Waxing indignant: pointless?

| 16 Comments

In the comments to a post I have up at Aetiology discussing the recent XDR-TB case in the U.S.,, Scott suggested that bloggers were putting too much emphasis on whether the TB patient was stupid/arrogant/self-centered/whatever, and later that “waxing indignant is pointless.” I started this as a response to those comments, but thought instead it might be an interesting conversation to have–is such indignation pointless? Certainly indignation about this guy’s behavior won’t change what’s happened. Indignation about creationists’ abuse of science won’t make them stop or change their mind. Indeed, some would suggest that even mild rants that don’t necessarily outright insult an opponent still hurt our cause in the long run. So, does such indignation have a point? If so, what? What do you think? Feel free to comment here; I have my own thoughts on it over at Aetiology.

[Edited to add: while the TB story is what spawned this musing, don’t limit it to that…certainly we here do this a lot with creationists and science teaching/literacy in general as well, so feel free to address those topics too.]

16 Comments

We have to start by calling such actions by their rightful names: reckless endangerment and criminal negligence. Until such time that people like this idiot are prosecuted and spend time in prison for knowingly risking exposing innocent people to infectious disease, nothing will change.

Because, to these people, their convenience is worth more than your life.

The fact that medical/hospital/pharmaceutical error kills 200,000 a year…give or take…has NO bearing on this of course.

Grady, theantiatheist, clarrissa, Fleet of IDs is back!!! So predictable. So how long will it take for the famous Obessive Compulsive equation to appear?

evolution=atheism=communism=mass murder

The fact that medical/hospital/pharmaceutical error kills 200,000 a year…give or take…has NO bearing on this of course.

This is his other hobby. He hates MDs and medicine. Malpractice and mistakes are all too common. A lot isn’t necessarily due to docs, the HMOs and medicare are increasingly making cost cutting decisions that result in substandard medicine. OTOH, in 1900 while modern medicine was started but young, the US life span was 47 years. It is now 77 years, up 30 years. On balance most people would take the high possibility of living an extra 30 years over the low probability of malpractice.

Seeing the agenda of the creos up close and personal here. They reject modern science and modern medicine. Take these away and you have the dark ages. Kansas creo, it isn’t going to happen soon. We like living in the 21st century. But you are free to avoid medicine and even move to some medieval dump stuck in your favored age. Afghanistan and Somalia among many have many very religious fanatics. They also have life expectancies of 40+ years and frequently kill each other. You can get what you want.

I’ve not been following this issue closely, so I may have missed a few things; but here’s what I’ve heard:

The guy was told his rare strain of TB was “extermely drug-resistant,” but not “extremely contagious.” There’s a difference.

His wife, who has been closer to him than any of those passengers, for a longer time, does not have the TB.

So where’s the “endangerment?” This is starting to sound like all that hysteria about people getting AIDS by working next to someone who had it.

The fact that medical/hospital/pharmaceutical error kills 200,000 a year…give or take…has NO bearing on this of course.

You’re perfectly free to describe a connection, if you can. We’re waiting…

So, does such indignation have a point? If so, what? What do you think?

Calling irresponsible, potentially homicidal behavior what it is definitely has a point. And we should call it what it is.

What is the difference between accidentally or deliberately shooting someone, accidentally or deliberately running over someone (maybe while drunk), or accidentally or deliberately infecting someone with HIV/AIDS or extremely multidrug resistant TB and potentially making them very sick and/or ultimately killing them?

Nothing. People are required to act responsibly in cases where others can be endangered, hurt, or killed. They either take responsibility for activities that harm others or society should move to protect innocent involuntarily involved others.

In the XDR TB case, what right does this clown have to potentially infect many others with an all but untreatable and potentially fatal disease? Not seeing it.

The guy was told his rare strain of TB was “extermely drug-resistant,” but not “extremely contagious.” There’s a difference.

You need to read aetiology. This guy flew to 4 or 5 other countries and hung around Greece, Italy, and Canada for a while. Being stuck in a plane with recirculated, pressurized air is a proven way to spread respiratory diseases throughout the cabin. He could have exposed hundreds or even thousands of people to a new form of TB resistant to all known drugs. Even today, TB is one of the top three single disease agent killers in the world. Before antibiotics it was a major killer in the US and without vigilance, we could be there again.

