Science and Politics

January 24, 2013

From Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–But Some Don’t:

“What I do know is that there is a fundamental difference between science and politics. In fact, I’ve come to view them more and more as opposites.

“In science, progress is possible…The march towards scientific progress is not always straightforward, and some well-regarded (even “consensus”) theories are later proved wrong–but either way science tends to move toward the truth.

“In politics, by contrast, we seem to be growing ever further away from consensus…one is expected to give no quarter to his opponents. It is seen as a gaffe when one says something inconvenient–and true…

“The dysfunctional state of the American political system is the best reason to be pessimistic about our country’s future. Our scientific and technological prowess is the best reason to be optimistic…If I had a choice between a tournament of ideas and a political cage match, I know which fight I’d rather be engaging in–especially if I thought I had the right forecast.”