Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Nerds under attack!

October 29th, 2012, 10:00am by Sam Wang



Paul Krugman is calling out National Review Online for their attempted takedown of Nate Silver for biased methods and somehow cooking the books. Krugman writes:

This is, of course, reminiscent of the attack on the Bureau of Labor Statistics — not to mention the attacks on climate science and much more. On the right, apparently, there is no such thing as an objective calculation. Everything must have a political motive.

Now more commentators on the right, including Jay Cost (The Weekly Standard) and Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post), are getting in on the act. Wow, dogpile on the rabbit!

A popular approach to undermining technical knowledge is to throw mud, assert expertise, make picky points, and sow doubts among the less savvy. In this case, what’s the argument? The NRO writer, Josh Jordan, makes this core criticism:

When you weight a poll based on what you think of the pollster and the results and not based on what is actually inside the poll (party sampling, changes in favorability, job approval, etc), it can make for forecasts that mirror what you hope will happen rather than what’s most likely to happen.

Jordan sounds like many partisan polling enthusiasts – on both sides. However, his style of poll-dissection can very easily lead a person astray. The human mind has a large capacity for finding reasons to reject a piece of disagreeable evidence. I’ve written about this in the context of how people form false beliefs in politics (“Your Brain Lies To You,” NYT, June 27, 2008). Polling internals lend themselves very well to such “motivated reasoning.” It is always possible to find something not to like in a poll. This is why I discourage all of you from chewing over single polls.

Silver’s evaluations of pollster reliability are quantitative parameters. However, there isn’t full transparency about how he arrives at them and what he does with them. This leaves him open to attack.

Partly because of this risk, I have stayed with simpler rules such as

Combined with a probabilistic calculation, these rules guided our Meta-Analysis to the exact EV outcome in 2004. It missed by only 1 EV in 2008. Such simple methods are easy to make transparent. You (or Jay Cost, I guess) could download my code in an instant.

I have my own technical beefs with FiveThirtyEight (for example, see here, here, and here). I believe Silver doesn’t extract all the information and tends to add unnecessary factors, which leads to blurry probabilities and poor time resolution. However, his intuitions about the data are excellent and he is very concerned with getting things right. For purposes of popular consumption, he is a fine and honest nerd.

Jordan’s capacity for wishful thinking is apparent when he writes:

While it’s impossible to know how the late deciders will break, the historical trend has been for them to break for the challenger.

I sympathize with this, since I thought the same in 2004, and added a “turnout/undecideds” parameter. For this I received a well-deserved drubbing afterward. In fact, undecideds split about equally, as amply documented by Charles Franklin. I don’t add such parameters any more.

(However, if Jordan wants to implement his idea, he can do so easily by clicking the “With +2% for Romney” link, over in the right sidebar.)

Finally, I will state something obvious. None of this storm of criticism would be happening if “Ro-mentum” (Oct. 23) were real. In fact, Mitt Romney’s fortunes peaked around October 4-9. Since then, the race has moved back toward Obama by about 2.5 points. National polls* give the graph at left. (See update, below.)

And the Popular Vote Meta-Margin, which describes how much state polls would have to swing to generate a tie in Electoral College mechanisms, looks like this:

History of Popular Meta-Margin for Obama

The Meta-Margin may still be catching up with national polls. If so, it has a few tenths of a point to go before it stabilizes. Alternately, something different is happening in swing states. In either case, the overall picture is the same: a narrow Obama lead that is static – or perhaps widening. There is no evidence for Ro-mentum.

>>>

*Analyzed as previously described. To generate the graph above, Gallup/Rasmussen were excluded. I am not at all averse to using them, but they have large house effects and so would need to be analyzed using median-based statistics, which I did not apply above. Anyway, adding them back gives the same relative picture of rapid decline and bounceback, with the same shape, except that the entire graph is slid upward toward Romney by 1.0%.

Median of all national polls, day by dayUpdate: OK, here is the poll-median graph, including Gallup/Rasmussen, day by day. It is not a weighted median, but it’s close enough (adverse blogging conditions). Note that the drop on October 3rd is due to a Rasmussen poll, which demonstrates their house effect, about two points relative to other pollsters. The conclusion from this plot, as well as the plot above, is that the race has been at a standstill for the last two weeks.