TB isn’t like AIDS. HIV requires “bodily fluid” prolonged intimate contact. TB in infectious stages can be much more easily spread by casual contact or just being near someone who has it (a respiratory disease/route).

Indignation should not be an end in itself, but it is a natural response to the display of stupidity, arrogance, malice, and other forms of crass behavior.

There has been a clash of two perspectives: the perspective of an individual who sees his concerns as large relative to the risk he poses to society, and societal concerns that minimize the importance of individual interests against the interests of the whole. Until (if ever) those two perspectives can be reconciled, there will have to be laws against idiotic behavior.

(Sheesh, I sound pedantic.)

Anyway, the indignation is there and if it results in changing laws (or enforcing them) to protect us from each other, it is probably a good thing.

Off-topic indignation: I’m getting sick of being completely unable to even read the “Is Creationism Child’s Play?” thread, let alone post to it. PT’s performance is getting less reliable every day, at least in regards to threads with huge numbers of comments.

Also, every time I post – to any thread, big or small – I get the “file not found” error message, and have to go Back and hit Refresh at least once, sometimes three times, to see my post. In terms of software performance, this is the wonkiest blog I’ve ever seen.

Raging Bee, the Child’s play thread should have been closed a long time ago. It is too big for the server.

The software isn’t the problem. It’s that we’re bigger than our current hardware. We have a new more powerful server nearly ready to go, but something happened in its move to the new location and we can’t connect to it remotely anymore. We’re going to reinstall the OS. Hopefully in a week or two, PT will become more responsive.

Okay, so, since I can’t post my witty reposte to Mark Hausam’s faux-Christian faux-empiriciam where I should, I’ll post it here instead. If his posts and mine get moved to the Bathroom Wall or somewhere else, just gimme a link and I’ll try to continue the debate there…

…probably the biggest difference between my thinking and many of yours is that I take seriously the claim of the Bible to be a reliable revelation from God.

Wrong again: the difference is that some of us take the Bible as a reliable revelation about a specific, and limited, range of subject-matter, which includes Man’s relationship to God but not natural science, while you seem to take it as an “infallible” source on ALL subject-matter. And as I said before (in a post you continue to ignore), we have good reason to believe that you are misusing the Bible and thus missing the point your God and his prophets are trying to make. And some of us who see this are themselves Christians.

I think my arguments for the existence of God are empirical.

What you “think” is incorrect, however many times you say it. You might as well say “I think the Earth is flat” over and over.

We have, therefore, a deeper philosophical disagreement that undoubtedly affects the way we evaluate things.

Translation: “It’s all a matter of opinion, not objective facts.” That’s how grade-school kids get out of a losing argument after their factual assertions have been debunked. This sort of reasoning is known as “crybaby subjectivism,” and sensible Christian evangelists avoid it, for a very good reason: You are admitting, in effect, that the atheist worldview is no less valid than yours, and you will never be able to bridge the gap and get the Good Word across it.

Jesus himself partied with politicians and other sinners, and never made any lame excuses about how he could never get anyone else to see things his way. Can’t you at least try to follow that example? It’s not like we’re about to nail you to anything.

Richard Dawkins seems to agree with this analysis. In The God Delusion, he rejects Gould’s NOMA and argues that the existence of God is a scientific question.

So now you use an atheist’s opinion to validate your own, but you won’t follow the example of your own Savior? That’s just beyond ridiculous.

The Bible’s definition of “chew the cud” is broader than ours and can include rabbits. “Birds” in the Bible is a broader category than our modern one as well—it lumps pretty much all flying creatures together.

In other words, the Bible is vague on scientific and technical matters, because that’s not what its authors wanted to talk about; therefore it cannot be considered reliable, let alone “infallible,” on those subjects. That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you all along.

A lot of times, accusations of biblical error or contradiction stem from a superficial and shallow reading of the text.

