Author Archives: bjornart
As with any headline ending in a question mark, the answer is very likely to be “no”. For instance the Slavery Footprint calculator says my consumption is supported by at least 20 slaves. Now I have a bunch of quibbles with how that estimate is calculated and presented, but there is no doubt the prices of the goods I consume would rise by some degree if there weren’t absolutely insane inequalities in the supply chain. Even ethical choices aren’t completely disconnected from the global economy. If I pick up a bar of fair trade chocolate it’s not going to be the case that everyone is working 37.5 hour work weeks and will receive an old age pension when they’re 67. So the question should perhaps instead be “What’s the magnitude of my over-consumption?”
Of course that is really difficult to evaluate, even on a small scale. Let’s go back to the question in the title and the situation where the phrase has its origin; sailors pulling ropes on sailing ships. A heavier and stronger man than the average might pull with the same force as the others, which would be less than what he was capable of, or he might pull with the same percentage of his capacity and be as exhausted as the others. In which case is he doing his fair share? Does your opinion change if he doesn’t get more food than the others to compensate for his larger baseline metabolism? How about if …
I could go on, but hopefully my point is already made, there is no way to perfectly evaluate if someone is doing and/or receiving their fair share. In a narrow context like the joint effort of a group of sailors, a consensus might arise, and the guy who never breaks a sweat might be ostracised, but our reality is one of being part of a global economy and I am well insulated from the effort and level of reward at the far end of the supply chains that end with me. And you the reader is likely to inhabit the same world of relative luxury.
But say we could easily evaluate who’s doing their fair share and who’s over-consuming. Let’s say we simplify and look at work hours. We’re then ignoring structural differences like how some countries have developed extensive infrastructure and automation, allowing production of more goods for the same work hours, but also how this development probably was supported by exploiting nations where this development hasn’t happened, so let’s put that aside for now. We look at how many hours people work and how many hours work their consumption represents and find …
At one extreme I could find that there’s minimal difference. So my over consumption doesn’t represent all that much of the world’s inequality. Say I work 2000ish hours and I consume goods representing 2100ish hours of work. Well then I don’t have much of an excuse for not changing my consumption, do I? I ought to consume a little less and pay a little more for what I do consume, preferably to those who’re “under-consuming”, allowing them to catch up. Easy peasy.
At the other extreme I could find that there are enormous differences. Maybe I consume 4000 hours worth of goods. Changing my consumption would then be a lot harder, but the immorality of not doing so would be much greater.
Over-simplified, sure, but if you live in the developed world, it is vanishingly unlikely that your personal truth doesn’t lie somewhere in between those two points, leaving the obvious conclusion: You’re not pulling your weight, at least not globally, and you’re consuming more than your fair share.
What the best choices are to remedy this may not be obvious, but perfect is the enemy of good, and it’s immoral not to bear this in mind when you make everyday choices. The available “ethical choices” might not be perfect, they might not even be better than the regular goods, but picking one over just plain “global economy output” shows you care and works to push the marketplace towards taking ethics into consideration and providing us consumers with the resulting information.
Medieverdenen er i rask endring for tida. Integrasjon med sosiale medier, kommentarfelt, publiseringshastighet og synkende inntekter er alle utfordringer der det ikke finnes noen perfekte løsninger tilgjengelig og der løsningene akkurat nå åpenbart ikke er gode nok. Det kan skrives mye om kildekritikk og hvordan slett journalistikk kan spres fra dårlige kilder til alle verdens medier før noen reagerer, men nå tenkte jeg jeg skulle ta tak i noe som burde være langt enklere, nemlig å skrive riktig og forståelig norsk, eller i hvert fall å rette til riktig og forståelig norsk når noen påpeker feil og mangler.
NRKs twitter-konto for eksempel burde går noe saktere fram. Kan ikke skjønne annet enn at det må være flaut når bildet har en overskrift med banale skrivefeil, eller som her, når Donald Trumps [sic] til evig tid vil “itere grunnlova”:
— NRK (@NRKno) February 8, 2017
Men en skrivefeil i en tweet er jo ikke så ille, og det kan av ulike grunner være en helt grei strategi å la slike stå snarere enn å slette og republisere og dermed bryte delingskjeden. Da er det verre med feil i artikler, som denne i Dagbladet:
Forskerne skal også ha plantet flere seismiske skjermer rundt på den ubebodde øya, skriver International Business Times.
Med litt kreativ bakoveroversettelse, eller en sjekk av kilden ser man at det er snakk om “seismic monitors”, altså seismisk overvåkingsutstyr, men denne pinlige oversettelsesfeilen lar altså Dagbladet stå. Kanskje fordi jeg var den eneste som forsøkte å bruke Dagbladets eget “Rapporter feil i artikkelen”-verktøy, eller fordi det verktøyet ikke fungerer? Jeg synes i hvert fall det er litt underlig.
Ennå underligere synes jeg det er at Aftenposten ikke er i stand til å fange opp en melding til dem om at de har følgende ingress i en NTB-sak om bosettinger på Vestbredden:
David Trump har ikke kommentere Israels forsøk på å legalisere ulovlige bosetninger i de palestinske, okkuperte områdene.
