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Science and ideology

Writing about the changing nature of science and ideology (see also here) reminds me that in grad school, Joe Schafer used to talk about the “left-wing Bayesians” and the “right-wing frequentists,” which might even have been true although I can’t see any scientific reason for such an alignment. I mean, I can see a lot of rationalizations (for example, Bayesian inference was more of a new, maybe risky, approach, hence perhaps would be more popular with radicals than with conservatives), but they don’t seem so convincing to me.

I also remember that Xiao-Li Meng told me that in China they didn’t teach Bayesian statistics because the idea of a prior distribution was contrary to Communism (since the “prior” represented the overthrown traditions, I suppose). Or maybe he was pulling my leg, I dunno.


  1. Chris says:

    The comment about no Bayesian statistics in China made me laugh. There are always prior probablities, just that in frequentist view, everything is equally probable. There is no escape from prior probability, it just boils down to whether you ignore it or not…

  2. Mike says:

    Hmm… if they don't study Bayesian statistics in China, it must be a bit easier over there to do well in stats classes.

  3. Boris S. says:

    Subjective probabilities? Hmmm, smells like a fishy lefty concept to me … :)

  4. Ernest So says:

    Prior is afterall empirical based – we cannot have meaningful prior from nothing. Thus, whether prior contradicts with communism or not is just a political ideology.