Category Archives: Science

UPDATED: Medics WRONG, As They Often Are, On One-Size-Fits-All Mammography

Healthcare, Individualism Vs. Collectivism, Intelligence, Science, Technology

Years back, paleo warrior Karen De Coster was fired by her doctor for questioning the wisdom of the prescribed annual mammogram and refusing to submit to it. Uncoordinated, and in the same month, I was given my marching orders by my medic for a related infraction.

Just the other day, at the (new) doctor’s office, I was treated as an alien for suggesting that an ultrasound be performed for an additional data point, to alternate with the mammogram the provider kept pressing for. Be a daredevil, I suggested (not in those words, of course); get a different angle on the breast tissue! The providers’ response–from doctor to radiographer: “OMG! Nooooo … there’s a heretic among us. Reach for the smelling salts. Should we call security????!!! This could escalate.”

Pretty much.

Now the data suggest that mammography belongs not as an annual rule, but, rather, in the context of a personalized, individualized healthcare strategy, tailored to a woman’s genetic and general risk profile—the kind of holistic healthcare less likely under the trillion-dollar burden of ObamaCare.

From “American Cancer Society eases mammogram recommendations”:

In a major shift, the American Cancer Society is recommending that women at average risk of breast cancer get annual mammograms starting at age 45 rather than at age 40, and that women 55 and older scale back screening to every other year.

The new guidelines, published on Tuesday in JAMA, fall more closely in line with guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-backed panel of experts that recommend biennial breast cancer screening starting at age 50 for most women.

The Task Force’s 2009 recommendations to reduce the frequency and delay the start of mammogram screening were based on studies suggesting the benefits of detecting cancers earlier did not outweigh the risk of false positive results, which needlessly expose women to additional testing, including a possible biopsy. …

… The differences between the two sets of guidelines shows there is no single or correct answer for when and how often women should be screened for breast cancer, said Dr. Nancy Keating of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Keating, who co-wrote a commentary accompanying the new guidelines, said the differences between the two groups emphasize the need to talk to patients and understand their preferences about breast cancer screening. …

UPDATE: There are risk in radiation and in the exploration of false positives (biopsies or further interventions that cause disease). Overall, the data show that the annual mammogram doesn’t reduce mortality from breast cancer.

Cyril Wecht On Freddie Gray’s Likely Cause of Death

Criminal Injustice, Ethics, Race, Reason, Science

Forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht has been around the block a few times. Two minutes and 31 seconds into this typically tedious, CNN broadcast, Dr. Wecht ventures the following with conviction, about the Freddie Gray murder. I paraphrase:

Legs shackled and hands cuffed, placed in a prone position, face down—a position that has been banned for decades, claims Wecht—how, pray tell, did Freddie Gray run around, banging himself against the van’s interior?

The victim is yelling and screaming for help. His body is inert and the van is moving. Right there is the velocity needed to create the force for the injuries! Those injuries are not spontaneous pathological fractures; the injuries came as the body flapped back and forth, breaking the vertebrae in the neck and eventually severing the spinal cord.

Indubitably, the injuries were sustained by the police by their stopping Gray. Gray did not sustain those spontaneously. Also quite possible, says Wecht, and as I’ve hypothesized, the initial injuries were produced when police compressed and leaned into Gray’s back, to be aggravated by the flopping around in the van.

The Data Are In: Even American PhDs Are … Dumber

America, Education, Literature, Science, Technology

I’ve been saying it for years, based on my encounters with a relatively smart cohort, through this column. My husband, a South African PhD (received at the age of 24), has been saying it for a long time based on encounters in his field. Barely A Blog correspondent Myron Pauli, a physics PhD from MIT (of which he thinks poorly), has been saying it over these pixelated pages:

American millennials, in general—but even with masters degrees and doctorates—are unimpressive, to put it charitably. They do, however, score high in self-esteem, which is part of the problem. From a 2007, Ottawa Citizen article I wrote:

Paradoxically, while our high school students score near the bottom in international competitions, when asked to rate themselves, they consistently give themselves top marks. But then so do their parents and teachers. Thanks to constant, unwarranted worship, and no moral or rigorous intellectual instruction, American schools are full of lame and lazy megalomaniacs.

