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Thread: Disease and pandemics thread (because it's science)

  1. #2221
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    Since almost none of us in the general public are going to know the details of when a virus is going to stay airborne, maybe N95 masks are in order when we are close to people in public. That is how I feel anyways.
    Now a bunch of countries are looking at N95 for healthcare workers. Which is what I meant here. Scientists tend to overthink things for common people. The World Health Organizations were way too nuanced for communicating to normal people. Please see article link. https://www.yahoo.com/news/239-exper...151916602.html 239 Experts With 1 Big Claim: The Coronavirus Is Airborne
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  2. #2222
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    Mask wearing proponents have now resorted to appeals to authority.

    https://royalsociety.org/news/2020/0...face-covering/


    President of the Royal Society urges everyone to wear a face covering

    "It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts. Today both of those would be considered antisocial, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way. If all of us wear one, we protect each other and thereby ourselves, reducing transmission. We lower the chances of future surges and lockdowns which are economically and psychologically disruptive, and we increase the chance of eliminating the virus. Not doing so increases the risk for everyone, from NHS workers to your grandmother."

  3. #2223
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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    Mask wearing proponents have now resorted to appeals to authority.
    Mmmmmmnot exactly an appeal to authority, though...and especially not based upon the quoted paragraph, IMO. My reading of the article is that Sir Ramakrishnan is urging people to comply with a public health policy, not based on his own authority but "on the growing body of evidence that wearing a mask will help protect others – and might even protect you." Or did I miss something?
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  4. #2224
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    Mmmmmmnot exactly an appeal to authority, though...and especially not based upon the quoted paragraph, IMO. My reading of the article is that Sir Ramakrishnan is urging people to comply with a public health policy, not based on his own authority but "on the growing body of evidence that wearing a mask will help protect others – and might even protect you." Or did I miss something?
    Sorry, a link went missing somewhere. The headline was more in line with what I said, I think Anyway.
    The tweet from the New Scientist is at
    https://twitter.com/newscientist/sta...503583232?s=19

    And the headline reads as below

    _20200709_181026.JPG

    My point was the emphasis on the person and their position.

  5. #2225
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    There's a phenomenon in medicine that's sometimes called "gold plating". It goes like this:
    Guidelines or policies are drawn up based on limited available evidence, and are widely publicized. The policy bullet points then become the topic of the conversation, and the underlying messiness of the science drops out of sight. And then suddenly the discussion is about "How do we ensure people follow these guidelines?" rather than "What is the science informing these guidelines?" And doctors start being assessed on their compliance with guidelines (which is simple binary data) rather than their patient outcomes (which are messy and complicated data). Any attempt to discuss the science is then seen as an effort to subvert the guidelines. And it becomes impossible to do new research because that would required deviation from the guidelines. So an intervention supported by rather limited evidence suddenly comes to dominate practice to the extent that better evidence is difficult or impossible to gather.
    We do need to remember that "In what settings and under what circumstances do face coverings decrease Covid-19 transmission?" is a valid scientific question that people are still arguing about. "How do we make people wear masks?" is a public health policy question. Even people who should know better get these two levels of discussion mixed up on occasion. When Maria Van Kerkhove, of the WHO, said that the evidence from contact tracing suggested asymptomatic transmission is "very rare" (a scientific observation which conflicts with existing modelling) it prompted an outcry that was based on public health messaging. For instance, Marm Kilpatrick (an infectious diseases specialist) said, "We’ve been trying to get 7 billion people on the planet to wear masks even though they [feel] fine, so to misinterpret [data] like that is super counterproductive.” So the stated concern is that a scientific observation will be "misinterpreted" by the public, who will suddenly default from using face coverings. But of course if that observation turned out to be confirmed by further research, the reason for the introduction of face masks in the first place would be significantly undermined.
    I'm not predicting what the outcome of the science will be, one way or the other. Just remarking that we need to guard against gold plating a current public health policy.

    Grant Hutchison

  6. #2226
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    <snip>
    We do need to remember that "In what settings and under what circumstances do face coverings decrease Covid-19 transmission?" is a valid scientific question that people are still arguing about. "How do we make people wear masks?" is a public health policy question.
    Very good point. To me, this sounds a bit like some of the problems we've had with climate change, separating the science of climate change from the policies regarding climate change (what is happening versus what do we do about it).

