Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Basic Science is Pissing Me Off

Image Credit:

This morning,  I was listening to the Diane Rehm show on NPR while in the car.  She had a panel of experts on climate change on the air.  Just as I got to my destination, the question of the rate of change of temperature increase was raised.  Immediately an argument broke out between the "climate change naysayer" and one of the "climate change alarmists" (terms I heard used on the show). Unfortunately I got to my destination and had to leave the car before the argument was resolved.  But the gist of the argument up to point that I departed was that the naysayer claimed that the rate of temperature change had not changed appreciably and one of the alarmist said that it did change appreciably.   

OK world, do you mean to tell me that how much the rate of change of world average temperatures has changed in the past x number of years can be an arguing point?  Is science that fricking arcane that something as simple as how much change has there been in the rate of change in the increase in global temperatures is up to debate?  To be honest, I am afraid to go will probably result in an afternoon vastly different numbers supporting what ever conclusion that you wish to have prior to looking.  State your conclusion, then go look for the facts.  You can find a website to support any conclusion you wish.    

One would think that it should be fairly easy.  In 1910 the average world temperature was bla.  In 1920 it was bla bla.  Bla bla minus bla equals so many degrees per decade, divided by 10 equals so many degrees per year.     Of course it will be in fractions of a degree.  Do the same for 2010 minus 2000 and you have another piece of data.  Do it for all the decades in-between and you should have some idea of WTF the rate change is and if there is an increase in the rate of change of the rate of change in the last 100 years.  It would seem to me that this could be done with a table of accurate temperature statistics and a calculator.  So how under the sun can there be any room for experts to be arguing with each other on a national radio show?  Well it is obvious that I don't have the intelligence to understand why something as simple the rate of change of the rate of change of world average temperatures over a period of time could be open for argument.  So who do you want to believe?  

Figures don't lie but liars can figure.  

Another example that has been biting my ass here recently... let's presume that I am about to be the proud parent of a baby boy.  The question of circumcision comes up.  I want to do the best thing for my son.  Can I get an honest answer, should I circumcise my son?  Go to the American Academy of Pediatrics and you will find a wishy washy perhaps...something that falls along the lines of well the medical efficacy exceeds the risks so it should be available to those who wish to do it and insurance should pay for it but we do not at this time recommend it as a routine procedure.  Well if it is so damned wonderful, why shouldn't it be routine?  

So you start to look a little further and you find out about the AFRICAN STUDIES!!!!  SIXTY PERCENT REDUCTION IN HIV TRANSFER!!!!  Holy hell, sign that lad up for a snipity snip on the little pee-pee. What the hell it is just a flap of skin!  But then if you stop and ask yourself well wait what does a 60% reduction in HIV transfer mean, it gets a bit murky.  Do 200 guys go get laid without condoms on Saturday night with infected partners, 100 of them are circumcised, 100 are not.    On Sunday morning, are there going to be 140 guys infected with HIV and 60 circumcised guys that are not?   No.  It was something like 1300 guys in each group over a certain period of time.  At some point in time, 3.something% of the intact guys had HIV.  But, 0.6% less of the circumcised guys had HIV.  The study was stopped for humanitarian reasons.  You see 0.6 times 100 is 60 voila!  A 60% REDUCTION IN THE TRANSFER OF HIV.  Why was the study stopped?  Oh humanitarian reasons, but now do we know how the numbers pan out over 5 years or 10 years?  Could there be a convergence?  Could there be any chance that the study was stopped when nice set of numbers that proved the researcher’s preconceived conclusions were obtained?  

There is a lot of criticism of the African studies, and a lot of criticism of the criticism of the African studies.  So what is a parent to do?  

Well first you may ask yourself,  what are the prevailing rates of HIV transfer in Europe where circumcision is rare compared to the US where it is very common.  You will find that Europe is not dying off 60% faster than the US from a plague of AIDs.  Depending on who you want to believe you may find that the rate of transfer is less in Europe, and I am sure you can find numbers that would say that it is greater than the US.  

You may further want to ask yourself, with this 60% reduction in the transfer of HIV why is not the whole world embracing circumcision and, shit, while your at it trim of some earlobe as well just in case you get bit by a rabid bat on the ear.   

You might also ask what does severing 15,000 nerve ending do to a penis?  Oh look at the US, no effect! Oh really?  Do we know that or do we assume that?   If you don't study a problem, you will not discover any deleterious findings.  Everything is OK.   Have we ever studied what circumcision does to marriages over the long haul?  No effect?  No pre-mature ejaculation?  No effects at an advanced age?  I have read that Viagra sales are the highest in the US and Israel.  Could that be due to the fact both countries are in the northern hemisphere?   

