The more certain someone is about covid-19, the less you should trust them
Acknowledging uncertainty a little more might improve not only the atmosphere of the debate and the science, but also public trust. If we publicly bet the reputational ranch on one answer, how open minded can we be when the evidence changes?
Interesting commentary on language. To be fair to the headline writers in the publications below, the FTC complaint itself uses the word “withholding.” To say “stealing” would be editorializing. Good discussion nonetheless.
Below a headline that states: “Amazon to Pay Contract Drivers $61.7 Million After FTC Probe Finds It Stole Tips to Pay Wages”
Meaningful discussions around the concept of the production and utility of scientific knowledge, interdisciplinary knowledge, and the limitations of expertise.
It is, moreover, true that scientific consensus is often fleeting and regularly overturned, and that, in any case, consensus is neither unanimity nor a marker of infallibility. But the problem that we raise would remain a problem even if scientists were unanimous and infallible in their respective fields, and omnipotent about particular circumstances of time and place…
When the phenomena of multiple scientific fields interact, such as when it is necessary to trade off the health costs of a virus against the economic and other costs of a lockdown, policymakers can turn to experts about isolated phenomena. But there are no experts about the interaction of different kinds of phenomena or about the proper weighting of some against others. Policymakers can ask epidemiologists to weigh in on epidemiology, infectious disease specialists to weigh in on infectious disease, and economists to weigh in on economics. But there are no experts about how these subjects interact or how to balance them.
This article does a fascinating job of evaluating what the author calls “common knowledge,” similar to the TOK concept of shared knowledge, as a way to discuss the general idea of the role of communities in forming beliefs and how modern technologies change the nature of common knowledge.
It’s only with the growth of communities of people interacting that most people gain such courage in their convictions to defy that which authoritative sources (media, political, corporate) deem to be acceptable narratives and acceptable norms. These communities generate more than validation of one’s preexisting beliefs. They generate the common knowledge that I know that many others feel the same as I do, others to whom I am joined in a community.
The Bloodsport of the Hive Mind: Common Knowledge in the Age of Many-to-Many Broadcast Networks
How real are the equations with which we represent nature?
Physicists’ theories work. They predict the arc of planets and the flutter of electrons, and they have spawned smartphones, H-bombs and—well, what more do we need? But scientists, and especially physicists, aren’t just seeking practical advances. They’re after Truth. They want to believe that their theories are correct—exclusively correct—representations of nature. Physicists share this craving with religious folk, who need to believe that their path to salvation is the One True Path.
But can you call a theory true if no one understands it?
Interesting discussions around different ethical frameworks in this interview. Some of the approaches are strictly utilitarian: “get as much good…” and some deontological.
Basically what we are trying to do in thinking through the ethics of vaccine prioritization is to first identify the ethics values that matter the most, one of which is clearly that we want to get as much good in terms of the public’s health as we can from the vaccines available. But others include questions of fairness, equity and also reciprocity, recognizing that some groups have really taken on more risks and more burdens or have had more burdens imposed on them so that the rest of us could live more normal lives or have a better chance of staying healthy.
What’s also interesting are actions taken to address racial inequity in the impact of the pandemic. Should vaccine prioritization include race as a factor? Or simply other, race neutral risk factors that would account for this disproportionate impact (neighborhood, profession, etc.)? This article explores some of those ideas.
In California, experts are devising ways to ensure communities of color “disproportionately are benefited” from vaccine distribution, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vowed, “because of the impact they have felt disproportionately” during the pandemic.
All of this is similar to earlier posts from March about how to ethically allocate scarce resources like ventilators.
Who Should be Saved First?
In November, 2020, Science Magazine published a study (link to the actual paper) evaluating the impact on younger female scientists of having female or male mentors.
Here are some sections of the paper:
“Our gender-related findings suggest that current diversity policies promoting female-female mentorships, as well-intended as they may be, could hinder the careers of women who remain in academia in unexpected ways…Female scientists, in fact, may benefit from opposite-gender mentorships in terms of their publication potential and impact throughout their post-mentorship careers.”
The paper drew rather swift criticism and outrage and then outrage at the outrage. Out of all the…outrage some interesting issues arise:
- Was the methodology of the study sound? Also worth noting that this was a statistical study that found a correlation, how did they conclude a causal link? Related question is whether people are criticizing the methodology because they are interested in rigorous science or because they want to undermine a study whose conclusions they don’t want to believe.
- More importantly though, even if the study were done soundly, is this an appropriate question to study? Does the question/issue being studied violate some ethical standards? If a study turns out to be true but causes harm, should it be published or even explored in the first place? Are some questions off limits?
- If only one paper finds an association or correlation can we call this scientific knowledge?
- How do we, as individuals or communities of knowers, respond when a scientific study violates our personal or political beliefs?
This last question above is basis of the backlash against many of the study’s critics.
Here’s one article that goes over the issue:
A Study Claimed Male Mentors Are More Helpful to Women Scientists—and It Did Not Go Over Well
Some interesting discussions on twitter as well
A longer thread you can follow here: https://twitter.com/clairlemon/status/1330601601774456832
The conflict over the proper role of data analytics has been an ongoing story in modern sports for many years now. The controversy only intensified with the way the final game of the baseball World Series played out. Lots of angry sports talking heads sounded off about how much they hated the decision for the Rays to pull their starting pitcher and hate the role analytics play in sports. Interesting contrast between what the “data says” and what your gut says.
This first link summarizes the situation and the videos at the top of the linked page are a few of the angry talk show hosts sounding off on their anger.
World Series 2020: Why the Tampa Bay Rays took Blake Snell out while he was mowing down the Los Angeles Dodgers
“Championships are not won by guidebooks”
Host Colin Cowherd makes some interesting points here about what he thinks are the appropriate times to approach the sport analytically.
Kevin Cash’s decision to pull Blake Snell, explained: How analytics overruled World Series context clues and cost the Rays
The long view of analytics points to reasons why pulling Snell was the right move, but it also ignores the individual context clues that Snell’s Game 6 domination provided.
Here are a few more resources on the topic. Depending on your students and their interests,
Sports closer to art than science
CHANGING THE GAME- The Rise of Sports Analytics
Are super-nerds really ruining US sports? | Sport | The Guardian