[ExI] Saving your life
extropy at unreasonable.com
Mon Sep 24 17:43:22 UTC 2007
I've long been interested in critical thinking and routinely read
each book I come across that deals with it in some way. So when I
picked up a recent book
Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You
by Gerd Gigerenzer (who Eliezer has praised for his understanding of
Bayesian reasoning), I wasn't expecting anything new.
Meanwhile, I've also long been wary of doctors. I've had too much
personal experience with incompetence, and I'm aware of other
contributory factors -- fear of lawsuit, pharmaceutical company
marketing, narrow specialization, skewing of public information
available to patients, etc.
Still, I was stunned to read how wildly commonplace misinterpretation
of probability information is. Not just by patients, but by
physicians. In experiments the author (director of the Center for
Adaptive Behavior and Cognition at the Max Planck Institute for Human
Development) ran, over 90% of doctors who were provided information
on the accuracy of medical tests as they are typically described in
medical journals and textbooks drew incorrect conclusions. The
typical doctor overstated conditional probabilities *ten-fold*.
I haven't finished the book; what I've read so far was too compelling
to wait on. In particular, chapter 5 has an eye-opening analysis of
breast cancer screening that should be read by everyone who is or
cares about a woman.
He may be wrong, or out-dated in some respects, but this goes on my
list of books that command attention. Like Thomas Barnett or Alan
Dershowitz, he brings up issues that must be discussed and
thoughtfully analyzed, to confirm or rebut.
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