Tags: 2012 Election · President

297 Comments so far ↓

  • DrOrbit

    @Skeptical “Coming on the heels of the Romney campaign apparently confirming Mitt Romney’s earlier promise to shut down FEMA and move its duties to the states, the news that Team Romney’s token “hurricane relief” effort is making things worse for disaster relief agencies is yet another example of how everything Mitt Romney touches – even disasters – end up a disaster.”

  • Hedgehog

    Someone brought this up on another site and now I’m curious. Intrade is essentially offering Obama at 3-2, while this site puts him at 10-1. If this were college football, I know there’d be huge Obama bets made from those who agree with the methodology. So, is anyone taking that action? (I confess ignorance as to how easy Intrade is to use, btw).

  • Ray

    Gallup spread is now 5 points. I’m totally confused. Can this be that much of an outlier?

  • BCC

    The attacks on e.g. 538 and polling in general is quite reminiscent on all the “skeptic” attacks on climate science- we don’t like the results, therefore the analysis is wrong. QED.

  • Michael H.

    Looking at the most recent EV map, it appears to me that “Ro-mentum” is indeed real!! Only it is in the downward direction!!!!! Three “red” states have flipped to tie, and only one “blue” state. I would think that the R folks must be starting to sweat buckets. And the latest attacks discussed by Sam would seem to confirm that they are doing just that. But, people still HAVE to cast their ballots, so I hope that the Obama folks are working very hard to get the vote out, regardless of the weather. Stay safe, Sam!!

  • tarylcabot

    I believe that part of the criticism also derives from Nate working for the NYTimes & thus being higher profile. I sent a link to Nate to two conservative friends & the immediate response was along the lines of ‘well what would you expect from the New York Times.’

    Now that you are being linked to more (I came across you from Kevin Drum), I’ll expect to see, Sam Wang from an elite Ivy League institute.

  • Matt Davis

    Typo: “It is always possible to [find] something not to like in a poll. This is why I discourage all of you from chewing over single polls.”

  • Mike B.

    There seems to have been a glitch in IA data. It dropped 1/2 point for no reason. (No new polls.)

    CO will go down a lot, thanks to an R+1 poll from the pirate pollster ARG!!!

    Even though this is a three point improvement from a R lean poll.

  • pcs

    I LOVE LOVE this site. First time posting. Your Sunday’s article about how to assess how good predictions are–fantastic stuff. And I just had to write to say “gee, thanks for getting ‘Dogpile on the Wabbit’ stuck in my head for the remainder of my work day!” Keep up the amahzing work.

  • Barb

    I’ve been mulling over what my reaction as an Obama supporter would be if the situation was reversed. IOW, what if Obama had been consistently behind in Nate and Sam’s profile, and then, towards the end, the race tightened. The whole media was whipping up Obama surging etc., polls were being trumpeted as showing an Obama lead – and then Nate and Sam were still saying Obama had a small and dwindling chance.

    I know I wouldn’t be hitting refresh as often as I do now. I like to think I’d still listen to them more than the talking heads, but I’m vulnerable to bias too.

    Anyway, if they both are pretty accurate this time around, that gives them even more credibility for 2016. Depending on how that race shapes up, maybe I can test my reaction then. It’s nice when the numbers predict what you want to hear, and lonely when they don’t.

    BTW, I’m not trying to excuse the partisan attacks or anything. I find the anti-scientific thinking that is championed in mainstream right politics to be very concerning. I’m just musing, that’s all.

  • Khan

    I cannot believe Romney is giving a campaign speech right now in Ohio.

    That is the lowest this campaign has gone yet. Wow.

    • Michael

      Is he pre-emptively attacking FEMA’s handling of the response to Sandy?

    • Slightly Skeptical

      What’s the big deal? Clinton and Biden are speaking in Youngstown today. Is that also incredibly low?

      And Romney has cancelled events tonight and tomorrow.

      Save your outrage for something serious.

    • wheelers cat

      Like he preemptively attacked the administrations handling of Bengahzi?

    • Khan

      @Slightly Skeptical

      Vice President Biden went in President Obama’s place as the President cancelled his campaigning to return to the White House to help manage this crisis.

      So no, that is not low. Nice try though. The Romney campaign actually stated that they are having Romney campaign today so that he can try to minimize the coverage of President Obama appearing presidential and leading in this time of tragedy.

      That is outrageous.

    • JamesInCA

      I beg to differ. It’s not as low as rhetorically attacking diplomats while they’re still under actual physical attack.

    • ChrisDC

      “The Romney campaign actually stated that they are having Romney campaign today so that he can try to minimize the coverage of President Obama appearing presidential and leading in this time of tragedy.”

      Khan, can you provide a link to a quoted (or recorded) statement to this effect?

    • Slightly Skeptical

      I really don’t get your logic Khan. How does the fact that Biden is there instead of Obama make a difference? If you think campaigning today in the face of Sandy is low, you should want them to cancel the event, not to have the sitting vice-president show up. Or is it ok for VP candidates but not for P candidates? Color me confused.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Politicians gotta politick. Obama was going to do an event in Florida, but cancelled at the last minute.

      He can’t expect Romney to give him a pass just because he’s busy being President; it’s the downside of incumbency. The upside is that if he handles the crisis well, the optics are awesome.

    • Joel

      @ Khan, I’m with Skeptical here. Romney has sunk to many lows in the campaign, but I can’t blame him for trying to press a (quite limited) advantage.

    • Obama 2012

      I don’t think it’s the lowest they’ve gone yet… because they’ve been so low so many times before (politicizing Libya, countless lies…)

  • Jim Flynn

    Sam, your column is most enlightening. It is typical of the right to insult the intelligence of the “elite” when facts get in the way of their truthiness. These are the same people who challenge evolution and believe that a woman being raped can shut down her reproductive system to avoid pregnancy. You cannot reason with that insanity so it isn’t even worth trying.

  • Matt

    These right-leaning writers and poll watchers don’t realize, or forget, that when Nate HAS been wrong it was because he UNDERESTIMATED the Democrats, not the other way around.

  • Dinsdale Piranha

    “On the right, apparently, there is no such thing as an objective calculation. Everything must have a political motive.” -Paul Krugman

    Hmm…could it be because everything done by the right DOES have a political motive? This is classic projection. Winning without honor doesn’t cover it – now it’s a question of winning without truth. If the American people allow this to happen while still in the shadow of Bush’s spectacular travesty, there is no excuse.

  • Hedgehog

    While I hope you are wrong, I have to say I admire how all in you are. Silver at least can say a 1 in 4 chance is still a reasonable chance. While 1 in 10 can certainly happen, it leaves you a lot less cover. I’ll be very interested in how this all turns out.

  • Amitabh Lath

    Prof. Krugman’s post speaks to more than just this election cycle. This is a worldview where everything is either for you or against you.

    My thesis advisor, Henry Kendall, awarded the Nobel Prize in 1990 for the discovery of quarks within nucleons, spent a long time making arguing against “Star Wars”. His arguments were always based on basic physical laws such as the energy conservation and the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

    Proponents of the Star Wars ideas would insinuate that he was being unpatriotic in bringing these points up. Science is fragile, and politics often trumps it. In the worst cases it can lead to a dark age.

    • Patrick

      A fellow student in my Détente class was defending the Star Wars plan, as if we lived in 1985. He adamantly insisted that President Romney would and should implement it, to the awe of the Professor and classmates.

    • Amitabh Lath

      You have classes in Detente! Awesome.
      The classic anecdote about physics throwing cold water on the otherwise AWESOME weapons systems is the satellite borne X-ray laser.

      This puppy was supposed to shoot down Soviet ICBM’s before they mirv’ed. The trouble is, no one asked how the laser would be powered. Apparently you have an atomic bomb on the satellite, and channel the explosion into one huge pulse of gammas…

      Remember, these were the Reagan years. This sort of stuff got funded.

  • wheelers cat

    Does anyone else get the feeling that we could wake up in Anathem any day now?
    I want to be safe in Dr. Wangs decarian math before the ‘slines come for my liver.

  • smartone1

    The worse part of all this – if the President does win – the blatant cheerleading of Ro-Mentum by the Media will be quickly forgotten. There will be no consequence of their irresponsible coverage.

    • Khan

      I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Trust in the media is at an all time low.

    • Shawn Huckaby

      You’re probably correct as far as most serious media outlets go. I’m more concerned about how the coverage from the Fox/Limbaugh/Hannity/Becks of the world may sour into accusations of election “stealing”, or worse.

      Maybe this will be a tipping point in awakening the general public to the true nature of these outlets, but just in case I plan to increase my support for The Southern Poverty Law Center (http://www.splcenter.org/)

  • Philip

    Sam, I’ve been meaning to tell you what a pleasure and refuge I find in this site. Many people comment on the quality of your analysis and the accessibility of your writing, and I share those opinions. But what I find most remarkable is the civility I find here. You seem to have developed a
    force field that fends off the the venom spewers while allowing the thoughtful in through the garden gate.

  • Ben

    “Hackiest?” Better to assign her to the top percentile of hacks, since there are other hacks out there (unintentionally) vying for the title of hackiest.

  • Denis

    If there is truth to the analysis described in the article linked, surely the metadata analysis tools you have should be able to demonstrate the correlation with the presence of voting machines?

    Is there lousy stastistics in there or is something really rotten? Can other factors than fraud explain those “suspicious” trends?

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/10/26/1150485/-Retired-NSA-Analyst-Proves-GOP-Is-Stealing-Elections?detail=hide

  • Joel

    Just an aside, but Jennifer Rubin is the least credible, hackiest hack out there. You just have to look up her response (and follow-up!) on the Oslo attacks for confirmation there.

    • ElizaJane

      Rubin is the hackiest hack employed by a major news organization. I think she wins that title quite easily. Other Hacky Hacks are blogging on their own or with groups of other HHs.

  • G. Camp III

    If the nerds turn out to be wrong, we won’t hear the end of it. If the nerds turn out to be correct, silence.

  • Froggy

    Forget Josh Jordan, Jay Cost, or even Jennifer Rubin. Dean Chambers, the Unskewed Polls guy, wins hands down for the most outrageous attack on poll analyzers, calling into question Nate Silver’s methods, for no better reason than because Nate is “a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice,” http://www.examiner.com/article/the-far-left-turns-to-nate-silver-for-wisdom-on-the-polls.

    If manly sexuality is the mark of a good poll analysis, I’ll cast my lot with Nate “Long Dong” Silver and Sam (insert genital-based witticism here) Wang any day.

  • Howie Weiner

    As I’ve said before, polls in the hands of “anti-scientists” become a political tool, no different than a political ad, all to serve a political end rather than a scientific inquiry. The climate change deniers, the vaccine haters, the “women have a way of shutting it down” proponents all serve the same god of greed. Anti-science is an appeal to what is most base in humans. It is a sliding back towards barbarism and is an inherent tendency among all societies. We last saw it in full effect in Europe where after hundreds of years of scientific and political progress, a gigantic flood of negation washed it all away. Millions died in its wake.
    It is a good sign that the President (who certainly represents a scientific approach to political rule) will win this election. And it is also good that honest men like Nate Silver are under attack, it means he is effective in disarming the liars, otherwise they wouldn’t bother.
    Stay safe and dry all my East Coast friends and family.

  • Ed Groome

    Excluding the Rasmussen and Gallup polls makes sense in the context of this entry, but do you worry that the current snapshot is skewed by opposing house effects without them, what with the recent spurt of PPP polls? The footnoted mention of a 1.5 point slide in the graph is pretty alarming. Nothing to worry about?

  • Shawn Huckaby

    One of my previous tweets:

    Its war on science nearly complete, Republican party puts math on notice, “You’re next!”

    All kidding aside, it is very disturbing, and not without historical precedent, for one group of powerful people to take a conscious stance to deny science and mathematics as methods of deciding what is factual. Dark Ages, anyone?

    The right accuses the left of cultural relativism, but they are actively seeking to institute “factual relativism”. When Romney told Obama in the first debate that he wasn’t entitled to his own facts I almost choked to death! Talk about twisting the argument…

    Take a look at Paul Broun, and others that the GOP have placed on nominally science based Congressional committees. It’s clear that they no longer consider there to be ANY common facts or scientific principles in public life.

    http://www.salon.com/2012/10/08/least_scientific_members_of_the_house_science_committee/

    While denying math and science may be an effective political strategy for a very narrow core constituency, it also leads to conspiracy theories and feelings of persecution when the universe continues to operate on these principles, with or without Republican ratification.

    • Olav Grinde

      Its war on science nearly complete, Republican party puts math on notice, “You’re next!”

      Shawn, that reminds me of a magnet on our fridge. It reads:

      To do list:

      - Afghanistan
      - Iraq
      - Iran
      - The Blue States
      - Canada

    • Amitabh Lath

      Soviet science suffered under political oppression.
      Physics and math were supported, and allowed to flourish, and produced luminaries like Landau.

