the greatest intellectual failure

We do know how to do the calculations, we can determine the probabilities for various experiments, real or imagined. In fact, an amazing machinery of methods and tools has been developed over decades for this purpose; A cornerstone of modern physics and science in general.

And yet, important foundational questions remain unanswered.

I am talking, of course, about statistics and our theories of probability.

Recently I found this:

"This book is about one of the greatest intellectual failures of the twentieth
century - several unsuccessful attempts to construct a scientific theory of
probability. Probability and statistics are based on very well developed
mathematical theories. Amazingly, these solid mathematical foundations
are not linked to applications via a scientific theory but via two mutually
contradictory and radical philosophies. One of these philosophical theories
(frequency) is an awkward attempt to provide scientific foundations for
probability. The other theory (subjective) is one of the most confused
theories in all of science and philosophy. A little scrutiny shows that in
practice, the two ideologies are almost entirely ignored, even by their own supporters."

Krzysztof Burdzy

But I guess before I buy the book I will browse the blog a bit more...

added later: ... and read some reviews: negative and positive. (I thank Jonathan for the links.)


Jonathan Livengood said...

If you haven't seen them yet, you might also take a look at reviews and discussions involving Andrew Gelman, Christian Robert, and Larry Wasserman.

I'll be looking forward to what you have to say about it.

wolfgang said...


thank you for the links.
I am trying to read some of the reviews and get an idea what he is saying before I go and buy the book.

wolfgang said...

>> what you have to say about it.
I think statistics has a problem similar as quantum theory:
We know how to use it and how to calculate etc. , but some foundational issues are open and in some sense we don't even know what the calculations are actually about.