But there was a very interesting passage in the paper McArdle purported to refute.
While initially investigating whether higher levels of education and experience correspond to higher predictive accuracy, [Philip] Tetlock ultimately concluded that cognitive style was the most important influence on prediction accuracy. Using the framework derived from Isaiah Berlin’s essay The Hedgehog and the Fox that “hedgehogs know one big thing; foxes know many things, (Berlin, 3)” Tetlock separated experts into two groups with competing cognitive approaches to prediction and found “the hedgehog-fox dimension did what none of the other traits did: distinguish more accurate forecasters from less accurate ones in both economics and politics” (Begley, 45).
According to Tetlock, there are clear differences between hedgehogs and foxes. Hedgehogs “know one big thing” and “apply that one thing everywhere,” express “supreme confidence in their forecasts, dismiss opposing views and are drawn to top-down arguments deduced from that Big Idea”; they “seek certainty and closure, dismiss information that undercuts their preconceptions and embrace evidence that reinforces them” (Begley, 45). Foxes “consider competing views, make bottom-up inductive arguments from an array of facts, doubt the power of Big Ideas” and “are cognitively flexible, modest and open to self-criticism” (Begley, 45). Ultimately, “what experts think matters far less than how they think: their cognitive style” (Begley, 45). Tetlock found that foxes outperform hedgehogs in prediction accuracy in virtually all fields, across all time periods, and across the various levels of expertise.
Expert Political Judgment also considers two types of general skepticism found in theoretical literature about prognostication. Tetlock mentions both radical skepticism, which is the belief that nobody knows anything, and ontological skepticism, the idea that the nature of the world is unpredictable. Both are ideas well illustrated by Rick Perlstein, a contributor to The Nation. Perlstein’s disbelief in and distaste for prognosticators stems from a blend of radical and ontological skepticism. Perlstein’s article “Pundits Who Predict the Future are Always Wrong” goes so far as to “call punditry a sin” (Perlstein, 12). Perlstein dismisses forecasting because of ontological skepticism, alleging “history does not repeat itself, nor does it unfold in cycles” (Perlstein, 13). Not
only does Perlstein claim “there’s nothing you can really know about the future at all,” he warns that “to pretend therwise is an insult to democracy” (Perlstein). Appealing to radical skepticism and criticizing conventional wisdom, Perlstein concludes that political prognostication “blinds us to the only actual, ineluctable reality--that no one knows what the future holds” (Perlstein, 11).
As I outlined here, McArdle analyzes based on ideology, not facts, and therefore is often wrong since her ideology is often wrong. McArdle frequently states that everything is too hard and nobody can know anything ever, which is not a surprising attitude in someone who accepts facts that fit her preconceived notions and dismisses facts that do not. How can you insist you are always right when the lying facts show you are not? How can anyone trust anything?? If the facts are right than the ideology is wrong, and the ideology cannot be wrong. For most people, their ideology is based on their emotional needs and to deny their ideology is to deny them--their value and values, their feelings and thoughts.
McArdle's commenters smell blood in the water and are exceptionally rude to the young study author who responds with civility in the comments. Neither they nor McArdle care as much about accuracy as they care about destroying anything that mars their perfect ideology, their perfect fantasy world.