The Left Loved Stats Until Stats Didn’t Love It Back


Nate Silver rose to prominence in the 2012 election when he AMAZINGLY predicted all 50 states presidential pick, or more aptly correctly picked four swing states. Democrats declared him a statistical genius, though a better stat may be that if you had 16 monkeys randomly picking election results, one would have been as successful as Nate Silver.

It was an interesting dynamic for the left to declare Nate Silver “their guy” in a fight against Republican idiot pollsters, when in reality the whole point of a pollster is that he isn’t anyone’s guy. He’s supposed to give you the stats, the truth. But no one in the increasingly political media can handle the truth. Neither party wants statistical analysis of what is happening, they want their Mom to write 5,000 words on why they are special and everyone else is a doo-doo head. That’s why conservatives created unskewed polls, and the left is attacking new Nate Silver after his 538 blog recently predicted that the GOP may take the Senate in 2014. Here is what Silver said:

So our forecast might be thought of as a Republican gain of six seats — plus or minus five. The balance has shifted slightly toward the GOP. But it wouldn’t take much for it to revert to the Democrats, nor for this year to develop into a Republican rout along the lines of 2010.

Now libs are mad and pointing out all of Silver’s past mistakes – proclaiming that Silver is not the golden boy. It’s as though they feel Silver betrayed their team, when he was never on a team at all. To them, Silver outsmarting traditional pundits in predicting a Romney loss was a liberal victory over conservatives – even though his predictions had nothing to do with politics. It’s as childish as a football player who gets mad when a broadcaster picks the other team to win – except instead of throwing a ball and developing early onset dementia these people are supposed to be running the country.

Worse still are the scientists angry at Silver for publishing a piece from Roger Pielke disputing claims that disaster costs are rising because of global warming. Instead Pielke claims costs are rising because worldwide wealth is rising so there is more expensive stuff to break. Call this the “your bill will be bigger if your snot nosed kid runs around breaking shit in Bloomingdales instead of K-Mart” theorem. Pielke goes on to say:

Occasionally, big disasters bring outsize costs — especially the Kobe earthquake in 1995, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Honshu earthquake in 2011 — but the overall trend in disaster costs proportional to GDP since 1990 has stayed fairly level.

Climatologists attacked this idea saying it was irresponsible. They accused Pielke of not factoring in stronger building codes which mitigate disaster bills. They also accused Pielke of not accounting for the fact that towns are now more prepared for storms. But they failed to address this stat:

In the 20th century, the human toll of disasters decreased dramatically, with a 92 percent reduction in deaths from the 1930s to the 2000s worldwide.

And the reason they don’t is damning. Everyone has a hustle, and climatologists’ hustle is climate change. They get paid by creating hysteria over climate deaths. The fact that we are dramatically less likely to die in a disaster is bad for business. The more dangerous a cause seems, the more money it gets. If Ghost tigers were spreading ebola via people’s nightmares, every scientist in the country would be living off of fat grants from wealthy donors. Scientists have as much incentive to overstate the effects of climate change as Kanye West does to continually compare himself to Jesus.

While its clear Pielke has a point that wealth contributes significantly to the increasing costs of disasters, his detractors are perhaps correct that his calculation is wrong. However, they by no means want to actually correct his model because it would be an admission their own figures are inflated. That’s why they simply denounce Pielke as “irresponsible.” The answer lies somewhere in the middle, but the middle doesn’t pay as well. If Climate Change isn’t super deadly, some Americans may lose interest and start pretending to give a shit about the rain forest again.

The point is there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. In the world of partisan news, each side can write opinion pieces and find statistics to please its audience. 538 is learning quickly that when you start with statistics, you’ll find yourself pronounced a damned liar by both sides. It remains to be seen whether or not there is any money in that.

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