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Against all Odds?

14 September 2009

Inaugural lecture: prof. E.C. Wit, 16.00 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Title: Against all Odds?

Faculty: Mathematics and Natural Sciences


In his inaugural address Ernst Wit argues that not only all of science, but also many other socio-economic and socio-political debates rely heavily on statistics.
There is something paradoxical about statistics: a recent Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that statisticians have one of the best jobs, but statistics is often seen as tedious; in fact, no one likes statistics, but everyone is using it. Statistics is typically seen as part of maths, but most statisticians are anywhere but in mathematics.
Wit traces the paradox back to statistics' historical, multi-facetted development. On the one hand, statistical thinking grew out of a group of socially motivated, enlightment scientists in the mid 19th century, who saw the collection of facts as an instrument of social innovation and improvement. On the other hand, statistical methodology was developed through trial and error by mathematical physicists towards the end of the 18th century when solving overdetermined systems of equations.
From the paradox, Wit argues that statistics is the universal language of inductive science, and many other forms of information gathering, which ought to be brought together in a single interdisciplinary centre with unbreakable ties with the individual sciences.


Last modified:15 September 2017 3.39 p.m.
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