Comments on the reply

It is quite nice that Professor Burdzy replied to our critical analyses of his book The Search for Certainty in such a kind way, but, overall, my opinion about the book is basically unchanged, just as Andrew’s. The book does not bring much to the way I perceive Statistics nor to the reasons for which I favour Bayesian over frequentist analysis. So, just as clearly, I am not interested in (i) (philosophical) criticisms of von Mises and de Finetti philosophical bases, in (ii) a new “scientific theory of probability”, or in (iii) educating scientists about philosophical theories of probability. ’tis not to say that I cannot launch into a (pseudo-)philosophical defence of the Bayesian approach at times, but I then focus on the coherence of the Bayesian principles and on their fundamental  interaction with decision, taking for granted the measure-theoretic foundations of probability objects…

I think the other “Facts” in the reply are basically a matter of imprecision in my text or in Burdzy’s, which could be settled by a revision of my paper (and the choice of a less unlikely picture by the publisher!). The same applies to the “Opinion” part, as, again, I do not think The Search for Certainty has any bearing on statistical practice (and I agree with Professor Burdzy that most statisticians do not care much about those philosophical issues). I find the remark about catholic theology of interest in that it implies a coherent and unique (or dual) basis for the philosophical justification of probability. One most exciting aspect about statistics—and one that makes the field so distinct from mathematics—is on the opposite that the same problem can be tackled in many different ways, based on very different premises. There is no “Vatican doctrine”, thank God—easy pun, I know!

Anyway, I hope the sum of those discussions can eventually make it into a (BA?) discussion paper!

3 Responses to “Comments on the reply”

  1. […] is of course the most entertaining. (Some of its ingredients could be found in the earlier posted comments of his, as well as in comments on Andrew Gelman’s blog.) I strongly suggest reading those […]

  2. There is something I do not understand at all about Robert’s intellectual position. He says “I am not interested in (i) (philosophical) criticisms of von Mises and de Finetti philosophical bases, in (ii) a new “scientific theory of probability”, or in (iii) educating scientists about philosophical theories of probability.” These are the only major intellectual goals of my book. So why did Robert bother to write and post on Arxiv a very critical review of my book?

    Suppose that Robert is not interested in Chinese cooking. Would Robert bother to write a (very critical) review of a Chinese cookbook?

    • The difference between Chinese cooking and Bayesian statistics is, correct me if I err, that Bayesian statistics has a direct link with (a) the philosophy/epistemic of learning, (b) de Finetti… So when I happen upon a book that (a) cover the foundations of my discipline, (b) offers a critical assessment of one of the main actors in my discipline, I am tempted to read this book. (This shows a good marketing strategy!) Now once I have spend several weeks reading the book and finding nothing relevant for my research nor for my thinking I can either (a) throw away those wasted hours or (b) comment on the book with the hope that others, including philosophers and statisticians, will start commenting as well on the book and thus enlighten me about the points I have missed. Hence my delight at having Andrew commenting. Further, since the book is remotely connected with Bayesian statistics, albeit a posteriori very tenuously connected, this discussion may turn into a discussion paper in Bayesian Analysis. Since this was a priori appealing to the BA editor, I hence turned my blog review into a paper. Again trying to make as much as possible from the time spent reading this book… Presumably this is not an intellectual but opportunistic position, after all!

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