Aaron Ginn, smug know-nothing


Last week there was an article published by a guy named Aaron Ginn in Medium, which purported that the current pandemic was going to fade out relatively quickly and do far less harm than others expected. The article was spread widely — you might even say it went viral — and some big names in media promoted it. It was recently taken down, though, and I can’t link to it, nor would I, even if I could. It was a terrible article.

It was interesting as an exercise in critical thinking, though. The first week of my introductory biology course I share a bad science article with the students, and ask them to figure out how they would know whether to trust it or not. They quickly do the usual stuff — look at the source, look at the author, look at the quality of the data — which should have been the response to this article by Ginn…but no. It says things people wanted to hear, so it was disseminated uncritically.

What should have been noticed right away is that Ginn has zero qualifications in epidemiology, yet here he is claiming that the scientists were all wrong. You might be wondering what his qualifications are. He’s a silicon valley tech bro who claims to be an expert in “growth”, meaning how to increase the popularity of products online. Because he uses the word “virality” in his advertising and promotion work, surely he must be a master of the biology of real viruses. He even claims you don’t need a special degree to do epidemiology.

Jesus. Red flags and signal flares popping off all over that mess. The arrogance of these silicon valley dudes knows no limits, and we ought to be able to stop there. Except that Mr Ginn was quite annoyed when his silly, ignorant article was yanked, and he ran yipping and whining to other unqualified media personalities, like Brit Hume, Greg Guttfeld, and Steven Crowder (seriously, dude?), none of them with any qualifications in the subject, either. He’s being censored, don’t you know. He’s now frantically and rather indignantly defending his claims on Twitter. Someone ought to tell him that Brit Hume, let alone Crowder, isn’t exactly a smart guy to cite, and rather obviously his choice of who to beg for props is telling. Ginn writes for Breitbart in his spare time, and works with the California Republican party.

Anyway, ignore Ginn and his bad paper. Go read this Twitter thread by Carl Bergstrom, who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Ginn is puking up exactly the kind of misinformation that ought to be filtered out — he’s cocky and full of himself, but he knows pretty much nothing about the subject he’s lying about.

Comments

  1. havequick says

    The title of this site is “freethoughtblogs.com” but apparently the free thought thing is out the window on this blog.

    Apparently you didn’t read the whole article and just looked up the fact that this guy is a Republican. Looking at information through a filter is good sometimes, but the filter of politics doesn’t belong here. Ginn’s point is that the whole problem is made worse by hysteria. He still pushes the basic point made by the CDC – flattening the curve will help our hospital system cope with the severe effects of the pandemic. But he urges calm – something we need at this time.

    Since medium.com took down the article, Ginn is prevented from updating it there with current numbers. But you can still read a version from 20 March here: https://www.blacklistednews.com/article/76573/evidence-over.html

    But you’ll probably just take this comment down, too, in the interest of “filtering.”

  2. says

    The title of this site is “freethoughtblogs.com” but apparently the free thought thing is out the window on this blog.

    I’ve never heard that subtle argument before, “argumentum ad titulum” or whatever it is: accusing people here of not being free thinkers yet they’re still on “freethought blogs”… Damn, that is incisive.

    It’s also wrong. Disagreeing with someone is free thought. So is agreeing with them.

    But you’ll probably just take this comment down, too, in the interest of “filtering.”

    I bet he won’t. I bet he’ll leave it up so we can all be awestruck by your rhetorical skills. By “awestruck” I mean we’ll be going “awwwww….” out of pity.

  3. says

    I read the whole article. I discovered it through Bergstrom’s commentary, which reveals that Ginn made loads of gross errors in his analysis, and that the article is totally untrustworthy. Ginn doesn’t know even the most basic principles of epidemiology, yet there he is, using data collected by others to make bogus extrapolations! I don’t care what new numbers he throws into his garbage disposal, he lacks the minimal knowledge needed to interpret them.

    The fact that he is a far-right conservative is not the strike against him, it’s that he’d doing invalid analyses. That he’s a Breitbart republican merely explains why he’s going on this ideologically motivated carousel of false reasoning.

