In fact there’s quite a body of academic work which addresses this very subject – see for example the work of George Botterill (University of Sheffield, UK) [pictured] and Dr. Jane Suilin Lavelle (University of Edinburgh, UK) who look at the philosophical implications of absences and omissions, and whether (or not) they can genuinely be causally efficacious.
“[…] we think that energy in general is subject to a principle of conservation, and that an effect cannot just spring into existence out of nothing. The problem is sometimes presented in a colourful way by saying that mere absences lack the ‘oomph’, or ‘biff’, required for causal production. We will refer to this as the potency difficulty.”
For specific references, see section 6, ‘Nominals and Indicators : the absence of absences’ in: The Absent Relata Problem : Can absences and omissions really be causes? [under review]
“It might be the case that absences and omissions can be cited as explanatory difference-makers in contrastive explanations, but cannot be genuine causes because absences and omissions cannot be causal relata. It is quite conceivable that the folk should fail to abide by a subtle philosophical distinction between causation proper and causal explanation, and, being accustomed to invoke absences and omissions in explanations, loosely speak as if they could also be causes.”