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I’ve now read Yascha’s piece on this, Nate Silver’s and Zayep’s. And the comments below.

I think there are reasonable ethical arguments why essential workers and healthcare workers should be prioritized and given vaccine earlier. I definitely think the Stanford residents have a point for example- they are taking on risk, have very little agency (much less than nurses for example), and make much less money/compensation (than nurses and attending physicians)—- but they do skew much younger than these other cohorts. Essential workers are similar. It’s like having a VA system-“to care for him who shall have borne the battle.”

What disturbs me is this conflation of “equity” among groups defined by skin color and historic grievances, and ethics. It seems reasonable enough to say we have an obligation to “reward the worker fior their toil,” but if motives here are “reparations through vaccination” than that has all of the ethical issues of reparations and has no place here.

All of this shows the dangers of what I hope will soon be called “late wokeness.” Intersectionality, critical theory, and the like are useful frameworks for examining how historic power imbalances among groups have influenced a situation; however, it’s not robust enough to be the only or the defining framework for any analysis. They are one side of a triangle and used alone it’s a becoming dagger into the heart of our civilization.

If our aim isn’t for a colorblind society, for a truly multicultural society, then what are we aiming for? If we no longer dream for a day when people are judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their characters, we have to replace it with something, and replacing it with “no wait let’s use the color of skin as a surrogate for who has been victimized the most” seems to me to only lead right back to hate, division, inequity, and despair. Despair most assuredly as in a world where the loudest victim wins, everyone will feel a pull to become a “victim” and for every interaction to escalate into a fight.

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There really are no good reasons to prioritise essential workers, especially when the category is defined so broadly as to include more than 25% of Americans in it. Older adults are massively more likely to die than younger essential workers. Thus beyond frontline health workers, it is obvious that older adults should have priority. The CDC agrees because their estimates show that giving the vaccine to essential workers first will cause many more deaths. They just don't care because they are infected by a very different virus.

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Also, if preventing hospitalization is the name of the game, then giving the vaccine to the people most likely to require hospitalization also makes the most sense. Healthy young people, with vanishingly rare exceptions, shrug this thing off.

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The name of the game is to prevent death, not hospitalization.

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That is a true statement, but in a system where hospitals are over capacity, higher hospitialization rate has caused more deaths. Not only from Covid, but from other illness that goes untreated due to covid precaution at hospitals.

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I know in Oregon “essential workers” included teachers, lawyers etc who were not working at the time and would not work for several months after the vaccine came out (and some basically went back at about the same time as everyone else). It looked a little bit to me that essential work was synonymous with Democrat donor.

That said, I do agree that some level of essential worker rule might have been wise. Dr. Nurse EMT, others who might interact and spread the disease.

Also, as I recall ( please someone point

Out of if I am wrong… I’m not one those COVID historians so I may misremember). But at the time I thought the vaccine was more about reducing spread of the disease not the severity. Again, as I recall, the severity argument arose after it became apparent that the vaccine was not as effective as advertised at reducing spread.

If this is true it would make the argument for vaccinating people like to spread the disease more effective.

Long story short…at least in Oregon the idea of essential work let was kind of a farce because so many essential workers were not working (making the entire essential argument kind of odd).

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92% of all deaths from COVID in the US have been among people 55+, and 86% of Black and Hispanic deaths fro COVID in the US have been among people 55+ . . . there is no reasonable ethical argument for prioritizing essential workers under 55

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I’m not saying that the other arguments are good or correct, but they exist.

For example... assuming you are social distancing, avoiding crowds, etc... your chance of getting the virus is low. A 68 yo mask-denying Stop the Steal rally attendee had a choice about the risks they took that caused them to get the virus... the 48 yo working the checkout counter at Publix had much less of a choice.

I agree that none of that should matter but this sort of moral desert argument has long had a place in our resource allocation schemes in this country, so clearly plenty see this as a reasonable argument (work requirements for welfare, the VA system, healthcare quality metrics and tobacco penalities, safe driver discounts).

There’s also a whole argument about “quality adjusted life years” which is a big concept in global medicine and surgery and argues for using scarce resources to treat conditions related to trauma and that affect pediatric populations.

This is a nice post from the BMJ blog outlining all of the other considerations that may be relevant:

https://blogs.bmj.com/medical-ethics/2020/11/11/vaccine-distribution-ethics-monotheism-or-polytheism/

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I do agree that QALY (quality adjusted life years) would be a great way to allocate vaccines, but we would have needed to start that analytical work months ago in order to implement it now. As for the argument that the elderly could socially distance, my concerns are that (i) many of the the most vulnerable adults 55+ (e.g., middle and lower income 55+ people of color in multi-generational households) can't isolate; and (ii) public health policies based on people perfectly following guidance often fail . . . back in the 80s and 90s we were told HIV could be stopped in the gay community if everyone would "just" use condoms or abstain from sex . . . that didn't work. And right now, we're seeing that even our political and public health leaders are struggling to follow their own social distancing guidelines.

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Well that plus the observation that the US, by charter, rejects the QALY allocation.

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It isn't a moral desert decision, but a moral desert within which one could make a decision based on science, or a decision based on racism. The latter was chosen and the corresponding (and confounding to the stated goal) outcome was manifested.

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In my darker moments, I think that most people don't want race to disappear. They don't know what else to base their identities on.

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Not even close to most, but certainly enough to provoke the question.

What if it turned out that Western Civilization wasn't a tyrannical malign racist sexist patriarchy, but instead a relatively benign liberal humanistic civilization?

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I do not see how residents have less agency than nurses. What choices do nurses have if they are told to work without adequate PPE or if covid positive by asymptomatic? They can quit - is that their agency? Nurses are the most front line of front line workers and they are being abused by hospital administrations and put into untenable situations sometimes without adequate training. Unlike residents nurses spend their whole shifts very close to their patients. I would say that the fact that they may make a bit more money than residents (who will ultimately make much more than the nurses do) is not an excuse to vaccinate residents before nurses.

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Having the ability to quit is the definition of agency.

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Yes. That they can quit is their agency.

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founding

I agree with a number of the criticisms offered respecting Yascha's article but I think it's worth pausing for a moment to recognize the thanks we all owe him as founder of Persuasion. The comments made in their totality comprise precisely the kind of civilized debate that Persuasion aims at. I could not be more grateful to him.

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The problem with the article is not the personality of the author. The problem is that the conclusions (i.e., that CDC sacrificed lives on the altar of diversity) are not justified by facts, as many commenters here (Jeremy and others) persuasively show. CDC was making a difficult decision using their rules and processes. Was it a wrong decision? Maybe. Is it wrong enough for anyone to "lose faith in institutions?" Only if one makes additional assumptions that are not self-evident.

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They are justified by facts as the rationale offered by CDC for this proposed policy was on the grounds of "racial equity" and "diversity". They acknowledged that this policy would lead to thousands of additional deaths, but they didn't care. Their ideology was more important to them. It is not this one decision that makes him lose faith in Institutions. I think that was clear from the way he made this argument? The woke ideology and its influence on the functioning of key institutions in USA (media, universities, cultural institutions and sometimes government) makes him lose faith. This CDC decision is a perfect illustration of how woke ideology corrupts public policy.

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We didn’t need this snafu to lose faith in the CDC. Already in this pandemic they failed to alert the public to the risk of COVID until it was too late, failed to enact competent policies to arrest the spread of the virus, failed to create a functional test at the most critical stage of the virus’s spread (where countries all over the world succeeded), and recommend AGAINST wearing masks early on (an intentional lie as far as I can tell). And yet they still refer to themselves as the world’s leading public health agency!

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This is just the point the OP was making - here is a forum where you express your disagreement and your reasoning, where people can read and consider your opinion and others, where people can share their own opinions. In other words, a variety of views are presented rationally and in good faith. As Mr. Frank says, this is a public good, and I’m grateful for the effort Yascha Mounk has put into this endeavor.

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> Maybe. Is it wrong enough for anyone to "lose faith in institutions?" Only if one makes additional assumptions that are not self-evident.

This itself is an assumption, ironically.

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Did the scientific analysis of the benefits of immunizing different groups incorporate the risk of infection, as well as the risk of death or serious illness if infected? The frontline essential workers group, while less likely to become seriously ill or die if infected, seem more likely per capita to become infected; and are likely more important as sources of subsequent transmission than the elderly (which is why nursing home residents -- closely packed and unable to isolate -- were in the first tier). You analysis seems to be limited only to risk of illness if COVID is acquired, but not to include primary risk of acquisition and subsequent transmission risk. We don't know if, or to what degree, the vaccines prevent transmission; so that's hard to assess right now, though the data is on the way.

