A popular informal argument suggests that statistics about the preponderance of criminal involvement among particular demographic groups partially justify others in making defensive mistakes against members of the group. One could worry that evidence-relative accounts of moral rights vindicate this argument. After constructing the strongest form of this objection, I offer several replies: most demographic statistics face an unmet challenge from reference class problems, even those that meet it fail to ground non-negligible conditional probabilities, even if they did, (...) they introduce new costs likely to cancel out any justificatory contribution of the statistic, but even if they didn’t, demographic facts are the wrong sort to make a moral difference to agents’ negative rights. I conclude that the popular argument should be rejected, and evidence-relative theories do not have the worrisome implication. (shrink)
The spin-statistics connection is derived in a simple manner under the postulates that the original and the exchange wave functions are simply added, and that the azimuthal phase angle, which defines the orientation of the spin part of each single-particle spin-component eigenfunction in the plane normal to the spin-quantization axis, is exchanged along with the other parameters. The spin factor (−1)2s belongs to the exchange wave function when this function is constructed so as to get the spinor ambiguity under (...) control. This is achieved by effecting the exchange of the azimuthal angle by means of rotations and admitting only rotations in one sense. The procedure works in Galilean as well as in Lorentz-invariant quantum mechanics. Relativistic quantum field theory is not required. (shrink)
This paper puts forward the hypothesis that the distinctive features of quantum statistics are exclusively determined by the nature of the properties it describes. In particular, all statistically relevant properties of identical quantum particles in many-particle systems are conjectured to be irreducible, ‘inherent’ properties only belonging to the whole system. This allows one to explain quantum statistics without endorsing the ‘Received View’ that particles are non-individuals, or postulating that quantum systems obey peculiar probability distributions, or assuming that there (...) are primitive restrictions on the range of states accessible to such systems. With this, the need for an unambiguously metaphysical explanation of certain physical facts is acknowledged and satisfied. (shrink)
The exponential growth of social data both in volume and complexity has increasingly exposed many of the shortcomings of the conventional frequentist approach to statistics. The scientific community has called for careful usage of the approach and its inference. Meanwhile, the alternative method, Bayesian statistics, still faces considerable barriers toward a more widespread application. The bayesvl R package is an open program, designed for implementing Bayesian modeling and analysis using the Stan language’s no-U-turn (NUTS) sampler. The package combines (...) the ability to construct Bayesian network models using directed acyclic graphs (DAGs), the Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) simulation technique, and the graphic capability of the ggplot2 package. As a result, it can improve the user experience and intuitive understanding when constructing and analyzing Bayesian network models. A case example is offered to illustrate the usefulness of the package for Big Data analytics and cognitive computing. (shrink)
We start with the ambition -- dating back to the early days of the semantic web -- of assembling a significant portion human knowledge into a contradiction-free form using semantic web technology. We argue that this would not be desirable, because there are concepts, known as essentially contested concepts, whose definitions are contentious due to deep-seated ethical disagreements. Further, we argue that the ninetenth century hermeneutical tradition has a great deal to say, both about the ambition, and about why it (...) fails. We conclude with some remarks about statistics. (shrink)
Statistical evidence is crucial throughout disparate impact’s three-stage analysis: during (1) the plaintiff’s prima facie demonstration of a policy’s disparate impact; (2) the defendant’s job-related business necessity defense of the discriminatory policy; and (3) the plaintiff’s demonstration of an alternative policy without the same discriminatory impact. The circuit courts are split on a vital question about the “practical significance” of statistics at Stage 1: Are “small” impacts legally insignificant? For example, is an employment policy that causes a one percent (...) disparate impact an appropriate policy for redress through disparate impact litigation? This circuit split calls for a comprehensive analysis of practical significance testing across disparate impact’s stages. Importantly, courts and commentators use “practical significance” ambiguously between two aspects of practical significance: the magnitude of an effect and confidence in statistical evidence. For example, at Stage 1 courts might ask whether statistical evidence supports a disparate impact (a confidence inquiry) and whether such an impact is large enough to be legally relevant (a magnitude inquiry). Disparate impact’s texts, purposes, and controlling interpretations are consistent with confidence inquires at all three stages, but not magnitude inquiries. Specifically, magnitude inquiries are inappropriate at Stages 1 and 3—there is no discriminatory impact or reduction too small or subtle for the purposes of the disparate impact analysis. Magnitude inquiries are appropriate at Stage 2, when an employer defends a discriminatory policy on the basis of its job-related business necessity. (shrink)
Statistics play a critical role in biological and clinical research. To promote logically consistent representation and classification of statistical entities, we have developed the Ontology of Biological and Clinical Statistics (OBCS). OBCS extends the Ontology of Biomedical Investigations (OBI), an OBO Foundry ontology supported by some 20 communities. Currently, OBCS contains 686 terms, including 381 classes imported from OBI and 147 classes specific to OBCS. The goal of this paper is to present OBCS for community critique and to (...) describe a number of use cases designed to illustrate its potential applications. The OBCS project and source code are available at http://obcs.googlecode.com. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is twofold: -/- 1) to highlight the widely ignored but fundamental problem of ‘superpopulations’ for the use of inferential statistics in development studies. We do not to dwell on this problem however as it has been sufficiently discussed in older papers by statisticians that social scientists have nevertheless long chosen to ignore; the interested reader can turn to those for greater detail. -/- 2) to show that descriptive statistics both avoid the problem of (...) superpopulations and can be a powerful tool when used correctly. A few examples are provided. -/- The paper ends with considerations of some reasons we think are behind the adherence to methods that are known to be inapplicable to many of the types of questions asked in development studies yet still widely practiced. (shrink)
Many who think that naked statistical evidence alone is inadequate for a trial verdict think that use of probability is the problem, and something other than probability – knowledge, full belief, causal relations – is the solution. I argue that the issue of whether naked statistical evidence is weak can be formulated within the probabilistic idiom, as the question whether likelihoods or only posterior probabilities should be taken into account in our judgment of a case. This question also identifies a (...) major difference between the Process Reliabilist and Probabilistic Tracking views of knowledge and other concepts. Though both are externalist, and probabilistic, epistemic theories, Tracking does and Process Reliabilism does not put conditions on likelihoods. So Tracking implies that a naked statistic is not adequate evidence about an individual, and does not yield knowledge, whereas the Reliabilist thinks it gives justified belief and knowledge. Not only does the Tracking view imply that naked statistical evidence is insufficient for a verdict, but it gives us resources to explain why, in terms of risk and the special conditions of a trial. (shrink)
The last two decades have seen a welcome proliferation of the collection and dissemination of data on social progress, as well as considered public debates rethinking existing standards of measuring the progress of societies. These efforts are to be welcomed. However, they are only a nascent step on a longer road to the improved measurement of social progress. In this paper, I focus on the central role that gender should take in future efforts to measure progress in securing human rights, (...) with a particular focus on anti-poverty rights. I proceed in four parts. First, I argue that measurement of human rights achievements and human rights deficits is entailed by the recognition of human rights, and that adequate measurement of human rights must be genuinely gender-sensitive. Second, I argue that existing systems of information collection currently fail rights holders, especially women, by failing to adequately gather information on the degree to which their rights are secure. If my first two claims are correct, this failure represents a serious injustice, and in particular an injustice for women. Third, I make recommendations regarding changes to existing information collection that would generate gender-sensitive measures of anti-poverty rights. Fourth, I conclude by responding to various objections that have been raised regarding the rise of indicators to track human rights. (shrink)
Over the years, mathematics and statistics have become increasingly important in the social sciences1 . A look at history quickly confirms this claim. At the beginning of the 20th century most theories in the social sciences were formulated in qualitative terms while quantitative methods did not play a substantial role in their formulation and establishment. Moreover, many practitioners considered mathematical methods to be inappropriate and simply unsuited to foster our understanding of the social domain. Notably, the famous Methodenstreit also (...) concerned the role of mathematics in the social sciences. Here, mathematics was considered to be the method of the natural sciences from which the social sciences had to be separated during the period of maturation of these disciplines. All this changed by the end of the century. By then, mathematical, and especially statistical, methods were standardly used, and their value in the social sciences became relatively uncontested. The use of mathematical and statistical methods is now ubiquitous: Almost all social sciences rely on statistical methods to analyze data and form hypotheses, and almost all of them use (to a greater or lesser extent) a range of mathematical methods to help us understand the social world. Additional indication for the increasing importance of mathematical and statistical methods in the social sciences is the formation of new subdisciplines, and the establishment of specialized journals and societies. Indeed, subdisciplines such as Mathematical Psychology and Mathematical Sociology emerged, and corresponding journals such as The Journal of Mathematical Psychology (since 1964), The Journal of Mathematical Sociology (since 1976), Mathematical Social Sciences (since 1980) as well as the online journals Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (since 1998) and Mathematical Anthropology and Cultural Theory (since 2000) were established. What is more, societies such as the Society for Mathematical Psychology (since 1976) and the Mathematical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association (since 1996) were founded. Similar developments can be observed in other countries. The mathematization of economics set in somewhat earlier (Vazquez 1995; Weintraub 2002). However, the use of mathematical methods in economics started booming only in the second half of the last century (Debreu 1991). Contemporary economics is dominated by the mathematical approach, although a certain style of doing economics became more and more under attack in the last decade or so. Recent developments in behavioral economics and experimental economics can also be understood as a reaction against the dominance (and limitations) of an overly mathematical approach to economics. There are similar debates in other social sciences. It is, however, important to stress that problems of one method (such as axiomatization or the use of set theory) can hardly be taken as a sign of bankruptcy of mathematical methods in the social sciences tout court. This chapter surveys mathematical and statistical methods used in the social sciences and discusses some of the philosophical questions they raise. It is divided into two parts. Sections 1 and 2 are devoted to mathematical methods, and Sections 3 to 7 to statistical methods. As several other chapters in this handbook provide detailed accounts of various mathematical methods, our remarks about the latter will be rather short and general. Statistical methods, on the other hand, will be discussed in-depth. (shrink)
ABSTRACTIn this article, we discuss the benefits of Bayesian statistics and how to utilize them in studies of moral education. To demonstrate concrete examples of the applications of Bayesian statistics to studies of moral education, we reanalyzed two data sets previously collected: one small data set collected from a moral educational intervention experiment, and one big data set from a large-scale Defining Issues Test-2 survey. The results suggest that Bayesian analysis of data sets collected from moral educational studies (...) can provide additional useful statistical information, particularly that associated with the strength of evidence supporting alternative hypotheses, which has not been provided by the classical frequentist approach focusing on P-values. Finally, we introduce several practical guidelines pertaining to how to utilize Bayesian statistics, including the utilization of newly developed free statistical software, Jeffrey’s Amazing Statistics Program, and thresholding based on Bayes Factors, to scholars in the field of moral education. (shrink)
This paper discusses the issue of the identity and individuality (or lack thereof) of quantum mechanical particles. It first reconstructs, on the basis of the extant literature, a general argument in favour of the conclusion that such particles are not individual objects. Then, it critically assesses each one of the argument’s premises. The upshot is that, in fact, there is no compelling reason for believing that quantum particles are not individual objects.
