Discussions

This reminds me of an earlier topic I posted, “Evaluating Information – A Prepper Skill”. The ivermectin question is an important example. There’s certainly lots of information out there saying it’s effective, and other information saying it is not. Obviously I believe it is probably not. So here’s a looooong digression where I talk about the issue and the points you raise through that “evaluating information” lens, basically how I evaluate the info and why I reach the conclusions I do.  You mention talking to people who took ivermectin for covid and think it helped them recover. Social information can be very valuable in certain contexts, but I don’t find it reliable for medical information, especially when it conflicts with reliable research. That’s because we as humans are prone to some really strong cognitive biases when it comes to medicine. When faced with illness, people prefer to do something rather than nothing. When they recover, they tend to attribute the recovery to the thing they did, rather than the natural recovery process. There’s also the placebo effect – if someone takes something believing it will help them, many times they will actually feel better/show improvement. And then once a belief is formed – this thing works! – confirmation bias takes hold and we keep believing it even in the face of evidence to the contrary. That’s why the scientific method is so vital in medicine – we have so many psychological mechanisms in place to tell us something is effective when it isn’t, that we need the scientific method and well-designed studies that correct for confirmation bias and the placebo effect, to ascertain what actually works.   You mention “A friend in Belize has a son who’s a doctor in Honduras, who says that the government there recommends that it be used to treat Covid.” I can’t confirm that but I don’t doubt it….there were early studies that were really promising for ivermectin, and some doctors/governments got on board with recommending it. It’s a safe (when used correctly) and pre-approved drug, so with some indication it may be effective, they went ahead. Yet they are outliers, especially as more and more evidence mounts that the initial studies were flawed, too limited or falsified. Larger and better studies keep coming up with the same result – it’s ineffective against covid. But because of confirmation bias, when people get invested in a treatment – even doctors and scientists and governments – they often persist in believing it. This New York Times article (sorry, paywall) does a great job summarizing the evolution of research on ivermectin for covid. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/30/health/covid-ivermectin-hospitalization.html  “Dr John Campbell in his popular YouTube videos on Covid has had several in which he discusses studies showing how it helps, and has interviewed doctors who also recommend it.” I looked him up and one of the first things it says on his Wikipedia page is that his videos contain misinformation including false claims about ivermectin. It sounds like he has had some insightful and helpful things to say in his videos, but at times has misrepresented research and contributed to misinformation.  But there’s a bigger question in how I personally evaluate the information – why do I believe the FDA and not the people you talked to who took ivermectin? Why do I believe Wikipedia and not John Campbell? Why do I trust scientific consensus over outliers who recommend ivermectin? Because of my fundamental sense of how the world works. Because we WANT to find a cure for covid. Since the start of the pandemic, governments, NGOs, drug companies, and all types of research and science institutions have poured an incredible amount of energy into finding effective treatments for covid. If ivermectin worked, they would be championing it.  The good news is that there are effective treatment options. My fear, and why I got into a huge digression, is that people who believe ivermectin is a good treatment will take that instead of something actually effective – or worse, get poisoned by mis-dosing themselves. 

COVID at home: prepare for a severe case
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OK I have a funny, non-disaster story this reminded me of. I lived in this big collective house in Berkeley and we became aware that a rat was getting into the house. One night we heard it behind the stove and we formed this posse to surround the stove and two people were going to move the stove, one person was going to go at it with a broom and other people were positioned to capture it with a bucket or something. I was in the front line – I felt confident, like a warrior – I am not squeamish and have done some pretty gross wildlife biology things in my time. I was going to get that rat with the bucket and be the hero. So we went into action, the stove was moved, the broom went under to flush it out and then it RAN STRAIGHT TOWARDS ME AND AAAAAAAAAAAA I JUMPED AWAY AND SCREAMED!!  I would have jumped on a chair like in a freaking 60s sitcom if there had there been a chair nearby! All my heroism was wiped away by pure, screamy, hysterical instinct. And i laughed about it but I was actually ashamed and a little disturbed that my warrior mentality just disappeared when that rat ran at me – my actions were beyond thought, beyond control, and they were not at all what i wanted or intended. I have been calm in a crisis many times before, but the rat was my undoing. So anyway…I guess my point is we never really know how we will react to a situation until it happens….and don’t get your ego too tied up in the person you think you are going to be!


