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Spin-Check: Anecdotal Evidence

Anecdotal Evidence: “The Mitigation Worked to Save Lives”

During the Coronavirus Crisis of 2020, there has been a lot of bantering about concerning various treatments and protocols; never mind the full reversals, like don’t wear a mask and do wear a mask. The argument from anecdote is thrown around like baking soda on a grease fire. Arguments like these are often really about spin; when the anecdotes (stories) serve you, you use them. When they hurt you, you diss them.  

HYDROXYCHLORAQUINE

President Trump specifically stated that he hoped hydroxychloroquine
would be a game changer. Critics attacked Trump as relying on anecdotal evidence
for his ‘highly ‘touted’ cure. They further went on to attack hydroxychloroquine
as dangerous, based on nothing less than their own anecdotal evidence of what
they’ve heard from some doctors. In an article about the lack of hard evidence,
the authors do accurately quote Trump:

“I may take it,” Trump said on Saturday, referring to hydroxychloroquine,
though he has twice tested negative for coronavirus, according to the White
House. “We’re just hearing really positive stories, and we’re continuing to
collect the data.” https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/04/trumps-lies-about-coronavirus/608647/
While this is called a ‘lie’, it really is simply a common way humans discuss
and discover the truth of things. Some studies have indicated that hydroxy doesn’t
work against the virus, but those are focused on hospital admissions. We would
need studies that show an early prescription at the onset of symptoms (with
zinc and azithromycin) doesn’t work.

While this is called a ‘lie’, it really is simply a common way humans discuss and discover the truth of things.  

ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE

Anecdote: A limited selection of examples which support or refute an
argument, but which are not supported by scientific or statistical analysis.https://www.definitions.net/definition/anecdotal+evidence

Trump’s comment has both anecdote and data in it. He is
saying we are hearing positive stories, but that we need to keep collecting
data. There is nothing wrong with anecdotes, but they neither prove nor
disprove anything. There is no lie in anecdotal proof, since it could turn out
to be true.
In a hard-scientific world, we really think of anecdotes as hints or hypotheses,
and you’ll see it again if the virus gets to a truly manageable level. 

MITIGATION AS ANECDOTAL

Dr. Fauci, and others, state that mitigation is working and will “do the trick for us.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioYZ9FgkftE

However, that too is speculative. It makes sense, as does anecdotal evidence. However, we can’t know without a real comparative study. We would have to have the ‘curve’ studied with partial mitigation and no mitigation. Sweden is the curious example that seems to have a similar curve to the rest of the countries, but without the level of lockdown commonly employed. This kind of spin shadows a logical fallacy called post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore resulting from it: used to indicate that a causal relationship has erroneously been assumed from a merely sequential one). We mitigated, so lives were saved. Well, yes, maybe, but were they saved short-term or long-term? The simple fact is that we do not know. We do not currently have the scientific data to prove it. So, when unvalidated anecdotal evidence doesn’t serve, it’s bad. When other unvalidated evidence serves, it’s good. When trends on a chart serve, they are good. When trends don’t serve, they are bad.

Karl Popper gave us a better standard with his principle of falsifiability (if you can’t prove it’s wrong, you can’t prove it’s right) https://youtu.be/wf-sGqBsWv4

In the world of news and crisis, however, all you need to know is that everyone is talking about hope and predictions…which get’s tangled in the web of spin.When they say that anecdotal evidence suggest something, you can simply say, “Maybe.” When the ‘experts’ come out and insist that the mitigation worked, you can also simply say, “Maybe.” Definitive proof is another question entirely.Hope and hypotheses are not lies, but they also aren’t conclusive. Don’t get tricked, always spin-check.

Spin-Check: President Trump Always Lies? No…

Spin-Check: President Trump Always Lies? No…

Spin-check is about preparing readers to discern the truth, which isn’t easy in a spin-happy world. PRESIDENT TRUMP ALWAYS LIES. Accusing people of lying is the quickest spin of all that groups embrace, and it misdirects us from seeing the truth of things.

Plenty of people out there think it’s true that President Trump always lies, but clearly this is suspicious unless they change the meaning of the words ‘lie’ or ‘always’. The energy to overreact seems to be without boundaries. Here’s a recent example:

Well, this looks obvious! He says he signed the CHOICE Act, but we know he really didn’t. Ha! Liar! A few comments that immediately follow this post found at #trumplies show the instant conclusion:

The Trump tweet is explained by considering Trump a deliberate liar on one extreme, and a self-deceived (delusional?) liar at the other extreme. Apparently, “We know Trump is lying, we just don’t know exactly why!”

But is he lying? The simplest thing to do to avoid getting sucked into this spin-cycle is to begin with the assumption the other person might not be lying, that something else may be in play. This mindset will lead you to FIRST UNDERSTAND…and, of course, you can still condemn the sorry liar later.

We always try to ask, “Would Trump (or ________) really knowingly make such an outlandish statement that is blatantly false?” The answer is always, “Not likely.” So, we need to look at what the President actually said and compare it to what is claimed he said.

They say he said:

I signed the Choice Act, not Obama.

He said:

Last year I signed legislation that gives our Veterans CHOICE, through private providers, and at urgent care facilities! Today we fully funded this $10 billion a year effort that gets our brave Veterans care quickly, and close to home.

Now, first we can notice that he did not say he signed the Choice Act, but rather he signed ‘legislation’. From here we’d simple ask, “Did he sign legislation that does this?” With a little googling we can find that he did sign legislation:

Trump Extends VA Choice Program
Trump Signs 55 Billion Bill to Replace VA Choice Program

So, he did sign legislation (referring to either story above?). He extended the Choice Act (and improved it, apparently). Is he taking credit for something he didn’t do? Is he misleading everyone? Is he a jerk anyway? Well, all of these are clearly important questions. And, of course, congress passed the law, so they can get credit too.

One might still want to call the President a liar anyway, but the legitimacy of the claim in this case needs some explaining…or…perhaps an admission that it’s just not true in this rabid instance. The overreaction to whatever Trump says makes both spinning and looking stupid rather easy.

As we like to note, if Trump were Shakespeare and said, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun,” wouldn’t he be open to the accusation of being a liar? Juliet is not the sun; it’s a gaseous ball of explosions about 93 million miles from earth; Shakespeare/Trump is a liar.

Of course, always make sure you get the actual quote which is declared the ‘lie’. Next, to avoid getting caught up in group-spins like these, simply ask, “What did they mean?” and “Is it true?” In this way you’ll be fair-minded and call a liar a liar with accuracy, rather than getting egg on your face like those who buy spin in Costco-sized containers.


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