Truths Versus Narratives

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The Widening World of Hand-Picked Truths

Lots of interesting controversies there. Look at the difference between
our current view of transgender individuals and the one represented
here, from just 36 years ago:

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126 thoughts on “Truths Versus Narratives

  1. And this week we have the narrative that the First Amendment allows agents of the government to force their religious beliefs down citizens’ throats.

  2. Rhett, one of the things I disliked about the article is that it seems not to recognize that the rejection of science is to some extent a reaction against the arrogance of certain mid-20th Century scientists. Moreover, certain scientific and medical truths, e.g., if you have menstrual cramps it’s because you’re “rejecting your femininity”, or that autism is caused by “refrigerator mothers”, turned out to be so very obnoxiously false.

  3. RMS,

    On one front after another, the hard-won consensus of science is also expected to accommodate personal beliefs, religious or otherwise, about the safety of vaccines, G.M.O. crops, fluoridation or cellphone radio waves, along with the validity of global climate change.

    From Dr. Strangelove:

    General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake, do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk… ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children’s ice cream.
    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: [very nervous] Lord, Jack.
    General Jack D. Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?
    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: I… no, no. I don’t, Jack.
    General Jack D. Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It’s incredibly obvious, isn’t it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That’s the way your hard-core Commie works.

  4. Wingnuts and conspiracy theorists have been with us since the beginning – the article seems to argue it’s getting worse. Or that those theories are more accepted than in the past. I don’t see any evidence of that.

  5. Much closer to the bone for those of us not of north or northwestern european origin is the use of medical as well as social science to prove our innate inferiority or unsuitability for full social and economic inclusion.

  6. Rhett – What? Why would you want to be a pharmacist if you never intend to fill a prescription?

  7. But Rhett, Ripper was represented as nuts.

    Right, a widely held belief was being satirized. Like John Stewart or Stephen Colbert mocking the ridiculous but commonly held beliefs of today. But, in both cases they only go after views that are fairly common.

  8. Giving licenses to gay people wishing to be married may be against her religious beliefs, but it is the duty of a govenment office to provide the public services that are mandated by law. Therefore, she should have stepped aside and let someone else do it. I cannot understand why that didn’t happen from the getgo. Saying that no marriage licenses will be issued is wrong.

  9. What would we think if a public school teacher refused to teach evolution of the big bang theory because it was against his beliefs? What if an official refused to issue gun licenses because he or she is a pacifist and against lethal weapons?

  10. Living in Texas and closely following the frequent Board of Education fights over textbook content, I feel like it’s getting more frequent and more acceptable. My daughter’s high school biology teacher prefaced everything she taught about evolution with something that implied it was her opinion and students were free to think otherwise. A community college geology prof told them he does not believe in evolution. A PhD in Geology publicly denying evolution in a college classroom was mind-boggling to me. I have many friends who reject various science concepts that I consider fact-based. And in my circle, those who would look down on climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, etc are stridently anti-GMO. I have read that more scientists agree that there is no evidence of any harm from GMO than agree on climate change, but GMO doesn’t fit with their narrative of healthy eating. With the Internet, it is so much easier to gain exposure to alternate theories and latch on to those that ‘feel right’.

  11. The high school teacher may have prefaced her teaching of evolution with her opinion, but she still had to teach it. If she had flat out refused, I suspect it might have been a problem.

    BTW, teachers with weird ideas have been around for ages. When I was in school in KY, I had one English teacher who told us over and over that Hermann Hesse wrote Satanic novels. And another who was certain the Commies were coming any day now, and she would be under her bed with her gun when that happened.

  12. I want a Mormon or conservative Baptist to be in charge of restaurant licensing and refuse to grant liquor licenses. Somehow I think Kim Davis’s supporters will find that to be a completely different case from hers when they can’t buy a drink.

  13. “but it is the duty of a govenment office to provide the public services that are mandated by law”

    The argument made in support of Davis is that a Supreme Court decision is not law, but rather an intrusive action by one branch of government to make law by judicial decree. Davis was following Kentucky law, and the federal government has no authority in marriage laws. IOW, Kentucky or Congress needs to enact laws if they believe the Supreme Court decision was right. (I’m not following this case closely, but these arguments seem to make sense to me.)

  14. @Rocky @10:19 — Yes, you nailed it exactly.

    I am continually frustrated by the predominance of pseudo-science, and the willingness of people to believe what they want to hear. OTOH, this guy seems completely oblivious to the kinds of things that undermine the credibility of “science,” such as the history of Really Bad Science that turned out to be both wrong and damaging (e.g., the entire history of women’s treatment by the medical establishment, from hysterectomies for “hysteria” to conking women out for childbirth to basing all scientific trials on men), or the misrepresentations made to people about what was being done and why (e.g., Tuskegee experiments, forced sterilization), or the overhyping of findings that turn out to be not supported or flatly-wrong (e.g., practically every dietary supplement ever touted, or the “fat is the demon/pasta is your friend” dietary guidelines of the past 30 years). What he is missing is that science itself may be objective, but it is investigated and interpreted by human beings, who are subjective and fallible and prejudiced and swayed by current opinions and imperfect in every way.

    Basically, if you want to be trusted, you need to be viewed as trustworthy. And Science, much as I love it, doesn’t really have a good track record with that.

