Your SARS-Cov-19 Knowledge: Is It Science, Or Just Another Opinion? When 6 Feet Isn’t Enough.

Prologue

I composed this article at the beginning of the pandemic – for one reason or another, I never published it. I simply came to the conclusion it is overkill, and I wondered “why” I would even have to state the obvious. I’m not necessarily rethinking this observation, but if it helps one person in making the decision for being more cautious, wearing a mask, getting the vaccine, or questioning their reason – then it has done its job. I am motivated in publishing this as there are 1000’s being diagnosed daily, and 70+ dying a day dying locally where I am. A peak worse than India is unfolding here. This is no game or conspiracy theory. This isn’t speculation. There is no government help here (at least for foreigners) and no medical assistance unless you have money.

While satire, this is no longer a laughing matter.

This article isn’t meant to be funny or condescending – regardless of which side of the aisle you are standing on. Its real intent is for you to question and understand your own ability to reason. Everyone should be asking what is their “risk of catching covid?” Really all that needs to be known about the pandemic is that you may or may not survive. You are taking your chances when it comes to exposure, you simply don’t know who the person(s) you encounter have come in contact with. Unless you are a hermit, with the current rate of infection there is a reasonable probability someone you know or will encounter will have come in contact with the virus. Assessing the likelihood of contracting covid-19 is complex, involving time and place. If you considered it 50/50 for each person you meet, the odds are against you from the onset. Considering the 50/50 chance of a coin toss, 50% for the first person to not have had an exposure, goes to 25% for the second (the odds of heads twice in a row). The more you flip the coin (the more contact with others) the greater the chance. Think of all the people you come in contact with (who have also come in contact with others) as being a coin. From checkout clerks, random people walking down the street, and almost certainly any healthcare worker are all potentially unintended sources. With the number of people we encounter each day, I am airing to the side of caution. Because human interaction is inevitable, prevention from something so communicable is key to minimizing the effect of exposure. Yes, there are risks associated with pretty much all medical treatments, but reason would dictate the risk is less with the currently available vaccines as opposed to contracting the virus. I have my own suspicions about the virus, but they are only opinions as I am not a virologist/epidemiologist/medical researcher and do not have access to the tools to do so.

So what follows is probably best considered tempered opinion as well. We all have a choice. All I can ask is for you to make the best choice for you. Keep in mind and respect the choices of others as they should likewise respect your choice. This includes infringing on their right to accept or reject being in your presence (pro or con vaccine/virus). Store owners have the right to reject access for any reason. I would hope wearing a medical mask isn’t one of them. Private party goers have a right to … well, party privately (protected or not), but not the same when it puts the public at risk. There is a balance here. The Darwinistic idea for the survival of the fittest (this will be for the ability to choose or the most intelligent) will win out in the end. Why take an unnecessary risk. Please choose wisely. While I may respect your decision, I do not have to agree with it any more than you do with mine.

My apologies in advance. I hope there is something here of use. Try to understand the science of things, but rely on a medical doctor for medical advice. They may not know everything or even be scientific but are the best we have when it comes from the frontlines of the pandemic. They know what is working and what isn’t (if only we could say that for our politicians). In the end, we are responsible for the final decision – and that is going to come down to who we trust the most. Professionals from the Holiday Inn Express, not so much.

Would you permit a politician or actor to perform your open-heart surgery?
If you live in a free country, why are you letting them make decisions for you now? You have a choice.

The Boring Article That Shouldn’t Have To Be Published
(Unless of course you want to know something about inductive and deductive logic.)

The Media’s Failure To Communicate

With the advent of the covid-19 coronavirus, eyes have turned to all matters of science. The public is being bombarded with exposes in the media-based more often than not on opinion [sic] which may or may not have a scientific basis. Many professional scientific fields have contributed to the characterizing of the biological functioning, and the chemical/drug and physical dynamics of the virus. On top of what is earnestly known, there are half-drawn conclusions and speculation from a myriad of media sources, some of which lack outright credibility and are non-authoritative and/or use sources that are not scientifically authoritative. These sources compromise the public’s understanding by not including or completely reflecting what the scientific community is trying to communicate. There is a further breakdown in the omitting or failing to provide understanding into the scientific community’s manner of logic and the level of certainty/uncertainty in such matters of a scientific nature. Both inductive and deductive reasoning are coming into play in addressing the current ongoing pandemic.

