Does The Henry Ford Study Show Hydroxychloroquine is Effective for COVID-19?

A recent Henry Ford health study showed that patients who were given the drug were less likely to die. Conservative media is all over this bit of news claiming that President Trump has been shown to be right, and that the rest of the media should apologize. In fact, much of the media reporting on this study has failed to mention the critical limitation of this study: It was only a retrospective study.

Don’t get me wrong, retrospective studies are definitely useful, and can help us find correlation. The problem is that they’re not good enough to establish causation. In order to actually determine causation you need to have strict controls over other potential variables, including nefarious problems like selection bias. Without these controls we really cannot say if some other variable is affecting the outcome of patients. Even the study itself had the following warnings on attached to their findings (my emphasis added):

However, our results should be interpreted with some caution and should not be applied to patients treated outside of hospital settings. Our results also require further confirmation in prospective, randomized controlled trials that rigorously evaluate the safety, and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine therapy for COVID-19 in hospitalized patients. Considered in the context of current studies on the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, our results suggest that hydroxychloroquine may have an important role to play in reducing COVID-19 mortality.

We also have some previous studies which have shown us that hydroxychloroquine was not effective as a treatment for COVID-19. The only thing that is really going to settle the question is a large scale randomized control trial. Until we have such a trial I don’t see how anyone is justified in claiming that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19. It’s little more than a premature assessment of a drug without the systematic efforts to determine efficacy.

In the end, regardless of what comes out of any further trials, I think it was still irresponsible of Donald Trump to talk about hydroxychloroquine as if it was some kind of miracle cure. He did not have good evidence that the drug is effective. I don’t care what kind of “good feelings” Trump had about this drug. Follow the data, not your feelings. The real world doesn’t care what your feelings are, and you may be risking lives unnecessarily.

Seriously Christians, How Do I Get From “Jesus Rose From the Dead” to “Therefore Christianity Is True”?

A major problem that I have with Christianity is that many Christians link the resurrection as proof that Christianity is true. But I don’t understand how this follows. Can anyone explain how this follows?

Even if Jesus was raised (or rose) from the dead this certainly doesn’t make Christianity true. I’ll certainly grant that the resurrection is a necessary condition for Christianity to be true, but I do not see it as a sufficient condition.

I would love for someone, frankly anyone, to connect the dots between “Jesus rose from the dead”, and “therefore Christianity is true.” For the sake of argument I’m willing to completely grant that Jesus rose from the dead. Go!

The Kalam, Yet Again

Capturing Christianity (Cameron Bertuzzi) is engaged in a YouTube debate with Rationality Rules about the kalam. Cameron seems to love the kalam, and it would appear that he thinks it’s a good argument for the existence of God. He has merchandise dedicated to it, and has defended it a few times.

I have two question for Cameron. Have you ever actually talked with some modern cosmologists about the argument, and what they think about the second premise? Do you know if cosmologists in general think we have good reason to believe that the universe actually began to exist

I think one of the best criticisms of those who use the kalam is that they don’t actually talk to cosmologists – you know, the people who would actually understand cosmology? I certainly can’t think of any religious apologist who has any relevant expertise in cosmology. Most religious apologists have a background in philosophy, or theology, or simply have no relevant expertise whatsoever. So why do they think that they have better answers than the scientists they never talk to?

When Robert Lawrence Kuhn, host of Closer To Truth, asked Sean Carroll “did the universe begin?” the answer that Carroll came back with was very clear: Cosmologists still aren’t sure, and proceeded to outline some of the problems with the Big Bang Theory, and General Relativity.

Now don’t get me wrong,  I do get it. The kalam is a very popular argument among Christians today, but that doesn’t mean that the science actually supports the argument. Scientists haven’t figured out yet if the universe even began to exist,  let alone that the cause must therefore be some kind of god (which is a non-sequitur, and not even a hypothesis.)

