News Recap for 7-10-20
Spectator US: Science isn’t meant to ‘follow the science’ – The debate over America’s reopening amid the coronavirus has eschewed science, says Dr. John Lee. Though lockdowns and precautions are often explained as being ‘guided by science,’ this is not the case. Instead, our leaders are being guided by models, bad data and subjective opinion. This unfortunate practice isn’t limited only to our COVID response—and helps explain why unreliable models and bad data drive so many policy decisions. Dr. Lee explains the difference between models and science:
“Let’s go back to the idea of Covid taking half a million lives: a figure produced by modeling. But how does modeling relate to ‘the science’ we heard so much about? An important point — often overlooked — is that modeling is not science, for the simple reason that a prediction made by a scientist (using a model or not) is just opinion. To be classified as science, a prediction or theory needs to be able to be tested, and potentially falsified… The only way to get an idea of the real-world accuracy of models is by using them to predict what will happen — and then by testing those predictions. And this is the third problem with the current approach: a willful determination to ignore the quality of the information being used to set Covid policy.”
STAT: Painful words: How a 1980 letter fueled the opioid epidemic– Nearly 40 years ago, a respected doctor wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine with some very good news: Out of nearly 40,000 patients given powerful pain drugs in a Boston hospital, only four addictions were documented. Reassured by the letter, doctors nationwide began prescribing opioids widely and spreading the “good news” further.
The letter was widely—and often uncritically and incorrectly—cited, encouraging doctors to prescribe opioids to patients suffering from chronic pains. These faulty citations led to the opioid crisis we see today, and show the dangers of misrepresenting scientific studies and taking findings out of context.
WSJ: Judge Questions Bayer’s Roundup Settlement Plan – Bayer said recently it would pay up to $10.9 billion to settle tens of thousands of current Roundup cases and create a system for handling future cases—which will be based off of a court-approved panel of scientists chosen to study Roundup’s potential carcinogenicity. But now the federal judge who must approve the class action says he’s likely to reject the plans for further study, questioning “whether it would be constitutional (or otherwise lawful) to hand the issue to a panel of scientists instead of judges and juries.”
Legal Newsline: We’re about to see if a class of nearly every American will be created in PFAS case – An impending class action lawsuit against 3M over its use of PFAS could wind up involving everyone in the country. Instead of suing on behalf of everyone harmed by the chemical found in products ranging from non-stick cookware to firefighting equipment, the lawyers seek to include anyone ever exposed to PFAS as a defendant.
Science Codex: New method estimates risks of hormone-disrupting substances in drinking water – Researchers in Sweden have developed a new method that can make it easier for public authorities to assess the health risks of hormone-disrupting chemicals in the environment. By using a large number of repeated computer simulations, the scientists are able to describe the risk in terms of probability. The new study does not focus on the risk of disease, however, instead describing the likelihood of hormone levels being affected in a certain population group. It is therefore only possible to give the risk at population level, rather than identify which individuals are affected.