    I also don’t get his example of the telescopes in Hawaii. He seems to imply that the objection to the new telescope is anti-science, and those uppity natives should just keep their mouths shut because there are already a ton of telescopes there, so what’s the problem with one more? I don’t think that anyone is debating whether the telescope would provide useful scientific data, or is claiming that science itself is bad; the question is whether that desire to get more information should trump religious and historical concerns of the local populace. I don’t know the issue and don’t have a dog in that particular fight. But the fact that he doesn’t seem even to understand the fundamental nature of the dispute — and that he sees it not as a legitimate concern, but rather as an ignorance-fueled attack on science, in the same category as Intelligent Design — seems to embody the very arrogance that gives science a bad name. It’s dismissive and condescending and self-centered to the point of narcissism.

    The other aspect, I think, is that what current science tells us is that things just aren’t as crystal clear as we once thought. I think this golden age of scientific knowledge was based on the belief that there was a single Answer, and that sufficient study and investigation would find it. But the more we delve in, the more we seem to find randomness and individuality and spectrums; the idea of a “cure for cancer” has given way to the new holy grail of individualized treatments for each individual type of cancer and each individual’s genome.

    So he can say “On a deeper level, characteristics that once seemed biologically determined are increasingly challenged as malleable social constructs.” But the real issue isn’t that Facebook has 56 genders — it’s that science now tells us that gender is much less binary and much more fluid than most of us ever grew up believing. He’s blaming Facebook for hopping on a bandwagon that his own people created.

    Basically, I don’t like the article, and I don’t much like the guy who wrote it. And that REALLY pisses me off, because there is a whole huge lot that needs to be said about the stupidity and destructiveness of pseudo-science and the dearth of any real understanding of the scientific method across the US. And he ain’t helping.

  15. “What if an official refused to issue gun licenses because he or she is a pacifist and against lethal weapons?”

    What if state and local officials refused to follow federal immigration laws … oh wait, that’s already going on. It happens.

  16. So then since it was a Supreme Court decision, do you believe that the Jim Crow states were justified in trying to ignore Brown Vs Board of Education? After all, their state laws permitted segregation.

  17. On L’s list, there is actually a court case I heard about yesterday wherein a Muslim woman wants to keep her job as a waitress at a place that serves liquor but she wants to be exempt from having to do that.

  18. I think that while your personal beliefs affect your actions, if they prevent you from doing a portion of your job, that is not the job for you. If you take a job and know or should know that a particular action/task is part of that job and it is against your belief system, then you should be willing to step aside from the job. If you take a job and the law and/or employer requirements change to create an action/task that violates your belief system, then I think the employer should work with you to avoid performing that action/task AND, if this action/task is more than 10% of your job, I think you should start looking for another job.

    For example, if the Muslim airline attendant knew her airline served alcohol and she would be expected to serve it, then she should not take that job. However, if she went to work for an airline that did not serve alcohol and later that airline changed its policy, then I think she should have some room to negotiate the task, but should also look for a different job.

    The reality is that it is that the majority of the time, your community will be OK with your beliefs affecting your actions when your beliefs are in line with theirs.

  19. I can’t even. Between Davis and her brand of crazy and a commenter on an NPR story trying to parallel the medical advances in premie care with abortion, I can’t deal with this today.

    The world has gone nuts. True science backed with the scientific method with carefully thought out studies has been replaced “I don’t like it, therefore it’s not true, it’s against my beliefs and I don’t have to follow it.” The world is now populated by overindulged 3 year olds.

  20. WCE–her supporters aren’t limited to Rowan County. And apparently there are a bunch of clerks in KY refusing to issue licenses–she’s just the test case.

    CoC–“her” arguments make no sense. The Supreme Court has no “authority” over public education, and yet it ordered integration. We didn’t rely on the Mississippi legislature to pass a law requiring integration. When an individual has a fundamental constitutional right to something, it doesn’t matter what any legislature says.

    Ok, I’m done with Kim Davis for the day.

  21. I want a Mormon or conservative Baptist to be in charge of restaurant licensing and refuse to grant liquor licenses.

    Oh, no. A Muslim. The cognitive dissonance would be epic.

  22. IANAL, but court rulings are “law”. Statutes are “law”. Regulations are “law”. The law has many sources.

  23. CofC,

    So, just to be clear, it makes sense to you that the rights of citizens to equal protection under the law is something that should be voted on on a state by state case by case basis?

  24. DH does employment law. When the news came on about the Muslim flight attendant, he just groaned and said “this is my usual day at the office.”

  25. I like LfB’s post, as usual.

    And I will admit frustration with climate change initiative supporters. Climate change initiative supporters seem to be saying not only
    The global temperature has increased recently.

    but also
    1) This is part of a long term trend, unlike the mini-ice age warnings of 40 years ago.
    2) It is caused by (not correlated with) the increased consumption of fossil fuel since 1800.
    3) Reducing fossil fuel consumption to xxxx year levels is worthwhile because despite the social costs $y and the fact that CO2 levels will continue to increase for a long time, our initiative is worthwhile.
    4) If the United States and Europe agree to bear these costs, no country will weasel out and all the underdeveloped, low carbon nations will go along with the plan.

    The reason I oppose climate change initiatives could be disagreement with any of those statements. It doesn’t (necessarily) make me an idiot.

  26. I don’t see CoC defending Davis, just pointing out that there are more than a few elected officials who selectively ignore parts of their job duties.

    Agree wholeheartedly with WCE @ 1108.

  27. Milo, I think Rhett is referring to CoC’s 10:52 comment: The argument made in support of Davis is that a Supreme Court decision is not law, but rather an intrusive action by one branch of government to make law by judicial decree. Davis was following Kentucky law, and the federal government has no authority in marriage laws. IOW, Kentucky or Congress needs to enact laws if they believe the Supreme Court decision was right. (I’m not following this case closely, but these arguments seem to make sense to me.)

    That’s why I made my comment about court ruling being “law”. Law isn’t just statutes.

  28. WCE and LfB make very valid points, as usual. Springing off WCE’s climate change initiatives argument, when did the world become all or nothing?

    No issue is two-sided. Climate change is a perfect example – it’s complicated, variable, and region dependent. No one solution is going to fix the country’s issues, let alone the world.

  29. Rocky – Got it. And I’m no lawyer, so I have a hard time supporting or refuting such arguments.

  30. I don’t think the world is all or nothing, just the most vocal people. I always feel better when I step away from my FB feed for a few days.

    Agree with WCE and LfB.

  31. WCE – I think the main issue is that people don’t take the time to figure out what exactly it is they agree/disagree with or whether there are facts that support their point of view.

    At one time, a relative told me that she opposed abortion because the vast majority of women in the US were using it to select their child’s sex. This was something that widely repeated at the time. However, data on abortions performed showed that 90% were performed before the sex of the child could be determined (given the sophisctication of the testing at that time). Presented with this evidence, this relative told me it had been faked and she knew that because a PROMINENT person said sex selection was occuring it was true. I did then place her in the idiot group.

  32. I don’t understand her end game. She goes to court over this. Guess who is the ultimate decision maker? The Supreme Court. Is she hoping that there will eventually be a more conservative court who will agree and over turn a prior decision? Stare decisis is a powerful thing. People like her make me want to never, ever vote for a Republican for fear of who will replace RGB.

  33. Yeah, as I said, I’m not following the Davis case closely and I’m not expressing support of her position.

    ” People like her make me want to never, ever vote for a Republican for fear of who will replace RGB.”

    Interesting that Davis is a Democrat, although she was originally pegged as a Republican by the NYT.

  34. 99.9% of the world’s problems appear to be caused by one group trying to impose its beliefs on everyone else. Why can’t we just respect each other and get along?

  35. Because that would be logical, simple, and therefore ineffective at getting the world to do my bidding.

  36. Sorry – I wasn’t clear. I don’t care what Davis is. But it would be shocking if a Dem president would nominate a Sup Ct Justice who would swing the court to overrule Obergefell.

  37. another example of how “science” has changed over time

    psychiatry over the past hundred years that saw homosexuality to be a mental illness, current guidelines instead encourage psychotherapists to assist patients in overcoming the stigma of homosexuality rather than the sexual orientation.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diagnostic_and_Statistical_Manual_of_Mental_Disorders

    In 1952, the APA listed homosexuality in the DSM as a sociopathic personality disturbance. Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals, a large-scale 1962 study of homosexuality, was used to justify inclusion of the disorder as a supposed pathological hidden fear of the opposite sex caused by traumatic parent–child relationships. This view was widely influential in the medical profession.[16] In 1956, however, the psychologist Evelyn Hooker performed a study that compared the happiness and well-adjusted nature of self-identified homosexual men with heterosexual men and found no difference.[17] Her study stunned the medical community and made her a hero to many gay men and lesbians,[18] but homosexuality remained in the DSM until May 1974.[19]

  38. “Her study stunned the medical community and made her a hero to many gay men and lesbians,[18] but homosexuality remained in the DSM until May 1974.”

    That’s because the “science was settled,” as the President likes to say.

  39. In KY, lots of people register Democrat, but vote Republican and strongly support Republican positions. It is one of the oddities of the state.

  40. “but these arguments seem to make sense to me.”

    But legally, not so. The whole point of the Bill of Rights was to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. Where a state law conflicts with the Constitution, the decision of the Supreme Court is the final word on the subject. E.g., Brown v. Board of Ed.

    The problem is that the S.Ct. doesn’t have the power to implement its rulings — there is no federal agency that can go out and rewrite invalidated state laws. So either the states have to do that themselves, or where they refuse (e.g., George Wallace), the feds have take action to protect the rights of its citizens (such as, for ex., in sending in the National Guard). Or, more frequently, no one does anything, and you continue to have lawsuits running through the courts for years to change the laws on a state-by-state basis.

    FWIW, if I were arguing her side of it, I’d argue that the S.Ct. case didn’t involve the specific KY law, and so that law remains in place and effective until the S.Ct. says otherwise. A/k/a the “you’re gonna drag me kicking and screaming” legal defense.

  41. “WCE – I think the main issue is that people don’t take the time to figure out what exactly it is they agree/disagree with or whether there are facts that support their point of view.”

    I think that is the charitable interpretation. I also think that a large number of people know what the desired outcome should be and then cherry-pick the facts and arguments to suit that outcome — because they’re not interested in fostering a reasonable discussion, they want to yell and think the best way to win the day is to characterize the other side as idiots. It’s like the old lawyer saying: if the law’s against you, argue the facts. If the facts are against you, argue the law. If they’re both against you, holler.

