COVID-19

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7Wannabe5
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Re: COVID-19

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@jacob:

True, but kind of mathematically trivial.

steveo73
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Re: COVID-19

Post by steveo73 »

I thought I'd leave this a little bit but it's very interesting. I think we have a couple of themes here - how to discuss/debate an issue and then having a good philosophical framework to discuss science.

I'll take the how to discuss/debate an issue firstly and make some points:-

1. If you utilize logical fallacies in your argument it shows to me that you have lost the ability to think and talk about issues rationally and logically. Some examples of this are for instance stating that I know science and you don't without any clear facts to explain this point of view. It's like the appeal to nature fallacy. It is simply a way to avoid discussing the issue logically and rationally. Another example of this is the trust the expert approach because they are the experts.
2. If you have to resort to ad-hominen arguments I think you've also lost the debate/discussion.

I've seen a number of posters utilize these techniques. If you have to use these types of techniques you personally lack the intelligence and/or have cognitive biases and/or do not have the knowledge to discuss the issue rationally and logically and/or are simply choosing to not engage rationally and logically.

If you are doing this it's a personal development issue that you need to work on. These techniques in a scientific debate are really weird and incongruous as they go completely against a robust scientific method.
Last edited by steveo73 on Sat May 23, 2020 8:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

steveo73
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Re: COVID-19

Post by steveo73 »

The next topic is a framework to understand and discuss science.

I'd make some key points here:-

1. Science is not objective reality. It is a way to deepen our understanding of the world.
2. Science evolves. It changes.
3. Math is a tool.
4. Modern day statistical analysis is a huge competent of modern science.
5. Models are now built to test and understand our understanding of the science. Models are also used for predictive purposes. These two points basically feed on each other when a robust scientific method is utilized. So if a model has low predictive ability we can state the model was inaccurate and try and deepen out understanding of reality by changing our assessment of how the world/universe works.
6. Models are subject to our understanding of reality (you could alternatively call this our lack of understanding of reality) and data.
7. Poor data and poor understanding lead to inaccurate results.

=> To sum this up you would be foolish to look at science and in particular mathematical models as somehow being infallible. Now you are entitled to opinions on the science but they are opinions. That is why so many scientists have different opinions. Science isn't objective reality.
Last edited by steveo73 on Sat May 23, 2020 8:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

daylen
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Re: COVID-19

Post by daylen »

If you believe that science cannot model objective reality, then what is the purpose of science? ..and what is the purpose of understanding if there is no objective reality?

Unless you take a subjectivist stance, of course.

steveo73
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Re: COVID-19

Post by steveo73 »

daylen wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 7:32 pm
If you believe that science cannot model objective reality, then what is the purpose of science? ..and what is the purpose of understanding if there is no objective reality?
You made some great points in your post earlier on. I think we are basically on the same page.

There is nothing at all wrong with creating models in an attempt to try and describe objective reality. This works really well if we are trying to understand simplistic processes but when it comes to modelling complexity we have to understand that these models will have heaps of flaws. Typically we don't understand complex processes well. So the current state of the science for complex process will typically not describe objective reality well. This is going to be a matter of degree. I should add that in a system where behavior can adapt and change we need to be especially careful. In these situations the science can be very fluid.

So simplistic processes are easier to get to an objective reality whereas complex processes are harder. Hopefully when it comes to simplistic processes we can get to a position where we do understand the objective reality of that process but who knows.

The purpose of science is to try and work through that objective reality. We may not end up with perfect information but we may end up with better information.

I don't think the problem is with science. The problem is with people who have a poor framework from which to understand science. We can't just state person A doesn't understand the science we need to develop pointers to that. An obvious example is when people use logical fallacies. If you can't even debate logically it's unlikely you understand science at all. If you believe that the science is settled and the science is 100% accurate (or close to it) it's going to be a pointer to a person who has a poor framework from which to understand science. If you are appealing to group think it's a poor framework. If you state you have to read paper A or textbook B again we have a pointer in relation to a poor framework from which to understand science. If someone cannot see the flaws in the science it's a pointer. If people think that because a study is statistically significant it holds true for the entire population it's a pointer.

