STUDIES IN THE NEW CAUSALITY
 
by Steve Martin

A 27-yar-old Michigan man, who complained that a rear-end auto collision had turned him into a homosexual, has been awarded $200,000 by a jury. --"Ann Landers," July 30, 1998.

Recent discoveries in the legal profession have left scientists, many of whom still linger romantically in the Newtonian world, scrambling to catch up in the field of New Causality. In a case last month, a judge in Sacramento ruled in favor of changing the value of pi, thus acquitting a tire manufacturer of making tires that were not fully round. An appeal by scientists was thrown out for lack of evidence when the small courtroom could not physically accommodate a fully expressed representation of pi. The oblong tires in question were produced at the retrial, the judge said they looked round to him, the defense played the race card, and the value of pi was changed to 2.9.

Cause and effect have traditionally been expressed by the example of one billiard ball hitting another billiard ball, the striking billiard ball being the "cause" and the struck billiard ball being the "effect". However, in the new legal parlance the cause of the second billiard ball's motion is unclear, depending on whether you're prosecuting or defending the first billiard ball. If you are suing the first billiard ball, it is entirely conceivable that striking the second billiard ball harmed your chances of becoming Miss Paraguay. If you're defending the first billiard ball, the motion of the second billiard ball could be an unrelated coincidence.

It's easy to understand how one physical thing can influence another physical thing: my car hit your car because I was blinded by your shiny hair barrette. But what about emotional causality? Can my harsh words affect your mood, costing you millions of dollars that you would have earned behind the counter at Burger King? Apparently so. Several months ago, a male office worker was awarded sixty-seven thousand dollars because a female co-worker asked him if he would like her to drop his "package" off at the post office; he was further awarded fifty thousand dollars after arguing that she was also in constant possession of a vagina, the knowledge of which rendered him unable to concentrate.

A more difficult causality to prove, however, is physical to emotional. Can being struck from behind in a car accident cause someone to become a homosexual? Obviously the answer is yes, evidenced by the large award in the lawsuit cited able. Even more interesting is a little-known case in which a man was awarded thirty-six thousand dollars after a driver failed to collide with his car, causing him to become a latent homosexual.

The New Causality guidelines have redefined many of the basic concepts with which the scientific world has struggled for centuries. They are:

The "NINETY-SEVEN STEPS" Rule: It used to be accepted that one event caused another one event to happen. No longer so. It is now acceptable to have up to ninety-seven causality links: Your dog ate my philodendron which depressed my mother who in a stupor voted for Marion Barry causing an upswing in crack sales that allowed Peru to maintain an embassy and accumulate parking tickets, encouraging me to stay a meter maid rather than become an Imagineer. And so on.

SEMANTIC CAUSALITY: Semantic causality occurs when a word or phrase in the cause is the same as a word or phrase in the effect. "You failed to install my client's sink properly, causing her to sink into a depression." In the case cited earlier, the plaintiff's lawyer might say that the "party" driving the Camaro collided with his client's car, and isn't a "party" where homosexuals gather and socialize with one another?

AFTER-THE-FACT CAUSALITY: This simple law states that having sex with an intern can cause a financial misdealing to occur twenty years prior.

UNIVERSAL CAUSALITY: This is the law that has the legal world most excited. It rest on the proposition that "anything can cause anything," or, more simply put, the "Bill Gates gave my dog asthma" principle. If the law of Universal Causality bears out, the economy will receive an invigorating boost when everyone sues everyone else for everything. Everything actionable that ever happened to you will be the fault of your next-door neighbor, who, in turn, will sue Bill Gates, who, in turn, will sue himself.

These advancements in the legal world mean for science that a large stellar object is no longer the cause of the bending of light rays that pass nearby but its blame. Scientists everywhere are scurrying to make sense of the New Causality, with Newtonians turning into Einsteinians, and Einsteinians turning into Cochranians. Meanwhile, astronomers have discovered new distant objects in the farthest reaches of the universe. Are they protogalaxies forming near the beginning of time? The courts will decide.

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The New Yorker