LEARNING FROM HINDSIGHT

Panicking, running around in circles, and screaming in terror is hardly new behavior for human beings. We are all scared of something. In fact, the fear of the unknown scares all of us. Hence the Coronavirus (COVID-19) scares all of us. This disease with a strange name comes out of China, land ruled by tyrants no one should trust. Therefore, we reacted with an overabundance of caution. To prevent the spread of the virus, we shut down anything we could. Did we overreact?

Professor Knut Wittkowski, the subject matter expert interviewed in the video above, clearly argues that we did, suggesting that we should have taken a far more restrained approach. Is he right? Is that not something we should be thinking about? Well, you won’t see much about Wittkowski in the so-called mainstream media? Why? Fear sells news? Keeping the economy shutdown hurts Trump? Keeping the economy shut down is good for the environment? Liberal Democrats get thrills up their legs when they see the power of Big Government displayed? All the above? Probably. 

Is Wittkowski the expert we should all be listening to? I don’t know. I just know that the so-called mainstream media has refused to give Wittkowski a hearing. They have pooh-poohed the concept of “herd immunity” by arguing that the only safe way we can get herd immunity is with a vaccine. But we don’t have a vaccine, and we don’t know for certain if one is even possible.

So, what about that question? Did we overreact? Initially, we went with the information we had, and that information was incomplete. We were afraid the virus had a higher lethality rate than it probably has. Obviously, if the virus kills and permanently harms a high percentage of people, gaining herd immunity becomes a costly proposition.

What about a situation like the flu,  however. We have vaccines, but they don’t work well. They are hardly worth the trouble. What if COVID-19 only kills a few elderly people, makes a few people mildly ill, and children don’t even seem to get sick? We are at the point where we should be able to answer that question. If the answer is “yes”, is it not time we stopped pretending that there is something virtuous about panicking, running around in circles, screaming in terror, and shutting down our economy? To feed, cloth, and shelter ourselves and each other, we all need to get back to work.

There is no shame is overreacting to a threat because we don’t understand the threat. However, it silly to keep overreacting when we know better. Is the concept of herd immunity working where it has been tried?

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41 thoughts on “LEARNING FROM HINDSIGHT

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  1. I have had a look at Dr. Wittkowski’s (he is not a professor) preprint, refrenced in his LinkedIn blog post. A fundamental assumption hidden in that piece is that only 1 person in 2000 infected people shows symptoms and hence becomes a “case”. [1] The estimate in the mainstream is that about 1500 in 2000 infected people show symptoms. I therefore consider his model to be of the garbage in, garbage out variety.

    As for the competence of Dr. Wittkowski, he claims in his LinkedIn post, that antibiotics are an effective remedy for complications in measles infections. He is not a physician, but that man has made a career as a data scientist in the field of epidemology. I have no idea, how he comes to claiming such utter nonsense, when it is basic medical knowledge that antibiotics do not work on viruses and complications in measles are not caused by bacterial secondary infections.

    Finally, the Rockefeller University released a statement concerning Dr. Knut Wittkowski

    April 13, 2020
    The opinions that have been expressed by Knut Wittkowski, discouraging social distancing in order to hasten the development of herd immunity to the novel coronavirus, do not represent the views of The Rockefeller University, its leadership, or its faculty.

    Wittkowski was previously employed by Rockefeller as a biostatistician. He has never held the title of professor at Rockefeller.

    If you want to base your decision on Dr. Wittkowski’s argument, you are free to do so, but I would consider that seriously ill-advised.

    [1] The relevant section reads: “To allow for comparisons between models, an arbitrary proportion of symptomatic cases among those becoming infected (.05%) is used […]”

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    1. I have no idea, how he comes to claiming such utter nonsense, when it is basic medical knowledge that antibiotics do not work on viruses and complications in measles are not caused by bacterial secondary infections.

      Are you sure it is basic medical knowledge that antibiotics don’t work on secondary bacterial infections from measles?
      Pretty sure that isn’t true…and
      https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/189/Supplement_1/S4/823958

      The Journal of Infectious Diseases seems to agree with me.
      Older age at infection, vitamin A supplementation, and antibiotic therapy for secondary bacterial infections have reduced measles-associated deaths in the developing world.

      That said, I know nothing about this person.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @Liz
        Pneumonia is the main killer in measles cases and 25% to 35% of those cases are caused by secondary infections with bacteria, i.e. 65% to 75% will not be treatable with antibiotics. That’s from your article. In most other complications listed antibiotics do not even get a mention.

        Compare and contrast
        Wittkowski: “If the virus spreads fast among children (who are typically not affected) and their parents (who are unlikely to experience severe consequences and, if so, will respond to antibiotics)”

        https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/measles/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374862
        Treatment named there: Post-exposure vaccination, Immune serum globulin. Antibiotics only if secondary bacterial infections actually manifest.

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        1. What you said:
          it is basic medical knowledge that complications in measles are not caused by bacterial secondary infections.