Scientists often disagree. The scientific process requires rational debate. We want to deepen our understanding of the world and science in the hands of people with a good philosophical framework is a great tool.

theanimal
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Re: COVID-19

Post by theanimal »

MEA wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 5:48 pm
To me, this comes across as condescending. Pretty common around here.
Jacob is being remarkably patient and helpful. If you haven't already, you can read some of the Climate change thread and see that this exact exchange is being reenacted once more. And once more it is falling upon deaf ears. I won't speak for jacob, but I can imagine that would cause some frustration. If you are actually looking to have a discussion, everyone here is generally receptive. Not so much if buzzwords are just thrown around and listening is thrown out the window.

Who would have thought we'd ever have a thread that is essentially the sum of the Trump and climate change threads?

daylen
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Re: COVID-19

Post by daylen »

It sounds like you decide what science is worthwhile (i.e. "simple") based on whether the experts appear to agree. Correct?

If so, then you are using group-think as a framework from which to understand science. This implies that you are not using a scientific framework, because a scientific framework would decide based on models.

Some scientific fields have obvious moral/political implications (e.g. covid-19, climate). As you say, scientists are humans with emotions and values so it should be expected that a sub-set would speak out in a polarizing way. If so, then it would appear that your framework is flawed in such cases. This would imply that there are more decisive models lurking deeper in these fields. If so, then how can you justify your dismal of these fields when you do not understand the more complex models not being advertised(*) to you?

(*) Although, Jacob has tried.

steveo73
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Re: COVID-19

Post by steveo73 »

@daylen - I was going to put group think into the section on logical fallacies. It's a terrible terrible way to discuss issues. I think it has nothing at all to do with science. I also don't judge like that. I try and listen to a broad purview of experts and I try to get into the detail. I definitely haven't dismissed science.

I'm also completely cool with not knowing. I may have a lot of information but hopefully I can see the flaws in that information. I haven't come up with in hindsight silly predictions or said anything stupid so I think personally my understanding has been pretty good although that is a subjective opinion. Put it this way people aren't quoting me and stating this is incorrect or inaccurate. Your post was a response to nothing at all that I actually stated.

Your comments on group think are what I think is going on here. I think what I'm stating makes sense but it doesn't conform to the group think on this forum/thread and that is why there are a bunch of logical fallacies being utilized and illogical arguments (responding to stuff that I haven't even stated).

ZAFCorrection
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Re: COVID-19

Post by ZAFCorrection »

I'm a big believer in asking myself about the edge cases of a situation. What if this pandemic (we'll still keep that terminology) kills exactly one person if left unchecked? What if this pandemic kills everyone if unchecked? Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes is an evolution from "zero fucks given" to "all possible measures."

Unless I'm missing something, the models being used say something about the number, but nothing about going from ZFG to OMFG. That's a whole extra stew of non-epidemiology science and value judgements. The models are cool and meaningful and ... *genuflects towards the nearest statue of Einstein* ... but they don't really get you all the way to policy. In this case there is a certain amount of scienciness in the invocation of science, even good science.

Edit:

That's also why I don't agree with comparisons to the climate change issue. Climate skeptics are usually disagreeing with the conclusion that the earth is going to change due to increased thermal loading. Most of the people that I know of who are skeptical of the lockdown don't care if 1-2% of the population dies. They think it is a lesser evil than maintaining shutdowns. The models don't even attempt to answer that question, so people are arguing over different things.

Though, I think a lot of people are also using some unspecified and fiddly moral calculus to get from lives lost and hospitalizations to cost-benefit weighted policy proposals.

Personally, I can't figure out if the lockdowns are/were a good idea, but I'm not down with the "42 people died so tomorrow I'm going to wear a red hat" logic. Just because someone won a Nobel prize confirming the 42, it doesn't mean the red hat necessarily makes any sense.

IlliniDave
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Re: COVID-19

Post by IlliniDave »

George the original one wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 3:54 pm
Like California, Alabama's rates for new cases are in the 25-30 day doubling range, so still exponential. This may or may not be an artifact of increased testing. Use the buttons on "show doubling time" to change the values.
https://aatishb.com/covidtrends/?region ... on=Alabama
Okay, this may be a case of the inadequacy of my grasp of the jargon showing. I was looking at a histogram vs time (daily) of the number of new cases confirmed and doing an eyeball curve fit, but qualitatively I wasn't far off from a 14-day moving average calculation (see the purple curve on tab 4 of the bottom of the page at the link below).

