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Topic: Bayes’ theorem: Its triumphs and

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Sam Wormley

Posts: 607
Registered: 12/18/09
Bayes’ theorem: Its triumphs and

Posted: Jun 7, 2013 1:11 PM
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Bayes? theorem: Its triumphs and discontents

> Nate Silver, baseball statistician turned political analyst, gained a
> lot of attention during the 2012 United States elections when he
> successfully predicted the outcome of the presidential vote in all 50
> states. The reason for his success was a statistical method called
> Bayesian inference, a powerful technique that builds on prior
> knowledge to estimate the probability of a given event happening.
> Bayesian inference grew out of Bayes' theorem, a mathematical result
> from English clergyman Thomas Bayes, published two years after his
> death in 1761. In honor of the 250th anniversary of this publication,
> Bradley Efron examined the question of why Bayes' theorem is not more
> widely used?and why its use remains controversial among many
> scientists and statisticians. As he pointed out, the problem lies
> with blind use of the theorem, in cases where prior knowledge is
> unavailable or unreliable.

> As Efron wrote, Bayes' theorem is "controversial," but not because
> the equation itself is in doubt. (It's a mathematical theorem, after
> all; it even has an interpretation in frequentist thinking, albeit
> one that doesn't make reference to prior knowledge.) Rather, its use
> is sometimes controversial, especially in light of unsophisticated
> application of poorly chosen priors. Nevertheless, the real lesson is
> that of the sharp kitchen knife that can cut you as well as the
> vegetables you're chopping: use the blade of Bayes poorly, and you'll
> regret it. Use it wisely, and it will serve you better than the dull
> but reliable knife.

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