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The Statistical Philosophy of High Energy Physics: Pragmatism

Staley, Kent (2014) The Statistical Philosophy of High Energy Physics: Pragmatism. [Preprint]

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Abstract

The recent discovery of a Higgs boson prompted increased attention of statisticians and philosophers of science to the statistical methodology of High Energy Physics (HEP). Amidst long-standing debates within the field, HEP has adopted a mixed statistical methodology drawing upon both frequentist and Bayesian methods, but with standard frequentist techniques such as significance testing and confidence interval estimation playing a primary role. Physicists within HEP typically deny that their methodological decisions are guided by philosophical convictions, but are instead based on “pragmatic” considerations, thus distancing themselves from what they perhaps perceive as an ongoing pitched ideological battle between frequentists and Bayesians. Here I argue that there is a philosophical orientation to HEP that is neither exclusively frequentist nor Bayesian, but that lies squarely in the tradition of philosophical pragmatism. I further argue that understanding the statistical methodology of HEP through the perspective of pragmatism clarifies the role of and rationale for significance testing in the search for new phenomena such as the Higgs boson.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Staley, Kentstaleykw@gmail.com
Keywords: Higgs boson; statistics; significance testing; p-values; frequentism; Bayesianism; Jeffreys-Lindley paradox; pragmatism
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Experimentation
Specific Sciences > Physics > Fields and Particles
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
Depositing User: Kent Staley
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2014 07:05
Last Modified: 31 Dec 2014 22:28
Item ID: 10769
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Experimentation
Specific Sciences > Physics > Fields and Particles
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
Date: 19 June 2014
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/10769

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