David Trump altså, i tillegg til grammatikkfeilen. Og Aftenposten har ikke latt seg affisere av hverken twitter-meldinger, facebook-melding eller epost til nyhetstips-addressen, og noen bedre alternativer finner i hvert fall ikke jeg på aftenposten.no.
Det er fortsatt et stykke igjen før jeg sier opp abonnementet på Aftenposten. Det finnes foreløpig ingen fullgode erstatninger for de gode, gamle avisene, selv om man kun leser dem på nett. Men min framtidige leverandør av nyheter bør være i stand til å unngå disse pinlighetene, eller i det minste være i stand til å rette dem opp i løpet av mindre enn ei uke.
PS! Jeg regner med at Gauderes lov slår til i denne posten, men send meg en melding så retter jeg de uunngåelige feilene på null-komma-svisj.
Når alt går bra er Norwegian en flott opplevelse med lave priser. Til Boston, som jeg kommer til å fly fram og tilbake til en del i nærmeste framtid, er de eneste direktforbindelse med Oslo. Lav pris, flotte fly, og en behagelig opplevelse for akkurat meg denne ene gangen. Men når noe går litt på tverke aner tydeligvis ikke Norwegian hva de skal gjøre. Det kan man se i flommen av hårreisende historier på Norwegian’s facebook-side. En kar som har ventet 15 dager på tilbakemelding på klage får til svar at “ting tar tid”, eller for å være presis:
Please be advised that all claims are handled in the order they were received, waiting time varies with the nature of the claim and the case load. You will receive a response as soon as possible.
Men kanskje det er et skjevt inntrykk? Jeg får jo ikke analysert alle kundeopplevelsene eller sett alle som er fornøyd med kundeservice. Kanskje disse er sjeldne unntak blant svært mange tusen som har fått god hjelp av Norwegian ved problemer? Kanskje det er medias skyld at det kommer så mange flere oppslag om Norwegians kundebehandling og strandede passasjerer og konflikter med ansatte og innleie av fly og …
Det er helt sant, men jeg kan skrive om min egen opplevelse av Norwegians håndtering av flypassasjeravgiften. Og med mindre de lagde en rekke “Kjære kunde”-eposter bare til meg, skjuler det seg garantert ikke en hærskare av passasjerer der ute som er fornøyde med den håndteringen.
Trinn 1: I mars annonserer Norwegian at har justert prisene for reiser foretatt etter 1. april.
– Billettprisene har blitt justert noe for å ta høyde for at den foreslåtte flypassasjeravgiften innføres, svarer kommunikasjonssjef Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen.
Trinn 2: I slutten av april kjøper jeg billett til Boston. Avreise 25. juni så allerede inkludert avgiften kunne man jo naivt regnet med hvis man ikke følger nøye med på budsjettforhandlinger og har fått med seg at Norwegian sier de avventer endelig vedtak og
– Vi legger selvfølgelig ikke på passasjeravgift etter 1. april hvis avgiften ikke blir innført, sier kommunikasjonssjef Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen hos Norwegian til Nettavisen.
Trinn 3: Avgiften blir endelig vedtatt etter en runde med EFTAs overvåkingsorgang, men gjeldende fra 25. juni, nesten to måneder etter den opprinnelig vedtatte startdatoen og Norwegian sender ut sutremail til kundene:
Norwegian beklager på det sterkeste denne avgiften som vi er nødt til å kreve inn fra våre passasjerer på vegne av den norske staten. Pengene går rett i den norske statskassen og ikke til Norwegian.
Stakkars, stakkars Norwegian, hvordan kan staten finne på å få gjennomslag for en avgift Norwegian har gamblet på at skulle bli stoppet? Norwegian sier de vil gjøre ting enklest mulig for kundene og belaste samme kredittkort reisen ble betalt med og får kunder og media på nakken både for dobbeltkommunikasjon om prising og avgiften og for å planlegge et antagelig ulovlig ekstratrekk på kundenes kredittkort.
Trinn 4: Jeg har reist på tur for lengst og kunne teoretisk ha slettet epostkontoen min, jeg har i hvert fall ikke noen avtale med Norwegian som tillater dem å sende meg viktig epost til kontoen i all framtid. Men det gjør de likevel. Et pålegg om å gå inn på sidene deres og betale avgiften med kort innen 1. august og mer sutring “Norske myndigheter har med virkning fra 1. juni innført en avgift på 80 kroner for alle som reiser fra en norsk flyplass.”
Legg merke til at Norwegian stadig beskriver det som en avgift pålagt den reisende som de krever inn på vegne av staten, mens realiteten er at det er en avgift avkrevd selskapet, som de kan velge å dekke slik de måte ønske.
Hva er forskjellen? Når KIWI reklamerte med momsfritt på frukt og grønt var det et reklamegrep helt uten reell mening. Den reelle prisen inkluderte samme prosentvise andel moms uansett og KIWI la en høy og fiktiv “reell” pris til grunn og endte med omtrent samme priser som andre butikker. Norwegian derimot kunne valgt å øke prisene på framtidige flygninger, men krever inn avgiftene på denne måten som en rent politisk handling.
