CORRESPONDENCE

More than stats to dice throwing

In his review of my book Do Dice Play God?, Andrew Gelman focuses on sections covering his own field of applied statistics (Nature 569, 628–629; 2019). However, those sections form parts of just two of 18 chapters. Readers might have been better served had he described the book’s central topics — such as quantum uncertainty, to which the title of the book alludes.

Gelman accuses me of “transposing the probabilities” when discussing P values and of erroneously stating that a confidence interval indicates “the level of confidence in the results”. The phrase ‘95% confident’, to which the reviewer objects, should be read in context. The first mention (page 166) follows a discussion that ends “there’s only a 5% probability that such extreme values arise by chance. We therefore ... reject the null hypothesis at the 95% level”. The offending sentence is a simplified summary of something that has already been explained correctly. My discussion of confidence intervals has a reference to endnote 57 on page 274, which gives a more technical description and makes essentially the same point as the reviewer.

I also disagree with Gelman’s claim that I overlook the messiness of real data. I describe a typical medical study and explain how logistic and Cox regression address issues with real data (see pages 169–173). An endnote mentions the Kaplan-Meier estimator. The same passage deals with practical and ethical issues in medical studies.

Nature 571, 174 (2019)

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