    It is extremely rare to have someone lay out the steps of the argument like WCE does. Unfortunately, that’s what you need to do to engage in a reasonable discussion and make progress on the issue — for ex., I am more inclined than she is to believe 1 and 2 but am concerned with 3 and 4, but her logical breakdown would enable us, if we chose, to have a reasonable, grown-up conversation about what the current science says and doesn’t say. But most people just want to be right.

  42. I almost forgot! Today at 11:30 ET Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history.

  43. LfB – I very much respect your reasoned response. In that spirit, I just feel like re: #1 and #2, I want to see a track record of the models actually getting it right, or at least being in the ballpark. We had such dire predictions a decade ago, and they don’t seem to be panning out nearly as bad as they’d predicted.

  44. @Milo — yeah, true. I think I am influenced my work my mom is doing with a huge bunch of meteorologists, all of whom are completely, 100% convinced that it is a real and a long-term trend. But I also think we are seeing it pan out — it’s just mostly affecting poor people in other parts of the world (e.g., flooding in Bangladesh), so it doesn’t make it to our radar the same way that, say, a KY clerk does.

  45. Well, even five or 10 would be a big improvement.

    And if it turns out to match you’ll support massive carbon taxes to fund a fleet to nukes?

  46. “And if it turns out to match you’ll support massive carbon taxes to fund a fleet to nukes?”

    I would be a lot more likely to go along if that’s the direction they were clearly pushing.

  47. “The world is now populated by overindulged 3 year olds.”

    You know, I was just talking about this with DH the other day, how everything seems to be trending toward cultural “special snowflake” status. I think it is the privilege and curse of living in an affluent society. For most of human history, the biggest threat has been starvation, whether that means making it through the winter or surviving a crop failure or getting the food from where it grows to where people need it. But in the last century, we have developed tools to do that better than ever (refrigeration, preservatives, interstates). So with industrialized farming and many food factories, we have gone from a nation of starving kids in the Dust Bowl and WWII rationing to a world where obesity is (one of) our biggest health risk(s). So now we have a couple of generations that have never known hunger and never lived with the seasons — if I want strawberries in December, look, there they are!

    So now what do you do to distinguish yourself? 50-75 years ago, having plenty of food signified higher class; now, everyone has tons of cheap food, so we have to have higher standards. My stepmom managed her budget to have steak once a week; today, the cognoscenti insist on organic, grass-fed, heritage beef, preferably from a farmer up the road who uses sustainable practices (and the cow’s name was Bob). It used to be scotch; now, it’s unpeated single-malts from Speyside aged at least 15 years (sherry cask). Etc. And the dream of every hipster is now to move back to the land and have their own farm making organic goat cheese from heritage goats. And it’s not just the consumers, btw — the producers of the wines and liquor we drink have all gone down the road of customization and distinguishing themselves. 30 years ago, there *were* no single-malt scotches — everyone sold their scotch for blending. Same story with Barolos — back in the ’60s, they were all blended; now you can practically point to two or three rows of vines to say where a particular wine came from. Similar story for ports. [Side note: if I could figure out how to invest in this trend, I would throw a lot of money at it].

    So I kind of think that this same trend in science isn’t really surprising. We, the American UMC, are all used to having these opinions and preferences — and in fact, we are used to *having* to have these kinds of opinions, as a way of defining who we are and staking out our place in society. And we live in a culture that gives us so much, for such comparatively little effort, that we can afford to devote the mental space to those sorts of meaningless distinctions and trivialities. Couple that with the dearth of logic/critical thinking training in school, and why should it be surprising that my opinion of “science” isn’t just as valid as yours? It’s less about the science and more about signaling which group we belong to.

  48. It’s less about the science and more about signaling which group we belong to.

    When was it not? When exactly was this golden age of scientific rationality among the great unwashed?

  49. BTW, teachers with weird ideas have been around for ages….. And another who was certain the Commies were coming any day now, and she would be under her bed with her gun when that happened.

    I agree. I think people forget about all that. c. 1975/1985 a lot of the paranoid craziness was directed at the Soviets. We still have the crazies but that central locus of paranoia is now more diffuse.

  50. I agree with LFB. In addition “Same story with Barolos — back in the ’60s, they were all blended; now you can practically point to two or three rows of vines to say where a particular wine came from. Similar story for ports. [Side note: if I could figure out how to invest in this trend, I would throw a lot of money at it].”

    This is kind of old technology. The trend in food safety for the past few years, maybe a decade, is to be able to trace products back to the field, not farm, field. Heinz probably knows where the tomatoes for each bottle of catsup come from.

  51. I had a professor for one of my engineering electives, Reactor Physics I, who told us about a teacher he’d had in grade school. When she learned that the school was receiving [a portion of] its power from a nuclear power plant, she bought a bunch of childproofing outlet covers to cover all the outlets in the classroom that were not in use, just to prevent the “radiation from leaking into the classroom.”

  52. BTW, teachers with weird ideas have been around for ages….. And another who was certain the Commies were coming any day now, and she would be under her bed with her gun when that happened.

    In high school, my civics teacher would regale us with his conspiracy theories. Along with his absolute conviction that Marx had been a Soviet dictator.

  53. Milo – if you want to play around, check out http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/ You can get trends in temperature, precipitation, minimum temp, etc with some decent trends thrown in. All data come from NOAA’s National Climate Data Center.

