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The Search for Certainty: On the Clash of Science and Philosophy of Probability

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-9814273701
ISBN-10: 9814273708
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Editorial Reviews

Review

This is an interesting and important book. --Larry Wasserman, Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

From the Inside Flap

This volume represents a radical departure from the current philosophical duopoly in the area of foundations of probability, that is, the frequency and subjective theories. One of the main new ideas is a set of scientific laws of probability. The new laws are simple, intuitive and, last but not least, they agree well with the contents of current textbooks on probability. Another major new claim is that the "frequency statistics" has nothing in common with the "frequency philosophy of probability," contrary to popular belief. Similarly, contrary to the general perception, the "Bayesian statistics" shares nothing in common with the "subjective philosophy of probability."

This volume is non-partisan on the scientific side that it is supportive of both frequency statistics and Bayesian statistics. On the other hand, it contains well-documented and thoroughly-explained criticisms of the frequency and subjective philosophies of probability. Short reviews of other philosophical theories of probability and basic mathematical methods of probability and statistics are incorporated. This volume includes essential chapters on decision theory and teaching probability, and it is easily accessible to the general audience.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: World Scientific Publishing Company (April 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9814273708
  • ISBN-13: 978-9814273701
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,138,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Chris Edwards on May 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The first thing you have to get over in the book is the slightly rough ESL delivery. I also personally consider it a clear defect when every paragraph and section starts by declaring what grand things will be revealed in subsequent text - just say it already!

On to business, this book is written by someone who, like me, is not fully on board with all the accepted thinking about the nature of probability. That's good and why I sought out the book. But early on the author presents his slightly cryptic theory, unappealingly named "(L1)-(L5)". Seriously. I kept thinking of it (referenced 100s of times) as some kind of weird ascii art. Could the author think of no better way to refer to his system of thought (like "frequentist", "Bayesian", "subjective")?

Digging into the author's system, right away on "L1" I notice ambiguity. He says that "Probabilities are numbers between 0 and 1...." Since this is a very abstract thing which he doesn't really relate to intuition, I feel free to assume he's using his mathematician's magic hat and wants to be very, very punctilious about things in only ways that mathematicians can. Mathworld defines "between" as a system of 3 *distinct* points, technically ruling out the possibility that a probability could be 0 or 1. But "L5" says "An event has probability 0 if..." Now, perhaps it seems I'm picking at details, but isn't that the whole point of fancy math? I'm all for chilling out about the importance of fancy math, but you can't just use this kind of extreme pedantry only when it suits you. If the author is making clearly ambiguous and contradictory statements in the core of his whole thesis, then how seriously am I going to want to figure out what else he has to say?
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