Looking For !!Science!! Shows

It’s been a long time since I watched much of anything on television, and my nostalgia for the good old days of a Discovery Channel that actually showed science has asserted itself. Right now, I’m streaming “How the Universe Works” on Netflix, and I’ll be looking for other stuff.

I may wax nostalgic for Carl Sagan, but I’m generally looking for shows that’d let me know stuff I might have missed over the past few years. I may be able to type “Higgs boson” into a search engine, but only because I’m aware that physicists are looking for it. There’s probably a lot of cool stuff being found that I’m not aware of.

Why I Don’t Trust Burzynski

If anyone’s suppressing Burzynski’s research, it’s Burzynski. The only motivations I can think of are greed and delusion because he’s not doing what an honest, altruistic scientist would do.

An honest scientist wouldn’t have any reason to delay publication of positive results for decades. If he got negative results, he would have moved onto more fruitful research long ago. If he suspected there was some flaw in the study, he would turn it over to peer review so they could engage in constructive criticism and he could start over and avoid those mistakes. Only a delusional scientist would keep testing after negative results, use cherry-picked anecdotes to falsely bolster his confidence and recruit test subjects, and avoid scientific scrutiny.

An honest scientist wouldn’t charge patients ridiculous amounts to participate, because that would make the selection non-random, biasing the results and negating the study’s value. Patients who invest a lot of money into a treatment are also emotionally invested in interpreting their situation in a positive light. Statistical analysis is how we remove our rose-colored glasses.

An altruistic scientist would instead pay for the study by asking for research grants and donations. He wouldn’t give out false promises of results, only that his treatment be given a chance to live up to his hopes. A con artist, however, would seek to make a profit by overcharging desperate patients for drugs that can be bought more cheaply. He would encourage people to spread cherry-picked testimonials to convince laypeople who don’t understand science. He wouldn’t publish his statistics and research methodology because that would allow scientists to discover the scam.

An honest scientist wouldn’t take a long time to publish a study unless what he’s studying really and truly takes decades to gather the data and make conclusions from them. In the case of a long term cancer treatment study, he’d at least publish preliminary results of what happens in the first few years and then continue following the patients for longer increments. That way, if the initial results are promising, other scientists can try to replicate them, and not have to wait for decades.

An altruistic scientist wouldn’t keep his research to himself. Science today depends on a culture of altruism. Scientists are expected to share information relatively freely. Science thrives with transparency and cooperation because new research depends on the reliability of existing knowledge. The era of the lone genius toiling in isolation is long dead because we’ve got good reason to think we’ve figured out all the “obvious” stuff. New research is about the fine details and nuances or the rare and exotic. A scientist who wants to find something new needs to know what others have already found out. Keeping your research secret from the world is downright Randian, because it depends on authoritarianism and the blind trust of consumers, instead of informed consent.

If Burzynski is allowed to continue his scam, that sets a precedent for big pharmaceutical companies to do the same.

Anthem’s Preliminary Failure

I was reminded of this post by Tom Foss by my brother when I talked with him about writing stuff about Ayn Rand. I was glad to see he ported over his old posts, so I might review some old thoughts. I also left a decent comment I considered copying and pasting as a new post.

When I noticed Tom mention that Anthem was short, I considered enduring it myself, though that might have to wait. My brother once had a copy, but it’s either missing, or it got sold while he was cutting down on space. He says he only had his copy because he was collecting dystopian literature.

In one part of my comment, I discuss Prometheus discovering lost technology and science literature. This really wrecks my ability to take the “moral” of the story seriously and see it as applicable toward the world we live in. We don’t live in a Scavenger World.

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Asking for Suggestions: Ayn Rand

I’ve all too often bumped into overt Randroids and trollishly extreme libertarians that remind me of the Randroids. Rand infests wingnut politics as well as quacks and their blind followers who don’t want to be bound by ethical review boards. It’s used to substitute objective measurements of reality with reports of market penetration. Large corporations, banks, and so forth use Rand’s philosophy to justify deregulation and short-term gains at the cost of economic stability. It’s used to demonize the common people who do the actual work at maintaining society’s infrastructure. It’s used to ridicule scientific research as a waste of government money. It’s used to justify huge salaries for useless or even corrupt managers. I see failures in history, the actions that led to those failures, and then I stumble on some Randroid who didn’t learn from that history. Sometimes, it seems like nearly everything I’m for or against has an apparent Rand lover arguing the opposite position.

So I’m thinking of making some long post or possibly even a series about Ayn Rand. The first difficulty is that I’ve heard some horror stories about how bad her writing actually is, so that makes me reluctant to slog through the primary sources. I’d like suggestions for alternatives to pinching my nose and diving into a library copy. Of course, links to other people writing about Rand would be appreciated.

One idea I think might be worth mentioning is that I’ve seen an Atlas Shrugged movie show up on Netflix. It might be tolerable to riff it along with my brother, and write a stream of consciousness post like I did on the “Under the Microscope” posts on the old blog.