      Genetics and microbiology suffered because it was deemed politically incorrect.

      Now we have a political party where all the nominees raised their hands when asked if they thought evolution was incorrect. Don’t think it cannot happen here.

    • wheelers cat

      Amitabh, that same political party has endorsed medieval ensoulment as an official part of the party platform.
      ;)

    • Matt McIrvin

      Early on, there were actually attacks on physics too: quantum mechanics was “bourgeois idealism”. What happened was that a bunch of physicists made it very clear to Stalin that if he didn’t cut that out he would get no nuclear bombs.

    • wheelers cat

      And Amitabh, cher, my diffy q’s proff said the Sovs would have buried us mathematically, if only they could have had computers.

  • Joey Bagadonitz

    As aggravating as these attacks are, it’s important to look on the bright side. The inexorable tug of history has been towards empiricism and reason. Political debates may be dumb today, but they were much dumber 50, 100, 200 years ago.

    • Michael S

      But not 3000 years ago.

    • Philip

      I used to share your optimism but then I read the debates surrounding ratification of the Constitution, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and the rhetoric of the Classical Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic before they were swept away by by the tides of history.

      History has no “inexorable” tug. It is the product of our intention, the forces we create, and happenstance.

  • Craigo

    People still bring up the incumbent rule? What decade is it again?

  • Scott

    Wasn’t “A Fine and Honest Nerd” coined by Jonathan Swift as his sequel to “A Modest Proposal”?

  • Dean

    I visit Mr. Silver’s 538 site and participate in the discussion. He has his share of trolls who are all parroting the same thing, that we Obama supporters better beware, because Ro-mentum will crush us, and the polls that are skewed in our favor will turn out to be wrong.

    I noticed lately in RCP that when good polls for Obama were released, Gravis one-day polls were released right after the good polls, as if to knock down Obama’s average.

    I thought I saw one of the 538 trolls here the other day, in what seemed to be a very feeble attempt to troll.

    • Khan

      Aside from my qualms with Nate for his inability to respect his own data–ala underplaying advantage–his site has become almost unreadable. It is plagued with NRO and TWS readers.

  • Sam Champion

    Sam,

    Your comment that Nate Silver has excellent intuition for the data is spot on. See today’s very thoughtful piece as an example.

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/29/oct-28-in-swing-states-a-predictable-election/

  • 538 Refugee

    A Psych 101 demonstration I have always remembered demonstrated that if our brain doesn’t know something, it isn’t adverse to making it up.

  • sjw

    The NR piece is an attack on science. On what science is. On its methodology. On the (tentative) conclusions it reaches and its notion of truth with a small “t”. Belief trumps all. It has infected the debate about global warming. About the causes of autism. And now even statistical analyses of elections. It’s like turning back the clock to the pre-Enlightenment era. Heliocentrism is a myth! Witches exist!

  • Ray

    That Rasmussen poll plus 2 for Romney is actually good news for Obama. It was 50-47 yesterday and 49-47 today…Romney falls below the “magical” 50 percent threshold that Rasmussen always crows about. With his republican lean, 49-47 is basically a tie. I guarantee this: Rasmussen’s last poll will either be a tie or Obama plus 1.

    • Perks

      You’re close Ray. The Rasmussen poll of Ohio will be O + 1 the day before the election, and tied the day of. It’s Mittmentum until the end!

  • Olav Grinde

    Dr Wang, what happened to your Landfall thread?

    When I refreshed the page with this excellent post, I got an error message — and Landfall no longer appears to be listed amongst your October threads…

  • Pat

    OMG OMG, a new Ras poll of Ohio Romney+2 !!
    Ro-mentum!!

  • Ken

    This issue of momentum vs. morale/motivation and subjectivity vs objectivity reminds me of something I saw last weekend here in Delaware. A guy was jumping up and down and waving a homemade sign that said “honk if you like Mitt” and “vote for Mitt along a very busy intersection in New Castle County (the blue county in DE). I didn’t witness this for long but I did not hear a single honk.
    The “Ro-mentum” is the guy waving the sign. The data pointing to an Obama win is the lack of honks.

  • Sven Y

    “Blessed are the geek, for they shall inherit…”

  • Justin S

    Rass just put out a Oh poll with R up 2. Their unethical manipulation of the MM through poor polling is disgusting. This will be the poll that will be all the hype this week

  • Steve in Colorado

    So ‘Nate Silver vs. teh World’ was an overblown title?
    1st they say (after the DNC) that you have to weight the polls because they are not accurate. Now they are saying, no you can’t weight them, and, anyway, the later deciders will be the only ones who matter?

  • Matthew M

    I think “Ro-mentum” is finished as a MM story line anyway. Sandy has hijacked the news cycle, and she will continue to own it right through the end of the week, if not longer.

    • Evan R.

      The new MM story line is going to be that Mitt had momentum, but Sandy put the brakes on it, giving the president an unfair advantage.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Nah, Rasmussen’s new R+2 poll in Ohio will create a whole new rash of Ro-mentum stories, complete with speculation about Sandy as the October Surprise. (It was taken yesterday, so it overlaps the time period of PPP’s O+4.)

      Combine that with the (stale) tied Ohio newspaper poll, and you’ve got a full-fledged narrative.

  • Florida Swing Voter

    Santorum opened a can of worms and now these poll and aggregate truthers are just singing the same tune: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n5oa55EsmI

    • Tom_B

      Yea, unfortunately, The GOP is intending to corner the market on “stupid”–look no further than Akin or Trump. Brooks (NYT) is tolerable, and articulate, but he’s a distinctly small minority in his party, it seems.

      Glad Huntsman never got out of single digits (and Lugar did not consider a presidential run). Obama would be in a truly “knife edge” race.

    • grandpa john

      Well for once he is right, since his side is made of people dumb as rocks, he will always be part of the post turtle crowd

  • Martin

    I don’t give a flip what these balloon heads have to say! i just have tunnel vision and at this point and getting worried as hell about the affect of this hurricane and the jobs report on Friday can easily sway all those undecideds to Rombot.

    • xian

      spoken like a Democrat! Surely something bad is about to happen!

    • David Mann

      If someone hasn’t made up their mind at this point, they are so unengaged that they probably don’t even know what a jobs report is. Such people will decide, if at all, based on emotion.

    • Matt McIrvin

      I think jobs reports are trailing indicators of how people feel about the economy. They don’t affect sentiment explicitly except among media talking heads of the Very Serious Centrist variety.

      There was a terrible jobs report right after the Democratic convention, and a not-bad-all-things-considered one right after the first debate. The effect on the presidential race was minimal.

    • L. Murray

      President Obama was just on looking very presidential, I must say. His best moment came when reporter asked him about election. He said that the election would take care of itself. His only worry right now was the safety of American families.

      Mitt Romney wanted to cut FEMA and give responsibility for disasters to the states.

      Uh huh.

  • victory furniture

    Great stuff Sam!

    This was my favorite part of your post:

    “Finally, I will state something obvious. None of this storm of criticism would be happening if “Ro-mentum” (Oct. 23) were real.”

    The righties try to kill the messenger if he/she doesn’t say what they want….

  • Ken O'Brien

    “A Fine and Honest Nerd” sounds like an excellent title for an eventual biography.

  • xian

    Looks like you dropped a word, most likely “find,” in “It is always possible to something not to like in a poll.”

  • Khan

    Nerds always have the last laugh.

    Also, you cannot reason someone out of a position they did not reason themselves into. No amount of logic will defend you. You are guilty because they say you are. You are wrong because they say you are. You are a hack because they say you are.

    Of course, none of that is true, but hey it’s out there in the media now.

    • Skye in Ore

      Rule of reasoning?
      Quite profound–”You cant’t reason someone out of a position they haven’t reasoned themselves into”

    • robert

      “you cannot reason someone out of a position they did not reason themselves into.”

      Very true!

    • Arbitol

      Very true – almost Jeffersonian:

      “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them.”

      -Our 3rd President

    • gmack

      Hmm. I’m inclined to the statement–”You cannot reason someone out of a position they did not reason themselves into”–is straightforwardly false; there are lots of unreflective prejudices that people have that they can reason themselves out of. I know people who grew up as pretty intensely homophobic, for instance, but who have abandoned those attitudes, largely through reflection. In these cases, they did not “reason” themselves into the prejudice, but they did more or less reason themselves out of it.

    • Khan

      @gmack

      I’m afraid I don’t understand why you think my statement is false and then turn around and agree with it.

      The person reasoned their way out of their own belief. You did not reason them out of it.

    • Mac

      “you cannot reason someone out of a position they did not reason themselves into” WOW…so simple yet so true. Thank you Khan.