Recently there have been a number of advertisements claiming that drugs like Lipitor can cut your risk of stroke in half. Is this something to get excited about? It all depends on your risk of stroke. If your risk of stroke is low, say 2%, then Lipitor will cut your risk of stroke to 1%. Is that reduction worth the extra expense and potential side effects associated with taking the medication? On the other hand, if your risk for stroke is 20%, then Lipitor may cut your risk down to 10%. That sort of reduction would convince many people at risk to take Lipitor. In both scenarios there is a 50% reduction in risk, but the need to take the drug is different. It all depends on level of original risk. The same logic applies to screening and testing for health problems. With the recent death of Senator Ted Kennedy from a brain tumor, we may witness a phenomenon called the availability heuristic. Availability heuristic refers to people overestimate the future probability of an event occurring because of recent dramatic, publicized events. Thus some people may overestimate their chances of getting a lethal brain tumor because of Kennedy’s highly publicized death. If you are one of those people, there are plenty of places willing to give you a costly brain MRI even though you are currently asymptomatic (healthy) (www.brainscans.com is one such place). Well, if you are rich, then what is there to worry about? Why not get the screening done? The answer is that some tests can be harmful and others can lead to false positive results that may result in unnecessary additional testing and therapies.
Take, for example, those full body scanning centers that have recently popped up around the USA. Otherwise healthy people go to these centers to get scanned for diseases for which they are at low risk. Well, if they are rich enough to light their cigars with 100 dollars bills, then why worry, right? Wrong. Several of the scans utilize CT technology. CT scans typically irradiate at higher levels than traditional x-rays. For instance, a chest x-ray delivers a dose of approximately 0.06 mSv, while a chest CT scan can deliver anywhere from 2.0 to 8.0 mSv, depending on the type of CT scan. That's a major increase in levels of irradiation for healthy individuals.
Such tests are usually called for if a patient is symptomatic, has a history of disease, or has other risk factors. If none of these apply and a patient is in good health, the test may do more harm than good. Most physicians are aware of these issues, so check with your doc when considering screening tests.
How many times have you heard a claim like: Doing X increases your risk of getting disease A by 75%? Or how about a claim like: Taking supplement Y cuts your risk of getting a disease B in half? Such statements of relative risk can be very misleading. Here’s why.
In 1995, Britain’s National Committee on Safety of Medicines issued the following warning to women taking contraceptives: Rigorous studies have found that women taking 3rd generation contraceptives (contraceptives made after 1990) experienced a twofold (100%) increase in blood clots compared to a similar cohort of women who took 2nd generation (pre 1990s) contraceptives. In other words, newer contraceptives are doubling a woman’s risk of blood clots compared to older contraceptives.
It sounds like young women should avoid 3rd generation contraceptives because of the increased risk of blood clots, right?
Here are the hidden, yet important details on prevalence:
In reality, the contraceptive studies found that one out of every 7,000 women who took the 2nd generation pills had blood clots. This number doubled with 3rd generation pills where two out of every 7,000 women who took 3rd generation pills had blood clots. Hmm? So is a 100% increase from 1 to 2 blood clots in a sample of 7,000 women something to get deeply concerned about? Not likely.
If the prevalence rate of a disease is low, then a 2, 3, or 4 fold increase may not be important, unless you are among the few who get the disease.
This fallacy also works its deceptive magic the other way – in preventing disease.
What if I told you that vaccine A cuts your child’s risk of getting disease X in half? Hmm? Sounds good, eh? Wait a minute. What is disease X’s prevalence rate? The prevalence rate/risk of getting disease X is 2 in 10 million, or 0.00002%. Now if your child is vaccinated, the risk of getting the disease is cut in half to 1 in 10 million, or 0.00001%. Does this sound reasonable? Probably not. Think about it this way: we would need to vaccinate 10,000,000 children in order to prevent one child from getting disease X.
Should we spend millions to vaccinate children against a disease most will never get? To do so might be a waste of healthcare resources and dollars that could be utilized elsewhere.
So the next time you read or hear a result like “It increases the risk of disease X by 200%” or "It cuts the likelihood of developing disease X in half," look for the prevalence rate. As the prevalence in the population goes up, so does the significance of the risk. For instance, if the prevalence rate is 10% (10% of people are at risk for developing disease X), then a vaccination that cuts that risk in half to 5% is something to crow about.
