Was regression to the mean really the solution to Darwin’s problem with heredity? Essay Review of Stigler, Stephen M. 2016. The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press

Adam Krashniak, Ehud Lamm

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Statistical reasoning is an integral part of modern scientific practice. In The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom Stephen Stigler presents seven core ideas, or pillars, of statistical thinking and the historical developments of each of these pillars, many of which were concurrent with developments in biology. Here we focus on Stigler’s fifth pillar, regression, and his discussion of how regression to the mean came to be thought of as a solution to a challenge for the theory of natural selection. Stigler argues that the purely mathematical phenomenon of regression to the mean provides a resolution to a problem for Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Thus, he argues that the resolution to the problem for Darwin’s theory is purely mathematical, rather than causal. We show why this argument is problematic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-758
Number of pages10
JournalBiology and Philosophy
Volume32
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017

Keywords

  • Biology and statistics
  • Evolution and inheritance
  • Francis Galton
  • Mathematical explanations
  • Regression to the mean

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