Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Reject the Lies, Damned Lies, and (false) Statistics about the COVID-19 epidemic

Imagine someone said: “Every year, a certain number of people die in traffic and it doesn’t matter if you educate 6-year olds or teenagers and how well-designed driving lessons are. The number stays the same.” Would you believe her? Of course not! But if she was a professor, an expert in statistics, and had a dozen graphs to prove her point? Still not!

If the professor had a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a BSc in Physics and Math, was an Army Major General, chair of a Space Agency and a National Council for Research and Development, head of a Security Studies Program at a University, and a former Member of Parliament? Still not!

Now, if you find that she was not pained by the loss of life in traffic but rather by all the costs of these educational efforts? Then you would have the shameless motive for saying such utter nonsense.

***

In real life, we have in Israel a professor with a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a BSc in Physics and Mathematics, who was a Major General in the IDF, chairman of the Space Agency and a National Council for Research and Development, head of a Security Studies Program at Tel Aviv University, and a former Member of Knesset for the extreme left Kadima Party.

He prior declared that he’s pained by … not the loss of life or the potential loss of life from COVID-19 but by the losses in the economy. “We are paying NIS 100 billion a month because of this closure.”

And then he comes with a theory (that he doesn’t test) that, no matter what one does, lockdown, social distancing or nothing, the epidemic will die down in 8 weeks. A dozen graphs must prove his absurd point.

I’ve warned you about this before. Smart people with no epidemiological insight and with financial and political biases and possibly vain motives.

***

The greatest “sin” in statistics is cherry-picking: that you select examples that make your stats come out the way you want. So, I only have to show one prominent example that does not fit his wishful “thinking.”

The example is quickly found. China. Followed by two more.

COVID-19 is short for CoronaVirus Disease 2019. The first infection was at the end of November 2019. The Chinese extreme 10-week lockdown lasted until the end of March 2020. Not 8 weeks. 4 months = 17 weeks!

Another glaring example that the professor leaves out. Taiwan. Six cases. Not 6%. Six cases on 23.6 million people!! Nothing 4 weeks exponential growth of the epidemic, 2 weeks plateau, 2 weeks disappearance. Why? Good anti-epidemic measures. No curve to flatten.

Israel is also an example where the disaster was contained early by the professor’s political opponent, Netanyahu. Of course, the lockdown did produce an enormous saving of lives. You don’t need statistics for that. One example suffices. If I’d have continued my normal life, I would have been infected and would have had a reasonable chance to die from it.

Now, it is possible that in Iran and Turkey, where the authorities did nothing to stop the epidemic, the infection ‘also’ dies down in 8 weeks. But that is not because it mysteriously would have no ‘power’ anymore to infect but because so many people then have been infected (and sent to bed to heal or die) that the virus won’t find uninfected people so easily anymore. But at what cost! Thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Reminds me of a joke our Dutch peerless politically genial standup comedian Wim Kan made during the Cold War. “Russians are experimenting with a sheep and a lion in one cage. It goes very well. Really. It goes very well. It cost a lot of sheep but it goes very well.”

You don’t need lockdown. An epidemic tempers out in 8 weeks anyway. Yeah. And then we would have had, like in Italy, Spain, the UK, and the US, thousands of deaths. For the economy, so it’s worth it? Scandalous!

***

The author knows statistics and their tricks but is totally clueless about 101 epidemiology, so he treats countries as uniform unites. Anyone with a little sechel (brains) can understand that, now the infection numbers in Israel are falling, some Arab villages in the North still need to go on total lockdown immediately because they just had an infection explosion.

***

Well-respected news outlets should not blindly trust anyone’s statistics, even from people with the highest qualifications. Rather, journalism is to ask uninvolved statisticians what they think of the statistical proofs.

I know that most journalists are great at language and for some reason by default often have trouble with 1 + 1 (It must be about 3), let alone, sophisticated math and statistics. That’s when you ask specialists. A journalist doesn’t just report. Not racist opinions, not capitalist opinions, and not scientific opinions — especially not when uttered by politicians who are opponents of the government they criticize and have self-declared financial and likely self-promoting motives for their positions.

***

But maybe I showed above that the greatest statistical nonsense doesn’t need a specialist to debunk it. A little common sense will go a long way.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments