I loved it. Even though I really didn't know for sure what Silver was talking about. I felt like I did, though.
Thus my divided reaction to the words "this election is an epistemological watershed" seems to reflect why the 2012 election here in the United States is so important.
Knowledge vs. feeling. Facts vs. fantasy. Science vs. religion.
A watershed is marked by a divide.
The choice between Romney and Obama, along with the choice between Republicans and Democrats generally, indeed involves two ways of how we gain an understanding about reality -- the province of epistemology.
Nate Silver is a proud member of the knowledge/facts/science community.
So am I. So is Obama, by and large. Romney and most Republicans running for office at the national level are part of the feeling/fantasy/religion community.
Thus when ballots are counted tomorrow, voters not only will be electing candidates, they'll be choosing a worldview that will be a basis for guiding our country during the next four years. Or longer.
I'm confident that Obama and the Democrats will come out on top, in large part because I've been closely following Silver's sophisticated projections of election outcomes. At the moment he gives Obama a 92% chance of winning. That's a huge difference from all the blather about the election being a toss-up.
Not according to the polls, analyzed by Silver in detail. When Silver expresses a judgment about who is going to be elected president, he has facts, reasons, and logic to back him up.
Most other "talking heads" on television and radio are just making stuff up. We've been hearing about Mittmentum for weeks, fact-free opinionating about how Romney caught up to Obama after the first debate and now is cruising to a win.
During those same weeks, Nate Silver has been showing that Obama has been enjoying a steady rise in state-level/battleground polling. Recently national polls have become more closely aligned with this Obamentum.
I very much want Obama to win tomorrow. I also want Silver's epistemological perspective as shared on Five Thirty Eight to win. Which it will, if Obama gets an electoral college win close to the 315 (O) - 223 (R) split Silver is projecting.
That would be a giant Obama victory. And also a victory for the reality-based community.
The United States can't solve its problems if the Republican party is in control. Sadly, modern day conservatives are tenaciously anti-science, anti-facts, and pro-religious fantasizing. I know this both from observing national political goings-on, and also seeing how right-wing commenters on my blog posts think.
In short, poorly.
When facts about climate change, Chrysler adding jobs in this country, the Benghazi attack, or other issues are pointed out to them, their reaction is Doesn't matter. Amazing. Neuroscience knows that emotions play a big role in how we think about problems, but we humans should be able to integrate facts into our viewpoints a heck of a lot better than right-wingers do these days.
On November 6 I'm hopeful that Americans will have re-elected President Obama, and also chosen which side of the epistemological divide they want our nation's leaders to operate from. The side of...
Facts. Reason. Science. Openness. Tolerance.
Mitt Romney has been astoundingly dishonest. The Washington Post got it right when they said his one consistency has been a contempt for the electorate. That's what happens when a candidate, indeed the entire Republican party, doesn't respect objective truth or fact-based reality.
Yes, we're at an epistemological watershed. Tomorrow we'll know which way the nation's knowledge drop flows.
Update: just came across "The Real Loser:Truth" by history professor Kevin Kruse. Excellent essay. Excerpt:
PolitiFact has chronicled 19 “pants on fire” lies by Mr. Romney and 7 by Mr. Obama since 2007, but Mr. Romney’s whoppers have been qualitatively far worse: the “apology tour,” the “government takeover of health care,” the “$4,000 tax hike on middle class families,” the gutting of welfare-to-work rules, the shipment by Chrysler of jobs from Ohio to China. Said one of his pollsters, Neil Newhouse, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”
To be sure, the Obama campaign has certainly had its own share of dissembling and distortion, including about Mr. Romney’s positions on abortion and foreign aid. But nothing in it — or in past campaigns, for that matter — has equaled the efforts of the Romney campaign in this realm. Its fundamental disdain for facts is something wholly new.
The voters, of course, may well recoil against these cynical manipulations at the polls. But win or lose, the Romney campaign has placed a big and historic bet on the proposition that facts can be ignored, more or less, with impunity.