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The Pants Clause

June 19, 2020

Preach, Dr. Fauci:

One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are — for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable — they just don’t believe science and they don’t believe authority. So when they see someone up in the White House, which has an air of authority to it, who’s talking about science, that there are some people who just don’t believe that — and that’s unfortunate because, you know, science is truth. …

… It’s amazing sometimes the denial there is. It’s the same thing that gets people who are anti-vaxxers, who don’t want people to get vaccinated, even though the data clearly indicate the safety of vaccines. That’s really a problem.


Unmasked

Laura Ingraham seems to be confused about what a “coincidence” is:

“Meanwhile that same ‘science’ considers it unacceptably dangerous to attend large indoor gatherings,” she said. “I’m sure it’s just a coincidence these super-spreader events happen to exactly match the campaign rally that Trump had planned over the weekend.”

Well, no, it’s not a coincidence at all, but not the way you’re implying. Trump is holding a rally in spite of, and in defiance of, the warnings. It’s not like “science” made up the whole thing about the risk of infection in large, close gatherings only when Trump announced his rally. BUT OF COURSE SHE KNOWS THAT.

Zach Wolf at CNN explains why wearing a face mask should be like wearing pants (which I suppose fewer of us are doing these days):

The constitutional question is just poppycock, according to Jeremy Howard, a research scientist at the University of San Francisco who started the group Masks 4 All to advocate for a national mask rule in the US.

You don’t have a constitutional right not to wear pants, he said in a phone interview. With Covid-19 ripping through the country, wearing a face mask should be like wearing pants. “There’s a group of people making a fuss about their freedoms when in fact if they saw somebody out sitting on a bus not wearing any pants, they’re not going to go sit where that guy was sitting. They’d be like, ‘That’s not OK, you have to wear pants.'”

Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska threatens to withhold COVID-19 relief funds from municipalities if they require folks to wear face masks. Yep. If you do the thing that helps prevent COVID-19, you can’t have the things you need to deal with COVID-19.

A Pentecostal church in Oregon that openly defied restrictions on public gatherings is now the epicenter of a fresh outbreak in the state, with 236 people getting infected.

It is both reassuring and chilling to know that ours is not the only world leader who is in utter denial about the COVID-19 pandemic and how to deal with it. The Kathmandu Post excoriates Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli for, well, making stuff up:

Ignorance is bliss; denial is dangerous. Even as the entire world follows the same guidelines to count the number of casualties, Oli wants it otherwise. And in his denial, he is doing the deceased a great dishonour. … the least we need right now is the advice of a pseudoscience-obsessed prime minister who says all you need to do is drink warm water and sneeze the virus out of your system.

Ah, but has he tried injecting bleach?

There is apparently a conspiracy theory regarding the number 322 for tallies of new infections, in which folks seem to think it indicates clumsy collusion among nefarious actors to prop up the COVID-19 hoax. USA Today shows how this is obviously a load of garbage:

We this claim FALSE, as it is not supported by our research. The content of the claim is ridiculous, as is the implication there is something shady or manufactured in the way these tallies are reported. The volume of media reports on COVID-19, the number of cases and the number of local and regional units of government means there is ample opportunity for tallies to add up to just about any number, particularly in the low triple digits. Google searches prove out that 322 isn’t even a particularly common number.

A dude in Georgia was arrested for trying to sell a “misbranded pesticidal device” as a COVID-19 prevention, and another dude in California was indicted for hawking pills he said cured and prevented COVID-19.


False Witness

Benjamin Radford looks back on the case of multiple murderer Christopher Dorner, the ex-police officer who killed four people in 2013, to illustrate the many, many, many problems with reliance on eyewitnesses:

All this has implications for psychology and eyewitness reliability; if you tell people what to look for, any face or physique that is even remotely similar (large Black male, small blonde girl) can become a (false) positive identification. By some estimates, as many as one-third of eyewitness identifications in criminal cases are wrong, and nearly 200 people who were convicted of crimes based on positive eyewitness identifications were later exonerated through DNA evidence.

Gina Barreca at Psychology Today shares her love for her favorite Founding Father, Thomas Paine:

Thomas Paine … gets about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield. Even in an otherwise terrific 2015 children’s book about the Founding Fathers, Paine is portrayed as playing for the “Junior Varsity Team.”

Such a designation is only slightly more insulting than being dismissed as a “Filthy Little Atheist.” That designation was awarded to Paine by no less than Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt was later willing to amend his insult by revising “Atheist” to “Deist” so long as he could keep the words “filthy” and “little.”