          Now you’ve stated secondary bacterial infections cause complications in 25 to 35 percent of the fatal cases. That’s a pretty significant portion (in ratio, not absolute number as measles is rarely fatal).
          You’ve stated an untruth as though it were simple common knowledge.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That said, I’m not sure of the answer here.
            Economic meltdown leads to deaths also. There are too many unknowns.
            At the moment folks are saying the death numbers are inflated due to the lack of testing (I’m finding this hard to understand…do they really not test or are these tiny outlier situations?)
            Two flight attendants and a pilot working for Jet Blue just died very recently (they were in their 30s). There was also a recent fatality from a soldier working on the Naval ship.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Just to add, secondary bacterial infections are pretty common for non-fatal cases also (particularly otitis media, ear infections). Measles cases are pretty rare in general though due to vaccines.
            Why am I being a stickler here? Because it bothers me when false information is used to discredit someone.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. @Liz

        Heard the guy interviewed on WMAL. Sounded reasonable. He made it clear he did not think COVID-19 more serious than the flu. So, obviously, his model is going to fewer people sick than the “official” model.

        Frankly, I think the resistance some people are putting up against going back to work is weird. We should be talking about how to maintain an appropriate level of social distancing, not weather we need to go back to work.

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    2. @marmoewp

      Thanks for the additional research.

      Couple of points.

      1. The professor title is something the news media awarded Wittkowski.

      2. The percentage of the infected people who show symptoms (especially those who die) is to a large extent what this controversy is all about. Smallpox, for example, will kill about a quarter of the people it infects. So not getting smallpox is kind of important, and we would do whatever we could to avoid infection. Still, we would have to find some way to feed, cloth, and shelter ourselves. Developing immunity to various strains of the flu when we are young, however, is to at least to some extent desirable. Then, when are old, we have a better chance of not catching the flu and dying.

      3. The attitude towards antibiotics has changed over the years. As far as I know, nobody ever thought antibiotics kill viruses. However, doctors would often prescribe antibiotics to deal with the bacterial infections they thought often accompany viral infections. Many doctors have stopped doing that because overprescribing antibiotics makes them ineffective when needed.

      The problem with the models people are using is that none of the models have great data. They are all employing estimates. Going with “conservative” estimates sounds great, but we pay a cost in human lives when we shut down the economy.

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      1. @Tom
        We can get a hard lower limit on the fatality rate from the case of NYC. They have about 8.4 million people living there and, as of now, 7900 Covid-19 deaths. The fatality rate is the ratio of dead over infected (showing or not showing symptoms), and we can make the ratio as low as possible by making the numerator as small as possible (i.e. assuming there will be not a single fatality more) and the denominator as large as possible (everybody has got infected, already). That lower limit is 0.094%, or one death out of every 1063 infections. This fatality rate estimate is the absolute lower limit for the fatality rate, every further death in NYC will raise it, every non-infected person in NYC will raise it. Yet, Wittkowski chose a fatality rate half of this hard lower limit to make his models work.

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        1. @marmoewp

          Statistical calculations depend upon good data.

          1. Is New York representative? No. Those folks live on top of each other.
          2. The test to determine whether someone is infected is typically run only on those people with symptoms.
          3. Anyone who dies who has the virus is listed as a fatality from the virus. Maybe the virus was responsible. Maybe it was not.
          4. New York just included a bunch of people who died at home.
          https://amp.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/15/new-york-city-coronavirus-death-toll-jumps-revised-count

          Frankly. COVID-19 does not seem to better much more dangerous than the flu.Just different. So, we need to be careful and find out how COVID-19 is different, but not working is not required for that.

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  2. People make flu comparisons like they apply. The flu IS mitigated by vaccines. This isn’t yet. Think of it this way. A certain number of people die in auto accidents per year, but if there was a new driving disease that caused that number to increase by hundreds of thousands per year, wouldn’t you be willing to quit driving for a while until they figured it out?

    In less than two months we went in the US from zero to 1,000 people dead per day, and climbing. Let’s say that that continued indefinitely until there was enough herd immunity to naturally slow the spread without mitigation. If that took 100,000 days, that’s 100,000 dead people. More likely, however, if unchecked, the 1,000 per day would grow exponentially until it was tens of thousands per day, with people just dying completely untreated on hospital corridor floors and on sidewalks outside of the overwhelmed hospitals. Who knows how many of that barely avoided explosion of death would have died just because there weren’t enough ICU beds, enough doctors and nurses? Was the March mitigation (when it finally took place while Trump dithered) an overreaction? If so, thank God. The initial under reaction has us up to 22,000 unnecessary deaths.

    I flew airplanes on airlines until recently. Do you seriously think that anyone would be getting on airplanes (including me as the captain) or going to restaurants and sports events, in the unmitigated disaster of people dying everywhere by the tens of thousands per day?