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author

It does.

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Concerning net impact on eventual deaths from preventing transmission, Yascha links to Zeynep Tufecki's article, which in turn cites and links to this study:

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.09.08.20190629v2.full.pdf

That study concludes that net deaths are reduced most by prioritizing populations, such as the eldery, with higher case fatality rates, under current circumstances.

There are still other avenues to consider, and I, too, am sensitive to attacking anything but the strongest version of an argument. Additional support for Yascha's targeting this racial equity argument is that the this is the reasoning the panel itself provided--reasoning based on 10% vs 15% racial minority inclusion in different groups of populations by age.

There are yet more considerations, such as years of healthy life ahead, economic impacts the value of returning to "normal" life faster, and more. Nonetheless, forecasting deaths ought to be a central concern, and the outcome the panel featured when considering the ethics of the situation. It is astonishing they came to the conclusion they did, on the basis they did.

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When it comes to economic considerations and the "value of returning to normal life faster", vaccinating the elderly first wins hands down.

The entire reason that the economy is shut down is that seniors are dying at such huge rates that the hospitals face collapse. The only way to get the economy back to normal is to keep the seniors from dying at these huge rates, and the fastest way to do that is to vaccinate them. The faster you vaccinate them, the faster the economy will get back to normal.

Since there are 329 million people in the country and only about 56 million seniors over 65, you'd get the economy back to normal very quickly if you simply vaccinate the seniors first. It's so obvious. It would take a very long time to vaccinate a critical mass of the rest of the country even if everyone were eager to be vaccinated, but many of the young workers don't want to be vaccinated. And that makes sense, because the risk/benefit ratio of the vaccine is not as favorable for them. It is, after all, a new technology, minimally tested and comes with hefty adverse reactions. The elderly are a much smaller group and the risk/benefit of the vaccine is far more favorable for the elderly.

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Although I agree with your overall statement, the vaccine has so far very low risk for serious adverse rxns (fatigue being the most likely rxn), is not that new since these types of vaccines have been in the works for more than 10 years, and are generally well understood regarding safety (yes some very rare rxns do occur but any medical procedure has risks).

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While the technology has been developed over a decade or so, this is the /first/ approved and widely distributed vaccine based on that platform. That does, in fact, qualify as "new" in medicine. In addition, while the near-term data is quite positive, we cannot make statements about its long-term safety with any confidence (or ethics). Any claims regarding long-term safety are simply lies... because the data doesn't physically exist.

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Quite right. It is the biggest human trial in history. I suspect that they will get away with it due to the dramatically pernicious characteristics of the virus.

Even if people die, and die horribly from the vaccine, they would have to do so in staggering numbers to overwhelm the utilitarian potential of the vaccine.

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I'd be skeptical of modeling studies period; they're more hypothesis-generating tools than actual data; and even more skeptical of unreviewed modeling studies on an archive server. That being said, in the time-pressure of a public health emergency modeling studies are what you've got to work with; it's merely wise to have some humility about the strength of the conclusions they support.

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Models are do not generate hypothesis, they are the expressions of validated hypothesis.

Neither are models data, or were they ever claimed to be data.

Neither is data useful absent some downstream operation.

Models make data useful. The most useful models do this by predicting the future better than random chance or the 'best guess' of humans.

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Good luck validating quantitative hypotheses concerning the impact of a novel, uncharacterized vaccine for an unprecedented pandemic. I stand my my comment.

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I have none to validate. You have made the error of conflating observation with advocation.

You are free to stand by your position. You are in no way immune from scrutiny when so doing

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> Models are do not generate hypothesis, they are the expressions of validated hypothesis.

Is this to say that the expressions are both true and not at all misinformative?

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It all boils down to which strategy prevent the most deaths (which are predominantly affecting the elderly). All the rest is woke BS.

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While I sympathize with the thrust of your argument here in that any calculation should be color blind, I do think there should also be some value attached to the amount of life saved rather than just looking at the number of deaths.

For example, is saving the life of an 85 year old with a heart condition and a life expectancy of 2 years worth the same as saving the life of a 30 year old with a life expectancy of 60 years? Or is the thirty year old's life worth 30 times as much or, given the relative qualities of life at 30 and 80, even more? What about a forty year old mother with two young kids whose death would have a huge impact on the kids?

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This depends entirely if the question of the worth of a human being is to be measured in whole or by priority based on economic impact.

Certainly, there are very, very large cohorts of the disabled who are young, and will be a net loss to the economy. Why not euthanize them?

In Western Civilization, a foundational principle is the sanctity of the individual. Natural Rights and Duties arise from this. The legal rights expressed by nations overwhelmingly reflect this.

I get that there is an insurgent position that inverts this, and ascribes worth and value at the level of categorical group, but this is not likely to win out over the long term, due to the catastrophic effects upon the whole of WC that would be required to manifest it.

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The vaccines do not prevent transmission at all, unfortunately.

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I also wondered this as I was reading. The first proposal seems straightforwardly terrible when the social justice branding is peeled away, so I think his questioning of broader institutions implications still follows.

But I know the various modelers have differed in terms of their projections based on spread over time. As Sheldon notes, if spread can be mitigated in reliable models based on frontline workers receiving the vaccine, perhaps the overall transmissibility rate would fall sufficiently such that less people would die overall? What confidence interval do we have either way? I guess I would want to know this before forming a more firm judgment on the second CDC plan of action.

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The issue isn't that science is continuing to change as the virus is studied, it is that people were chosen for death based on skin color. This makes the question whether there is an emergent science-based reason to make the same decision irrelevant.

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Interesting, this mirrors the World War II debate about whether scarce penicillin supplies should be used to treat troops wounded “on the battlefield or in the bordello.” After discussion it was decided to prioritise soldiers with venereal disease, who after a short course of antibiotics, could return to the battlefield, over the wounded, who required prolonged treatment. A decision based on military utility proved correct allowing allied forces to be reenforced at a key period of the war.

We are now in an analogous situation, a vitally important medical available in limited quantities. If we use the same logic, prioritizing maintaining and reenforcing our front line, it makes sense to allocate them to the people vital to maintaining society, medical personal, emergency services, military and transportation etc. Secondly would be those most vulnerable, the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions / disabilities and Aboriginal people, lastly young to middle aged people in good health in non-vital occupations (which includes me).

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This is a really interesting and relevant analogy.

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The analogy doesnt apply as all these functions have been maintained without the vaccine until now. The justification of the lockdown was the high death toll among the elderly. It makes sense to vaccinate them first as then we can open up more quickly and safely.

By this time it quite possible most 'essential workers', however you define the term, have already been exposed to virus already could already have immunity and the most vunerable have suffered the the most severe symptoms or died already. So, its pointless to give the vaccine to them anyway.

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Again an insistence on only looking at the "high death toll amongst the elderly". No, this is categorically NOT "THE" justification for the lockdown. It was one of many, the other key ones being flattening the curve to ease the burden on the healthcare system (repeated countless times by practically every public health official), and yes, the toll (death and otherwise) on everyone else in addition to the elderly.

This fetishization of "death amongst the elderly" to the exclusion of all the other complex factors involved, is a reflection of a Taliban-like adherence to anti-Woke ideology.

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Why do you think they had to "flatten the curve"? It was precisely because of the number of people who were hospitalized and in the ICU. And these hospitalized patients who threatened to overwhelm the hospital system were predominantly seniors. The "high death toll among the elderly" was largely responsible for the high death toll. Vaccinate the elderly quickly, and you eliminate the need for the lockdown.

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"Fetishization" is Wokespeak. How about speaking English.

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The terms you used elsewhere ("virtue-signalling" and "Red-pilling") are from the anti-Woke Taliban. How about speaking English?

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So if you disagree with the woke movement, you are "Taliban"? And if you prioritize reducing death among the elderly, you are "fetishizing" it? Your use of language to stigmatize anybody who disagrees with you demonstrates what "wokeness" is all about.

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This is a genuine question as I am new to this forum, but is “anti-Woke Taliban” really a thing? I’ve only recently emerged from my cocoon of middleness to try to get familiar with these “woke” and “non-woke” discussions and I’m finding the terminology difficult to parse.

