Wired is running a short and cogently explained essay about the rising challenges to research: the shrinking utility of causation.
It seems the more complex the system the less capable we are of working out which components are relevant and how.
The examples in the article are about Cholesterol and Lower Back Pain. But the conclusions should serve as a warning to quantitative and qualitative researchers alike.
This is not the way things are supposed to work. We assume that more information will make it easier to find the cause, that seeing the soft tissue of the back will reveal the source of the pain, or at least some useful correlations. Unfortunately, that often doesn’t happen. Our habits of visual conclusion-jumping take over. All those extra details end up confusing us; the more we know, the less we seem to understand.