Trinn 5 og 6: Jeg glemmer selvfølgelig denne eposten, siden jeg antok at Norwegian ville ta til vettet og ikke dumme seg ut på denne måten, men neida. 8. august kommer påminnelse med ny frist, 15. august. Denne gangen hadde jeg faktisk tenkt til å betale, men jeg glemte det igjen og overså også eposten de sendte ut i går.
I dag har de så stengt muligheten for å betale avgiften på nett …
Og i hver epost tar de med “Les vedtaket her” med lenke til skatteetatens rundskriv, som om det er skatteetaten som bestemte at Norwegian ikke skulle ta høyde for at et politisk vedtak faktisk ville bli gjennomført, eller påla dem å bruke ressurser og goodwill på å kreve inn avgiften for allerede betalte billetter.
Jeg hadde lite til overs for Norwegians selskapskultur i utgangspunktet, og dette er dråpen. Jeg bruker heller noen tusen kroner og et par tre timer ekstra per reise enn å fly Norwegian igjen.
Saying things simply is sometimes good, so to try that out I have written this page about my thinking about life ideas using the Simple Writer made by that guy who writes the funny and thought creating stories with stick figures. The Simple Writer only allows you to use the ten hundred most often used words in this language I’m using, so one would think it might always become simple, but that isn’t always true. You will have to decide yourself.
All of us have some life ideas controlling what we think, decide, say and do, or how we tell if what we think, decide, say and do is good or bad. These life ideas have formed in our brains over time because of how the brain was when we were born, and because of all the things that have happened in our lives and brains so far. Some of these life ideas feel more important to us than others, and some we are more sure are right, and these two feelings often go together. If an idea feels more important, we’ll be more sure it is right and more willing to look for reasons our idea is right and other ideas like it but different are wrong. Sometimes this stops us from thinking clearly about ideas and it is important to understand this about our ideas and about how others feel about their own ideas.
This short page is not about my most important life ideas and how they are right, and how you should understand they are right if they are not already your life ideas. It is about how life ideas are not very often all right and all wrong, and how this makes it good to understand the very strong feelings people have about their life ideas, even ones you think are clearly wrong. So maybe this is about my most important life ideas, but I want those to be ideas about life ideas, rather than life ideas themselves.
1. You could be wrong
My first idea about ideas is that you should be admit to yourself that your ideas might be wrong. If you can’t do that, there is no point in thinking about your ideas at all.† And when thinking about your ideas to consider if maybe they are or could be wrong, it is important you remember your feelings might confuse your thinking. I think feelings are also very important parts of life ideas and ideas without them can be bad, even if they seem right, but that is for another page some other time. So when someone has an idea that is different from the one you have, don’t forget that it could be she is the one who is right.
2. Wrong people feel they are right, how can you change their mind?
Some life ideas are so wrong it is important someone point out they are wrong, but the most important thing isn’t that it’s pointed out they are wrong, it’s that the people who hold those ideas change their minds or at least don’t act on their wrong ideas or spread them to others. That’s why my second idea about life ideas is to always remember that people with very wrong ideas feel they are right ideas. Telling them they are stupid, their ideas are wrong and they should feel bad doesn’t work very often to make this important thing happen, even if it might feel good for you for a while. More often it creates a situation where the wrong person thinks “People who don’t agree with me try to make me feel bad, that must mean they are wrong, which isn’t a surprise because I already knew that, but every bit helps.”
Now deciding from this that one should never tell someone with very wrong ideas that they are stupid and should feel bad is a life idea, but the idea about ideas I wanted to explain is that you should remember about the feelings and think about them, even if you then decide shouting “You are a stupid person!” is a good thing to do. Maybe there is a better way though to turn this person from someone with a bad idea into someone who thinks about their ideas and understands they could be wrong.
3. Should all your ideas work together?
If you could write down all of the life ideas in your brain it is certain some of them would not work together well. Pointing this out when you can see it in what other people have said or done often feels good, but just as you should remember you could be wrong, or that other people also feel they are right, you should remember your ideas don’t all work together either.
Now ideas not all working together is both good and bad. It is bad when it happens often and the person having the ideas just picks one or the other without a reason. In that case you should, if the person is you, think about why this is happening, and if one of the ideas is wrong or if maybe they are both right but not at the same time, and if so, what times one is right, and what times the other one is right.
It is good when it stops your ideas from being so few and your thoughts so simple you are ignoring lots of ideas that could be right sometimes, and lots of times your ideas are wrong. The world, you see, is not simple.
4. How to find out if an idea is right?
This is where things get really hard. How to find out if an idea is right is a life idea in and of itself. Some would say it is a given, something that just is, or comes from the world around us or some being outside the world. Some would say it’s in what we want to happen when we follow the idea. Some what say it’s in what actually happens when we follow the idea. I say that the most important thing is telling the truth about why one thinks the idea is true, and that I myself think the best way to do this is to use more than one of those ways.
And that’s all I have to say today about my simple ideas about life ideas.
