Pascal’s wager

Yesterday morning my body was in church while my brain was wondering what the ski conditions were like at Indianhead Mountain. This is very familiar territory for me going all the way back to my childhood.

My wife had volunteered to give the sermon and had agonized most of the week over the text. The topic for Lent was “Gods Love or why do we pray”. Taken on its face this topic is incomprehensible to the point that describing the perimeter of the universe might be less daunting. Never the less she soldiered on narrowing the scope down to a much more manageable level. She did this by asking the parishioners to each give a short description of why they prayed. They prayed for forgiveness, for enlightenment, for the salvation of others, etc. The list was long and predictable.

When my turn came I cited Pascal’s wager as my reason. The great French mathematician argued that, “it is in one’s own best interest to behave as if God exists, since the possibility of eternal punishment in hell outweighs any advantage of believing otherwise”. Pascal’s argument is purely logical and does not dwell on the method one might use to become a “believer”.

To help the reader understand my cynicism it’s probably enough to say that I was raised Catholic in small community where as a child I was exposed to a healthy, or some might say unhealthy fear of going to hell and by extension a fear of God who might send me there for something as simple as missing church on Sunday morning. So there I sat in church daydreaming about life beyond the church walls sometimes wondering if daydreaming in church might also send me to hell.

The Letter of the Law vs. The Spirit of the Law

In the wake of the “Affordable Healthcare Act” there appears to have been quite a few people whose “current” healthcare coverage was canceled by their providers citing the fact that the coverage they currently have does not comply with the new law.  In place of their old coverage they are offered new coverage at 3 to 4 times the cost of the old coverage.

Now unless you’ve been hiking the Himalayas for the last year and your “sat phone” battery was dead you have probably heard the President say many times that “if we like our current health care coverage then we can keep it”.  Well, apparently that is not quite true. Many stories are surfacing where people had their “current” coverage cancelled.  How could this happen?  After all, The President of the United States and leader of the free world promised this would not happen.  As always there is more than one way to look at something.

The Letter of the Law

The well funded insurance company gets a battery of lawyers to scour the large and necessarily complex affordable healthcare law in search of loop holes through which they can increase their revenue by canceling existing coverage that is less profitable under the cover of the new law.  They immediately send cancellation notices to these policy holders.

The Spirit of the Law

In this somewhat fantastical version of the same story, once the loopholes are found the CEO of the company says, “Wait a minute, I just heard the President say people can keep their coverage if they like it.  Don’t cancel their policies until I contact the White House and tell them about this so they can close this loophole.”

Based on mercenary considerations and political persuasions could we have predicted the actual outcome?  Come on folks, let’s all start pulling the cart in the same direction.    I’m just saying!

The Sharks are circling

Friday, July 19,2013

I just read the following article that has been gaining traction on various news outlets.

“A Chicago law firm says it has taken steps to sue aircraft manufacturer Boeing on behalf of 83 people who were aboard the Asiana Airlines flight that crash-landed in San Francisco earlier this month.

It claims in a court filing that the crash might have been caused by a mechanical malfunction of the Boeing 777’s autothrottle.”

Never mind that the airliner was manufactured in compliance with FAA part 25 standards and presumably maintained to those standards.  In addition there were three pilots in the cockpit who, on the cockpit voice recording, acknowledged that the plane was low and slow.  The NTSB preliminary findings claim that the aircraft controls and avionics were performing as expected.  Even making the assumption that the auto-throttles had failed, one of the stated purposes of the “human” pilots is to monitor the airplanes performance and intervene manually in the event of failure in the automated system.  Three Asiana pilots, in what was described as “severe clear weather” were cleared for a visual approach and appear to have failed to monitor and intervene manually when this alleged failure occurred until it was too late.

Airplanes and their components do fail.  Pilots do make mistakes.  I don’t know what happened in this case but “ambulance chasing” and suing simply because an event “might” have occurred just seems wrong.

There is know way to mitigate the loss of life but hundreds of people lived and a lot of them just walked away, carrying their luggage.  Maybe Boeing should be given an award for creating an airplane that allowed for the survival of so many in the face of such a horrific accident.

I’m just saying.

Mea Culpa

Monday, July 15, 2013

I must apologize for my last blog post where the words made it sound like everyone at the gathering was involved in an internet fueled discussion about President Obama’s alleged aliases.  While it’s true that this allegation is wide spread on the internet, reality is it was only one person at the table repeating what he had read on the internet and was apparently heard only by me and one other person.  My comments were rude and once again I apologize to everyone who was there and vow to be more careful to avoid those broad generalizations in the future.  I hope my linguistic mis-step does not diminish the message in that post.

 

Critical Thinking

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Two days ago I was having dinner with some friends and family.  Predictably politics crept into the conversation.  At that time it was revealed to me that President Obama has no less than 80 aliases and as many social security numbers.  I thought at first it was a joke.  But no, it was declared to be true by several people at the table.  When I asked where this information came from, just as predictably I found out it was “on the internet”.

Consider this.  If I send an email to everyone declaring that a new elementary sub-atomic particle exists it would be very difficult, probably impossible for the recipients to prove that it “does not” exist.  Never the less it is not sufficient for me to declare the “possibility” that such a particle exists just because it cannot be disproved.  To be taken seriously I have to provide some evidence that this particles exists.

In the Wild West free-for-all world of the internet this is not always the case.  It seems that anyone, no matter their political party affiliation, can make a declarative statement with no evidence to support it and when it is read and passed on by like minded people it just takes on a life of its own.  Very soon you find yourself seated at a table with a group of very smart people, some with post-graduate educations repeating what they read like it was chipped in stone.

Please, keep your minds open.  Think critically.  The world we live in depends on it.

 

Constitutional Obedience

Constitutional Convention / Foter.com / Public Domain Mark 1.0

From time to time I wonder why we run our country based on a document that was written over two centuries ago.  If we started a business based on a plan written in 1776 most of us can imagine where that might go.  I have been having trouble putting my thoughts on this issue into words but then “CBS Sunday Morning” came to my rescue.   (CBS News) Is the U.S. Constitution truly worthy of the reverence in which most Americans hold it? A view on that from Louis Michael Seidman, Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University:

Just Say No

 

sylvar / Foter / CC BY

Just the other day I read a very disturbing statistic.  Deaths from prescription drug abuse have exceeded deaths from cocaine and heroin combined.   This has been called an epidemic by the Center for Disease Control.

Call me naive, but in order to die from prescription drugs doesn’t somebody have to prescribe them for you or for the “pusher” who sold them to you.  And doesn’t the person doing the prescribing need to have a license to practice medicine.  What happened to “do no harm”.   Now I know that there are legitimate reasons to prescribe narcotics for pain, but maybe when someone comes to the ER with a sprain some Ibuprofen would do the job instead of getting out the big guns.

Another thought that occurs to me is maybe the medical practitioners can be trained better to identify drug seekers and deal with them rather than prescribing a months worth of loritabs and send them on there way.

Maybe the catch phrase we used to influence our school age children, “Just Say No” can apply equally well to our medical community.  I’m just saying.