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There is a difference between being "woke" and being "awake" You can be a follower of the "woke" movement, yet not be "awake". You can also be awake, alert, and independent-minded, but then you would not be "woke". Given a choice, I think it is better to be generally awake if at all possible, rather than a "woke" person, trying to follow the newest hip trend among college students. It's like how young women wear hot pants everywhere they go now, instead of jeans. That's what being "woke" is like. It's like "I have to wear yoga pants to church now" cause I'm woke.

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What’s vitally important about a vaccination to prevent SARS-CoV2? Among symptomatic patients, the deaths track closely to normal life expectancy, and proper treatment leads to recovery in all but a fraction of one per cent of sufferers. People in good health are highly unlikely to experience symptoms, even after exposure. And no one knows how many persons have contracted the virus, because the primary test used is flawed beyond reason.

Early treatment measures worked against the patients, because the attack of the virus on heme in the blood cannot be mitigated by increasing pressure and oxygen concentration in the lungs, but excessive pressure causes the alveoli to lose the ability to expel carbon dioxide. Proven measures to fight viral infection were repudiated by the CDC.

It has been many years since the public health establishment earned its keep.

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founding

I completely agree with your analysis. I also think that we actually need to start saying (<=invisible italics) not just that such decisions are wrong, but that they are unethical and immoral. Admittedly, you strongly imply this. I just think saying it would be more persuasive, largely because that would help give others permission to say that. This is all about social pressure.

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When you throw away your moral yardstick, there is nothing left to help you determine wrong from right. It is tragic, but hardly surprising that society as a whole has lost the ability to determine what is the morally better path. We are now in the third generation of moral relativism. 'What's right is what seems right at the moment based on how I feel'. They make bad decisions for political rather than moral reasons, while we object that they have lost the concept of right and wrong. The problem is that we are operating from different starting points. We don't have the same assumptions. Unable to agree on a common ground for debate, the two sides degenerate into insults and hatred. Unless and until we agree on a common moral framework, the problem will persist, and continue to worsen.

This is what happens when you kick God out of the public forum. A moral standard has to come from outside; otherwise morality becomes the prerogative of the powerful, and no-one can argue because there is no ground for critiquing decisions. We are nearly there - the point where expediency suffices for overruling moral objection. It won't be long before society collapses altogether into intractable factions seeking to conquer each other.

I could weep.

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I get this POV, and sympathize, but couldn’t disagree more strongly. If only our moral decisions were so easy! Fact is, while religion can set a moral yardstick, it’s not very difficult for people to manipulate the words of the bible, talmud, quran and so on to their own ends. The examples of this are many, from justifying slavery, to witch hunts, to inquisitions. And religion has the added downside of entrenching historically bad ideas, like a “woman’s place”, the sin of homosexuality, how long will Jews have the blood of Christ on their hands?

No, we can and should work out morality ourselves, iteratively, and adapt and adjust to new obstacles as they arrise. One of the best criticisms of the current social justice movement is that it is becoming a new religion, with its own dogmas and blasphemies, and over reliance on authority and shame in place of persuasion.

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Your complaint about the abuses is well-taken, but the abuse of something does not invalidate it. As far as the historically bad ideas, I would suggest you take another look at the text. While the text explicitly condemns homosexuality, the "woman's place" and Jews having the blood of Christ on their hands are misuses of the text. Proverbs 31 very specifically empowers women, and the only ones who put the blood of Christ on the Jews' hands in the Bible were the Jews themselves.

The problem with each person working out morality for themselves is that it leads us exactly back to where we are, with so many differing and incompatible sets of values that consensus is impossible.

We have to have moral tools to evaluate decisions, and I strongly encourage everybody to read the actual text to determine for themselves what God is saying.

There is sufficient evidence that Biblical Christianity is true, but most people refuse even to examine it. This is key, because if the Bible is the truth, then it is a starting point for discussion and consensus, regardless of our emotional state at the time. There are things in the Bible that I don't particularly like, but have to accept because I know that they are true - that is, they correspond with reality. Basing moral frameworks on individual conceptions of reality leads to chaos, because they don't correspond to the actual chain of things and events that constitute the world we share.

The idea that all religions are equally true is logically impossible, because they contradict each other. They may all be equally false, but they cannot all be equally true. Jesus cannot be God and not-God at the same time.

Relative morality runs into the same kinds of problems. What is the definition of racism? There are several contradictory versions, yet people are unwilling to even open the topic for discussion.

A very strong secondary problem is that people will not civilly discuss topics. They prefer to rage at each other and spew hate. Now more than ever we need a common ground for discussion that matches reality. Then maybe we can start to calm the outraged tempers.

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founding

Arty, I wonder if you could expand on what you mean by "A moral standard has to come from outside" and whether that "outside" must always be based on religious faith.

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In order to decide if an act is good or evil, there must be an external standard against which to measure it and some means to compel our obedience. The standard must be external because it is common to all of humanity. It cannot, therefore come from within any group of people. On a materialistic or atheistic view, a common morality must arise out of nothing and for no purpose. It cannot be instinct because it usually contradicts our instincts. It cannot evolve because there is no force to cause it to evolve into existence. Altruism is self-defeating at an individual level, the level of the breeder. The strong survive, so an evolved code of morality would look very different than that which we have.

The standard we have is what we call the moral law. We can recognize this by the fact that it is common to all of humanity and by our conscience, which tries to compel us to follow it.

There is a moral law, so there must be a source for that moral law that is outside of humanity. The only source for a standard outside of humanity is God.

The basic tenets of the moral law are common to all of humanity. Many people think that this isn’t true, that there have been a wide variety of moral codes throughout history. A closer look at them will reveal that, while they differ in details, they are substantially the same in essence. All cultures, for example, have prohibited killing, except under specific conditions. Where they vary from each other is in defining those conditions. It is easy to recognize that there is a common moral law. None of the codes have conflicted with the Bible in essence, just in details. If you follow the two greatest Biblical commandments, to love God with all of your heart soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself, you will find that you meet the moral requirements of all major societies throughout history. The only challenge you would encounter would be fact that the God you love would not be theirs.

There must be also be a reason to follow it. Philosophy has established that the imperative is categorical. This means that there is no way of moving logically from the fact that doing something would be better to actually requiring you to do it. It is the answer to the question: “Why should I?” Obedience to a moral imperative can only stem from obedience to a person that says, “You must.”

As an example, there is no way to get from the fact that someone must be willing to risk death to help defend our city against an attack to morally compelling someone to do so. A man may choose to obey the call or he may not, but there is nothing inherent in the facts that can compel his action. He may feel a duty to his fellow citizens, but where does that sense of duty come from? It can’t come from them. It can’t be an instinct, because his instincts all say different things. The drive to obey moral demands is imprinted on our very nature; we are designed to obey them just as we are designed to obey our conscience. Both stem from the same source – obedience to God. God’s law is stamped on us and, try as we might, we cannot rid ourselves of its demands.

That is why we work so hard as a society to get away from God and pretend that the moral law doesn't exist.

Please note that I do not use the word 'faith', as that implies that I can believe or not, as I choose. I am speaking in terms of realities that were universally (more or less) recognized for thousands of years. Societies that abandoned their religion dissolved into chaos within relatively short periods of time. Society can be made to function in the absence of actual belief, provided that the the majority acted in the main as though they did. 18th century England is an example. People observed the forms and followed the norms, which held society together.

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founding

Dear Art, Thanks for your reply. If I understand you (and Ed Tuttle as well), you believe that (i) any attempt by mankind to create his own sense of what is right and wrong, the moral law, is doomed to failure because mankind's deeply flawed nature requires that the source of such law come from outside himself and (ii). that source can only be God because only God is external to humanity. I see things differently. There is no denying the strength of mankind's worst instincts; we see them at work everyday. But we also see something else; tremendous acts of sacrifice and goodness amounting to heroism. One need only think of the million or so healthcare workers so deserving of all the praise they receive. I would submit that many of those workers act out of a compassion that is an essential part of their nature and has nothing to do with whether or not they believe in God; I'm assuming that there are at least a few atheists or agnostics among them.

You assert that the moral law is based on two fundamental precepts that are completely consistent with fundamental Biblical commandments: to love God

with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. But loving God or your neighbor is not the same as trying to figure out what God's law requires. For you, it may be clear cut, not so for others. Humanity for the longest time saw nothing wrong with slavery or with torture as a means of gathering evidence. Both practices are now abhorred. I would submit that those changes are not the result of a sudden revelation of what God's law requires but rather by what we, as human beings, began to see, in recognition of our common humanity, was acceptable. So in my view, the moral law -- the system by which we define what is right and wrong -- does progress not by something external to ourselves but by what the unfolding of history and those good human instincts see as fundamental to upholding human dignity.

