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Thursday, October 17, 2019

"An apparent preference for policymaking ignorance"

“An apparent preference for ignorance is not unique to healthcare. Policies across governments at all levels are put in place without plans to to find out if they work or how to unwind them if they don’t, or how to build on them if they do.” —Aaron Carroll, MD
That quote comes at 05:39 in the video below.

Very nice segment. Kudos.

Ahhh... there's that pesky word "evidence" again. What rationally ("scientifically") counts as "evidence?"
On January 14, 2019, the President signed H.R. 4174, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (pdf) of 2018, which became Public Law 115-435. The bill passed the House, as amended, on November 15, 2017. The Senate then passed the bill with additional amendments by unanimous consent on December 19, 2018.

OK, §311(4), citing 44.USC.3561(6),
(6) Evidence.-The term "evidence" means information produced as a result of statistical activities conducted for a statistical purpose.
There you go, the official federal definition of "evidence" (as it pertains to "policymaking/legislating" anyway). See any potential problems there?

Further down:
(10) Statistical activities.—The term “statistical activities”—
(A) means the collection, compilation, processing, or analysis of data for the purpose of describing or making estimates concerning the whole, or relevant groups or components within, the economy, society, or the natural environment; and
(B) includes the development of methods or resources that support those activities, such as measurement methods, models, statistical classifications, or sampling frames.
(11) Statistical agency or unit.—
The term “statistical agency or unit” means an agency or organizational unit of the executive branch whose activities are predominantly the collection, compilation, processing, or analysis of information for statistical purposes, as designated by the Director under section 3562.
(12) Statistical purpose.—The term “statistical purpose”—
(A) means the description, estimation, or analysis of the characteristics of groups, without identifying the individuals or organizations that comprise such groups; and
(B) includes the development, implementation, or maintenance of methods, technical or administrative procedures, or information resources that support the purposes described in subparagraph (A)
All well and good, as far as it goes. Ironic that the utterly anti-science klepto-kakistocrat U.S. President currrently in office signed it into law. Problematic as well, given that he simply, routinely ignores empirical and logical evidence or advice he doesn't like. Doing credible policy science does not come on the cheap. If an administration summarily blows off politically inconvenient research findings, all we do is end up wasting more money.
"Why Trust Science?" author Dr. Naomi Oreskes notes that many people don't disbelieve science per se; they (selectively) reject its frequently disruptive policy implications--i.e., they opt for fallacious inertial "motivated reasoning." As my old IHC healthcare QI mentor Dr. Brent James liked to quip, "the only person who enjoys change is a baby with a wet diaper."

Speaking of "quant" stuff:

...In this collection, we present some of the mathematical gems from the pages of Scientific American since the turn of the millennium. We start with a collection of articles about some of the most important purely mathematical results of the past few decades, the frontiers of the field. In Section 2, we explore the body mathematic: the way mathematical modeling is helping scientists understand biology. Section 3 is about mathematics in service of physics. The two fields have been closely entwined for millennia, and their coevolution continues today. Section 4 is about the role of mathematics in the way human beings relate to each other: politics, art, and of course trying to keep or steal secrets.

Though mathematics has created ever-more-powerful tools for modeling the world and computing with precision, we must also reckon with its limitations. In Section 5, we bring you one article from the deep vaults, a 1956 exploration of Kurt Gödel’s groundbreaking incompleteness theorems. He showed that there are questions mathematics will never answer, no matter what axioms we choose and how deeply we commit ourselves to studying them. Since then, mathematicians have continued to probe the limitations of the discipline, seeking to define the very boundaries of what humans can know.
[Kindle Locations 55-64].
My version of a Cliff's Notes refresher, I guess.


We've now been in Baltimore for 6 months. Elijah's (obviously gerrymandered) district bordered, among otther locations, the east side of York Road, a few blocks from our location in the Homeland District just west of York. I knew he'd been ill, but was not aware just how severely. RIP, Sir. Our condolences to his family and friends.


Science Magazine arrived in the snailmail today.

Among numerous other topics, this book below is reviewed (paywalled), along with Naomi Klein's "On Fire."

…A key threat to concerted action is climate skepticism, coupled with a drastic shift in the intensity of emotional responses related to climate issues. When challenging a person's position on an issue means challenging a central tenet of their identity, facts can be perceived as attacks and are easily deflected. Klein maintains, however, that enhancing communication and tying climate change to other concerns, including the economy and social justice, will help mitigate these threats.

