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View Diary: By hiring a climate disinformer, Nate Silver undermines his entire premise of data-driven journalism (204 comments)

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  •  It might be easy to underestimate how much (15+ / 0-)

    more there is to science than just math.

    Math is important to science, especially physical science which includes the study of weather and climate, but it would be a mistake to think that having a good grasp of the math means one understands the science.

    Speaking as a scientist, or a former scientist at least.  

    •  One of the few things written by .... (10+ / 0-)

      Konrad Lorenz that I wholeheartedly liked was his essay on the fallacy of dispensing with description.  Math is important, but from a practical standpoint an understanding of the mechanics of math or even a genius level ability to understand mathematical theory does not translate into an understanding of the universe or of how the earth works. Systematic descriptive work is necessary in order to discover where experimentation and pure mathematics can be applied. Of course this is one problem with climate patterns because we simply cannot set up a set of identical earths in a series of experiments using differing conditions, but instead have to depend to a large extent on historical data with a replication of one.

      Several statisticians with whom I have worked in the past in applied ecological research have pointed out to me that some problems simply cannot be easily analyzed and that the lack of understanding this principle leads to a lot of wasted effort and even suspect analysis. In other words you have to know what you are doing.  

      •  Yes. Math without science is useless. (7+ / 0-)

        Science is the connection to the real world. That's true whether the science is economics, political science, climate science, or simple everyday observation and measurement.

        •  No. Wrong on multiple levels: (1+ / 0-)
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          k9disc

          Math is a science.

          Although it is heavily deductive, Greg Chaitin argues persuasively that math is necessarily empirical also.

          GH Hardy argued in "A Mathematicians Apology" that pure math is most valuable because it is useless (ie, as a means to something else).  Indeed math has sublime aesthetic value for those who can see it.

          For that reason, Hardy preferred number theory, apparently the most useless branch of mathematics.   It turned out that number theory has great utility in cryptography.

          Likewise abstract algebra, in particular group theory, called "the supreme art of abstraction" by James R. Newman, pursued for its own sake, turned out to be essential to contemporary particle physics.

          Diary, on the other hand, is right that Silver is abusing math in hiring an obscurantist to distort empirical facts on this most vital of all issues.

          There's no such thing as a free market!

          by Albanius on Sun Mar 23, 2014 at 09:21:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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