a third way of probability?

Because the title intrigued me (who would dream of claiming connection with Tony Blair’s “new” Labour move to centre-right?!) , I downloaded William Briggs‘ paper the Third Way of Probability & Statistics from arXiv and read it while secluded away, with no connection to the outside world, at Longmire, Mount Rainier National Park. Early morning at Paradise Inn. The subtitle of the document is “Beyond Testing and Estimation To Importance, Relevance, and Skill“. Actually, Longmire may have been the only place where I would read through the entire paper and its 14 pages, as the document somewhat sounds like a practical (?) joke. And almost made me wonder whether Mr Briggs was a pseudonym… And where the filter behind arXiv publishing principles was that day.

The notion behind Briggs’ third way is that parameters do not exist and that only conditional probability exists. Not exactly a novel perspective then. The first five pages go on repeating this principle in various ways, without ever embarking into the implementation of the idea, at best referring to a future book in search of a friendly publisher… The remainder of the paper proceeds to analyse a college GPA dataset without ever explaining how the predictive distribution was constructed. The only discussion is about devising a tool to compare predictors, which is chosen as the continuous rank probability score of Gneiting and Raftery (2007). Looking at those scores seems to encompass this third way advocated by the author, then, which sounds to me to be an awfully short lane into statistics. With no foray whatsoever into probability.

2 Responses to “a third way of probability?”

  1. […] first comments ran along these lines (ellipses […]

  2. Briggs is an odd duck. His viewpoint, as near as I can tell, is a melding of Jaynes-Cox foundations and a kind of de-Finetti/Theodore-Geisser-style emphasis on predictive inference. I think he thinks that only observable quantities “deserve” to get probability distributions.

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