†unless you happen to be a very not usual person who only has ideas that are right, but even then you would not have the one important idea about ideas maybe being wrong
Saudi-Arabia får mye pepper om dagen av ymse årsaker. En viktig grunn er elendig forhold til menneskerettigheter på mer enn én måte og da blir selvfølgelig litt plagiat mellom venner en ubetydelig sak, men det er jo litt festlig personlig, når det skjer en hobbyskribent som meg. Så la meg utdype:
Saudi-Arabias ambassadør Esam Abid Althagafi har i dag et innlegg på NRK Ytring med tittel Vi er ikke ekstremister der han … det blir kanskje slemt å si “etter beste evne forsøker å imøtegå kritikken”? Men innlegget er ganske så svakt. En lang ramse med usammenhengende punkter om hvordan kritikerne ikke forstår det saudiske rettsystemet, som dessuten er et indre anliggende vi ikke har noe med, og dessuten … Nei, jeg tøyser ikke, se bare dette avsnittet her:
Mitt brobyggerinnlegg er ikke kontroversielt eller tabloid, men skal man putte tanker i hodene til folk, bør de være faktabasert. Saudi-Arabia har ratifisert en rekke konvensjoner og er medlem av FNs menneskerettighetsråd. Vi er deltagende i de internasjonale arenaene. Det betyr ikke at det ikke eksisterer politiske, religiøse og juridiske forskjeller mellom oss. Saudi-Arabia holder seg unna interne anliggender.
Rotete greier, sant? Men jeg la merke til denne vendingen: «skal man putte tanker i hodene til folk, bør de være faktabasert». Jeg skrev nemlig nesten nøyaktig det i et innlegg publisert i Aftenposten Meninger i september: «og skal man putte tanker i hodene til folk bør de være faktabaserte». Kritisk innlegg med alt for lang tittel!
Greit nok, det er jo ikke en vending ingen andre kan ha kommet på, men jeg gjorde likevel et nettsøk og i akkurat den formen er det våre to innlegg som dukker opp. Mitt og den saudiske ambassadørens, om han da skriver innlegg selv. Så jeg leste innlegget et en gang til og fant et “lån” til: «Kritikerne bommer totalt på kjernen i kritikken, og forsøkene deres bør ikke få stå som siste ord i saken.»
Igjen kan man søke på «… bommer totalt på kjernen i kritikken, og forsøkene deres bør ikke få stå som siste ord i saken.» og stusse over at det bare gir to rene treff. Mitt innlegg fra september og dette fra Althagafi i dag. Forskjellen er bare at i mitt innlegg passer setningen perfekt til konteksten, mens i dette innlegget virker den som ennå et rotete element i en tekst som jeg nok tror ville fått tilbakemeldinger som “usammenhengende” og “svevende” av norsklærer-kollegaene mine.
Det er nok viktigere ting å diskutere rundt dette ubehjelpelige ikke-svaret på berettiget kritikk, enn litt klønete lån av vendinger, men det gjorde i hvertfall meg litt munter inntil jeg igjen kom på hvilket hårreisende regime Althagafi representerer.
«- Lærerne fremstår som sutrete» skriver Aftenposten i sitat-strekform i overskriften torsdag når diverse blåruss får kommentere lærernes skepsis til regjeringens satsing på heving av lærerkompetanse. Utsagnet tillegges BI-professor Johan From, som også har fått plass i ingressen med utsagnet «- Det er veldig vanskelig å se at dette er problematisk.»
Med visse forbehold, fordi journalister i dag synes å se det som livsnødvendig å lage motsetninger og invitere til mest mulig dramatikk i enhver sak, kan jeg ikke annet enn å si at det er “veldig vanskelig å se” at noen med noenlunde intelligens kan slite med å se utfordringene i dette vedtaket.
En kjapp oppsummering før jeg går videre. Regjeringen ønsker at det skal stilles strengere fagkrav til lærere i grunnskolen. Det er flott! Det finnes selvsagt ulemper, men i sum vil det lede til en utvikling de fleste ønsker seg. Men Regjeringens forslag sier at dette skal gis tilbakevirkende kraft og gjelde også de som har mange års undervisningserfaring, men mangler formell kompetanse. Og her er lærerne skeptiske.
Nå kan man selvfølgelig unnskylde personer som ikke kjenner skolen godt, men From er leder for en skolelederutdanning og burde vite bedre. Det sitter kanskje langt inne for noen som ser «ledelse» som et viktig element i skolen å innrømme at det historisk sett har vært nokså håpløse tilbud om etter- og videreutdanning for lærere. Kursing går ut over arbeidstid og lønn og er ofte av lav kvalitet. Som det heter i én variant av den engelske ramsa om «Those who can, do.».
Those who can, do.
Those who can’t, teach.
Those who can’t teach, teach teachers.
(En nesten like populær variant slutter med like relevante «those who can’t teach, administrate».)
Og litt lenger ned har da også From selv klart å finne noe om gjør dette problematisk, enten fordi han er lynende intelligent, eller fordi det ikke var så vanskelig å se likevel.
«Professor Johan From er derimot ikke overbevist om at kravet om videreutdanning er et godt tiltak. Han sier at etter- og videreutdanning av lærere har forholdsvis liten effekt på elevenes læring.»