Amid increasing tension between climate advocates and those disavowing climate change, a shift in values is occurring. Today's activists understand that to change environmental policy requires confronting the values of “rampant greed and individualism” that led to the economic crisis. Social change, Klein contends, begins with radically altering how we relate to each other (and to nature), accepting our collective responsibility to future generations, and respecting the interconnection of all life.

Economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin, whose work has inspired climate legislation in China and in various countries in the European Union (E.U.), is well positioned to advocate for this new political vision. In The Green New Deal, Rifkin confronts skepticism about the feasibility of making a transition of the scale required by countering that we are already making these changes in many global regions. It is time, he argues, for the United States to join the E.U. and China as leaders toward a zero-carbon economy…

Rifkin highlights another potential tipping point, arguing that emerging renewable energies are driving humanity to the “collapse of the fossil fuel civilization.” He cites a 2018 study (2) that concluded that a “carbon bubble”—in which fossil fuel prices will be reduced to compete with renewable prices—would lead to economic and environmental damage if not deflated early. He believes that we can avoid this with rapid decarbonization.

In the second part of the book, Rifkin describes his vision for a Green New Deal in detail, highlighting lessons learned from climate policies in the E.U. and in China…
You can just hear Dennis Prager's head exploding. In 2001, Rifkin was noted in Time as "The most hated man in science."

Founder and president, Foundation on Economic Trends; former advisory board member, EarthSave International; national council member, Farm Animal Reform MovementJeremy Rifkin, the founder and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends (FOET), is the intellectual guru of the neo-Luddites, especially as their anti-technology principles apply to food. He is the author of 16 books, most of them littered with errors and false predictions. A professional scaremonger who has been called “the most hated man in science” by TIME magazine, Rifkin nonetheless has a wide following and genuine influence on public policy debates. National Journal magazine named Rifkin one of the 150 people in the U.S. that have the most influence in shaping federal government policy for his “skillfully manipulated legal and bureaucratic procedures to slow the pace of biotechnology.”
Rifkin’s international campaigns against beef consumption and genetically enhanced crops are motivated by his anti-technology philosophy. Rifkin disparages efficiency, promotes “empathy” with nature, and thinks human beings were better off in less advanced centuries. Always prone to exaggeration, Rifkin wrote in his book Beyond Beef that giving up steaks and burgers “is a revolutionary act” that heralds “a new chapter in the unfolding of human consciousness.”
Hmmm... Below, his book tagline:

While I am persuaded of the exigent global anthropocene problem we face, "fossil fuel civilization collapse" nine years from now knocks my bullshit detectors a notch. I'm not sure he has the Sheet to assert that credibly (in fairness, critics could look at my heterodox late-bloomer CV [pdf] and offer up a similar gripe).  

[Rifkin] was president of the graduating class of 1967 at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Economics at the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce. Rifkin was also the recipient of the University of Pennsylvania's General Alumni Association's Award of Merit 1967. He had an epiphany when one day in 1967 he walked past a group of students protesting the Vietnam War and picketing the administration building and was amazed to see, as he recalls, that "my frat friends were beating the living daylights out of them. I got very upset." He organized a freedom-of-speech rally the next day. From then on, Rifkin quickly became an active member of the peace movement. He attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University (MA, International Affairs, 1968) where he continued anti-war activities...
Dunno. Just have some concerns at this point. Mulling buying his book for study and evaluation. Some of the "free preview" stuff is intriguing.

Rifkin on YouTube:



Opening on Netflix today. Trailer below.

The documentary series UNNATURAL SELECTION explores new developments in the science of gene-editing that defy evolution and raise moral, social and environmental impact questions about where we, as a society, draw the line.
I'm now a Netflix subscriber. I will watch all of this ASAP. Wonder what Mr. Rifkin would have to say about this topic. From STATnews:
Mankind’s ability to edit the fabric of human life has led to scientific upheaval, global debate, and at least one international incident. Now, it’s coming to Netflix.

“Unnatural Selection,” a four-part docuseries debuting Friday, dissects the stories, science, and ethics behind genome editing, following academics, biohackers, and patients as they move through a brave new world made possible by technologies like CRISPR…
Click to enlarge.

More to come...

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