    This is far from over yet. The dying is far from slowing down in assisted living facilities, in prisons, in meat processing plants and among farm workers. Wait until this gets into the crowed refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon.

    We all worked together and sacrificed and we’ve temporarily slowed the suffering and death. We’ve bought with our economy the luxury of a little more time for experts to learn about the virus and make some plans.

    How do we get out of this? Hell, I don’t know, and neither do you. You don’t know all the variables. There are way too many unknown unknowns. I would think, however, when our experts are trying to mitigate the death and destruction of hundreds of thousands of ticking time bombs (which includes you and me and our own vulnerable family members), we would act very, very carefully with the Christian goal of saving as many lives as possible.

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    1. @tsalmon

      Flu vaccines only work well against the strains of the flu they are developed to prevent. The experts have to guess which ones to vaccinate us against, and they often guess wrong.

      How do we get out of this? Hell, I don’t know, and neither do you. You don’t know all the variables. There are way too many unknown unknowns. I would think, however, when our experts are trying to mitigate the death and destruction of hundreds of thousands of ticking time bombs (which includes you and me and our own vulnerable family members), we would act very, very carefully with the Christian goal of saving as many lives as possible.

      I appreciate the efforts of our experts, but there is a fact of life. We don’t have perfect knowledge, not even the experts.

      Is avoiding risk a virtue? No. Avoiding unnecessary risk — PRUDENCE — is virtuous.

      We depend upon the economy — WORKING — to get the things we need and for luxuries. Even in ordinary times (whatever those are), we take calculated risks. We drive to work. We operate dangerous machinery. We sit at desks for long hours and ruin our backs. We even risk catching other diseases. So it goes.

      Now we have to figure out how to go about our daily lives and minimize the risk of catching COVID-19 from each other. Every business will have its own set of difficulties. With the assistance of some government regulations, it is time we let our neighbors figure out what they need to do. We really don’t have a better choice.

      Hiding under a rock is not a good solution.

      Revelation 6:15-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the [a]commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the [b]presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

      We each only live a short time. If we worry excessively about saving our lives, we will lose them anyway (Matthew 16:25).

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      1. Before I retired from the airlines in 2018, I spent almost four decades analyzing risk and trapping threats. As a lawyer, I essentially have a doctorate in risk analysis. Prudence to me is not just a platitude, it’s a practiced art form gained through experience. Wisdom isn’t an idyll, it’s something learned and earned on the field of real battles that I lost and survived, and more importantly, what I learned from others that lost and did not survive. (In the Navy, we used to say that our flying procedures manual was written in blood).

        Most people are absolutely terrible at analyzing risk. (This is how casinos keep the bright lights blinking and the bells going off). Like the frog, they can ignore being slow boiled until they are overwhelmed by catastrophic tipping points. (For example, with Climate Change). They can inflate low risk catastrophes to the point where they waste incredible amounts of resources on a marginally small threat. (The Iraq War in response to 9/11 fits this category). They suffer from time consuming and wasteful threat misanalysis where they let slip away what is meaningful about life while they prepare for phantom apocalypses based on conspiracy theories.(Most Survivalists and Preppers fall into this category).

        Risk and threat analysis deals imperfectly with unknowns, but experienced experts on such analysis can factor it in much better than you or I can. However, even the experts are dealing more with probabilities than absolutes. (Risk analysis begins with the loving embrace of probability and uncertainty). When these experts have consensus, then we disregard that consensus at our own prideful folly.

        The most important guidance that real moral leaders can provide to the experts and all the rest of us isn’t risk and threat analysis. It is moral goals. Pure mathematical reason without the foundation of moral purpose is the horror show of death camps and cold calculations of final solutions. As you imply but then trivialize, the moral goal is not how to live longer or to live with the least suffering . We will all suffer. We will all die. No, instead it is how to make our life and our inevitable suffering meaningful.

        This Holy Week, without a physical church to go to, I missed the feast Sacraments that celebrate and renew the sacrificial suffering, death and the ultimate resurrection of Jesus as Christ. However, in so far as we, all over the world, sacrificed together for each other to minimize others’ deaths and suffering, this was the most meaningful, most Eucharistic Holy Week we have ever known.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Unfortunately, we have very very limited data to do risk analysis on this.
          At present, we can look at states that did have a lockdown early and compare to those that didn’t (NY isn’t doing so well…as might be expected since they didn’t shut the schools down when the rest of the nation did, and the mayor encouraged everyone to go out and about, by contrast California is doing very well).

          It will be very interesting to see what happens to Sweden.
          Which (unless someone knows more than I do) does not seem to have any lockdowns in place whatsoever. That will be a good basis for “risk assessment” analysis. But we won’t know until it’s over, which isn’t very helpful at the moment.

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        2. @tsalmon

          You want to know how awful the human race is at dealing with risk? Read Genesis 3.

          Are you any better at evaluating risk than Adam and Eve were?