Så kanskje det er journalistene som skal ha mest kjeft her? Først får de lærerne til å virke som sutrete, og så får de From til å virke som et kjøtthue. Det kan selvfølgelig være noe sant i en eller begge, men da må vi gå dypere og det gidder vi jo ikke.
Derimot kan jeg ikke motstå fristelsen til å le litt av de andre blårussene som er sitert.
Først Kompetansedirektør i NHO, Are Turmo, som på mange måter kommer best ut av det. Han er riktignok noe naiv når han refererer til sertifiseringskrav i privat sektor uten å problematisere dette og veldig naiv i sin tiltro til videreutdanningskurs for lærere, men han har i det minste med at realkompetanse må vektlegges. Bare et lite hint Turmo, det finnes en rekke sertifiseringskrav i det private næringsliv som er totalt bortkastet fordi realkompetanse vektlegges i for liten grad og fordi de ansatte ikke gidder å protestere til ledere som deg som på ren refleks svarer «[det er] noe man bare må forholde seg til, sånn er det bare.»
Førstelektor Elin Ørjasæter ved Markedshøyskolen i Oslo kommer langt dårligere ut av det:
Jeg har vanskelig for å forstå hva som er problematisk med dette. I alle andre bransjer ville dette vært helt greit. Hvis din arbeidsgiver sier at du må bli bedre i dataanalyse, og sier at får ta 30 studiepoeng gratis i arbeidstiden, ville du vel ikke du protestert på det?
Igjen må kanskje journalisten ta noen av skylda, for her fremstår Ørjasæter som totalt bortblåst. Vi kan jo ta det fra starten.
- Det er ikke arbeidsgiver som uttaler seg her, derimot er det myndighetene som ønsker å overstyre arbeidsgiver, på godt og vondt.
- Ingen sier «du må bli bedre i dataanalyse». Myndighetenes krav ligner mye mer «du må ha mer formell kompetanse i IKT». At du kanskje allerede har 15 studiepoeng i diverse datafag og har tilegnet deg spisskompetanse på dataanalyse, samt en rekke andre emner direkte relevante for arbeidshverdagen din, sees på som irrelevant. Og, litt på siden, det bugner heller ikke over av relevante kurs for erfarne lærere.
- Svært lite kursing og etter-/videreutdanning er gitt lærere gratis i arbeidstiden så langt og det ser ikke ut til at de kommer til å være uten kostnader for lærerne i framtiden heller.
- Og ikke minst, om jeg følte arbeidsgiver var på jordet i sin vurdering av mitt utdanningsbehov, så er det klart jeg ville protestert.
Men til slutt, når irritasjonen over Froms idioti har lagt seg litt, er det ikke frustrasjonen over tåpelige utsagn fra disse tre synserne jeg kommer til å sitte igjen med, men irritasjonen over at dette er måten en av Norges største avviser bidrar til debatten på. Det bidrar så klart til klikk, det bidrar til å provosere til debatt og aktivitet, men sitter noen igjen med noe positivt? Blir den virkelige diskusjon og debatten beriket, eller blir den skjøvet i bakgrunnen og ignorert til fordel for denne overfladiske formen?
After getting an opinion piece published online in the debate section of a major Norwegian newspaper (link, but in Norwegian), I’ve been having an interesting sort of dialog with the Twitter account of the Norwegian Association of Homeopaths (NHL). Now this is of course just one person, or at most a handful, but through the dialog and the links provided on their side of the discussion, I’ve made what I find are some interesting observations on the relationship the world of homeopathy has with science. It has ended up rather rambling, for which I apologise, but hey, it’s my personal blog, not the NEJM.
Let me first say that it’s entirely possible that any or all aspects of the practice of homeopathy are correct. “Like cures like” could actually be a near universal principle. Succussion could really be causing some sort of water memory. And the benefits perceived by homeopathic practitioners and satisfied patients could really be due to the treatment, and not due to a combination of various placebo effects and the stress-reducing effects of being listened to and taken seriously. Even in a strictly rational world view this is possible. It’s just not very likely. In fact, it barely registers on the “likely”-scale at all, so how do the homeopaths end up with such a strong conviction that it’s not only fact, but scientifically proven fact?
As I’ve written about before in this more narrow post, the father of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, had good excuses for being wrong. He would have known very little about how hard it is to do accurate medical research, and his results would have been better than the competition at the time because many treatments in those day were actively harmful. Modern day homeopaths have no such excuse, and to hold on to their beliefs they operate with a rather bizarre relationship with modern science.
If you try to look into the scientific backing of homeopathy, you’ll probably find lists such as Medical conditions with positive conclusions for homeopathy from the European Committee for Homeopathy with a bunch of references to research. This was the first link offered me in my discussion with the NHL. It’s a hodgepodge of references of varying significance and validity, and even though it supposedly only includes positive conclusions, one of the links is to a Cochrane review on Oscillococcinum as a remedy against influenza which a) concludes that he evidence is insufficient to draw a conclusion, and b) is from 2006 and was updated in 2009, 2012 and 2015. Neither review really changes the conclusion, so it’s baffling that this list hasn’t been updated or that NHL would use the 2006 reference in work done in 2013 as they do here (link in Norwegian). But it does show that to the homeopaths, not having been proven wrong is as good as having been proven right.