Apologists are happy to cherry pick out the parts that lead them to their prefabricated conclusion, even if those bits aren’t entirely correct. They meander along, all while ignoring what the experts have to say. But then again, apologetics isn’t in the business of even trying to be correct. Apologetics is in the business of convincing believers that they have good reasons for their beliefs, and that’s an enterprise that’s ripe for leading people away from the truth.

 

Quote Examination

While reading a tribute to conservative Calvinist Christian Steve Hays over on Triablogue, I came across the following quotation that I want to examine closer.

“For Christians, a fatal disease is a gift. A friend. A doorknob out of this world into a better world. What is dreadful is not the prospect of death, but a world without a doorknob.”

I think this sums up that which is the death cult of Christianity. I think that too many Christians see death as a blessing, but they may in fact be walking through a doorway into a world that one cannot escape.  Even if there is an afterlife, I think you’d do well to know what you’re getting into before you leap face first. The Christian afterlife may be better, but it may also be infinitely worse. Is it not ironic that the world they wish for after death my in fact be one without a doorknob?

It is my position that life without any possibility of death would be a nightmare for beings like us. While I may enjoy the prospect of getting to live for a million years, I cannot imagine the horror of knowing that I can never escape my experiences. No matter how long you’ve lived you’ve barely had a taste of how much time you’re going to have to endure.

Just think about something that is pleasant at first, but becomes boring over time. Everything we experience is like that. Remember how good your first experience of something was, and how after many times it was no longer exciting. It may still be good, but it’s no longer exciting. Do you really believe that heaven is going to be an eternity of new, and exciting, experiences? I doubt it.

I don’t think most people even think about what kind of horror it may be to have to deal with eternal life. I think that life is a blessing because it is finite, and that we have the opportunity to experience it. We should be glad for whatever time we get, and work to make the most of it, as there are billions of other sentient beings that we have to share this life, and this world, with.

I want you to ask yourself these two questions, and think about them seriously:

1. If you knew that you were going to die next week, what would you do with the time you have left? Would you be more apt to do things you consider important?
2. If you knew that you had an eternity of life ahead of you, how would you motivate yourself to do anything? How does something become important when you have a literal forever to do it?

I think that once you start to understand the power of these kinds of questions you may start to see why I value my life in this world, and why an eternal life may not be all that you think it is. I certainly am not interested in it.

Quote of the Day From SlightlyMadAngus

After my previous post was shared on Reddit, I found the following reply from user SlightMadAngus, that I thought was worth sharing on this blog.

One of the things that makes me the most sad & pessimistic about the long-term survival of our species is the anti-intellecualism that exists. I see it all the time in older Americans (of which I am very close to being a member) that are now retired from non-professional positions. They use terms like “liberal college-boys” and “rich elite” to describe anyone that isn’t a member of their tribe of MAGA nationalist zealots.

I think this is a very dangerous group. If you see education and critical thinking as a threat, what chance will your children have? My father was a farmer that dropped out of school after the 10th grade to work on the farm. The one thing he wanted for his children was for us to have a better life than he had. He wanted us to stay in school and get as much education as we possibly could. My parents tried to remove any barriers to my education – they made it clear they would pay for as much as I could get for as long as they could. Sure, I was also expected to get part-time jobs and do what I could to offset costs, but they were always there to back me up. My father once told me: “Make your money with your brain, not your back.”

With that said, I also want to make it clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a job in the trades or any other non-professional career. These are noble jobs that should be seen as every bit as important as any other job. Not everyone can be a doctor or engineer, and not everyone can be skilled welder or plumber. I couldn’t do it, that I know for sure.

We need to eliminate these class distinctions and value the contributions of everyone. We need both Phds and house painters. We need to make sure everyone has the opportunity to be what they want to be.

 

Answers from Trump Supporters

Nan's Notebook

Copied from a Facebook post:

THIS WAS ON A FRIEND’S PAGE: An anguished question from a Trump supporter: ‘Why do liberals think Trump supporters are stupid?’

THE SERIOUS ANSWER: Here’s what the majority of anti-Trump voters honestly feel about Trump supporters en masse:

That when you saw a man who had owned a fraudulent University, intent on scamming poor people, you thought “Fine.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/04/10/trump-university-settlement-judge-finalized/502387002/)
That when you saw a man who had made it his business practice to stiff his creditors, you said, “Okay.” (https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-hotel-paid-millions-in-fines-for-unpaid-work)
That when you heard him proudly brag about his own history of sexual abuse, you said, “No problem.” (https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/list-trumps-accusers-allegations-sexual-misconduct/story?id=51956410)
That when he made up stories about seeing Muslim-Americans in the thousands cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center, you said, “Not an issue.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/11/22/donald-trumps-outrageous-claim-that-thousands-of-new-jersey-muslims-celebrated-the-911-attacks/)
That when you saw him brag that he could shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and you wouldn’t care, you…

View original post 580 more words

I Think Asimov Was Right

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’

It’s frustrating dealing with scientifically ignorant people. They proudly display their ignorance as a badge of honor. They care not how wrong they are, nor do they care to upgrade themselves. They are right, and truth is on their side. They simply cannot be reasoned with, because reason has nothing to do with their ignorance. They are confident and, much like their belief in belief, nothing will shake that confidence.

There are so many false notions that I would love to dispel from so many people, but one of the most frustrating is the lay misunderstanding of what the word “theory” means in the context of science. So many hear the word “theory” and immediately think of it as simply conjecture, and they dismiss anyone suggests otherwise. Science is not a religion, nor is it game that intellectual elites play in order to control the masses. It’s the single most reliable method of investigation that humans have ever come up with, yet the ignorant are happy to throw science under the bus in order to protect their sacred beliefs.

I struggle every day to come to grips with the perverse contentment with ignorance, as people hold up the Bible on one hand and shout that “evolution is lie from the pits of hell” on the the other. That we have engineers and scientists who have created the incredibly complex technologies that we rely on, all while a large segment of the general public holds up their millennia old holy book as a trusted source of truth on the other. Where people are more likely to believe in literal angels than accept evolution.

This same anti-intellectualism has given rise to the politics we see today. It has also given rise to a President who spouts nearly a dozen falsehoods every day, yet his supporters don’t seem to care. “He speaks his mind”, and “he’s protecting religious freedom” they will tell me as a reason they love him. The delusion runs deep.

I don’t pretend to be able to see the future, but I am deeply concerned about the segment of the population that will wantonly disregard reliable methods of determining truth, and accept ignorance as fact. The United States will continue to decline as long as the delusional worldview of fundamentalist evangelical Christians is held up as a virtuous.

The Political Landscape

With all of the political turmoil that’s been going on in the US, and as somebody who is very much anti-authoritarian, I find myself dismayed at recent events, and simply shaking my head in disbelief.

From police shooting rubber bullets, and using chemical weapons, on peaceful protestors and the media, who defy imposed curfews, to the removing of peaceful protestors so that Trump could stage a photo-op in front of a church with a Bible in his hand, I’m really starting to be thankful I’m not an American. Don’t get me wrong, Canada has its problems, but we’re certainly not the haven for conservative authoritarianism that I see to the south. I tend to see many of the problems of my southern neighbor as being exacerbated by the fervent religious conservatism that seems to pervade the society.

All of these events have left me wondering. I know that most people who identify as atheists tend to be (but aren’t necessarily) more left leaning. I’m curious where people stand on the political landscape. There’s a fairly simple test that you can take that will take your answers and try to find where you stand. I took the test back in February, and my result is above.

Take the test and post your results below.

