RSS

Tag Archives: Junk Science

A Simple Solution for Businesses Whose Religious Convictions Will Not Allow Them To Serve Gays

melissassweetcakesNote: This post, like a prior one on race (Yes, Race Can Be Discussed Constructively and Civilly), is intended to provide an example of how Engineering Thinking can be used to discuss contentious issues in a good-natured and civil manner.

Engineering Thinking principles tell us that gays are usually gay because they were born that way. A logical analysis supports this. In decades past, gays who were openly gay were risking loss of jobs, loss of societal respect, and in many cases violence. Therefore, it can be argued, with such penalties in force against being gay, why would someone choose to be gay? In addition, studies of animals have found that a small percentage of the members of numerous species engage in homosexual behavior, including same-sex mating.

These factors lead to the strong hypothesis that being gay is simply a natural phenomenon. (If you disagree please provide your logic-based or empirical arguments, and you will receive a respectful and fair hearing, although I reserve the right to question your comments from a science perspective. Also, anti-gay comments solely based on emotion will not be posted.)

But what about those folks whose cultural/religious beliefs prevent them from arriving at this gay-is-okay conclusion? Should they be forced to change their views (e.g. “Christian bakers face $135K fine for refusing to make cake for gay wedding“)? If this is what you think, then you are subscribing to a view that is as unscientific as it is tyrannical.

Although science indicates that being gay is a natural phenomenon, science also says that people who have deep emotional imprints due to long-held cultural beliefs are not going to rapidly change their views, regardless of rapid changes in the general culture. Forcing folks (by penalty of fines or imprisonment) to immediately adopt the latest “politically correct” beliefs (which are often based on junk science) can be just as damaging to society as the maintenance of beliefs that have been shown by science to be invalid.

Here’s the solution: A business that does not wish to serve gays should simply change the business to a members-only club — a private club. Patrons can be charged a modest annual fee to become a member, and membership can be made contingent upon the values held by the club. For example, Melissa’s Sweet Cakes becomes Melissa’s Christian Sweet Cakes (Private Club).

Private clubs can therefore provide a civil intermediate step that allows those with emotionally-ingrained habits to follow their beliefs, until such time as the results of good science — a long-term process — percolate throughout the general culture.

Ed Walker

Related: I Don’t Want To Hear It

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

5 Big Reasons Why “Global Warming Is A Fact” Is A Lie

burningearthIs man-made global warming occurring? Despite what you may read or hear from the media, man-made global warming has not been established beyond a reasonable doubt. Here are five big reasons why:

1. Many experienced and credible scientists with good character do not believe that man-made global warming has been proved.

2. Proponents of man-made global warming claim that warming is a fact because of “consensus”; i.e they say that a majority of scientists agree that man-made global warming is happening. But consensus is a logical fallacy, and a sign of junk science. There have been numerous instances where a minority of scientists have ultimately been proven correct, regardless of the prevailing consensus of the day. Science is based on fact, not on a vote of scientists.

3. Proponents of man-made global warming, if they truly believed in their research and analysis, would welcome the views of skeptics, because only by such challenges does science eventually converge on the truth. Instead, many proponents of man-made global warming do not welcome criticism or skeptical inquiry, and instead wage personal attacks on the skeptics. (Personal attacks are an example of the “ad hominem” logical fallacy.)

4. Proponents of man-made global warming base their beliefs on data that cannot be replicated by other scientists.

5. Proponents of man-made global warming are continually adjusting the “models” they previously created and used for predicting today’s weather, when today’s weather is not what was predicted by their earlier models. And rather than admit failure, the proponents try to obscure that fact by making up excuses and continually tinkering with their models.

A couple of interesting and thorough overviews of the junk science underlying the proponents of global warming can be found here (both by Robert Wagner):

Global Warming ‘Science’; What Investors Need To Know, Don’t Just Trust The “Experts

Climate ‘Science’ Bombshell May Be Getting Ready To Burst

The following recent article is also of interest:

The game is up for climate change believers” by Charles Moore.