Now I’m not going to discuss how systematic reviews done by homeopaths and the medical science community differs, except to mention that the former consider the body of research proof of the efficacy of homeopathy and that medical science have the opposite conclusion. When questioned by my twitter opponent what my qualifications were for criticising homeopathy, I referenced the British NHS as an example of expertise I trusted who’ve recently rejected homeopathy.
Instead of discussing the quality of such reviews, which are frankly beyond my level of expertise, my focus will instead be on how homeopathy appears to only be interested in science to confirm already existing assumptions, and lacks the system or inclination to take the consequences of negative results. Normal medical research regularly leads to both new and established practices being discarded as inefficient or harmful, while finding an example of this happening in homeopathy seems rather difficult. So I asked the NHL-twitter jockey, I asked the teeming millions on the Straight Dope message boards (Are there any homeopathic remedies that have been discontinued due to negative research results?) and I did some searching myself. Results: silch. So basically homeopathy appears immune to negative research results, admittedly based on a rather limited search. Or it could be that homeopathy is actually flawless and all negative and null results are invalid, but that seems rather unlikely in the face of so much research.
When confronted with this question my NHL opponent moved to a favoured argument of homeopaths. Homeopathy is individualized. Every treatment is different, based on how the patient responds, and testing that double blind is just impossible. Thus there doesn’t exist negative results that are relevant to changing practice. Never mind that they’re touting lots of studies without individualization as evidence, setting up a double blind test of individualized homeopathy is actually rather simple. I offered up this study on asthma as an example, but apparently conventional asthma medicines perfectly nulls out homeopathy in addition to actually working. And when I found a paper where that wasn’t an issue, a trial where patients with generalized anxiety disorder improved greatly and equally whether in the placebo group or receiving homepathic “drugs”, the response was that then they really should try homeopathy before SSRIs. In and of itself damning evidence of at least one homeopath’s understanding of science, but let’s keep going.
Curious as to whether this twitter account was really busy or I was the special guest of the week I checked its feed and immediately found an interesting reference. Touted as Homeopaths recognize homeopathic remedy in blinded proving my opponent had linked to this Protocol for a phase 1 homeopathic drug proving trial. Protocols being evidence of nothing I followed the one link to an actual trial citing the protocol. The result of that trial: no difference between homeopathic remedy and placebo. My opponent’s response was to dig into a single detail that could be interpreted as positive for homeopathy, totally ignoring that the results conclusively falsified the hypothesis or that the trial only had 29 participants. In their view the results were “interesting”.
Now in case you didn’t know it, homeopathic practice is built on a system of research that’s supremely vulnerable to all the pitfalls of bias that modern research protocols are designed to counter. Preliminary tests of a new remedy is called a proving, and the aforementioned trial was an adaptation of this to a more stringent double blind approach. And the intention of promoting the link in the first place had been to put forth the citations in the protocol suggestion, not the protocol itself or the resulting research. Which is no surprise as the research following the protocol were damning to homeopathy while the results inspiring it were spectacular.
In fact they were the kind of results that would convince me homeopathy was real, if they were independently verified and follow-up research hadn’t given null-results. As reported in Homeopathic Pathogenetic Trials Produce Specific Symptoms Different from Placebo:
- 8 participants on homeopathic remedy A showed an average of 6 (+/-2) symptoms specific to A, and 0 (+/- 2) specific to B or non-specific.
- 10 participants on B had a similar 5 (+/-2) symptoms specific to B, and 0 others
- 7 participants on placebo had 11 non-specific and zero belonging to A or B.
Ignoring the horror of including the negative side of the y-axis on a graph of the number of symptoms one can only see these results as amazing. (Can you really have an average of 0 +/- 2 symptoms? That seems like statistics malfeasance to me.) It’s a small trial, but if one judges from it alone, homeopathic remedies are not only perfectly aligned with those old not-so-rigid provings, they are also perfect protection against the nocebo effect. All you’d have to do to upturn physics as we know it would have been to replicate the findings. Which hasn’t been done, or at least not successfully. Which doesn’t matter to homeopaths. Which is proof positive that they are scientifically illiterate.
If one takes the homeopathic approach to science, homeopathy seems well founded. There’s is positive research out there, and research that is inconclusive, and, according to homepaths, very few negative results. But homeopathy and homeopathic research as a whole appears unable to take the inconclusive and negative results to hearth and see how damning they are to a practice that claims spectacular results in actual use. And when one looks into the cites and details of their reviews … Yes, there are some positive results included, often low quality studies, and if you bother you can easily find someone (The Research Evidence base for Homeopathy) claiming as “broadly positive” a review that concludes thusly:
There is some evidence that homeopathic treatments are more effective than placebo; however, the strength of this evidence is low because of the low methodological quality of the trials. Studies of high methodological quality were more likely to be negative than the lower quality studies. Further high quality studies are needed to confirm these results.