Even for a non-believer, Jesus's teachings are remarkable. He asks you to love your enemy. What an extraordinary concept. I would suggest that such an admonition is not part of the moral law, as you define it, with your emphasis on obedience and constraining man's worst instincts. Rather, I think in this teaching and others, he is asking people to reach for something deep within themselves and, at least to me, that teaching implies that he was willing to leave to humanity itself the difficult task of defining what it means to be human and what justice, i.e. the moral law, requires.

Thanks again for your very thoughtful answer to my query.

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Walter,

Thank you for your considered reply.

I see that I was unclear. I am not advocating total depravity, nor that morality can only be discerned by direct revelation. I intended to say that morality comes from outside, even if we don't realize it. The law of God is stamped on the human heart, and as we mature as people, we follow it more readily.

There are truly many, many selfless and heroic people, a substantial portion of whom are non-believers. It is clear that you don't have to believe in God to be good, but it makes it considerably easier if you have a consistent standard of good and evil to work from that isn't based on how you feel. This is especially true in unclear or 'gray' situations.

Non-believers abandon or adjust their morality pretty freely (as do many believers, but they ought to know better). Expediency is the most common reason. Is it right to torture one man to get information that will save 100? At what point is life considered to be sacred? Where do my rights end and yours begin? These kinds of questions are a lot easier to handle if there is someone to whom we are responsible. Otherwise, it is a question of negotiating sovereignty in a constantly changing environment.

I agree that God is asking us to grow as people, but He has also equipped us to do so - we are provided a conscience. As long as I am seeking God, my conscience - my moral compass - will point to what is good. If not, it usually points back at myself. Of course, even the best of people can discern morality only dimly, as through a distorted mirror. The worst of people cannot see it at all - only a reflection of themselves.

Most people who advocate torture or slavery, or even those who have had to learn to hurt people for their own good, like doctors, had to overcome something in themselves that was resistant. Have you ever encountered people that kill for a living? I work with military pilots, and the attack pilots all start out fairly normal. As they progress through combat operations, they change. It warps them and sears their consciences until they are badly damaged. Most are alcoholic. Very few are like normal people. There are, of course those who started out so badly broken that their moral compass is non-functional; they succeed with few issues. There is that within us that resists killing and evil. This cannot be instinctive or evolved, because that resistance weakens us in terms of survival of the fittest.

Jesus' teachings are indeed remarkable. He tells us to love our enemies, but also to be intolerant of sin, the definitions of which cover civil as well as religious relationships. Both the old and New Testaments are full of examples of and demands for justice. I think a closer examination of the text will show that morality and justice are fairly clearly laid out, but I think you are correct in that we are called to discover how to apply the principles in our daily lives.

His teachings are, for the most part, the 'next step' in the progression of humanity's growth from savage to civilized - He didn't change the "what", only the "why". Morality in the Old Testament was clear, but retributive. People were expected to obey for fear of the consequences, whether temporal or eternal. Jesus maintained the moral code, but changed the motivation for following it from fear to love and respect.

Thank you for your comments. I always enjoy a respectful and thoughtful discussion.

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founding

Dear Arty, I was struck particularly by two statements in your reply:

"As long as I am seeking God, my conscience - my moral compass - will point to what is good."

"At what point is life considered to be sacred? Where do my rights end and yours begin? These kinds of questions are a lot easier to handle if there is someone to whom we are responsible. Otherwise, it is a question of negotiating sovereignty in a constantly changing environment."

These quotes, taken together, suggested to me where are most fundamental disagreements may lie. I believe, for example, that two individuals may be equally sincere in seeking God and still differ in particular cases about what constitutes the good. Your second quote suggests to me that you believe that those who come to conclusions different from those that you think are very clear are guilty of "negotiating sovereignty" rather than fulfilling the clear moral law. In other words, they may be seeking God, in your view, but ultimately willing to ignore his law, if they think other things are at stake.

All this leads me to believe that we might differ most fundamentally in how clearly God has spelt out his moral law I suspect for you God's law is quite clear and easily applied once one is willing to accede to God's sovereignty. For me, God's law is more indeterminate and God has ultimately left it for man to work out, as he seems to have for pretty much everything.

Again, thanks for your additional comments. They were quite helpful to me in better understanding your point of view and forcing me to consider more carefully my own. Exactly what a good conversation is supposed to do.

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Walter,

I see again that I have been somewhat unclear - at least in part. For thins I apologize. I greatly appreciate that you have given me your insights and the opportunity to restate my thoughts.

The examples I chose were open-ended with no clear resolution in conventional morality. My intent was that these questions become easier to resolve if I accept the sovereignty of God. I can then refer to Scripture or, when Scripture is unclear or silent on an issue, ask myself to think how a loving but just God would want me to act in those situations. By no means do I think that my answers are the only correct answers. In every case, I would request that the other person detail their reasoning to determine why they came to the conclusions they did. We might then agree to disagree. Nobody needs to justify anything to me - only to God.

Of course, there are some non-negotiables. They are laid out in Scripture or the local statutes. Generally, the most conservative approach should apply: if I am questioning whether I should do something, I probably shouldn't.

There are also many problems with more than one solution. Those are the ones that can be tricky. Deciding what to do is then based on my understanding of God's character, nature and intentions for my life as well as the other lives affected by the situation. I am not suggesting that those who disagree with my approach are guilty before God, although I can now see how you might read it that way. In the end, everyone has to answer to God for what they do and why. It would be arrogant presumption for me dictate rules for uncertain situations, although I believe there are far fewer of those than most people think. Most people have a tendency to evade even the traditional moral code when it is inconvenient and look for gray areas to get what they want.

My comment about negotiating sovereignty refers to what two individuals have to do to resolve issue between them if they cannot agree on a higher law to which they can refer to resolve the issue. This would mostly happen in situations where the conventional moral code (or local statute ) is unclear, or when the two follow different moral codes. This situation is happening more frequently in the United States as a significant portion of the population have rejected Christian rules in favor of less-restrictive codes.

I do see that you seem to be somewhat of a Deist in some of your thinking - God set things up and sat back to let it run, not interfering, expecting us to figure it out as we go. (Please don't take this as an attack - just an observation).

The Bible views God differently. I would invite you to consider Matthew 6:25-34 which discusses how we God will provide for us because we are worth more than the flowers of the field, and Matthew 10:29-31 which indicates that we are worth many sparrows. There are other texts, but those are two of the best-known. I think that God is very much in love with this small world and deeply interested in every part of it. There is evidence to suggest that God hand-crafts every person and that He follows every person's life from beginning to end. He seems to be like an obsessive model-maker whose whole focus is in the model (at least for the present).

I recognize that both of those observations open questions and potential problems, but I believe that they can be supported.

You have also forced me to more closely examine my thinking, as well as be more careful with how I express things. This is always good. Thank you.

Have a happy New Year!

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I have been thinking a great deal about this very subject. There are a couple of conclusions I have come to.

First, the idea that mankind is basically good, and perfectible is greatly flawed. A child comes into the world extremely selfish, concerned solely about having its own needs met. To allow that child no form of direction or discipline is known as "spoiling" that child. And the direction and discipline must come from outside the child, not from within. We never outgrow the need for an externally based moral compass.

Second, the problem with thinking that each person's thoughts and morals are their own standard is to declare those morals to be perfect. A standard is, by definition, perfect. When a person encounters that which truly is perfect (God's moral law) they must choose between accepting it and yielding to it, or ignoring it and trying to continue on their own path. However, once that person has encountered that which truly is perfect, they are always haunted by the fact that their "standard" is no longer what they thought it was. Sooner or later they must yield to the perfect standard, or try to destroy it. This is why humanist and atheistic systems are always threatened by religion.

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Well put. I may steal that.

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The woke have kicked god out of the public forum, invented a new one, and are attempting to build a theocracy using it. There is no common ground any longer, its time for war.

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I don't see it that way.

Remember that as Christians, our hope is not in the things of this world. Our hope is for the life everlasting. Our responsibility is to represent Jesus here.

How would Jesus respond?

Jesus told the disciples to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." That includes a great many more things than simply paying the tax. We are to support and obey the government. "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." (Romans 13:1). Remember too that Jesus and Paul said these things under Roman rule, when it was death to proclaim any religion other than as sanctioned by the state. There was no common ground then, either.

Should we work for justice? Absolutely.

Should we use every legal mechanism available in the pursuit of justice? Definitely.