Statistics play a critical role in biological and clinical research. However, most reports of scientific results in the published literature make it difficult for the reader to reproduce the statistical analyses performed in achieving those results because they provide inadequate documentation of the statistical tests and algorithms applied. The Ontology of Biological and Clinical Statistics (OBCS) is put forward here as a step towards solving this problem. Terms in OBCS, including ‘data collection’, ‘data transformation in statistics’, ‘data (...) visualization’, ‘statistical data analysis’, and ‘drawing a conclusion based on data’, cover the major types of statistical processes used in basic biological research and clinical outcome studies. OBCS is aligned with the Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) and extends the Ontology of Biomedical Investigations (OBI), an OBO (Open Biological and Biomedical Ontologies) Foundry ontology supported by over 20 research communities. We discuss two examples illustrating how the ontology is being applied. In the first (biological) use case, we describe how OBCS was applied to represent the high throughput microarray data analysis of immunological transcriptional profiles in human subjects vaccinated with an influenza vaccine. In the second (clinical outcomes) use case, we applied OBCS to represent the processing of electronic health care data to determine the associations between hospital staffing levels and patient mortality. Our case studies were designed to show how OBCS can be used for the consistent representation of statistical analysis pipelines under two different research paradigms. By representing statistics-related terms and their relations in a rigorous fashion, OBCS facilitates standard data analysis and integration, and supports reproducible biological and clinical research. (shrink)
If the goal of statistical analysis is to form justified credences based on data, then an account of the foundations of statistics should explain what makes credences justified. I present a new account called statistical reliabilism (SR), on which credences resulting from a statistical analysis are justified (relative to alternatives) when they are in a sense closest, on average, to the corresponding objective probabilities. This places (SR) in the same vein as recent work on the reliabilist justification of credences (...) generally [Dunn, 2015, Tang, 2016, Pettigrew, 2018], but it has the advantage of being action-guiding in that knowledge of objective probabilities is not required to identify the best-justified available credences. The price is that justification is relativized to a specific class of candidate objective probabilities, and to a particular choice of reliability measure. On the other hand, I show that (SR) has welcome implications for frequentist-Bayesian reconciliation, including a clarification of the use of priors; complemen- tarity between probabilist and fallibilist [Gelman and Shalizi, 2013, Mayo, 2018] approaches towards statistical foundations; and the justification of credences outside of formal statistical settings. Regarding the latter, I demonstrate how the insights of statistics may be used to amend other reliabilist accounts so as to render them action-guiding. I close by discussing new possible research directions for epistemologists and statisticians (and other applied users of probability) raised by the (SR) framework. (shrink)
There are two motivations commonly ascribed to historical actors for taking up statistics: to reduce complicated data to a mean value (e.g., Quetelet), and to take account of diversity (e.g., Galton). Different motivations will, it is assumed, lead to different methodological decisions in the practice of the statistical sciences. Karl Pearson and W. F. R. Weldon are generally seen as following directly in Galton’s footsteps. I argue for two related theses in light of this standard interpretation, based on a (...) reading of several sources in which Weldon, independently of Pearson, reflects on his own motivations. First, while Pearson does approach statistics from this "Galtonian" perspective, he is, consistent with his positivist philosophy of science, utilizing statistics to simplify the highly variable data of biology. Weldon, on the other hand, is brought to statistics by a rich empiricism and a desire to preserve the diversity of biological data. Secondly, we have here a counterexample to the claim that divergence in motivation will lead to a corresponding separation in methodology. Pearson and Weldon, despite embracing biometry for different reasons, settled on precisely the same set of statistical tools for the investigation of evolution. (shrink)
Perhaps the topic of acceptable risk never had a sexier and more succinct introduction than the one Edward Norton, playing an automobile company executive, gave it in Fight Club: “Take the number of vehicles in the field (A), multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B), and multiply the result by the average out of court settlement (C). A*B*C=X. If X is less than the cost of the recall, we don’t do one.” Of course, this dystopic scene also gets (...) to the heart of the issue in another way: acceptable risk deals with mathematical calculations about the value of life, injury, and emotional wreckage, making calculation a difficult matter ethically, politically, and economically. This entry will explore the history of this idea, focusing on its development alongside statistics into its wide importance today. (shrink)
Scientists use models to understand the natural world, and it is important not to conflate model and nature. As an illustration, we distinguish three different kinds of populations in studies of ecology and evolution: theoretical, laboratory, and natural populations, exemplified by the work of R.A. Fisher, Thomas Park, and David Lack, respectively. Biologists are rightly concerned with all three types of populations. We examine the interplay between these different kinds of populations, and their pertinent models, in three examples: the notion (...) of “effective” population size, the work of Thomas Park on /Tribolium/ populations, and model-based clustering algorithms such as /Structure/. Finally, we discuss ways to move safely between three distinct population types while avoiding confusing models and reality. (shrink)
