18 Aug 2012 @ 8:43 AM 

This image has been floating around the Anti-Vaxxer circles. It contains the following four misleading statements:

1 – What would you think if an infectious disease specialist published a study showing that 81% of children who contracted pertussis (whooping cough) were fully vaccinated?
2 – And what if that infectious disease specialist told you the pertussis vaccine was effective about 50% in children in general but only 24% of the time in 8-12 year olds?
Dr. Witt’s study was published in March 2012 in Clinical Infectious Diseases

3 – What if the vaccine manufacturer admitted that it has never studied how long the vaccine lasts in children 4-6 years old?
4 – And what if the CDC said that a booster shot of that vaccine is not approved for 7-9 year olds?
Both of these statement [sic] were made to a reporter for Reuters in an article published April 2012.

The clear conclusion these four statements are attempting to convey is that vaccinations do not work. Insinuation aside, neither the articles they are referencing nor the data they present support such a conclusion. The blogger at SkewedDistribution does an excellent job of explaining the math which people fail to grasp:

Immanuel Pfeiffer Middle School has 1000 students enrolled. The students are vaccinated at the same rate as the rest of California (93%); therefore, 930 students are vaccinated and 70 are not. There is an outbreak of pertussis at IPMS, with 100 cases. Of these, 81% of the cases are vaccinated (n=81), and 19% are unvaccinated (n=19).  The question, then, is what is the rate of pertussis in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated students?

The rate for vaccinated students is: 81/930=8.7%

The rate for unvaccinated students is 19/70=27.1%

I think it is instructive to use an analogy instead of just numbers:

Imagine a sample of 1000 adults. Of these adults, 93% or 930 adults at one point knew enough math to understand the above example and 70 never learned basic math. There is an outbreak of 100 cases of Math-itus (people who fail to understand some simple math) brought about by viewing some skewed data created by anti-vaxxers desperate for signs they are correct. Of these, 81 of the people at one point knew the math and are in denial while 19 people never knew the math in the first place. The question, then, is what is the rate of Math-itus to non-math-itus?

The rate for “vaccinated” students is: 81/930 = 8.7%

The rate for “unvaccinated” students is: 19/70 = 27.1%

If we stopped my above satire prior to the answers at the end, we could use it to claim:

1 – What would you think if a mathematician published a study showing that 81% of adults who contracted mathitus (fooled by numbers) knew math at one point?
2 – And what if that mathematician told you that math instruction was effective about 50% in when the people first learned it but only 24% of the time later in life?

The clear skewed conclusion implied from the above is that math instruction causes people to fail to understand math. So we should fight teaching math in schools!

 

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Last Edit: 30 Dec 2014 @ 01:30 PM

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 12 Dec 2011 @ 10:46 AM 

Kind of a dreary winter here in Abilene, Texas. Temperatures have ranged from freezing (20’s) to nice (60’s). The sky is often overcast. We spend our evenings inside watching Netflix. We have recently taken to watching all the Star Trek series. Sharyn watched the original series all the way through. Now we are watching TNG together. We haven’t watched an episode which I don’t recall in some way. I am so glad that I watched Star Trek as a kid instead of so many other whimsical shows I could have seen. Star Trek: The Next Generation has such cool ideas and explores such high-minded areas. It feels oddly out of place when I compare it to the partisan bullshit going down in our government lately. It feels to me like we had a few years there where we were approaching a unification on a large scale. Only now it feels so distant. I miss living in California. Texas is so bereft of good will. What a depressing place.

I have endeavored to take more notes digitally of late. I have been reading less and less as I grow older. I used to have this amazing patience and would read for hours. I am now more impatient than ever. I am a slow reader and it just takes too long to get through a book. It is like I have so much work to do, I just can’t bring myself to start. So I make lists of books I would like to read but I never go to the trouble of buying them because then I will need to read them. I can’t bring myself to read much fiction anymore because it feels like a waste of time.

I recently updated my Wish List 2011 on Amazon to reflect books and media which I would definitely like to read. I will likely buy them for myself given enough time and then I will update the list. Not that anyone actually reads this blog since I post to it so very rarely. But just in case someone does read it and intends to get me a gift to keep me occupied for the long boring winter, I know I am very hard to shop for so the wish list is your best bet.

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Last Edit: 13 Dec 2011 @ 11:54 AM

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 19 Oct 2011 @ 1:37 PM 

I have recently taken to reading a lot about the philosophical underpinnings of Libertarianism. Like many unsuspecting saps, my first discussion with a Libertarian was initiated when one made some off-handed comment about the government robbing them of their money at gunpoint. I am not one to shy away from discussions on politics. Upon hearing what I thought to be an absurd claim which I thought was likely based on poor logic, I asked for them to back up their claim. The Libertarian in question was thrilled to be able to explain the concept to me and carefully laid their argument as most do:

Libertarian: Do you agree that the initiation of force is immoral?
Me: Well I guess.
Libertarian: The government takes our money by force.
Me: How do you figure?
Libertarian: What happens if you don’t pay your taxes? The government will throw you in jail. They are initiating  force against you.

PAUSE

So something is up with this. I dug a little deeper, acquiring a copy of For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray Rothbard. Rothbard describes three types of Libertarians, two of which are straw men he easily burns:
1. Emotivist Libertarian
2. Utilitarian Libertarian
3. Natural Rights Libertarian
Rothbard describes the Emotivist Libertarian as someone who asserts that “they take liberty or nonaggression as their premise purely on subjective, emotional grounds.” This straw man is easily dispatched: “By ultimately taking themselves outside the realm of rational discourse, the emotivists thereby insure the lack of general success of their own cherished doctrine.” He takes utilitarianism to its logical and extremist conclusion in which the benefit of the many outweighs that of the one unilaterally; an obvious irrational, even if logical, result. With 1 and 2 easily burned to the ground, the 3rd option is the convenient winner.
Natural Rights, says Rothbard, come from Natural Law which is described by the philosopher John Locke. The Natural Law of the self are defined as Life, Liberty, and Property. Rothbard posits three possible arguments for self-ownership: the individual owns…
A. their whole self
B. part of their self
C. none of their self
Rothbard goes on to argue that A is the only possible answer. He argues that B is not possible because if you do not own your whole self, then you cannot convince anyone of it since you own part of them and they own part of you. All owners of your “self” would have to agree… this degrades to absurdity quickly. For C, he argues that if you owned none of yourself then you would have no control at all.

I feel like Rothbard is ignoring a key component of the definition of Natural Rights on purpose. If the self is made up of Life, Liberty, and Property, then self ownership must be applied to each, not all three unilaterally. Applying the idea of self-ownership to Life, Liberty, and Property, I posit the following:

LIFE = A*
LIBERTY = B
PROPERTY = B

The Libertarian claims A (ownership of the whole self) for each. To a Libertarian who believes this, please tell me:

  • LIBERTY: How can I as an individual have full ownership of my own liberty in a pluralistic society?
  • PROPERTY: How can I as an individual have full ownership of my property?**

* I do not believe in absolutes. I think that both A and C are absolutes. I still have to come to terms with the idea of absolute ownership of LIFE. I think in this case, it means that I own my personal body (even though that concept doesn’t really make sense to me). I choose A in this case for the sake of argument.
** Property as described by Rothbard in Chapter 2 of For A New Liberty.

OK! First post is up. I will have to revisit this quite a few times in order to really get my understanding all nailed down.

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Last Edit: 19 Oct 2011 @ 01:37 PM

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