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Leave Nate Silver ALONE!!!!

In defense of Nate Silver — and basic math Pundits taking pot shots at the New York Times stats whiz need to take remedial math BY PAUL F. CAMPOS As a great philosopher once observed, “math class is tough!” This insight has been confirmed numerous times in the past few weeks, as various pundits have taken innumerate pot shots at Nate Silver, the New York Times blogger and author, who as of today estimates that President Obama has a 77.4 percent chance of winning re-election next week. The Villager gossip site Politico has featured several criticisms from its stable of contributors, who in the great tradition of political journalism have not allowed their ignorance of a subject – in this case probability theory – to keep them from opining on it. Behold the wit and wisdom of Josh Gerstein and Dylan Byers: Gerstein asks, “Isn’t the basic problem with the Nate Silver prediction in question, and the critique, that it puts a percentage on a one-off event?” Meanwhile, Byers concludes that, “should Mitt Romney win on Nov. 6, it’s difficult to see how people can continue to put faith in the predictions of someone who has never given that candidate anything higher than a 41 percent chance of winning.” Clearly it’s time for some remedial stats classes. Let’s start with a quick quiz. Suppose a weather forecasting model predicts that the chance of rain in Chicago tomorrow is 75 percent. How do we determine if the model produces accurate assessments of probabilities? After all, the weather in Chicago tomorrow, just like next week’s presidential election, is a “one-off event,” and after the event the probability that it rained will be either 100 percent or 0 percent. (Indeed, all events that feature any degree of uncertainty are one-off events – or to put it another way, if an event has no unique characteristics it also features no uncertainties). (cont. at link)


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