    I was pretty convinced we’re warming up when I saw that in the of the 10 hottest years on record for my region 6 were within the last decade or so. Combine that with some scary water temperature data and evidence of changing ecosystem and I don’t need models to know that times are a changing. How bad it will be is unknown (which is the point of the model, but hot is hot no matter what number you put to it), but I do know that society can adjust expectations – no, you may not be able to fish for lobster off your dock, but blue crabs are possible! Grab your Old Bay Seasoning and have at it!

  54. “When exactly was this golden age of scientific rationality among the great unwashed?”

    Umm, never. I think the only one who suggested such a thing was the author of the article, who talked about how 50 years ago, everyone hoped/assumed that day was coming, but those hopes have been dashed by the ignorant masses.

  55. Truth, I just read in the NY Times that Intel will stop sponsoring the science research competition after 2019. I am really surprised because it brings a lot of goodwill to Intel for relatively little money.

    I know that I am going to be complaining about the snow soon, but my car was so hot when I had to use it after several hours in the sun. These kids must be miserable in the schools because so many classrooms/buildings in NY have no a/c.

  56. “We still have the crazies but that central locus of paranoia is now more diffuse.”

    This reminded me of the central point of a talk I saw given by a paranormal and occult researcher. (Bear with me, it was a good talk about how we view the “unknown” and how traditional science plays a role). He told us that a lot of his talks to different groups showed him one thing – that the people who believed in one thing (ghosts, let’s say) thought the people who believed in another thing (Big Foot/aliens) were crazy and vice versa. Basically, if you didn’t believe it in, you thought those believers were nuts. He wants people to diversify their weirdness – and accept the possibility that all these weird things exist.

    Maybe in this case people aren’t just diversifying their weirdness in what they believe, but to what they’ll lend their voices. How many people do we know who are anti-vaxx, anti-GMO, anti-formula, anti-non-organic, anti-formal schooling, and quite possibly antidisestablishmentarians? It’s now cool to be “slashes”, like dad/salesman/baseball coach/husband, etc…

  57. I was a lot more pro-nuclear energy before Fukushima. I remember listening to an interview with some guy who was part of the team deciding how safe to make Fukushima. (Boy, was he surly). The interviewer asked why they hadn’t made the plant safe for a huge earthquake and tsunami, and he said grumpily that they figured if a quake and tsunami that big ever hit, the nuclear plant would be the least of Japan’s problems. I do completely understand that you have to make tradeoffs in safety decisions.* But since apparently it’s just within the last few decades that anyone realized that that the Pacific Northwest is going to get whonked with an earthquake and tsunami, I worry that we are making some of these safety decisions without adequate information.

    *Please read that sentence again before jumping down my throat about how I’m part of the stupid unwashed public that thinks everything has to be perfectly safe.

  58. Lauren, I have an aunt that teaches in the Boston suburbs and saw her posting on FB that the temp inside the school yesterday was 93. It may be oppressively hot in Atlanta but everyone has air conditioning.

  59. Rocky – The thing about Fukushima is that, while the reactor(s?) are ruined, and that’s a bad thing for the company’s shareholders, it was not this enormous tragedy otherwise. IIRC, there were and have been no deaths associated with the meltdown or with radiation exposure. I guess some got released to the environment, but the media has a way of misunderstanding and misrepresenting the significance of that.

    If you were to graph loss of life as a function of megawatt*hours generated, nuclear looks pretty good–especially so if you accept the Obama Administration’s arguments about ancillary/health costs of coal pollution or CO2 emitted.

    If anything, Fukushima should tell you that “look, you can have an earthquake and a tsunami that wipes out all your grid power AND destroys your generators for emergency cooling, you can sustain a nuclear meltdown, and really, it’s not all THAT bad.”

  60. @Lauren/Atl — our schools closed 2 hrs early again today due to heat/humidity (91, “feels like” 93). Big Fat Weenies.

    On the plus side, if they close early again tomorrow, I’ll get another reprieve from back-to-school night.

    And since I’m sure y’all have been dying of anticipation, my draft went well, thanks for asking — I scooped Beast despite a low draft position, and though my dad swooped in to snag my preferred D and mid-level RB right in front of me, I got way more of my targets than I had any right to expect. Which, you know, sucks, because I will have no one else to blame when my team crashes and burns. . . .

  61. I’m surprised that your schools close in the heat because the schools in NY, MA, Nj etc, with the same temps remain open. They did cancel most after school practices yesterday because the conditions became dangerous especially on turf fields.

    I remember being miserable in June when I was a kid, but this is really uncomfortable for the second week of Sept because the buildings are hot, and the yellow school buses have no A/C.

  62. So, my kids’ high school has decided not to let sophomores take the PSAT. Is this going on in anyone else’s high school?

  63. @Lauren — yeah, ditto. InMyDay(TM) they’d never have even batted an eye — and the schools didn’t have AC then.

  64. I wonder if one aspect of this is that the science appears more accessible than it used to. Women’s health, especially surrounding birth, is such good model for how attitudes towards medicine, science and doctors has shifted. In the Good Old Days ™, everyone just marched in lock step with the Ob-gyns. However, it turns out a lot of them were not practicing evidence-based medicine, and many were actively doing things badly (routine episiotomy, long after good evidence showed that to be bad practice, etc.) Now, a pregnant woman must decide what kind of care she wants – and what tests/medication/intervention she is supposed to question. It is the golden age of the birth plan – people feel they need to delineate exactly how medicine should be practiced.