I found this quite clarifying: Sabine Hossenfelder at Scientific American distinguishes between predictions and projections in terms of scientific modeling:

… a model can be good science without ever making predictions. Indeed, the models that matter most for political discourse are those that do not make predictions. Instead, they produce “projections” or “scenarios” that, in contrast to predictions, are forecasts that depend on the course of action we will take. That is, after all, the reason we consult models: so we can decide what to do. But since we cannot predict political decisions themselves, the actual future trend is necessarily unpredictable. …

… Predictions are also not enough to make for good science. Recall how each time a natural catastrophe happens, it turns out to have been “predicted” in a movie or a book. Given that most natural catastrophes are predictable to the extent that “eventually something like this will happen,” this is hardly surprising. But these are not predictions, they are scientifically meaningless prophecies because they are not based on a model whose methodology can be reproduced, and no one has tested whether the prophecies were better than random guesses.

Speaking of models, Daniel Oberhaus at Wired looks into the issues with the recent study estimating how many extraterrestrial civilizations there might be in the galaxy:

“To say all the Earth-like planets will produce intelligent life is a huge assumption and has some serious problems,” says Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the nonprofit SETI Institute in California [and a fellow of CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry]. “The habitable zone of our own solar system includes Mars and—depending on who you ask—Venus. But they’re not populated by intelligent beings, even though they’ve been sitting around just as long as the Earth has.”

One way statisticians learn about a large, unknown population is by taking a small sample and extrapolating to the larger population. This is, essentially, what Conselice and Westby did in their paper. The problem is they extrapolated from a sample of one, which is a bit like trying to predict a national election by surveying only yourself.

Donald Trump Jr. interviewed his dad, and asked him about aliens at Roswell. President Dad responded, “I won’t talk to you about what I know about it, but it’s very interesting.” Oh, I bet it is.


Exclusions and Redactions

Now we know what Jeff Sessions’ DOJ Religious Liberty Task Force was up to! According to documents acquired by Jason Leopold of BuzzFeed News, the task force ◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎ and then ◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎, but not before emphasizing the ◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎ of ◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎, amen.

The Ohio Legislature has passed the ridiculous Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act, which now heads to the desk of Gov. Mike DeWine. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

[The act] would allow public school students to pray, attend religious clubs and “See You at the Pole” gatherings, distribute religious material, wear religious clothing and turn in work expressing their faith beliefs.

State Rep. Timothy Ginter, a Mahoning County Republican and ordained minister sponsoring the bill, said it won’t create any new rights but will allow kids to engage in religious expression in the same manner and to the same extent that students can engage in secular activities.

The idea, he explained to cleveland.com last year, is if a student submits a painting for an art class that depicts a religious figure, they are not to be penalized on the religious content but they would be judged on their skill as a painter.

Tennessee governor Bill Lee has signed into law the state’s “fetal heartbeat” bill, which is really a hodgepodge of draconian restrictions on a woman’s right to not be forced to give birth.

I wonder if Gov. Lee and his pals are at all concerned about a real threat to unborn children, climate change. (I’m kidding, I don’t actually wonder about that. They’re not.) The New York Times reports:

Pregnant women exposed to high temperatures or air pollution are more likely to have children who are premature, underweight or stillborn, and African-American mothers and babies are harmed at a much higher rate than the population at large, according to sweeping new research examining more than 32 million births in the United States.

The research adds to a growing body of evidence that minorities bear a disproportionate share of the danger from pollution and global warming.

When the Boy Scouts announced they were instituting an “inclusion” merit badge, I was all, hey, that’s cool! And then Hemant Mehta reminded us that this inclusion still does not include people like him:

The commitment to addressing racism is important and welcome. But the broader commitment to diversity and inclusion is all kinds of ironic given that the Boy Scouts still excludes open atheists from joining or leading troops. … There’s no reason to keep the anti-atheist rule in place. It’s not like the Scouts can’t make changes to their principles — they did that already by accepting gays and girls. And if they insist that they’re in the business of teaching kids values like loyalty, kindness, friendliness, etc., there’s just no good reason to continue banning a large swath of people who might want to join. Who exactly would they be alienating by letting atheists in? Mormons and evangelicals? They’ve long abandoned the organization in order to double down on their own faith-based bigotry! Don’t worry about them!

Good advice in general.


We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at centerforinquiry.org/coronavirus.


Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.



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