(Source: Gigerenzer et al. (2008). Helping doctors and patients make sense of health statistics. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 8(2), 53-96.)
I am not an evolutionist, but I like evolution. Some parts of the theory of evolution are really cool, like explaining variety within species and how bacteria become antibiotic resistent. At the same time, however, some aspects of the theory are on shaky ground and apparently inconsistent with mainstream LDS theology. The notion that mankind evolved from lower life forms is one example. But as is the case with most scientific theories, you take the good with the bad.
I am not an intelligent designer, but I like Intelligent Design (ID). The thing I like best about ID is that its central theme is consistent with LDS theology. According to Intelligentdesign.org, “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” This statement sounds really good to me. It is a welcome breath of fresh air in an increasingly secular and godless science. But as we shall see below, ID also has its problems.
Proponents of ID and evolution are currently in conflict with each other. Philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn might have called it a Revolution, but I am going to dispense with the academic jargon and use a more vibrant description: a boxing match. That right, right now there is a big slug fest going on between evolution and ID.
Here is a description of the boxing match thus far.
Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble!!!!!!!!!
Welcome to the science battle royale! In the left corner we have evolution’s goliath. He weighs in at 150 years of hegemony in the natural sciences. In the right corner we have the upstart Intelligent Design. ID weighs in at 10 years of “can’t get no respect” in the natural sciences.
As the two boxers meet in center ring to receive instructions, evolution bounces up and down in anticipation. Evolution points at ID and tauntingly says: “I own you! You’re mine! You’re going down, punk!” ID looks up in stoic fashion and doesn’t respond.
After the opponents move back to their corners, evolution looks at the audience and shouts, “I pity the fool! He don’t belong in the same ring as me.”
(Bell rings) Ding Ding
Evolution comes out swinging with: “You’re not science! You’re repackaged creationism! Dover! Scopes! Monkey Trial! Pandas and People! Take that, you fool! Arrgh!”
Many of the punches hit their mark, but ID is still standing.
After the first round coach Dave says to ID: “You’ve got to publish in mainstream journals. Expunge creationist influences; they are not scientific. Don’t use legislation to gain access into schools. And above all, avoid embarrassing trials and text books! ”
(Bell rings) Ding Ding
Evolution comes out swinging with: “You say evolution lacks scientific rigor and should not be taught in schools? Well then you’re not getting into our universities! You ain’t even getting in BYU and Notre Dame, sucker! No grants! No tenure! No faculty positions! No research positions! No soup for you! Argh!”
ID took a serious beating during that round. His right eye is swollen and he has trouble seeing. “Cut me!” he begs. Coach Dave grabs a razor blade and reduces the swelling by cutting above the eye. After patching the wound, coach Dave turns to ID and says: “Stop trying to restrict evolutionary education. You are not going to get ahead by stepping on evolutionists. Prove your metal by producing solid, scientific work!”
(Bell rings) Ding Ding
Now ID comes out swinging with credible science methodology. It is deflecting evolution’s punches by not limiting evolutionary education. It is also avoiding embarrassing books and court cases. It has learned that if it is going to gain respect in science, it must do so through scientific means.
No one knows the outcome of this match. One thing is certain, however; it is going to be a difficult struggle for ID. Evolution is much larger and hits harder, but ID has one advantage that most evolutionists are unaware of; it is that most evolutionists have a prideful and arrogant attitude toward their theory. This pride among evolutionists may prove its downfall. In the Bible, Job teaches us that pride cometh before the fall, which you could say, in boxing terms, translates into "the bigger they are, the harder they fall."
We'll have to wait and see.
For several years the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program has scanned the skies listening for messages from other planets. So far we have not made contact with beings from other worlds, but we know they are there. The Lord created worlds without number with the purpose of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. It seems that in His wisdom he has spaced them far apart to prevent one world from meddling in the progress of another.
Even if science confirmed the existence of intelligent life on other planets, the distances between us would preclude visits and active two-way communication. Still, it would be nice to hear from another world, to confirm scientifically that we are not alone. Many scientists agree and that is why some are taking a proactive approach to confirming intelligent life on other worlds.
Enter the Cosmic Call project. The Cosmic Call is a 400,000 bits long message that has been transmitted to solar systems with suns similar to our own. The first transmission went out ten years ago to stars in the Summer Cross, visible in the Northern Hemisphere.
