Discussion
Started 24th Apr, 2020

Science versus superstition in medicine, in the age of Covid19

In the age of Covid19, is there a basic conflict between science and superstition in the discipline of medical knowledge? Are there some simple, sensible, robust and reasonable ways to distinguish a scientific statement (or fact) from a superstitious statement?
To stay focused, the topic will concentrate on science versus superstition in the scientific discipline of medicine. We will try our very best to stay focused and not stray off track. it is very easy to wander off message and be all over the map. i will try to summarize the key conclusions from time to time.
In the age of the Corona Virus, there are so many statements out there. The statements may not be scientific. But if they are not scientific, are they false? Are they fake? Are they simply statements based on superstition.
What should we do if people believe in statements that are not based on science? Should we be polite and tolerate their beliefs?
As long as people do not harm others, then from society’s point of view, the fact that people hold non-scientific hypotheses is probably benign. However, the trouble starts when the same people act these beliefs, and then cause harm to others. The question arises: what should society do in this case?
Based on the discussion, there are two assumptions and four categories.
Assumption1: Beliefs cannot be justified or unjustified.
Assumption2: hypotheses can be disproven
Scientific hypotheses that are based on justified facts in natural causation. Or scientific hypotheses have not been disproven (I prefer the negative formulation because we may never be able to prove anything but we are unable to disprove it.)
Since science cannot give a definitive answer, there are many competing answers that merit our attention, and we may not be able to select among them.
Non-scientific hypotheses are unjustified facts that may be “proven” in the future with better evidence and facts.
Pseudo-scientific hypotheses: not sure where these fit in?
Superstitions are unjustified beliefs in supernatural causation.

Most recent answer

29th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
You ask about what to do with COVID19. I meant apply "do no harm" principle for yourself. I don't understand well your last post. I mentioned earlier that science never gives final answers. Science is dealing with hypotheses (which may become theories). These hypotheses /theories are valid only under certain conditions. Therefore, indetermism, incompleteness and undecidability are intrinsic for science. I like the expression: "A scientific result is not a fact but an endless process"

Popular replies (1)

4th May, 2020
Valeria Tananska
Medical University of Plovdiv
Joseph Tham , hello,
The main differences between scientific and non-scientific knowledge are:
- the personal perspective of the reader (scientist or not) - the presence/ absence of a particular format of research on a topic, widely accepted amongst scientists as representative of science - the perceived (by the scientific community) usefulness of given research/ claims as to a particular issue
Meaning, something considered non-scientific today, if studied in a consistent, scientific manner and, provided there is a well-disposed scientific culture for it, may give useable, temporary scientific data tomorrow.
I am using the word "temporary", as science is a dynamic field. In the search for reliable truths, even established research analyses and conclusions are put into question and, sometimes, even refuted.
I hope this helps, Valeria :)
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All replies (236)

24th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
For science, the gold standard is the RCT (Randomized Control Trials). However, the RCT is a very difficult bar to jump....Not reasonable to require an RCT for many simple facts.
24th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
I may believe that the earth is flat. Is this a good example of a superstition?
24th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
I may believe that drinking cold water is bad for my health. Do i need to confirm this with RCTs? Suppose no RCTs exist. What should I do?
24th Apr, 2020
Hassan Izzeddin Sarsak
Batterjee Medical College for Health Sciences and Technology
They might be misconceptions due to lack of knowledge, ignorance, and/or rumors. Data derived from reliable sources such as the WHO could be considered facts and/or possible theories that need further exploration and testing.
24th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Sure. the misconceptions are due to lack of knowledge, ignorance or rumors. but it is not difficult to find two doctors that will give contradictory information.
What is the guarantee that WHO is the fair judge of scientific facts. Suppose i do not believe or trust the WHO. Then what are my options? Who do I trust? Who do i believe?
24th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Suppose I believe that the earth is the center of the universe, and the sun revolves around the earth. So what? Does it even matter? Sure i may be ignorant but i am happy to be ignorant. is it a problem for you if i am ignorant and believe that the earth is the center of the universe. Why do you care about this?
24th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
In order to continues this discussion let's first agree on definitions of "science" and "scientific method.'' Dear Joseph, you started this discussion and therefore, what are your definitions?
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Artur Braun I fully agree that science provides us with the freedom to doubt. First the doubt may start out as superstition and then it becomes science. Einstein doubted Newton and thought that Newton was wrong, and it turns out that Einstein was right.
Galileo doubts that the earth is the center of the universe. people think he is crazy and he turns out to be right.
I may have doubts about the acupuncture, and think that acupuncture is crazy, and it turns out that acupuncture is right.
When the doubt initially starts out as superstition, not backed by rigorous RCTs that take a lot of time, what do we do if we have to make a decision? how do we decide?
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii I fully agree with the impulse to start out with a clear definition science and the scientific method. in many discussions, there is so much controversy at this definitional stage that there is zero progress on the distinction between science and non-science. i wish to focus on simpler ways to distinguish science from non-science. RCTs is just too rigorous for more daily purposes.
astronomy is a science, astrology is not a science, it is not clear if it is superstition
the earth is at the center of the universe, clearly it is not a scientific statement
gargling hot water with salt will cure me of Covid19. is it a scientific statement? if we require RCTs, then clearly it is not a scientific statement
drinking orange juice will prevent the flu. i don't know if there are rigorous RCTs that demonstrate this fact. Are there? suppose the rigorous research is uncertain. i could still believe in the efficacy of orange juice. is it okay even it is not a scientific statement?