 

Conversion Stories vs Deconversion Stories

Christians do seem to love conversion stories. It seems I can’t read the web pages of most (but certainly not all) apologists and ministries without reading some story about how an “angry atheist” found Jesus, and has found peace. It certainly seems to make other Christians feel good about their beliefs when other people also find reasons to believe.

While I grant that Christianity is growing, largely because of birth rates in Africa, and evangelical conversion efforts in east Asia, looking closer to home the picture isn’t so rosy, as the religious “none’s” have been growing significantly over the last two decades, mostly at the expensive of Christianity. I’m sure, if I looked hard enough, I could find at least two deconversion stories for every western conversion story that is presented.

But here’s the thing: These stories don’t tell us what is true. The fact that people are convinced of something, or that their life got “better”, is not good evidence that the belief is true. Similarly, deconversion stories, regardless of how prominent the person is, don’t tell us that Christianity is false. The truth value of a proposition isn’t affected by what people believe.

A few days ago Capturing Christianity posted something I agree with. He posted:

When a celebrity walks away from the Faith, it gives you this many good reasons to reconsider your trust in Christ: 0

The same is true when somebody converts. It also gives you no reason to believe that you have good reasons to “trust in Christ.” With this caveat, this is one of the few times I find myself agreeing with one of his posts.

My point is this: Christians, please stop posting your feel good stories about people converting to Christianity, as if it is a good reason to believe. As a skeptic, there’s only one reason I would ever want to hear about a conversion story:  They actually provided good intellectual reasons for their decision. As it stands every conversion story I’ve ever come across has been because of emotional reasons, or employed fallacious reasoning. Good objective evidence, and sound reasoning, for what they believe is still not there!

Quote of the Day: 10 Reasons for Atheism

I found the following posted in the comment section of a Capturing Christianity’s YouTube “Community” post, by a user who goes by the name “Theo Skeptomai.” I think it’s well written, and does a good job of articulating why this person is not a theist.

Hello. I am an atheist. I define atheism as suspending acknowledgement of the existence of gods until sufficient evidence can be presented. My position is that I have no good reason to acknowledge the existence of gods.

And here is the evidence as to why I currently  hold to such a position.

1. I personally have never observed a god.
2. I have never encountered a person whom has claimed to have observed a god.

3. I know of no accounts of persons claiming to have observed a god that were willing or able to demonstrate or verify their observation for authenticity, accuracy, or validity.
4. I have never been presented a valid logical argument which also employed sound premises that lead deductively to a conclusion that a god(s) exists.
5. Of the 46 logical syllogisms I have encountered arguing for the existence of a god(s), I have found all to contain multiple fallacious or unsubstantiated premises.
6. I have never observed a phenomenon in which the existence of a god was a necessary antecedent for the known or probable explanation for the causation of that phenomenon.
7. Several proposed (and generally accepted) explanations for observable phenomena that were previously based on the agency of a god(s), have subsequently been replaced with rational, natural explanations, each substantiated with evidence that excluded the agency of a god(s). I have never encountered vice versa.

8. I have never experienced the presence of a god through intercession of angels, divine revelation, the miraculous act of divinity, or any occurrence of a supernatural event.
9. Every phenomena that I have ever observed has emerged from necessary and sufficient antecedents over time without exception. In other words, I have never observed a phenomenon (entity, process, object, event, process, substance, system, or being) that was created ex nihilo – that is instantaneously came into existence by the solitary volition of a deity.
10. All claims of a supernatural or divine nature that I have encountered have either been refuted to my satisfaction, or do not present as falsifiable.

ALL of these facts lead me to the only rational conclusion that concurs with the realities I have been presented – and that is the fact that there is no good reason for me to acknowledge the existence of a god.

I have heard often that atheism is the denial of the Abrahamic god. But denial is the active rejection of a substantiated fact once credible evidence has been presented. Atheism is simply withholding such acknowledgement until sufficient credible evidence is introduced. It is natural, rational, and prudent to be skeptical of unsubstatiated [sic] claims, especially extraordinary ones.