“A sense of security regarding the future of statistical science…” Anon review of Error and Inference



Aris Spanos, my colleague (in economics) and co-author, came across this anonymous review of our Error and Inference (2010) [E & I]. Interestingly, the reviewer remarks that “The book gives a sense of security regarding the future of statistical science and its importance in many walks of life.” We’re not sure what the reviewer means–but it’s appreciated regardless. This post was from yesterday’s 3-year memory lane and was first posted here.

2010 American Statistical Association and the American Society for Quality

TECHNOMETRICS, AUGUST 2010, VOL. 52, NO. 3, Book Reviews, 52:3, pp. 362-370.

Error and Inference: Recent Exchanges on Experimental Reasoning, Reliability, and the Objectivity and Rationality of Science, edited by Deborah G. MAYO and Aris SPANOS, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-521-88008-4, xvii+419 pp., $60.00.

This edited volume contemplates the interests of both scientists and philosophers regarding gathering reliable information about the problem/question at hand in the presence of error, uncertainty, and with limited data information.

The volume makes a significant contribution in bridging the gap between scientific practice and the philosophy of science. The main contribution of this volume pertains to issues of error and inference, and showcases intriguing discussions on statistical testing and providing alternative strategy to Bayesian inference. In words, it provides cumulative information towards the philosophical and methodological issues of scientific inquiry at large.

The target audience of this volume is quite general and open to a broad readership. With some reasonable knowledge of probability theory and statistical science, one can get the maximum benefit from most of the chapters of the volume. The volume contains original and fascinating articles by eminent scholars (nine, including the editors) who range from names in statistical science to philosophy, including D. R. Cox, a name well known to statisticians.

The editors have done a superb job in presenting, organizing, and structuring the material in a logical order. The “Introduction and Background” is nicely presented and summarized, allowing for a smooth reading of the rest of the volume. There is a broad range of carefully selected topics from various related fields reflecting recent developments in these areas. The rest of the volume is divided in nine chapters/sections as follows:

1. Learning from Error, Severe Testing, and the Growth of Theoretical


2. The Life of Theory in the New Experimentalism

3. Revisiting Critical Rationalism

4. Theory Confirmation and Novel Evidence

5. Induction and Severe Testing

6. Theory Testing in Economics and the Error-Statistical Perspective

7. New Perspectives on (Some Old) Problems of Frequentist Statistics

8. Casual Modeling, Explanation and Severe Testing

9. Error and Legal Epistemology

In summary, this volume contains a wealth of knowledge and fascinating debates on a host of important and controversial topics equally important to the philosophy of science and scientific practice. This is a must-read—I enjoyed reading it and I am sure you will too! The book gives a sense of security regarding the future of statistical science and its importance in many walks of life. I also want to take the opportunity to suggest another seemingly related book by Harman and Kulkarni (2007). The review of this book was appeared in Technometricsin May 2008 (Ahmed 2008).

The following are chapters in E & I (2010) written by Mayo and/or Spanos, if you’re interested. If you produce a palindrome meeting the extremely simple requirements for May (by June 4, midnight), you can win a free copy!

  • Spanos, A. (2010). Theory Testing in Economics and the Error-Statistical Perspective in Error and Inference: 202-246.
  • Spanos, A. (2010). On a New Philosophy of Frequentist Inference Exchanges with David Cox and Deborah G. Mayo in Error and Inference: 325-330.
  • Spanos, A. (2010). Graphical Causal Modeling ad Error Statistics Exchanges with Clark Glymour in Error and Inference: 364-375.
Categories: 3-year memory lane, Review of Error and Inference, Statistics | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on ““A sense of security regarding the future of statistical science…” Anon review of Error and Inference

  1. Steven McKinney

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. This review of “Error and Inference” in Technometrics really does capture the spirit of the book.

    When I tell people of the importance of the philosophical work Mayo, Spanos and colleagues are doing here, I know I’m not talking nonsense when reviews such as this show up.

    Mayo’s forthcoming book will garner no less praise.

    • Steven: You’re a prince, and I assure you that it means a lot to get your approval! Thank you!

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