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An improvement on Lord Finkelstein’s Syria analogy

28 August 2013

11:37 AM

28 August 2013

11:37 AM

As Freddy Gray points out, Danny Finkelstein has wheeled out a very odd argument in the Times today (£), in favour of intervention in Syria. We are all subject to ‘omission bias’ says Finkelstein, and uses an example from Scorecasting, a sports psychology book — of the sort most bought by men who can’t catch.

Here’s the example: ‘Lets say there’s a disease that kills ten in every 10,000 kids, and a vaccine that protects agains the disease, but kills five in every 10,000. Would you let the doctor inoculate your kid?’ asks Finkelstein. The fact that most people say no, is an example of how prone to ‘Omission Bias’ we are. We’d rather not act if there’s a risk, even if it would be rational. So…says Fink, we should wise up and let Dr David Cameron and his friend Dr B. Obama get on with ‘vaccinating’ Syria.

But hang about — before you give Dr C the go ahead, let’s just improve Finkelstein’s analogy with some more relevant info. What if the doc administering the vaccine and proclaiming its virtues had never been medically trained? What if every properly trained medic he had asked for advice had been against the vaccination?

What if we knew the doc had pulled the ‘five saved in every 10,000’ statistic out of his ass? And what if neighbouring hospitals were full to bursting with patients dying in their hundreds of thousands from awful diseases caused by other ‘vaccinations’ given by the same ‘doctor’ and his friends? What would a responsible, logical parent then decide, do you think, Lord Finkelstein?

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