Should we defend the state against those seeking to overthrow it? Yes, as directed by the state itself. Rebellion against established authority is nowhere in Scripture.

Violence against others simply because they believe differently and seek to put their god in the place of God is nowhere in Scripture. God will see that things work out the way He sees that they need to. Vengeance is certainly off the table - that belongs to God. (Leviticus 19:18, Romans 12:19, Proverbs 20:22)

So how would Jesus respond?

Remember the parable of the centurion's servant? The centurion, approximately the equivalent of a sergeant-major in the Roman army that was an occupying army quartered in the town He was in asked Him to heal his servant. How did Jesus respond? He responded to the man, not the occupation. Jesus considered the government irrelevant to the principles He told us to live by.

Have we prayed for the nation? He would.

Have we prayed for our enemies? He told us to.

Have we asked God to intervene for justice? We are told to several times.

We can't rely on God in the good times, then abandon His principles in His name in times of trouble. This is the kind of hypocrisy that people railed against with all of the crusades (except the first, which truly was to relieve the siege on the eastern empire).

Consider Paul. He directed obedience to the government, and he was living under Nero, who burned Christians alive to light his dinner party.

Our responsibility as Christians is to work within the scope God has provided for us and not respond to those around us in anger and hatred.

Remember the greatest commandments: Love God and love your neighbor. We need to ask ourselves whether we are acting in love. Not mushy love, but love that will make hard decisions and stick by them. This includes rebuking those who refuse to live by God's laws and removing them from our churches. (1 Timothy 5:20, Matthew 18:15-17). The problem here is that many people want to rebel against the government but let stubborn sinners stay in fellowship in their sin. As a people, we have forgotten the little picture, which we are directed to manage, for the big picture, which we are told is God's problem.

This is a very unpopular position, but I think it is the only one that can be supported by God's word.

I am not misusing God's word to defend personal cowardice - I am trying to act according to the Light God has given us in His word. I served in the Army and have seen combat - it doesn't scare me particularly. If there is a split, and the true government calls me to act in its defense, I will. I won't go looking for a fight.

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What is the purpose of this war you advocate? How does war (literal or figurative) create common ground? How does it bring God back into the public forum?

I can’t help but think that the reason we are having trouble finding common ground is that we’ve stopped looking for it. We shouldn’t go to “war” of any kind against our countrymen, regardless of “tribe”. We should go to peace harder than ever, knowing there is common ground, and praying that we will recognize it when we see it.

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Ah, bring back Santa and it will solve all things. Gotcha.

You should weep.

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Which speaks to my original point. Civil discourse has broken down into antagonism and name-calling.

I have found that following God does, indeed solve most things.

For the 10,000 years or so of history, men have known the existence of a god or gods, and the necessity of following them. Are you suggesting that ours is the first era to think clearly about the eternal questions?

I respect that you disagree with my point of view and would appreciate it if you would expand your comment.

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Suppose an Aristotelian-Thomistic-ish synthesis tells us about our good in such a way that the Euthyphro Dilemma is solved: whether or not God is the ultimate ground of goodness, it's necessary to to use our reason to discover what's 'the good for man.'

(Aquinas was not a voluntarist about God's ethical commands, although if I understand him right he thought God was necessary [not sufficient in itself] for there to be binding obligation. In Aristotle's case he has a conception of the good and how to attain it that looks like a very strong guide to right living that doesn't presuppose a commitment to claims of religion. While the vast majority of mankind is *supposedly* too fallen to learn ethical dictates through reason and to adhere to them, that doesn't seem to be an issue in the case of an Aristotle. As for being able to discern the good for humans, a needs hierarchy along lines like Maslow's appears quite plausible; on a naturalistic conception of the good every instance of good seems to be an instance of needs-fulfillment (as distinct from *wants*-satisfaction). At the apex of the hierarchy, self-actualization (eudaimonia), moral cognition is part of that.)

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Chris,

I see your point, but there are a few issues with it.

The definition of what's good for man changes when you put God into the mix. God is dealing with men in the long term. His good starts at birth and culminates after death. He is generally looking at the near term - say, the first 10,000 years or so. His intent for us is to reject evil and choose Him. With that choice, we remain with Him for eternity, as we were designed to do. The best that men can determine is that the "good" roughly equates to 'the greatest good for the greatest number for the greatest time'. This is REALLY hard to pin down. God's version of good is not like ours. For one thing, He knows how we are ACTUALLY designed and what will REALLY make us happy - happy in the sense of fulfilled contentment rather than in the "yippee!" sense.

Right living with other people is not the whole of right living - only part of it. Needs-fulfillment leads to domination of the strongest, not altruism (in general) as there are more sinners than saints in the world. The societies that have remained stable import their morals from religion. Those that reject religion have a much harder time keeping society intact. Witness the fact that in the 1990s Russia invited the Orthodox Church to help their Ministry of Education add morality back into their education system. They realized that human moral systems are insufficient to the task of keeping society from going off the rails, let alone for individual morality. It is only in stable, fairly wealthy societies that philosophy attacks God.

Aquinas did indeed believe God was necessary to provide the "why" as well as the "what". I don't recall that Aristotle ever provided a coherent answer to the obligation to right living other that "you ought to do so", but, to be fair, it has been many years since I looked at him, so I might be misremembering. Maslow's hierarchy requires an obligation - "why should I behave morally?" If I recall correctly, he assumes that people somehow grow into it. One need only look at history to call that into question. The people who have all of their other needs fulfilled tend to turn to immorality and self-indulgence rather than altruism (except for tax avoidance).

Thank you for your considered opinion.

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Arty, thanks for your thoughtful comments. How are we to know which gods to follow and judge whether or not this/these gods are good?

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An excellent question, Patrick.

I would recommend you start by looking at the various religious systems. Any religious system has to answer several questions.

Where did I come from?

Where am I going to?

Why is there good and evil?

What is my purpose in life?

It also has to explain the existence of the universe.

Evaluate the systems based on how they answer those questions.

Second, the system must be true, which is to say that in all areas that can be tested, it must conform to and explain the objective reality we all share.

Third, it must be internally self-consistent, to the extent that we can understand eternal things.

Fourth, there must be some authentication from outside humanity - some way that the God it propounds shows that He has real existence and visibly supports it.

It is important to have a truly open mind during this investigation. Many people claim to have an open mind but exclude miracles as impossible without examining the evidence.

Of the religious systems I have studied (many, but by no means all), only Biblical Christianity meets all of the criteria. By Biblical Christianity, I mean that laid out in the 66-book Bible, not the additions and extrapolations that ALL denominations have added to it.

God gave us minds to use, and we should use them to determine the truth of His claims. Be aware, though, that there are not 'many roads to God'. Contradictory views of God cannot both be true. Jesus cannot be God and not-God at the same time and in the same sense.

There are several excellent books I would recommend to someone who wants to evaluate the evidence supporting Christianity. One was written by a reporter and the other by a lawyer. Both started out seeking to disprove the Bible. Both became believers instead. One is "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel and the other is "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell. Another good one by a cold-case detective is "Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. I could answer the questions in a fumbling way, but those three have laid out the evidence in a clear and compelling manner. They aren't preachy either. They simply lay out the case.

I would encourage you to look very carefully and skeptically at Christianity - it can withstand the scrutiny. Please let me know if you have specific questions. I will answer them to the best of my (limited) ability.

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Arty, thank you for your thoughtful response. It is indeed one of the fundamental questions that people encounter. I think there are some challenges with monotheistic systems that are hard to overcome. And, I would be genuinely interested in your thoughts.

To your question, "why is there good and evil?" I think this is an especially difficult question in monotheistic schema. I don't know how you feel about the so-called "three omnis" namely, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, but if you think those are essential for a monotheistic deity, it seems we run into the so-called "problem of evil" namely, why does an omnipotent god allow evil and suffering to persist? If indeed a god is omnipotent, the only conclusion we can draw is because he/she/it wants there to be evil/suffering.

There are some other similar challenges with the three omnis that we find in other medieval philosophy. For example, the challenge of reconciling the three. Let us posit for a moment that god knows everything that has/is/will happen, namely that god is omniscient, how can that god be omnipotent? It would seem that if omniscience is possible, then we live in a determinist world that cannot be otherwise. So god cannot change his/her/its mind. It is sort of weird to think about, but at base, god cannot surprise him/her/its-self so therefore is not omnipotent.