And reading the Bible only for its literal meaning, without admitting it might have a more important metaphorical or allegorical message, is about as “superficial and shallow” as it gets. (Notice how you’re going on and on about bats, birds, cud and Genesis, and saying NOTHING AT ALL about the Ten Commandments or the actual words of Jesus? You’re missing the whole point of the Bible!)

“All your arguments are simply ungrounded assertions.” No, they are not. They are based in good logical thinking. They are substantive arguments that need to be dealt with on a deeper level than being merely dismissed without serious consideration…

If you make unfounded assertions without serious consideration on your part, then you should expect those assertions to be dismissed without serious consideration on our part.

Sometimes we get confused dealing with these things because we fail to distinguish what really exists, what must exist, etc., with mathematical ideas or concepts that may be useful mathematically but which cannot exist in the real world.

If such “ideas or concepts” are useful and have real effects in the real world, then, for all practical purposes, they “exist in the real world.”

“Who created God?” No one. God is a self-existent being.

If the Universe can’t be “self-existent,” then how can you be at all sure God can be? This is yet another unfounded assertion that you make to support your own belief.

“You keep saying you don’t understand things and then you say you do.” Like most people, I understand some things and not others. This is not exactly contradictory.

In your case, it is: first you admit you don’t understand the technical issues that underpin our arguments, then you imply that you understand them enough to know we’re wrong.

I am very familiar with biblical exegesis.

Most of my Christian acquaintances, at least one of whom went to a Jesuit high school, would disagree with that assertion.

“The Bible is not a science book.” That is true. It speaks in common-sense and phenomenological terms, rather than in strictly accurate 21st century biological or other scientific language. However, it does make understandable claims that mean something, and my assertion is that it is always right when it does so.

You have repeatedly admitted that the Bible’s language is “imprecise;” therefore it cannot be “always right” on subjects that require precision. You have just effectively admitted that your “assertion” is wrong.

“A lot of Christians read the Bible differently.” I know. But that doesn’t prove they are right.

And none of this proves you’re right, either. But the fact that those other Christians are more knowledgeable and honest than you, proves that they’re a lot more LIKELY to be right than you are.

It’s not pointless; it’s called public shaming of the indefensibly stupid.

If it happened more often, bigots, creationists and this damned fool might actually learn how to remain respectful and silent in the presence of their betters.

I’ll start a thread for Mark at After the Bar Closes.

Not too long ago I read somewhere (Science, I think) about the efficacy of shame in deterring bad behavior. So we can try to shame Creationists, but that won’t work because they receive positive reinforcement for their views from persons they respect. So I guess we need to aim mainly at early childhood education.

I’m not sure that the indignation is pointless, but the big enemy in this case is the human capacity for denial. (Incidentally, wasn’t this guy diagnosed months ago? How is it that they didn’t find out until now that his infection was so dangerously drug-resistant?)

As for the calls to put the TB patient in prison: This would be a logistical nightmare. He’d get little or no health care in prison, and could spread the disease throughout the institution unless he was put into solitary. Quarantining him in a hospital is much more appropriate. However, if someone else gets sick because of him, there’s another potential tactic that doesn’t require the criminal justice system and would be ironic given his profession: There’d probably be grounds for a very, very big lawsuit, and it’s doubtful that a jury would be especially sympathetic to his case.

“As for the calls to put the TB patient in prison: This would be a logistical nightmare. He’d get little or no health care in prison, and could spread the disease throughout the institution unless he was put into solitary. Quarantining him in a hospital is much more appropriate.”

I would incarcerate him after he is treated in quarantine. Get well and then do the time.

“However, if someone else gets sick because of him, there’s another potential tactic that doesn’t require the criminal justice system and would be ironic given his profession: There’d probably be grounds for a very, very big lawsuit, and it’s doubtful that a jury would be especially sympathetic to his case.”

I don’t see this as an “either/or” situation. I think the people on the plane should sue the living hell out of him for putting them through the stuff they’re going through now. He also has shown such low character that the State of Georgia bar should immediately begin disbarment proceedings.

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on May 31, 2007 9:00 AM.

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