29 March 2014
Lies, Damned Lies and Statistical Truth
Posted by Dan Satterfield
There has been a lot of attention recently around “538 Blog” founder Nate Silver and his hire of Political Scientist Roger Pielke Jr. to write about climate change on his new gig. Pielke is the darling of the anti-science crowd, and his often called to testify at science hearings on Capitol Hill by those who think climate change is a hoax ( It’s hard to find any real climate experts that will deny scientific reality anymore). It would seem smart for Silver to go out and find an expert on the subject who has many published papers in the top scientific journals (and there are plenty out there), but instead he chose Roger Pielke.
I think I know why, and the answer is pretty obvious; shameless self promotion. Look at all the free publicity he got by announcing the hire, and even more after Pielke’s first piece on the new website. Word is that Nate Silver is recruiting a rebuttal of the piece by Pielke, and that will likely also get him a lot of free publicity as well. The controversy over science gets a lot more attention than the hard truth in the America of 2014, and Nate Silver is not the only one who knows this; Meet the Press and even the venerable BBC have dabbled in the same waters recently.
Pielke’s claims have often been shown to be flat wrong, but REAL physics expert Stefan Rahmstorf has taken the time to burn his arguments to a cinder using the fire-breathing dragon of statistical fact. You can read it here on REAL CLIMATE, and trust me, you will learn some fascinating facts about climate, and realize why Nate Silver deserved the firestorm of criticism he received this week. Then again, we all know the saying: “there’s no such thing as bad publicity!”.
Paid by the word. It’s a living brother, we all have to eat.
Nate Silver’s choice is deeply disappointing. We like to believe that scientists and mathematicians are devoted to speaking the truth… especially when they have to power to discover it.
I would have liked to think that a statistician like Nate Silver would value discussing statistical facts over his own name recognition, but I guess not.
There are two ways to become famous…1) to be famous; 2) to be infamous.