The doctor’s analogy, skeptic style

This post will build on previous post. I ended that post saying that trust is key. It is not possible to comprehend the complete climate change picture, so in the end we will all have to trust, skeptics and alarmists alike. That trust is (mis)used in the doctor analogy. It goes like this:

Premise 1: You trust your doctor on health issues
Premise 2: Climate scientists are the doctors of the climate
Conclusion: You should trust climate scientists on climate issues

There are several problems with this analogy as I explained in some previous posts on this topic. The two sciences are actually not comparable, nor quantitatively, nor qualitatively. The doctor’s analogy therefor gives a false sense of certainty. In those posts, I focused on premise 2, making the case that both can’t be compared and therefor the analogy doesn’t fly in reality.

This time I will focus on premise 1, by looking at climate change communication by the experts and exploring whether this would warrant the same trust as we have in doctors. I will do this by invoking the doctor’s analogy myself, but this time in skeptic style…

Let’s start where I left in previous post. Remember, an investigator made the prediction in a 2003 paper that the two largest glaciers in Glacier National Park would be gone by 2030. Six years later, he derived from the observations that it was worse than thought and the end date should be brought back to 2020! But after a few years, this 2020 end date seemed to be forgotten and back came the earlier 2030 date. A couple years later, not only 2030, but also 2080 was mentioned as the potential end date…

Suppose for a moment that your doctor would do something similar to you…

Just suppose that your doctor told you that you would not have very long to live. Then, after the next checkup your doctor tells you that the tests showed that it was worse than what he thought and you would only live half the time that was predicted originally! But, somewhat before the deadline your doctor goes silent about the deadline and after a long time he eventually tells you that his last prediction was wrong (despite the new information found in the checkup) and that the first prediction (based on incomplete data back then) was the correct one after all. He then later tells you that you will likely survive many other family members…

After all this, would you still trust your doctor?

The story of James Hansen is similar. He declared in 2006 that we only had a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change, no longer than a decade. Three years later, he said that CO2 levels were already too high to prevent runaway greenhouse warming and Obama had only four years to act! In 2016, the same year that the first deadline was about to expire and the second already expired for four years, he then acknowledged that his solution would require changing the energy system, that is obviously difficult and would require decades. Which is a pretty tame reaction from someone who realizes that devastating things are going to happen.

Suppose for a moment that your doctor would do something similar to you…

Just suppose that you doctor told you that you only had a brief window of opportunity to change your lifestyle, otherwise it would result in devastating things going to happen within a certain period. Later he told you that this window got even smaller and you only have half the time that was originally predicted! After both deadlines expired and when asked about it, he then finally acknowledged that his solution would require changing your lifestyle, which he understands is very difficult.

Would you then still trust your doctor?

What those two stories have in common is that these experts study a complex, coupled, chaotic system and their knowledge is therefor only be partial. That didn’t prevent them from making catastrophic predictions and communicated these with an unwarranted certainty to the public. They exaggerated (their certainty of) the impact to the public and only the bad things are told. That is not a very good basis for trust and you are unlikely to accept the same behavior from your doctor.

This is only one side of the story. There is also the other side of the proposed solutions. Here only the good things are told and negative things are ignored, minimized or presented in a misleading way.

There is the example of researcher who made the claim in a lecture that alternative energy (solar and wind) are “so cheap that they push other energy sources out of the market”. That in itself seems very promising, but unfortunately, the previous speaker explained the economic effect of renewables on the market: due to the intermittent character of alternative energy combined with the advantage of those sources over the conventional sources, the latter can not compete anymore and are pushed out of the market. At that point the price will rise again… It is misleading to use a general term and use it in such a way that the public will understand something different.

Suppose for a moment that your doctor would do something similar to you…

Just suppose that your doctor want you to change your current medication and gradually replace it with two alternative medicines. He reassures you that the new medication is “so cheap” that it pushes out the other (conventional) medication out of the market and you go home relieved in the assumption that this new treatment will cost you less. What he didn’t tell you is that the new medication doesn’t work all the time and it will be necessary to take some other (conventional) medicines to have the same effect. He also didn’t tell you that the alternative medicines pushes the other medicines out of the market, because doctors like him subscribe this medication with priority, therefor other medicines get pushed out of the market, they simply aren’t economically viable anymore. In the end, the medication will get more expensive. At the current low share the effect will not be profound, but when you wean of the old medication the effects will get more clear. You for example will need to seriously overdose and adverse effects (too much and too little effect) are risked.

Would you then still trust your doctor? Would you still go for the new medication?

What about the researchers who extrapolated that solar and wind would grow exponential based on the trend between 2012 and 2016. Looking closer revealed that the growth in that reference period was not exponential, but in fact slowed down in that period. When they would have project the real trend into the future, then we would have seen the growth getting smaller over time and eventually flatlining. The researchers solved this by calculating the average trend in the reference period and used this number as the exponential upward trend into the future. Creating an exponential growth where the is none.
They also claimed in a paper on “energy in Australia” that the growth of solar and wind did constitute half of the newly installed capacity worldwide. Indeed, their graph showed that new capacity of solar almost doubled and wind, although it tanked a bit, stayed pretty high. They added that newly built solar and wind constituted for almost all growth of energy sources in Australia, suggesting that the Australian situation was even better. However, looking at the Australian data showed that solar growth was down from the start period and this was even more pronounced when looking atf wind which slowed down considerably compared to the start point. Which was contrary to their narrative.
In that same paper, they claimed that 100% solar and wind would be possible at low cost. It became clear further in their paper that they didn’t account for all cost involved, like the solar panels costs for household and they also considered lowering reliability standards of the grid.

Suppose for a moment that your doctor would do something similar to you…

Just suppose that your doctor exaggerated the effect of a particular medicine by taking the average of a slowing upward trend and project this number as the continuous upward trend to make it look more impressive.
Just suppose that your doctor showed a graph depicting the general effect of the medicine. When you then check things out and find the data for patients similar to you, then you noticed that this effect would be pretty small. However your doctor didn’t show the graph of patients similar to you because he want to promote this medicine and that graph with the relevant data wouldn’t fit his narrative.
Just suppose that your doctor told you that the medication is cheap, yet when you check things out it became clear that he didn’t take all costs into account and he also proposed accepting a lesser safety standard in order to conceal the higher costs involved…

Would you still trust your doctor? Would you still opt for that medication?

What these stories have in common is that these experts wanted to promote one solution and did this by showing only one side or even distorted the facts in order to show a positive picture. Also that is not a good basis for trust and you are unlikely accept such behavior from your doctor.

These were only few of the many examples, but you get the drift.

The take away point of this post is that the doctor analogy as it is generally used depends heavily on the trust one has in his doctor and that trust is generally justified. This may however not be comparable to the way climate experts and energy experts communicate to the public. If your doctor (or any other person of authority) would behave in the way that is usual in climate and energy communication, then you most likely would not trust the experts who exhibit such behavior.

4 thoughts on “The doctor’s analogy, skeptic style

  1. vuurklip

    Nice analogies, thanks. I’ll make use of them in future!
    But:
    97% of “Climate Scientists” would not agree with this!
    However, most ailments are extremely common and occur in millions of people so they (the ailments) are amenable to study and experiment (blind and with control groups). Climate by contrast occurs on a single planet (exoplanets are not yet accessible), so there is only one case to study and cannot be experimented upon (except by deluded “scientists” who like geo-engineering).

    So who would I trust, my GP or the likes of Hansen, Mann, Viner, etc.?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. trustyetverify Post author

      Indeed. The examples you give are related to premise 2. Medical sciences and climate sciences are not comparable, not quantitatively and also not qualitatively. Whatever side one looks at it, the doctor’s analogy is baseless. It could nevertheless be fun to invoke it skeptic style in order to emphasize this absurdity…

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Clyde

    That’s the thing, though. I don’t trust my doctor. He’s so busy dealing with upwards of 30 patients per day that he doesn’t have time to keep up on the latest research, whereas I can research my symptoms in depth.

    For instance, CoV19… when I got it, my doctor advised immediate hospitalization and being placed on a respirator “just as a precautionary measure”. This despite my doing an online consultation with him in which I displayed no symptoms except low energy, a tickle at the back of my throat and a loss of the sense of taste (and I presume smell, since the two are so intertwined, but I didn’t notice this at the time… where I work there’s not a lot to smell). He based his ventilator recommendation upon my loss of the sense of taste, presuming the infection was already well established. In reality, I was just zinc deficient (acute zinc deficiency lead to loss of sense of taste and smell).

    Rather than HCQ as a treatment, he recommended antivirals and antibiotics that were hard on the liver. I likely wouldn’t be alive today if I’d followed his advice, given that at the time the great majority of people going on ventilators didn’t come off them.

    I went to the supermarket, bought Indian tonic water fortified with quinine, drank a liter per day (83 mg / day of quinine), ensured I drank at least 5 liter of fluids per day, ensured that I got sufficient supplementation with vitamin C, D, E and zinc, ate more food than usual to keep my energy up, took a shower that was as hot as I could stand, then piled under a thick stack of bedcovers to ‘sweat it out’. In other words, I treated this virus as I would treat any influenza or cold virus, rather than resorting out of the gate to extreme measures as my doctor wanted. He freaked out and over-reacted, following the herd. I did my research.

    Never follow the herd. That herd is headed toward the abattoir and they don’t even know it. Never trust those who claim they’re the herd’s shepherds (ie: the politicians and talking heads)… they’re the ones herding that herd toward that abattoir. Never trust the sheepdogs (the doctors and others issuing advice without understanding the situation, based solely upon what the shepherds have told them)… they’re going to feast when the abattoir has fulfilled its purpose.

    The only thing I would have done differently would be to get a prescription for camostat mesylate in addition to using quinine, to block both enzymatic pathways by which CoV19 can infect cells. Fortunately, my CoV19 infection apparently didn’t try that second pathway, or my body was able to clear the infection before it could try. At the time, we didn’t know about that second enzymatic pathway. Now we do.

    In one day, my sore throat went away and my sense of taste returned. The next day my energy returned.

    There’s no need for the vaccine, the antivirals or any of the other expensive medications, the lockdowns, the loss of freedoms and the economic pain except in extreme cases. Most people can do what I did, get over the virus, gain immunity and get on with their lives.

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