsday. If you think the MSM jumps the gun in poltical or hard news reporting, that ain't nothing compared to the MSM's approach to health stories. At the mere mention of some sort of correlation between X and Y, newspapers run stories about how X causes Y or Y causes X. And when these stories are corrected (or perhaps I should say "If they're corrected.") they almost invariably fit one of two descriptions:

1) Three-line "oops" mention in the "Corrections" section, or 2) Trumping up of their prior incorrect story to medical consensus status and feigned surprise at evidence that contradicts the earlier story.

Not only does the mainstream media need to learn the difference between correlation and causality, but so does the public. It does NOT logically follow that because there's a statistical correlation between X and Y that X causes Y. Such thinking leads to paranoid moms suddenly uprooting their families to avoid bird flu, huge new markets for anti-bacterial crap and decades of discrimination against perfectly good sweeteners like saccharine.

All this misunderstanding of the concept of correlation is a great argument for making statistics part of the required curriculum in high school.