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View Diary: Why People Distrust Science (250 comments)

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  •  But it (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093, kyril, Roadbed Guy, Lucy Montrose

    is important for all people to understand the basic differences between infectious agents.  By knowing the facts you can keep yourself safer.

    You can not take a medicine to kill a virus (not that it is not possible).  Viral infections are hard to treat because they are in your own cells making copies of themselves.  If you give yourself a medicine to kill a viral infection it would probably kill you since it would need to kill your cells to kill the virus. You can use a vaccine to make yourself immune.  

    •  This is not -quite- true. (2+ / 0-)
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      LilithGardener, Kevskos

      There do exist antiviral drugs -- those for HIV and tamiflu for the flu.  But that's pretty much it, as far as I know.  I know there're experimental drugs in the pipeline but from what I recall reading most of them tend to have pretty bad side-effects, because they mostly interfere with the body's ability to perform various necessary tasks, such as RNA transcription.  This is different from an antibiotic, which tend to work on chemical pathways that humans don't use but which are vital to the bacteria.  Antibiotics tend to be more like spraying insecticide on plants -- that'll kill the bugs but not the plants.  Antivirals tend to be more like chemotherapy -- it hurts everything at least a bit but it kills the viruses faster than it kills you, or at least that's what the companies producing them hope.

      •  There you go, Scientists disagree. What's the (0+ / 0-)

        layperson to think?

        I'll stick to balancing the check book.

        “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

        by ban nock on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 06:13:11 PM PDT

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        •  If someone's disagreeing with me here, it's (3+ / 0-)
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          ban nock, ebohlman, Kevskos

          because they're operating on information decades out of date.  This is quite easy to confirm; just hit Wikipedia:

          Or, y'know, just rely on simple deduction.  Hey, there're drugs that people with HIV take to combat the virus.  There's been plenty of advertising for tamiflu, so people should know that it's available, and since the flu is a virus, there you go.  People with Hep C can use interferon to eliminate their viral load.  Therefore, the statement: 'there are no medicines that kill viruses' is incorrect.  (Or at least incorrect enough; we don't need to really get into whether virii are 'alive' for our purposes.)

          In many cases -- such as this one -- simply sitting there and thinking about it critically or doing some simple research will provide a rough way to evaluate such statements when there's a conflict.  Going: 'okay, if that's true, then -this- must be true' and seeing if you can prove your hypothesis false.

          For example, take the false statement: 'the rise in cases of autism is linked to mercury in vaccines.'  Well, then, one should look and see if mercury in vaccines is banned anywhere and see if populations vaccinated within those areas show the same trend.  (They show roughly the same rates of autism and the same trends in autist population growth per capita, which puts a nail in that coffin.)  

          •  Thanks for the long answer but I just meant it as (1+ / 0-)
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            an example. I was aware that there are some medicines for flu. I remember bird flu scare.

            “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

            by ban nock on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:26:45 PM PDT

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            •  Right, but my point is... (0+ / 0-)

              ...most of the things that people say that 'scientists disagree about' -- they effectively don't, except for a statistically insignificant number of them.  In most cases, the areas where scientists legitimately do disagree are edge cases, or "My model says the global temperature should raise 1*C in 10 years but yours says 1.3 degrees."  These cases actually do tend to require quite a lot of knowledge to sort out, and the usual reason that they disagree is because there's missing data and their hypothesis have not been tested yet.

              However -- the 'controversies' that the usual populace picks up on are generally nothing of the sort; they're cases where 97-99.99% of the population of scientists in the field say A, and some thoroughly discredited crackpot nutter says B -- and B's case is either more appealing or more inimical -- and they're presented on the news as having a actual weight to their arguments and that the mutually exclusive cases of A and B are equal in the credibility of their claims.  In these cases, it's generally very easy for someone to quickly discredit one case or another, just through critical thinking and basic research -- but people might like B's case better because it's either better for them or because it makes it seem like following A's claim will only harm them for no reason.

              Of course, the fact that many people seem to have no ability to evaluate the credibility of, say, an article in Journal of the American Medical Association versus an article on -- or the fucking Onion -- doesn't help either.  Not that I'm saying that one should be automatically regarded as correct or automatically regarded as incorrect -- but an article in JAMA is much more likely to lack serious flaws in its reasoning than one on a random website run by loonies.

          •  Yes, considering the implications of a claim (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sagesource, alain2112, Praxical

            is the first step in evaluating it. This can be done for policy claims as well as scientific ones. For example, conservatives typically assert that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) caused the mortgage crisis by forcing lenders to lend to unqualified buyers. Now it turns out that not all mortgage lenders are subject to the CRA (only ones that are FDIC-insured depository institutions are). If the claim is true, then you would expect CRA-covered lenders to have had higher defaults than non-covered lenders (e.g. Countrywide). In fact the opposite was true: CRA-covered lenders accounted for a very small part of the losses.