(Be sure to check the comments at the end of the article by Exton, “Word of the Environmentalist.”)

p.s. I’m finding less time to compose in-depth posts, so am trying to provide brief updates of interesting news bites through twitter, which you can follow here: http://twitter.com/engthinking

-Ed Walker

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Global Warming: Consensus Is Not Science

Proponents of the idea of human-induced global warming often claim that there is an overwhelming consensus among scientists that such warming is a fact. For example, consider this recent article:

Consensus Confirmed: 97 Percent of Climate Papers Agree on Manmade Global Warming
by Brendan DeMelle, 22 June 2013 Huff Post Green

burningearth“A new survey conducted by a team of volunteers at Skeptical Science has definitively confirmed the scientific consensus in climate science literature — 97 percent of peer-reviewed papers agree that global warming is happening and human activities are responsible.

“It does not get any clearer than this. It should finally put to rest the claims of climate deniers that there is a scientific debate about global warming. Of course, this bunch isn’t known for being reasonable or susceptible to facts. But maybe the mainstream media outlets that have given deniers a megaphone will finally stop…”

The problem with grandiose statements such as the one above is that consensus is simply a collection of opinions, it is not scientific proof. In fact, when “consensus” is presented as “proof” then you can be sure that the presenters do not actually have verifiable proof. Instead they are merely practicing junk science.

And what about the opinions of those scientists who hold a minority view? Should their opinions be ignored because they have less votes than the majority? No, of course not. The role of true science is to determine which group is correct.

Science converges on the truth by requiring that scientists provide verifiable
evidence of a hypothesis, not by counting scientists’ votes for or against the hypothesis

Still not convinced? I agree that it may seem intuitive that scientists’ beliefs, as confirmed by a consensus of their peers, should be used to guide us when proof is not available. But this is just gambling; there have been numerous times throughout scientific history when the consensus of scientists has been completely wrong. For example, at one time the near-unanimous consensus of doctors was that it was perfectly fine to perform their work without first washing their hands: see “Advice From Professionals: Who Do You Trust? (Part 2).” (For other reasons to be cautious about allowing intuition to be our guide, see “Why Not Go With The Gut?“)

Bottom line: Those who promote “consensus” as being equivalent to a scientific proof do not understand how science works, and should be ignored.

-Ed Walker

 

Tags: , , ,

Are Vitamins Useless?; Is US Health Care The Best?; Is The US Becoming A Police State?; Should Our Fellow Citizens Be Our Slaves?

ET’s END OF YEAR BITS and PIECES

Study Stating Vitamins Are Useless An Example Of Junk Science

Reports on the Iowa Women’s Health Study (e.g., “Multivitamins no fountain of youth for women,” 10 Oct 2011, Reuters) hit the major media outlets recently, trumpeting the study’s claim that vitamin supplements are useless, or even harmful. Based on the numerous problems with the study (e.g., “Findings from Flawed Study Used To Discredit Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements,” Life Extension), it should be ignored.

US Health Care The Best In The World? Hardly

As mentioned often in ET, proper economic evaluations require the use of ratios; i.e. what you get for each dollar you spend. To evaluate health care, for example, one metric would be: how long do you live for each dollar spent for health care services? In the US, the answer is not good. “The U.S. healthcare system is more effective at delivering high costs than quality care than other developed nations.” (Ref. “What’s killing America? U.S. ranks 28th in life expectancy (lower than Chile and Greece) while it pays the MOST for health care,” 24 Nov 2011, Daily Mail Online.)

Is The US Becoming A Totalitarian State? The Signs Are Ominous

See “Government Forces Private Citizens to Pour Bleach on Home-Grown Organic Food.”

Atlas Shrugs: The Consequence Of Trying To Make “The Rich” Our Slaves

Engineers spend a lot of effort in designing reliable control systems for autos, aircraft, telecommunication centers, etc. One of the hallmarks of a good design is that it can’t “leak”; i.e. there are no sneak paths which can prevent the control from achieving the desired system response.

