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Author Topic: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.  (Read 62364 times)

shaolin_monkey

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1170 on: 05 December, 2020, 06:08:52 AM »
Aye.

This discussion reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from a scientist friend:

Quote
Study 3 years for degree.
Study 3 more for PhD.
Join lab, start working.
Spend years studying problem.
Form hypothesis, gather evidence.
Test hypothesis, form conclusions.
Report findings, clear peer review.
Findings published, reported in press.
Guy on internet: "Bullshit."

Tjm86

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1171 on: 05 December, 2020, 08:41:50 AM »
There is an aspect of Sharkey's observation that I would suggest does have small merit.  This idea that politicians are elevating science in a way that is problematic.  The old "we are following the science / led by the science / guided by the science" mantra appears to be less about measured and reasonable actions and more about trying to find some sort of shield.

What I mean is that science is not always completely certain or correct.  It is an ongoing process rather than a finished product.  Covid has illustrated that more than anything else this year.  As time has gone on more data has become available that has allowed us to make better decisions.  One example is asymptomatic infection.

The danger now is that politicians have simultaneously raised expectations whilst undermining confidence in scientists.  So much is pinned now on the vaccine despite the fact that there is still considerable work to be done.  On the other hand since scientists have been refining their guidance throughout the year as more data becomes available, this has undermined the 'absolute certainty' inference that politicians have employed to support their own flawed decision making.

So now we do have this insane situation in which perfectly reasonable guidance to wear face coverings to try and minimise transmission comes up against the intransigence of certain individuals.  Twitter and Facebook are laughably seen as more trustworthy and reliable than the BMJ.  The 'guy on the internet' is seen as more knowledgeable and reputable than someone who has spent decades studying the problem in minute detail.

At its core though I would politely suggest that the "believers" to whom Sharkey refers are these types who will seize on whatever dubious remark made online takes their fancy and the "heathens" are those who turn around and say, "well, based on science there is a greater probability that ..." and try to approach it rationally.  ... and yes the likes of Trump, Johnson and Bolsanaro need to be held accountable for this.

TordelBack

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1172 on: 05 December, 2020, 09:53:21 AM »
Re-reading Robert Jungk's superb Brighter than a Thousand Suns at the moment* , the seminal account of the Manhattan Project (and its 30-year background) by an Austrian Jewish*** physicist in those years who interviewed basically everyone involved over the subsequent decade (it has its shortcomings and biases, but as a near-contemporary synthesis it's hard to beat). 

The relevance here is the extent to which most of those brilliant physicists and chemists did not trust their own or any other governments one single inch, from the early '30s when the neutron cascade became a real possibility, right on to the end of the war and beyond.

It's a story of continual fear about how states might use their work, both in the democracies and totalitarian states, with brave and principled resistance at every stage. Even in the (completely misguided) belief in 1942-3 that the Nazis would have their own Hydrogen Bomb within the year, the motivation of those few Manhattan participants that were actually aware of what they were working on was to create a MAD-style counter that would remove the choice to use such a weapon from everyone's hands.

Even as the first successful test was still a top-level secret, project physicists, engineers and technicians were holding illegal polls and signing petitions begging their governments not to use the bomb they had worked so hard to build. The overwhelming consensus was that a demonstration should be as far as it went, either on US soil with invited Japanese observers, or in Japan itself, followed by an opportunity to surrender.

So my point is to draw a clear line between scientists, science and governments, even in times of darkest crisis. Scientists are indeed flawed, greedy, arrogant, fallible people, just like all the rest of us. Science as a collection of epistemologies and resulting ontologies works hard to counteract those human weaknesses through constant review, repetition and refinement, and it will eventually win out, but in the moment it is still embedded in our imperfect societies, and in the practical limitations of time and space.

Most critically, politicians will ignore, elevate, distort and deploy 'the science' without reference to scientists' expertise or concerns, just as it suits them. In theory reality will eventually expose their manipulations as such, but again, in time.

So getting to the truth of 'the science' and its practical applications can never be easy, especially as a layperson who can grasp only the executive summary, at best. But even as a layperson, it simply has to be the best statistical bet to try to filter out government (and opposition) spin and listen as directly as possible to the majority of scientists than to random voices and their choruses on the internet who largely exist outside of any system of check or accountability.

And failing that, Pascal's wager applies to almost all our current dilemmas. What do you have to lose if you're wrong, versus what do you have to gain if you're right.


*If you never have, do - histories don't get more gripping**
**Feynman's firsthand account is a lot more fun, but being Feynman, it's all about Feynman. Which is a major positive, but a minor negative.
*** I mention this because the charity he extends to colleagues who could reasonably (if not necessarily accurately) be accused of collaborating with the Nazis is quite extraordinary in this llght. Heisenberg, for example, is afforded long footnotes in his own words to explain what he paints as momentary failures and necessary compromises in a career of "passive resistance" as head of the Nazi's Uranium Group.

« Last Edit: 05 December, 2020, 09:57:43 AM by TordelBack »

Tjm86

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1173 on: 05 December, 2020, 10:00:59 AM »
That's pretty much where I come down, Tordels.  Given a choice between a scientist and a politician I'll go with the scientist any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  The charlatans in 'power' at the moment?  Aye, right!

My real concern at the moment though is that the way science is being presented undermines its efficacy in the public eye.  That's a dangerous road.

JayzusB.Christ

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1174 on: 05 December, 2020, 01:36:02 PM »
I'm saddemed that this thread, started, I presume, to give people an opportunity to express their anxiety, advice and so on during this weird and difficult time, has become an argument as to whether the coronavirus is a hoax or not.

Offering the non-mainstream viewpoint on this issue is not providing balance to anything. There is no balance - the idea that the virus doesn't exist or isn't dangerous is what's spouted by populist demagogues and rabbit hole-dwelling conspiracy theorists*, while the idea that it does and it is is the one that people who study viruses have, give or take a fraction of a percentage point, unanimously arrived at.

And, if that isn't enough, there is that Pascal's Wager that TB mentions (never knew it had a name, thanks for that).  -  if, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, the people who know most about this issue are wrong, we've needlessly had a miserable year and may have lost jobs. If the autocrats and Internet voices are wrong, thousands of people die.

*who may not like the term,  but if they subscribe to an unproven theory about a huge conspiracy, what other name applies?

“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”

shaolin_monkey

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1175 on: 05 December, 2020, 02:11:39 PM »
Aye. When Johnson said “I shook everyone’s hands” and then Whitty said “wash your hands and don’t shake hands”  I damn well stopped shaking hands and exponentially increased my hand washing. Know what I mean?

Tjm86

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1176 on: 05 December, 2020, 04:19:06 PM »
I'm saddemed that this thread, started, I presume, to give people an opportunity to express their anxiety, advice and so on during this weird and difficult time, has become an argument as to whether the coronavirus is a hoax or not.

Fair point.  Then again I wonder if latching on to conspiracy theories is a way of managing anxiety?

When you think about it, things are completely and utterly out of control at the moment.  In a "well, we are totally screwed" kind of way.  There is little scope for exercising personal control, especially since so much of our personal life is highly regulated now, up to and including who we can spend time with.

So any tiny opportunity to exercise some sort of personal control is likely to be seized on.  If that is just what you can believe then so be it?  It gives a tiny sliver of control over circumstances.

JayzusB.Christ

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1177 on: 05 December, 2020, 04:44:59 PM »
The problem there is that a million and a half people have died of this virus, and some of them would still be alive if they, or more ominously the people around them, had accepted the facts and exercised the appropriate caution.

Not that I'm going to argue with anyone about how dangerous the virus is. This, for me, would be like arguing with somebody who has read an essay on a website that says the moon is a paper cutout, with a few figures to back it up, and decided to go along with that viewpoint while ignoring all the data that says it's a lump of rock. I might not have all the facts and figures to hand that says they're very, very, very probably wrong, but if that's their starting point it won't massage any difference anyway.
“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”

JayzusB.Christ

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1178 on: 05 December, 2020, 05:07:04 PM »
*make, not massage. Bleeding autocorrect
“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”

M.I.K.

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1179 on: 05 December, 2020, 05:38:12 PM »
My aforementioned cousin has apparently had people he knows say to his face that it's all a hoax and nothing to worry about. My cousin who almost died, was bedridden for a fortnight and has been left short of breath with an enlarged heart. When he has pointed this out to them they've gone "Yeah, I know you've had it bad but they're definitely exaggerating how bad it is. It's just a hoax".

Tjm86

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1180 on: 05 December, 2020, 06:06:13 PM »
Hey, I'm not saying it is sensible or rational.  All I'm saying is that it is scary as f*** and denial is quite often a coping mechanism.  Think of people who stay in abusive relationships and rationalise their abuser's behaviour, kids who are stuck in insanely traumatic situations and think it is normal ...

Personally I'm with you.  I don't know anyone who has had this.  I don't know anyone who has died from it.  Enough people tell me that they have had it and they've lost friends / family / loved ones because of it.  That is enough for me.

So ... face mask, social distancing, washing aplenty .... Everything and anything to keep others safe.

JayzusB.Christ

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1181 on: 05 December, 2020, 07:59:59 PM »
Hey, I'm not saying it is sensible or rational. 

Ah yeah, I knew that. Wasn't directing my comments about denialism at you or anything.

Personally I know quite a few people who have had it, including, worryingly enough, my elderly parents' next door neighbour, who didn't do a great job of either informing them or avoiding them. Thankfully it seems that particular danger has passed.

A friend (and ex student) of mine is a doctor in Madrid - she and her Irish husband were the first people I knew who contracted it. They felt like shit but fortunately were young and healthy (and of course lucky). enough to get through it.

Two people I know personally have lost family members to it, and another almost lost her husband (only in his fifties).

These people, I feel, have had enough to deal with without other people telling them their experiences didn't exist. (Again, not aimed at you, tjm.)
“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”

IndigoPrime

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1182 on: 05 December, 2020, 08:13:06 PM »
One of my kid’s friends had it. We found out her family was positive a day after they’d spent four hours playing with two other bubble friends in rule of six. No-one outside the infected kid’s family got sick. Bullet dodged. Lesson learned.

Now we hear two kids in mini-IP’s year are confirmed COVID. Their entire class is now isolating, but their siblings are still *legally required* to go to school unless showing symptoms (by which point they’ve been infected for days). It’s all a fucking mess.

JayzusB.Christ

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1183 on: 05 December, 2020, 09:42:27 PM »
Ah man, that's brutal. A mess, as you say. Hope things work out OK
“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”

Tjm86

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Re: Day of Chaos 2: a.Covid-19 thread.
« Reply #1184 on: 06 December, 2020, 09:31:46 AM »

These people, I feel, have had enough to deal with without other people telling them their experiences didn't exist. (Again, not aimed at you, tjm.)

Didn't take it that way.  Just feel that it is important to be clear.

I think more than anything the last decade has really shown up the fault lines in our society.  There's a sense in which everything is hunky dory and we can just carry on blithely.  Then you just scratch the surface and see the mess beneath.

All this crap about face masks, civil liberties, vaccines and scams just highlights how badly we are being failed by our 'leaders'.  At the risk of spilling worms everywhere, there is almost enough to support Sharkey's political viewpoints (please note the 'almost)!

This situation offered the perfect opportunity for Johnson et al to bring the nation together.  He could have gone a ways to healing the rifts of the referendum.  It could have been a chance to reset our attitudes to some of the fear-mongers like Farage.  Did that happen?  Did it f***!

So now we have to deal with muppets like that.   :( :o :o