Scientists say or write “cause” when “aggravant” is more scientific.
By definition, a cause necessarily produces its effect. “The cause” is even more limiting – the cause = the one and only cause. The effect follows automatically from the occurrence of the cause. Clearly “cause” is a concept with limited applicability in accurately describing things.
Consider some examples:
1. “HIV is the cause of AIDS” – No, not at all – HIV aggravates pre-existing immunodeficiencies by reducing the level of CD4+ lymphocytes. Less than 1% of all medical professionals get AIDS after a needle stick with contaminated blood. Would be closer to 99% if HIV actually was THE CAUSE of AIDS.
What would the infection rate be without the quick medical attention so many medical professionals receive? Don’t know – but it would not be nearly 100%, the number expected if HIV were THE CAUSE of AIDS.
2. “Greenhouse gases cause global warming” – Greenhouse gases aggravate global warming (if indeed they have NO cooling capacities), but the overall warming or cooling of the planet is determined by a vector sum of all of the relevant variables, including green house gas concentrations and a lot of additional variables with heating and/or cooling capabilities, such as sulfur compounds, which seem to primarily cool, and particulate pollution, which can heat or cool, depending on the particulates.
3. “Helicobacter causes ulcers” – Helicobacter is an aggravant in the process of ulceration. Helicobacter compromises the mucus barrier and thereby increases the probability that a gastric ulcer will form. The mucus barrier is also compromised by drinking on an empty stomach (stimulates gastric juice [acid plus pepsin] production), psychogenic stress (stimulates gastric juice production, up to 50 mL per hour), and the abuse of NSAIDs (which inhibit prostaglandins, which are used to stimulate barrier rebuilding during the fasts between meals). The barrier may also be compromised by grazing, since grazing reduces the amount of time spent fasting, when the barrier is repaired from the damage done during the previous meal – this is a potential problem for those who eat/snack all day or who eat 6 “small” meals a day. The barrier is likely compromised somewhat every time we eat – food and the mucus barrier are both substrates for gastric juice, food being a better substrate. The barrier is also likely compromised by inadequate secretion of saliva [often due to xerostomic medications] and/or by low quality saliva (which is also a function of nutritional quality of our food). Everything comes back to DEFICIENCIES!