Sunday, May 31, 2020

Infectious Disease and Authoritarianism

I am a great admirer of Jordan Peterson and agree with him on most things.  I certainly sympathize with the panic that seized him when his wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer. They were a pair since childhood so the loss was maximal. I myself was pretty upset at the recent loss of a long relationship but I cannot imagine how I would have felt if my  relationship had stretched so far back.

I had support that meant I had no need to turn to anxiolytic drugs but I certainly understand that he did.  As is always the danger, use of such drugs can induce dependence and it is rather heroic that he fought so hard to defeat that dependence.  One hopes that he is back to full health soon.

I am not sure how recent is his article below but it does indicate a mind not at its best.  For a start, I can locate no article that is as he describes it. I think he is voicing a garbled memory of a well-known article about parasite load: "Pathogens and Politics: Further Evidence That Parasite Prevalence Predicts Authoritarianism".  Parasite load is high in Africa so a number of theories about it have been circulated -- e.g. here.

What it is NOT, however is a disease.  It is not of viral or bacterial origin.  It is caused by invertebrates. So Peterson's recollection that the study caused disease is incorrect.  It is also incorrect that the study was about psychological authoritarianism.  It was about political authoritarianism.

Finally, what can we make of the high correlation Peterson reports.  He is generally pretty good on statistics but it  would seem that he has not heard of ecological correlations. In statistics, “ecological” correlations have nothing to do with environmentalism.  They are "ecological" ones in Robinson's (1950) sense -- i.e. the units for analysis were not indivisible. As Robinson shows, such correlations can easily be beguilingly high, particularly where the units for analysis are few, and such correlations are not estimates of individual correlations.

As Menzel (1950) has pointed out, however, ecological correlations do not have to be estimates of individual correlations to be of interest. Ecological correlations tend to tell us more about broad processes than details within such processes.

The correlation between national IQ levels and national income levels reported by Lynn and Vanhanen are ecological correlations and H.C. Lindgren’s finding of a -.61 correlation between high income and voting for Richard Nixon in the the 1972 U.S. Presidential election is another example. It implied that richer and more highly educated people MUCH preferred the way-out Leftist McGovern

So Peterson is judging the correlation he reports by irrelevant criteria.  An ecological correlation of .7 is mundane, not striking


Lindgren, H.C. (1974) Political conservatism and its social environment: An analysis of the American Presidential election of 1972. Psychological Reports, 34, 55-62.

Menzel, H. (1950) Comment on Robinson's "Ecological correlations and the behavior of individuals" American Sociological Review 15, 674.

Robinson, W.S. (1950) Ecological correlations and the behavior of individuals. American Sociological Review 15, 351-357.

There was a paper published in PLOS ONE about a year ago. They were looking at [the following issue]. Let’s say I assessed your political attitudes—I could do that with, say, an authoritarian belief scale, because authoritarianism has been studied quite a bit since the end of World War II. Nobody really knew what to do with it in relation to personality, but it doesn’t matter; you can assess it with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

These people did two things: they did a cross-country survey and then within-country surveys. So if you were looking at a phenomenon, you could look at the country level—US vs. Canada—or you could go into the US and then you could look at a state level. And it’s nice to do the analysis of both levels, to see if it replicates itself across the two different conceptual strata.

And what they found was mind-boggling. It’s Nobel-prize-winning stuff, as far as I’m concerned.

The correlation between the prevalence of infectious disease in a locale and the degree to which authoritarian beliefs were held in that locale was about point 7. It’s like, you never see that in the social sciences. That’s higher than the correlation between IQ and grades, which is about as good as we ever get in terms of prediction.

So it’s like, really? It’s that high? And one of the things that implies is that one of the ways to get rid of authoritarian attitudes, assuming that you want to get rid of such things, is through public health.


Nordic Countries Accelerate Opening and Abandon COVID-19 Testing Plans

One has to wonder if parts of Europe are a harbinger of what is to come for the United States in the COVID-19 pandemic. If it is, what is coming out of the Nordic countries is all good news. Revised testing guidelines, slower rates of infection and expedited opening are all indicated in the experience in Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland might be better than expected. It won’t make the “lockdown until November, we need 5 million tests a day” crowd happy at all.

Sweden has chosen a different path to public health from the beginning of the pandemic. Seeking to protect their hospital system and increase immunity in the population, they put light recommendations in place and allowed shops and primary schools to stay open.

Despite the hands-off, high-trust approach, Sweden falls in about the middle of the pack for deaths per million in Europe. Yet their disease penetration in Stockholm, a metro area of about 2.6 million people, is only 7.3% as of the end of April according to antibody testing.

This is far below expectations given the original R0, or measure of how contagious a virus is. Original estimates said this rate could be as high as one infected person infecting 5-6 others on average. Sweden’s approach suggests this might be much lower, which would be good news.

