Honorary Lecture: What is Evidence?


Event details

Date 09.06.2022 17:1518:15  
Speaker Prof. Stephan Morgenthaler
Category Inaugural lectures - Honorary Lecture
Event Language English
What is Evidence?
By evidence we mean facts that attempt to confirm a belief. This is a central term in the realm of law and is now much used in the history, philosophy and practice of science.
We live in a period of strong growth of experimental and observational (empirical) knowledge and of learning from data. Maybe it is even true that the age of grand theories is past. Statistical theories of experimentation and evidence offer a pragmatic approach to the challenge of separating anecdotal observations from findings that provide evidentiary support. This is the topic we will explore in this talk.
Many of us were taught that the scientific method consists in formulating beliefs about a phenomenon in the form of testable hypotheses, which can be checked by trying to disprove them with clever experiments. In this manner, broader theories may over time be constructed (learned and formulated), falsified or even confirmed.
Such empiricism as a common-sense approach to scientific inquiry has a long history and has inspired the statistical methods of exploration and confirmation through data analysis, design of experiments and hypothesis as well as significance testing. The main foundations of statistical evidence are the accounting for and the elimination of errors and the construction of adequate models.
Prof. Stephan Morgenthaler received his diploma in mathematics from ETH Zürich in 1979 and his PhD in statistics from Princeton University in 1983 under the guidance of John Tukey. He then accepted an Instructor position at MIT’s mathematics department before becoming Assistant Professor at Yale University in 1984, where he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1987. He moved to EPFL as Associate Professor in 1988 and became Full Professor in 1991. He has held many administrative roles at EPFL, including Chairman of the Mathematics Department and Director of the Mathematics Section. Among many external activities he has been President of the Swiss Statistical Society and Vice-President of the International Statistical Institute.


Practical information

  • General public
  • Free

Event broadcasted in