When discussing the evidence for homeopathy one can debate the weight given to different types of evidence and what research is selected to be included in reviews, and unless one is personally qualified to assess such things homeopathy can seem to have as much claim to have proven itself as the medical community has to the claim that they’ve disproven it. And so homeopathy does claim that the evidence is just as strong for homeopathy as for conventional medicine, or would be, if they had as much money for research as conventional medicince, as they do in this attempted rebuttal of the strawman “There is no scientific evidence that homeopathy works” (same link as the first link in the previous paragraph). But even if one accepted that claim, and after looking at the selection criteria I certainly don’t, there is one major difference homeopathy can’t escape. In actual medical science inconclusive and negative results lead to further research or to changes in practice, in theories, and in research avenues, and positive results are replicated, whereas in the bizarro homeopathy version results are only taken into account when they confirm the deeply flawed provings of the last 200+ years and otherwise mostly ignored.
This is the best blog entry ever. Even if The Bloggess, amazing though she be, is not your cup of strange taxidermy, you should read this entry. It is, without hyperbole the most important message you will read in your lifetime of “most important message you will read today/this week/this month/this year”s. It’s long, it’s rambling, but there’s not a word wasted. Okay, some of them are only there for the laughs and giggles, but important should be sprinkled with laughs and giggles more often.
Now go read it, I’m serious. Read it!
The greatest gift in the world is to grant a kindness to another. The amazing thing though is that the aforementioned gift is one you give yourself. It may be a small thing. Leaving a flower for the tired woman at the coffee shop. Telling a stranger that they have such kind eyes. Listening happily to a story told by an elderly friend or relative who has told you the same story a million times. Nodding in solidarity even when you don’t completely understand. Letting a friend or a stranger yell hurtful things at you because you hope it will help them let go of a small part of that anger…that it will open up room in them for the greater things that they deserve.
This is the way the world goes. Small, mean acts affect the next person who in turn amplify that anger or sadness and take it out on others who suffer…
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I’m a rich, white, cis- male in a homogenous affluent community in one of the easiest countries to live in in the world. I’m not a linguist, just an opinionated exaggerateur, in case the blog’s title and tagline doesn’t make that sufficiently clear. I am however 100% correct in calling my idea the perfect solution to the issue of gendered pronouns, not just in English, but in any language with gendered pronouns. It’s time to abandon the singular they and zhe, xe or whatever your preferred alternative is. Let’s instead
just ungender he and she.
Gendered pronouns are problematic. Historical and current reactionary use mirrors old fashioned assumptions about the sex and gender of actors, with generic references to doctors, engineers or dock workers always using he, nurses and secretaries always being she, and roles with no stereotypical gender defaulting to male. Not the worst feature of a sexist society, but an obvious one, with subtle influence on our perception of the world, as well as being a symptom of the perception of the writer.
Less obvious to many is that their use, not just the overuse of he, cements the importance of the binary gender world view, which, although a natural result of the dominance of binary sex, leads to an exaggerated, harmful and unnecessary polarisation of the “feminine” and “masculine” in our various cultures. (If criticism of the binary gender “paradigm” seems silly to you, I recommend this video: On Gender.)
And in addition to these problems with bias in gendered pronoun choice in generic references (An engineer should be aware of her biases) there’s the problem of their use for specific references (Alex forgot his/her boots). Partly this is the same issue as the one described in the previous paragraph, and partially this is about individuals not wanting to be referred to by the wrong gender or by gender at all.
Use of gender-neutral pronouns are often promoted to solve some of these problems, but not all. Several failed drafts of this paragraph have showed me that this limitation is almost entirely due to people having a more limited goal in mind though. Expand the use of any suggested gender-neutral personal pronoun to replace he and she entirely and you’ve solved all of the problems, but you’ve also increased the resistance against acceptance significantly and you’ve made a system with complete lack of backwards compatibility. There is only one solution to this: Ungender the current pronouns.
Hillary Clinton announced his running mate for the 2016 presidential election today. Cheng Bai is a virtual unknown, but Clinton believes she will be a valuable asset in his run for the presidency.
Sure it will seem clunky for a while, but many languages manage without gendered pronouns and the benefits are many.
- No new words need to be introduced. The fact that it’s a completely new word is a significant barrier to gender neutral pronouns such as zhe.
- Suggested system works for all languages with gendered pronouns.
- Old or reactionary writings are 100% compatible with the system, even if the use of a strict 1:1 relationship between biological sex and linguistic gender will seem a bit quaint in 100 years time, when everyone does it the new way.
- In a transition period you can reverse the traditional use completely and overuse she to your heart’s content, which will also seem quaint to people 100 years from now, but will make your intentions obvious and help acclimatise your readers to the concept.
- The pronouns can always be different in a two person scenario, regardless of the genders involved. Not the most important feature in the world, but it makes he and she more useful than they are today.
- No need to figure out the actual or preferred gender of a person you write about. Now this might be a barrier if it’s important for you to take that person’s preferences into account, an admirable priority, but I think you should weigh that against how many reactionary malety males you could annoy by randomly referring to half of them as she. And for those of you with a preferred pronoun, won’t you please think of the children?!
Now read the fake quote about Hillary Clinton above. Once you’ve gotten over your brain’s insistence that referring to Hillary as “he” is wrong, what gender is Cheng Bai? And should it matter?
