Christians Shouldn’t Be Dismissive of Scientific Modeling

Projections from an IHME model.

Over the last several weeks I’ve encountered a range of negative views toward the models epidemiologists have been using in the struggle against COVID-19. Skepticism is a healthy thing. But rejecting models entirely isn’t skepticism. Latching onto fringe theories isn’t skepticism. Rejecting the flattening-the-curve strategy because it’s allegedly model-based isn’t skepticism either.

These responses are mostly misunderstandings of what models are and of how flattening-the-curve came to be.

I’m not claiming expertise in scientific modeling. Most of this is high school level science class stuff. But for a lot of us, high school science was a long time ago, or wasn’t very good—or we weren’t paying attention.

What do models really do?

Those tasked with explaining science to us non-scientists define and classify scientific models in a variety of ways.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for example, describes at least 8 varieties of models, along with a good bit of historical and philosophical background. They’ve got about 18,000 words on it.

A much simpler summary comes from the Science Learning Hub, a Science-education project in New Zealand. Helpfully, SLH doesn’t assume readers have a lot of background.

In science, a model is a representation of an idea, an object or even a process or a system that is used to describe and explain phenomena that cannot be experienced directly. Models are central to what scientists do, both in their research as well as when communicating their explanations. (Scientific Modeling)

Noteworthy here: models are primarily descriptive, not predictive. Prediction based on a model is estimating how an observed pattern probably extends into what has not been observed, whether past, present, or future.

Encyclopedia Britannica classifies models as physical, conceptual, or mathematical. It’s the mathematical models that tend to stir up the most distrust and controversy, partly because the math is way beyond most of us. We don’t know what a “parametrized Gaussian error function” is (health service utilization forecasting team, p.4; see also Gaussian, Error and Complementary Error function).

But Christians should be the last people to categorically dismiss models. Any high school science teacher trained in a Christian university can tell you why. I’ve been reminded why most recently in books by Nancy Pearcy, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, and Samuel Gregg: Whether scientists acknowledge it or not, the work of science is only possible at all because God created an orderly world in which phenomena occur according to patterns in predictable ways. For Christians, scientific study—including the use of models to better understand the created order—is study of the glory of God through what He has made (Psalm 19:1).

Most of us aren’t scientists, but that’s no excuse for scoffing at one of the best tools we have for grasping the orderliness of creation.

Should we wreck our economy based on models?

The “models vs. the economy” take on our current situation doesn’t fit reality very well. Truth? The economy is also managed using models. A few examples:

Beyond economics, modeling is used all the time for everything from air traffic predictions to vehicle fire research, to predictive policing (no, it isn’t like “Minority Report”).

Models are used extensively in all sorts of engineering. We probably don’t even get dressed in the morning without using products that are partly the result of modeling—even predictive modeling—in the design process.

Christians should view models as tools used by countless professionals—many of whom are believers—in order to try to make life better for people. Pastors have books and word processors. Plumbers have propane torches. Engineers and scientists have models. They’re all trying to help people and fulfill their vocations.

(An excellent use of predictive mathematical modeling…)

Why are models often “wrong”?

An aphorism about firearms says, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Implications aside, it’s a true statement. It’s also true that math is never wrong; people are wrong. Why? Math is just an aspect of reality. In response to mathematical reality, humans can misunderstand, miscalculate, and misuse, but reality continues to be what it is, regardless.

The fact that the area of a circle is always its radius squared times an irrational (unending) number we call “pi” (π) remains true, no matter how many times I misremember the formula, plug the wrong value in for π, botch the multiplication, or incorrectly measure the radius.

The point is that models, as complex representations of how variables relate to each other and to constants, are just math. In that sense, models are also never “wrong”—just badly executed or badly used by humans. That said, a model is usually developed for a particular purpose and can be useless or misleading for the intended purpose, so, in that sense, “wrong.”