          The mistake I think most of us make two-fold.
          1. We lose the prospect of eternity in the sensations of the moment.
          2. We listen to serpents instead of our Lord God.

          Therefore, we need to pray and walk with God.

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          1. Tom,

            As I believe God has a plan (even though we don’t fully understand it), and as I believe that the Bible illustrates some necessary truth of God’s plan, I think that any rational understanding of the truth conveyed by God in Genesis 3’s Eden metaphor is that God always and forever planned for us to gaib the free will that Adam and Eve appeared to abuse in the story. Free will, like everything else, naturally proceeded from what God granted and what God took away when humans gained when God allowed us to have the knowledge of good and evil that was symbolized in the story by the first couple’s eating of the fruit of forbidden tree. God must have planned for us to metaphorically lose (or “fall” from) that previous bliss of animalistic moral ignorance, and God also must have planned for us to have the free will to choose wrong, as much as right. Why?

            Beyond any other instinctive creature, we can really know life in beauty and in love, but also we can know our own inevitable death. Remember, the self awareness of sentience by its nature requires a certain degree of separation from the self and from the rest of creation, and yes, even from God, in order to have the distance for the subject/object distinction that defines sentience, and therefore define choice, including the sentience to choose God.

            You say that Adam and Eve did not measure risk well because they chose knowledge over blissful, childlike ignorance and innocence. Perhaps you are right, but tell me, which would you choose in this hypothetical:

            A). To have perfect animalistic, purely instinctual innocence, totally lacking any moral sentience or self awareness upon which to choose; or

            B) Sentence, self awareness, free will and the ability to know love and hate, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, selflessness and selfishness, all of what it means to truly live and what it means to truly know death. Or in other words, everything that it truly means to be human in this world.

            Think about it this way, if we cannot choose to disobey, then we can’t choose to obey either. A tiger in the wild knows none of these choices. Would you be that tiger or mouse or slug living and dying without that guiltless self awareness or would you choose to be a human? And if you somehow got to go back in time and to be Adam living in Eden and you choose not to eat that fruit, would you really be making the choice God intended for the rest of your progeny?

            Is this the whole truth, or the only truth that God intends for us to learn from the Eden Story? Lord no! It is only one of about ten possible levels of interpretation that I know about, and I’m not even that smart. It may not even be the truth at all, but only a chimera of the real truth of God’s plan. One way or another though, if the Bible contains truth and God has a plan for us, we were meant to disobey God and eat that proverbial apple, don’t you think? The Fall may be a punishment, but it also must be a gift. It seems to me that to believe otherwise is to think that an infinite God is somehow a captive to His/Her own mysterious creation.

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          2. @tsalmon

            You say that Adam and Eve did not measure risk well because they chose knowledge over blissful, childlike ignorance and innocence. Perhaps you are right, but tell me, which would you choose in this hypothetical:
            A). To have perfect animalistic, purely instinctual innocence, totally lacking any moral sentience or self awareness upon which to choose; or
            B) Sentence, self awareness, free will and the ability to know love and hate, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, selflessness and selfishness, all of what it means to truly live and what it means to truly know death. Or in other words, everything that it truly means to be human in this world.

            I don’t think that is the choice God offered Adam and Eve. God created us for His glory. He created us to love so He could love us and so we could love Him. If we love Him we will obey Him. When Adam and Eve failed to obey God, they demonstrated that they did not trust and love God.

            Did God know Adam and Eve would disobey Him? Yes, and that was not a positive development. Nevertheless, God had a plan. As He promised the serpent, He sent a Savior for Man.

            Why did God allow Adam and Eve the option to disobey? Apparently, without a choice, love does not have much value.

            What did Jesus do for us. He made us acceptable to the Father if we repent and have faith. Then we will be filled with the Holy Spirit. In time we will have the capacity to obey.

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          3. About risk in particular, when I say that people are not always good at judging risk, I am specifically also saying that some people are better at determining risk in certain categories than others. For example, if an oncologist tells you that, without very painful and expensive treatment, your child will “probably” die in about three to six months, but with the treatment she may live another year or two, that doctor is using the wisdom of his life of learning and experience to give you the best probability, not absolutes. The moral decisions, the sacrifices that you and your family make with that information is quite another thing altogether. The fact that the doctor gives a range of probability means that he is dealing with imperfect information. You and your family’s moral choice of whether or not to put a terminal child though more suffering in order to buy that child precious time, I think, has no perfectly right moral answer either. There are unknowns and trade offs in the moral dilemma.

            As to the Pandemic, experts like epidemiologists, like the doctor in my hypothetical, utilize their wisdom built in a lifetime of study and experience to look at data and factor unknowns to give us risk probabilities with a range of uncertainty. Our leaders, like the child’s family, must take that advice and make difficult moral tradeoffs – economic suffering verses physical suffering, the Utilitarian greater good verses our social responsibility to care for the least of these.

