Probability Theory: The Logic of Science [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Mathematical Intelligencer 27 (2):83-85 (2005)
A standard view of probability and statistics centers on distributions and hypothesis testing. To solve a real problem, say in the spread of disease, one chooses a “model”, a distribution or process that is believed from tradition or intuition to be appropriate to the class of problems in question. One uses data to estimate the parameters of the model, and then delivers the resulting exactly specified model to the customer for use in prediction and classification. As a gateway to these mysteries, the combinatorics of dice and coins are recommended; the energetic youth who invest heavily in the calculation of relative frequencies will be inclined to protect their investment through faith in the frequentist philosophy that probabilities are all really relative frequencies. Those with a taste for foundational questions are referred to measure theory, an excursion from which few return. That picture, standardised by Fisher and Neyman in the 1930s, has proved in many ways remarkably serviceable. It is especially reasonable where it is known that the data are generated by a physical process that conforms to the model. It is not so useful where the data is a large and little understood mess, as is typical in, for example, insurance data being investigated for fraud. Nor is it suitable where one has several speculations about possible models and wishes to compare them, or..
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