Dreams are weird. There are lots of hypotheses on their purpose or lack of such, but they’re hard to test, and some are so seductive they stay in public consciousness despite being stupid. (Prophetic dreams anyone?) But it’s not just the act of dreaming that’s weird, the contents of dreams are weird as well, and they show first hand some of the mind’s power of rationalization.
Dreams come in various levels of weirdness, but if you try writing some of it down immediately after dreaming, you’ll find a lot more discontinuities than if you recall them the next day. Evidence of the mind’s powerful ability to edit your memories to make sense of them, a power that’s also in play during the dreaming, helped by the “what the fuck!”-part of your brain being dampened. Or maybe everyone else dreams clear and sensible narratives and I’m just generalizing based on the weird stuff I dream. Like the following dream I had last night.
So I have cold (that’s not a part of the dream, I’m just following up the theoretical lead in to the dream recital with a personal lead in) and feeling crappy and sorry for myself I fall asleep on the couch in the evening and I wake up around 10 pm with a dry mouth, a sore neck from the messed up position I’ve slept in, and the memory of the tail end of a dream where I’m trying to scrape some unpleasantly sticky food gunk off my gums. And so I head off to bed and fortunately I fall asleep easily, despite my long nap.
But I wake up at 3:33 from a weird dream.
I’m in some sort of game or Ninja academy or fantasy novel, and the dream has been going on for a while, but that’s how far back I remembered when I woke up. I’m looking at objects on a dark wood bookshelf. And as I realize an invading search party is spreading through the building I pick one of the hardwood stair finials lying on the shelf for a weapon. As one of the people enter the room I hide behind the door and smack him in the head with the finial as he enters.
It’s super inefficient, so I have to run. By running and jumping down stairs I escape past half a dozen people not trying all that hard to catch me. My escape is nearly thwarted though, when my co-conspirator locks the door behind her/him. I think with the motivation «If they catch him/her, that’ll be more time for me to get away», but the pursuit is so slow I escape anyway. Oh, and I’m sure at this point in the dream there’s two of us, and we’re Bart and Lisa Simpson. Although I’m not confident if I’m Lisa or Bart or an external observer.
Whoever is first reaches a fence and pulls the same «lock the gate behind me» stunt, and I curse as the other person with me twists the locking knob right off forcing us to climb the fence instead. Yeah, there’s three of us now, and I think the two others are my brothers, that’s definitely who they are in a later scene.
Climbing the fence is easy just up the embankment next to the gate where the fence is just waist high. And right past the fence we engage in some creative running in loops on an incline to gain speed and distance on our two pursuers, who’re women, but if I had an idea of who they were at the time, that memory is gone now.
We exit stage left (or stage right actually, if it were an actual stage) and approach the brook that ran past my childhood home, now following a path/road that my uncle has made with a harrow straight through his property and onto our neighbour’s. Right by the brook though my youngest brother, and the two women, fall into a sink hole that suddenly opens up in the path.
I tell my other brother to grab a branch or something and pull us out, because despite not having fallen into the hole I’m now in it. Our befuddled female pursuers are left in the hole and then edited out of the narrative completely as my brothers and I, following the harrow path, are now running away from home and I wonder if my instigating brother has really thought this through, and what mom and dad will think.
I’m not worrying about the fact that we’re all our adult selves or that my mom died several years ago or that what was all summery and green a couple scenes ago is now wintery all of a sudden. Or that the next couple of scenes are utterly bizarre.
We pass one neighbour’s fields and approach the cluster of houses belonging to the next farm over and walk past a greenhouse that definitely doesn’t exist out in the real world. As we pass it I’m thinking «so that’s the ‘textiles out of a greenhouse’ store I’ve been hearing about». And I think maybe we should see if there are some blankets in case we don’t figure out a place to spend the night. Only the guy who is outside moving stuff around seems to be packing up rather than opening the «store», even if one of my brothers thinks it’s the other way round.
I hate asking strangers for information but for a moment it seems my brother is going to, but then he doesn’t and I realize there are opening hours posted on the side of the greenhouse and I move around and further away from the building to see them properly, only I slide down a long hill in the snow. In hindsight this hill slants the opposite way of the terrain I’m certain we were just in, but there’s weirder to come so I won’t dwell on that. It’s a long hill and loose snow on slippery snow, and I cause a bit of an avalanche on the way down, but from the bottom it’s easy to read the numbers.
They don’t make sense at first but eventually I figure out what they say, possibly because the numbers changed, and I realize they close at 16 on Saturdays and it’s now just past. So I signal this to my brother using my hands, not wanting to shout or maybe it’s too far to shout, and start climbing back up the hill, which is now full of people and not even a hill for very long.
There are some conversations going on as I climb, about possible places to sleep suggested by the neighbour kids, who’re of course also grown up, but that’s not as interesting as how the snowy hill we’re climbing turns into the seatback of a hill-sized leather recliner without it registering as odd with anyone. As I, and a couple other climbers, reach the last, vertical, part of the leather seatback, our weight causes it to tilt forwards, which of course is backwards for us and lands us just at the edge of the giant glass table that goes with the chair. And that’s when I woke up. At 3:33. And wrote down as much detail as I remember.