            As citizens of a republic, we have a role in advising our leaders of our moral priorities and in constantly holding them accountable for bad decisions, whether those decisions are bad because they are morally repugnant to us or because they’re decisions are simply foolish, or both. However, pretending that we are all smarter than the experts and emoting moral absolutes in what is obviously a complex and evolving emergency is less that helpful, don’t you think?

            We elected a reality TV and business con man as our president and now he unsuccessfully is trying to con a virus into doing what he wants it to do rather relying on the advice of experts to exert some sort of moral leadership. It’s not working so Trump is constantly blame shifting. Trump must eventually and constantly be held accountable for this. Right now, however, we must work with the incompetent and corrupt government Trump has built over the last three years, not the government we desperately need, and work around him as much as possible.

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          4. @tsalmon

            We elected a reality TV and business con man as our president and now he unsuccessfully is trying to con a virus into doing what he wants it to do rather relying on the advice of experts to exert some sort of moral leadership. It’s not working so Trump is constantly blame shifting. Trump must eventually and constantly be held accountable for this. Right now, however, we must work with the incompetent and corrupt government Trump has built over the last three years, not the government we desperately need, and work around him as much as possible.

            Always have to trash Trump. Well, that’s a useless expertise.

            Epidemiologists are just a type of statistician. The have a limited expertise in disease transmission. They are not economists. They don’t know how to run all the different types of businesses we have shut down. Like the oncologist, all they can do is give us some odds, and we have to decide what we want to do with that information. As an elected leader, Trump is the expert we have chosen to render our decision for us. You don’t think we should trash experts, but that is exactly what you are doing.

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          5. Tom,

            As to your view of Genesis 3, perhaps that is one way to look at it. It doesn’t really conflict with broader argument I’m making nor does it explain more than the obvious.

            The “story” has lasted thousands of years. (Parts of it proceeded the Israelites and is found in other creation myths in older cultures and isolated cultures around the world). One has to surmise, especially if one believes that it is the Word of God, then not a single word (which itself is only a symbol), not one symbol and no metaphor in the story is without important explanatory depth and meaning. But your simple explanation, as true as it may be, makes us only ask more and more questions:

            Why a talking snake? Where does the tree of life fit in? Why a tree of knowledge of good and evil, and why was only the fruit of that tree forbidden? (Seriously, if it is so important as to banish Adam and Eve from paradise forever, it can’t just be breaking some arbitrary rule or else your recourse to God’s “love” does not really adequately explain it, and then taking that to its greatest conclusion, original sin must be something far deeper than a dietary malefaction to require Jesus to suffer so terribly on a cross). What is the primitivistic symbolism of a “Garden” (almost like God’s nature park or God’s zoo complete with a human animal attraction in a verdant jungle setting) rather than a perfect city in a kingdom or some heavenly place among the clouds? One can guess that Adam and Eve hid because they felt guilty about disobeying God, but what was it about eating that specific fruit that made them embarrassed about being naked – God had not given them a rule about that yet? One can only assume that God is not a prisoner of time because He invented it just as God invented the snake to tempt the first humans so wouldn’t God have known that the fruit would be eaten by the first couple even before the beginning of time, before He even created those humans? If God has a plan, wouldn’t He have planned their willful disobedience from before the beginning of time? Why all the obvious sexual illusions -snakes, gardens, nudity, sexual shame, an apparent forbidden procreation (the proverbial snake penetrating the garden) and a first painful birth of the first humans out of the vagina of that paradisal garden womb and into the cruel and suffering world? And don’t their birth and death compliment each other?

            I am not saying that your explanation is wrong – it just seems reductionist. It begs more questions than it answers. It is all surface without a depth of exploration that leads to actual truth and wisdom.

            Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think you have to be an expert on Jungian psychology to intuitively get the many, many subconscious messages imbedded in the metaphor, the story. That truth was as accessible to the illiterate shepherd who heard it thousands of years ago as it is to the religious scholar today, maybe more so. Throughout the ages, it would have reverberated on the human psyche like cosmic chimes, God’s universal music echoing off our souls. God did not place that holy music there so that we could easily dismiss it and refuse to hear it, but I suppose you can choose to do so if you want to. God does not make us open to revelation – we first must open and unlimit ourselves.

            On the other hand, if you are going to claim a single, exclusive superior interpretation based only on a shallow modernist literalism, then you won’t find much concealment from endless obvious questions with only that fundamentalist fig leaf. The radical atheists and even the hopeful agnostics will just laugh at the obtuse arrogance of it. And we risk that believers will be disillusioned and lose faith in the superficiality of it. There are plenty of mysteries and miracles that we believers must ultimately take on faith without asking us to be magical about what is just stubbornly and irrationally unnecessary.