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
i may believe that acupuncture may cure Covid19. there are no RCTs to support this statement.
i do not care. i may still pursue acupuncture in the delusional hope that it works....
in our daily life, we are not constantly guided by scientific beliefs. often we use intuition or other ways of knowing. should we have a policy to RIGOROUSLY stamp out such non-scientific beliefs? i am not so sure.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
From an educational point of view, in schools we teach many non-scientific disciplines. however, being non-scientific does not mean that they are superstitions.
So there are three categories. science, non-science and superstition.
how do we distinguish non-science from superstition? and if people insist on believing in superstitions, as long as those beliefs do not lead to violent bahaviour, i guess we would tolerate them. not sure. still thinking about it.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii To focus and narrow the discussion, we can restrict ourselves to the field of medicine, broadly defined.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Artur Braun For the sound in the bush, running away makes sense. only a few curious ones will stay to investigate further. most of them may be eaten by the lions but some may not. Good example. Running away would qualify as scientific knowledge. Are such algorithms part of scientific knowledge? What would be a comparable example in the field of medicine, broadly defined?
25th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
I agree with the following definitions.
Science does not give us a single definitive answer. It proposes different hypothesis which more or less correctly describe the answer.
Google gives " the scientific method consists in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. "
"The scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge.
It involves careful observation, applying rigorous skepticism about what is observed, given that cognitive assumptions can distort how one interprets the observation"
The Six Steps of scientific approach
  • Purpose/Question. Ask a question.
  • Research. Conduct background research. ...
  • Hypothesis. Propose a hypothesis. ...
  • Experiment. Design and perform an experiment to test your hypothesis. ...
  • Data/Analysis. Record observations and analyze the meaning of the data. ...
  • Conclusion
Belief
an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
superstition
a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief.
Pseudoscience is not a focus of this discussion.
Thus, there are science, pseudo-science and belief (which includes superstition).
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii Thank you. You have certainly provided an excellent working definition for the scientific method and science. i have no quarrels with it. Thus, for you superstition is simply an unjustified belief.
i believe that taking Vitamin D will improve my immune system, and could possibly protect me against. is it justified? how would i know? there are no conclusive RCTs. i will continue to take Vitamin D. Any comments?
25th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
"To focus and narrow the discussion, we can restrict ourselves to the field of medicine, broadly defined "
my point: The medicine is not only a science but also an art (strongly depends on doctors skills). The science is all about reproducibility, everybody must obtain the same results. The art is a creation of something unique. Nobody can reproduce a piece of art. In medicine, a doctor is an artist.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Artur Braun You are absolutely right. if i hear that an evil virus is coming, i will run away. but it is an unusually rare event. maybe once in every ten years. there is so much fake news floating around. perhaps it is just media hype. i will not run and lock myself.
however, if i do lock myself, for how long do i lock myself in? i need to eat. i need to work. hmm i am hungry. i know that there is a really evil virus out there but what to do. i will starve to death if i do not go and work and get money to buy food to eat.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii Would you agree that there are fifty shades of science? All scientific disciplines are equal but some are more equal than others? some give more definite answers?
25th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
" for you superstition is simply an unjustified belief. " No, it is unjustified belief in supernatural causation
Taking vitamins is a belief or not proved hypothesis
25th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
there are much more than fifty shades of science
All are equal but some are more equal than others. In Russian this sounds much better. Equal also means flat. Thus " All are flat but some are flatter than others"
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25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii Okay. Agreed. we can move forward with the definition that "superstition is an unjustified belief in supernatural causation".
i believe that the amount of vitamin D in my body will "cause" my immune system to improve and enhance my ability to fight Covid19. Since i am not sure whether the cause is supernatural, i will say that it is a non-superstitious belief. i am inclined to believe that it is a natural cause.
but it is not a scientific belief either because there are no RCTs to back up this belief. So there is this grey area between non-scientific belief and non-superstitious belief. Agree? What name should we give to these kinds of beliefs so that we can facilitate discussion?
25th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
I'm sorry, I have to work on my project. Can't reply.
25th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
Science does not use the concept "belief", they use "hypothesis" instead of belief. I turn off my internet until tomorrow morning.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
To obtain a consensus on the general points of agreements, I give a summary of the key points.
Summary of key points
A superstitious belief is an unjustified belief in a supernatural causation.
A non-superstitious belief is an unjustified belief in a natural causation.
Science does not use the concept of belief
A science hypothesis is a justified belief in a natural causation
A non-scientific hypothesis is belief in a supernatural causation
There are fifty shades of science because science does not give a definitive answer.
A non-superstitious belief is DIFFERENT from a non-scientific belief.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
For example, I may have a hypothesis (not a belief) that taking Vitamin D will cause my immune system to improve, and enhance and strength my immune system, and protect me from Covid19
At present, there are no RCTs that support this hypothesis.
