Should physicians be bayesian agents?


Abstract
Because physicians use scientific inference for the generalizations of individual observations and the application of general knowledge to particular situations, the Bayesian probability solution to the problem of induction has been proposed and frequently utilized. Several problems with the Bayesian approach are introduced and discussed. These include: subjectivity, the favoring of a weak hypothesis, the problem of the false hypothesis, the old evidence/new theory problem and the observation that physicians are not currently Bayesians. To the complaint that the prior probability is subjective, Bayesians reply that there will be ultimate convergence, but the rebuttal to this is that there will not be uniform convergence. Secondly, since the Bayesian scheme favors a weak hypothesis, theories turn out to be a gratuitous risk. The problem with the false hypothesis comes out in the denominator of the theorem, revealing that a factor which is not a theory at all is being considered in the reasoning. On the old evidence/new theory problem old evidence cannot confirm a new theory so that the posterior probability will equal the prior probability. Finally, empiric studies have shown that current physicians are not Bayesians. But on consideration of Bayesian inference as a system of inference, it can be reasoned that physicians should be Bayesians. However, the problem of physicians' and patients' own subjectivity continue to plague this system of medical decision making.
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