When it comes to using models to find patterns and predict future events, much of the trouble comes from unrealistic expectations. It helps to keep these points in mind:

  • Using models involves inductive reasoning: data from many individual observations is used in an effort to generalize.
  • Inductive reasoning always results in probability, never certainty.
  • The more data a model is fed, and the higher the quality of that data, the more probable its projections will be.
  • When data is missing for parts of the model, assumptions have to be made.
  • Changes in a model’s predictions are not really evidence of “failure.” As the quantity and quality of data changes, and assumptions are replaced with facts, good models change their predictions.
  • True professionals, whether scientists or other kinds of analysts, know that models of complex data are only best guesses—and they don’t claim otherwise.
  • The professionals that develop and use models in research are far more tentative and restrained in their conclusions than people who popularize the findings (e.g., the media).

In the case of COVID-19, one of the most influential models has been one of IHME’s (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation). Regarding that model, an excellent Kaiser Family Foundation article notes:

Models often present “best guess” or median forecasts/projections, along with a range of uncertainty. Sometimes, these uncertainty ranges can be very large. Looking at the IHME model again, on April 13, the model projected that there would be a 1,648 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. on April 20, but that the number of deaths could range from 362 to 4,989.

Poor design and misuse have done some damage to modeling’s reputation. Some famous global-warming scandals come to mind. But in the “Climategate” controversy, for example, raw data itself was apparently falsified. The infamous hockey stick graph appears to have involved both manipulated raw data and misrepresentation of what the model showed. Modeling itself was not the problem.

(XKD  isn’t completely wrong … there is such a thing as “better garbage”)

Why bother with models?

Given the uncertainty built into predictive mathematical models, why bother to use them? Usually, the answer is “because we don’t have anything better.” Models are about providing decision-makers, who don’t have the luxury of waiting for certainty, with evidence so they don’t have to rely completely on gut instinct. It’s not evidence that stands alone. It’s not incontrovertible evidence. It’s an effort to use real-world data to detect patterns and anticipate what might happen next.

As for COVID-19, the idea that too many sick at once would overwhelm hospitals and ICUs, and that distancing can help slow the infection rate and avoid that disaster, isn’t a matter of inductive-reasoning from advanced statistical models. It’s mostly ordinary deduction (see LiveScience and U of M). If cars enter a parking lot much faster than other cars exit, you eventually get a nasty traffic jam. You don’t need a model to figure that out.

You do need one if you want to anticipate when a traffic jam will happen, how severe it might be, how long it might last, and the timing of steps that might help reduce or avoid it.

Leaders of cities, counties, states, and nations have to manage large quantities of resources and plan for future outcomes. To do that, they have to make educated guesses about what steps to take now to be ready for what might happen next week, next month, and next year. It’s models that make those guesses educated ones rather than random ones.

Highly technical work performed by exceptionally smart fellow human beings is a gift from God. Christians should recognize that. Because we’ve been blessed with these people and their abilities (and their models) COVID-19 isn’t killing us on anywhere near the scale that the Spanish Flu did in 1918 (Gottlieb is interesting on this). That’s divine mercy!

(Note to those hung up on the topic of “the mainstream media”: none of the sources I linked to here for support are “mainstream media.” Top image: IHME.)

7122 reads

There are 140 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I welcome thoughtful arguments what I'm actually saying. Toward that end, a summary of what I'm actually saying...

