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Thursday, September 11, 2014

How to stop Ebola: create negative "atmospheric pressure" by paying Ebola survivors to treat the sick

Ebola rising, from Drudge today:
STUDY: Millions more at risk in Ebola outbreak... 
'Spreading like wildfire'... 
'Terrifying evolution' of virus...
The key to an effective response lies in the survivors, who are immune to re-infection (at least by the same Ebola strain, which is what would be circulating in their area). For those survivors who are undamaged enough for work, train and pay as many as are willing to tend to the sick, the dying and the dead. Non-immune people cannot do this work on a large scale. They are terribly encumbered and they still get sick, turning them into part of the problem.

Because treating the sick is so dangerous they are now receiving minimal if any care, causing mortality rates to be higher than they need to be. Using survivors to treat the sick would greatly increase the survivor rate, increasing the pool of survivors available to treat the sick. It is a self-reinforcing amelioration.

The immune would have to for the most part remain in isolation along with the sick. They couldn't touch stuff that other people touch, but supplies could be left for them and so long as they undergo rigorous disinfection before leaving isolation the sick under their care would would cease to be a source of infection.

Ditto for those who only might be sick with Ebola. These too could be tended to by Ebola survivors, whose first job would be to find out if they do have Ebola. Survivors, if they are make sure that the outsides of their bodies are as non-contagious as the insides of their bodies, can examine those with ambiguous symptoms and determine whether they need to be kept in quarantine or can be released to non-Ebola medical care.

Negative movement-pressure is critical

Most importantly, an army of survivors working to separate and treat the sick would drastically reduce transmission, which is the only way to keep the uninfected from fleeing hot zones and propelling further spread of the disease. That's the problem now. There is tremendous pressure to flee the hot zones, causing the disease to explode outwards.

No larger quarantine zone can hold under these conditions. The greater the external efforts at containment the more the pressure has to build before it explodes outwards but it will explode. Quarantine has to at least begin at the level of the individual patient. Stop local transmission from individual patients and then larger quarantine zones might work, if they are needed at all.

With an army of immune survivors to isolate and tend to the sick at the local level it becomes safer for uninfected people within the hot zones to stay where they are. Travel is dangerous because it exposes travelers to massed humanity, where contagion is amplified. Thus it would not be hard to make it safer not to flee, if a growing army of the immune were used to provide treatment-in-isolation for the sick.

Add people's interest in not losing their established homes and livelihoods the abnormal outward pressure of the infection would be eliminated. Economic devastation could also cause pressure to flee but this too would be reduced by paying survivors to care for the sick. There would be an inflow of disposable income that would keep the local economy propped up. Care for the sick would be a new industry, subsidized from outside. Somebody has to care for the caregivers, and the money would be there to do it.

Just as it takes negative atmospheric pressure to isolate an isolation room, so too if we want hot zones to remain isolated, whether or not they are quarantined, the motivational pressure for people inside to leave must be negative. Now the pressure to leave is strongly positive. Effective use of the immune-survivor resource can change that by isolating and treating the sick, stopping transmission and creating more immune survivors. Then even without formal larger scale quarantine movement would be greatly reduced.

The alternative is continued high rates of disease transmission, in which case no quarantine zone will be able to contain the epidemic. It will inevitably explode outwards, first across Africa, then anywhere else where Ebola is not dealt with rationally.

Addendum on the immunity of Ebola survivors to re-infection

From  Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of Emory University Hospital's infectious disease unit (via PBS interview):
DR. BRUCE RIBNER: The medical staff here at Emory is confident that the discharge from the hospital of both of these patients poses no public health threat. Ebola virus is a new infection on this continent, but our colleagues across the ocean have been dealing with it for 40 years now, and so there is strong epidemiologic evidence that, once an individual has resolved Ebola virus infection, they are immune to that strain, recognizing that there are five different strains of Ebola virus.

UPDATE:  The day after put up this post there is an Op-Ed in the NYT warning about mutation and spread of Ebola and calling, among other things, for using survivors to tend to the sick. From Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota:
The United Nations should provide whatever number of beds are needed; the World Health Organization has recommended 1,500, but we may need thousands more. It should also coordinate the recruitment and training around the world of medical and nursing staff, in particular by bringing in local residents who have survived Ebola, and are no longer at risk of infection. Many countries are pledging medical resources, but donations will not result in an effective treatment system if no single group is responsible for coordinating them.
I would leave the U.N. completely out of it. The U.N. is nothing but corruption. It is a well developed machine for siphoning off all monies that are channeled through it, maximally diverting every Dollar and Euro through its vast networks of sycophants, sinecures and profiteers. The U.N. is one gigantic "french drain," where pouring a flood in achieves at best a trickle out. Instead use the same Christian organizations that have been instrumental in fighting AIDS.

PEPFAR, the successful AIDS-fighting project that President Bush established in 2003, did not partner only with Christian organizations, but it did not discriminate against them, and in some ways favored them, because part of PEPFAR's mission was moral education, emphasizing that there would be no sexual transmission of AIDS at all if people were not having sex outside of marriage.

The resulting distribution of funding can be gleaned from PEPFAR's partner pages. Here, for instance, is the page for Nigeria in 2007. Maybe half of the partners, receiving half of the funding, are Christian (hard to tell because much of the money that went to secular organizations was distributed by them to Christian sub-partners). These groups actually try to deliver as much AIDS-fighting effect per dollar as they can. Similarly for the secular aid groups, which should also be employed, but U.N. is the worst. Maybe they will have to be paid off in some instances where they would otherwise use their reach to block aid, but there is unlikely to be any role in which the U.N. can do more good than harm.

UPDATES 9/20/14:  As predicted above, attempts at quarantine are motivating people inside the hot zones to flee. Instead of negative "atmospheric pressure," the attempt to impose quarantine on an out-of-control hot-zone is causing a powerful positive "atmospheric pressure" that will only get stronger until it explodes outwards like pressure-bursting pustule.

Also predictable, Obama is jumping on the chance to kill some U.S. troops and possibly bring Ebola to America by sending U.S. troops to the Ebola outbreak sites where there is nothing useful that they can do. Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, explains:
“What African troops are doing is shooting people who cross borders or violate quarantine,” Orient told WND, reacting to news of the U.S. troop deployment. “Is that what we plan to support?” 
She added, “Africans are already very suspicious of us. How will they react to an army setting up hospitals?” 
Orient called the planned U.S. deployment a “dubious mission,” warning that the nightmarish scenario could bring Ebola to America. 
“There is definitely a risk,” she said. “It seems irresponsible to send more people there when the ones already there are having trouble leaving. Probably anyone who has been exposed should be quarantined for 25 days since the last exposure.”
No, our troops will not shoot fleeing residents. They will instead deal with them up close and personal, and become vectors themselves:
“You can see that these doctors, who are highly trained people, got themselves infected,” said Dr. Lee Hieb, former president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. “So sending troops into an area, if they’re dealing one-on-one with a patient, they’re not going to be able to protect themselves very well. It’s not easy to [prevent transmission], because you get tired and you get careless and you make some simple mistakes. All it takes is one virus particle.”
The only way to stop the spread is to mobilize the Ebola survivors. Pay them to isolate and treat the sick in the hot zones so that transmission within the hot zones can be extinguished, making it safer to stay put than to flee, creating the necessary negative "atmospheric pressure" and saving a lot of lives inside the hot zones as well as outside.

If any quarantine enforcement is to be applied, Ebola survivors should be used for this to, unless the quarantine is to be enforced the African way: by shooting anyone who tries to approach the quarantine boundary. That leaves no role for the U.S. military, never mind that, in the words of Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin Ret., this mission would in any case be “an absolute misuse of the U.S. military.” But then Obama wants to find any mission for U.S. troops that will keep them away from the "new Caliphate" he has spent five-plus years creating.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Secular reason leads to the same moral law as Judeo-Christianity, but most people need Judeo-Christian help to get there

Atheism is an odd category of belief. I can understand thinking that it is irrational to believe, not just that an omnipotent and moral God might exist, but that a loving God does exist. Belief that god does exist implies certainty about something we have little or no direct evidence for one way or the other. That's why I rate myself "agnostic." Atheists agree with me that it is irrational to be certain that there is a god, but then they turn around and pronounce themselves certain that there is not a god.

Wait, what? I thought you just agreed with me that certainty about things we have no direct evidence for is irrational...

So I'm always wary about atheists, not that they must have a screw loose (any more than religious believers must), but that maybe they haven't thought things through very well, or don't know as much as they think they know. So I wasn't surprised last week to come across a self-proclaimed atheist claiming something very naive: that religious morality is based on appeals to authority, not on moral reason, which he regards as exclusively "secular" (or atheist). Here is Robert Tracinski, writing at The Federalist:
Every atheist has heard the old saw that it’s impossible to rely on a secular foundation for morality because if people are left to act on their own judgment, they will disagree about what is right and wrong and it will all be subjective. So we supposedly need a religious authority to settle the matter. 
Wrong. Christianity does not rely on any appeal to authority. What the founders of this nation meant by "natural law" was what could be determined by clear reason to be necessarily right, and they believed that these basic elements of right existed for us to discern because they are the product of a moral and rational god, some of whose ways we can discern thanks to our god-given brains (brains that, according to Genesis, are made in God's image).

The idea that believing Christians do not have rational foundations for their moral beliefs, but merely accept them on authority, comes from the non-religious, and it completely misunderstands Christianity. "Faith comes through the word of God," said Paul in Romans 10:17. That word is first and foremost the commandment of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself. (See also Galatians 5:6: "faith worketh by love.")

The "law of love" is a call to account all value, to see the world as God would see it, loving everything there is to love, which is also the essence of moral rationality. It doesn't mean you don't give more priority to your own life than the lives of others. It means that you value everything there is to value and see where that takes you.

People who hear this word and practice its meaning find that this is right, that it is the way to approach life, and this is where faith comes from: a person's individual experience of the correctness of the word of Christ. Faith in the word isn't taken on authority but is found in the compelling substance of the word and in where it leads the mind, and this is the beginning of natural law. If you account all value, what can you say with certainty about what must necessarily be right?

This is why, in spite of being agnostic as to whether or not the God of the Bible even exists, I still call myself a Christian. Hey, the dude got the moral law absolutely 100% right. I call myself a Millian because I adhere to the several key points of moral reason that John Stewart Mill got right, and I'm not going to make up a new term and call myself a Jesusian just because I am not certain that Jesus was the divine Christ. I'm also not sure he wasn't, and I am glad to take the label that expresses the moral understanding I share with my fellow Christians.

The problem with atheists is that, after shunning the world's great fount of moral rationality on the false grounds that Christians accept moral rules on authority without moral understanding, few atheists are able through their own devices to find the moral rationality that Christianity espouses. Few are able to achieve communion with the law of love.

Some do, and Paul acknowledged this possibility in Romans 2:14-16, allowing that some who have never heard the word of Jesus may still "show the work of the law written in their hearts," and he says that these will be judged "by Jesus," meaning by the word (the law of love) that Jesus laid down. If without hearing this word some nevertheless find the morality within themselves to follow it, they according to Paul they will still be raised up by God on judgment day.

Even for those who hear the word, there is a strong case to be made that Christianity is not asking for belief in God, or belief that Jesus is the only begotten son of God, or faith that Jesus is God. Paul's criterion for salvation is by belief in "the faith of Jesus" (Romans 3:22): not belief in Jesus himself but belief in what Jesus had faith in, which on my reading is the law of love. Others see Jesus as having faith, first of all, in the promise of resurrection, but I think that has to be secondary. That is a self-centered thought while the central message of Christianity is to account all value.

Either way, the moral law that Christians are asked to follow is fully rational, and it is accepted on a morally rational grounds: by witnessing and comprehending its rightness and goodness in practice. The idea that Christian morality is embraced on irrational grounds is a product of ignorant imagination. I do not see grounds either to believe or disbelieve that Jesus was the Son of God / Son of Man, proclaimed by the Bible but I do have faith in the word, as Jesus spoke it (or as the Bible says he spoke it). That word--the Christian law of love--is the very core of moral rationality. It is not the starting point, but it is the central discovery.

The starting point is just the rationality of husbanding and following one's discoveries of where value lies and then in one's pursuit of value accounting each bit of discovered value wherever it is enough at stake to be worth accounting, as far as one is able. That secular foundation leads directly to the law of love because the big discovery, when we husband and follow our discoveries of what there is to value in the world, is that all men have this same moral capacity.

Like me, you are an engine for discovering and acting for value in the world and that moral nature, that bit of god-like substance in you, is what makes me love my generic neighbor as my self. We are all moral agents whose moral agency must be empowered. That is why liberty works, that is why gun rights work, because the great majority of un-stunted individuals have grown to maturity alert to value in its myriad forms and are driven to act for it, to bring it to market, to rescue it, to create it.

People can arrive at this moral development without religion. They just need to be instinctively rational, husbanding and following evidence of value until the world of value opens up to their mind's eye. Or they can arrive at it through the word of Jesus, to love thy neighbor as thyself, which is also in the Old Testament book of Leviticus (19:18).

Without that Judeo-Christian guidance the central tendency of atheism has been towards totalitarianism. The one epic-scale atheistic mass movement in history is communism, and to a lesser degree this same preference for government imposed solutions is strongly associated with what is today the the less-religious, less-Christian side of our political divide: Democrats are the party of big government, and this correlation between illiberal policy preferences and rejection of Judeo-Christianity is easy to understand.

Sure these illiberals think they are helping their neighbors. They know a thousand ways that their neighbors need to be forced to behave in order to live worthwhile lives. What they don't get is the priority of liberty, which stems from liberty's empowerment of moral agency. Judeo-Christians get this immediately. It is the animating spirit of the law of love, the reason you love your neighbors: because they are made in God's image, giving divine sanction to the empowerment of moral agency. Those who are made in god's image must be free, unless and until they freely choose to commit evils for which they must be locked away or put to death.

This is solidified by living according to law of love. When you look for what value there is to account in your neighbors you learn to recognize and love their moral agency. They are engines for the discovery and pursuit of value which should therefore be empowered, or free to act.

Judeo-Christian belief that man is made in God's image is what drove the Reformation and it is what ended slavery. It is a big central actor in the history of the Judeo-Christian world, affecting whole populations, while to grasp the fundamental importance of the empowerment of individual moral agency purely in moral theoretic terms is extraordinarily rare. There is probably not one moral philosopher per university who gets it, and there's not much indication that Tracinski gets it either:
For those of us who don’t believe in a deity or supernatural power, the way we try to settle arguments is by pointing to observable facts. Do human beings flourish better under capitalism or socialism? Let’s look at the history of the two systems and see how they turned out. 
That's better than nothing, but the lack of principled understanding creates a strong urge to slip a Judeo-Christian ladder under those dangling feet.

Of course not all religions are created equal. You're not going to find any law of love in Islam, which instead commands a law of hate: that Muslims are to love their Muslim neighbors but are to hate everyone else. Koran 48.29:
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves.
Not a morally rational religion to say the least, but Christianity is the world history's greatest fount of moral rationality and America today is worse-off for the large fraction of its citizens who no longer understand this.

UPDATE:  A good example from the Washington Post of the idiocies that the anti-religious are prone to. This was in the comments on a story about the San Diego black man, Douglas McAuthur McCain becoming "the first American to die fighting for the Islamic State," where one John Cunliffe had this to say about Islam:

To which I replied:
Yes, lots of Christians beheading non-Christians. You see it all over the world. And that Christian law of love, the second commandment of Jesus, to love your neighbor as yourself, expressly extended to all mankind via the parable of the good Samaritan? Exactly the same as the Muslim law of hate: that Muslims are to love each other but are to hate everyone else. Koran verse 48.29: "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves."

