Dangers of applied skepticism

Dangers of applied skepticism

Zapraszamy na wykład prof. dr hab. Krzysztofa Burdzego Dangers of applied skepticism

Krzysztof Burdzy received Ph.D. in statistics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984. He has been working at the University of Washington in Seattle since 1988. He was a member of a number of editorial boards and a chief editor of the Annals of Probability. In 2021-2022 he was the president of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS).

The research of Krzysztof Burdzy focuses on the mathematical theory of probability. His second research area and personal hobby are the philosophical foundations of probability theory. He wrote two book on the subject:

„The Search for Certainty. On the Clash of Science and Philosophy of Probability’’, 2009


„Resonance: From Probability to Epistemology and Back’’, 2016.

Probability was established as a mathematical theory less than 100 years ago by Andrey Kolmogorov. Mathematicians, statisticians and scientists are quite happy with Kolmogorov’s axiomatization of probability. However, there is a controversy about the implementation of the formal theory in practice and the philosophy of assumptions we make when talking about probability. For instance, can we reasonably attribute probability to the outcomes of the 2024 United States presidential election or a full-scale nuclear conflict?

There are the two mainstream philosophical interpretations of probability: frequency and subjective, proposed by Richard von Mises (1957) and Bruno de Finetti (1974). Their week points will be mentioned in the talk. One of them is their skepticisms.

The first notable skeptic was Pyrrho of Elis in the third century BC. Since then skepticism took many forms.

We need to know the truth for the sake of science and society. But logic can only generate true statements from other true statements so nothing can be really proved because every assumption can be questioned. In short: “How do you prove that you are not a camel?”

Indeed, we cannot know anything with certainty. At the same time skepticism is an intellectual and practical dead end because it does not bring us closer to truth.

Two and two makes four (2+2=4). A theory that would say it is five or that it makes no sense to talk about addition or that the result can be anything you like is irrelevant to science and ordinary life.

Subjectivism is a poor cousin of relativism. Relativism is used by the current Russian propaganda. Skepticism applied to science causes confusion. Skepticism applied to politics justifies evil.


Krzysztof Bogdan