  • Models are never supposed to be "trusted." They are tools for analyzing options; they provide ranges of possible future numbers of this or that with ranges of probability.
  • The models being used for COVID-response strategizing: there are a bunch of them; many of them are in competition with each other to produce the most accurate predictions at the highest probability levels; there are many independent models... and quite a few are not U.S. based at all.
  • Models of early, low-quality, very incomplete data will produce different predictions than they do later when the data improves, and assumptions are adjusted in light of previously unknown facts.
  • Models that don't change predictions when the data improves are not effective for their intended purpose.
  • Yes, the mainstream media have a leftward bias and that comes through in much (not all) of their reporting. Not particularly relevant, but acknowledged here to get it out of the way.
  • The media are not the scientists; the scientists are not the models. There are models and then there are humans.
  • I haven't yet seen evidence that medical professionals are mostly passionate, politically-minded liberals who do their work with political goals in mind.
  • People who have dedicated their professional lives to a particular field aimed at helping people are unlikely to suddenly switch to a political agenda... when the biggest crisis of their profession in their lifetime (so far) arrives. The burden of proof falls on the claim that these folks have abandoned their professional passion to manipulate data in way that hurts a lot of people just to try to crush the economy in one nation in order to defeat one president.
  • The biases against creation and God that are evident in much of the scientific community don't have much, if any, expression in the science of epidemiology: it's not clear at all how being an atheist and/or a progressive would make you want to suddenly work against what have been your goals for all of your professional life: improving public health and/or helping governments respond effectively to public health crises.
  • Since liberal political bias among medical professionals isn't an established fact, and since there seems to be little opportunity for that bias to have any meaningful expression in epidemiology etc., the bias narrative--in reference to those doing the science--is baseless.
  • In many cases, the difference between what a model predicted and what actually happened is large but changes nothing as far as the general response strategy goes. 
  • It may well turn out in hindsight that all the models had some faulty assumptions and this or that response strategy wasn't what we should have used. That won't change what made the most sense at the time given the info government officials had available to them at the time.
  • As far as models and science go, Christians should be supportive of doing these things well, not dismissive of them as useful tools and helpful vocations.

Well, I'm sure there's more, but that's the core I think.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Here is another data point.  This is an article that quotes Nate Silver.  It's from Fox News, but there are other outlets reporting this as well, and since the original source is Silver's own tweets, it's easily verifiable.  As most of you probably know, this guy understands statistics and mathematical models well, and he is far from being right-wing.  When he starts talking about the media's relationship to the facts, this is not the same as the Facebook posts being passed around by your right-wing friends.  He's not making any claims of conspiracy, but he is making claims about the "media's goals."

https://www.foxnews.com/media/nate-silver-coronavirus-media

An article from his own site talking about the meaninglessness of the case counts (This one goes into much more detail if you like that sort of thing):

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/coronavirus-case-counts-are-meaning...

I'm not a conspiracy theorist either, but I agree with those who say that if we assume the motives of everyone talking to us from some position of authority are as pure as the driven snow, we're making just as big a mistake as blaming everything on government conspiracy.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

This from James White:

OK, old folks time. Remember back before computers? Back when you got a statement from your bank in the gold old US Mail and you had to sit down with your checkbook and do something called "balancing" it each month? Yeah, total pain. But that was back when you wrote checks and understood that you could only spend what you brought in. A strange, backwards way of thinking in the modern age.

That's why some of us older folks are sitting here going, "OK, so, the unemployment numbers are going up and up and up. Over 33,000,000 in a matter of weeks, already past the numbers of the Great Depression. And I hear Sweet Tomatoes just closed (97 stores, 4,400 former employees now without income). First of MANY. The number will keep going up. Self-inflicted economic and societal suicide. Panic does that.

But, at the same time, the government is spending money in a way that would normally embarrass even Nancy Pelosi even after she's downed three pints of her special ice-cream. I am talking numbers that are so astronomical you can't even begin to imagine them. Numbers that astronomers are used to using for distances to stars and stuff, but we are talking dollars. Trillions. None of us can even imagine a trillion dollars. It's too big. But they are doing it. Almost weekly. It's funny money, of course. It doesn't really exist. And it makes the already printed money even more worthless.

This is what happens when people forget history. You can find pictures of countries of the past who tried to print money to get out of bad situations. Wheel barrels full of worthless paper, fit only to be burned on a cold winter night.