I am guessing that the cause is natural, but I am not sure because I do not know how to determine whether the cause is natural or supernatural (or trans natural)
25th Apr, 2020
Krishna Kumar Govindarajan
Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research
The ability to distinguish science from superstition stems from what we believe as scientific facts and we dismiss as mere superstition. Science is a 'cynic' to which only hard core evidence proven by 'studies' will stand the test of time. Whereas superstition can appeal to any eager yielding mind without a solid basis.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Krishna Kumar Govindarajan If i believe in non-scientific cures for Covid19, should it bother you? Would society care about my beliefs?
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Some people believe that drinking bleach can cure Covid19
Some people even suggest that we can consume bleach or inject bleach to fight Covid19
Cristina Cuomo writes:
“We want to neutralize the heavy metals because they slow-up the electromagnetic frequency of our cells, which is our energy field, and we need a good flow of energy.”
Clorox is sodium choride – which is technically salt. There is no danger in doing this. It is a simple naturopathic treatment that has been used for over 75 years to oxygenate the cells.”
25th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
I have a short break.
Your "I may have a hypothesis (not a belief) that taking Vitamin D will cause my immune system to improve, and enhance and strength my immune system, and protect me from Covid19
At present, there are no RCTs that support this hypothesis."
This is a good example of a scientific hypothesis. It does not contradict to our knowledge in this area. It just requires a solid confirmation.
" If i believe in non-scientific cures for Covid19, should it bother you? Would society care about my beliefs?" You have a right to believe in whatever, if your actions based on your belief does not hurt the society. The problem is not in what you believe but how you behave based on your belief.
Cristina Cuomo's writes-up is an example of pseudoscience. She is using a scientific terminology in her statement potentially dangerous for some people . This is the case when the society could not ignore such behavior.
…?
25th Apr, 2020
Jay Klagge
Arizona State University
If "science" simply means "knowledge" that is quite different than if "science" is taken to mean ONLY empirically tested and confirmed "nuggets" can be called "scientific." There are many things we "know" that have nothing to do with empirical testing. Frankly, most of the important things we know fall into that classification. One example would be ethics/morals.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Jay Klagge I think science means more than just knowledge, and it is also different from simply knowledge. Let's keep the focus on science and medicine as an example of science. i do not want to broaden the discussion to epistemology which is a HUGE ocean and i will drown in it. For the moment, let us exclude knowledge in moral philosophy and ethics. i do not necessarily disagree with you but i want to stay as focused as i can.
Look at the previous definition on the scientific method.
A scientific hypothesis is a justified belief in a natural causation. Do you agree with this statement. i want to obtain consensus, step by step and then move forward to identify areas of disagreement.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Distinction between harm to self and harm to others
If I were to inject bleach, paid for by myself with no assistance from the government, I am not harming anyone, and it would probably be okay.
If I were to give bleach to my child, then I could be potentially harming another person, and then PERHAPS society may intervene. Agree? Is this your point?
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
President Donald Trump has openly advocated for the use of hydroxycholoroquine for the treatment of Covid19 even though the scientific evidence is flimsy, at best. I am not a scientist.
What should we do, if anything?
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
If people have harmless beliefs about pseudo-science, then society may not wish to do anything.
However, if the people harm others based on the beliefs about pseudo-science, then society MIGHT have to think about how to intervene. We need to define the meaning of harm to others and think about a proportionate response and not overreact to all the pseudo-scientific beliefs that people may have. Again, we must be careful to distinguish pseudo-scientific beliefs from non-scientific hypotheses. How do we distinguish pseudo-scientific beliefs from untested and non-scientific hypotheses that could be confirmed in the future? Agree?
25th Apr, 2020
Joan Nyika
The Technical University of Kenya
Science is fact-based. Otherwise it is superstition unless proven.
People chose to belief different things that are either science or otherwise. To maintain respect among people, personal beliefs must be valued and tolerated irrespective of your personal opinion about them.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Joan Nyika Suppose i believe that drinking bleach will help protect me from Covid19 and i promote this idea among my friends and relatives. is it okay?
25th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
"Distinction between harm to self and harm to others" I agree.
President Trump. We have the rights to follow or not to his advise.
Pseudo-science is a big problem worth of separate discussion.
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
A scientific hypothesis is a justified belief in a natural causation, with a focus on medicine as a scientific discipline. For the moment, we do not discuss other forms of knowledge, such as knowledge from ethics or moral philosophy.
From a theoretical and conceptual viewpoint, the definition makes sense. From a practical viewpoint in daily life, the definition raises many secondary questions.
What is the meaning of justified? How would be distinguish a justified belief from an unjustified belief?
What is the meaning of natural? How do we distinguish natural causation from unnatural causation?
Finally, what is the meaning of causation? In many practical situations, it is difficult to distinguish causation from association or correlation.
Again, I am looking for practical guidance rather than a deep philosophical discussion.
As long as people do not harm others, then from society’s point of view, the fact that people hold non-scientific hypotheses is probably benign. However, the trouble starts when the same people act these beliefs, and then cause harm to others. The question arises: what should society do in this case?
25th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
Belief can't be justified or unjustified. A hypothesis can be disproved.
Natural means that you can't explain something unknown by introducing other unknown things. " the same people act these beliefs, and then cause harm to others." There is no clear borderline between benign and unacceptable behavior. Each case should be considered separately.
" Again, I am looking for practical guidance rather than a deep philosophical discussion." There are strict guidance for doctors how to deal with different cases, while they have much freedom. The rule of thumb for doctors is " first, do no harm. " There are on sale different food supplements, they are labeled "These statements have not evaluated by ....."
25th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii Are you sympathetic to Karl Popper's ideas about falsification?
25th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
I'm not aware of these ideas. This deserves a separate discussion.
25th Apr, 2020
Jay Klagge
Arizona State University
Greetings Dr. Tham: Regarding your comment " However, the trouble starts when the same people act these beliefs, and then cause harm to others. The question arises: what should society do in this case?" Like almost every other question, the answer is - "It All Depends." Was there criminal intent? Was there monetary gain? Was their brainwashing (Jones Town)?, Etc. The other issue is culpability. If I privately do something dumb and do not proselytize, should I be held responsible and accountable for choices and actions of others who freely elect, and under no pressure to do so, follow my stupidity? And finally, who is "society?" Are we talking about the "court of public opinion" or laws enacted by a duly elected governmental body that are found to be in accordance with the enduring principles of a social contract (e.g. Constitution)?
BTW, you have interested me in learning more about Karl Popper's ideas about falsification ... Thank you for that lead.
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25th Apr, 2020
Tony Maine
Queensland University of Technology
If you drink bleach and have to go to hospital, who pays? Society? I bet most US insurance companies won't want to know! And clorox isn't sodium chloride, it's sodium hypochlorite which is quite different.
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Tony Maine Great comment. Thank you. I don't know the answer to your question. in the US media, i keep hearing about people using bleach again Covid19. makes no sense to me but i am no medical doctor or chemist.
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii Fully agree. thank you. let's try our best to stay focused on topic, science and superstition in medicine. please please remind me of this because it is very easy to be all over the map. it is much more difficult to stay focused.
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Based on the discussion, there are two assumptions and four categories.
Assumption1: Beliefs cannot be justified or unjustified.
Assumption2: hypotheses can be disproven
Scientific hypotheses that are based on justified facts in natural causation. Or scientific hypotheses have not been disproven (I prefer the negative formulation because we may never be able to prove anything but we are unable to disprove it.)
Since science cannot give a definitive answer, there are many competing answers that merit our attention, and we may not be able to select among them.
Non-scientific hypotheses are unjustified facts that may be “proven” in the future with better evidence and facts.
Pseudo-scientific hypotheses: not sure where these fit in?
Superstitions are unjustified beliefs in supernatural causation.
1 Recommendation
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Jay Klagge Your thoughtful comment is most appreciated. it raises many interesting, difficult questions. i may have to think about how to respond. i want to make sure we stay focused on topic, namely science and superstition in medicine. i do not mean to be negative about your comment. let me think some more and try and write a reasoned response.
26th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
Pseudo-scientific "hypotheses" can't be called hypotheses. The better word would be "theories"
The majority of pseudo-scientist falls in three category;
ambitious but not educated people
mentally sick
cheaters
1 Recommendation
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii You have made a statement about the categories for pseudo scientists. is this statement scientific? it is a belief that cannot be justified or unjustified? is it a theory that you wish to test? is it just a hypotheses? can you provide natural empirical evidence in support of your statement? can your statement be disproven?
26th Apr, 2020
Rick Manner
Independent Consultant
I think Yuri is mostly correct. However, I expect there are also quite a few educated people who actually believe these things without much proof. There are even many scientist and engineers who fall into the trap of believing things because it is what they wantit to be true even if there is no proof an sometimes even if there is proof that that they are incorrect.
26th Apr, 2020
Deepak Chaudhary
Tribhuvan University
Greeting Dr. Tham, It is very interesting discussion. However, i am not able to give perfect answer of this high level discussion, albeit, I would share one empirical truth. At this COVID-19 time, all temples/monasteries/mosques are closed, and people are staying 顺心彩票. In South Asia, religious values and belief are strongly rooted in the society. Interestingly, people are curiously seeing the science for vaccine of COVID-19. Such scenarios may happen in other parts, but i am talking about South Asia. Though, I am fond of spiritual part of the religions, but not superstition. How can we understand this scenario?
26th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
Joseph Tham "about the categories for pseudo scientists" This is my own "belief." I have graduated from the best Russian physical technical university. I worked with many extraordinary scholars. I used to be very critical to all results/publications in my area. I often joke: " Don't trust to anyone" then I make a pause and add "except me." I have troubles to tolerate any misinterpretations of basic scientific laws. Rick Manner knows this very well. Therefore, my classification of pseudo-scientists is based on my temper and is not scientific.
Rick Manner Glad to see you in this discussion. I agree with you. I had to write " ambitious people who consider themselves as genius scientists but not educated and filling themselves not appropriately recognized by a society."
26th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
Dear Deepak Chaudhary . The science and religion have nothing in common and should simply co-exist. They do not contradict each other. I'm a scientist and believe in God.
2 Recommendations
26th Apr, 2020
Rick Manner
Independent Consultant
Yurii V Geletii There are times when Religion and science disagree. Neither science or religion are perfect and both are often wrong. There has been lot of good and lots of evil done in the name of religion and in the name of science.
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
May i humbly request that we do not discuss religion because it is a very sensitive, controversial and personal topic. Let us try our best to focus on the issue of science and superstition in the scientific discipline of medicine. I deeply thank you for your understanding, politeness and tolerance.
