Galton's Blinding Glasses. Modern Statistics Hiding Causal Structure in Early Theories of Inheritance

In Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality and Probability in the Sciences. pp. 243--262 (2007)
ABSTRACT. Probability and statistics play an important role in contemporary -philosophy of causality. They are viewed as glasses through which we can see or detect causal relations. However, they may sometimes act as blinding glasses, as I will argue in this paper. In the 19th century, Francis Galton tried to statistically analyze hereditary phenomena. Although he was a far better statistician than Gregor Mendel, his biological theory turned out to be less fruitful. This was no sheer accident. His knowledge of statistics generated two explananda (unknown to Mendel) which in turn generated constraints for any theory of heredity. These constraints misguided Galtons search for the causal mechanism of inheritance. This is not just. an interesting case for philosophers and historians of ·science. Notwithstanding the progress made by statitics, Galtons problem is still relevant today. In the final section, I briefly explore the implications for statistical techniques such as structural equation modelling.
Keywords causality  explanation  statistics  history of genetics
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 29,492
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Questioning the Causal Inheritance Principle.Ivar Hannikainen - 2010 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 25 (3):261-277.
The Philosophical Relevance of Statistics.Deborah G. Mayo - 1980 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:97 - 109.
Can Darwinian Inheritance Be Extended From Biology to Epistemology?Carla E. Kary - 1982 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982:356 - 369.
Francis Galton: And Eugenics Today.D. J. Galton & C. J. Galton - 1998 - Journal of Medical Ethics 24 (2):99-105.
Statistics of Mental Imagery.Francis Galton - 1880 - Mind 5 (19):301-318.
“Describing Our Whole Experience”: The Statistical Philosophies of W. F. R. Weldon and Karl Pearson.Charles H. Pence - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (4):475-485.
The Structure of Causal Sets.Christian Wüthrich - 2012 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 43 (2):223-241.
Exploratory Statistics and Empiricism.Stanley A. Mulaik - 1985 - Philosophy of Science 52 (3):410-430.
The Development of Francis Galton's Ideas on the Mechanism of Heredity.Michael Bulmer - 1999 - Journal of the History of Biology 32 (2):263 - 292.
Added to PP index

Total downloads
66 ( #81,081 of 2,180,621 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #302,011 of 2,180,621 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums