Mathematical Warfare

Dick Puddlecote wrote yesterday:

I’ve long believed that e-cigs carry the potential to expose the lies and hypocrisy of tobacco control..

Well, he might be right. I’ve always thought that the rapidity with which TC deemed e-cigs to be just as bad as cigarettes, if not a lot worse, showed that they could produce convenient “research” findings more or less to order, at very short notice. It took about a half century before cigarettes were deemed to be health hazards: e-cigarettes were deemed hazardous almost as soon as they appeared.

E-cigarettes are a much better product than Big Pharma’s own NRT patches and gums, because users can enjoy them much like they enjoy cigarettes: they’re cigarettes in which the smoke has been replaced by vapour. If the pharma product was a bicycle, the e-cigarette is a motorbike: faster, louder, and sexier. And furthermore the e-cigarette motorbikes are rapidly-evolving into new shapes and sizes and  technologies.

TC tried to stamp out smoking, but in doing so they only succeeded in triggering the invention of multiple new ways of smoking. And some of the newly invented e-cigarettes produce far more “smoke” than any cigarette ever did. Instead of being “smoke-free”, the future looks set to be smokier than ever.

For myself, while I’m delighted at the appearance of hordes of e-cigarettes, and hope that they continue to evolve, I continue to prefer old-fashioned cigarettes – although I can imagine that it’s possible that e-cigarettes could evolve to become feather-light products with a completely invisible ‘smoke’ that is warmer and richer than any tobacco smoke ever was. It just hasn’t happened yet.

And also I no longer believe that cigarettes and pipes and cigars are anywhere near as dangerous as TC claims them to be. I think that the real objection of the antismokers to smoking was aesthetic: they didn’t like the look of it. Either that, or their objection to smoking is moral in nature: they didn’t think people should smoke because smoking was unnecessary, and indicated a certain kind of moral laxity and lack of self-restraint. But these aesthetic and moral objections have both been cloaked in a garment of medical objections: Smoking kills. Antismokers don’t like smoking, and think it’s immoral, but their aesthetic and moral arguments are very weak, so they employ a much more powerful medical argument instead.

But how strong are their medical arguments? It may be true that any number of senior doctors in the medical profession are fully convinced of the dangers of smoking, but to point this out is to make an empty appeal to authority. Such appeals to authority are also being made about Global Warming, when it’s said that 97% of climate scientists are convinced that climate change is being caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide. Why should we believe these climate scientists? Why should we believe doctors? Why should we believe someone just because they claim to possess expertise? Never mind your expertise: show me the evidence!

The odd thing about both the tobacco scare and the the global warming scare is that the underlying arguments they both put forward are mathematical in nature. The climate scientists constructed elaborate mathematical models of the atmosphere, and used them to predict global warming. And the doctors – Richard Doll and Ernst Wynder – produced statistical arguments to prove that smoking caused lung cancer.

How was it that they both succeeded in convincing so many people that they were right? The answer is very simple: nobody can do any mathematics, and so nobody can counter mathematical arguments. People gaze at the numbers and graphs, and their eyes just glaze over, and they surrender. The appearance of mathematical arguments has been a bit like the appearance of tanks on the battlefields of WW1: they just rolled right over the enemy trenches, and the enemy couldn’t stop them with rifles or machine-guns or hand grenades. It’s the same with mathematical arguments: nobody has any answer to them, and so they win.

But after WW1, both sides started developing new and better tanks. And so WW2 was fought with new and better tanks. And so, if history is to repeat itself, Tobacco Control (and Climate Science) will only be defeated by bigger and better mathematical arguments.

I’ve already done this to some extent with Climate Science, by constructing a variety of different atmospheric atmospheric models. My current favourite one of these is my bouncing air bubble model of the Earth’s atmosphere, which even demonstrated Global Warming as the air bubbles boiled off into space.

But last night I began wondering if I could develop some mathematical arguments against Tobacco Control using Idle Theory. For Idle Theory is a highly mathematical idea, and one that could be adapted to consider Public Health concerns. So last night I started to think about smoking and drinking and obesity from the perspective of Idle Theory. I even got hold of a few numbers, and sketched out a few graphs. I began to piece together some new mathematical arguments that might be successfully employed in mathematical warfare. And I began to wonder whether Idle Theory might carry the potential to expose the lies and hypocrisy of Tobacco Control, in a completely new way.

I’m far from convinced, but it’s a new idea, a new approach – just like the Smoky Drinky Bar is a new idea, and a new approach.

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About Frank Davis

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19 Responses to Mathematical Warfare

  1. Rose says:

    I’ve been comparing James 1st’s writings from 1604 with the beliefs of the early American Prohibitionists 200+ years later.

    From Clean Living Movements: American cycles of Health reform

    “Many reformers and physicians of the day discussed the health consequences of tobacco. Edward Hitchcock (1830, 314), of Amherst College, considered tobacco, as well as alcohol, as dangerous substances even when used moderately; he believed they caused moral deterioration and inherited weakness.

    Alcott (1835, 183-185) regarded its use as evil for similar reasons.

    Caleb Ticknor, a physician, (1836, 110-111) deemed tobacco “the most deadly, most noxious poison” and considered it addictive.

    Larkin Coles (1855, 7,58,64,88), a Seventh-day Adventist minister and physician, suggested tobacco did far more damage than alcohol to the health and welfare of Americans.

    Joel Shew (1855, 6-13), a hydropathic physician, published a tract listing 87 diseases caused by tobacco–the first being insanity and the last cancer.
    He considered chewing to be the most harmful form of intake.”
    http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/book/bits.html

    canker – Etymology: Old English cancer, from Latin cancer crab, cancerous sore

    But James 1st use of the word canker was as a simile when describing the use of tobacco as a medicine.

    “this use of Tobacco, as a stinking and unsavorie Antidot, for so corrupted and execrable a Maladie, the stinking Suffumigation whereof they yet use against that disease, making so one canker or venime to eate out another.”

    He was also the inventor of the black lung lie, but obviously having no idea of anatomy took it to the extreme.

    “Smoke becomes a kitchin far better then a Dining chamber, and yet it makes a kitchin also oftentimes in the inward parts of men, soiling and infecting them, with an unctuous and oily kinde of Soote, as hath bene found in some great Tobacco takers, that after their death were opened.”

    Counterblaste to Tobacco.
    https://www.laits.utexas.edu/poltheory/james/blaste/blaste.html

    If you can bear to read Counterblaste you’ll find it all there and more besides,

  2. Bucko says:

    There’s a lad in the smoking shelter at work who smokes a massive e-cig that generates more smoke than the rest of us and it stinks of refreshers.
    I suggested he just have a fag, but he insisted he’s quit smoking
    Could’ve fooled me :-)

  3. Clicky says:

  4. beobrigitte says:

    I’ve always thought that the rapidity with which TC deemed e-cigs to be just as bad as cigarettes, if not a lot worse, showed that they could produce convenient “research” findings more or less to order, at very short notice. It took about a half century before cigarettes were deemed to be health hazards: e-cigarettes were deemed hazardous almost as soon as they appeared.
    People using e-cigs look like they are smoking *shock* and the sales for the pharmaceutical NRT might be dropping…. *more shock*

    TC tried to stamp out smoking, but in doing so they only succeeded in triggering the invention of multiple new ways of smoking. And some of the newly invented e-cigarettes produce far more “smoke” than any cigarette ever did. Instead of being “smoke-free”, the future looks set to be smokier than ever.
    TC is still trying to stamp out smoking. We are told that it’s a “good” thing. Who cares about people, especially elderly people stuck in “Hell’s Entry” nursing homes?

    But how strong are their medical arguments? It may be true that any number of senior doctors in the medical profession are fully convinced of the dangers of smoking, but to point this out is to make an empty appeal to authority. Such appeals to authority are also being made about Global Warming, when it’s said that 97% of climate scientists are convinced that climate change is being caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide.
    Apparently Greenland’s ice is melting quicker because of algae…. I’m eagerly awaiting to be told that human emissions caused algae to grow more rapidly…..

    How was it that they both succeeded in convincing so many people that they were right? The answer is very simple: nobody can do any mathematics, and so nobody can counter mathematical arguments.
    It’s less the mathematics, it’s the colourful graphs and charts with a lot of gobble-di-gurk which impresses people who have no idea but pretend they have. After all, it a competitive world out there and no-one will admit that the maths doesn’t make much sense or even ask what exactly was N and how many variables were included.
    Perhaps pretense is the issue to address?

    So last night I started to think about smoking and drinking and obesity from the perspective of Idle Theory. I even got hold of a few numbers, and sketched out a few graphs. I began to piece together some new mathematical arguments that might be successfully employed in mathematical warfare. And I began to wonder whether Idle Theory might carry the potential to expose the lies and hypocrisy of Tobacco Control, in a completely new way.
    Looking forward to it, Frank, and brace yourself for a lot of (occasionally) idiotic questions. I don’t pretend to understand all.

  5. waltc says:

    The only ecig I ever tried was NJoy, a pre-fab disposable (no tanks, chargers;it just was ) because it was, in fact, lightweight, looked and almost felt like a cigarette, had a soft mouthpiece instead of hard plastic and, tho not as enjoyable as the real thing, I’d have considered using it as an occasional toy and especially in “public places” but NYC immediately banned its use everywhere so… Why bother? It was also the first casualty of the FDA proposals and went out of business. What’s left on the market looks like an awkward medical inhaler, likely feels like one too, and requires too much preparatory work. And most of them are about to be outlawed anyway and the innovation you imagine won’t, by law, be allowed to happen.

    I imagine Idle Theory would mean that the more idle time you have, the more time you’d have to smoke, drink and eat –and eat “high on the hog.” But in reality, it’s smoking that allows people to work longer and better, alcohol that relieves end of working day stress, and obesity seems more to plague the lower, harder-working classes. So I’m interested in what you’ll conclude.

    • beobrigitte says:

      and obesity seems more to plague the lower, harder-working classes.
      With the definition of “obese” constantly changing, thus including post-menopausal weight gain (very few “oldies” are skinny), I’m not sure it’s a class thing. Perhaps the lower, harder working class finds itself nudged into complying with the fad diets churned out by the dozens in hours?

      …it’s smoking that allows people to work longer and better, alcohol that relieves end of working day stress…
      Looking at the rising pension receiving age I conclude that smokers also live longer. So must be the people who like a drink at times.
      This raises a question: WHO needs a life-style police?

      • natepickering says:

        My parents, who are about the fittest couple of 69 year olds you’ve ever met, who each swim two to three miles a day, have both been informed by their doctors in the past year that they’re “obese.”

    • Frank Davis says:

      I imagine Idle Theory would mean that the more idle time you have, the more time you’d have to smoke, drink and eat –and eat “high on the hog.” But in reality, it’s smoking that allows people to work longer and better, alcohol that relieves end of working day stress,

      I do actually think that idle time is time when you can smoke and drink and chat. But I also recognise that smoking is an aid to concentration and to endurance. And it’s mostly about this latter characteristic that I’ve been thinking about over the past day or two.

  6. Smoking Lamp says:

    The lifestyle controllers (antismokers and other charlatans) rely upon the innumeracy and general lack of understanding of risk to manipulate the public and politicians. (Actually, this lack of numeracy permeates the tobacco control advocates too.) Only a small segment of the working public is familiar with quantitive methods (including the range of statistical methods) which allows a few to establish themselves as gatekeepers to the truth. So instead of understanding the issue the public and politicians rely upon a few healthist ‘high priests’ to define truth. Instead of truth we get propaganda and manipulation for power and profit. The few numerate in finance are known as quants and they have been known to rig that system for their individual gain as well–nearly crashing the system a few times. The priests and priestesses of tobacco control are grifters.

  7. Joe L. says:

    Excellent post, Frank!

    How was it that they both succeeded in convincing so many people that they were right? The answer is very simple: nobody can do any mathematics, and so nobody can counter mathematical arguments. People gaze at the numbers and graphs, and their eyes just glaze over, and they surrender.

    This is the absolute truth. The majority of people don’t even read the bodies of articles, let alone attempt to understand or scrutinize the numbers in a study. They read the headline, and maybe briefly glance at a colorful graph that catches their eye, then simply surrender to the “experts” who created it with their self-proclaimed superior knowledge.

    I completely agree with you and Dick Puddlecote. I’ve also believed that the fact that the Anitismokers so quickly and fiercely started amending smoking bans to include e-cigarettes (even though they do not emit smoke), and to classify them as “tobacco products” for regulation and tax purposes (even though they contain no tobacco) was a fatal mistake. They were cocky and overzealous and wound up exposing their true intentions–they are carrying out a witch hunt that has nothing to do with public health.

    • natepickering says:

      “and to classify them as ‘tobacco products’ for regulation and tax purposes”

      They only did this (in the US at least) after they were laughed out of the courtroom when they tried to ban the entire product category as “unapproved medical devices.”

  8. natepickering says:

    “The answer is very simple: nobody can do any mathematics, and so nobody can counter mathematical arguments. People gaze at the numbers and graphs, and their eyes just glaze over, and they surrender.”

    As one who does mathematics for a living (and can potentially lose huge amounts of someone else’s money if I get it wrong), this is an endless source of frustration for me. One of the worst things have ever happened to the public intellect was when everyone started having portable machines that could do all their arithmetic for them.

  9. Joe L. says:

    Slightly OT: The last “big” study on alcohol to hit the MSM claimed that half a glass of wine a day increases one’s risk of breast cancer. Now there’s this:

    Drinking a few times a week ‘reduces diabetes risk’

    Alcohol research certainly is a roller coaster. I assume this is because there are paid “experts” on both sides of the aisle–the healthcare/pharma industries and the alcohol industry. Coffee research and marijuana research are very bipolar, as well.

    Tobacco research, however, has become extremely one-sided over the past couple decades, seeing as studies funded by tobacco companies have been increasingly banned outright from publication in a number of scientific journals.

    Either all studies funded by special interests should be banned, or they should all be allowed. Selective censorship is antithetical and dangerous to science.

  10. Rose says:

    One particularly interesting mathematical fight was over the nicotine content of commonly eaten vegetables, the main protagonists on the secondhand smoke side didn’t seem to know there was any and reacted swiftly with what can only be described as sciency sounding gibberish.

    The CDC had developed a test.

    A Few Milestones in CDC Laboratory Science

    1992 – Method for Cotinine Analysis, which Indicates Amount of Smoke Exposure
    http://wayback.archive.org/web/20150822192849/www.cdc.gov/cdc50/amazing.htm

    The Nicotine Content of Common Vegetables
    1993
    To the Editor:

    “The presence of nicotine and its metabolite cotinine in the body fluids of nonsmokers is usually taken as evidence of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 800 people, both smokers and nonsmokers, all of whom tested positive for urinary cotinine.

    There is considerable evidence that nicotine is present in certain human foods, especially plants from the family Solanaceae (such as potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant). Castro and Monji,2 Sheen,3 and Davis et al.4 have reported on the nicotine content of foods and drinks. We have been able to confirm some of their findings in our laboratory.”
    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199308053290619

    See study for some of the replies from the interested parties, which as the author of the study pointed out, finally acknowledged in print that there was nicotine in common vegetables.

    Dietary nicotine: Won’t mislead on passive smoking…: New insight into myocardial protection
    1994

    JL Repace

    “EDITOR, – Domino et al have argued that the plasma cotinine concentration in non-smokers, which is taken as an index of passive smoking, may be confounded by dietary nicotine intake from vegetables of the family Solanaceae. They report that eggplant (aubergine) had the most nicotine of any Solanaceae. If their data are taken at face value, daily consumption of a 174 g serving of baked eggplant with gourmet tomato sauce made from puree yields a maximum dietary nicotine dose of 15 μg (table), assuming (dubiously) That nicotine does not evaporate during baking. The mean daily total intake of all vegetables, however, is about 207 g for adults in the United States.2 A diet in which the daily average vegetable intake consists 84% by weight of eggplant parmigiana is unlikely for even the most fanatical gourmet,”
    http: //www.bmj.com/content/308/6920/61.4

    But nevertheless the bandwagon rolled on.

    Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke Widespread
    “Nearly 9 out of 10 non-smoking Americans are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS, or second-hand smoke), as measured by the levels of cotinine in their blood, according to a study conducted by HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    “Blood samples used in this study were taken from over 10,000 participants in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) from 1988-1991”
    https: //www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/96news/nrsmoke.htm

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