The US is bankrupt. Most of the world is bankrupt, for that matter. We were up to our eyeballs in debt and then decided to do what we were told by the globalist elites and we performed economic self-decapitation (quite the trick!) to stay "safe." And now the results. Everyone sitting around, naively thinking that we just need to flip the switch back to "on" and everything will start up on its own and by Christmas everything will be great again. Meanwhile, retail chains, restaurant chains, and a HUGE percentage of locally owned, local-operated restaurants and stores---closing, for good. Oh, and hospitals, don't forget them. Wait till THEY start closing! Oh the cry for the government to come in and rescue us all! Which results in...single payer medicine! Socialized medicine, and all done---voluntarily! But, this all just "happened" by chance, of course, during an election year. My, how random the world is!

Now watch as the elites position themselves to take their place at the head of the pecking order, well fed, well housed, and always lecturing us about how we need to "love our neighbor" (who we helped to bankrupt so as to make us feel safe) and "we are in this together" and "flatten the curve" (there will be many, many more curves to flatten, given how massively successful this first one has been!). Oh yes, it's like we are following a pre-written plan or something, with everyone playing their part! Yeah.

My own take is that this is not a deliberate conspiracy, but the fruit of a worldview that doesn't know how to deal with mortality other than to suggest we all live in our own Tupperware containers. It's incompetence and worldviews, not a "vast, left-wing conspiracy." The generalizations are just too much. Who, pray tell, is pulling the strings behind this alleged cabal of leftist local and state officials? And, if they're really so adept at trickery, then why did they lose the White House in 2016?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

josh p's picture

Not really pertinent to this thread but I used to listen to James White’s podcast everyday. Once he started banging the political drum I started losing interest. He is so gifted that it’s such a shame to hear him talking politics. I’d much rather listen to him discuss textual criticism than politics.

josh p's picture

I really don’t think anyone here is saying this. Maybe we are all taking last each other here but I think we are all agreed that no politician has motives pure as the driven snow. Public choice theory is alive and well in DC.

“I'm not a conspiracy theorist either, but I agree with those who say that if we assume the motives of everyone talking to us from some position of authority are as pure as the driven snow, we're making just as big a mistake as blaming everything on government conspiracy.”

Don Johnson's picture

TylerR wrote:

My own take is that this is not a deliberate conspiracy, but the fruit of a worldview that doesn't know how to deal with mortality other than to suggest we all live in our own Tupperware containers. It's incompetence and worldviews, not a "vast, left-wing conspiracy." The generalizations are just too much. Who, pray tell, is pulling the strings behind this alleged cabal of leftist local and state officials? And, if they're really so adept at trickery, then why did they lose the White House in 2016?

Right, I agree. I don't believe there is a massive conscious conspiracy, but there is a massive buy-in to a materialistic worldview. There is a mastermind behind all that, but it isn't a human mind.

Forntunately, the Lord is over all and will put even this disaster right in the end. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

JNoël's picture

I've been pondering this post and the ensuing comments for a few days, wondering why it has been going on for so long - on a site called Sharper Iron, the Editor of which authored the article that has now generated five pages of comments.

I think one of the main reasons is that Aaron is not a recognized expert in modeling. He is a Christian, an educator, has pastored, and has a graduate degree - in the field for which Sharper Iron stands. He is not a credentialed expert in science or modeling. This does not mean he cannot learn the same things a recognized expert modeler can learn, but without that recognition, whether it is true or not, he is looked upon as being an amateur who has developed his own opinions.

I think it's interesting that a field of study outside the Bible can generate so much conversation, and I think it speaks to the significance of the Bible. Once a position is well explained and argued, based on scripture, it is very difficult to argue against it - because the Bible is the source of all truth. Everything outside the Bible, including what we know of as science, whether it is good science or bad science, is debatable, and rightly so, considering how frequently science must change course as discoveries are made. But the Bible is settled.

Obvious areas of the Bible that are up to discussion because they have been for millennia including election, post-divorce remarriage, and other fun-filled challenges, frequently generate a lot of comments on SI - because they will be discussed until the end of time. And that's good. It sharpens us.

We should get back to what the point of SI actually is, and quit arguing about something God ordained and over which He is in full control.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Don Johnson's picture

I am not sure we would all agree on what that is. Maybe Aaron has an opinion on that, which might be more legit than whatever the rest of us think.