            There are so many more deeper truths to be fathomed below the surface of Genesis 3 and exploring each of them negates nothing of real importance to what you said – it just unfolds and unfolds even greater truth and wisdom, and yes, more wondrous mysteries of mysteries beyond that. God is infinite, unknowable, not even really nameable (because to name God is to limit an infinite “I am” to that mere symbol). All wisdom begins with the humble embrace of uncertainty and a childlike questioning that seeks grace through the perfect openness of faith. (I would not say that faith is the opposite of certain, but that latter does normally purchase the former). We must start our search with the humble admission that none of us are completely right – we are just somewhere on an infinite scale of being more or less wrong.

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          6. @tsalmon

            Genesis 3 is a relatively simple story. We can find all kinds of symbolism in it if we want, but once we go beyond the basic story we are speculating. In other words, we can wonder why the Garden, why the serpent, why the trees, why the order against eating that fruit, and so forth, but we don’t know. Is there something wrong distinguishing between what we do and do not know? Every little bit of knowledge leads to more questions, but questions are not answers.

            What about this comment in parenthesis?

            Seriously, if it is so important as to banish Adam and Eve from paradise forever, it can’t just be breaking some arbitrary rule or else your recourse to God’s “love” does not really adequately explain it, and then taking that to its greatest conclusion, original sin must be something far deeper than a dietary malefaction to require Jesus to suffer so terribly on a cross.

            Luke 16 has a story about an unjust steward. It is not easily understood, but I think it relevant here, especially these verses.

            Luke 16:10-13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
            10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous [a]wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? 12 And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No [b]servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and [c]wealth.”

            The fruit from that particular tree was probably a small thing, but Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience was deadly serious. God could not trust Adam and Eve to leave it alone. Instead of loving and trusting God, Adam and Eve wanted to be God. If Adam and Eve could not be trusted for a short time in a little garden, how could God trust them for eternity in an infinite universe? If they would disobey an infinitely holy, omniscient, and omnipotent God, what evil would they not dare?

            You want to understand Genesis 3 better? To understand any part of the Bible, it helps to know what the rest of it says.

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          7. “Genesis 3 is a relatively simple story.“

            No. It is not just a ”simple story” Tom.

            I good reader can read the Constitution in about an hour. I’ve read it dozens of times. I’ve also read individual constitutional clauses hundreds of times, and more importantly, I’ve read hundreds of cases, articles, books and treatises that interpreted the history, the original intent, the philosophy, the thematic context, the dynamics and the change by amendment of the most critical constitutional clauses. And yet plumbing the meaning of one of the most profound, millennia old, holy scripture sections is way more difficult than applying the First Amendment with knowledge and wisdom.

            Every single word, symbol and metaphor in Genesis 3 has deeply profound meaning, or it simply would not be there, otherwise God is a very poor author. Saying that it does not sinks scripture to the level of a modern children’s fairy tale (“The Cat in the Hat Does Cosmology”), only even such a fairy tale has more moral and psychological depth than you are apparently giving the Bible.

            “The fruit from that particular tree was probably a small thing, but Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience was deadly serious.”

            No. Eating THAT fruit definitely was NOT “a small thing”. Imagine that you are the father of three year old twins, a boy and a girl, and you leave them alone in a room with a secretly poisonous candy bar that you forbid them to eat, that you absolutely know that they will eat, and that on baby cam you actually watch them eat while you do nothing about it. You even put their favorite talking snake toy in the room with them to egg them on. Next you break into the room, watch with angry surprise while they embarrassingly retch up the content of their crime and then you throw them out into the cold cruel world to fend for themselves. You would not be a loving father teaching your children a lesson about free will – you would be a narcissistic, child abusing jerk. And yet isn’t that what you are saying about God if the Eden Story’s eating from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (you’d think God wouldn’t have named it that way if it were not important to the story) is just an arbitrary disobedience on “a small thing”? And more consequentially, wouldn’t you be saying that the incarnation, crucifixion and death of Jesus and His suffering as Christ with us from the beginning to the end of time is just about exacting a horrendous retribution (from Himself?) for a “simple” misdemeanor produce theft? Of course it’s deeper than that brother.

            And the Luke parable is also taken out of context, out of reference and that story too appears to me to have a much deeper meaning than you are giving it, and you seem to do this same trick all the time. If you are going to quote scripture all the time, you should be able to explain it in depth and it ought to fit. Have you considered studying scripture as a mirror to find out what it actually reflects from God rather than as something projected from yourself to mean only what you want it to mean?

            I don’t mean to be critical (and I’m actually more amused than anything). Maybe it’s the big brother thing and it’s kind of adorable, but in our old age, you apparently think I am an imbecile about my own faith (and perhaps I am compared to most of the real scholars and saints I’ve read), but I have been studying this off and on my whole life. That said, I’m still continuously astounded by the fathomless depths that one can plum and still come up baffled by even deeper, more profound mysteries just beyond my grasp. Yes, perhaps the real message of scripture is so simple that an illiterate slave, with faith and the grace of God, can understand it better than either you or I, but if so, it is not because the story is shallow, it’s because God carries that slave to the depths of it.