Astronomers “fired” the message with a 70m (230 ft) Ukrainian antenna equipped with a 150 kW transmitter broadcasting at 5 GHz (6 cm). Any civilization within 100 light-years with access to a radio-telescope covering an area up to one squared-kilometer will be able to receive the message. Sounds exciting, eh?
What makes the Cosmic Call project even more exciting is that a few years after the first Call was first fired in 1999, astronomers discovered that a targeted star systems called HD190360 (located at right ascension 20h 03m 37s and declination 29h 53m 48) harbors two planets.
Planet HD190360A is somewhat similar to our own earth. It is slightly larger (1.5 times the mass of the earth) and substantially further from its sun than our earth (3.92 Astronomical Units [earth is 1 AU]). The other planet, HD190360B is smaller than our earth (.057 times smaller) and closer to its sun (0.128 AU).
While it seems like planet A is too far from its sun to harbor life (like Mars), and planet B is too close to its sun to harbor life (like Mercury), perhaps there is an undiscovered planet C somewhere in the middle that is roughly the same size and distance as our earth. If a habitable planet exists then my guess is that it is a telestial world going through the same stages of mortality as our world.
Wouldn’t it be cool to make contact with them, or them with us? Well, HD190360 is 58.1 light years distance from our earth, so a radio message (which travels much slower than the speed of light) is going to take a long time to reach its destination.
There is one other issue to be concerned about. If they receive the Cosmic Call, are they going to understand it? You decide. Here is the message, created by Canadian physicists Dutil and Dumas.
According to experts, the Cosmic Call “has been designed using some of the principles of interstellar communication proposed in the early works of Hans Freudenthal,Frank Drake and Carl Sagan. Mathematics and physics have been used to define the message, so that it will be clear and based on universal concepts. For example, the hydrogen atom [was] used to describe quantities such as mass, electric charge and length. To these basic ideas were added simple notions of astronomy, biology, geography and cosmology. Easier concepts and ideas are at the beginning while the more elaborate ones appear at the end of the message. Any true communication is not complete without an answer. Therefore, the last page of the message invites anyone who reads it to reply, sending information about themselves.”
(Source: http://www.matessa.org/~mike/dd-pr.html)Personally I think the Call looks like text from a "buggy", old fashioned, dot matrix printer, but who knows? It might make sense to someone at HD190360. If it does and they send a reply, we won't be around to receive it (we're talking really bad snail mail, friends).The star map at the top shows where to find HD190360 in the constellation Cygnus (aka “Summer Cross”).
The Apostle Paul said that the latter-days would be perilous times. Well, here’s more proof that he was right.
For the last few years the traditional family has been under attack from gay marriage activists. Now the traditional family is being attacked by another group of activists, the eco-nazis. Yes, Satan has launched a two-pronged, flanking action against the traditional family. This should come as no surprise, however. The family is the core unit of the Plan of Salvation and he would like nothing more than to tear it down.Who are the eco-nazis? They come in many different shapes and sizes, but the most dangerous are the “enlightened” intelligentsia who live in ivory towers and work in great and spacious buildings on university and government campuses. They are suggesting that couples limit the number of children they have to minimize humanity’s carbon footprint.Casey Jones, a member of the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board recently rang the overpopulation alarm with this statement: “We can start teaching our kids the new math, the socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible, not to mention carbon neutral, math -- 1 adult + 1 adult = 2 children. That way we can carry on the species without straining our schools and the planet.” http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_12978247A group of statisticians from Oregon State University recently suggested that people reduce carbon footprinting by limiting the number of kids they have. Statistician Paul Murtaugh stated: “"In discussions about climate change, we tend to focus on the carbon emissions of an individual over his or her lifetime. . . . But an added challenge facing us is continuing population growth and increasing global consumption of resources.”
http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/07/oregon_state_researchers_concl.htmlAnd Dr. John Holdren, President Obama’s recent pick as the science and technology czar, has, in the past, made dire predictions about the impact of population growth. Here were his shocking recommendations: “There exists ample authority under which population growth could be regulated. . . . [I]t has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society. . . . If some individuals contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children, and if the need is compelling, they can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility.”
http://www.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=34198We should be good and proper stewards of the earth and its resources, but when we use carbon footprinting as an excuse for not having children, we’ve gone too far. When carbon footprinting takes precedence over people’s wishes to have children, we’ve gone too far.
The only footprints parents should be concerned about are the ones they get on cardstock in the hospital delivery room after their babies arrive, and the muddy ones they find on the kitchen floor as their children grow up.