Another challenge: if god is the source of moral judgements, how do we know that god is good? If "good" = "like god" we can only say that "god is good" in the most facile and meaningless sense. It is a tautology, there is no extra-theistic framework to evaluate gods.

Your response seems to suggest a sort of meta-ethics, that I think I agree with. Namely that ethical systems should help us answer some fundamental questions like:

Where did I come from?

Where am I going to?

Why is there good and evil? (I would amend this to, "what should I do?"

What is my purpose in life?

I think that theism may just push these questions up a level.

Thank you again for your thoughtful consideration and your reading recommendations. I hope that you don't take my concerns as hostile. I think these are important things to think about and I hope this place is a place to have these discussions in good faith.

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Thank you for your honest questions. I don't take them as hostile in the least. These are questions men have been wrestling with since time immemorial.

It is not a compromise to the omnis for God to allow what we perceive as evil.

The first thing to remember is that good according to God is not the same as good according to men.

Assume that God wanted to create beings who would follow Him freely. It is implicit in the problem that there must be the facility to choose against Him and His will. When men made that choice, to assume sovereignty instead of God is what we call the fall. It did not surprise God - He planned for it. He allows evil because the effects of it draw men to Him. There will be judgment, but it is deferred for His purposes. Part of the problem with the analysis is that we aren't nearly smart enough to handle the information we have effectively. The other part of the problem is that we don't have anything close to all of the information necessary to make sense of it.

What we can see is sufficient to conclude that:

God is good

God has our long-term good in mind

Our long-term good has little if anything to do with our good on earth

Also, much, if not most of the evil on earth is caused directly by men. God has, for His own reasons determined not to override the will of men. Millennia of selfish and corrupted men have made a right mess of the place. He allows the evil for His own reasons and for a limited time. There will be an end, and there will be judgment. We just don't know when.

As to the balance of the omnis within God's psyche, it is very rash to assume we understand the psychology and purposes of a being that doesn't even exist in the same way we do.

I must confess I don't understand what you mean when you say that because God cannot surprise Himself, He must not be omnipotent. Are you saying that He is limited by His own nature? That seems to follow from the premises - everyone and everything is limited by their own nature. To assert that God is not omnipotent because He lacks the ability to act against His own nature seems...odd to say the least.

"Good" does not mean "like God." Good means "according to God's will." We say that "God is good" as a sort of shortcut to saying that His will is the standard by which all things should be measured. His will is the moral yardstick I started with.

God is a necessary being. All other things are dependent on Him and He is dependent on nothing for His existence. This is definitional.

Since we are dependent beings, we can answer the questions in terms of the necessary being.

Where did I come from? I was created.

Where am I going to? I will continue to exist after death. I will either remain in God's presence or be banished from His presence. I will not be destroyed. (One may postulate from this that all of creation as we know it is perhaps the only way to create eternal beings with free will.)

Why is there good and evil? I have addressed it briefly above. I have also written about it. if you would like me to send you a copy, I will.

What should I do? God has stamped His code of conduct on our hearts (conscience). Because most people have difficulty with this, and can manipulate it to their own ends, He has also written it for us for us in His word. For the most part, they are not specific directions, but guidelines for the proper operation of the human machine. Because we have a penchant for disobedience, they are also rules with a penalty. Generally speaking though, they are there to help us live safely and in the right way. Think of bumpers on the sides of the kiddie's bowling alley.

What is my purpose in life? To serve my creator. This is hard for us to see because we have been in a state of rebellion for more centuries than we can count. Nevertheless, I and countless others have found that serving God brings peace and fulfillment.

Monotheism works where polytheism does not. If I have several gods, who created them? There must inevitably be a single ground of existence. the alternative is infinite regression. That single ground of existence is what (who) we call God. God has shown Himself to us in His own way and for His own purposes. Part of our problem is that we don't understand either, so reject God. We throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak.

Think of God as the author reading a book He has written. He can still be absorbed in the story, particularly if it is a magical book in which the characters have some will of their own. But He wrote the book and can see it all at a glance. The book will end. He has structured the story so that it ends in the right way at the right time.

Thank you for your willingness to ask hard questions. Please let me know if I am unclear (it happens more often that I care to think about).

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Thank you for the article and putting public pressure on the CDC to objectively seek to minimize deaths.

While I've likely lost more trust in the institutions - media, academic, and corporate - than you, this represents a watershed moment for me.

Alternative institutions ought to be invested in, including Persuasion. Our intellectual culture is in a dangerous, weak place.

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Seconded. This article has convinced me I need to become a member of Persuasion. This might be the first time it has literally saved lives.

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Persuasion is a community and, to me, Yascha's article and the comments that followed are its first real 'test' (one that I hope provides an opportunity - which I'll explain below). IMHO, this comes from the fact that this article relates literally to 'life and death' decisions in a piece that Yascha writes in a very direct, urgent and (given the comments that followed) controversial manner. I'll save my full thoughts on the substance for a separate comment, but I want to highlight that although arguments were made (some better than others) this is the first time I have really seen hyperbole, name calling and ad hominem attacks make their way directly into our discussions. This is not to shame anyone, but, in conjunction with the EoY survey that Persuasion just sent out, my hope is that we collectively take this opportunity to 'up level' the conversation and improve not just our rhetorical skills but move toward a better understanding of the "other" which will hopefully mitigate the polarization we are all enmeshed in at the moment.

First observation, the comments section is great for folks to add an idea or two, but it is poor way to engage in actual conversation/dialogue. As of this post there are over 140+ comments in a hodge podge order that frankly hurts, not helps the discussion. We need a mechanism that enables real dialogue. Perhaps, when an article gets over ‘x’ number of comments we can invite a member of the community to write a rebuttal to the original work? Alternatively, we can automatically schedule a Zoom debate where members of the community can engage with each other in a structured dialogue. Or. . . perhaps there’s a better online tool than the comments section for structured online written interaction?

Second, could we either hire someone at Persuasion (or crowd source the Persuasion community) to “independently” critique arguments? For example, could we color code common imperfections in argumentation? Specifically, ad hominem attacks could be highlighted in green, common logical fallacies could be color coded, perhaps we could highlight bias as well. To effectively persuade we need to be able to identify and avoid these common traps.

Lastly (for me, but I ask that you all please add others), we need to be focused on trying to better understand “the other.” This is where the comments section on this piece seems to go especially awry. If you have a bent and rationale for why you think something is true – please let us know. To me it is always more powerful to understand “why” you believe a certain thing. This provides context and allows an opening for people to share their experiences around ‘why’ they have come to certain positions. A quick read revealed folks who have significant distrust in governmental institutions, others who have different value systems with regard to human life and still others are frustrated with the inequities of our world. The human condition is a fascinating thing and how we each come to our positions is critical to understanding different perspectives and ultimately finding common ground to the big problems like the one Yascha discussed in his piece.

I would suggest that we have something unique (and quite hopeful) here. Venues where careless assertions and rhetoric sate our more base urges are a dime a dozen but that is not Persuasion. Although this is probably not the best place to consolidate our thinking on this topic (another deficiency of the comments section), it would be great if we could add our thoughts via the EoY survey or otherwise facilitate improvements to ‘up level’ our community dialogue.

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I feel like there's a few factors here that argue against just looking at case fatality rates:

1. More old people die, but more young people spread the disease. Frontline workers especially come in contact with lots of people. Biasing the distribution to these people (frontline workers in particular, but also just younger people.. people who are more likely to go to bars and restaurants) can improve the epidemiological curves.

2. Ethically, it seems very reasonable that if we're asking someone to do a job where they are especially exposed to people in a pandemic, then they should get priority access to a vaccine. Maybe they're young and less likely to die, but we're still asking them to take on a much greater risk for the rest of society to function, that should come with some kind of reward.

3. A 90 year old may be ~10x more likely to die from Covid than a 40 year old. However, if you give the vaccine to the latter, you're likely saving 10x more *years* of life. So if you're optimizing for "number of additional years of life" you can provide, biasing too heavily towards the elderly may not be optimal. Prioritizing this stuff is never easy, but surely we need to take into account the fact the fact that the *increased risk* of death from covid is approximately the same for all ages (about 10%)?

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The problem is that the CDC did not choose their course of action for the reasons you listed, but based it on race.

If their initial decision would have resulted in not as many lives actually being lost or actually saved a net number of lives for the reasons you posted, it would have been a happy coincidence.

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They're trying to explain away the CDC's actions because they are used to trusting institutions like the CDC. They keep forgetting that the presentation said "we have assessed that this will kill more people but we're doing it anyway". I don't blame them for forgetting - I kinda wish I could.