            I’m no scholar or saint, but the strange certainty that is constantly projected in statements like “it’s a simple story” and when you say the fruit itself (you know, of THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL) “is a small thing”, well statements like that don’t give me much confidence that you’ve plumed either the scholarly or the saintly depths of meaning either, much less become an authority by God’s grace and revelation. Not trying to be mean here – as I said my epiphanies from God are not as many as I would like either, but they are probably more than I deserve.

            What little I have learned you can take or leave:

            First, use all that science knowledge you already possess to see where universal truths connect between so many fields of enquiry – psychology, sociology, history, philosophy, comparative religion, but also art and literature.

            2. Try to look beyond the literal. God is a poet too you know. Talking snakes, verdant gardens, nudity and same, and of course magical trees are important to poets.

            Like

          8. @tsalmon

            Your point is that I am a shallow thinker if I don’t agree with you. My point is you are seeing things that and making interpretations which are not founded in what the document — Genesis 3 — actually says. Hence, you are not talking about Genesis 3. You are trying to justify spiritualizing the Bible to the point you can make it say whatever you want. If that is what a lawyer thinks it takes to make God out to be a good writer, that’s laughable.

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          9. @tsalmon

            No. Eating THAT fruit definitely was NOT “a small thing”. Imagine that you are the father of three year old twins, a boy and a girl, and you leave them alone in a room with a secretly poisonous candy bar that you forbid them to eat, that you absolutely know that they will eat, and that on baby cam you actually watch them eat while you do nothing about it. You even put their favorite talking snake toy in the room with them to egg them on. Next you break into the room, watch with angry surprise while they embarrassingly retch up the content of their crime and then you throw them out into the cold cruel world to fend for themselves.

            What is funny about this is that here you actually get close to what Genesis 3 says. What do you miss?
            1. God told Adam and Eve that the forbidden fruit would kill them.
            2. Adam and Eve were not retching. They were ashamed. They were hiding.
            3. God did not put on a pretense.
            4. That snake was not a toy. God appointed Adam to cultivate and keep the Garden. Adam was supposed to guard the Garden from a creature like that snake He did not.

            Did God know Adam and Eve would fail? Yes. Did Adam and Eve have a real choice? Yes. Do I understand why God did what He did? No. Did Adam and Eve? Probably not. Having faith in God is difficult because we understand so little. Yet God requires us to trust Him.

            5. God did not throw them out into the cold cruel world to fend for themselves. He wrapped them in furs. He sent Jesus to rescue them.

            Genesis 3 is just the third chapter. You may wish to read the rest of the book.

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          10. “Your point is that I am a shallow thinker if I don’t agree with you. My point is you are seeing things that and making interpretations which are not founded in what the document — Genesis 3 — actually says. Hence, you are not talking about Genesis 3”

            I’m the one who is ignoring and minimizing what is obvious in the document? There is no fruit that affords that affords “Knowledge of Good and Evil”? Maybe if God put a big sign on it that said “TRE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL”? Oh wait, He basically did. There is no “Tree of Life”, talking snake, strangely primitive nature setting, shameless, then shameful, nudity,? Are we even reading the same story? You don’t have to “agree” with me on what all of that means – there are deep mysteries in what that prof “Your point is that I am a shallow thinker if I don’t agree with you. My point is you are seeing things that and making interpretations which are not founded in what the document — Genesis 3 — actually says. Hence, you are not talking about Genesis 3”

            I’m the one who is ignoring and minimizing what is obvious in the document? There is no fruit that affords that affords “Knowledge of Good and Evil”? Maybe if God put a big sign on it that said “TRE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL”? Oh wait, He basically did. There is no “Tree of Life”, talking snake, strangely primitive nature setting, shameless, then shameful, nudity,? Are we even reading the same story? You don’t have to “agree” with me on what all of that means – there are deep mysteries in what that profound symbolism means, and thus, plenty of room for disagreement. However, you are both literally and figuratively pretending the elephant not only isn’t in the room but that he isn’t trying to send you a message when he sits on your head. At the risk of mixing metaphor, if this talking snake were any closer to you, he’d bite you. 😆

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          11. @tsalmon

            We learn from experience. We learn what a sin is by committing a sin. Like as not the only thing special about The Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil is that Adam and Eve were told not to eat the fruit of that tree.

            The Tree of Life is also mentioned in Revelation 22.

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          12. “What is funny about this is that here you actually get close to what Genesis 3 says. What do you miss?”

            No, The “funny thing” is that my analogy was not trying to get anywhere even close to what I think Genesis 3 means, but instead the most shallow view possible of what of what you seem to think it’s says.

            As for Jesus, it seems apparent to me in context with the rest of the Bible that God did not just send Him to rescue us. The incarnate God in a our fallen and finite reality is Christ, the Alpha and the Omega. God never left us from the dawning of time until the end of time. No, God did not abandon us. God has always and always will, in every very real but mysterious loving way, deeply suffer every sorrow and every pain, everything on our journey with each and every one of us. God became Jesus to manifest that eternal love, but it is always here.

