The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chestertonia: Business as Usual

G.K. Chesterton lived from 1874 to 1936. Somewhere in there he said:

"A businessman is the only man who is forever apologizing for his occupation"

Well, that may have been true then, but it's certainly not true now. In fact, in three of the four colleges I've taught at, in many circles you have to apologize for NOT being a business major. After all, if you're not, what are you contributing to the world?

As a young Philosophy major, I had plenty of apologizing to do. "Really?' "Oh!" "Hmmmm" were among the most frequent responses to my answer concerning what my major was.

Well, a business degree these days doesn't get a person much more by way of material gain than a degree in Philosophy does. And maybe that's as it should be: "business" is far to general a topic to be of any real use. We need entrepreneurs, but none of the good ones I know every had a business degree (in fact most never had any degree).

Chesterton can help us here. For he is an excellent guide in bringing sanctity and wisdom to everyday life no matter what one's "business." Whether informatics technical architect, nuclear engineer, lawyer, or full-time Mom, Chesterton's writings bring joy and light to life.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Evidence-based Medicine Run Amok

I'm all about the evidence. Thus, I heartily support evidence-based medicine (and frown when people go nuts over losing treatments they "believe in" "just" because there's no evidence to support its effectiveness. However, there's an application of it that I find bothersome.

There's a tendency to do the following: There a treatment T such that there is a simple, not only common sense but "causal-mechanical" analogy which supports its effectiveness in K-type cases. Yet there is no current study which verifies T's effectiveness in K. As a result, the reports will range from "It's a myth that T helps K" to "there is no reason what-so-ever" to think that T helps K. Now of course there are cases where one wants very high degrees of verification before treatment, but I'm just talking about reporting.

Here's a parody that illustrates the relevant point. A study shows that non-steroidal anti-inflammitories reduce knee inflammation. I suggest that they might also help with elbow inflammation and am met with howls and jeers, as it is pointed out to me that there is currently no study verifying their effectiveness with elbow inflammation.

The problem, of course, is a too-narrow notion of evidence. A lot of my professional work is based on clearing up this sort of confusion in philosophy and religion. People who think it's OK to believe without evidence often have a too-narrow notion of what evidence is.