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1. This isn't just about frontline workers though. The category of "essential workers" is broad enough to cover close to half the workforce.

2. I don't see why that would be the case. People have some volition in taking a job, but they have none in growing old.

3. You're VASTLY underestimating the difference in case fatality rates here. People over 80 are at roughly 100 times the risk as people age 40-50, by the looks of the chart here:

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02483-2

If each ten years roughly quadruples your risk, those ten life years end up being pretty marginal in contrast to saving several times as many lives.

Headlines end up distorting perceptions of risk for younger people. While there absolutely are some young people dying, your risk of dying before age 60 is exceedingly low.

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The IFR from the aforementioned presentation say about 10x, not sure why yours is different. Also, the increased death risk due to covid is about 10% for every age group. Yeah old people account for the bulk of covid deaths in absolute numbers, but they account for the bulk of deaths period.

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Spreading the virus is a red herring. Too many people are equating testing positive with being infectious. The current test does not indicate being infectious as the test picks up dead virus strands.

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Most likely the vaccine stops transmission to some degree. We don't know that for a fact, but it's more likely than not. Vaccinating people who are more likely to spread it can therefore have an outsized effect (you're not just protecting one person, but everyone they would otherwise spread it to).

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Proof that the Rational Resistance can have a real effect. Great job Yascha and others for drawing public attention to this issue.

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Dooling and her ilk would have faced a death sentence at the Nuremberg Trials for this sort of planning. Now she doesn't even risk her pension. Our Society is broken.

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Are you insane? a death sentence? this is the kind of wildly exaggerated thinking that we see and criticize in both the Trump people and the woke people.

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I believe the point is that Dooling and others rationalize their behavior just as the NAZIs did. At some point govt cogs should have to stand up and account for their actions. At this point most govvies should be fired, many imprisoned and stripped of all wealth, and some face harsher punishment. This includes current and former pols.

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Yes, but each political group makes an argument, persuasive to themselves, that the other side is in some way analogous to NAZIs. Let's stipulate that you're right about that point and the other side(s) are wrong. But dwelling on that analogy is super unhelpful if our goal is Persuasion rather than war.

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Once upon a time, people had morals, ethics and personal responsibility. Now days, its blame everyone else. play the victim, grab what you want - screw the rest, not my fault, blah, blah, blah. Just look at the latest BS funding bill from that cabal of corrupt thieves called a congress. A pittance for the Americans, that they and their state/local brethren broke and yet millions flow overseas to POS turd countries for all kind of bullshit reasons. Right now not a single dollar should be going overseas. Nothing for weapons systems, gender studies, faux democracy crap, or whatever. Is that right? Hell, no.

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You are entitled to your opinion.

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Yeah, well, so are you.

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It's hyperbole

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While I sympathize completely, with your concern about the role that "social justice" plays in the rationale offered by the CDC, I understand that there is another way of looking at the calculus that may provide better justification for the CDC's focus on vaccinating essential workers.

You're right that defining that category is difficult. But the most persuasive reasoning I've seen to vaccinate "essential workers" whoever they are, is that they are the ones who are mostly likely to get and then pass on the virus among the larger population.

The difference is whether you focus on deaths averted or infections averted. As someone a couple of years over 65, and with a father who's 92, I am very aware of the ethical value of saving the lives of the elderly -- and particularly the frail elderly.

But I can't also help thinking about the staggeringly high infection rates right now. I live in California, where the rates have climbed to levels we never dreamed of as we all did our best to keep them down, and succeeded for months. Now our infection rates are among the highest in the nation, having gone from the single-digits per 100,000 up to 107 per 100,000.

My father will be vaccinated soon, but I can't help thinking about how many other lives would be saved if the grocery workers or teachers or Uber drivers were vaccinated. I have no idea how many people they come into contact with every day, but the sheer numbers, and the exponential number of others the people they come into contact with would come into subsequent contact with, seems like a number worth reckoning with. The increase in deaths among that group would need to be balanced against the more immediate deaths among the elderly.

Like everyone else, I would not relish having to balance those two estimates against one another. But that more dynamic way of looking at the calculation -- deaths averted vs. infections averted -- seems like a better approach the CDC might have taken, rather than its more politically motivated one. Of course, it's unfair to criticize those in government for making decisions based on political factors and their necessarily reduced scope of vision. But that is, I think, a more realistic way of analyzing their process.

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All of that calculus is difficult to do, and I might ultimately be persuaded the CDC were doing it right... if they hadn't outright explained that part of the reasoning was to promote social justice, to "level the playing field". Weighing the lives of people by skin color shouldn't be a factor at all.

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The problem with your argument is that the death rates for essential workers are FAR lower than that for non-elderly people, including essential workers. So the essential workers could be infected a lot, and only few of them will die. The CDC knows this very well, that's why their analysis openly acknowledged that giving essential workers the vaccine first will lead to MANY higher deaths. Yet they wanted to do it for supposedly ethical racial justice grounds. You missed that part completely. It is crucial to Yascha's argument.

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This is a real valuable steelman of the argument for prioritizing those who are likely to be unwitting carriers of the virus before the most vulnerable in the hopes of averting overall deaths. The right next step would be to build out models for both the "essential workers first" and "elderly first" approaches to see if prioritizing the most likely carriers will also minimize deaths.

That's exactly what the CDC advisory panel did, and they found that the benefits for vaccinating essential workers first does not outweigh the benefits from vaccinating the elderly first. That's why they took this separate approach to weigh the deaths averted vs the equity impact.

It's also worth calling that other agencies across the world (WHO, UK, Canada, etc) are all prioritizing age as the primary factor, and they all have likely modeled the infection vs vulnerability trade-off.

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Do you know if models were built out weighing the benefits of “health care professionals first”, “front line or patient-facing health care professionals first” and “elderly first”? The protests at Stanford by the front line workers angry that an algorithm had given priority to doctors and other health care professionals who did not see patients, over front-line HCPS who were assigned to rotations in COVID-19 wards, got me thinking about what percentage of the ~21 million health care workers in the U.S., all of whom were recommended to be vaccinated in Tier 1a by the CDC, are actually at higher risk of infection or of serious illness or death compared to everyone 65+. The ~21 million health care professionals in the U.S. have, as a group, suffered 858 deaths as of the end of November, according to the CDC. That is 858 too many deaths, of course, but deaths in the population aged 65+ (~53 million people) were in the hundreds of thousands for the same period.

My state of California is currently experiencing a “surge” of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. There are ~2.4 million health care workers in California, and 327,000 doses of vaccine were expected by mid-December. By the time all 2.4 million HCWs in California are vaccinated, how many thousands of Californians 65+ will have been hospitalized (putting more strain on overwhelmed hospitals and front-line HCWs) and died? It would be somewhat reassuring to know there was a model that showed the benefits for vaccinating ALL HCWs first outweighed the benefits of vaccinating the 65+ and only front-line or patient-facing HCWs first.

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The UK is vaccinating only front line medical workers first along with those over 80, and are then prioritizing people in descending order of age, taking comorbidities into account. They looked at the data, and calculated who was most likely to die of covid. That's basically what most civilized countries are doing.

There are approximately 130 million workers in the United States. According to the CDC, 108 of them are classified as essential. And that's before the lobbying by the few workers who were left out. So the CDC has categorized virtually all working adults as "essential workers". This is going to result in mayhem and a lot of extra death.

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To my knowledge, no, the models didn't consider those scenarios.

e.g. it is not considered in: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.09.08.20190629v2.full.pdf

However, in my judgment, modeling would not be a good tool for assessing that. The model assumptions would drive the analysis. It is fairly obvious that prioritizing people with contact over (similarly situation people, e.g. the same age) without contact would reduce transmission and death.

Nor have I seen models considering health-care workers versus the rest of the population or segments of the general population by age. Again, it seems fairly obvious to prioritize front-line healthcare workers if we are worried about hospital capacity.

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Front-line healthcare workers, yes. My question was similar to the one posed by Stanford residents and fellows who said they knew of “senior faculty” who had “worked from home” since March” and “had no inpatient responsibilities” who had been given priority ahead of front-line healthcare workers. Of the ~21 million HCPs in the U.S. (~2.4 million in California) that have been given 1a priority based on their profession, how many were front-line workers? Is it obvious to prioritize a 45-year-old Stanford biology professor teaching from home, or a 33-year-old healthcare data manager working online, ahead of a 65+ member of the general population? Full disclosure, I am not a member of any of these groups.

