Experimental Indistinguishability of Causal Structures

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Eberhardt, Frederick
conference paper description
Using a variety of different results from the literature, we show how causal discovery with experiments is limited unless substantive assumptions about the underlying causal structure are made. These results undermine the view that experiments, such as randomized controlled trials, can independently provide a gold standard for causal discovery. Moreover, we present a concrete example in which causal underdetermination persists despite exhaustive experimentation, and argue that such cases undermine the appeal of an interventionist account of causation as its dependence on other assumptions is not spelled out.