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This reminds me of an earlier topic I posted, “Evaluating Information – A Prepper Skill”. The ivermectin question is an important example. There’s certainly lots of information out there saying it’s effective, and other information saying it is not. Obviously I believe it is probably not. So here’s a looooong digression where I talk about the issue and the points you raise through that “evaluating information” lens, basically how I evaluate the info and why I reach the conclusions I do.  You mention talking to people who took ivermectin for covid and think it helped them recover. Social information can be very valuable in certain contexts, but I don’t find it reliable for medical information, especially when it conflicts with reliable research. That’s because we as humans are prone to some really strong cognitive biases when it comes to medicine. When faced with illness, people prefer to do something rather than nothing. When they recover, they tend to attribute the recovery to the thing they did, rather than the natural recovery process. There’s also the placebo effect – if someone takes something believing it will help them, many times they will actually feel better/show improvement. And then once a belief is formed – this thing works! – confirmation bias takes hold and we keep believing it even in the face of evidence to the contrary. That’s why the scientific method is so vital in medicine – we have so many psychological mechanisms in place to tell us something is effective when it isn’t, that we need the scientific method and well-designed studies that correct for confirmation bias and the placebo effect, to ascertain what actually works.   You mention “A friend in Belize has a son who’s a doctor in Honduras, who says that the government there recommends that it be used to treat Covid.” I can’t confirm that but I don’t doubt it….there were early studies that were really promising for ivermectin, and some doctors/governments got on board with recommending it. It’s a safe (when used correctly) and pre-approved drug, so with some indication it may be effective, they went ahead. Yet they are outliers, especially as more and more evidence mounts that the initial studies were flawed, too limited or falsified. Larger and better studies keep coming up with the same result – it’s ineffective against covid. But because of confirmation bias, when people get invested in a treatment – even doctors and scientists and governments – they often persist in believing it. This New York Times article (sorry, paywall) does a great job summarizing the evolution of research on ivermectin for covid. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/30/health/covid-ivermectin-hospitalization.html  “Dr John Campbell in his popular YouTube videos on Covid has had several in which he discusses studies showing how it helps, and has interviewed doctors who also recommend it.” I looked him up and one of the first things it says on his Wikipedia page is that his videos contain misinformation including false claims about ivermectin. It sounds like he has had some insightful and helpful things to say in his videos, but at times has misrepresented research and contributed to misinformation.  But there’s a bigger question in how I personally evaluate the information – why do I believe the FDA and not the people you talked to who took ivermectin? Why do I believe Wikipedia and not John Campbell? Why do I trust scientific consensus over outliers who recommend ivermectin? Because of my fundamental sense of how the world works. Because we WANT to find a cure for covid. Since the start of the pandemic, governments, NGOs, drug companies, and all types of research and science institutions have poured an incredible amount of energy into finding effective treatments for covid. If ivermectin worked, they would be championing it.  The good news is that there are effective treatment options. My fear, and why I got into a huge digression, is that people who believe ivermectin is a good treatment will take that instead of something actually effective – or worse, get poisoned by mis-dosing themselves. 

OK I have a funny, non-disaster story this reminded me of. I lived in this big collective house in Berkeley and we became aware that a rat was getting into the house. One night we heard it behind the stove and we formed this posse to surround the stove and two people were going to move the stove, one person was going to go at it with a broom and other people were positioned to capture it with a bucket or something. I was in the front line – I felt confident, like a warrior – I am not squeamish and have done some pretty gross wildlife biology things in my time. I was going to get that rat with the bucket and be the hero. So we went into action, the stove was moved, the broom went under to flush it out and then it RAN STRAIGHT TOWARDS ME AND AAAAAAAAAAAA I JUMPED AWAY AND SCREAMED!!  I would have jumped on a chair like in a freaking 60s sitcom if there had there been a chair nearby! All my heroism was wiped away by pure, screamy, hysterical instinct. And i laughed about it but I was actually ashamed and a little disturbed that my warrior mentality just disappeared when that rat ran at me – my actions were beyond thought, beyond control, and they were not at all what i wanted or intended. I have been calm in a crisis many times before, but the rat was my undoing. So anyway…I guess my point is we never really know how we will react to a situation until it happens….and don’t get your ego too tied up in the person you think you are going to be!


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