    Also, a suggestion: one of the ways I can tell I’m dealing with an asshole is when they poison the well by declaring that their comment is so radical that they’ll get censored. Nope. Your comment is just stupid and wrong.

  4. says

    Also, as Marcus says, another tell is when they see the word “freethought” and start attaching their own incorrect meanings to the word.

  5. says

    Comments get deleted when they are abusive towards others for anything other than what the people actually said in the comment thread. Tell someone their comment is stupid? Okay. Tell someone they are evil for supporting the Catholic Church in the context of a thread about the RCC declaring bankruptcy to avoid its moral and legal obligation to the people its employees raped? Okay. Call someone a fire truck for the color of their hair? That shit is right out.

    Inferring bad things about someone because of what they actually do and say is fine. Inferring bad things about someone because of their voluntary support for an organization or other person who says and does bad things? Also fine.

    So long as you don’t assume bad things about people because of their innate traits and you’ll be able to hang around here long enough to have your opinions get called stupid many, many times.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Time to invoke yet again the scripture of the Great Prophet Charlie:

    Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

  7. Nemo says

    In my vocation, I’m most known for popularizing the “growth hacking movement” in Silicon Valley that specializes in driving rapid and viral adoption

    Or as we call it here on Earth, a salesman.

  8. havequick says

    I’d thank you for leaving my comments up, but I think I’ll refrain and instead thank you for calling me an asshole. I’ll wear that badge with honor.

    You’re the one who brought up filtering out the article, not me. The filtering of his article, which you called for and agree with, does go right to censorship. I don’t believe it’s a far reach to infer that my comments might also be filtered. Where does it stop?

    Other scientists agree that the hysteria may be more damaging than the disease. One example is Dr. David Katz.(https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/opinion/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing.html)

  9. raven says

    Ginn’s point is that the whole problem is made worse by hysteria.

    Oh gee, that is like you know, really heavy man. Profound.
    No one in the history of the universe has ever discovered that.

    If that was his only point, it is trivial and not worth a whole article about it.

    The fact is that this is a very dangerous virus and a huge problem for the USA and the whole world.
    Made worse by the complete failure of the US government to deal with it in any competent way.
    When thousands and maybe millions will die, some hysteria is inevitable.
    Rather than point out the obvious, Ginn would be more credible if he had the slightest idea of how to deal with it.

    In fact, many thousands of people have pointed out what we need to do in order to deal with the “hysteria”.
    The obvious, fix the testing, fire the head of the CDC, who is fundie xian political appointee who appears to be brain dead, deal with the shortage of Protective Personal Equipment, increase the supply of ventilators and ICU beds.
    Also deal with the fact that many millions of people are now suddenly unemployed, including a lot of low wage service workers. They will need economic support for as long as our lockdowns last.

  10. says

    I don’t think this is a unique thought but covid-19 is like watching War of the Worlds play out in real time. A little virus is taking out arrogant blowhards left and right. Rand Paul just tested positive.

  11. raven says

    BTW, if anyone wants to read Aaron Ginn’s banned article, it is easy to find.
    It’s only banned in troll’s and right wingnut’s heads.
    It took me 5 seconds to find with Google.

    I”m not going to link to it because PZ Myers decided it wasn’t worth linking to.
    But I found a copy on a lunatic fringe site called zerohedge .com.
    I read a few sentences, every sentence was just wrong, and decided not to waste more time.
    It’s just a lot of ignorance and garbage mixed together.
    It would be funny if a lot of people weren’t going to soon die.

    It’s extremely stupid and just wrong.
    “Local governments and politicians are inflicting massive harm and disruption with little evidence to support their draconian edicts.”
    Oh really???
    Ask the Chinese how that worked in Wuhan.
    They ended their pandemic so far after a late start and with 1.4 susceptible people to worry about.
    The Iranians didn’t do that.
    We can now see their mass graves easily from space.

  12. raven says

    Troll

    I’ll wear that badge (asshole) with honor.

    OK, we already know you are an asshole.
    Sounds like something a loonytarian, antisocial terrorist, mass murderer, or dumb internet troll would say.
    You’ve just admitted you have nothing worthwhile to say so why should we waste our time with you.

    Other scientists agree that the hysteria may be more damaging than the disease. One example is Dr. David Katz

    Cthulhu you really are stupid.
    I know who David Katz is.
    He is an idiot. He has been an idiot forever. He is also a very weird, unlikeable person.
    One of his own technicians once tried to kill him and almost succeeded.

    San Diego police said Wednesday they suspect a former …www.upi.com › Archives › 1983/03/16 › San-Diego-police-said-Wed…

    Mar 16, 1983 – David H. Katz, a victim of the third contaminated coffee incident at the plant in the past two years, said the employee was a descipline problem. …
    San Diego Police tested the coffee and discovered the presence of acrylamide, a colorless, odorless toxic chemical binding agent used in research at Quidel.

    Acrylamide is a powerful neurotoxin and also a common reagent in any mol bio lab.

    I’ve seen enough, asshole troll will waste this thread and the whole day being an asshole but it is sunny out and I’m gone.

    PS Citing one idiot scientist proves nothing.
    There are hundreds of thousands of scientists in the USA.
    It is the Fallacy of Appeal to Authority done badly.
    More than a few people on this blog including the host, PZ Myers are also…scientists.

  13. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Ginn is yet another example of a mind poisoned by business school. Somehow, these morons get the idea that actual expertise doesn’t matter, that “it’s only numbers.” Numbers come from somewhere. Someone has to measure, count or otherwise determine them. They have limitations. They have uncertainties. There are certain things they allow you to say without appearing an idiot, and there are certain things that, if you say them, reveal that you don’t understand numbers or anything else after all.

    It’s assholes like this who told Darth Cheeto that it was fine to fire all the experts, since he could just hire more when he needed them.

  14. consciousness razor says

    I’m not sure a food scientist and integrative medicine enthusiast who uses his platform to post positive reviews of his own pseudonymous work is necessarily the best person to cite in support of your claims on epidemiology.

    The bar hasn’t been set low enough yet. At least it wasn’t Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.

  15. havequick says

    Thanks for the perfect example of groupthink. This blog is a presentation of opinions that exactly contradicts freethought. But whatever.

  16. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Sorry havequick. There’s an old saying, “That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”. Since an op-ed opinion is not evidence, everything you have said is dismissed. Either up your game or fade into the bandwidth.

  17. John Morales says

    Since medium.com took down the article, Ginn is prevented from updating it there with current numbers.

    Sure looks like Medium found it bloody embarrassing after the featured epic takedown, and so they took it down.

  18. kurt1 says

    Thanks for the perfect example of groupthink. This blog is a presentation of opinions that exactly contradicts freethought. But whatever.

    Das ist ein Bingo!

    Where does it stop?

    Removing articles making erroneous claims or false interpretation of data is good. Just like when Lancet retracted the Wakefield “study” removing bullshit “opinion pieces” by selfimportant assholes who have no credentials in the field they write about is good. Why is the hill you freeze peach people choose to die on always some rightwing nutjob getting deplatformed for being wrong about everything and never real censorship like anti-BDS laws?

  19. nomdeplume says

    Coronavirus is proving an even more fertile culture medium for the Dunning-Kruger effect than climate change, and that is a sentence I never thought I would have to write.

  20. unclefrogy says

    yes the hysteria is a major problem but what is the root of that hysteria?
    it is not deleting bullshit articles.
    The root is almost always deep in the reaction to conflicting reality and misinformation. The bozo in the chair is sometimes calmly lying and other times lashing out at someone asking about the truth. The hardest work he has ever done is those daily briefings in fact it is probably the only “work”he has ever done.
    that fount of B.S. happy talk is the root everyone knows it ain’t like he says, when the top is talking bull shit everyone will tend to freak out because they can sense the fear behind the denial of reality
    people will respond with courage and determination to the truth of a situation that is the lesson of history. it is bad really bad and things will be different when we come out the other side which we will the only question now is when that will be. it wont likely be 90 days I am sorry to say.
    uncle frogy

  21. wzrd1 says

    How many times must we endure charlatans and lay idios alike trumpeting censorship after a bad publication is retracted?
    Were we to follow such boobthink, we’d still dismiss the germ theory of disease, Doctor would’ve had to reinstall a certain pump handle in London and all would be looking for the odorous source of Cholera and childbed fever would still be a widespread thing.