Creative Commons image

In all fairness, there is understanding for the sense of urgency, this is a matter of life and death. With the need to take action there is no margin for error, not only with treatment but also with credible decision-making information. The ongoing efforts to not only reduce and/or stop the spread of the virus (one will have to happen before the other), and in defining a suitable protocol for treatment – are weighted with the public’s need for the information itself. Temperament in everyone’s action, from honoring social distancing, the wearing of masks and good sanitation practices, if not for ourselves, then out of respect for our fellow man is required – logically communicating the reasons for these individual contributions has been a dismal failure. The inability to make good logical choices on the individual level are fostering pseudo-science and nonscientific conclusions. Some believe there is no virus, others are spreading misinformation about treatments. This lack of a scientific/medical basis only serves to jeopardize the health of everyone. As members of the public, we must understand our own reasoning and it wouldn’t hurt to understand the reasoning of the scientific community as well. This article is not about providing medical information, rather understanding some of the methodologies in logical decision making and why it is important in any conclusion you may draw from it depending upon the information pathway you have received it.

The uncertainty of conclusions

When considering scientific reasoning there are two principal means of drawing conclusions, deductive and inductive logic, and we must consider there is the role of uncertainty with each. Each perspective scientific discipline has its preference, both have their value. Additionally, with respect to the healthcare community, scientific or not, inductive reasoning has been key in the treatment of many diseases.

Sample of penicillin mold presented by Alexander Fleming to Douglas Macleod, 1935. Front three-quarter view, grey background. Attribution Creative Commons

Two examples include the discovery of the smallpox vaccine and the antibiotic penicillin. The smallpox vaccine, the discovery of penicillin and the treatment of the Spanish Flu are three examples of where inductive logic has played a role in treatment. For smallpox British physician Edward Jenner observed at the end of the eighteenth century that individuals who milked cows, and those that were exposed to cows, suffering from cowpox were immune to the smallpox infection. He inductively reasoned from this observation that a vaccine made from the smallpox lesions could be protective. Penicillin likewise was an inductive discovery, developed with deductive reasoning. Alexander Fleming in 1928 noticed a mold inhibited the growth of a bacterial culture he was working on. He cultured the mold and its resultant drug form has saved countless lives. During the Spanish Flu it was inductively noticed that patients treated with high doses of aspirin had a higher survival rate and it became the main treatment for such.

The method(s) behind of each of these examples of science have served society. Each requires a degree of “proofing” or experimentation for conformation. The greatest of which lies with the clinical trials and the countless treatment regimes doctors are attempting. Which method to take precedent is of debate. National Institute of Health (NIH) researcher Louise Cummings has published an article entitled Public health reasoning: much more than deduction where she advocates deductive logic, while valuable, should not be the only consideration when it comes to public health decisions.

“De Beaugrande and Dressler (1981: 93–94) state that ‘[h]umans are evidently capable of intricate reasoning processes that traditional logics cannot explain: jumping to conclusions, pursuing subjective analogies, and even reasoning in the absence of knowledge….”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4176304/

As a scientist, a huge caution would be advised when it comes to “jumping to conclusions” unless there is some validity to the conclusion, and such should be limited to good scientific practices of the discipline in question and not the layperson. … but, her point is well taken in that no stone should be left unturned when there is such urgency, less it is from a position of ignorance which would be ill-advised. Outside the scientific communities misinformation being spread via social media, as well as mainstream media regarding covid-19 treatments and its related vaccines has the potential to have serious public health consequences. With the frenzy to find solutions these observations and conclusions and the logic behind them are best left to the medical and scientific communities. To the point of Louise Cummings, cherry-picking information isn’t necessarily logical, nor is the method to acquire it.

What is logic?

deductive logic:

a conclusion is reached reductively by applying general rules which hold over the entirety of a closed domain of discourse, narrowing the range under consideration until only the conclusion(s) remains. In deductive reasoning there is no epistemic uncertainty.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deductive_reasoning

inductive logic:

“In inductive reasoning, the conclusion is reached by generalizing or extrapolating from specific cases to general rules resulting in a conclusion that has epistemic uncertainty.[2]

The inductive reasoning is not the same as induction used in mathematical proofs – mathematical induction is actually a form of deductive reasoning.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deductive_reasoning

The presence of epistemic uncertainty plays a role in both:

“… epistemic situations [involve] imperfect or unknown information. It applies to predictions of future events, to physical measurements that are already made, or to the unknown. Uncertainty arises in partially observable and/or stochastic environments, as well as due to ignorance, indolence, or both.[1] It arises in any number of fields, including insurance, philosophy, physics, statistics, economics, finance, psychology, sociology, engineering, metrology, meteorology, ecology and information science.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty

Uncertainty also arises in the medical sciences, where there are simply too many variables to account for – which is the reason for clinical trials.

Deductive logic has the benefit of the doubt being supported by experimental evidence and measurement of causality – which work to limit uncertainty. Inductive logic on the other hand relies on observation alone as a foundation for causality – this also applies to systems where observation is incomplete in the logical process. In terms of absolutes this presents a problem with inductive logic as no amount of observational data, regardless of the length of being unbroken, is logically sufficient to establish the truth of an unrestricted generalization. Inductive logic is subject to question and revision as additional observations/information is acquired. So as more information is acquired and verified the story of the coronavirus CovSars-2 will be better understood.

Should we consider other scientific methodologies?

Karl Popper, Attribution: creative commons

There are many different scientific methods that can be used with studies. Consider one such proposed in the 1930’s know as the falsification method, and give some thought as to how it could assist in rationalizing the current pandemic. Because inductive inference lacks measurable test-ability, the philosopher Karl Popper suggested the rationalization of a method called “falsification” to qualify a theory as scientific or non-scientific.

falsification logic:

“A theory is scientific if and only if it divides the class of basic statements into the following two non-empty sub-classes: (a) the class of all those basic statements with which it is inconsistent, or which it prohibits—this is the class of its potential falsifiers (i.e., those statements which, if true, falsify the whole theory), and (b) the class of those basic statements with which it is consistent, or which it permits (i.e., those statements which, if true, corroborate it, or bear it out).”

— Thornton, Stephen, Thornton 2016

Karl Popper argued that science would progress best using deductive (testable) reasoning as its central focus. He made an argument that inductive observation alone was insufficient as the basis for being considered an acceptable scientific method to state theories and laws from. To address this shortcoming of inductive “inference”, he replaced the classical observationalist-inductivist scientific method with falsification (deductive logic) as the criteria for distinguishing scientific theory from non-science and pseudo-science. Popper would outright replace the accepted method of induction with the idea of falsification. Popper defined the falsification scientific method as a means of demarcation (a reason to limit) theories and laws identified by inductive reasoning alone.

“All inductive evidence is limited: we do not observe the universe at all times and in all places. We are not justified therefore in making a general rule from this observation of particulars.”

Karl Popper – Theory of Falsification
By Saul McLeod

What is falsification?

When considering inductive reasoning, no matter how many positive examples of an inductive derived hypothesis, Popper argued, there may still be an observation where the hypothesis proves false. Because inductive reasoning implies a non-measured testable causality all theories derived from induction are falsifiable. Falsifiable meaning a conditional understanding of being true while searching for observations that would prove the observation false, or until such time deduction proves the induction derived theory is definitely incorrect.

Wikipedia gives the example:

“Falsification uses the valid inference modus tollens: if from a statement P (say some law with some initial condition) we logically deduce Q, but what is observed is \neg Q, we infer that P is false.

For example, given the statement “all swans are white” and the initial condition “there is a swan here”, we can deduce “the swan here is white”, but if what is observed is “the swan here is not white” (say black), then “all swans are white” is false, or it was not a swan.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability
Karl Popper, Science, & Pseudoscience: Crash Course
More in-depth “crash course” on Popper’s Falsification Methodology

Applying this to thoughts on the pandemic an analogy might be drawn; all people with contagious coronavirus express a visible symptom, a person has no visible symptom would imply, inductively, the person does not have the coronavirus – yet we know there are pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people that appear to spread the virus. With this last tidbit of information (now that the theory has been proven false) could likewise be reasoned, a person has no symptoms of corvid-19, they potentially could still be contagious … which anyone with any manner of implied reasoning would say is true until otherwise proved false, hence why wouldn’t you take precautions, like social distancing – even if you had reasons to doubt necessarily the disease itself.