One reason this topic persists, for my part, is that Aaron seems to argue mostly against the notion that the scientific modelers are in some sort of left-wing conspiracy. Some of the posts seem to promote that viewpoint - whether Dr. Fauci et al are closet communists, or whatever.

Aaron doesn't deal with my points directly, seems to conflate my objections with the others. My point is that the modelers spectacularly failed in their projections. They did so on the basis of faulty assumptions and insufficient data. From those spectacular failures came flawed policy - that's on the politicians who failed to take into account the devastating economic costs of their response.

Perhaps in the political response there may be some leftwing ideology, depending on where you live. In Canada, our leaders are mostly on the left. I know one of them personally. I can say for him, and others of his viewpoint, they are liking the power. They don't want to get back to normal. 

I think the same is true in many of the states, especially those with Democrat governments.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Don Johnson wrote:

My point is that the modelers spectacularly failed in their projections. They did so on the basis of faulty assumptions and insufficient data. From those spectacular failures came flawed policy - that's on the politicians who failed to take into account the devastating economic costs of their response.

Yup.  That describes my thinking pretty well too.  The flawed policy, IMHO, comes from something similar to what Tyler is saying -- there's somehow a view prevalent now that we should be able to control everything, including sickness and death, and that translates to "we have to do something" to prevent every possible death, even at the cost of everything else we hold dear.  Not all that surprising, given that most of the media and those in leadership don't believe the Bible, and hence think there is nothing beyond this life.  You know the crazy is coming to the fore when the press has headlines like "Georgia's experiment in human sacrifice."

Dave Barnhart

M. Osborne's picture

I agree with Aaron that you have to have some objective way to anticipate and prepare for what might happen, e.g., the models.

But you also have to be willing to adjust for what has actually happened.

It seems like some media and some governors are subtly shifting the narrative and the original goals for all these policies. It started with "flatten the curve" and "adjust behavior so that we don't overwhelm the medical establishment." OK, I get that.

In what locales has the medical establishment actually been overwhelmed? In Philadelphia, we spent $5+ million on an overflow site that took 14 patients. Was it a good idea at first to be prepared? Maybe. I can't fault Governor Wolfe and Mayor Kenney for not being God. They can't see into the future. Not terrible to prepare for worst case scenario. But it never happened, not even close. As a matter of fact, hospitals are struggling financially. When your response to a health crisis means medical staff are laid off and hospitals contemplate closing...maybe, just maybe...something went wrong. (Not saying Philly hospitals are contemplating closing; I heard of one hospital in NC contemplating closing via someone who worked there; and I hear generally about medical layoffs all over.)

So where are the corresponding policy updates? The narrative is shifting to "If we reopen, more people could die." I expect so. But I expect that to happen whether we reopen now or reopen later this year or reopen any time. For all I can see, the virus is here to stay. And people will die.

And that's where I find myself mostly with Tyler and Dave. Preserving life is a good end. But are these policies warranted? They seem to be predicated on the idea that the government ought to be able to prevent people from dying, that every death is somehow a demerit against the executive authority, and that the executive is justified in wielding whatever power necessary to stop people from dying. If I die of COVID-19, I, for one, do not intend to blame the government.

I have a hard time commensurating death tolls and economic impacts. On the one hand, you cannot place a dollar value on human life. As a Christian who believes in eternal heaven and eternal hell, I believe that just as much as or more than the atheist does. On the other hand, "the economy" is not an abstraction: it represents people feeding their families, taking care of non-COVID-19 health needs, getting spiritual sustenance, working in a safe and healthy environment to pay for long-term needs like shelter, education... When I try to think about what policies are "justified" in dollar value terms, I inevitably think of the classic trolley car problems and whether or not you can push a fat man in front of a trolley to keep the people on the trolley from dying, etc. Silly thought experiments. Since pitting COVID-specific deaths against economic fallout seems to be incommensurable, it pushes me to ask instead, What should a government be expected to competent to do? And what should their ends be? 