    The public health policy question seems, to me at least, even more complicated than what you describe. For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci (NIAID Director) has been criticized because very early in the emergency he advocated that the general public not wear masks, and now he is advocating that they do. But he has stated that it isn't because his interpretation of the science has changed about the efficacy of mask wearing. It was because early on there was a shortage of masks and other PPE, and he wanted to make sure medical personnel had adequate supplies, before the public took every available one. So policy changed, not because the science changed (or the interpretation of it changed), but because the priorities changed.
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  7. #2227
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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    Sorry, a link went missing somewhere. The headline was more in line with what I said, I think Anyway.
    Even so, it's a headline: a news report of what someone said. That in itself is not an appeal to authority. If they'd editorialized by adding, And he's right!, you might have had a point. But as it is, headlines are necessarily brief and are advisably read with some latitude as to accuracy. What matters more, is the article behind it, which reads pretty much like your prior link.
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  8. #2228
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    The public health policy question seems, to me at least, even more complicated than what you describe. For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci (NIAID Director) has been criticized because very early in the emergency he advocated that the general public not wear masks, and now he is advocating that they do. But he has stated that it isn't because his interpretation of the science has changed about the efficacy of mask wearing. It was because early on there was a shortage of masks and other PPE, and he wanted to make sure medical personnel had adequate supplies, before the public took every available one. So policy changed, not because the science changed (or the interpretation of it changed), but because the priorities changed.
    It also wouldn't surprise me that policy evolved as the definition of "mask" evolved. I can certainly envision that when it came up, everyone "understood" masks to mean those worn by healthcare workers. Then later, someone in a brainstorming session said, "What about bandanas or home made masks?" and voila, here we are. A fanciful tale, anyway.
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  9. #2229
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    The public health policy question seems, to me at least, even more complicated than what you describe. For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci (NIAID Director) has been criticized because very early in the emergency he advocated that the general public not wear masks, and now he is advocating that they do. But he has stated that it isn't because his interpretation of the science has changed about the efficacy of mask wearing. It was because early on there was a shortage of masks and other PPE, and he wanted to make sure medical personnel had adequate supplies, before the public took every available one. So policy changed, not because the science changed (or the interpretation of it changed), but because the priorities changed.
    Yes. I'd say the public health landscape has changed, too. As countries went into lockdown, with health-care systems in danger of being overwhelmed, any likely benefit of mask usage by the population was very slight, whereas even slightly limiting the ability to deliver health care was a massive danger. But when countries are feeling their way out of lockdown, trying to get their economy moving, with test and tracking services established and health-care capacity unstressed, then seeing what happens if you try to ramp up indoor activities by reducing physical distancing while using face-coverings isn't a massive risk if you take things slowly and monitor the results.
    The danger with "gold-plating" is that the face-covering intervention comes to be perceived as a proven "get out of jail free" card, by policy-makers, employers and punters, just because it has been incorporated into public health advice internationally. It's all very well for Ramakrishnan to try to sell face coverings as a "civic duty", but that sort of strong messaging brings its own risks when the scientific underpinnings are still shaky. Just think how often national public health policies and government dietary advice have been pushed with strong messaging, only to be overtaken by later research and quietly retracted. And usually that stuff had spent years passing through committees, whereas this time it's all being done on the fly in the space of a few months!

    Grant Hutchison

  10. #2230
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    It also wouldn't surprise me that policy evolved as the definition of "mask" evolved. I can certainly envision that when it came up, everyone "understood" masks to mean those worn by healthcare workers. Then later, someone in a brainstorming session said, "What about bandanas or home made masks?" and voila, here we are. A fanciful tale, anyway.
    Another possible narrative is that a committee somewhere sat down and said: "We have a small group of vocal scientists and a large number of journalists telling the public they need to wear masks. There's a global shortage of surgical masks and microbiological-grade masks. How can we redefine the concept of "mask" in order to increase the confidence and sense of control in the general population without breaking our health-care capacity?"

    Grant Hutchison

  11. #2231
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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    Mask wearing proponents have now resorted to appeals to authority.

    https://royalsociety.org/news/2020/0...face-covering/
    I'm not sure who exactly the "proponents" are that you are talking about. My reading of it is that Venki Ramakrishnan wrote the editorial because a journal of his institute published two peer-reviewed papers that supported that conclusion. And the New Scientist reported it because it was the head of the Royal Society saying it, based on what he concluded was good evidence. I don't think that the New Scientist is a proponent of something. They are a popular science magazine that publishes lots of things.

