October 27th, 2014

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Ebola: Facts v. Opinions

From a Washington Post article about states imposing restrictions, including involuntary quarantine in primative conditions on persons returning from working with Ebola patients in Africa:

“It seems a quarantine would be unnecessary,” said John Ard, an anesthesiologist affiliated with Bellevue and NYU Langone Medical Center. “We should stick with the science and avoid hysterical overreaction.”

But Tom Sullivan, who was working on a construction project a block from Bellevue, said quarantines make sense for returning health workers. “You’re working with diseased people. That’s common sense. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.”

One person appeals to facts, which do not support the need to isolate a healthy person in a tent within a tent without any facilities for bathing or any normal contact with people or even a TV set.

The other person appeals to "common sense"--to an opinion, not facts.

The facts about Ebola--as repeated multiple times by people who've actually worked with, and studied, the disease, as shown in the way Ebola has not infected hundreds of people in this country who had close contact with someone who developed it--should trump opinion.

Buyt the Washington Post gives Tom Sullivan Construction Worker equal space and does not correctly identify his opinion as an opinion.   In his opinion, "it's common sense" tht if you work with "diseased people" you should be quarantined.  Doctors and nurses and home health aids work with "diseased people" all the time, including those who are more infective than someone with Ebola.   Should all of them be quarantined?   And his statement "It doesn't take a rocket scientist" does not equal "It doesn't take someone who knows about this disease" to show that "common sense" in this case is commonly believed nonsense.

Facts tell you about a topic, such as Ebola, or rockets, or anesthesiology or construction workers.

Opinions tell you about the person holding them.  What Mr. Sullivan's opinion tells me is that he's ignorant of the facts about Ebola (or thinks common sense trumps the knowledge of those who study the disease.)   It doesn't tell me anything about Ebola.