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Bert Perry's picture

An interesting point of reference; the governor of New York pretty much shut down the whole state, but it took the New York State board of health two months to persuade NYC transit to decide that it would be a good idea to sanitize the subways every night, and I'm still unsure of whether nursing homes there (or in New Jersey) have the right to refuse to handle people with active COVID-19 infections.  At least as of April 24, they did not have the right to refuse new residents who were COVID-19 positive.  Why is this important?  See 72/211 people DEAD in NJ veterans' home infection.  In related idiocy, those states allow nursing home personnel to return to work a mere 7 days after a positive COVID test, and without a repeat test to verify that they're no longer infectious.  

Now beyond the brain-dead nature of these government employees, please tell me how an academic modeler is supposed to quantify this kind of thing.   "OK, Bob, let's put an uncertain possibility that the governor and chief health officer are going to be complete blithering idiots into your model....but we don't know which likely paths for COVID-19 infection they're going to leave wide open right now.  And make it match to at least the 2nd decimal point."  (Bob jumps out window)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

M. Osborne's picture

First off, I've kind of told myself that I need to expect to get this virus eventually, because again, for all I can see the virus is here to stay. That said, I'm not behaving in ways that ask for it. One change I've made is I don't plan to ride SEPTA for a while. That's our transit system. At the best of times, it's kinda, well, dirty.

Adding to the ironies: relatively small churches still can't gather even when taking precautions, but people are regularly riding SEPTA. Extra layer of irony is that when SEPTA limited service, it created crowding conditions.

Mom and pop stores are shut down, and now, every man and his uncle is at Wal Mart. See above comments about SEPTA.

But I can't go about my business looking at people as potential vectors. I'll keep washing my hands. I'll where a mask when the store wants me to. If I get the virus, I get it. The one bright spot is Philly hasn't shut down their parks like NJ did for a while.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

pvawter's picture

M. Osborne wrote:

But I can't go about my business looking at people as potential vectors. I'll keep washing my hands. I'll where a mask when the store wants me to. If I get the virus, I get it. The one bright spot is Philly hasn't shut down their parks like NJ did for a while.

I agree with this completely. Ironically, it was on this site (and I believe someone involved in this thread) where I was told that if someone did not get vaccinated for some other disease (pertussis or measles or whatever) they ought to be viewed as a carrier akin to Typhoid Mary. There appear to be many who will definitely view every other person as a potential vector.

Bert Perry's picture

If most of us are going to get it eventually, I have to wonder if those of us who are not obese, diabetic, and asthmatic ought to consider re-opening a summer Bible camp and call it "Camp Covid", where people would purposely get inoculated with the disease, and then three weeks later, go back home and be relatively immune.  You could even combine it with vaccine research, as in this article.

The math is simple; if the young and healthy are 50-70% likely to get it anyways, you can control the number of people exposed and their risk of getting seriously sick so that you minimize the # of people that need hospital care.  Their risk is somewhat higher, but then their parents' and grandparents' risk is far lower.

Worth a thought, perhaps.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

You forgot the most important thing in your reasoned proposal. This thing has nothing to do with COVID or death or grace or mercy. It's all about defeating Trump in November. Period. If Biden wins, the day he assumes office this media coverage and concern all disappears.

Bert Perry's picture

I thought the biggest risk was getting a few kids killed in the process, but whatever.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Here's an article (from MSN, no less) claiming that the coding behind the Imperial College model was unreliable and a "buggy mess.":

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/coronavirus/coding-that-led-to-lockdown-w...

This is not particularly surprising to me, if true.  It was pretty obvious that the predictions were so far off as to call into question either the assumptions, data, or model itself.  Looks like it may be the last of those.  One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist or science denier to have a healthy does of skepticism about what is being fed to us these days.  Even more so when the models produced by this author in the past have also provided wildly inaccurate results.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Fortunately for all of us, this is a completely false disjunction.

