The Book of Why
22nd April 2021
Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!
Book of the Week
The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect, by computer scientist and philosopher Judea Pearl. For anyone with the slightest interest in statistics, mathematics, or figuring out whether the public is being duped by yet another “solidly researched” fad, this book is for you. Judea himself observes “In Statistics 101, every student learns to chant, ‘Correlation is not causation.’ With good reason! The rooster’s crow is highly correlated with the sunrise; yet it does not cause the sunrise. Unfortunately, statistics has fetishized this commonsense observation. It tells us that correlation is not causation, but it does not tell us what causation is. In vain will you search the index of a statistics textbook for an entry on ‘cause.’ Students are not allowed to say that X is the cause of Y—only that X and Y are ‘related’ or ‘associated.’
But, in large part due to Pearl’s research, “…things have changed dramatically in the past three decades. Nowadays, thanks to carefully crafted causal models, contemporary scientists can address problems that would have once been considered unsolvable or even beyond the pale of scientific inquiry. For example, only a hundred years ago, the question of whether cigarette smoking causes a health hazard would have been considered unscientific. The mere mention of the words ‘cause’ or ‘effect’ would create a storm of objections in any reputable statistical journal. Even two decades ago, asking a statistician a question like ‘Was it the aspirin that stopped my headache?’ would have been like asking if he believed in voodoo. To quote an esteemed colleague of mine, it would be “‘more of a cocktail conversation topic than a scientific inquiry.’ But today, epidemiologists, social scientists, computer scientists, and at least some enlightened economists and statisticians pose such questions routinely and answer them with mathematical precision. To me, this change is nothing short of a revolution. I dare to call it the Causal Revolution, a scientific shakeup that embraces rather than denies our innate cognitive gift of understanding cause and effect.”
We love this book, which explains the new science of causality in a straightforward fashion. You’ll find yourself thinking about correlations—and causations—in a new way.
ASEE Presents: Barb’s Synchronous Master Class On Effective Teaching
Coming up by popular demand, Barb and her colleagues Beth Rogowsky and Chris Kobus will be doing the second live webinar presenting practical insights and ideas from their groundbreaking new book Uncommon Sense Teaching. The workshop will be held on June 21, 22, & 23, 2021 from 12:00 – 4:00 PM, ET. It will give an in-depth and counterintuitive look at how many approaches previously thought to be helpful for learning can actually harm students’ ability to learn and turn them off on educational systems. You will discover and review powerful new insights from neuroscience that provide practical tools to help your students learn more effectively. Wherever and whatever you teach, you will find this workshop provides great new insights on learning that aren’t contained in Learning How to Learn—or anywhere else. This is a great way to gain fresh perspectives on teaching over the summer—and have fun while you are at it! This is a great way to gain fresh perspectives on teaching over the summer—and have fun while you are at it! Space is limited, so reserve your seat now.
Barb in Europe in September/October 2021
Barb will be resuming her international travels by speaking for the Federal Congress for Protestant Schools in Dresden on September 30 and October 1, 2021. If you are interested in her speaking at an event in Europe in the last two weeks of September or the first two weeks of October, please reach out here.
Kati Kariko Helped Shield the World From the Coronavirus
This amazing story describes how Kati Kariko laid the foundation for the stunningly successful vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Notice how Kati had to fight against an enormous array of top-flight experts who couldn’t be bothered to believe there was something to her research.
Wonderful Overview Graphic of Learning How to Learn
Here’s a fabulous infographic by Outerbridge of our Learning How to Learn course—there’s also a great accompanying synopsis of the key ideas in our course. Enjoy!
Our Apologies for Last Week’s Bad Link
We loved the article “How Coining a Phrase Can Lead to an Inigo Montoya Moment,” but sadly, the link we provided was a bad one. Now you have the right one to help satisfy your curiosity!
That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!
Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team