Because SCIENCE!

My 4th favorite moment of election night, after the call of the election for Obama and against the two amendments, was Fox News calling Ohio.

Not because it was pretty much the moment Obama was re-elected (although that, admittedly, was pretty sweet), but it was the moment when the following happened:

Fox News: We officially call Ohio for Obama.

Karl Rove: Nuh uh!

FN: Umm.. yeah, pretty much.

Rove: NO!

FN: Why not?

Rove: Because REASONS! Also Dick Morris and I predicted a landslide for Romney, so there!

FN: OK, let’s check with the math nerds. Math nerds?

Math Nerd: Yeah, it’s a done deal. BOOM!

Rove: BUT nobody really knows yet! TEACH THE CONTROVERSY! You can’t prove it!

MN: WE can. Because SCIENCE!

Rove: <head explodes>

It speaks to and reflects a certain denial of reality that also lies behind other, scientifically overwhelming, proven scenarios: anthropogenic climate change and evolution being the two major ones, but there are many others, like stem cell research. The big denial topic late in this election season was the argument around “unskewing the polls”: it seemed obvious to anyone outside that particular information bubble that there was an active attempt to cherry-pick only the data that supported a pre-existing opinion, and discard the rest as “biased” for no other reason than “we don’t like it”. That’s what tripped up Rove, Morris and many others, and what was most surprising of all was how unaware these two “masters” of bubble-blowing were of the bubble they were found themselves in when reality refused to be spun.

But it’s a similar response by the people who claim there is no consensus around climate change, because they once got 400 scientists to sign a paper saying that there was still ongoing debate. Once you realize that (a) most (~60%) of the signers were scientists whose expertise or area of study wasn’t even related to climate, (b) some said the paper purposefully misrepresented what they actually believed, and (c) in response, the scientific community easily found 400 scientists just by looking at the experts named “Steve” who understood the matter better and agreed that climate change is happening… well, then you realized how cherry-picked the data was.

“Teach the controversy!” Sounds familiar? In this situation, Karl was making the case that, in spite of the fact that he didn’t have the data or the expertise to make the call, his opinion was just as valid as the science nerds’. Again, based on his shocked response, the surprise was finding out exactly how much he had come to believe that himself.

Unfortunately for them, and as much as they probably wanted to, neither Rove nor Morris could unskew the votes that were actually cast. It was a beautiful moment when Megyn Kelly asked whether the difference in opinion could be similar to the exit poll discrepancy in previous elections, and the response from the math nerds was: “this is raw cast vote data; it’s not our opinion, it’s not polls, it’s not something that can be poorly sampled. The math just won’t work any other way.”

Simple arithmetic won the election, and two spinmeisters lost a huge chunk of “credibility”, live, on the only network that gives it to them.

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