So why can't I find a simple answer to should I get my kid circumcised?  All this science, all these experts, and I have to rely on good old basic common sense.  

Do you play Russian roulette with two bullets in the chambers of a six gun?  That's what a 60% improvement works out to.  Yep it is better than playing Russian roulette with 6 bullets in the chambers, but not as good as playing with an empty gun or better yet a cap pistol.   Anyone who thinks they are not going to get HIV because they are circumcised is playing Russian roulette (with two bullets by the African study numbers, and all 6 by what I believe).  Play it long enough, you will blow your head off with one bullet in the chamber none the less two.  

So here is your choice parents.  You can get your son circumcised and if he does not want to get HIV, or HPV, or gonorrhea, or syphilis, or genital Herpes, or super gonorrhea, or chlamydia, or something we don't even know about yet because unprotected sex will always be a wonderful vector for disease, he will have to wear a condom 100% of the time when having sex with casual partners.  Or you can leave your son intact, and he will have to wear a condom 100% of the time when having sex with casual partners.  

Oh wait I forgot the old standby.  Penis cancer.  Circumcision reduces the chance of getting penis cancer.  One in 100,000 men get penis cancer in the US.  In Denmark, where circumcision is rare, it is 0.82 men per 100,000.  In the US, a man has a 1 in 1437 chance of getting penis cancer in his life time.  Denmark it is 1 in 1694.   An American male has a 1 in 769 chance of getting breast cancer.  To put that in context, a woman has a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer in her life time.  I haven’t seen any plans for routine infant mastectomies.  Oh wait I am bringing in a straw man in the argument, we are talking circumcision here.    

Well the choice for circumcision is yours.  It should be your son’s choice and only his choice, but that is not how we play it here in the US because we have rights, and no one has the right to tell us what to do with our children.  And remember, if your son decides that he is a little pissed off at you 20 years from now because he has something less than a fully functional pecker, well just remind him that it is none of his business.  Nobody can tell you what to do with your kids.  Also remember that once the steak has been put through the meat grinder, you have ground meat...but you can never get the steak back.  Choose wisely!     

So going back to my title,  is it that I am really pissed at basic science, or am I pissed at how basic science can be manipulated by any lying bastard to prove or disprove what ever piece of bullshit chicanery that suits their needs?   Is anyone interested in the truth?  Why can’t I trust the opinion of experts? 

EDIT June 16, 2013:  It seems that I am not the only one concerned about basic science.  I found this article in today's paper:

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, June 16, 2013, Science, heal thyself: The threats from within and without        

EDIT June 17, 2013: It seems that I am not the only one concerned about the AAP's recommendations regarding circumcision:

Pediatrics, Cultural Bias in the AAP's 2012 Technical Report and Policy Statement on Male Circumcision, March 18, 2013

Note: Pediatrics is the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

EDIT 7-26-13:  There is a very well written and poignant account of a mother's struggle with the decision for circumcising her sons at Lilly Cannon's Moralogus:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Palace Malice and Mike Smith Win The 2013 Belmont

Image Credit: Wikipedia, 2013 Belmont Stakes

It was a disappointing day for Rosie Napravnik fans.  I was really hoping for a win for the girls, Rosie and her filly horse Unlimited Budget.  It would have been a great day for women, Julie Krone won the Belmont 20 years ago and I was hoping for a repeat performance from Napravnik.  None the less, Rosie still made history yesterday, she is the only woman to ever ride all three Triple Crown Races in one year.  Rosie finished 6 and received no purse earnings in the million dollar race.  All was not lost however, Rosie won the Easy Goer Stakes aboard Power Broker.  The $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes was another race ran at Belmont yesterday.

Here is a video recap of the Belmont Stakes:

Mike Smith aboard Palace Malice wins the Belmont.
Image Credit: Julio Cortez/ AP
Congratulations to Mike Smith and Palace Malice who won the race with a 3 and 1/4 length lead over Oxbow in second and Orb in third.  Orb was the favorite with 3 - 1 odds.  Preakness winner Oxbox had 5 - 1 odds and Palace Malice came in at 13 - 1 odds.  All theoretical to me, I don't bet.  Even though there was no chance for a Triple Crown winner this year with Orb winning the Derby and Oxbow winning the Preakness, the Belmont proved to be an exciting race that was supposed to decide the Triple Crown feud between Orb and Oxbow...Mike Smith and Palace Malice had other ideas...great race.

Image & Video Credits:

Belmont Logo:  Wikipedia, 2013 Belmont Stakes

Belmont Video:  YouTube, Palace Malice - 2013 Belmont Stakes (G1), New York Racing Association

Mike Smith Wins:  The Miami Herald, Palace Malice gana el Belmont sorpresivamente