Let Go of 'Causation'
We all, not just Buddhists, need to let go of the idea of Causation. This is a concept rooted in the idea of God The Creator. The reality is that causation is a mystery. What we can know is proximate or economic cause, association, correlation, relatedness, driving force and such terms as indicate the relatedness of this to that.
In [SN 2.14.12] The Buddha describes how sensual desire, deviance, and cruelty and their opposites arise from perception of information about things of a like nature. Mrs. Rhys Davids uses 'cause' for her translation of 'nidana', tied-to, bound up with or down to. This idea pervades most people's thinking about Buddhism but it needs to be re-examined.
"The era of big data challenges the way we live and interact with the world. Most strikingly, society will need to shed some of its obsession for causality in exchange for simple correlations: not knowing why but only what."
"The ideal of identifying causal mechanisms is a self-congratulattory illusion..."
— quotes coinsidentally found in Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier, Big Data Once again modern science catches up to Buddhsim. But I would say "Most strikingly, society will have to stop calling correlations causes."
Evil does not cause evil. It is through perception of evil - the cognizance of information conveying the idea of evil - that the idea of evil arises in the mind but the evil information did not 'cause' that idea, it came up in association with, bound up in that information.
A thing that causes another thing always causes that other thing. That being the case there could be no escape from what that thing caused. But there is escape.
Through the analysis of a thing into it's component parts one is able to separate out the information that is giving rise to any specific idea and take measures to counteract it's tendency to arise.
The idea of 'cause' is a sublimation of the idea of self. It requires that there be a force there independent of any given thing which is the 'cause' force.
That is the idea of the ultimate existence of a thing and that is a sublimation of the idea of self.
That is also at the root of the idea of a Creator God. This is also the problem with the translation of 'dhatū' as 'element': it implies an on-going ultimate existence of a thing.
Elsewhere the word most consistently translated 'cause,' 'hetu', is also being translated as carelessly.
The word actually means 'driving force' which is a much clearer idea of what is actualy happening in almost every case where 'cause' is used today in whatever field.
The distinction is most helpful when trying to figure out the Paticca Samuppada. The idea is that among factors that result in each phase, there is one which if missing, will prevent the arising of the next phase. The existence of forms of being (bhavas) does not 'cause' living in a form of being, but without forms of being there would be no living in any form of being.