Friday, April 28, 2006

The new lies about women's health

An article in Glamour states that Political groups tell them, the government buys them.
Dr. Shaber tries hard to separate fact from fiction because, she says, "rumor and hearsay can start to seem real." In the past, she'd sometimes refer patients to government websites and printed fact sheets, or rely on those outlets to help create her own materials. Not anymore. "As a physician, I can no longer trust government sources," says Dr. Shaber.
Read the whole thing. Via Science Blog.

World Views

I just started a conversation over email with someone who believes in creationism. I know that guy personally, he is a nice and smart person. I knew that he is religious because he just started a career as a parishioner, although I did not know to what extent. It was a surprise to me that he believes in creationism. Since I do not know anybody else good enough that I would start a discussion, I decided to start with him.

Turnaround via email may take some time, but actually I think email is ideal for this sort of thing, because it allows for some time to think about a good answer.
The first thing he asked me is if I knew anything about the 'conceptof worldviews'. I am not sure if I do, or at least if I understand the same he does (I will find out, his answer is still pending). Well, as I understand it, it way we understand the world, how we make sense out of it.
My world view is certainly the scientific world view (having spent so much time with studying physics). This means that we try to find principles that best explain our observations. A very simple example: we observe things falling down. This can be explained by daemons pulling down the things, or by a force.
These two explanations are not equivalent: although, by just observing things falling down alone we cannot decide for one or another.
But the daemon version certainly needs more explanations, for example how the daemons were created, and their motivations, or how they do it. And there is no way to find out. The force version is simpler, although we do not know what exactly causes that force. This is an application of Occam's Razor. When we add additional observations to it, for example that the earth is round, and is circled by the moon, we can also explain other things, that is that masses attract each other and that the forces are proportional to their masses and inversely proportional to the square of their distances. And it allows to make predictions. For example that things fall more slowly on the moon. Try that with the daemon explanation: why should a daemon use less force on the moon than on the earth?
Well, this does not yet make the daemon version wrong. But, using Occam's Razor is so much more successful.
Sure, we still do not know what exactly causes the gravitational force, but we do have reduced the explanation of a wide range of phenomena to a single question, for which we may find an answer later. And, more important, it makes predictions, which makes it very valuable. We know what to expect next time a satellite is launched.
(later): This post by Palazzo makes it is a little more clear.
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