1 Recommendation
26th Apr, 2020
Jay Klagge
Arizona State University
Dear Dr. Geletti: I agree with you but then I am finding out that I have a very wide view concerning the word Science. While I embrace and practice Empiricism as one means of gaining knowledge, it is only one way and for many applications falls short of producing "Knowledge." I have challenged my undergraduate statistics students to consider multiple epistemologies when searching for knowledge. To that end I have found the simple attachment to be a great conversation starter. At the extremes it presents the conflict birthed during the "Enlightenment" and remains in many corners and corridors to this day.
Thank you for you posting. Jay Klagge
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Let’s try our best to focus and stay on topic. Epistemology is a huge ocean and we will drown
26th Apr, 2020
Jay Klagge
Arizona State University
Dear Dr. Tham: I apologize for going beyond the bounds of the question you posed. BTW, I did post my previous entry BEFORE I saw your request that we do not go into religion. If I respond to this string again I will stay on topic. Thank you.
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Please don’t misunderstand. I have nothing against religion. Just trying to create a small pond where we can splash around. Thank you for your support and understand. Religion is a very sensitive topic. We may not be able to totally exclude religion. It may make sense within the context of medical science. Let me think some more and clarify my thinking.
26th Apr, 2020
Ramin Farajpour
Tabriz University of Medical Sciences
EBM or evidence based medicine nowadays prevents superstition in medical field.
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Mask against Covid19
I have a hypothesis that wearing a mask can protect me from the Covid19.
Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers from RCTs on masks. Thus, this cannot be a scientific hypothesis. It is a belief; however, a belief cannot be justified or unjustified.
It is a non-scientific belief. I am reluctant to call this a superstitious belief. Is it a pseudo-scientific belief? Not sure. Clearly, it is non-scientific.
What should I do? Do I wear a mask in public? That is the key question.
I must make a decision BEFORE I can read the research results from RCTs
26th Apr, 2020
Sandeep Kumar
Central University of Rajasthan
As far as I Know, the acupuncture, sound therapy, psychotherapy, color therapy and ayurvedic treatments all of them originated from the so called superstition. All of them known to our families By following their ancestors as tradition. However in this era so called modern era Peoples are dependent on others to even know the requirements of their own body and understand their own feelings.
In science, where we do the research to find out the reason or solution behind or for the happanigs or happened or going to happen with the hope/belief and thought/existing knowledge so called hypothesis.
I hope you are aware with the dialogue " Mathametics is mother of science ". I believe the same. I really do know it's my knowledge, belief or superstition! Sometimes superstition is like existence of mathematics without science and sometime existence of science without mathametics. What you would like to called the existence mother of science mathematics without science? Superstition or something else? From my point of view if anyone do not Know the reason or science behind that they are doing or thinking is necessarily been called as superstition. People's believe in science because of their results not because of the process that is utilized to do the science. Scientists or practitioners are bound to believe in science or their way of practice because of their profession. No can do anything to those people who don't have believe in science or their related practices. As far as science contributing to improve the way of life is fine otherwise there is no meaning of science for common peoples.
When it's a matter of survive superstition come in human behaviour. As right now peoples are giving money to get the solution of their problem and if broker done some wrong and honour start to blame the broker it doesn't mean he is superstitious.
I hope this comment give a different way thinking to this on going discussion.
Regards,
Sandeep
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Sandeep Kumar Thank you very much for your post. There are lots of ideas in your post. Let me understand them first, and write a response. Again, i thank you for taking the time to write. Fascinating ideas.
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Jay Klagge I just read the four-page document that you posted. Fascinating. lots of ideas in there. need some some time to understand them. they seem relevant to our discussion here. need to think. thank you so much for posting that document. i request others to read that document and respond and help us understand how we can interpret and incorporate those ideas. thank you sir.
26th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Jay Klagge I am posting a table based on a handout by Professor Klagge. To test my understanding, i have inserted tentative disciplines in each of the cells. Please have a look, and i would welcome your comments on my examples in each cell.
27th Apr, 2020
Ivana Radoji?i?
Fakultet za medije i komunikacije
Ivana Radoji?i??added an answer
2 minutes ago
It is very easy to say that something is not scientific, and, therefore, should a priori be regected even though it could be a possible helping aid in fight with covid-19.
The only way how we could distinguish between usefull and useless information is by knowing pathophysiology of covid 19 and mechanism patheays of certain food, supplements, vitamins.
For example, vitQ10 could help fight cardial hypoxia.
But when approaching claims (whether true or false) we always have to be open minded, think very hard and try to see is there a possibility that this could help. Even scientists have made many mistakes in many claims stating that some claims are useless, and later came back to see that i was not useless, and that it might help.
The logaritm should be like this:
Is this potenntially harmfull and can kill or dammage?
Yes ---> out
No----> does it contribute to the wellbeing in any way?---->no--->out
Yes----> what are the mechanisms of action of this? -----> compare to covid 19 symptoms and pathophysiology and see if it imtersects or could help ease symptoms or help sertaim tissue, organ or organ system. Pay attention for the possible interactions with food or medications.
I am saying this from the dietetic point of view, because I've heared all crazy stuff but, at the end, some or it could really work and help.
27th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Ivana Radoji?i? Thank you for your answer. Many ideas there. let me read and think and then write a response.
