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Letters: And the answer is: mathematics

November 11, 2012

Re “Silver's numbers racket,” Opinion, Nov. 6

I think what I like best about Nate Silver is that he is so often right.

Sorry, Jonah Goldberg, but Silver's battleground predictions were right on.

Clara Solis
Los Angeles

Silver's unusually accurate predictions are explained by his use of validated statistical methods.

He has come under attack for his disregard of momentum, gut feelings and the musings of pundits like Goldberg who are paid to promote their ideological viewpoints.

We rely on statistical models for many decisions every single day, including for weather forecasts, in medicine and in many complex systems in which there is an element of uncertainty in the outcome.

Indeed, these are the same methods by which scientists could predict, days in advance, that Superstorm Sandy was about to hit the United States.

The Goldberg piece is one of many whining complaints about Silver I've seen from conservative shills, all of them reminiscent of the recent ignorant attacks on the Bureau of Labor Statistics — not to mention the attacks on climate science.

Clearly, the conservative mind has an amazing capacity for manufacturing reasons to reject disagreeable evidence.

Michael K. Finnigan

So what are we to make of Silver's predictions, now that the election's an accomplished fact and Silver was exactly correct?

Goldberg's preferred right-wing statisticians seem to have missed the mark. As Goldberg pointed out for us: garbage in, garbage out.

But one thing old Jonah says is true: Those of us who do math on a daily basis do indeed have a deep faith in it. After all, it got us to the moon and back. It's the one thing you can actually prove.

Think Goldberg will ever concede his error?

Paul Ryan

Goldberg was right: We do go to Silver's blog to comfort ourselves. And the reason we're comforted is that Silver's analysis is sophisticated, rigorous and correct.

Jackie Flaskerud
San Diego

It was with resigned dismay that I read the latest anti-science diatribe by Goldberg regarding Silver's mathematical model for interpreting election polls.

Goldberg's article was typical of the current climate: If you don't agree with the scientific analysis, attack the messenger.

What Goldberg ignored was the fact that Silver gained nothing by “gaming” his model to support his chosen candidate; if Mitt Romney had won, then Silver's model would have been discredited and he would be back to peddling baseball statistics.

This head-in-the-sand view of science is not simply wrongheaded partisanship that exemplifies the moral and intellectual vacuum in which many of today's Republican pundits operate. In a world growing warmer by the day, it is downright dangerous.

Ken Wilton
Manhattan Beach

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