A Holiday in Azkaban: Eight Solid Arguments Against Bayesianism

Much of my professional life is now spent proselytizing: using practical examples I highlight the virtues of Bayesian inference, and warn against the intellectual Dementors that beset those who base conclusions on a p-value (yes, even when p< .005). And I am not alone: many Bayesians have a religious zeal to spread the faith and guide lost souls to the light. Nevertheless, not all researchers are Bayesian (yet). Why is this? Here I discuss eight arguments of why people may prefer to stay in Azkaban instead of switching to Bayesianism. (more…)

Einstein’s Riddle


Einstein confused his students with a riddle about probability – or was it Einstein himself who was confused?

Albert Einstein disliked the idea that the laws of nature were inherently probabilistic. ‘God does not play dice with the universe,’ he stated famously and repeatedly. Yet, physicists like Niels Bohr strongly advocated the idea –based on the ‘Copenhagen interpretation’ of quantum theory– that chance is an inalienable and inevitable aspect of nature itself.


The Creativity-Verification Cycle in Psychological Science: New Methods to Combat Old Idols, Part I

The promised post on Einstein will follow next week.

More and more psychologists are registering their hypotheses, predictions, and analysis plans prior to data collection. Will such preregistration be the death knell for creativity and serendipity? Gilles Dutilh, Alexandra Sarafoglou, and I recently wrote an article for Perspectives on Psychological Science that provides a historical perspective on this question. In the article, we describe the origin and development of “the empirical cycle”, that is, the modern perspective on how scientists can learn from data. In the course of our historical investigations, we came across several interesting anecdotes that lack of space prevented us from including. But we can include them in this series of blog posts. Here is the first story, courtesy of Cornelis Menke.


Cicero and the Greeks on Necessity and Fortune

Cicero eloquently summarized the philosophical position that the universe is deterministic – all events are preordained, either by nature or by divinity. Although “ignorance of causes” may create the illusion of Fortune, in reality there is only Necessity.

Cicero Citatus, Glans Inflatus?

The male academic who cites Cicero generally lacks the insight that, instead of imbuing his writing with gravitas, he inevitably conveys the impression of being a pompous dickhead (‘glans inflatus’). Particularly damaging to a writer’s reputation are Cicero quotations that occur at the start of an article; for, as Horace reminds us, “parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus”. Indeed, the only academics who seem to get away with citing Cicero are those who study Cicero’s work professionally.


The Merovingian, or Why Probability Belongs Wholly to the Mind

Summary: When Bayesians speak of probability, they mean plausibility.

The famous Matrix trilogy is set in a dystopic future where most of mankind has been enslaved by a computer network, and the few rebels that remain find themselves on the brink of extinction. Just when the situation seems beyond salvation, a messiah –called Neo– is awakened and proceeds to free humanity from its silicon overlord. Rather than turn the other cheek, Neo’s main purpose seems to be the physical demolition of his digital foes (‘agents’), a task that he engages in with increasing gusto and efficiency. Aside from the jaw-dropping fight scenes, the Matrix movies also contain numerous references to religious themes and philosophical dilemma’s. One particularly prominent theme is the concept of free will and the nature of probability.


Redefine Statistical Significance Part XV: Do 72+88=160 Researchers Agree on P?

In an earlier blog post we discussed a response (co-authored by 88 researchers) to the paper “Redefine Statistical Significance” (RSS; co-authored by 72 researchers). Recall that RSS argued that p-values near .05 should be interpreted with caution, and proposed that a threshold of .005 is more in line with the kind of evidence that warrants strong claims such as “reject the null hypothesis”. The response (“bring your own alpha”, BYOA) argued that researchers should pick their own alpha, informed by the context at hand. Recently, the BYOA response was covered in Science, and this prompted us to read the revised, final version (hat tip to Brian Nosek, who attended us to the change in content; for another critique of the BYOA paper see this preprint by JP de Ruiter).


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