1 Recommendation
27th Apr, 2020
Michael Kowalik
Not Affiliated
It is typically presented as a fact, or otherwise implied as a fact, that a positive result on the Test Kit used to diagnose infection with SARS-CoV-2 entails presence of always the Same strain of a coronavirus. I am unable to find any independent studies verifying the accuracy of the test and whether any other coronaviruses may be detected (falsely) as SARS-CoV-2 (there are many coronaviruses around, they cause common colds, and at least 4 other common coronaviruses have similar mortality to SARS-CoV-2, according to a French study cited below). Does anyone here have information to eliminate this doubt or are we faced here with a medical myth?
1 Recommendation
27th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Michael Kowalik Great question. Thank you. i have ZERO knowledge of medical science. i will wait for the professional answers from medical experts.
But if my President says that some bleach or vitamin D might help my immune system, what am I supposed to believe?
27th Apr, 2020
Ivana Radoji?i?
Fakultet za medije i komunikacije
The president is not a doctor!!! Follow ONLY medical recommendations. Please do not take bleach of supplements of vitD unless you have a deficiency of this vitamin because it could cause heart problems, palpitations... Only as doctors recommend and other legitime medical staff.
27th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Ivana Radoji?i? I regret to admit that many people believe our dearest President.
27th Apr, 2020
Dylan Dustin van Rosenveldt
University of the Free State
There are many variables to consider. Metaphysical aspects, Esoteric practices, and ideas. both inside and outside the practice of medicine. Look at cannabis or any of the serotonin-like molecules namely DMT, Lysergic acid & Mescaline. All considered having had no medical significance at one time or another by the educated. Then some courageous psychologists in the 60's came along and said otherwise. Here, 50 years later, change has come.
The exploration of what works and doesn't work exists in a spectrum of vast infinite probability. I like to say that 'just because you discovered the colour red doesn't mean other colours don't exist'. quite factually, there are colors in perpetual quantities for the observer to discover.
live and let live. Strive for peace, harmony, and end blissful ignorance, for the strongest roots thrive in darkness.
27th Apr, 2020
Valeria Tananska
Medical University of Plovdiv
Many people do not believe your president, but, rather, his medical advisers. Your president is a finansist and a businessman by original trade (your previous ones - lawyers, mainly).
Outside his field of expertise, he is obliged to work on the advice of a board of medical specialists and intelligence gathered on the subject from other countries.
The same applies to any mentioned medications, which, by the way, require a prescription from a physician, or (due to the constant need of patient monitoring) are used in hospitals only.
So all your president does, is trying to navigate in an environment of unconfirmed, confllicting, or ill-structured incoming data, consequently stating what his advisers think on the matter. This is all a president legally does, in this respect.
Your president is also obliged to inform citizens of current developments with the outbreak and where your country stands in terms of reaction vis-a-vis other countries, and he does that.
I am not defending your president, but simply stating facts and procedures that impact his behavior and statements.
At the same time, I advise not to listen to the opinions of journalists and talk show hosts - they have their own agendas.
Also, in Europe we notice that people from the States are generally obsessed with bleach. All we hear is: "Clorox wipes! Clorox wipes!" Its ingredients though irritate the skin, the eyes, as well as the mucosa of the respiratory system.
When in doubt as what to do healthwise - it is best to:
a/ (if you are interested) read from textbooks used for the purposes of medical education, AND
b/ ask for a second, a third, or even fourth medical opinion, besides your GPs - in this case, from an epidemiologist, a microbiologist, an infectionist, or just another physician with a proven record of successfully assisted patients.
We, physicians, differ from one another based on how good of a diagnostician each of us is.
It is considered a skill to be able to analyse symptoms and technical data globally, rather than just based on one's narrow specialization. Some have it, others - do not.
Good grasp of anatomy, physiology and internal medicine, widened/ updated regularly with research driven by deductive science, also helps.
:)
27th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Valeria Tananska It may be difficult for you to believe but many people have followed the advice and drank disinfectant. Right now, it is very crazy. It is not illegal to be stupid, yet. What to do?
27th Apr, 2020
Michael Kowalik
Not Affiliated
It is expected that the lockdowns will result in severe excess mortality, estimated at 4.8 millions deaths 10 years prematurely in the U.S. alone (https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/health-coronavirus-usa-cost/), but nobody expected this to start happening so soon.
In the following study, the researchers estimate that during mass lay-offs, a person who has lost their job will live 1.5 years shorter on average, so a 32 million new unemployment claims translates into 48 million life years lost, or 4.8 million premature deaths by 10 years each.
1 Recommendation
27th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Michael Kowalik in simple language, what are the implications of these statistical anomalies? What do we need to change in our public policies?
27th Apr, 2020
Valeria Tananska
Medical University of Plovdiv
Some time ago, we heard that a couple drank fish tank cleaning tablets. Regrettably, the husband is no longer living.
But it was, I trust, a singular occurrence. Have there been new incidents?
One must be careful to differentiate between personal medical advice given by the president (which he does not do) and daily White House briefings, whereby the president informs citizens of current progress, based on his advisers' analysis and foreign-gathered intelligence.
Better socio-political understanding seems to be required.