In Norway, they have abandoned their plans for broad-based testing:

Norway’s health agency has abandoned plans to test broadly for coronavirus after judging that the spread of infection in the country is now so low that doing so would be pointless.

Instead, tests will be reserved for those who have symptoms of coronavirus, those who work in healthcare or elderly care homes, and those in risk groups.

If 12,000 random people were tested in Norway today, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health estimated in a press release issued on Monday, 15 would test positive, of which only one would have a real coronavirus infection.

Based on the low forecasted infection rates and an even lower symptomatic disease forecast, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health issued new testing guidelines that mirror the kind of sentinel surveillance Dr. Deborah Birx has been describing for months. It suggests testing asymptomatic individuals in specific circumstances, not broadly:

After an outbreak of infection in elderly care homes, all employees and residents of the affected units should be tested

When diagnosing infection in health institutions, it may be appropriate to test asymptomatic close contacts

When new residents move into nursing homes, testing may be appropriate.

Prior to certain hospital stays or procedures (although this is up to each hospital).

In some cases, foreign universities or employers might require testing. This can be done on a private basis.

Research: In some research studies, all participants will be tested regardless of symptoms.

They also set COVID-19 testing priorities that focus on symptomatic individuals, screening specific populations and contact tracing.

In addition, Switzerland is accelerating its reopening efforts:

"The Federal Council thereby indicates that it wants to end the extraordinary situation again after three months and get out of the situation thanks to which it ruled in many areas by emergency law."

The Health Minister proposed changes and as of June 6, 2020, the only significant restrictions that will remain in place are bans on gatherings of more than 300 people. All schools, indoor and outdoor entertainment including sporting events, will be allowed.

 Their phased reopening approach has been progressing quickly since beginning on April 27th.

Additional information on vaccine testing tells us the United Kingdom is also seeing declining infection rates. They have declined to the point researchers are concerned about successfully completing the trial.

All of this is good news as America contemplates how to proceed with reopening on a regional level even a few weeks behind.



Fauci changes tune, now says second COVID-19 wave may never happen — and mask-wearing is symbolic

He is clearly out of his depth

Talk about an abrupt about-face. Dr. Anthony Fauci now says that a second wave of COVID-19 may not even happen and that wearing a mask is largely symbolic at this point.

What about the second wave?  In a Wednesday interview with CNN's "Newsroom," Fauci — member of the White House's coronavirus task force — said that a second COVID-19 wave is not necessarily inevitable.

"We often talk about the the possibility of a second wave, or of an outbreak when you're reopening," Fauci explained. "We don't have to accept that as an inevitability."

"Particularly," he continued, "when people start thinking about the fall. I want people to really appreciate that, it could happen, but it is not inevitable."

Fauci admitted that he is beginning to feel more and more optimistic as days go by, and insists that the U.S.'s expanded capability for testing is bolstering the COVID-19 response.

He pointed out that a second wave is entirely preventable if the U.S. is able to have the "workforce, the system, and the will to do the kinds of things that are the clear and effective identification, isolation, and contact tracing."

In April, however, Fauci insisted that second wave of coronavirus was inevitable.

During an interview with MSNBC, he said, "It's inevitable that the coronavirus will return next season. ... When it does, how we handle it, will determine our fate."

And so what about the masks?
Fauci also said that Americans should wear face masks in public to protect themselves — but also to get into good practices.

"I want to protect myself and protect others [by mask-wearing], and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that's the kind of thing you should be doing," he added.

During the interview, the infections diseases expert also admitted that wearing a mask is not 100% effective, but says that it is a gesture that shows "respect" for other people.




DOJ makes George Floyd death investigation a "top priority" after protests, rioting, and looting grip Minneapolis (Fox News)

Attorney General William Barr appoints U.S. Attorney John Bash to investigate "unmasking" requests by Obama officials (Washington Examiner)

A solid bedfellow: William Barr has become Trump's religious-liberty enforcer (Washington Examiner)

House passes Uighur human rights bill — via proxy vote (Axios)

Vaccine development threatened because infections are declining (PJ Media)

Over 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, pushing total job losses to 40 million from coronavirus lockdown (Fox Business)

A whopping two-thirds of furloughed workers may temporarily be receiving more money in unemployment benefits than they did from their jobs (MarketWatch)

Opening businesses while keeping churches closed is constitutionally problematic (Washington Examiner)

Is a $1 million donation the reason Governor Andrew Cuomo gave immunity to nursing homes? (PJ Media)

For the record: The Central Park dog case is Covington 2.0 (National Review)

Trump administration to end Iran deal waivers in a blow to Obama-era pact (The Washington Post)

California district attorney launches investigation into whether Joe Biden's accuser, Tara Reade, lied while testifying as expert witness (The Daily Caller)

Two days after WHO abandons trial testing, France bans hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 treatment (The Hill)

Policy: Hong Kong's worst-case scenario is happening before our very eyes (The Heritage Foundation)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


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