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Über dieses Buch

This book is intended for anyone, regardless of discipline, who is interested in the use of statistical methods to help obtain scientific explanations or to predict the outcomes of actions, experiments or policies. Much of G. Udny Yule's work illustrates a vision of statistics whose goal is to investigate when and how causal influences may be reliably inferred, and their comparative strengths estimated, from statistical samples. Yule's enterprise has been largely replaced by Ronald Fisher's conception, in which there is a fundamental cleavage between experimental and non­ experimental inquiry, and statistics is largely unable to aid in causal inference without randomized experimental trials. Every now and then members of the statistical community express misgivings about this turn of events, and, in our view, rightly so. Our work represents a return to something like Yule's conception of the enterprise of theoretical statistics and its potential practical benefits. If intellectual history in the 20th century had gone otherwise, there might have been a discipline to which our work belongs. As it happens, there is not. We develop material that belongs to statistics, to computer science, and to philosophy; the combination may not be entirely satisfactory for specialists in any of these subjects. We hope it is nonetheless satisfactory for its purpose.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction and Advertisement

Abstract
Statistics textbooks provide interesting examples of causal questions: Did halothane do more to cause surgical deaths than ether? Was the lower admission rate of women to graduate programs at the University of California caused by discrimination against women? Does smoking cause cancer? Issues about determining causes surround many of the introductory and even advanced topics in statistical pedagogy: experimental design, randomization, collinearity in multiple regression, observational versus experimental studies, and so forth. But except for the standard warnings that correlation is not causation, the textbooks include little if any systematic discussion of the connection between causation and probability. The mathematics of probability and statistical inference is explicit, but the connection between probability relations and causal dependencies is almost completely tacit. The same applies to prediction, at least outside of econometrics. The textbooks consider cases where policy interventions are at issue, but they tell us nothing systematic about the connections between statistical analysis of observations or experiments and predictions of the effects of policies, actions or manipulations.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 2. Formal Preliminaries

Abstract
This chapter introduces some mathematical concepts used throughout the book. The chapter is meant to provide mathematically explicit definitions of the formal apparatus we use. It may be skipped in a first reading and referred to as needed, although the reader should be warned that for good reason we occasionally use nonstandard definitions of standard notions in graph theory. We assume the reader has some background in finite mathematics and statistics, including correlation analysis, but otherwise this chapter contains all of the mathematical concepts needed in this book. Some of the same mathematical objects defined here are given special interpretations in the next chapter, but here we treat everything entirely formally.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 3. Causation and Prediction: Axioms and Explications

Abstract
Views about the nature of causation divide very roughly into those that analyze causal influence as some sort of probabilistic relation, those that analyze causal influence as some sort of counterfactual relation (sometimes a counterfactual relation having to do with manipulations or interventions), and those that prefer not to talk of causation at all. We advocate no definition of causation, but in this chapter we try to make our usage systematic, and to make explicit our assumptions connecting causal structure with probability, counterfactuals and manipulations. With suitable metaphysical gyrations the assumptions could be endorsed from any of these points of view, perhaps including even the last.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 4. Statistical Indistinguishability

Abstract
Without experimental manipulations, the resolving power of any possible method for inferring causal structure from statistical relationships is limited by statistical indistinguishability. If two causal structures can equally account for the same statistics, then no statistics can distinguish them. The notions of statistical indistinguishability for causal hypotheses vary with the restrictions one imposes on the connections between directed graphs representing causal structure and probabilities representing the associated joint distribution of the variables. If one requires only that the Markov and Minimality Conditions be satisfied, then two causal graphs will be indistinguishable if the same class of distributions satisfy those conditions for one of the graphs as for the other. A different statistical indistinguishability relation is obtained if one requires that distributions be faithful to graph structure; and still another is obtained if the distributions must be consistent with a linear structure, and so on. For each case of interest, the problem is to characterize the indistinguishability classes graph-theoretically, for only then will one have a general understanding of the causal structures that cannot be distinguished under the general assumptions connecting causal graphs and distributions.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 5. Discovery Algorithms for Causally Sufficient Structures

Abstract
A discovery problem is composed of a set of alternative structures, one of which is the source of data, but any of which, for all the investigator knows before the inquiry, could be the structure from which the data are obtained. There is something to be found out about the actual structure, whichever it is. It may be that we want to settle a particular hypothesis that is true in some of the possible structures and false in others, or it may be that we want to know the complete theory of a certain sort of phenomenon. In this book, and in much of the social sciences and epidemiology, the alternative structures in a discovery problem are typically directed acyclic graphs paired with joint probability distributions on their vertices. We usually want to know something about the structure of the graph that represents causal influences, and we may also want to know about the distribution of values of variables in the graph for a given population.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 6. Discovery Algorithms without Causal Sufficiency