Without making falsification too difficult, Popper’s point was that deductive reasoning was necessary for the validity of scientific theories and laws. He included the idea that there are meaningful theories that are not scientific, inductively reasoned. While Popper might question whether current medical treatments meet with falsification principles, being a man of reason it is equally reasonable that he would consider risks/rewards in his position in his personal dealings with the pandemic – if he were alive. So regardless of the method/process you choose, there comes a point of accountability – ultimately the receiver of the information (you the reader in this case).

So what?

Having read this far, the reader has to question the point of it all. Why consider any scientific methodology such as falsification? There are many trains of thought on scientific methodologies and logical thought processes, including “method-less creativity” and an “anything goes” rationale. This is a pandemic after all … should “anything go”? Equally, it turns out methods believed to be scientific are not considered science by the scientific community at large – enter pseudoscience. Confused? It really is all too much.

At some point the source of the information and its certainty/probability matter. Not relying on the appearance of being authoritative, asking questions may be the only way to know if the information is even noteworthy. Were there logically derived conclusions? Is there evidence? Was the article published in a journal representing the body of knowledge? … better yet, was there replication of the methodologies with the results being reproducible? Is there a peer group to substantiate the logic/results? All prudent questions when considering subjects of a scientific and important nature like treatments for this dreaded virus.

Peer-reviewed articles are noteworthy to mention as they seek to validate the researcher’s conclusions. Peer-reviewed articles are not infallible. Keep in mind they are often presented with disclaimers, such as “… additional research required”, etc. Peer-reviewed and professional articles are of a higher caliber compared to typical journalism. The less reliable (mainstream?) media outlets are biased on many levels, often driven by sensationalism for profit – feeding on the emotional nature of the audience.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dOHEw8izno

So, who do you trust?

With these questions, it is hoped the answer should be inductive to those reading this. For the record, I am not an immunologist, epidemiologist, nor virologist, or medical practitioner. As such you’d be ill-advised if I ever offered medical advice. Likewise, why would anyone consider a news anchor, social media star, or even a doctor outside the active area dealing with covid-19 as a credible source of advice? There is an order of precedent when considering the information of a scientific nature.

In the end, a chemist, virologist or drug researcher may know a lot about the science behind the virus and/or the medicines and treatments being developed, but that does not make them a medical practitioner. The final decision should lay with a capable and responsible physician guiding an equally well-informed and reasoned patient. At a minimum, the best information a layperson can rely on is good hygiene, social practices, and a healthy lifestyle until a solid medical solution is implemented. Scientific or not, understanding your own logic and reasoning is paramount.

Attribution: Creative Commons

When making use of your own inductive, deductive, or falsification reasoning please consider what you do know; people are getting sick, avoiding sick people (social distancing) keeps you from contracting viral illnesses, hence you should social distance under the current circumstances likewise. Don’t be the guy who phones the covid-19 testing helpline, while your wife is giving birth, for your covid-19 test results – discovering your test results are positive for the virus ( <– true story). It’s not just about you, but those you love, those you care about, and those you encounter along the way in your daily discovery of personal reasoning.

The Bottom Line

Use some reason here. Be hygienic. Wash your hands (not because I said so, but because your mom said so). Make an informed decision and recognize the consequences of your action and/or inaction.

Other than the natural process of eating I cringe at the thought of putting something like medicine or a vaccine in my body. I like the thoughts of hospitalization or death (of myself or the possibility of someone being infected by my negligence) even less. My decision is for self-preservation. I wear a medically approved mask, I am hygienic, and intend to get a vaccine when it is available for me – out of respect for those around me and ultimately for myself.

Thanks for your time, best of wishes to all that have made it this far, please share and like.

Learn more

If you have a school-age student that would like to learn more about science feel free to message me directly for additional information or you can sign up your school-age child for my Outschool class at:

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Image attribution:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inductive_and_deductive_reasoning_in_the_scientific_method.svg
“coronavirus-covid-19” by Nursing Schools Near Me is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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