            Since the claim directly implies something, and that something turns out not to be true, we can say that the claim can't be true. We can also apply this to a common anti-vax claim, namely that the information from the CDC, indicating that vaccines are safe can't be trusted because American government agencies are beholden to big business. Now it turns out that there are many developed countries where big business has much less control over government, particularly in the area of healthcare. If the anti-vax claim is correct, you'd expect that those countries' healthcare authorities would be much less sanguine about vaccine risks than American authorities. In fact, there's no difference. Therefore you can conclude that the claim is unlikely to be true.

            All of this is basic critical thinking. It doesn't really require any in-depth knowledge of scientific content, just some basic principles of logic and rhetoric. It also helps to have basic quantitative literacy, which doesn't really require much in the way of math beyond first-year algebra, if that; it just requires being able to understand that, for example, the number of children murdered by kidnappers annually cannot be larger than either the number of people of all ages who are murdered annually or the number of children who die of all causes annually. Or that if you and everyone you know closely has known someone who has died of heart disease or cancer, then if there's some other condition that's claimed to kill more than either of those, you'd almost certainly know someone who died of it as well.

            Personally, as a physician, I would be very concerned at a child becoming febrile after having ingested bleach or had it shot up his rectum—Orac (Respectful Insolence)

            by ebohlman on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 08:14:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Exactly. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I think that a significant portion of the problem is that people have no training -the application- of formal logic, even those who've taken classes in formal logic -- and gods know they're rare enough.  

              It also hurts the average person in that they never see a process of deduction worked out like this in reality, so they don't think about it as being an option.  I recall newscasters challenging people they were interviewing with, well, facts and figures and applied logic like this -- but that was literally decades ago.

              I would love to see some formal "Bullshit Detection" classes taught starting in elementary school, focusing on just this kind of informal formal logic.

              On the other hand, I work with people who literally cannot solve a problem like 5 + X = 17 and figure out what X is, and I'm honestly sure how innumerate the population really is ... and god knows that doesn't help any.

              •  Logic (0+ / 0-)

                was probably one of the best college classes I ever took.  It should be required in High School.

                •  I've taken formal logic classes... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  ...And honestly, it took a long time for me to realize how it was applied IRL in places other than programming.  None of the classes which have addressed logic have really worked on the -application- of said logic to real-life experiences.

                  •  I took it from (0+ / 0-)

                    a classics professor who probably knew little about computers.  That was back in 82 and the dude teaching was ancient. It was all about perfecting your writing by making valid arguments.  Not an easy class.

                    When I wrote that last night I was thinking that logic should be taught alongside algebra because they are the basics.  Math without algebra makes no sense. Arguments without logic are word soup (or the internet).

      •  Yes, but they do not "kill" the virus . .. . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        There do exist antiviral drugs -- those for HIV and tamiflu for the flu.
        as the post by Kevskos correctly claimed.

        Of course, as discussed above, since viruses are not alive, it would be impossible to kill them in any event.

        So you seem to have gotten suckered in to replying to a trick post.

        •  Eh. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Maybe.  But for most people, 'kill' and 'rendered inert' or 'rendered inoperative' are effectively equivalent, so I assume they're being used interchangeably.  

          When a soldier says he killed a tank with LAW, I don't argue the semantics with him. ;)

          Also, since the person I was responding to stated that killing a virus was possible -- or at least that it was not not possible -- that kinda lends weight to the idea that they weren't being an insufferable pedant. ;)

        •  The micro (0+ / 0-)

          professor I worked for in college used to say that the best way to start a fist fight at a microbiology meeting was to go to the bar at 2 AM and start asking if a virus was alive or not.

    •  You basically "kill" a virus in your body... (0+ / 0-)

      by enhancing the power of your immune system, or at least not letting it get too depleted. That's the theory behind bed rest, vitamin C, chicken soup, herbal supplements, etc. And that's another reason anti-vax is a seductive idea: it's almost a statement that if you're healthy enough, you don't NEED vaccines. It pats you on the back for taking such good care of yourself.
       Promises to strengthen your immune system are the charlatan's most potent tools.

      Meanwhile, viruses are like honey badgers; they just don't care. If your body is unfamiliar with a virus, the ONLY thing you can do is let it run its course. If you get over a cold quickly, that's because it's similar to other colds you've had in the past, so your immune system had a head start.

      Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class. --John Kerry

      by Lucy Montrose on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 06:36:05 AM PDT

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