Friday, May 18, 2018

7 quick links

I don't have a lot to say, and my keyboard wants to type nothing but L's at the moment, so I'm going to use this post to clear out my browser tabs.  I see this stuff, think it's so good it must be shared, but don't want to harass my facebook friends who are really there to see pictures of my kids.


"I was part of the problem," Pope Francis tells Chilean abuse victims

When I heard Pope Francis had called abuse victims' claims that Bishop Juan Barros knew about their abuse "calumny," I was really upset.  He claimed he was going to do better, but this is the same old attitude everyone has: "Sure, I'm totally zero tolerance on sex abuse, I just never believe it actually happened or that anyone could possibly have stopped it."  So this new update, that he has apologized and promises to do better, is somewhat reassuring.  But Barros is still in his see, so .... we will just have to watch and wait.


Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

There are a ton of things in our culture that have taught men they have a right to women's bodies.  Obviously most men don't commit mass murder because of this entitlement, but some do.  That's  . . . well, obviously pretty scary.


Separating Fact from Fiction in Maternal-Fetal Medicine: Anti-D Immunoglobulin for the Prevention of Hemolytic Disease of the Fetus and Newborn

Years ago someone sent me an email saying that, as a crunchy person, they assumed I passed up the RhoGam shot, and did I have any advice for how I avoid health problems in my babies due to my negative blood type?

The answer was "get the dang RhoGam."  I was very anti-doctor at that time and the medical establishment sure did justify my dislike of them by the runaround I got trying to get RhoGam, but I did get it.  There just isn't an all-natural solution to Rh sensitization.  And I have seen the teeny tiny sick preemies born to sensitized mothers.  To me it was a real no-brainer, even while I passed up many other standard interventions from flu shots to ultrasounds.


"Call from God": American prolifer's role in Alfie Evans battle

I don't mean to defend the doctors who decided to remove extraordinary means of life support from Alfie Evans.  But I was disturbed by how quickly people in the US seized on his story to drive a narrative of fear of government and the evils of socialized medicine.  In reality, even when medicine is private, insurance companies can choose to stop paying, and that leaves the sick in exactly the same boat, only with less recourse.

And now it turns out that there was someone actually driving this narrative at the very outset.  I have been told lots of times that only parents should ever have a say about their child, they know best, but sadly many parents are taken advantage of by people with one agenda or another, telling them their terminal child can be cured.  Is that really the parents' love and parental instincts speaking, or manipulation from outside?


Everyone Has an Identity, Even Sam Harris

I think everyone should read a bit of Charles Murray's debates with his critics.  Murray believes that black people are, on average, genetically dumber than whites, and that social programs to help them are just going to encourage them to reproduce more, so we should get rid of those.  A lot of people get mad about this because, well, it's super racist, but unfortunately that type of criticism is able to be written off as "just political correctness."  That is, Murray and his defenders say, "People are just calling us names, when really it's not racism if it's true, and they're just attacking us because we're not hiding the truth like everyone else is."

The trouble is, Murray is almost certainly wrong.  If there's interest, I'll gather a bunch of the sources I've read that address the factual problems in his work -- that stuff is out there to find.  And painting himself as "the logical one" who "hasn't got a bias" is just his way of skewing the argument in his favor.  It is true that his opponents have a strong motivation to disagree with him -- because his opinions have consequences, and have had very dire results in the past.  But it's possible that Murray and his defenders have made errors in reasoning as well, and they may have their own biases driving those errors.  Maybe it is easier to think blacks are dumber than to think our country has oppressed them so badly as to drive down the IQ results of black children.  Maybe a belief that black people can't benefit from any government help meshes better with Murray's small-government beliefs.  Who knows?  The point is that you can't just assume you don't have biases.  Science, including the social sciences, is about trying to go beyond your own biases by checking and doublechecking your work with other scientists.  The rest of the scientific community almost universally agrees that Murray's work is bunk.  So perhaps we should entertain the possibility that it's just bunk.  No matter how good it feels to believe something that you think everyone else is just too biased to entertain.  It's like the endorphin rush you get from believing a conspiracy theory.


Antiscience and ethical concerns associated with advocacy of Lyme disease

I don't believe in chronic Lyme disease.  People who claim to have it fall into a few groups: those who had Lyme disease, have been treated for it, but have lingering symptoms though the germ itself is gone; those who are chronically ill with something else and have been told it's Lyme from a tick they never saw; and those who are not even sick but want a diagnosis that explains why they are often tired or why their child throws temper tantrums.  The really upsetting bit is that "Lyme-literate" doctors and a few specialized labs have subverted testing processes and medical treatments to make it look like they are diagnosing people accurately.  So the patient will tell you they know they have Lyme, they tested positive for it . . . but the tests used haven't been demonstrated to show the presence of Lyme bacteria.

Since these treatments can have dangerous risks, and they cost thousands of dollars, it's a horrible way to take advantage of the chronically ill.  I'm really furious about it, but every time I open my mouth about it online, someone has to say "well, I have it, and you're a terrible person for doubting me and my doctor."


How America Went Haywire

On that topic, here's a really long article about conspiracy theories, relativism, and Donald Trump.  Takeaway: facts actually matter and people should care about them a lot more than they do.  These days, I am less likely to trust someone based on their religion, party identification, or other belief than I used to be.  Instead, I find myself wanting to know their epistemology: do they even have a system for deciding what is true, and what is it?  Is it simply finding out what the "establishment" says, and picking the opposite?  Because, anti-authoritarian as I have been and still am, I do believe that way lies acres and acres of woo, crackpottery, and bosh.  And those ideas have consequences.

How has everyone been?  Want to talk about any of these links?  Or anything else?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the links. I will dive in and get reading. Have a restful weekend.

Cristina said...

I was able to follow the Evans family's story on Twitter and it really was a grand show. This isn't to diminish the parents' pain or the great injustice done to Alfie; but the way it was reported was stellar storytelling. I'd ask when the movie is coming out, but no movie will ever top what the Internet managed to do in those weeks.

You'd think I would have noticed the scapegoating immagery immediately (a scapegoat is an innocent who is picked to die that the rest of the nation may live), but it wasn't the British NHS that pushed that particular button for me. Instead, it was the activists who claimed they wanted to help Alfie who really got me going. As soon as they grabbed hold of the story, he became a kind of reverse scapegoat -- not for a ritual sacrifice, but for a ritual saving. Save this boy and we can have faith in humanity again! Never mind that there are thousands of other boys (and girls) all over the world with stories that are just as heartbreaking, who will never get a smidgen of the attention that Alfie received. If we can save Alfie, we won't have to bother our consciences so much about the rest of them. We'll be able to say we did something, even if it was just a retweet.

And if we can't save him, well, at least we get to demonize the other side some more! Win-win!

The news cycle, I think, is also a kind of ritual. If it weren't for these kinds of big stories eliciting huge reactions from us every few months, we'd have to do real work in our own communities in order to keep believing we're good people.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...