Of course, if the number of new cases per day are increasing linearly (proportional to x), then the cumulative case count is increasing proportional to x^2.

https://covid19.alabama.gov/

To jacob's point, I don't have much insight into the testing statistics, although from the same link, about 40% of the total tests administered to date have been administered in the last 14 days, which would imply increased testing per unit time over time. The positive test rate after an initial "spike" in April has fallen to something under 10%, while the new cases per unit time has increased, which I believe also implies expansion of testing (tab 9).

Apologies for my potentially misleading statements. The point is that the apparent trend when taken superficially is not good given it reversed right on the eve of "opening back up".

Although places are opening, many are doing so reasonably. I had to take my old dog to the vet yesterday. They were taking only one appointment at a time, kept the front door locked, had people wait in their cars with their animals, and after calling when I arrived, they came out and got me when they were ready for us. I do worry about the reopening of businesses like restaurants and such, even at a fraction of seating capacity. Overall though, the large majority are not behaving like stereotype red state politically-motivated rubes with a death wish.

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jennypenny
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Re: COVID-19

Post by jennypenny »

Sclass wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 7:17 pm
You mean like Spanish flu :o ?

Does this happen to be related to the fact you’re a prepper?
Nah, I didn’t mean it like that. I meant that an influenza pandemic wouldn’t be so filled with unknowns. The uncertainty and unpredictability up to this point is what has bothered me.

I worked on a project for a while that dealt with this stuff, so I’ve read many of the books recommended upthread. Most of them focused on influenza because we’re familiar with it and it has (had?) the most potential for blooming into a pandemic. In those books, experts usually focused on influenza pandemics — where they start, how they spread, how fast people react. They rarely focused on the disease itself because we’re familiar with influenza.

At first I thought COVID was odd in that it didn’t seem to spread as fast as one would expect with a pandemic-level disease (geographically, not R rate), even with the lockdowns. The slow roll was different than any scenario I’d read about. Now that we know that many people are asymptomatic, maybe it wasn’t such a slow roll after all?(I wish the powers that be hadn’t F’d up the testing.) We’ll see on that one, I guess.

COVID also seems different to me because we’re still identifying symptoms six months out. Symptoms are also different depending on age. Most frightening to me is that some damage seems to occur silently in asymptomatic people. On a personal/unqualified-to-judge medical note ... it feels strange how many asymptomatic people there are considering how sick some people get, and some of the symptoms are bizarre.

I’m certainly not saying that medical professionals or modelers have been wrong. They are working with the information they have and the information keeps changing — still, at six months out, which is most of my point — so then models and recommendations change too.


As far as ‘I told you so’, I’ve avoided it mostly because I’ve tried to help people out so they’ve been pretty appreciative in return. I pre-staged preps at everyone’s house in my sphere, and I continue to make masks for all of them now that everyone is returning to work/life. (I’ll admit it’s partly selfish — if I want people to wear a mask around me, maybe I’ll guilt them into wearing one if I make it for them, like when you get an ugly sweater for christmas and only wear it around the person who gave it to you.)


tl;dr I wasn’t criticizing anyone. My point was that I would have been more comfortable/confident dealing with an influenza pandemic than this one. I don’t like unknowns and I don’t like the incongruous aspects of COVID.

7Wannabe5
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Re: COVID-19

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@ZAFCorrection:

Do most of the people you know who don’t care if 1 or 2% die from Covid, argue that more people will die from economic impact of lock-down, or are they just okay with being in the evil/intelligent quadrant?

One of the things that drove me crazy at the beginning of the epidemic was “positive” news coverage showing all these middle-aged out-of-shape lunch ladies showing up to distribute free breakfast/lunch/snack to school kids after the schools shutdown. I was like “Why can’t they just give the kids a box of food once a week!?” Then, sure enough, a little while later, they shut down daily distribution because some of the lunch ladies became infected. IMO, the reason why we needed a lock-down was to offer some degree of protection to people in the good/stupid quadrant. Personally, I don’t care if 100% of the people in the evil/stupid quadrant (representative member being Wipes Nose on Clerk’s Shirt Guy) die from Covid.

Anyways, it’s pretty much moot, because maintaining lockdown until vaccination available is analogous to adherence to Paris Accord in terms of likely human behavior.

JL13
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Re: COVID-19

Post by JL13 »

@7wannabe5

I think some of the people in the "open up" camp believe that the 1-2%(or whatever percentage) of people who are going to die are going to die anyway. The lockdowns haven't been very effective in stoping the deaths, just slowing them. The United States was effectively under a stay at home order form late March through late May, and daily deaths have still been around 1,000. If they went close to zero, then we could say that maybe the lockdown is saving lives?

If it takes two years from today to create a vaccine/treatment, at a rate of 1,000 per day, that's 830,000 deaths. That's more what we could estimate total death toll will be anyway, under no lockdown (see link to CDC IFR estimate posted by Tyler9000).

CDC best estimate of mortality rate of symptomatic people is 0.4%, with only 65% of people are symptomatic, and an R0 of 2.5. That means the CDC's best guess of total dead is 510,000 people. It looks like we're going to hit that, lockdown or no.

daylen
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Re: COVID-19

Post by daylen »

@steveo Perhaps dismissed is a bit too far. How about appeal to complexity? You acknowledge that complexity is a matter of degree, but I have not seen you go very deep into how you determine the degree? Why do you assume something that appears complex to you is also complex to someone else who has a sufficiently complex model of it? I am curious why you are pushing forth your "philosophy of science" with such force? ..with barely any reference to actual models?

You reference how you want to have a rational debate but no actual scientists [typically] debate like this. They tend to employ a more proactive and curious position that allows for the use of playful metaphors and creative problem solving. This is possible because they can assume a shared lingo that most other people like us do not have.

I am not trying to pin you down or anything. Quite the contrary, I am trying to help you unpin yourself. Iterating the same few memes over and over must be tiresome. Not everything has to fit within a risk management paradigm.

ZAFCorrection
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Re: COVID-19

Post by ZAFCorrection »

@7w5

I believe they mostly fall in your so-called evil/intelligent quadrant if those are the two options. Though again, I don't remember that the models allow you to determine someone's level of evilness.

People don't get to have it both ways. If you are all about SCIENCE!, there needs to be a chain of logic getting from the death/injury rate to policy proposals. That usually involves some kind of cost-benefit analysis. If that isn't there, then basically the SCIENCE! people are spit-balling along with everyone else. They just get the satisfaction of having more justified certainty about one aspect of the pandemic. And maybe they can bamboozle the plebs by spending a bunch of time on models, followed a by quick and unfounded segue to policy once everyone's eyes have glazed over.

7Wannabe5
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Re: COVID-19

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@JL13:

Well, since I consider myself to be in a vulnerable group, I would also like to believe that there is some benefit to be gained through personal or public initiative. Of course, when I found myself in the Assumed-Covid section of the ER, walking past an old guy coughing into his mask on my way to pee in a cup, my personal outlook veered towards the fatalistic (which perversely usually cheers me up due to ENTP nature), but still that did not change my take on, for instance, the simple good manners inherent in the practice of wearing a mask in public during an epidemic or whether it is possible to gain greater insight into a complex issue through the process of active learning.

@ZAFCorrection:

Gotcha. I agree that determining a human’s level of evilness is difficult. The model/method I generally use is loosely based on the work of Jung. Basically, you take 4 functional quadrants defined as Power/Authority, Freedom/Fun, Vulnerability/Sensibility, and Responsibility/Caring. Then you ask a human what sort of animal best typifies how they feel in their spirit in when in each of these quadrants of functioning. For instance, maybe you feel like. Tiger when you are in your Power, a Dog in your Freedom/Fun, a Wren in your Vulnerability/Sensibility, and a Bear in your Responsibility/Caring. The proportion of non-mammals chosen by a human pretty well determines their level of evil, although obviously birds and monotremes could also be good. I mean, if somebody’s full complement of spirit animals is something like Dragon/Snake/Toad/Tiger, you might not want to marry her.

jacob
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Re: COVID-19

Post by jacob »

ZAFCorrection wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 10:13 am
People don't get to have it both ways. If you are all about SCIENCE!, there needs to be a chain of logic getting from the death/injury rate to policy proposals. That usually involves some kind of cost-benefit analysis. If that isn't there, then basically the SCIENCE! people are spit-balling along with everyone else. [...]
In this case (epidemics), the scientists' job ends after calculating the death/injury rates. It's supposed to be job of politicians to weigh these numbers against other interests (like the economy or foreign policy or whatever---here economists and FP people would weigh in with their own predictions) using methods that [in a democracy] reflects their constituents. Some politicians might appeal to [a chain of] logic, others to emotion, others to history/tradition, religious values, or cost-benefit, etc. and ultimately the horse-trading and eventual voting should resolve these conflicts. In terms of choosing which politicians to represent them for this decision process, scientists are not different than anyone else. Everybody has one vote.

