Thursday, November 8, 2012

By the numbers

The recent flap over Nate Silver and his election model that dared to predict Obama the winner got me thinking about the right-wing aversion to math and science. Via Ezra Klein, I liked this synopsis best:
To the surprise of pundits, numbers continue to be the best system for determining which of two things is larger.
In this particular case, the right-wing aversion to Silver's election model just makes them look stupid. No real harm done. However, that's not always the case. Paul Krugman's economic model predicted the housing bubble and the expected slow recovery. Keynesian economic models showed the necessity of a lot more stimulus than we got.  These models were rejected, not because the right-wing had a contrary model, but a contrary mindset. They just do not accept math and science that challenges their beliefs. The result has been a prolonged recession -- real pain for real people. Even worse is the right-wing dismissal of scientific models predicting global warming and climate change. We already see more intense storms and erratic weather, but it's only going to get worse. This is fate of the world stuff. How many times do they have to be wrong before the default approach is to ignore them and to listen to the numbers guys?

More Ugly...

While I'm railing on Carrie Duncan of The Gringo Gazette, I should rail about her partner in journalistic crime, David Flores. I won't have to say much--I can just let him demonstrate his own stupidity. Here he is talking about the discovery of a new species of fish, which of course means an opportunity to take a swipe at environmentalists and feminists -- all in a mere two paragraphs! Paragraph 1:
New fish! Why don't the eco freaks ever hail a new species, but they carry on like its(sic) the end of Earth as we know it if a little desert mouse goes extinct? A new species of freshwater fish has been found in Mexico and this one is more interesting than most. There are four treacherous and painful looking hooks on the male genitalia. 
Flores treats the discovery of a new species as if it's the equal and opposite of a species going extinct. What a moron. This is not a case where polluting our waterways gave birth to a brand new life form. It's also not like this fish was extinct, but came back to life. Just because we humans just discovered it doesn't mean it hasn't been around for eons, as Flores cites, but apparently can't comprehend, in paragraph 2:
A research paper describing the new species, which lives in a diversity hotspot in east-central Mexico and seemingly branched off from its closest relative more than one million years ago [bold mine :c], appears in the Journal of Fish Biology. Brian Langerhas, assistant professor of biology at NC State and the lead author of the paper, says that its unusual genitalia may play important roles in mating control and success. Well, yeah, if he can keep it in his pants until he's got the lady fish cornered. If not, this might be a distinct disadvantage in dating. You wonder just how many times the lady fish gets caught before she gets wise. And has Gloria Steinem been advised of this? Surely she'll start a protest. 
Flores' focus on the genitalia of the fish may make you think he's 14. His nonsequitur reference to Gloria Steinem might make you think he's 90. From his picture in the Gringo Gazette, prominently featuring his fake shiny white Baja teeth, I'd say he's pushing 70. In any case, his brain is clearly stuck in adolescence--a perfect partner for Carrie Duncan.