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FOSW01 - The nature of questions arising in court that can be addressed via probability and statistical methods

The nature of the questions arising in court that can be addressed via probability and statistics also depends on the mathematical machinery we have at our disposal. I do not believe that the classical concept of a probability measures is suitable to capture the kind of uncertainty usually encountered in court cases. For instance, disbelieve in one proposition should not necessarily entail believe in its complement. In this lecture I will revive the old concept of a belief function both philosophically, mathematically, and practically. I will argue that belief functions can be interpreted behaviorally which makes them very suitable mathematical objects to deal with epistemic probability (the kind of probability envountered in court). Then I will explain that it is possible to develop a (new) calculus of belief functions generalizing the classical calculus of probabilities in a very natural way, and finally I will present some applications of belief functions to the classical island problem and to the practical problem of parental identification. The use of belief functions  extends the class of question that can be addressed with probabilistic methods in court in a meaningful and practical way, and also helps solving problems with choosing appropriate priors. Indeed, belief functions allow zero prior belief in a meaningful way.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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