    (If you haven’t seen it, this is hilarious: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/jamie-and-jeffs-birth-plan My favorite line: “In the event of a Cesarean, please practice Western medicine.”)

    I believe that my practice incorporates the best and most relevant evidence. I am confident that I know when to CT a child after a head injury and when they should just sleep it off. However, I often must go through the studies, the risks of CT, the risks of undiagnosed brain injury, the pre-test probability, etc. before I order (or decline to order) the test. Sometimes, I wish consent was a little less informed. This is why some physicians find it a relief to practice in less affluent areas – the patients don’t believe they can practice medicine, too.

  65. Ada– It gets tricky, that’s for sure. I was left feeling like I had to choose between marching in lockstep with my OB (many of whom were still not practicing evidence-based medicine) or play doctor. I really *don’t* want to play doctor. I want someone I can trust. But in 6 minutes, figuring out if you go through studies and will actually do what studies say seems best is really hard to figure out. The one OB I immediately left was a woman who chuckled at me as though we were pals and said, “Oh, I work with all these women all the time who are used to being in charge, and they want to be the captain of their treatment! That doesn’t work. That’s why you come to me! I’m going to be the captain of your treatment and everything will be just as it should be.”

    For another issue I had a highly respected neurologist, and I was not in any condition to do anything but trust. They tried to do informed consent, and at that point it was like, “Um, I don’t really see any options here, so do what you need to do.” When I asked questions after the fact, everything had been done as it should have been, but it came down to trusting this doctor to do his best because I was in no position to participate anyway.

  66. Murphy, that’s terrible. And even worse — the San Francisco School District is going to postpone algebra til high school. (Lest you think I’m being sarcastic, I really do think that’s a bad idea.)
    http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/07/22/san-francisco-middle-schools-no-longer-teaching-algebra-1

    Hull Barnes says exposing all students to high-quality math instruction is a social justice issue for SFUSD.

    District officials say the controversial practice of tracking students — or separating them based on talent and ability — is simply wrong.

    Math is now supposed to be more rigorous and engaging at all levels, regardless of the students’ ability.

    The stupid — it burns. I’m going to have to homeschool my stepgrandchildren. I hope my DIL has no objections.

  67. Our district is going the Totebag direction. The PSAT is administered by the school as a diagnostic test.

  68. “I almost forgot! Today at 11:30 ET Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history.”

    My kids have really taken a shining to Andy Griffith re-runs. They find them LOL-hilarious. We DVR them, and watch one per night. A few nights ago, a very young Opie was thinking that Andy was the most powerful person in the world. Andy said “Ohhh, I don’t know about that. There’s the President, and the Queen of England…”

    And I said to DW “Interestingly enough, this episode is 55 years old, and he’s talking about the SAME QUEEN!”

    Andy is dead, Barney is dead. Eisenhower is dead. But it’s the same queen.

  69. “What it means to be good in math is no longer about answer-getting and speed,” Hull Barnes says. “To be truly deeply proficient in math, you have to defend your reasoning and understand how a mathematical situation would apply in the real world. That’s a very significant shift.”

    Tom Lehrer: “But in the new approach, as you know, the important thing is to understand what you’re doing rather than to get the right answer”.

  70. RMS, I will find a work around. I have already contacted some neighboring high schools about having my DD take it at another school. Of course, the poor Latino kids whose parents don’t speak English won’t have that option.

  71. “I was pretty convinced we’re warming up”

    I can see beaches disappearing.

    And then there’s the back to back to back to back hurricanes, and the doldrums like we never had before.

    I’ve quite convinced local warming is real.

  72. Tulip, well said. I often feel the same way when visiting the doctor. Spending 30 seconds with someone who then offers a pronouncement does not inspire confidence. I *REALLY* don’t want to do do it yourself medicine, but sometimes that feels like what I have to do.

  73. “So, my kids’ high school has decided not to let sophomores take the PSAT. Is this going on in anyone else’s high school?”

    Is it just for this year, because the PSAT won’t be given on a Saturday, and the school doesn’t want the kids to lose half a day of school (or perhaps really the entire day, as they may be fried after finishing the test)?

  74. It has always been given on a Wednesday in this school before. The reasoning is that they have a limited number of tests and space to take the test. I asked the College Board and they said the school could order more tests.

  75. “Andy is dead, Barney is dead. Eisenhower is dead. But it’s the same queen.”

    I was watching Royal Wedding last night, with Fred Astaire (with the dancing on the ceiling). 1951 film, with the titular event being the marriage of the same queen (princess then).

  76. AFAIK the sophomores are all taking the test at my son’s school. The freshmen don’t automatically take it but can do so upon request.

  77. Tulip – you have a valid point. As a patient, I try to choose trustworthy physicians and then I don’t question much.

    I don’t think our parents could have been the “do it yourself” doctor – there was not nearly the information available that there is today. We all have access to primary research (or things that masquerade as research) and feel like we can draw our own conclusions.

  78. I don’t feel like I have much access to information about who I would trust, Ada. Lots of word of mouth and guesswork. I’m guessing doctors get better word of mouth on other doctors? (Like lawyers referring other lawyers….) And you’re right. As a kid I remember a lot of “doctor as authority figure” and you just trusted– the good and the bad. As the consumer model takes hold, we’re also held responsible for choosing the right one.

