Who Cares!?

“Why does it matter? Does it really make any difference in our daily lives whether evolution is true or not? With all the troubles in the world is this debate really important at all?”

These are the exasperated questions that I was asked recently during a discussion about science education. I suspect that this person was using this approach to try and make me seem shrill and out of touch to the rest of the people talking, but I know he wasn’t prepared for my answer -

I'm curious as to how you might answer that question. I'll share mine in a later post.


How the SAT's Destroyed America

It's true - it's obvious. The analogy section of the SAT's has been co-opted by spin doctors to corrupt American minds. The analogous positioning of descriptive phrases in constant proximity to ones' opponents, in time, creates the association in many minds.

Think about it; consider an example of the SAT analogy format used to create political indoctrination:

Horse is to herd, as whale is to...
Seemingly benign, but NO!

Examine how this format it is used politically.

Conservative is to good, as liberal is to...
a) evil
b) sodomy
c) hateful
d) enemy

Of course all are true but only 'a' is the truly comparable analogy.
Or this example:

Good government is to Republican as Healthcare reform is to....
a) death panels
b) socialism
c) Democrats
d) avoiding national bankruptcy

It's all in how you write the question. 'a' is correct but not a equivalent analogy (many students would miss this one because of the subtle distinction). 'b' is also correct but again is just off of 'c' which is a true analogy. Remember that it is already a given that Republican and good are implicitly linked as are evil and Democrat. Since healthcare reform is bad government and Democrats are evil, 'c' is the only correct choice. 'd' is wrong both philosophically and as a comparable analogy so it is included only as filler to catch those who probably can't afford college without a scholarship anyway.
Try this one at home.

Democrat is to shrill as atheist is to...

a) hateful
b) rude
c) beligerent
d) irrational

(S)atire. No real SAT questions were harmed in the making of this post ;)


Risk a Verse: Medical Genetics and the Economics of Ethics

In the eye of the storm,
medical genetics and the economics of ethics.
High on the list of dire reasons for healthcare reform.

From what we all hear,
there’s an abundance of fear,
That the government
might move to ration.
Since insurance companies already have, might be better places to exercise all of that passion.
Ill informed anxieties serving the wrong master,
leading to the collapse just that much faster.

DNA may not be information,
but good luck explaining that to the actuaries of this nation,
All it will take is some errant allele,
leading to one's coverage repeal,
And then bankruptcy court,
for the sick, will be the only resort.

No doubt science will find the genes,
long before any agent or wonk knows what it all means.
Autosomal dominance with high penetrance is far from the norm,
Good Docs know that mostly it’s a factor, among many on a risk assessment form.
Not some programmed and well defined fate,
dooming all to with whom one might relate.
The gap between translation and the ultimate outcome,
is a complexity that clinicians can't shun, but the payers will likely shy from.

The ultimate in preexisting conditions, used to favor the house at the earliest possible date,
Fear keeps those who would benefit from the data away, until it’s often far too late.
While true that knowledge is power,
the possibility of uninsurability, makes most of us cower.

Both nature and nurture, have their place in assigning the risk of disease.
But insurance companies have all those investors to please,
Remember what insurance companies do best,
Refusing care to those with some risky label, and collecting regular fees from all of the rest.
Owning the tallest buildings in almost any major city,
hard to imagine that they aren’t sitting real pretty.

The money changers missed the lessons of Gattica during its run,
environment, chance, and choices all add to the sum.
We humans do love to assign all our labels,
But real life doesn’t always conform neatly to some column, in one of our tables.
The ethics of profit may rob us of the real value of these markers,
regardless of what tripe spews forth from the mouths of the barkers.

he real value of that genetic test,
is in helping our fellows tailor their choices toward, what for them, may be what’s best.
Instead of hanging over us like Damocles’ knife,
an aid in enjoying the best possible life.
To have that we must move from a system obsessed with the fare,
to one committed to constant improvements in care.

Which really seems the better wager?
That government or payers could be made to see you as something more than an entry in a ledger.
Up to now, private payers have been free to define the rules of the game,
if we let that continue, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.
Tactics like random denials show what we should expect,
If once again they are successful, reform efforts to deflect.

Listen not to all the fear mongers and naysayers,
for as predictive science is added we'll be more subject to the whims of the payers.
Their interests not yours drives their every decision,
all genetics is to them is denial with greater precision.

The government is always a danger, imperfect and its support takes its toll,
But unlike insurance payers it can be made to have more than profit as its goal.
Begrudgingly government can be bent by our will, to protect the least among us, and those from any station,
As it must always be, for more than armaments, this defines what it takes to be a great and moral nation.



Pliny is on hiatus until Oct 12. If you have any ideas or requests for future posts, please leave them here.