    @havequick, when I have a specialty problem, I go to a specialist that works with that type of problem for a living. So, I don’t go to a dermatologist to set a fractured limb. I don’t see a proctologist for a rash on my chest. I don’t go to a fucking automobile mechanic to have brain surgery. I most certainly don’t even consult myself on matters of epidemiology, I consult with one or more of the epidemiologists that I personally know, some that I’ve actually worked with in the field.
    Indeed, seeking out those who are clueless in such a complex field as epistemology bespeaks the very hysteria that you decry!
    Now, let’s discuss something that seems to be estranged to you, reality. 33276, up from 16000 two days ago, the number of people ill with COVID-19. Currently, around 10% of COVID-19 patients require a ventilator to breathe and survive, not fully recover, as fibrosis is a well documented effect of the infection. Of that 10%, the majority are age 19 – 44, elders don’t make it that far and typically fail before the need of artificial ventilation is apparent.
    Current numbers still hover around 3.4% being the CFR for the virus. That should drop, if we ever manage to find out how many are asymptomatic or simply subclincal and go unnoticed.
    So, do yourself a favor, stop conflating significant alarm by professionals about events in their field of expertise with hysteria. It’s perfectly reasonable to be alarmed when a tank full of chlorine trifluoride catches fire, that isn’t hysteria.
    Indeed, in the latter case, the best professional chemist available to review that substance strongly suggested good running shoes in case of a metallo-fluorine fire, given that chlorine trifluoride can strongly oxidize traditional fuels, concrete, asbestos, water and chemists working with it.

    Oh, I forgot, observing a logarithmic increase in the spread of a pathogen with a significant CFR is hysteria.
    So, prove the courage of your convictions. Go lick the nostril of every stranger you meet. You’ll at least then enjoy the same level of risk our eldest child is forced to live under while reusing PPE and the incumbent idiot in the Oaf Filled Office told all medical professionals in the land to wash paper fucking PPE.
    Substitute Offal Office, for those who prefer that term, both are quite accurate.

  22. garysturgess says

    I’d go one step further. Pretty much whenever anyone uses a phrase like “Numbers don’t lie” or “Numbers are universal” or the ur-example “It’s just mathematics!” is usually bad at math too.

    “Numbers don’t like”. Right. OK everybody, let’s finish this quote: “Lies, damn lies, and …”

  23. magistramarla says

    Oooh, goody! Reminds me of the days when PZ used to let us have more chew toys to play with here. I thought that they were all frightened away. I enjoyed watching all of you take this one down.
    I’m not a science person, but listening to my husband and reading this blog has taught me to be very skeptical about what I read or am told. It’s amazing how many times a day I see or hear things that are easy to tell are lies or damn lies.

  24. chigau (違う) says

    magistramarla
    I doubt that havequick will be back, there was no indication of staying power.

  25. captainjack says

    @ havequick
    I like to try new ideas the same way I like to try new food, but I know enough not to eat bullshit.

  26. captainjack says

    @wzrd1

    Now, let’s discuss something that seems to be estranged to you, reality. 33276, up from 16000 two days ago, the number of people ill with COVID-19. Currently, around 10% of COVID-19 patients require a ventilator to breathe and survive, not fully recover, as fibrosis is a well documented effect of the infection. Of that 10%, the majority are age 19 – 44, elders don’t make it that far and typically fail before the need of artificial ventilation is apparent.
    Current numbers still hover around 3.4% being the CFR for the virus.

    I’d like to pass this along. Is there a published source for the data? Thanks.