When humans try to control the behavior of their fellow humans, however, they often forget that–unlike machines–humans object to being controlled, and will find a way to “leak” around the controllers.

For example, there’s a lot of talk these days about “the rich” paying their “fair share” of taxes to support government services (also see “More Thoughts On Forcing The Rich To Pay ‘Their Fair Share’“). Regardless of your personal beliefs in whether or not those sneaky rich folks are pulling a fast one on the rest of us, it would appear that our government can force them to pay up (by threats of fines or imprisonment), except for one thing: they can leave.

And they are, in droves. But they’re not just the bling-laden cigar-smoking jet setters and corporate titans that you or I typically think of as rich. No, this little-reported but major exodus is composed of a lot of middle-class folks like you and me, who are simply fed up. As stated by a reader in Sovereign Digest #44 (a newsletter of The Sovereign Society):

“My wife and I have already voted with our feet. We moved to South America in May. We do not like the way our country is headed at all by the politicians — Since I have it so good here in a beautiful country filled with kind loving people, and I live for 65% less than in the States — why would I want to go back? Also, as one over the age of 65 I am treated with great respect and dignity here … PLUS, they reimburse me for the 12% national tax every month since I am a senior citizen — Also, my medical care here is just as good, if not better, than in the States for up to 80% less – and I can be seen almost immediately.

“Why would I even consider going back? I’ve been screwed enough by my government, and I was smart enough to get out!!! I worked hard for my money, put my kids through college, played by all the rules, saved my money – and now they want to take that away and give it to people who just expect to live off me and others. No way!!”

The Big Gorilla is the fact, like it or not, that people want to decide for themselves how best to spend their own money. They may be compassionate and caring people, or they may be self-centered and selfish. It doesn’t matter. If we try to make them our slaves they can simply leave, taking their talent, money, investments, and jobs with them.

Corollary:

A Society That Forces Some Of Its Citizens To Support The Rest Of Its Citizens Will Eventually Result In Either (a) A Totalitarian Society, or (b) A Poor Society

-Ed Walker

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

ET EXTRA: Why Medical Care Is So Hazardous

“…as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed.”
From “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science,” by David H. Freedman, 23 Aug 2011, The Atlantic

ET Corollary: Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor probing questions, to challenge his/her assumptions, and to do your own research.

 

Tags: , ,

ET Extra: Vaccines And Autism And Fraud

Engineering Thinking Extra Is A Short Review Of A Current Hot Topic

A Major Study Purporting To Show That The MMR Vaccine Causes Autism Has Been Shown To Be A Fraud: What Can We Learn?

A 1998 Lancet paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield et al concluded that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. As a result, many parents refused to have their children vaccinated. On January 5 of this year the British Medical Journal (BMJ) declared that the Wakefield paper was a fraud.

Scientific corruption is, in my view, a most foul betrayal of the public trust. Hopefully Dr. Wakefield and his cohorts will receive appropriate punishment. Moving on, however, what can we learn from this revelation of fraud? There are two basic cautions provided by Engineering Thinking:

1. Wakefield’s Fraud Does Not Prove That Vaccines Are Safe

Since the Wakefield paper was a fraud, does this mean vaccines do not cause autism? No, drawing that conclusion would be a logical fallacy. This may seem counter-intuitive, but here’s an example to help clarify: Assume that I published a paper purporting to show that 2 + 2 = 4. In my proof I used erroneous math and logical fallacies. Therefore my paper did not prove that 2 + 2 = 4. However, that does not alter the fact that 2 + 2 = 4.

In other words, there is nothing in the Wakefield saga that allows one to eliminate the possibility that vaccines may contribute to autism.

2. The Link To Autism May Be Multi-Variable

Humans tend to look for a smoking gun — a single cause — to explain a fearful event. If we eliminate the smoking gun, then all is okay. However, some medical doctors have expressed concern about vaccinations based on mercury content, mixing of multiple vaccines, and other issues. The hypothesis is that it is a combination of variables, related to the production and/or application of vaccines, that may overwhelm the embryonic neurological system, causing damage that manifests as autism.