The Washington Post cites a recent report by “the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, better known as the OECDU.S,” according to which “millennials with master’s degrees and doctorates did better than their peers in only three countries, Ireland, Poland and Spain. Those in Finland, Sweden and Japan seemed to be on a different planet.”

Top-scoring U.S. millennials – the 90th percentile on the PIAAC test – were at the bottom internationally, ranking higher only than their peers in Spain. The bottom percentile (10th percentile) also lagged behind their peers. And the gap between America’s best and worst was greater than the gap in 14 other countries. This, the study authors said, signaled America’s high degree of inequality.

The “daunting” PIAAC Test showed that “U.S. millennials performed horribly.”

That might even be an understatement, given the extent of the American shortcomings. No matter how you sliced the data – by class, by race, by education – young Americans were laggards compared to their international peers. In every subject, U.S. millennials ranked at the bottom or very close to it, according to a new study by testing company ETS.

“We were taken aback,” said ETS researcher Anita Sands. “We tend to think millennials are really savvy in this area. But that’s not what we are seeing.”

By the way, note how forthrightly readers of the liberal WaPo discuss the well-documented racial differences in scholarly achievement. Alas, could the “dumbassery” documented in the WaPo article be manifesting in the reading and comprehension skills of its readers? For the article explicitly states that results were consistent across “class” and “race.” Yet many readers missed this crucial tidbit.

The information comes courtesy of Vox Day, who also quips as follows about the findings:

This isn’t surprising to me. Generation X had to understand its toys in order to play with them. There is nothing creative about a tablet or a smartphone. You can’t do anything on it. It’s basically a dumb terminal on the mainframe of the Internet. These digital natives are actually digital cargo cultists, comfortably familiar using things they don’t actually know the first thing about. As far as they’re concerned, it might as well be magic.

Gunning For Your Rights: Data Vs. Rights-Based Deductive Reasoning

GUNS, Individual Rights, Natural Law, Reason, Science

When motivating for the individual, natural rights to life and property always proceed from an argument from rights and not from a utilitarian, outcome-based position. After all, individual rights are not predicated on an optimal statistical outcome.

With respect to the Second Amendment right of self-defense: Ample empirical data exist of a statistically meaningful correlation between a well-armed citizenry—i.e., in middle-class neighborhoods as opposed to in gangland—and lower crime rates, in aggregate. New Hampshire is an example of a heavily armed, low-crime state.

Moreover, the benefits of a well-armed population redound to the non-carrying crowd. David Kopel is one of the finest and most respected 2nd Amendment scholars in the country. About these “free riders,” Kopel writes the following in the Arizona Law Review, Summer 2001, Symposium on Guns, Crime, and Punishment in America:

American homes which do not have guns enjoy significant “free rider” benefits. Gun owners bear financial and other burdens of gun ownership; but gun-free and gun-owning homes enjoy exactly the same general burglary deterrence effects from widespread American gun ownership. This positive externality of gun ownership is difficult to account for in a litigation context (since the quantity and cost of deterred crime is difficult to measure), and may even go unnoticed by court–since the free rider beneficiaries (non-gun owners) are not represented before the court.

In other words, the unarmed owe the armed among you a debt of gratitude. We subsidize your safety. Read on.

However, what if this were this not the case? What if, for some weird, wonderful, unlikely and inexplicable reason, arming yourself, commensurate with your right to defend your life, increased the aggregate crime rate in your community? Would this hypothetical empirical data somehow invalidate your inalienable, individual right to protect your life, loved-ones and property?

No! It would so do only if you accept that, de facto, you do not posses an inherent right to life and property.

For, at the risk of repeating what ought to be obvious:

… a right that can’t be defended is a right in name only. Inherent in the idea of an inalienable right is the right to mount a vigorous defense of the same right. If you cannot by law defend your life, you have no right to life.
By logical extension, Britons are bereft of the right to life. Not only are the traditional ‘Rights of Englishmen’—the inspiration for the American founders—no longer cool in Cool Britannia; but they’ve been eroded in law. The great system of law that the English people once held dear, including the 1689 English Bill of Rights—subsumed within which was the right to possess arms—is no longer. British legislators have disarmed their law-abiding subjects, who now defend themselves against a pampered, protected and armed criminal class at their own peril. Naturally, most of the (unnatural) elites enjoy taxpayer-funded security details. …