            As you say, Genesis 3 is just one wonderful book. Perhaps you should delve the depths of the rest of the Bible for greater meaning.

            No, I don’t really think you’re shallow. You’ve figured out many things early that I have taken much longer to come around to. I have always admired your discipline. I’m by nature kind of a plodder who is slow to get there, and am always amazed when I arrive. We both have had our authority figure issues (undoubtedly, it runs in our family). Perhaps we are both just deep and shallow in different ways, don’t you think? I’m always learning from you in these debates, especially from your mistakes.😉

            Liked by 1 person

    2. The point of the lockdowns was to prevent a large number of people getting infected all at once and thus overwhelming our healthcare system. It was not to reduce the number of people who will eventually get infected by the virus will remain the same but spaced out further until a vaccine is found. Now that it appears we have flattened that curve, it’s time to open things up while keeping in place sensible distancing and hygiene policies.

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  3. It’s true Tom, there is so much we don’t know, yet we are making enormous policy decisions as if we do. Holman Jenkins for the Wall Street Journal likens this to a problem whose solution is to keep your head under water. Obviously this is not viable because you will eventually drown, or you keep pooping your head up to gasp for air but your situation hasn’t changed.

    We can’t keep the economy closed until a vaccine is available as it will collapse long before that and things will get dramatically wore for everyone, sick or not. Good luck fighting a pandemic under those conditions.

    After we flatten the curve, which it appears we are close to doing, a phased in approach to opening things up while protecting the most vulnerable and keeping some common sense safety practices makes sense while we work towards herd immunity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Tricia

      Good analogy.

      Some people are silly. They insist upon perfect solutions, but we make trade offs. We at best achieve optimum solutions. If we want to eat (or breath), we are going have to risk keeping our heads above water. That is, we are going to have to restart the economy. We can do our best to maintain social distancing, but more people will catch the virus. Fortunately, COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be much more dangerous than the flu.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Tom

    I read with interest how Sweden avoided isolation and agree with their basic premise that the most susceptible should be quarantined instead of everybody.

    However, for example, if a child goes to school, or a worker goes to worker and contracts the virus that lives with a person who because of their medical conditions is more apt to die, thereby is the root cause of the decision why the USA quarantined everyone.

    There is a difference between learning from hindsight and from experience.

    My personal view of why the USA is the highest in the world is because our politicians and economists f Nations medical supplies and equipment.

    However, our great politicians made the decision to change our Nation into a service Nation instead of a manufacturing Nation because they had no experience in manufacturing. Now in hindsight our Nation.

    https://rudymartinka.com/2020/04/12/king-solomon-blog-eating-the-fruit-of-own-devices/

    in other words, if M95 masks were available in the USA, everyone could have worn them while riding on public transit or at work instead of the massive bankrupting expensive decisions made because of both lack of hindsight of the credibility of people who had experience in purchasing and logistics rather than economic theories based on maximizing profits.

    Sad.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good post, Tom. I think there’s some real value in ideas around herd immunity, in working with our natural design, in strengthening our own immune systems. I keep asking what’s the plan, Stan? I mean, a virus doesn’t usually just disappear. We can’t just hide from it forever. Also, I’m concerned about rebound, about the virus coming at us with a vengeance when we do come out.t of hiding. That’s what happened with the Spanish flu, the second wave was worse than the first. Often when bugs move through people, they weaken and we strengthen. The viral load at that market in China was high, it’s probably thinned way down by the time it got to Arizona.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @IB

      I have no special medical expertise. I have just studied statistics and the news media. Statistics can easily be used to mislead, and the news media is all to happy to mislead us. Therefore, I don’t have much confidence in the models being used to sell the idea that this virus is a huge threat. I have not seen that much indication the virus is lethal enough to justify shutting down our country.

      This coronavirus is apparently quite contagious, and that is part of the puzzle. We really don’t know how many Americans have already caught it and didn’t know it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s all very complicated, Tom, and I don’t presume to understand it all myself, but we do pass immunities on to one another. So something like measles for example, a rather mild childhood ailment for most of us, but was absolutely deadly for some Native American tribes and Pacific Islanders.

        Viruses and bacteria can actually serve a vital and positive role in our health. There are studies that suggest certain cancers may be prevented by someone once having fought off a virus. I don’t want to contribute to any fear mongering, I’m just saying often we’re playing God out in the world without the accompanying wisdom and knowledge to go with it. We don’t fully understand the price of protecting kids from something like chickenpox, for example.

        During the Spanish flu epidemic, sadly a lot of kids and young people died. It wasn’t until 2014 that we finally discovered that part of that was because older folks had been sick with a prior virus and built up an immunity that helped to keep the more deadly Spanish flu away.

        Liked by 1 person

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