Tuesday, April 28, 2009

There's a 50% Chance They Understand What a 50% Chance Is

Here's a shocker: people don't understand the probabilities in weather forecasts:

...only half the population understands what a precipitation forecast means well enough to make a fully informed answer, a new study finds.

If, for example, a forecast calls for a 20 percent chance of rain, many people think it means that it will rain over 20 percent of the area covered by the forecast. Others think it will rain for 20 percent of the time, said Susan Joslyn, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Washington who conducted the study.


So much for no child left behind. Even the basics elude most of them.

11 comments:

A World Quite Mad said...

And these are the same people who are arguing for creationism. If they can't understand the mechanics of a weather forecast, how can they understand the mechanics of evolution? It's so much easier to understand Genesis. "God said so, so therefore that's all I need to know."

ronaldo said...

Why is everyone putting words into the article that aren't there?
Where in the article does it say that "these are the same people who are arguing for creationism"? And where in the article does it hint that this stinky understanding of the weather can be attributed to "no child left behind."

ScienceAvenger said...

It doesn't say so in the article Ronaldo, it's been true in our experience. Creationists are renowned for their consistent misuse of probabilities, usually manifesting itself in a lack of understanding of the difference between the probabilities of sequences of dependent events and independent ones, usually treating everything as the latter. Fred Hoyle's tornado-in-a-junkyard-747 argument is one of the more famous examples.

It is telling that mathematicians never come to the defense of the creationists in these debates. After all, mathematicians cannot be accused of a pro-Darwinian bias in these matters. They care about math first and last. Were evolution mathematically impossible, there is no force in the world that could shut them up about it.

I didn't mean to say it was caused by NCLB, but that NCLB obviously hasn't done much to improve the situation, despite the rhetoric of its champions.

Luke said...

I have to agree with ronaldo on this one. I don't think this article has anything to do with either creationism or NCLB.

memphisto said...

Gee, doesn't it mean that the rain will only be 20% wet?

ronaldo said...

Thanks Luke.

Although this is getting off topic...
Concerning mathematicians never coming to the defense of Creationists, here is one who does. (Note, he's not on the side of them, but comes to their defense anyway, in a way), I suggest scienceavenger look up Dr. Wickramasinghe http://www.panspermia.org/chandra.htm

In that essay Dr. W, who is the Professor and Head of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy at University College, Cardiff, U.K. writes "But even if chemical barriers for the linkages are artificially and miraculously removed, the really vast improbability of 1 in 10 ^40,000 poses a serious dilemma for the whole of evolutionary science."

So you're right! He does not say, in your own words, that "evolution is mathematically impossible!"

ScienceAvenger said...

I meant that mathematicians do not come to their aid en masse like you'd expect them to if evolutionary biology had the mathematical problems the creationists charge it with. Finding a handful that do means nothing. One can find a handful of people that think just about anything. There are historians that deny the holocaust too.

ronaldo said...

Sorry for treating your "never" as a true "never."

ScienceAvenger said...

Sorry for expecting you to focus on the broader point that was clear from context, rather than pedanticisms. What's next, spelling corrections?I have very little patience for that sort of immaterial childish nitpicking. Please refrain from posting future such comments.

A World Quite Mad said...

Actually this does have a lot to do with Creationism. Because the people who promote it are as ignorant (and hence probably are one and the same) as the people who couldn't figure out a simple weather forecast.

Ignorance of math, science, probability, history, culture, etc. is the mark of right-wing fundies. They can't tell you anything, they can't even do an analysis on the Bible because they don't have the critical thinking skills to do so. They go to church, or they watch their favorite fundie pastor on youtube, and are told what to think, how to think it and why to think it.

You can't argue with that. You can point out all day that they're wrong, that their facts are not right, and they'll merely say that you're wrong, even when you have hard facts and all they have is myth and hyperbole, and that it's all about "god". I don't even try to have a conversation with that, because you can't argue with stupid.

ronaldo said...

"Actually this does have a lot to do with Creationism. Because the people who promote it are as ignorant (and hence probably are one and the same) as the people who couldn't figure out a simple weather forecast."

If the students who failed this weather test were mostly Creationists, you might actually have a point. Otherwise, you're just leaving the topic at hand to criticize Creationists.