Sunday, August 26, 2007

Atlantic More and Less Salty

CCNet has a link to a Live Science article which says "Global Warming making North Atlantic less salty." This is followed by an article from New Scientist which says "Global warming is making North Atlantic more salty." I couldn't link to the New Scientist site as it is down for maintenance but the url is http://environment.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn12528&feedId=online-news_rss
20

which you can try when it comes back on line, from the August 23rd issue.

This is just one more example of why the general public distrusts science. A Joe lunchbox will see headlines like this and wonder something like "Why can't these scientists get it right?" Indeed. But this just highlights the fact that studies can be made to show just about anything. In reality they really can't prove anything. They're not designed to. They deal in probabilities. Their value to science lies in a study's ability to narrow down possible causes to a few at which time science then conducts a test to prove (or disprove) a causal connection. Without that test or experiment, there is no certainty or proof of causality, only a maybe.

Today, actual experiments are being ignored and statistical correlations and associations are being treated as if they were causal connections by use of the word 'link.' We constantly hear things like "cause A is linked to disease B" and so on. Yet the dictionary definition of link is connection or joining. But correlations are not connections or joinings. The public hears the word 'link' and wrongly assumes a causal connection.

The growing indifference to using experiments or tests to prove causal relationships, or to intellectual precision by calling associations 'links' is further evidence that "Government encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true, it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood." (Ayn Rand, Establishing of an Establishment.) The solution is to dismantle the establishment.

[CCNet is a scholarly electronic network edited by Benny Peiser. To subscribe,
send an e-mail to listserver@livjm.ac.uk ("subscribe cambridge-conference").] It's free.

Update: The link to the New Scientist article is here.

2 comments:

Lori said...

You say a disadvantage to retail clinics is that they are staffed by nurse practitioners or physician's assistants. I realize you are quoting the article, but are you familiar with what it takes to become a nurse practitioner? I do--I am in a program now; we are tested at the same level as medical students and held to the same expectations. We even attend many of the same lectures and have the same clinical experiences. We can specialize just like doctors. When we graduate and pass our national certification exams, we are expected to perform as well as our doctor counterparts do--in whatever specialty we are in.
In other words, it is not a disadvantage that nurse practitioners staff these clinics!

Mike N said...

Lori:
Yes. I was quoting the article. I should have made my own position a little clearer. I have high respect for nurse practioners and physician's assistants.

P.S. I will move your comment to the post on "health care attacked" so other readers will see it.