We all know God uses means, otherwise you'd have to sit down for dinner and say "let's stop trusting silverware and stick with trusting God." Of course, the food wouldn't be there in the first place since, even when God provided manna, they had to use their own brains to figure out how much to gather and on what day... as well as their own muscles to do the work.

That's how it's always worked. God didn't name the animals for Adam.

Yes, scientists make mistakes. In the case of the linked article at the Atlantic (wait... mainstream media; aren't we supposed to reflexively reject everything they say?), it isn't a failure of science. It's a failure to actually do science. There's nothing scientific about humans being dumb. That's not science. It's the opposite of science. ... it's sloppy handling of data.

Which, if it proves anything, proves we need more science at CDC. But it's really not that either. It's humans making bad decisions. (Most likely, it's politics!)

Please note this: science is not special when it comes to human error.

  • Referees at sporting events make errors
  • Athletes make errors
  • Preachers make errors in sermons
  • Truck drivers make delivery errors
  • Judges and juries make errors in judgments
  • Politicians make decision-making errors
  • Bankers and accountants make calculation errors

Do I need to list more?   Well, yes, scientists also make errors. 

Does the fact that all these folks make mistakes show that they're completley useless? Should we trust God instead of truckers, preachers, judges, politicians, bankers and accountants?  No, not "instead of." We trust God quite differently.

All human trust is limited in both quality and scope. Always. I don't trust a barber to fix my teeth. I don't trust a banker to do surgery on me. I don't trust a scientist to tell me the meaning of life. I don't trust any human to be correct all the time, good all the time, wise all the time, and righteous all the time. For that, of course, there is only God who is worthy of trust. We don't trust God or all these human beings and their work. We trust God and all these human beings and their work. The trust of God has a profoundly different quality and scope, but they do co-exist. ... and we know this. We affirm it every time we tell someone, "I trust you." It's not idolatry.

(I hope this doesn't sound like an angry rant. I'm not actually angry... but there are few things I am more passionate about than the unity of truth and the high calling of all the disciplines, including science.... so it does really get me going! Smile )

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Fortunately for all of us, this is a completely false disjunction.

I had a feeling I’d get your dander up on this one, and it serves to prove my point that you are completely unwilling to accept that your article is an opinion piece. I’m not sure if you have some sort of skin in the game that is clouding your judgment, but it certainly appears that way.

How many times do we need to find out that really important people, really smart people, in really important positions, have made really big errors, for you to admit that we should not blindingly follow what the so-called experts are telling us? I am not saying Christians should refuse to listen to the modelers or outright dismiss them, but I am saying we should not simply accept what they say and follow their conclusions because they're the experts and are all personally motivated by their desire to do what is best for everyone. They and all of the other scientists are wrong too often, and, in this case, they have been shown wrong many, many times. And this should not surprise us: there is no living scientist on the planet who has ever experienced anything even remotely resembling this pandemic.

---

Overall, I’m still puzzled about the post. It has practically nothing to do with Sharper Iron, unless you were just trying to generate traffic to keep the business viable. The best that SI does is in causing Christians to exercise their minds theologically. Your article is a blog post, not something worthy of being posted on SI. The post has one scripture reference - hardly the kind of thing that will sharpen our theological senses. There is one possible unintended consequence: to help Christians understand that it is okay for each of us to have a different perspective, and we all need to love one another despite our differing opinions. Today, as pastors across the country are trying to figure out how to re-open their churches, they are faced with a multitude of opinions from their members, and they still need to make decisions knowing some will not only mildly disagree but even vehemently disagree. But if I can encourage you in one way, it is in calling you out on your insistence that your way, according to the article, is the only way, is the right way, and those who disagree are clearly wrong. This is not Christian love, it is pride. You are demanding other Christians to agree with your opinion, and you create division and strife among brothers in doing so. I have loved many of your posts over the years and have shared them with many others. I respect your opinion on this post, but your insistence on its right-ness is wrong.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.