Politicians and the political process (as opposed to the scientific process) are the ones who are supposed to be good at weighing conflicting interests against each other and finding a solution that optimizes or at least satisfices "the will of the people". "Ordinary" specialists tend to suffer from domain-blindness believing that what their interest is more important than others. For example, an astronomer likely believes that space research funding is more important that agricultural research.

However, the political decision machinery in the US has unfortunately turned into a bit of a dysfunctional gridlock over the past couple of decades with politicians being against other politicians and votes being held up. It's compounded by a WH administration who refuses to take action/responsibility, thereby leaving a patchwork of uncoordinated implementations at the state/corporate/individual level.

A further issue is the kind of post-truth era we're increasingly finding ourselves in a situation where repeatedly asserting a bunch of talking points while ignoring factual rebuttals is becoming acceptable or even normal epistemology in large segments of the population. This has the consequence of side-lining the reality-based decision making that was the basis of most of the 20th century. We might be seeing the end-stage of the enlightenment era ("that it is possible for humans to know through careful examination of reality") as increasing numbers of people start believing that it's impossible to know anything as a faulty conclusion of it being impossible to decide who to believe (without cracking open a book---something that very few(*) do beyond their formal education).

(*) While reading is obviously not the only way to learn, it is the normal way. IIRC, some 5% of humans read 95% of the books being published. The Pareto law is extreme in this case.

The concept of "objective reality" is slowly fading back into history and it does seem that the benefit of reality based knowledge is getting reduced to having some personal satisfaction in being able to justify one's certainty about [future] reality and being more correct than wrong about it. This has to be weighed against the frustration of seeing the rest of humanity largely ignoring such knowledge and walking into predictable and preventable problems again and again. I don't have any philosophical comments about how to properly classify this kind of nihilistic post-post-modernism... but on the ground level I am observing something akin to the Kubler-Ross process in knowledge workers as the consequences of this shift are piling up. That is, the felt tension between knowing and seeing knowledge repeatedly ignored undergoes the stages of denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance as well.

J_
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Re: COVID-19

Post by J_ »

@Jacob. It is a sad conclusion you draw, I think you are right. Facts are pushed out of reality. Near future is bleak at the moment, it hurts a positive/optimistic soul like I am. I am glad that I do not live in the US the coming decade. After his election I wrote in one of the threads here that the US were strong enough to survive T, I think I was too optimistic then.
I wish for the American people that out of these sad circumstances a more social society may develop.

In Europe it will be not easy either, but the constellation of our "working together of nations", is more diversified than the US, and more social oriented, so the decrease in wealth will be much broader be carried.
(You see even now my positive inclination is shining through).

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Sclass
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Re: COVID-19

Post by Sclass »

jennypenny wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 8:26 am
tl;dr I wasn’t criticizing anyone. My point was that I would have been more comfortable/confident dealing with an influenza pandemic than this one. I don’t like unknowns and I don’t like the incongruous aspects of COVID.
No I get it. We all want some certainty about how this is all going to get wrapped up. The more I watch the mainstream news, the more uncertain I get. Uncertainty about antivirals, vaccine efficacy, opening,second waves, childrens’ symptoms and more unresolved stuff. Every headline should read, “New Coronavirus finding__________, but we really don’t know enough to make any useful conclusions that are meaningful to you viewers.” A lot of the headlines suck you in and let you down with uncertainty at the end.

It would be nice to get the cliffs notes version to this saga.

CS
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Re: COVID-19

Post by CS »

@jacob

Statistically speaking, scientists have less than one vote since they tend to not live in the states that have the most advantage of the electoral college.

Those states had the economic advantage when they strong-armed that system in place. Now we are stuck with many of the worst performers and the most 'fear of other' states dictating the lives of the rest of the country. It is a bad situation.

Getting rid of the electoral college would be a good first step.

Locked