Re: Theory vs. Data

Date: Wed Jun 28 2000 - 13:31:38 MDT

In the anciet past, Robin wrote:

   have good mortality cause data. The first good data in England are
   from ~1850, when only ~1% of deaths were from smallpox.

   This quote doesn't contradict my statement. And did you notice that
   the US death rate doesn't seem to fall any faster after the major
   medical events the graph indicates?

This is actually kind of funny, given Robin's skepticism of the Singularity
and claims of exponentially increasing intelliegence. I see major medical
events, and I see a falling death rate. It seems rather plausible that the
stream of advances allowed the death rate to continue to fall, just as more
and more effort allows chip speeds to increase steadily. (I'm playing loose,
since IA is supposed to feed on itself in a way medicine wouldn't directly.
But medicine isn't making exponential claims, either.) After all, advances
probably wouldn't be implemented everywhere instantaneously.

There's not much drop after polio, consistent with Robin saying it was a teeny
percentage of deaths to begin with. But there's continuous fall from "state
health departments" and "chlorine" and "penicillin".

I also see, in the _next_ figure, causes of deaths in the US in 1900.
Pneumonia and tuberculosis are each over 10%, strong suggesting that
antibiotic control of tuberculosis would make a large dent in the death rate.
Diarrhea and enterities are next at 8%; I think these would be controlled by
water quality. Closely followed by heart disease. Diptheria's the next
infectious disease, at about 3%.

So eliminating deaths from pneumonia, tuberculosis, the water diseases, and
diptheria, would reduce the death rate by 31%.

Although pneumonia still shows up in the 1997 figure, sharing 4-5% with
influenza, so it wasn't eliminated.

Now, the CDC does have an interest in all this, but unless Robin wants to
accuse them of cooking the data, this seems good evidence of the utility of
antibiotics and sanitation, and their connection with lower mortality rates.

-xx- Damien X-)

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