Category Archives: Coronavirus

Betting against the house on the Covid vaccines

Slot machines

“You have a greater chance of being in a car accident on the way to getting this vaccine than you have of having a problem from this vaccine. But that’s not how people view risk.” — Paul Offit, vaccine expert at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. Maybe it is because I do not seem to have a gambling gene in my body…. Read more »

Choosing your “Covid restaurant”

Cafe Risky

Imagine that there are just two cafés in your town at which you can dine. At Café Safe the menu is limited and rather bland, your parent’s music is playing over the PA system, and people are friendly but stand-offish. However, the place is clean, and they follow all health protocols. Business is good at Café Safe and it is… Read more »

Beware the modern-day Gnostics

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Irenaeus

Most people know what an agnostic is, but fewer know much about the people at the root of that word, the Gnostics (without the ‘a’). Gnostics caused one of the first great doctrinal splits in early Christianity, but their intellectual descendants remain today, not just in churches, but also throughout the business and political worlds. And they want to sell… Read more »

Coronavirus mutations and the evolutionary race for time

Ark under construction

The greatest irony of the coronavirus pandemic, in my view, has been that of anti-science political forces who have resisted the most basic mitigation measures facing off against one of the best examples ever of Darwinian evolution and its related math of fecundity being played out in real (and scary-fast) time. And it ain’t over yet, with the exponential spread… Read more »

Affective risk aversion and Covid vaccine denial

Rollercoaster

After several unsuccessful attempts in the confused and governor-hobbled Florida vaccine roll-out, my spouse and I were recently able to get the first of two Moderna jabs. Despite the tragic (and up to 40% unnecessary) loss of life and the trashing that our economy has suffered because of the coronavirus over the last year, the number of people who are… Read more »

When your coronavirus theology kills people

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Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Perhaps there are two kinds of normal people…There are those who don’t believe in free will and thereby don’t have free will, and there are those who do believe in free will and thereby actually have free will. ” Daniel Dennett, Freedom Evolves. I will be upfront about my definition of “bad theology” here: Bad theology is a belief system… Read more »

The moral conversation around coronavirus vaccine priorities

Who Am I?

It did not take long for the difficult moral questions around who gets the Covid-19 vaccination first to get ugly. At Stanford University an algorithm for distributing the vaccine prioritized older doctors working remotely over young interns and residents who are in daily contact with Covid patients, resulting in a public shaming demonstration. After the bad public attention, the university… Read more »

Probability, uncertainty and inanity with the coronavirus

Bayes theorem

The very bad polling outcomes from the 2020 U.S presidential election pointed out the key differences between two often-confused topics. Pre-election polls are measured in percentages and look like probabilities, but they are really trying to quantify uncertainty, and there is a very big difference between the two that the public largely does not understand. The same confusion has bled… Read more »

When innumeracy kills

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Covid risk of harm

In mid-November a fundamentalist Tulsa megachurch held a packed, largely-maskless Christian concert for 2500 people. I’ll deal with the theological ironies in a later post, but despite their likely support for “Right to Life,” I can confidently say that, statistically, the attendees surely murdered people with the coronavirus that night, perhaps people even not in attendance. Ignorance of basic mathematics… Read more »

Moral luck, Donald Trump and the coronavirus

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Trump Covid

The concept of moral luck is one of the more curious sidelines in the study of ethics, at the intersection of moral philosophy and mathematics. However, Donald Trump’s bizarre reactions up to, during, and after contracting Covid-19 make for a great opportunity to look at the concept. In short, President Trump first ascribed his escape from Covid for the first… Read more »