Tuesday 25 October 2011

The Maths Of Death

I was going to say that if you're at a loose end tonight, you might be interested in a Battle of Ideas satellite event at the Imperial College Union in Kensington. Sadly, it's sold out.

I'm booked and will be trotting along though, as I noticed the staging of Your Days Are Numbered: the maths of death at the far far away Edinburgh Festival last time out through envious eyes. The publicity tells you why it would be of interest, especially since it will be followed by a discussion which will resonate with many here.

From what drugs we criminalise to doctors offering advice on how healthily their patients should be living, ‘evidence-based policy’ is the regular cry for those looking for a rational approach to public health. How far can evidence go in deciding what is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choice? Are we in danger of turning statistical modelling from a useful analytical tool to the new astrology? What role should the latest evidence play in forming public health policy?
Needless to say, I'll review the evening here soon.

The schedule at the Battle of Ideas main event has plenty to offer too, so I'll be taking in a day's worth of those on Saturday, including Seduced by stats featuring Chris Snowdon. Tickets are still available for the weekend's debates, so if you're tempted, may see you there.


Clarissa said...

I saw 'The Maths of Death' at the London Sci-fi film festival back in May. It was a hoot. Have fun.

Sam Duncan said...

OT, Dick, but I thought you might appreciate Herman Cain's new campaign video. It's a bit dull, the usual boilerplate “I believe in candidate X” stuff, but watch to the end. Then read the comments from all the neopuritans whose heads have just exploded. I'm warming to the guy.

Magnetic said...

”in danger of turning statistical modelling from a useful analytical tool to the new astrology?”

“In danger”….. “in danger”…… that ship has sailed and is well over the horizon.

Bear in mind that the term “eugenics” was coined by the statistician, Frances Galton. Some statistical tests that are used today were developed by eugenicists, e.g., Karl Pearson. The statistics are used at the population level for population control. Yet they have poor application at the individual level. In fact, most of the junk produced by “lifestyle epidemiology” involves tiny RR differences and tiny baselines. As such, they have incredibly poor application at the individual level and certainly should not be used as the basis for causal argument. Yet they are used so routinely – causation by consensus. The eugenicists are good at constantly comparing groups against each other, over-interpreting the results, and declaring that this group is “better” than that group; this group is “inferior” to that group, etc, etc. The fools promote irrational beliefs (superstition), social division, bigotry, and racism galore. They’re the ones who created “intelligence” tests, primarily in order to argue in favor of the “superiority” of particular races. “Prevention”, which we now hear ad nauseam, is the cornerstone of the eugenics framework.

Take the eugenics of earlier last century; remove the racial/heredity/breeding dimension that it was most notorious for. What do you have left? Exactly what we have been seeing the last 30 years - an emphasis on the behavioral dimension of eugenics. It is a modified, neo-eugenics that currently goes by the term “healthism”. Healthism is eugenics by another [deceiving] name. It involves the same eugenics personnel (physicians, biologists, statisticians, behaviorists), it involves the same dangerous reduction of health to only a biological phenomenon, it involves the same [over]reliance on statistics, it involves the same aspirations to societal rule, and it involves the same abhorrent methods for coercion to conformity, e.g., propaganda/denormalizaion. It is all dangerous superficiality.

Why is it still not recognized as neo-eugenics?

Magnetic said...

Sorry, FrancIs Galton was a man.

Anonymous said...

See you there Dick.

Dave Atherton.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for being totally off topic, but thought I would alert you to a new e-petition on the EU:
this is a war of attrition.

Magnetic said...

For some [verifiable] eugenics history, including American, of antismoking, see comments posted by “Magnetic” in the following blog (it'll save reposting).