:)
2 Recommendations
27th Apr, 2020
Michael Kowalik
Not Affiliated
Deaths are attributed to Covid in the US(1), UK and Italy(2) (perhaps everywhere else) when Coronavorus infection is detected or suspected and a person has died, irrespective of the actual cause of death. This is quite unprecedented and causes a lot of statistical confusion. For example, in the last week for which official data is available in the UK (3), there were about 8000 deaths above the multi year average for that week, 6200 deaths were attributed to Covid (because infection was diagnosed) but only 1810 deaths were classified as caused by respiratory illness (which is a typical value for an average week for deaths from pneumonia). So even assuming that there were no other deaths due to respiratory illness except Covid in that week there were still 4400 excess deaths With Covid but not Of Covid, which raises questions about the extraordinary cause of these deaths. Are the lockdowns repsponsible? It seems likely, but more evidence is necessary.
At the policy level, we need to focus on the underlying cause of death instead of infection status, in order to consistently measure outcomes and avoid a situation where the cure is more harmful than the illness.
1 Recommendation
28th Apr, 2020
Tony Maine
Queensland University of Technology
That is a very good point, Michael. Confusion at that level on the cause of a death may make much of the statistics largely meaningless, or even misleading. How will it ever be possible to assess the extent that Covid-19 was implicated in a death where there were co-morbidities? No physician could do that with any confidence. And just try to get an AI to do it . . . It certainly does seem that the wide variation in death rates between countries stems from different countries' definition of death (in these cases)!
2 Recommendations
28th Apr, 2020
Michael Kowalik
Not Affiliated
This just came up: Belgium “counts deaths at nursing 顺心彩票s even if there wasn’t a confirmed infection.”
1 Recommendation
28th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
What is the proper medical protocol for recording the cause of death? Are they in violation of the protocol? We need some professional answers from medical experts.
2 Recommendations
28th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Hydroxycholoquine can improve the immune system and prevent Covid19
Sunlight, high temperature and humidity kills the Covid19 virus.
Taking a bleach bath could help. Drinking Clorox or other disinfectants might help.
Doing yoga and drinking hot water can help.
Drinking lots of alcohol could work as well.
Maybe eating garlic, turmeric and avocado. Green tea?
Anything that you can do to enhance the immune system should work.
The list of recommendations is endless. They are very confusing for the common person. How should we assess these statements?
Scientific hypotheses?
Non-scientific hypotheses?
Unscientific beliefs?
Pseudo-scientific beliefs?
False and unjustified beliefs?
Superstitious beliefs?
1 Recommendation
28th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
If we insist and demand that only statements that are supported with RCTs are truly scientific hypotheses, then i think all of the above statements are NOT scientific.
They are in a la-la limbo land between scientific statements and pseudo-scientific statements. Agree? At best, they are partial possibly scientific statements that may be true in the future, with rigorous advanced scientific research.
1 Recommendation
28th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
notice the flip flopping on the wearing of masks. it will work. no, it will not work. and so on and so on. and now we are all wearing masks because they don't work. it is very very confusing. are we superstitious and following pseudo science if we wear masks?
1 Recommendation
29th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Jay Klagge Consider the following conclusions from three papers on the effects of garlic.
One paper concludes: “although there is sufficient scientific evidence on the beneficial effects of garlic as therapy under different pathological conditions in animal models, human clinical studies are scarce and methodologically weak, with short duration and a reduced number of patients.”
The second paper is a narrative review. “Although some studies show medicinal benefits of garlic, there are others which do not.”
The third paper states: ”Although it is shown that garlic may have a significant potential either in their own right or as adjuvant therapy in different disorders, however, due so some issues, such as methodological inadequacies, small sample sizes, lack of information regarding dose rationale, variation between efficacy and effectiveness trials, the absence of a placebo comparator, or lack of control groups more standard experiments are needed to confirm the beneficial effect of garlic in various diseases.”
What can we say about the effects of garlic?
Scientific hypotheses?
Non-scientific hypotheses?
Unscientific beliefs?
Pseudo-scientific beliefs?
False and unjustified beliefs?
Superstitious beliefs?
1 Recommendation
29th Apr, 2020
Michael Kowalik
Not Affiliated
There is a dearth of randomised, saline placebo controlled trials in relation to many critical issues in medicine. One issue which stands out the most is vaccine research for humans, as there are no saline placebo controlled studies in previously unvaccinated individuals (at least i was not able to find any). Alarmingly, a coctail of adjuvants, many of which are known toxins, is often passed off as the “placebo”.
But absence of properly designed controlled trials does not preclude us from making hypotheses and engaging in trial and error experimentation, within reason. This is inefficient and can be dangerous but is cheap, whearas randomised trials in humans can be very expensive. When it comes to every day substances like garlic, there is no reasonable expectation of harm, due to millenia of experience testifying to its safety, but any new synthetic or viral product can definitely pose an existential threat and should meet a higher standard of evidence.
