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Old 12-09-2009, 03:33 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Newbridge, NJ
Posts: 2,673
Default Re: New diavloggers we'd like to see

Judea Pearl wrote the book on causality:

I got my first hint of the dark world of causality during my junior year of high school.

My science teacher, Dr. Feuchtwanger, introduced us to the study of logic by discussing the 19th century finding that more people died from smallpox inoculations than from smallpox itself. Some people used this information to argue that inoculation was harmful when, in fact, the data proved the opposite, that inoculation was saving lives by eradicating smallpox.

"And here is where logic comes in," concluded Dr. Feuchtwanger, "To protect us from cause-effect fallacies of this sort." We were all enchanted by the marvels of logic, even though Dr. Feuchtwanger never actually showed us how logic protects us from such fallacies.

It doesn't, I realized years later as an artificial intelligence researcher. Neither logic, nor any branch of mathematics had developed adequate tools for managing problems, such as the smallpox inoculations, involving cause-effect relationships. Most of my colleagues even considered causal vocabulary to be dangerous, avoidable, ill-defined, and nonscientific. "Causality is endless controversy," one of them warned. The accepted style in scientific papers was to write "A implies B" even if one really meant "A causes B," or to state "A is related to B" if one was thinking "A affects B."

Clearly, such denial of causal thought could not last forever ...
-- http://bayes.cs.ucla.edu/BOOK-2K/why.html

Maybe Cosma Shalizi could ask the questions.
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