There are independent studies that strongly suggest that MMR vaccines are safe, but those do not necessarily constitute a proof. Unfortunately, many studies are flawed or even completely invalid because of the improper application of statistical methods. Failure to account for significant variables as mentioned above can also contribute to poor or invalid results.

Therefore what can we conclude?

Showing the Wakefield paper to be a fraud, as explosive and damaging as it may be, does not move the science forward with regard to the key question: do vaccines, under certain conditions, contribute to autism?

If anyone has some links to studies that are scientifically sound (that use appropriate statistics and that properly account for all variables), and which demonstrate that vaccines are indeed unambiguously not a factor in autism, please forward them to me for posting here.

In the meantime, the old cliché “better safe than sorry” is best applied. Some suggestions for consideration can be found in an earlier blog: “Off Topic: The Autism Epidemic“.

-Ed Walker

 

Tags: , ,

PolitiFact Earns “Pants On Fire” Rating

PolitiFact Claims To “Sort Out The Truth In Politics.” They Don’t Prove It, Earning A “Pants On Fire” Rating.

PolitiFact, operated by the St. Petersburg Times, claims to be a site to help you “sort out the truth in politics.”

As we’ve mentioned before (“Internet Hazards, Junk Journalism, and Movie Malarkey: Who Do You Trust? (Part 3)“), calling yourself a fact-check organization does not make you one. Here’s how to tell, using PolitiFact as an example:

1. Does PolitiFact disclose its sources of income, if any, that may tend to bias their evaluations? No.

2. Does PolitiFact disclose the backgrounds of its reporters and editors, so the reader may account for potential bias? No.

3. Does PolitiFact state that its staff includes an ombudsman who is tasked with presenting contrary or minority views, and ensuring balance? No.

4. Does PolitiFact provide a set of criteria to ensure (a) that a representative selection of issues will be checked (balance), (b) that both sides of the issues will be reviewed (fairness), and (c) that issues will be numerically scored with regard to degrees of truth or falsity (objectivity)? No.

PolitiFact scores a big fat zero, ranking it among sites devoted to UFOs, ghosts, psychic phenomena, and other organizations that dabble in pseudoscience.

This does not mean that PolitFact is completely biased or always wrong. It does mean that they have no sound basis for claiming that their comments are anything more than mere opinion. It also means that their evaluation criteria may shift from issue to issue, perhaps allowing them to indulge in subtle favoritism toward people or issues they like, while awarding “pants on fire” ratings to those they don’t.

For example, they recently rated “government takeover,” a slogan widely applied to the Obama health care plan, as “Lie Of The Year” (Dec 16, 2010). But since they have no scientific standards for what constitutes a lie, their pronouncement itself may be “a lie” to those who define “government takeover” as severe governmental intrusion and regulation, arguably true characteristics of the Obama plan. To brand “governmental takeover” a lie, PolitiFact had to resort to equating that term with socialism, which the plan — at least initially — is  not. However, the technical distinction between complete governmental control, versus merely huge amounts of governmental control, is likely a distinction of no consequence to average citizens, who have made clear their opposition to the Obama plan.

Without standards, the PolitiFact “fact checkers” may also shift the context of an issue, trivializing important positive aspects of events they don’t like, while emphasizing minor negative or irrelevant aspects. For example, the PolitiFact front-page coverage of the massive Tea Party march (September 14th, 2009) was headlined “Tea Party photo shows huge crowd — at different event.” Disregarding the fact that the march was indeed massive and highly newsworthy, and also disregarding the fact that the fake photo they presented was never presented as an official photo by the Tea Party, they trivialized one of the most important political events of the year.

PolitiFact may not even be aware of their selective bias, and it appears they never will be, because they have no scientific standards to guide them.

-Ed Walker

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , ,