Archive for December, 2020

Ioannidis’ Error?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

Sometimes it is necessary to encourage people to follow a protocol while at the same time challenging its appropriateness and suggesting possible alternatives. Source: John Ioannidis: Coronavirus lockdowns questioned by Stanford scientist on Fox News – The Washington Post

What Happened in Room 10?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

I love the idea of Bloomberg Businessweek’s Annual Jealousy List, in which its writers select and promote the work of others.

My reaction to the choices is mixed, but one that struck me is Susan Berfield’s selection of What Happened in Room 10? from The California Sunday Magazine. As Ms Berfield says:

This is a masterful, beautiful, heartbreaking, and provocative story. Katie Engelhart starts with a close and harrowing account of the two women in Room 10 of the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., during the first weeks of the Covid pandemic. From there she moves confidently to dissect the business of nursing homes. Life Care is the biggest privately owned long-term care corporation in the country, its owner a billionaire. The lobbying for deregulation, the Medicare fraud, the fear of litigation, the many ways in which facilities fall short—all are explained with a light touch. She ends with a meditation on aging. What more could we want from a story?

Thanks to Ms Englehart for the story, to Ms Berfield for the pointer, to Bloomberg’s for the unselfish acknowledgement of the work of their competitors and to the New York Times for including a link to it in the ‘Morning Reads’ section of their newsletter.

On the moral obligation to stir shit

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Aeon’s sibling Psyche presents Nicholas Agar’s views: On the moral obligation to stop shit-stirring | Psyche Ideas

But, far from being the mere random trouble-making of a typical shit-disturber, the slow and deliberate shit-stirring of philosophers is actually what they do best – and most usefully – namely exposing the over-confidence of others, and especially of other philosophers, in the power and scope of their intellectual and moral systems.

Canadians Urging Meng Release

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Source: (20+) Live | Facebook

This happened a couple of weeks ago.

Panelists included Niki Ashton (didn’t show up but submitted a statement of support), Paul Manley, . . .and my fellow student from half a century ago John Philpot.

To my mind John McCallum was right, back when this started (in the comments that got him fired) and furthermore, regardless of the strength of its legal implications, Trump’s blathering about using Meng as a bargaining chip should have been taken as justification for a use of the Ministerial prerogative to refuse the extradition request. But at this stage it’s too late for that, and the gov’t is irreversibly committed to letting the legal arguments play out. Furthermore I am not convinced that release of Meng would automatically guarantee that of the Michaels. It depends on how explicitly the Chinese would want such a reciprocal release to be seen as an indication that the arrests were just a taking of hostages for exchange purposes – in contradiction to their repeated loud denials of exactly that.

More Flying Lessons from an Ornithologist

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

The claim that An irrational constraint is the motivating force in modern science is completely wrong. The first hint of this comes in the subheading “Is hard data the only path to scientific truth? That’s an absurd, illogical and profoundly useful fiction”. Often editorial subheadings egregiously misrepresent the content of what follows, and we can’t fault the author for an editor’s incompetence, but in this case the summary is (almost) a fair one. The article does not deny the role of “beauty” as a motivation or even a path to understanding but it does claim that such considerations are not accepted as part of the process of acceptance of a theory, and that is just not the case. What matters first in the acceptance of a scientific theory is indeed the correctness of its predictions, and a theory that makes false predictions is indeed judged to be, well, false. But among theories that are not false those which can be most beautifully, ie elegantly, ie concisely, expressed are preferred. And there are many historical instances in which credit has been given for a theory which merely improves the elegance without changing the predictions (Copernican astronomy and Special Relativity being two famous examples). So beauty is taken as a valid criterion for comparing theories (so long as they meet the prior criterion of not being demonstrably false) and the claim that “science says you must ignore it . . . in your professional contributions, your publications” is just a lie. And the claim that it’s “irrational” to set one criterion as mandatory before employing another because it violates some philosophical  ‘principle of total evidence’ is complete nonsense!