The replication crisis has prompted many to call for statistical reform within the psychological sciences. Here we examine issues within Frequentist statistics that may have led to the replication crisis, and we examine the alternative—Bayesian statistics—that many have suggested as a replacement. The Frequentist approach and the Bayesian approach offer radically different perspectives on evidence and inference with the Frequentist approach prioritising error control and the Bayesian approach offering a formal method for quantifying the relative strength of evidence (...) for hypotheses. We suggest that rather than mere statistical reform, what is needed is a better understanding of the different modes of statistical inference and a better understanding of how statistical inference relates to scientific inference. (shrink)
This dissertation shows how initial conditions play a special role in the explanation of contingent and irregular outcomes, including, in the form of geographic context, the special case of uneven development in the social sciences. The dissertation develops a general theory of this role, recognizes its empirical limitations in the social sciences, and considers how it might be applied to the question of uneven development. The primary purpose of the dissertation is to identify and correct theoretical problems in the study (...) of uneven development; it is not intended to be an empirical study. Chapter 1 introduces the basic problem, and discusses why it has become especially salient in debates concerning uneven development. Chapter 2 develops an argument for the importance of initial conditions in the philosophy of science, developed specifically in the context of the Bhaskar/Cartwright ‘open systems’ (and by extension, ‘exogenous factor’) emphasis on the ubiquity of contingency in the universe and rejection of explanation based on laws of nature (regularity accounts) of causation. Chapter 3 makes three claims concerning the concept of contingency, especially as related to the study of society: 1) that there are eight distinct uses of the word contingency, and its many meanings are detrimental to clarity of discussion and thought in history and the social sciences; 2) that it is possible to impose some order on these different uses through developing a classification of contingency into three types based on assumptions concerning possible worlds and determinism; 3) that one of the classes is a special use of the word without relevance to the social sciences, while the two remaining classes are nothing more than a variety of the ‘no hidden factors’ argument in the debate on indeterminism and determinism (and thus related to the concept of spacetime trajectories caused by initial conditions and the interference of these in the form of ‘exogenous factors’ with ‘open systems’). Chapter 4 The concept of explanation based on initial conditions together with laws of nature is widely associated with determinism. In the social sciences determinism has frequently been rejected due to the moral dilemmas it is perceived as presenting. Chapter 4 considers problems with this view. Chapter 5 considers attitudes among geographers, economists, and historians towards using geographic factors as initial conditions in explanation and how they might acceptably be used, in particular their role in ‘anchoring’ aspatial theories of social processes to real-world distributions. Chapter 6 considers the relationship of the statistical methods common in development studies with the trend towards integrating geographical factors into econometric development studies. It introduces the statistical argument on ‘apparent populations’ that arrives at conclusions concerning determinism consistent with Chapters 2 and 3 of the dissertation. The need for the visual interpretation of data with descriptive statistics and maps and their utility in the study of uneven development is discussed with a number of examples. Chapter 7 applies these concepts to the ‘institutions versus geography’ debate in development studies, using Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson’s 2002 ‘reversal of fortune’ argument as a primary example. Chapter 8 considers possible directions for future work, both theoretical and empirical. Chapter 9 concludes with a discussion of additional possible objections to the use of initial conditions as exogenous factors in explanation. (shrink)
One of the reasons why most of us feel puzzled about the problem of abortion is that we want, and do not want, to allow to the unborn child the rights that belong to adults and children. When we think of a baby about to be born it seems absurd to think that the next few minutes or even hours could make so radical a difference to its status; yet as we go back in the life of the fetus we (...) are more and more reluctant to say that this is a human being and must be treated as such. No doubt this is the deepest source of our dilemma, but it is not the only one. For we are also confused about the general question of what we may and may not do where the interests of human beings conflict. We have strong intuitions about certain cases; saying, for instance, that it is all right to raise the level of education in our country, though statistics allow us to predict that a rise in the suicide rate will follow, while it is not all right to kill the feeble-minded to aid cancer research. It is not easy, however, to see the principles involved, and one way of throwing light on the abortion issue will be by setting up parallels involving adults or children once born. So we will be able to isolate the “equal rights” issue and should be able to make some advance... (shrink)
My dissertation explores the ways in which Rudolf Carnap sought to make philosophy scientific by further developing recent interpretive efforts to explain Carnap’s mature philosophical work as a form of engineering. It does this by looking in detail at his philosophical practice in his most sustained mature project, his work on pure and applied inductive logic. I, first, specify the sort of engineering Carnap is engaged in as involving an engineering design problem and then draw out the complications of design (...) problems from current work in history of engineering and technology studies. I then model Carnap’s practice based on those lessons and uncover ways in which Carnap’s technical work in inductive logic takes some of these lessons on board. This shows ways in which Carnap’s philosophical project subtly changes right through his late work on induction, providing an important corrective to interpretations that ignore the work on inductive logic. Specifically, I show that paying attention to the historical details of Carnap’s attempt to apply his work in inductive logic to decision theory and theoretical statistics in the 1950s and 1960s helps us understand how Carnap develops and rearticulates the philosophical point of the practical/theoretical distinction in his late work, offering thus a new interpretation of Carnap’s technical work within the broader context of philosophy of science and analytical philosophy in general. (shrink)
Recently, the practice of deciding legal cases on purely statistical evidence has been widely criticised. Many feel uncomfortable with finding someone guilty on the basis of bare probabilities, even though the chance of error might be stupendously small. This is an important issue: with the rise of DNA profiling, courts are increasingly faced with purely statistical evidence. A prominent line of argument—endorsed by Blome-Tillmann 2017; Smith 2018; and Littlejohn 2018—rejects the use of such evidence by appealing to epistemic norms that (...) apply to individual inquirers. My aim in this paper is to rehabilitate purely statistical evidence by arguing that, given the broader aims of legal systems, there are scenarios in which relying on such evidence is appropriate. Along the way I explain why popular arguments appealing to individual epistemic norms to reject legal reliance on bare statistics are unconvincing, by showing that courts and individuals face different epistemic predicaments (in short, individuals can hedge when confronted with statistical evidence, whilst legal tribunals cannot). I also correct some misconceptions about legal practice that have found their way into the recent literature. (shrink)
The study of cultural evolution has taken on an increasingly interdisciplinary and diverse approach in explicating phenomena of cultural transmission and adoptions. Inspired by this computational movement, this study uses Bayesian networks analysis, combining both the frequentist and the Hamiltonian Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) approach, to investigate the highly representative elements in the cultural evolution of a Vietnamese city’s architecture in the early 20th century. With a focus on the façade design of 68 old houses in Hanoi’s Old Quarter (...) (based on 78 data lines extracted from 248 photos), the study argues that it is plausible to look at the aesthetics, architecture, and designs of the house façade to find traces of cultural evolution in Vietnam, which went through more than six decades of French colonization and centuries of sociocultural influence from China. The in-depth technical analysis, though refuting the presumed model on the probabilistic dependency among the variables, yields several results, the most notable of which is the strong influence of Buddhism over the decorations of the house façade. Particularly, in the top 5 networks with the best Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) scores and p<0.05, the variable for decorations (DC) always has a direct probabilistic dependency on the variable B for Buddhism. The paper then checks the robustness of these models using Hamiltonian MCMC method and find the posterior distributions of the models’ coefficients all satisfy the technical requirement. Finally, this study suggests integrating Bayesian statistics in the social sciences in general and for the study of cultural evolution and architectural transformation in particular. (shrink)
This study sets out to examine the ways Nigerian cyber-fraudsters (Yahoo-Boys) are represented in hip-hop music. The empirical basis of this article is lyrics from 18 hip-hop artists, which were subjected to a directed approach to qualitative content analysis and coded based on the moral disengagement mechanisms proposed by Bandura (1999). While results revealed that the ethics of Yahoo-Boys, as expressed by musicians, embody a range of moral disengagement mechanisms, they also shed light on the motives for the Nigerian cybercriminals' (...) actions. Further analysis revealed additional findings: “glamorization/de-glamorization of cyber-fraud” and “sex-roles-and-cultures”. Having operated within the constraint of what is currently available (a small sample size), this article has drawn attention to the notion that Yahoo-Boys and some musicians may be “birds of a feather.” Secondly, it has exposed a “hunter-and-antelope-relationship” between Yahoo-Boys and their victims. Thirdly, it has also highlighted that some ethos of law-abiding citizens is central to Yahoo-Boys’ moral enterprise. Yahoo-Boys, therefore, represent reflections of society. Arguably, given that Yahoo-Boys and singers are connected, and the oratory messages of singers may attract more followers than questioners, this study illuminates the cultural dimensions of cyber-fraud that emanate from Nigeria. In particular, insights from this study suggest that cyber-fraud researchers might look beyond traditional data sources (e.g., cyber-fraud statistics) for the empirical traces of “culture in action” that render fraudulently practices acceptable career paths for some Nigerian youths. (shrink)
After decades of intense debate over the old pessimistic induction (Laudan, 1977; Putnam, 1978), it has now become clear that it has at least the following four problems. First, it overlooks the fact that present theories are more successful than past theories. Second, it commits the fallacy of biased statistics. Third, it erroneously groups together past theories from different fields of science. Four, it misses the fact that some theoretical components of past theories were preserved. I argue that these (...) four problems entitle us to construct what I call the grand pessimistic induction that since the old pessimistic induction has infinitely many hidden problems, the new pessimistic induction (Stanford, 2006) also has infinitely many hidden problems. (shrink)
Cancer research is experiencing ‘paradigm instability’, since there are two rival theories of carcinogenesis which confront themselves, namely the somatic mutation theory and the tissue organization field theory. Despite this theoretical uncertainty, a huge quantity of data is available thanks to the improvement of genome sequencing techniques. Some authors think that the development of new statistical tools will be able to overcome the lack of a shared theoretical perspective on cancer by amalgamating as many data as possible. We think instead (...) that a deeper understanding of cancer can be achieved by means of more theoretical work, rather than by merely accumulating more data. To support our thesis, we introduce the analytic view of theory development, which rests on the concept of plausibility, and make clear in what sense plausibility and probability are distinct concepts. Then, the concept of plausibility is used to point out the ineliminable role played by the epistemic subject in the development of statistical tools and in the process of theory assessment. We then move to address a central issue in cancer research, namely the relevance of computational tools developed by bioinformaticists to detect driver mutations in the debate between the two main rival theories of carcinogenesis. Finally, we briefly extend our considerations on the role that plausibility plays in evidence amalgamation from cancer research to the more general issue of the divergences between frequentists and Bayesians in the philosophy of medicine and statistics. We argue that taking into account plausibility-based considerations can lead to clarify some epistemological shortcomings that afflict both these perspectives. (shrink)
Standard statistical measures of strength of association, although pioneered by Pearson deliberately to be acausal, nowadays are routinely used to measure causal efficacy. But their acausal origins have left them ill suited to this latter purpose. I distinguish between two different conceptions of causal efficacy, and argue that: 1) Both conceptions can be useful 2) The statistical measures only attempt to capture the first of them 3) They are not fully successful even at this 4) An alternative definition more squarely (...) based on causal thinking not only captures the second conception, it can also capture the first one better too. (shrink)
The article begins by describing two longstanding problems associated with direct inference. One problem concerns the role of uninformative frequency statements in inferring probabilities by direct inference. A second problem concerns the role of frequency statements with gerrymandered reference classes. I show that past approaches to the problem associated with uninformative frequency statements yield the wrong conclusions in some cases. I propose a modification of Kyburg’s approach to the problem that yields the right conclusions. Past theories of direct inference have (...) postponed treatment of the problem associated with gerrymandered reference classes by appealing to an unexplicated notion of projectability . I address the lacuna in past theories by introducing criteria for being a relevant statistic . The prescription that only relevant statistics play a role in direct inference corresponds to the sort of projectability constraints envisioned by past theories. (shrink)
We address the question whether there is an explanation for the fact that as Fodor put it the micro-level “converges on stable macro-level properties”, and whether there are lessons from this explanation for other issues in the vicinity. We argue that stability in large systems can be understood in terms of statistical limit theorems. In the thermodynamic limit of infinite system size N → ∞ systems will have strictly stable macroscopic properties in the sense that transitions between different macroscopic phases (...) of matter (if there are any) will not occur in finite time. Indeed stability in this sense is a consequence of the absence of fluctuations, as (large) fluctuations would be required to induce such macroscopic transformations. These properties can be understood in terms of coarse-grained descriptions, and the statistical limit theorems for independent or weakly dependent random variable describing the behaviour averages and the statistics of fluctuations in the large system limit. We argue that RNG analyses applied to off-critical systems can provide a rationalization for the applicability of these limit theorems. Furthermore we discuss some related issues as, for example, the role of the infinite-system idealization. (shrink)
In his classic book “the Foundations of Statistics” Savage developed a formal system of rational decision making. The system is based on (i) a set of possible states of the world, (ii) a set of consequences, (iii) a set of acts, which are functions from states to consequences, and (iv) a preference relation over the acts, which represents the preferences of an idealized rational agent. The goal and the culmination of the enterprise is a representation theorem: Any preference relation (...) that satisfies certain arguably acceptable postulates determines a (finitely additive) probability distribution over the states and a utility assignment to the consequences, such that the preferences among acts are determined by their expected utilities. Additional problematic assumptions are however required in Savage's proofs. First, there is a Boolean algebra of events (sets of states) which determines the richness of the set of acts. The probabilities are assigned to members of this algebra. Savage's proof requires that this be a σ-algebra (i.e., closed under infinite countable unions and intersections), which makes for an extremely rich preference relation. On Savage's view we should not require subjective probabilities to be σ-additive. He therefore finds the insistence on a σ-algebra peculiar and is unhappy with it. But he sees no way of avoiding it. Second, the assignment of utilities requires the constant act assumption: for every consequence there is a constant act, which produces that consequence in every state. This assumption is known to be highly counterintuitive. The present work contains two mathematical results. The first, and the more difficult one, shows that the σ-algebra assumption can be dropped. The second states that, as long as utilities are assigned to finite gambles only, the constant act assumption can be replaced by the more plausible and much weaker assumption that there are at least two non-equivalent constant acts. The second result also employs a novel way of deriving utilities in Savage-style systems -- without appealing to von Neumann-Morgenstern lotteries. The paper discusses the notion of “idealized agent" that underlies Savage's approach, and argues that the simplified system, which is adequate for all the actual purposes for which the system is designed, involves a more realistic notion of an idealized agent. (shrink)
Entropy is ubiquitous in physics, and it plays important roles in numerous other disciplines ranging from logic and statistics to biology and economics. However, a closer look reveals a complicated picture: entropy is defined differently in different contexts, and even within the same domain different notions of entropy are at work. Some of these are defined in terms of probabilities, others are not. The aim of this chapter is to arrive at an understanding of some of the most important (...) notions of entropy and to clarify the relations between them, After setting the stage by introducing the thermodynamic entropy, we discuss notions of entropy in information theory, statistical mechanics, dynamical systems theory and fractal geometry. (shrink)
The reward system of science is the priority rule. The first scientist making a new discovery is rewarded with prestige, while second runners get little or nothing. Michael Strevens, following Philip Kitcher, defends this reward system, arguing that it incentivizes an efficient division of cognitive labor. I argue that this assessment depends on strong implicit assumptions about the replicability of findings. I question these assumptions on the basis of metascientific evidence and argue that the priority rule systematically discourages replication. My (...) analysis leads us to qualify Kitcher and Strevens’s contention that a priority-based reward system is normatively desirable for science. (shrink)
Teller argued that violations of Bell’s inequalities are to be explained by interpreting quantum entangled systems according to ‘relational holism’, that is, by postulating that they exhibit irreducible (‘inherent’) relations. Teller also suggested a possible application of this idea to quantum statistics. However, the basic proposal was not explained in detail nor has the additional idea about statistics been articulated in further work. In this article, I reconsider relational holism, amending it and spelling it out as appears necessary (...) for a proper assessment, and application, of the position. †To contact the author, please write to: FB Philosophie‐Zukunftskolleg, University of Konstanz, Universitätstraße 10, 78464, Konstanz, Germany; e‐mail: matteo.morganti@uni ‐konstanz.de. (shrink)
Recent years have seen fresh impetus brought to debates about the proper role of statistical evidence in the law. Recent work largely centres on a set of puzzles known as the ‘proof paradox’. While these puzzles may initially seem academic, they have important ramifications for the law: raising key conceptual questions about legal proof, and practical questions about DNA evidence. This article introduces the proof paradox, why we should care about it, and new work attempting to resolve it.
Although Foucault’s 1979 lectures on The Birth of Biopolitics promised to treat the theme of biopolitics, the course deals at length with neoliberalism while mentioning biopolitics hardly at all. Some scholars account for this elision by claiming that Foucault sympathized with neoliberalism; I argue on the contrary that Foucault develops a penetrating critique of the neoliberal claim to preserve individual liberty. Following Foucault, I show that the Chicago economist Gary Becker exemplifies what Foucault describes elsewhere as biopolitics: a form of (...) power applied to the behavior of a population through the normalizing use of statistics. Although Becker’s preference for indirect intervention might seem to preserve the independence of individuals, under biopolitics individual liberty is itself the means by which populations are governed indirectly. In my view, by describing the history and ambivalence of neoliberal biopolitics, Foucault fosters a critical vigilance that is the precondition for creative political resistance. (shrink)
The formal sciences - mathematical as opposed to natural sciences, such as operations research, statistics, theoretical computer science, systems engineering - appear to have achieved mathematically provable knowledge directly about the real world. It is argued that this appearance is correct.
Many oppose the use of profile evidence against defendants at trial, even when the statistical correlations are reliable and the jury is free from prejudice. The literature has struggled to justify this opposition. We argue that admitting profile evidence is objectionable because it violates what we call “equal protection”—that is, a right of innocent defendants not to be exposed to higher ex ante risks of mistaken conviction compared to other innocent defendants facing similar charges. We also show why admitting other (...) forms of evidence, such as eyewitness, trace, and motive evidence, does not violate equal protection. (shrink)
The curriculum design, faculty characteristics, and experience of implementing masters' level international research ethics training programs supported by the Fogarty International Center was investigated. Multiple pedagogical approaches were employed to adapt to the learning needs of the trainees. While no generally agreed set of core competencies exists for advanced research ethics training, more than 75% of the curricula examined included international issues in research ethics, responsible conduct of research, human rights, philosophical foundations of research ethics, and research regulation and ethical (...) review process. Common skills taught included critical thinking, research methodology and statistics, writing, and presentation proficiency. Curricula also addressed the cultural, social, and religious context of the trainees related to research ethics. Programs surveyed noted trainee interest in Western concepts of research ethics and the value of the transnational exchange of ideas. Similar faculty expertise profiles existed in all programs. Approximately 40% of faculty were female. Collaboration between faculty from low- and middleincome countries (LMICs) and high-income countries (HICs) occurred in most programs and at least 50% of HIC faculty had previous LMIC experience. This paper is part of a collection of papers analyzing the Fogarty International Research Ethics Education and Curriculum Development program. (shrink)
The Asian American identity is intimately associated with upward class mobility as the model minority, yet women's earnings remain less than men's, and Asian American women are perceived to have strong family ties binding them to domestic responsibilities. As such, the exact class status of Asian American women is unclear. The immediate association of this ethnic identity with a specific class as demonstrated by the recently released Pew study that Asian Americans are “the highest-income, best-educated” ethnicity contrasts with another study (...) that finds Asian American women have the highest suicide rates in the United States. To understand these contrasting statistics, this article explores Asian American women's sense of authenticity. If the individual's sense of authenticity is intimately related with one's group identity, the association of the Asian American identity with a particular class ambivalently ensnares her as dichotomously inauthentic—as both the poor Asian American woman who fails to achieve economic upward mobility and the model minority Asian American woman who engages in assimilation practices. Feminist philosophers understand that identities change, but exactly how these transformations occur remains a mystery. The article ends with three speculations on the difficulties for practicing and recognizing individual acts that transform one's group identity. (shrink)
I give a pedagogical derivation of the Cramer-Rao Bound, which gives a lower bound on the variance of estimators used in statistical point estimation, commonly used to give numerical estimates of the systematic uncertainties in a measurement.