    Rocky– We’re south of SF, and our district is doing the same thing with algebra. Parents are super annoyed and lots of alternatives are being floated. Our district has set up a “gifted middle school” program within one of the regular middle schools– one with low enrollment– to try and force all those kids to be funneled into that school. Of course, the parents who want their kids to take Algebra are also responsible for transporting them to the one school where this is offered, etc.

    This week is toast. Yesterday I had to pick up one kid puking. Today he’s home and well and wired up and ready to go back tomorrow. But I just had to pick up a second puking kid. And then I got our first call home from the principal about my 2nd grader. Amount of work done so far? Zilch.

  79. “As a kid I remember a lot of “doctor as authority figure” and you just trusted– the good and the bad.”

    I’ve heard too many “bad” to stick with that model. E.g., a cousin was a bit too deferential, and she died, quite possibly unnecessarily.

    Another strike against that is DW and I looking at who we know from elementary and high school who became MDs. While some were exceptional students and very smart (e.g., DW’s class valedictorian), some others were not the brightest bulbs on the tree. IOW, we have basis for thinking we are smarter than some of the doctors.

  80. “The freshmen don’t automatically take it but can do so upon request.”

    I need to look into this option for DD, but I have a strong suspicion the answer will be NO. Your kids are, IMO, fortunate to have that option.

    I believe the school that has historically produced more NMSF than any other here has all freshmen and sophomores take the PSAT.

  81. Ahhh…. Finn, I have basis for thinking that there are people on this forum that are smarter than me. However, I think I am the best doctor here. Smartest does not necessarily equal best doctor.

    I believe in the rigor of the American medical school entrance process and residency for producing well-trained physicians. When I think of physicians whose care I would not trust for a family member, they usually are one or more of the following: not a graduate of a US school, not board certified in the specialty they are practicing, older (>55 – there are certainly older docs that are good and I fully trust – but many that I have seen make mistakes fit this category), very new (out of residency less than 2 years).

    There is great variation in medical practice and I know that many mistakes are made. However, I think most mistakes are errors in process, communication, etc. and not errors in cognition by physician. Said another way, I think most avoidable bad things that happen can’t be fixed by changing the physician.

  82. “As a kid I remember a lot of “doctor as authority figure” and you just trusted– the good and the bad.”
    I was at a medical conference recently and met a women whose daughter was just recently diagnosed. For 10+ years she just took the word of her family doctor in the small rural town. He kept telling her nothing was wrong. Unfortunately the delay in the diagnosis will have lifelong consequences. Its hard to think that she didn’t extensively research online, trust her instinct and seek out other advice, but I think in her environment, you just trust what the man with the medical degree says.

  83. Wow! I like them, HM! I like them a lot.

    It does seem fortunate that their fascination lies around 1890 rather than, say, 1870. There is a much greater selection of modern developments and conveniences than they would have even 20 years earlier. Hell, they’re talking about what it’s like to wash with Ivory soap recently created by Procter and Gamble. Interesting, yes, but a far cry from rendering bear fat like Caroline Ingalls.

    I think I might enjoy about a year of 1950s fantasy immersion camp.

  84. District officials say the controversial practice of tracking students — or separating them based on talent and ability — is simply wrong.

    That echoes the view of our current school superintendent. By the time they’re in high school he really has no say in the matter, but by that point many students have suffered quite a bit.

    At the heart of the problem are schools of education, where social justice activism is often considered more important than academic instruction. An indication of this is how a few years ago Bill Ayers was overwhelmingly elected VP of curriculum for AERA, the main organization of professors of education.

  85. HM & Milo – if they espouse the Victorian Life, who maintains their website? And does Sarah write her books with a fountain pen and type writer? And does Gabriel get custom lenses for his glasses? I know my first question is a bit pedantic, but I’m genuinely curious..

  86. She is a massage therapist and he works in a bicycle shop. They are simply extreme antiquarians, living in the PNW with its moderate temperatures year round, no kids. There is no claim that they live exactly as Victorians did, but they do try in household matters to replicate victorian dress and living. She writes with a fountain pen on paper. They read Victorian literature, often digitized. They wear reproduction clothes in retro materials. They don’t have TV, but what does that mean – they clearly have screens and communicate widely. They travel in modern vehicles to go to speaking engagements, and he can drive when needed.

  87. I would never choose scratchy Victorian clothes over yoga pants.

    The 1950s…it’s hard for me to separate out the racism and sexism and stifling conformity from the putatively fun parts. You could buy amphetamines over the counter. That’s good. Only barrier methods of birth control, that’s bad. No tampons, that’s bad. Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason…okay, whatever. Lots of flared and A-line skirts, that’s good for us pear-shapes. Cars that overheated regularly (that was still happening when I was little in the early 60s). Tons of economic optimism, uh, I guess that was good. Shorter workdays for the middle- and upper-middle-class men. Women had to get their husband’s permission to get a library card. What exactly do you think would be fun about it, Milo?

  88. Well, Rocky, he’s a UMC white guy, so I think you answered your own question. Big cars, snazzy suits, shorter workdays, a wife at home to manage the kids and the house, grilling steaks in the backyard and weekends/summers at the lake — sounds like heaven.

