Introduction to Causality - Part I


  • Author: Professors Judea Pearl & Nicholas P. Jewell
  • Date: 01 August 2014
  • Copyright: Statistics Views

"Causal inference begins in the crib" and "the quest for causal explanation is as old as human civilization. What has been delayed, however, is the ability of mankind to mathematize it. For some strange reasons which I am still exploring, it took 2000 years to develop, and only recently we have acquired a mathematically language in which we can express what we want to find out, what we are willing to assume about reality, put the two together with data and come up with an answer."

Judea Pearl, Professor of Computer Science and Statistics and director of the Cognitive Systems Laboratory at UCLA, who championed the development of Bayesian networks, and later developed a calculus for causal inference, describes the emergence of causal calculus in an interview with Nick Jewell.

Last year, the American Statistical Association announced an annual Causality in Statistics Education Prize, "to encourage the teaching of basic causal inference methods in introductory statistics courses."

thumbnail image: Introduction to Causality - Part I

Pearl, who donated the prize said the prize is aiming to close a growing gap between research and education in this field. "While researchers are swept in an unprecedented excitement over new causal inference tools that are unveiled before us almost daily, the excitement is hardly seen among statistics educators, and is totally absent from statistics textbooks."

"I am determined" he said, "to convince every statistics instructor that causation is easy (It is!) and that he/she too can teach it for fun and profit. The fun comes from showing students how simple mathematical tools can answer questions that Pearson-Fisher-Neyman could not begin to address (e.g., control of confounding, model diagnosis, Simpson's paradox, mediation analysis), and the profit comes because most customers of statistics ask causal, not associational, questions."

Professor Nicholas P. Jewell interviews Judea Pearl about some of these ideas.

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