Law of love, law of hate, "what difference, at this point, does it make?" To people like John Cunliffe, who have a moral IQ of zero, it makes absolutely no difference at all. If this guy is the next American to show up fighting for ISIS, who could be surprised? He has NO moral compass.
Cunliffe's anti-religiosity suggests that he is probably an atheist instead of an agnostic, and the great majority of atheists almost certainly are anti-religious. Otherwise atheism is just illogical, as discussed in my opening paragraph. If a person rejects religious belief on the grounds that it is illogical to believe in (be certain about) what is unknowable, how can they turn around and believe in the equally unknowable proposition that there is no god? But anti-religiousity accounts for this logical contradiction. Atheists aren't being logical. They are just anti-religion, and Cunliffe manifests the likely outcome. He is totally ignorant about religious belief.

When Cunliffe says Christianity and Islam are the same, it is probably because he ignorantly thinks that Christians are supposed to accept Christianity on authority, making it as irrationally founded as Islam. Of course that still would not make them the same. Accepting the Christian law of love on authority and accepting the Muslim law of hate on authority are still polar opposites. But this is the problem with Atheism. Once someone like Cunliffe assumes that all religions are irrational, that's all he thinks he needs to know so he doesn't look any further, and never learns a) that Christianity is highly rational, and b) that it is opposite in almost every way to Islam.

Cunliffe cannot actually be ignorant of the vast difference between Islam and Christianity. He is just a willfully blind a$$hole who hates Christians more than genocidal jihadists because Christians are his domestic political opposition and the only thing he really cares about is political victory for "his side." The jihadists are slaughtering Christians across the entire Middle East? In his view that would be, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." He hates Christians so who cares? Better they be slaughtered over there than be allowed to come over here and vote Republican.

Tracinski doesn't share that politics so he is not aggressively ignorant about Christianity the way Cunliffe is, but he is still hugely ignorant. Like Cunliffe he assumes that Christianity, being religious, is a species of irrationality, and that is probably why he has never looked far enough into Christianity to understand how thoroughly it already incorporates "secular reason," which Christians understand to be god-given. His own secular reason, on the other hand, suffers from not availing itself of the moral understanding attained by Christianity.

I have a different criticism of Christianity: that its tendency to over-focus on salvation and resurrection (the alternative reading of "the faith of Jesus") makes it much too solipsistic. Jesus said to Pilate "I am here to be a witness for truth." If Christians are to follow Jesus, he is telling us here the method. The law of love is the substance that the method of truth arrives at. Trust in truth, husband and follow all evidenced of value, and you will find your own moral agency, and see the same moral agency in your fellow men, and arrive at the law of love.

Christianity today largely ignores the method that Jesus laid down for his followers. All of our society's information industries are today dominated by Democratic Party operatives who practice maximal dishonesty as they apply the maximum pro-Democrat anti-Republic spin that they can get away with on every issue. It is all demagoguery all the time. THIS war on truth ought to be the primary focus of Christians today. They should be exposing it at every turn with all their effort, but instead most Christian religious focus is on achieving salvation and eternal life.

When Christian proselytizers come to my door I always talk to them. I find out what they are focused on, which always turns out to be salvation, and I try to direct them to what they should be focused on, which is the method of truth and the war on truth that is being fought every day. "But we are fighting for the truth about salvation" they sometimes argue. "But that is not where truth is being attacked" I answer.

The most religious Christians have tremendous difficulty escaping the solipsistic inward focus that our churches are teaching. They need to turn their focus outwards and get into the daily fight for truth, but their apparent self-neuterization may not actually be self-directed. It is a fully predictable consequence of IRS rules that grant churches tax-exempt status only on the condition that they refrain from political speech. This tax law is a direct attack on the very core of what Christianity is supposed to be.

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