Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Math and Science (Part I)

Glenn Beck wrote a book entitled: Arguing with Idiots. I did not read the book but from what I can gather it provides a historical overview of certain national problems and issues. In other words, people with a strong understanding of history can effectively argue political issues. This may be true, but there is a much more effective tool to argue political issues with adversaries: math and science. It seems we have become a nation of mathematical illiterates. This is sad, because many of the political issues we are debating today are math and science problems. Unfortunately, Americans take sides on many of these subjects without any remote understanding of the math and science behind these problems and issues. This only reinforces that American society is becoming more and more narcissistic since everyone is a know it all.

So what are some of the mathematical and scientific political problems facing Americans? Climate change is a classic example. Americans are polarized over this issue despite the fact that less than 1% of Americans have the scientific and mathematical background to understand basic statistical concepts and models. It is unfortunate because most Americans could understand these fairly simple statistical models if they really wanted since they are not that complex. Most national political debates are math problems. For instance, Americans and politicians are divided over the question as to whether or not the government should raise taxes on the wealthiest earners. This is a math problem and once again less than 1% of Americans have the capacity to formulate models to calculate the significance of this problem. Other math problems include understanding the benefits and consequences of adding 20 million uninsured Americans into government run Medicaid programs or the result of moving America away from fossil fuel energy sources to renewable energies. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion about all these topics, but in actuality most people with opinions are ill informed and these subjects.

Most Americans solely read and watch pundits and sources that reinforce their beliefs. And since many political issues are mathematical in nature, one can conclude Americans cannot decipher or comprehend if the information they rely on is biased or not. For instance, many liberals feel award winning economist Paul Krugman is King when it comes to economic issues. However, Krugman, like many Americans, is a mathematical illiterate. Krugman can only draw conclusions on data he can solely decipher with his eyes. He does not have the basic knowledge to generate models to compare dozens of variables to draw conclusions. Hence, Krugman’s analysis of problems consists of eye balling a few variables. The Krugman analysis is commonly used by most Americans and it is hardly mathematical or scientific. One of my favorite examples of this behavior is how the left insists that the American healthcare system is flawed because its infant mortality and life expectancy rates are much worse than other developed nations who have socialized systems and spend less on healthcare. The bottom line is it is wrong to assume that medical expenditures and wellbeing in one country is directly proportional to the same statistics in other nations because each nation has unique healthcare systems with much different rules and regulations. However, it is easier to show that the link between a nation’s wellbeing is not related healthcare expenditures, but education. The U.S. has much lower literacy rates, high school education rates, and a higher dependence on entitlement handouts than other developed nations. A simple analysis shows that by increasing literacy and high school education rates and lowering our dependence on entitlements correlates to lower infant mortality and higher life expectancy rates. It is impossible to draw these conclusions without being able to formulate and analyze models based on a multitude of variables and data. But it seems everyone is an expert these days.

My Book: Is America Dying? (, Barnes and Noble)

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