  89. Every period in history is going to be racist and sexist by modern standards–I don’t see people shitting on the Victorian-philes for that. But it’s obviously still a fascinating topic, and the idea is that this sort of immersion can make you better understand it through experience.

  90. the idea is that this sort of immersion can make you better understand it through experience.

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/29860.Judith_Flanders
    I read this authors books and she did live like a Victorian woman – dressed, cooked etc. Fascinating and a good read.
    “The Victorian House (2004 in the USA, as Inside the Victorian Home) received widespread praise, and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards History Book of the Year”

  91. Milo,

    Have you watched this:

    It’s a BBC show about a family that tries to live as they would have in 1900.

  92. Oh, I’m happy to shit all over the Victorian era too. I’m an equal opportunity hater when it comes to eras that were both oppressive and uncomfortable.

  93. So I finally caved in and bought a blouse and bustier at Rennfest. And based on my vast 3 hrs of experience, there is no way on God’s green earth that I would ever attempt to live as part of any other culture that requires a corset.

  94. I’ll have to keep that in mind next time we’re in Colonial Williamsburg and the blacksmith or tanner is talking about his craft, I’ll be sure to remind everyone in earshot “remember, people were RACIST and SEXIST in the old days!”

  95. Rhett – I don’t think so. I watched the first episode on Netflix of a reality show in which Brits were auditioning to live Downton Abbey-style lives, both servants and artistocrats.

  96. When it comes to female fashion, one should never assume a relentless march to unfettered freedom. There was a brief moment in the late 60s and early 70s when girdles and rigid brassieres and non platform heels and frequent hair treatments and stockings went out of fashion. But it didn’t take long for all of that to come back into fashion in a new way – spanx and push up bras and 4 plus inch heels and hair alteration are back with us – only stockings disappeared. And for those women who say, I maintain my appearance without that stuff, most of them exercise to an extent unheard of prior to the last 25-30 years (and still use spanx)

  97. I think we can be curious about eras of history without wanting to live in them, Milo. I don’t particularly want to try to go back in time and recreate a time where I was chattel, even as I can be curious how they managed to maintain a functional home, feed a family, etc. Saying “I don’t want to live like that” isn’t exactly the same as saying “I don’t care what the blacksmith does.” The Victorian couple certainly seem to maintain a few things historically they like, but they haven’t exactly adopted the attitudes of the era, either. I’m with Rocky about not wanting to experience life in the 1950s, but I could see playing with a set of household appliances and clothes being entertaining for a short while.

  98. next time we’re in Colonial Williamsburg and the blacksmith or tanner is talking about his craft, I’ll be sure to remind everyone in earshot “remember, people were RACIST and SEXIST in the old days!

    I think you’ll find that CW is ON IT and you’ll probably have an interesting conversation. You’ve been there recently; surely you’ve noticed that they’re doing a lot to present the slave’s experience as part of the whole deal. Including by the living historians playing those roles.

  99. “I think there are plenty of dumb teachers, too.”

    And we’ve discussed here how there are probably a lot more than there were a generation or two ago, and fewer really smart teachers.

  100. @RMS – that article gave me chills (and nausea, and palpitations). I have sat next to my daughter’s hospital bed and worried that life-threatening neglect was happening.

    The truth (as I see it) is that every patient would have a better outcome with an ICU doctor next to her bedside. The father made a rapid intervention – likely the same intervention that the resident would have made in the next hour or so. Complex medical care is rarely fast medical care – and most of the time it doesn’t matter. Many hospitals have initiated a kind of “code” that families can activate when they feel there is deterioration and no one is acting.

    After my daughter had CPR, we were approached about enrolling in a study about cardiac arrest in kids. Obviously, it was an emotional few hours. I called a friend who works in the ICU at a big academic center to ask her advice. She shared that their institution did not participate in the trial (it was multicenter) – because they didn’t feel the two arms were equivalent and that it was not ethical. In spite of this, she recommended that we enroll our daughter in the trial. Her rationale was that there would be more people and more doctors monitoring her moment-to-moment — which outweighed the theoretical risk that one arm of the trial was slightly more beneficial than the other. We did enroll our daughter, she was randomized to the lesser treatment arm, but we had a steady parade of people watching her – more than your average ICU patient. Perhaps it made a a difference?

    Anyway, I think the thesis that an ICU doctor who sits by the bed all day of a loved one can provide faster response and better care is likely true. What that means for greater medical care, I don’t really know.

  101. “Many hospitals have initiated a kind of “code” that families can activate when they feel there is deterioration and no one is acting.”

    I have spent far too much time in hospitals with family members the past few years, and I have never heard of this kind of “code”.

  102. “Cars that overheated regularly”

    My dad taught me to keep a container of water in the car for this.

    And it wasn’t just overheating; cars back in those days were not very reliable by today’s standards, and a lot of guys kept a set of tools in their cars because of the non-trivial likelihood of needing them.

  103. “I think you’ll find that CW is ON IT and you’ll probably have an interesting conversation. You’ve been there recently; surely you’ve noticed that they’re doing a lot to present the slave’s experience as part of the whole deal. Including by the living historians playing those roles.”

    Oh, absolutely they are. As is every other historic site–Monticello, Mount Vernon, whatever. And the preferred terminology seems to be “enslaved people,” rather than “slaves.”

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