Another curious finding on the issue vaccines. The WHO and most authorities are currently advising all vulnerable people to vaccinate against the flu, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, but this is contrary to what high-end scientific research suggests. The flu vaccine has been shown to interfere with coronaviruses, making people more susceptible to infection and severity of iliness:
Trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) recipients had an increased risk of virologically-confirmed non-influenza infections (relative risk: 4.40; 95% confidence interval: 1.31-14.8). Being protected against influenza, TIV recipients may lack temporary non-specific immunity that protected against other respiratory viruses.” (Increased Risk of Noninfluenza Respiratory Virus Infections Associated With Receipt of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine, Clinical Infectious Diseases) https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/54/12/1778/455098
“Receiving influenza vaccination may increase the risk of other respiratory viruses, a phenomenon known as virus interference. (…) Vaccine derived virus interference was significantly associated with coronavirus…” (Influenza vaccination and respiratory virus interference among Department of Defense personnel during the 2017-2018 influenza season,?Vaccine)
“Influenza vaccination coverage rates for 29 OECD countries are associated significantly with recently observed SARS-CoV-2 infection rates in these countries. This early result, which merits further investigation, suggests that during the current coronavirus outbreak an influenza vaccination background might be a relevant factor for SARS-CoV-2 infection.” (Association between Influenza Vaccination Rates and SARS-CoV-2 Outbreak Infection Rates in OECD Countries, SSRN) https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3558270
This shows that it is not only ”ignorant masses” who are prone to superstition but our leafs themselves are often no better educated and easily manipulated into policies which are contrary to robust scientific evidence. We should certainly not trust anyone’s opinion without looking at primary research, and even then maintain an attitude of reasonable doubt.
2 Recommendations
29th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
A scientific hypothesis should not contradict the fundamental natural laws and scientifically proven facts, while could be based on scientifically unproven facts. Scientists usually estimate the probability based on their knowledge, which hypothesis is likely to be true.
Hydroxycholoquine can improve the immune system and prevent Covid19 possibly
Sunlight, high temperature and humidity kills the Covid19 virus. Possibly
Taking a bleach bath could help. Drinking Clorox or other disinfectants might help. Pseudo-science. Dangerous, scientifically proved
Doing yoga and drinking hot water can help. Unlikely, but can be considered
Drinking lots of alcohol could work as well. Possibly, but what about side-effects?
Maybe eating garlic, turmeric and avocado. Green tea? Possibly
Anything that you can do to enhance the immune system should MIGHT work
Garlic - Scientific hypothesis
29th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii I am an ordinary person, and i read all of these ideas in the mainstream media. What should i do? Most of the statements are possibly scientific statements. One study on the effects of garlic were based on 33 albino rats. That does not give me much confidence. sorry to say.
29th Apr, 2020
Yurii V Geletii
Emory University
" Primum non nocere." (Do no harm). Second: Keep the good state of mind. Third: Listen your body. Fourth: Everything is good in moderation. Fifth: Do not listen the journalists. Sixth: Hope for the best.
About science. Science raises more questions than provides answers. The scientists are not magicians, they are victims of their curiosity. Commonly we have one right answer after thousands of fails.
29th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
There is a continuum of beliefs. On the left, there is perfect ignorance or superstitious beliefs.
On the right, there is perfect scientific knowledge.
In daily life, there is a lot of knowledge that is between these two extremes. This knowledge is not scientific; at the same time, it is not superstition.
Somewhere in between, there is knowledge from pseudo-science. There is also non-scientific knowledge (which is different from pseudo-science) that could become knowledge in the future with better and rigorous scientific research.
29th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii Suppose i am a non-vegetarian. Do i violate the "do no harm" principle?
29th Apr, 2020
Joseph Tham
Duke University
Yurii V Geletii Perhaps you have an unjustified belief in the one right answer that science provides. There is indetermism, incompleteness and undecidability. Your belief is not justified, from a scientific point of view.
Can you contribute to the discussion?

Similar questions and discussions

Which is more important for a good professor: citations, ethics or morals?
Discussion
1003 replies
  • Quan Hoang NguyenQuan Hoang Nguyen
Before you participate in this thread, can you please read the context and the questions below.
Context:
Nowadays, so-called scientists are judged based on citations, publications and related metrics. Ethical and moral principles have no position in the system. The only information available is his/her publications, collaborations and citations. How do prospective students / collaborators find out the other info?
I know a lady full professor who "borrowed" work and ideas from collaborators (including me, former colleagues and even her advisor -- a distinguished professor I had admired) for her own prizes, promotions and fundings *silently*. (PS: Edited July 2020: I'm unsure with the part about "her advisor" as I should not speak on someone's behalf, and some sources and reality may show a different story)
Her participation is minimal if not to say zero to the work. She blocks everyone (junior to most senior) to advance, for her own sake. She has zero programming skills, but claims collaborators' work as if she were an expert for national funding and new collaborators.
Further:
- helped her to secure an industry-linked grant and they were then kicked out.
- Many of her citations were from collaborators' work. But then she blocked them.
See links for more details:
Questions:
- Have you seen or experienced a similar situation? Is it the norm? Is it common? How to prevent such corruption? If not, what is academia pursuing?
- Assume that each of the values (citation, ethics and morals) is in the scale from 0-10. What is your opinion about which values a good professor should have? For example, (4,0,0), (6,0,0), (6,1,1), (5, 5, 5), (4,9,9), (4,10,10)?
- When some people say citations is more important, do they mean they prefer (4,0,0), (6,0,0), (6,1,1)?
Two open questions in RG:
PS: Citations (C) in this question is a simple notation for whatever is used by the system (#publications, #collaborations, #collaborators, grants, awards, etc -- whatever except the ethics and morals).
This is an open question about the attributes of your ideal (good) professors. It's not about choosing C, E or M, but rather than saying your preferred attributes of an ideal professor.

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