  27. Ridana says

    16) @ raven:
    Sorry, wrong David Katz. The Quidel guy (middle initial H) was 40 in 1983, while the idiot under discussion (middle initial L) was born in 1963, so would’ve only been 20. :) That someone tried to kill the elder Katz is also not indicative of the victim deserving it (even if he was “weird and unlikeable” or Cpt. Bligh himself, but facts not in evidence and all), especially as he was not the sole target.

    Now if the currently 77 year old David H. Katz had been the good doctor that havequick was depending on, he would at least have had some expertise in the field, as Quidel is a developer and supplier of monoclonal antibodies and diagnostic test kits, including currently working on tests for the C-45 virus.

  28. raven says

    Sorry, wrong David Katz.

    Thanks Captain Obvious.
    I figured that out 5 minutes after I wrote it and 5 hours ago when someone else pointed out that there are more than one Dr. David Katzs.

    as Quidel is a developer and supplier of monoclonal antibodies and diagnostic test kits, including currently working on tests for the C-45 virus.

    Captain Obvious strikes again.
    I knew some of the people who worked at Quidel in 1983 and saw the neurotoxin poisoning themselves.

    …he would at least have had some expertise in the field,

    Failure once again. Fallacy of Appeal to Authority.

    Since the San Diego David H. Katz turns out to be innocent and uninvolved here, I’m not going to say anything further negative about him.
    And in fact, I will apologize to him right now for confusing him with the current crackpot David L. Katz.

    San Diego Leader Tribune.
    Ex-pharmaceuticals exec spared jail time
    By ANGELICA MARTINEZ SEP. 11, 200712 AM
    SAN DIEGO – A Superior Court judge Tuesday spared a former pharmaceuticals executive from jail time for contempt of court, but warned that he could still be jailed if he badmouths his former employer again.

    David H. Katz, former chief executive of the former Lidak Pharmaceuticals, now named Avanir Pharmaceuticals, was ordered to pay $1,000 for each of 58 counts of contempt of court. The judge had cited him for contempt for violating his order not to disparage the company.
    and
    The longtime dispute dates back to 1998 when Katz was fired. Katz filed a lawsuit alleging the company’s new management damaged his reputation with defamatory statements.
    Avanir fought back and said Katz was a “toxic boss” who mismanaged the company and abused employees.

    Katz was fired from a company he himself started.
    Let’s just say he has had a turbulent history in the California medical biotech community.

  29. unclefrogy says

    here is a link to an article or report on the growth of this virus.
    there is as stated in the article some inaccuracies but bottom line seems to indicate possible hope and ultimate calamity at the same time such is the place we find ourselves in

    uncle frogy

    http://nrg.cs.ucl.ac.uk/mjh/covid19/

  30. chrislawson says

    LykeX —

    You know how it goes. If he says something stupid and a lot of people tell him so, that’s groupthink.

  31. says

    The title of this site is “freethoughtblogs.com” but apparently the free thought thing is out the window on this blog.
    DRINK!
    Apparently you didn’t read the whole article
    DRINK!
    But you’ll probably just take this comment down, too, in the interest of “filtering.”
    DRINK!
    This guy keeps commenting, and I might lose my liver…

  32. chigau (違う) says

    WMDKitty
    Earlier, I switched to spoons of yogurt because I needs my calcium.

  33. lochaber says

    try to pace yourself there, WMDKitty — Survivor, I’m sure as this situation gets worse, the idiocy will at least keep pace…

    It might be prudent to ration your stash, because I’m sure some of the upcoming idiocy is going to demand a few drinks just to process…

  34. lochaber says

    WMDKitty — Survivor>

    glad to hear that, and just make sure to take care of yourself.

    personally, I’m thinking on my next restocking outing, I might have to rule out my favorite of beer, and get some vodka and some sort of powdered mixer….

  35. KG says

    Thanks for the perfect example of groupthink. This blog is a presentation of opinions that exactly contradicts freethought. But whatever. – havequick@19

    Take a look at this thread, or this one, numpty. Then tell us again about the “groupthink” on this blog.

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