21 March 2020

Science to the rescue -- an elaboration

In my previous post on the testing of certain drugs as possible treatments for covid-19, I said:

Ignore what the politicians and political commentators say about this.  That's just background noise.  If there is to be any chance of mitigating the disaster now looming over the world, it is science, and only science, that will provide it.

This could use some elaboration to make the point clearer.

It's not just that most politicians and political commentators are completely unqualified to evaluate a scientific hypothesis, such as the potential of a medical treatment which is still undergoing testing.  The more important point is that they tend to slant whatever they are discussing to make it fit whatever their preferred narrative is.  This tendency is not confined to those on the right.  If Trump describes something as a hopeful development, for example, there is a tendency of commentators on the left to try to downplay and discredit it, because that fits their preferred narrative that Trump is usually wrong.  Now, Trump is usually wrong, but he's also the supreme example of a person who is unqualified to evaluate a scientific hypothesis.  His assertions about the potential efficacy of an untested medical treatment simply tell us nothing about it, one way or the other.

Science is unique among human strategies for analyzing reality in that it assumes that all humans, specifically including scientists, have biases which can distort their interpretation of their data.  Because of this assumption, it includes rigorous methods for filtering such biases out of its analyses.  The double-blinded controlled experiment (of which clinical trials for new medical treatments are an example) is probably the most effective such filtering method possible.  Repeatability -- the requirement that an experiment must be described in enough detail that other scientists can independently run a similar experiment and see whether they get the same results -- is another.

It is this diligence in filtering out human bias that has enabled science, and only science, to give us a rigorously accurate picture of reality, including accurate knowledge of which treatments for illness are effective and which are not -- unlike religion, folk wisdom, anecdotes, ideology, tradition, and what have you.

At this point, we do not know whether losartan or hydroxychloroquine will prove effective against covid-19.  There's some evidence that losartan blocks the process by which the virus attaches itself to cells and attacks them -- but we don't know yet whether this will actually work inside living humans to protect them from infection.  In testing in France, 75% of patients given hydroxychloroquine became virus-free after a few days -- but the tests were not double-blinded and the number of test subjects was too small to be conclusive.  Only by rigorous clinical trials can we find out for sure.

It doesn't matter what Trump says about these drugs, and it doesn't matter what other politicians and pundits say about them.  The only thing that matters is the outcome of the clinical trials.

That's what I mean when I say that if there is any hope of beating covid-19, only science can provide it.  Because only the process and methods of science can give us the truth about what works and what does not.


Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

You're right!

21 March, 2020 07:23  
Blogger Leanna said...

Science and logic always win out. I say keep giving people this combo of drugs. I would immediately jump on the bandwagon to be part of the study. People's lives are at stake.

21 March, 2020 07:29  
Blogger Mary said...

Unfortunately religion has done so much harm to science in the US.

21 March, 2020 07:54  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

That's the great thing about this ... is having that science and medicine professionals in the trenches, and there are so many today. Even whatever the outcome is, good or bad, political folks and preachers will probably use it for several years to come ... you know, like saying ... look what this party done or that party in the crisis of "20". Preachers will say that God shed grace or mercy on thee, or was angry or whatever, same ole same stuff out of those folks (heard one, heard em all). It also great that we live in an era with the technology we have ... I can only imagine what the Spanish Flu pandemic was like in 1918, with the lack of technologies, communications, equipment, safeguards, etc ... so I am grateful we have all these advantages today, at least. Sure, it's gonna be hard, but we have alot more tools.

Frankly, I see qite a few folks that are not very concerned ... I'm looking at the spring breakers at the beaches for example ... but too, they figure they're young, and even if they get sick, they will get past it, and get better. But folks like myself (I'm 64), need to take it more seriously. I went by my apartment yesterday to pick up a few personal items. A neighbour comes out of is place with his wife, he asked how's it going, how long will I be gone, etc (been gone now for 3 weeks from my neighbourhood), but he had open arms and was getting ready to hug me ... I backed up, and said ... "Hey guy, stand back, lets not touch". He sayz, something like "awwhh Tommy, I don't care if you got it ... we're friends, I'm in my 50s, if I die, I'll die with my buddy, etc" ... I knew right there he had too many drinks in him, he was actually kind of hammered (his small company closed, he filed unemployment, but wife is still working in a hospital) ... I said "Hey guy, I'm not thinking about dying right now, how bout let's just focus on living ... and if this gets smoothed out in a few months, we'll have a few beers together, eh?". So he said cool. I wasn't trying to be rude, I like the guy alot, I just figured it's better for all if we don't start touching too much, that way he don't have to remember to wash his hands while intoxicated. Seen this other guy over there ... he asked me "Hey Tom, do you think this virus is worse than the flu?" I told the guy "Absolutely ... like many times worse, from what I been gathering info on". So folks are all going to look at it in different levels of concern ... I wish folks could all get onboard in realizing the importance ... but(?) ... ohhh well.

21 March, 2020 09:55  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Debra: As usual.....:-)

Leanna: I hope they get plenty of volunteers.

Mary: True. But no matter how bad things get here, there are other countries that can do the same kind of research.

Ranch: Good for you for sticking up for yourself. That kind of thing is going to become more and more of a problem, especially with so many people still not taking the threat seriously.

We do have vastly more effective tools for fighting this than in 1918 -- or even than we did at the dawn of AIDS.

21 March, 2020 10:00  
Blogger Mike said...

Here's another possible lead to a vaccine.

21 March, 2020 15:15  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Encouraging -- science needs to be studying every possibility.

22 March, 2020 04:41  
Blogger Martha said...

Science all the way! And I wish everyone would do their part. There are so many people not taking it seriously.

22 March, 2020 06:12  

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