[extropy-chat] Are vaccinations useless?

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Tue Mar 14 21:19:31 UTC 2006

On Mar 14, 2006, at 12:54 PM, Hal Finney wrote:

> The excerpt I posted from the "Economics of Health Care" textbook
> yesterday was intended to confirm the point that the consensus in the
> field is that medical practice played a small or even insignificant  
> role.

Role in what precisely?

> The book goes on to discuss an area where there is genuine  
> controversy,
> namely the relative contributions of public health measures such as
> improved sanitation, quarantines, and standards for the safety and
> handling of food, versus the role of improved nutrition.  Both seem to
> have played a part but some researchers emphasize nutrition and others
> give more credit to public health efforts.

Why choose between good and needed and good and needed?

> Overall, the book makes it clear that this is all still very much in
> dispute and the decline in mortality post 1750 must be considered a
> puzzle at this time.

Sounds like a pretty silly book.

> Samantha keeps demanding to know what is the alternative hypothesis.

As Rafal pointed out some wild claims were made the title of this  
long-winded thread and some swags at alternate theories were made and  

> But you shouldn't need an alternative to decide that your existing
> hypothesis is contradicted by the data.

What hypothesis?  That vaccination is useful?  That medical practice  
in general contributes to health and longevity?  That it is even useful?

> Sometimes the fact is that
> you have to admit that you just don't know.  You shouldn't cling to a
> contradicted theory just because you don't have something better.

I have seen no strong contradictions.  Science and more importantly  
applied science works by using the current best theory for the area  
in question.  Would you have us stop vaccinations or various medical  
and hygienic practices as "questionable"?  Exactly what do you think  
should be the outcome of this little discussion?

> Several commenters here have noted with relief that the evidence I  
> have
> presented does not seem to reject the role of medical and scientific
> research in improving longevity.  I don't know that it necessarily
> confirms it, either, though.  As I said, it is really still a mystery
> what effects played a predominant role.  From what I have read it is
> possible that improved knowledge of germs and contagion has helped  
> make
> health measures more effective.

There is no room for doubt about this at all.

>   OTOH Robin has citations to research
> indicating, for example, that improved water supplies don't help.
> I've only spent a few hours studying this; he has spent years.

Drinking disease carrying or polluted water is just as good for you  
as drinking clean water?  by what magic?  By what theory of the  
nature of human nutrition, disease, and so on?  If the data seems to  
say that there is little need for improved water supplies then either  
the data is wrong or spurious conclusions are being drawn from it.

> In any case, I don't think we can justify a feeling of relief even  
> if it
> does turn out that medical knowledge has helped.  Go back to the  
> strong
> claim that "medicine", defined as services delivered by doctors, has
> played an insignificant role in extending life.

Services extended by doctors is only one part of our medical  
knowledge and its application so this is not very acceptable.  One  
can easily point to a large number of people who would be dead  
without the intervention of doctors.  Again, where are you going with  
this?  Should we have less doctors or stop going to them?

> Redefining medicine to
> include washing your hands doesn't make this uncomfortable fact go  
> away.

What "fact"?

> Reset your mind to the state it was in a few days or weeks ago and  
> I think
> you will find that this claim sounds completely insane.  Russell  
> compared
> our discussion to those who insist we never landed on the moon.
> Look at Robin's paper, "Fear of Death and Muddled Thinking: It Is  
> So Much
> Worse Than You Think," <http://hanson.gmu.edu/feardie.pdf>.  He really
> lays it on the line there.  Most people's heads will explode when they
> read it.

If it advocates some of what I've seen here it isn't worth my time.

> The two excerpts I posted yesterday both offered reasons why  
> vaccination
> and antibiotics are thought to have been of relatively little benefit.

Okay.  I am done with this pointless discussion.

- samantha

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