    I think there is an argument to be made that the media tends to carry stories based on who the person is, for sure. For example, if Tom Hanks talks about his experience with COVID-19, it's newsworthy, and if Bolsonaro talks about the drug he's taking for COVID-19, it's newsworthy, not necessarily because of authority but because of fame. When a famous person says something it is inherently more newsworthy than if the same thing is said by someone who is not famous. I think that's sort of the reality of journalism, partly because readers in general, myself included, will tend to read something when it comes from somebody they know of.
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  12. #2232
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    In my country, mask wearing opponents are pretty much resorting to appeals to idiocy.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  13. #2233
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I'm not sure who exactly the "proponents" are that you are talking about.
    That's because it's difficult to convey how I came across the information. I found the headline being used in isolation on a twitter thread, by people who seem intent on forcing people to wear masks, whatever the circumstances. The general feeling of the comments were that if you didn't comply you should be classed as a criminal or at least looked down on as a pariah. Under those circumstances being told to comply because now the president of the royal society says we should sounds like an appeal to authority.

    Where I live is relatively rural, just over 100k population. We have a low R number and have being doing relatively well. Any people I see wearing masks are usually doing it wrong, with it under their chin or not fitted properly in various ways. The twitter thread had people describing how they manage to wear a mask and eat: I pull the mask down to eat, then put it back on afterwards. So simple to do, they said.
    I was under the impression that you should avoid touching the mask except for putting it on or removing it for disposal, so following their advice is probably worse than not wearing one. I can imagine that a lot of people only have one mask which they use again and again.

    In my working life, a mask is simply not practical. I work alone most of the time in the open air. Rarely have any close contact with other people during the day. But I do buy my lunch from a supermarket. If masks were made compulsory in a shop I would have to stop work, find somewhere to wash my hands, put a mask on, spend around 90 seconds in the shop, then remove and dispose of the mask to eat my lunch. All to satisfy the impression of propriety.

    I would rather continue with my established method and just avoid crowds and close contact with strangers. It's working so far and as an essential worker I've been working as normal since this all began. I do not relish being forced to do something of marginal benefit.

  14. #2234
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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    That's because it's difficult to convey how I came across the information. I found the headline being used in isolation on a twitter thread, by people who seem intent on forcing people to wear masks, whatever the circumstances. The general feeling of the comments were that if you didn't comply you should be classed as a criminal or at least looked down on as a pariah. Under those circumstances being told to comply because now the president of the royal society says we should sounds like an appeal to authority.
    If you are talking about the people on Twitter, then sure. To be honest, I have pretty much stopped (or at least tried to stop) looking at comments that people make on Yahoo or Twitter or whatever. Regardless of the political persuasion, the comments are, let's say, often not very well thought out and often inflammatory. And appeals to authority. I remember seeing a town hall where a woman was claiming that wearing a mask was "against the breathing apparatus God gave us" or something like that. I also adjust my mask wearing depending on the situation, like wear it in crowded places but not when I'm taking a walk in our non-crowded neighborhood where we don't see many other people.
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  15. #2235
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    The thing about appeals to authority is that they don't immediately invalidate a person's argument. Although they're often classified as fallacious, they're actually merely defeasible. So you always need to look at the authority cited, and ask "What is their argument?" Knowledgeable authorities may well have very good arguments; false authorities may get lucky and say something sensible anyway.
    The Royal Society President's position statement is a pretty good argument, focussing on the public health aspect, "How do we get people to wear masks?" but citing scientific evidence in the form of the DELVE report and the Royal Society's own SET-C. So then we need to look at those reports, and see what we think about them. Which requires a level of knowledge and expertise that many people don't have, so we often need to look instead at what other experts are saying about those reports, and gauge if there's a consensus or a majority opinion. It gets time consuming, and at some point most people just end up appealing to some authority--maybe because that authority has advanced a good argument; often because the authority just looks good on paper and is saying stuff that conforms to the person's emotional biases.
    One place I go to regularly, particularly when it comes to papers cited on this forum, is the Science Media Centre. It's a shame more journalists don't use it, since it's an excellent resource. They already have some expert opinion on the DELVE report. I'm sure we'll see responses to SET-C soon, too.

    Grant Hutchison

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