Conciliationism faces a challenge that has not been satisfactorily addressed. There are clear cases of epistemically significant merely possible disagreement, but there are also clear cases where merely possible disagreement is epistemically irrelevant. Conciliationists have not yet accounted for this asymmetry. In this paper, we propose that the asymmetry can be explained by positing a selection constraint on all cases of peer disagreement—whether actual or merely possible. If a peer’s opinion was not selected in accordance with the proposed constraint, then (...) it lacks epistemic significance. This allows us to distinguish the epistemically significant cases of merely possible disagreement from the insignificant ones. (shrink)
Research in ecology and evolutionary biology (evo-eco) often tries to emulate the “hard” sciences such as physics and chemistry, but to many of its practitioners feels more like the “soft” sciences of psychology and sociology. I argue that this schizophrenic attitude is the result of lack of appreciation of the full consequences of the peculiarity of the evo-eco sciences as lying in between a-historical disciplines such as physics and completely historical ones as like paleontology. Furthermore, evo-eco researchers have gotten stuck (...) on mathematically appealing but philosophi- cally simplistic concepts such as null hypotheses and p-values defined according to the frequentist approach in statistics, with the consequence of having been unable to fully embrace the complexity and subtlety of the problems with which ecologists and evolutionary biologists deal with. I review and discuss some literature in ecology, philosophy of science and psychology to show that a more critical methodological attitude can be liberating for the evo-eco scientist and can lead to a more fecund and enjoyable practice of ecology and evolutionary biology. With this aim, I briefly cover concepts such as the method of multiple hypotheses, Bayesian analysis, and strong inference. (shrink)
The paper argues that on three out of eight possible hypotheses about the EPR experiment we can construct novel and realistic decision problems on which (a) Causal Decision Theory and Evidential Decision Theory conflict (b) Causal Decision Theory and the EPR statistics conflict. We infer that anyone who fully accepts any of these three hypotheses has strong reasons to reject Causal Decision Theory. Finally, we extend the original construction to show that anyone who gives any of the three hypotheses (...) any non-zero credence has strong reasons to reject Causal Decision Theory. However, we concede that no version of the Many Worlds Interpretation (Vaidman, in Zalta, E.N. (ed.), Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy 2014) gives rise to the conflicts that we point out. (shrink)
In (Gebharter 2014) I suggested a framework for modeling the hierarchical organization of mechanisms. In this short addendum I want to highlight some connections of my approach to the statistics and machine learning literature and some of its limitations not mentioned in the paper.
This paper shows how the classical finite probability theory (with equiprobable outcomes) can be reinterpreted and recast as the quantum probability calculus of a pedagogical or toy model of quantum mechanics over sets (QM/sets). There have been several previous attempts to develop a quantum-like model with the base field of ℂ replaced by ℤ₂. Since there are no inner products on vector spaces over finite fields, the problem is to define the Dirac brackets and the probability calculus. The previous attempts (...) all required the brackets to take values in ℤ₂. But the usual QM brackets <ψ|ϕ> give the "overlap" between states ψ and ϕ, so for subsets S,T⊆U, the natural definition is <S|T>=|S∩T| (taking values in the natural numbers). This allows QM/sets to be developed with a full probability calculus that turns out to be a non-commutative extension of classical Laplace-Boole finite probability theory. The pedagogical model is illustrated by giving simple treatments of the indeterminacy principle, the double-slit experiment, Bell's Theorem, and identical particles in QM/Sets. A more technical appendix explains the mathematics behind carrying some vector space structures between QM over ℂ and QM/Sets over ℤ₂. (shrink)
Attempts to introduce Gestalt theory into the realm of visual neuroscience are discussed on both theoretical and experimental grounds. To define the framework in which these proposals can be defended, this paper outlines the characteristics of a standard model, which qualifies as a received view in the visual neurosciences, and of the research into natural images statistics. The objections to the standard model and the main questions of the natural images research are presented. On these grounds, this paper defends (...) the view that Gestalt psychology and experimental phenomenology provide a contribution to the research into perception by the construction of phenomenological models for an ecologically meaningful interpretation of the empirical evidence and the hypothetical constructs of the natural image research within the visual neuroscience. A formal framework for the phenomenological models is proposed, wherein Gestalt theoretical principles and empirical evidence are represented in terms of topological properties and relationships, which account for the order and structures that make the environment accessible to observers at a relevant behavioural level. It is finally argued that these models allow us to evaluate the principles and the empirical evidence of various natures which are integrated from different fields into the research into perception, and in particular into visual neurosciences. (shrink)
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