Origins of “modern” hypothesis testing

In their interesting article for CHANCE from July 2020, Debra Boka and Harold Wainer cite, in a footnote, that:

In 1710, Dr John Arbuthnot used the number and sex of christenings listed at the bottom of the Bills to prove the existence of God and, in the process,
invented modern hypothesis testing.

This is based upon:

Arbuthnot, J. 1710. An argument for Divine Providence taken from the Constant Regularity in the Births of Both Sexes. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 27, 186–190. London: The Royal Society.

It’s good to know that hypothesis testing and its extreme reduction, significance testing, had an origin in 1710 by invoking the Divine, and not a 1925 invention by Someone Else.

It also appears that Principle explaining the “equality of numbers of the sexes” named for the Someone, was anticipated by Arbuthnot a bit earlier.

Of course we credit Someone for inventing the term “Bayesian”, but he did not do it in tribute.

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This entry was posted in Bayesian, hypothesis testing, John Arbuthnot, Ronald W Fisher. Bookmark the permalink.

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