Abstract
The preceding chapter complied with a common statistical fantasy, namely that in typical data sets it is known that no part of the statistical dependencies among measured variables are due to unmeasured common causes. We almost always fail to measure all of the causes of variables we do measure, and we often fail to measure variables that are causes of two or more measured variables. Any examination of collections of social science data gives the striking impression that variables in one study often seem relevant to those in other studies. Record keeping practices sometimes force econometricians to ignore variables in studies of one economy thought to have a causal role in studies of other economies (Klein, 1961). In many studies in psychometrics, social psychology and econometrics, the real variables of interest are unmeasured or measured only by proxies or “indicators.” In epidemiological studies that claim to show that exposure to a risk factor causes disease, a burden of the argument is to show that the statistical association is not due to some common cause of risk factor and disease; since not everything imaginably relevant can be measured, the argument is radically incomplete unless a case can be made that unmeasured variables do not “confound” the association. If, as we believe, no reliable empirical study can proceed without considering whether relevant variables are unmeasured, then few published uncontrolled empirical studies are reliable.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 7. Prediction

Abstract
The fundamental aim of many empirical studies is to predict the effects of changes, whether the changes come about naturally or are imposed by deliberate policy: Will the reduction of sources of environmental lead increase the intelligence of children in exposed regions? Will increased taxation of cigarettes decrease lung cancer? How large will these effects be? What will be the differential yield if a field is planted with one species of wheat rather than another;, or the difference in number of polio cases per capita if all children are vaccinated against polio as against if none are; or the difference in recidivism rates if parolees are given $600 per month for six months as against if they are given nothing; or the reduction of lung cancer deaths in middle aged smokers if they are given help in quitting cigarette smoking; or the decline in gasoline consumption if an additional dollar tax per gallon is imposed?
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 8. Regression, Causation and Prediction

Abstract
Regression is a special case, not a special subject. The problems of causal inference in regression studies are instances of the problems we have considered in the previous chapters, and the solutions are to be found there as well. What is singular about regression is only that a technique so ill suited to causal inference should have found such wide employment to that purpose.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 9. The Design of Empirical Studies

Abstract
Simple extensions of the results of the preceding chapters are relevant to the design of empirical studies. In this chapter we consider only a few fundamental issues. They include a comparison of the powers of observational and experimental designs, some implications for sampling and variable selection, and some considerations regarding ethical experimental design. We conclude with a reconsideration from the present perspective of the famous dispute over the causal conclusions that could legitimately be drawn from epidemiological studies of smoking and health.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 10. The Structure of the Unobserved

Abstract
Many theories suppose there are variables that have not been measured but that influence measured variables. In studies in econometrics, psychometrics, sociology and elsewhere the principal aim may be to uncover the causal relations among such “latent” variables. In such cases it is usually assumed that one knows that the measured variables (e.g., responses to questionnaire items) are not themselves causes of unmeasured variables of interest (e.g., attitude), and the measuring instruments are often designed with fairly definite ideas as to which measured items are caused by which unmeasured variables. Survey questionnaires may involve hundreds of items, and the very number of variables is ordinarily an impediment to drawing useful conclusions about structure. Although there are a number of procedures commonly used for such problems, their reliability is doubtful. A common practice, for example, is to form aggregated scales by averaging measures of variables that are held to be proxies for the same unmeasured variable, and then to study the correlations of the scales. The correlations thus obtained have no simple systematic connection with causal relations among the unmeasured variables.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 11. Elaborating Linear Theories with Unmeasured Variables

Abstract
In many cases investigators have a causal theory in which they place some confidence, but they are unsure whether the model contains all important causal connections, or they believe it to be incomplete but don’t know which dependencies are missing. How can further unknown causal connections be discovered? The same sort of question arises for the output of the PC or FCI algorithms when, for example, two correlated variables are disconnected in the pattern; in that case we may think that some mechanism not represented in the pattern accounts for the dependency, and the pattern needs to be elaborated. In this chapter we consider a special case of the “elaboration problem,” confined to linear theories with unmeasured common causes each having one or more measured indicators. The general strategy we develop for addressing the elaboration problem can be adapted to models without latent variables, and also to models for discrete variables. Other strategies than those we consider here are also promising; the Bayesian methods of Cooper and Herskovits, in particular, could be adapted to the elaboration problem.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 12. Open Problems

Abstract
A number of questions have been raised and not answered in the course of this book. Foremost among these are issues concerning extensions of the reliabilities and informativeness of the search algorithms. We record here a number of other questions that seem important. Some of the problems and questions may be quite easy, or may follow from results already available but unknown to us. Others have been worked at for some time by ourselves or others and appear to be quite difficult. Some are not particularly difficult but require work we have not done. All of the issues seem to us important to help fill out our understanding of the relations between causal structure and probability, and of the possibilities of causal inference and prediction.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Chapter 13. Proofs of Theorems

Abstract
We will adopt the following notational conventions. “w.l.g.” abbreviates “without loss of generality”, “r.h.s.” abbreviates “right hand side”, and “l.h.s.” abbreviates “left hand side”. Any sum over the empty set is equal to 0 and any product over the empty set is 1. R(I,J) represents a directed path from I to J. If U is an undirected path from A to B, and X and Y occur on U, then we will denote the subpath of U between X to Y as U(X,Y). T(I,J) represents a trek in T(I,J). The definitions of all technical terms in this chapter that have not been defined in Chapters 2 or 3 have been placed in a glossary following the chapter.
Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, Richard Scheines

Backmatter

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