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What difference would it make if you were a member of any of those groups?

Your argument goes to the implementation axis of the CDC analysis. Disregarded.

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Agreed. And that's a minor problem compared to the 108 million total people the CDC has categorized as essential workers, out of only 130 million people in our entire full-time workforce .

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That is entirely an issue related to the elimination of labor protections in the US, and nothing to do with the CDC.

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Such models can't readily be developed or deployed. The US health care system by design is as unstandardized and fragmented as possible. You would need a matrix of models at the county level, rolling up, and that still wouldn't catch it all even if you had time to try it.

Also, some doctors and front-line workers also happen to be over the age of 65.

Also, all hospitals have modified protocols to eliminate contact for all workers where it is possible.

So build all that in too.

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If equity = equality of outcome, they disregarded that as well. Even if one is looking to improve minority outcomes, more people die in the service of the virtue signaling.

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I thought Yascha was being disingenuous in his analysis.

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That's not a refutation but, rather, an aspersion.

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I agree it's not a refutation. But I would not want to cast any aspersion on his person. Whatever disagreement I have here is with his argument and we agree on many things. Supply constraints throw up all kinds of moral dilemma and in the spirit of the publication, I think he didn't do enough to educate us. For instance, the highest risk factors for covid are obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2020/06/06/how-sars-cov-2-causes-disease-and-death-in-covid-19?utm_campaign=editorial-social&utm_medium=social-organic&utm_source=twitter

I don't think race should be a basis for medical resource allocation, but because (1) these risk factors is predominant amongst other minority races regardless of age, (2) these races make up more of the "essential workers", the CDC perhaps wants to be politically correct by infusing social justice in their vocabulary/justification.

I just felt his shrill was hasty and dramatic. Issues in the country are tensed already. Framed the way he did, people could genuinely feel the system or the deep state or whatever is out to exterminate them, feeding into existing hysteria. I mean, Sweden made the call not to lockdown despite the chances of more older people dying. You could say Sweden wasn't allocating resources but they were still making calls on actions that meant some people would die. So, yeah, the CDC goofed by trying to be woke. But let's stop with the hysteria.

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That isn't how he framed it, that is how you are framing it. Not the same thing. The issue he is reacting to is this stark and dramatic evidence that CRT has not remained confined to the academy.

It is out in the world, taking lives from a position of authority that one might reasonably have expected or at least hoped would have been the agency of dismissal for this pernicious insurgent culture, rather than having to watch it surrender without firing a shot.

Once faith in the institution is gone, and it is, how does it come back? Easy to tear down (as it turns out), impossible to restore (even if anyone were trying to).

Once the institutions of liberal democracy are gone, how can it be said that liberal democracy continues to exist?

Once it no longer exists, what replaces it? This is like climate change. It takes millennia to manifest Western Civilization, but will only take about 60 years to pull it down. Then what?

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Disingenuous: i.e. not candid or sincere, a form of dishonesty or deceit. That is an aspersion on his person.

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Here comes the busy body🙄. Thanks for the enlightenment.

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More aspersions?

In this forum I don't think ad hominem attacks will convince many people.

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If you would not want to cast aspersion, why did you? Must be frustrating...

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I don't know that any external justification for their decision-making process is relevant. They didn't have it, nor did they use it. They are pretty out and proud about the ideological justification.

Of what relevance are your claims of age? Trust your message to stand on its own and don't weaken it with appeals to ageism that add a self-serving cast. Or do, as your inclinations dictate.

Just out of curiosity - a what age did the ethical concerns manifest? Upon manifestation, did it concern you that you had been devoid of such ethics prior?

No one in the US, or even CA can make a claim with a straight face that the efforts to keep infections rate down were anything even close to 'our best'.

That you have no idea about epidemic features of Covid, is not the same as no one having an idea. In modern civilization specialization arose in order to advance economic growth and improve the standards of living and well-being across the populace. This is good news, not bad.

It means that across the entire arc of your life you have never had to be an epidemiologist. You got away with it for quite a while. Now you are confronted with a choice between relying on the advice of those specialists, or attempting to manifest expertise on your own.

An epidemiologist might observe that the US is not even close to being able to prevent infections. Why use the analysis you suggest absent that capability?

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Vaccinating front line workers can be thought of as asking lower wage workers who are more likely to be POC to take on the risk of unknown side effects in order to protect older people who are more likely to be white. Surveys have shown higher vaccine skepticism among POC. A lot of younger, Trump-supporting, front-line workers are also likely to opt out of taking the vaccine. Thus vaccinating front line workers is unlikely to stop infection because not enough of them will be willing to get the vaccine.

Older people, even Trump-voters (well non-crazy ones) whom I know want to get the vaccine, the reality of what happens to old folks who get this disease scares them enough to outweigh their tribal beliefs. Younger people are less enthusiastic. Trump voters and POC in this group are less eager to get the vaccine. So it makes sense for older folks to get vaccinated first. Also, a big reason why kids are not in school is many live with elderly relatives. If we vaccinate the elders and the teachers the kids and all go back to school, which would reduce an awful lot of stress. There should be a lot more vaccine coming out next month and every month after that. By the end of May we should have flooded the zone with vaccine and vaccinated those most eager to get it. Death rates will have collapsed and life return to near normal. Then when flare ups happen, we can rush in and vaccinate everyone associated with it who hasn't already been. As time goes on and the epidemic settles down and we see few reports of problems with the vaccine it will become more normal to get your annual COVID vaccine shot and we can get this to a manageable problem like flu. Eventually those strains that cause less severe disease will win out and COVID will evolve into a mild disease like many of the other endemic coronaviruses.

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There are almost triple the number of caucasian low-wage workers than all non-caucasians combined.

If you want to deploy the racial framing accurately, you need to rely on the term 'disproportionately likely'.

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It's hard to watch this slow-motion train wreck of our institutions. I still assume we'll stop well short of Maoism or Soviet style institutional capture, because we this is all coming from social pressure, activism. As much as they try, they'll never actually destroy our press freedoms, and eventually wiser voices will prevail... right? With Trump fading away, I see 2021 as the year everyone finally recognizes how morally corrupt this new social justice ideology is.

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"I still assume we'll stop well short of Maoism or Soviet style institutional capture"

Given that NO one is disputing the State's supposed 'right' to determine who gets the gets the vaccine, we are WELL past the point of 'stopping' BEFORE "institutional capture" by Statism. It IS captured. Now we just have the Crips and the Bloods fighting among themselves as to WHOSE gang will dictate.

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I feel like comments like this are just trolling - you sound like the John Birch society! The vaccines were developed by large public-private partnerships, and are being distributed according to public protocols. "Statism" has dangers, but inventing and manufacturing a new vaccine in less than a year would be impossible without it.

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"inventing and manufacturing a new vaccine in less than a year would be impossible without [Statism]."

That is just a false assertion. The State is what SLOWS down invention and manufacturing. The FDA alone increases the length of time for creation and production of vaccines by orders of MAGNITUDE.

Statism is WHY you think it is "impossible" to invent and manufacture things in short periods of time.

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Spot on - Trump went to the private sector to get this accomplished

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Red4Cap and Bandit, I respect your position. Is the trajectory of the Persuasion community toward Hayekian libertarianism?

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"comments like this are just trolling...vaccines...are being distributed according to public protocols"

Because, as I stated - and you've now just CONFIRMED - believe the State has the 'right' to 'distribute' this wealth. The State properly DICTATES.

Far from proving me a 'troll', you just proved my *point*.

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“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

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I read the comment made by Mamma Miya, mentioning some reasons why essential workers should be prioritized (like spreading the virus), which I agree with.

But Mamma Miya and many others are missing the whole point of this article is that based on the presentation provided by CDC (page 31) puts the racial reasons to prioritize essential workers even tho it is mentioned that more people are estimated to die because of that, is insane. This is not the right direction that America is going.... We should learn from history that such extreme actions make American people to not to believe in their government anymore. Hope you understand Mamma Miya

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The obvious omission from your essay is that preventing DEATH isn't the ONLY goal of public health policy. Minimizing the number of people who get infected is also crucial (they may be silent carriers and super spreaders, long term health effects, short term pressure on the health care system, overall suffering, economic impact, etc.).

In other words, prioritization should look at people who are at highest risk of dying (the elderly) AND people who are at highest risk of being exposed (frontline workers).

It seems to me that many journalists have fetishised the former, while ignoring the latter. An 85-year-old retired writer man, sitting at home with his 85-year-old retired writer wife, getting groceries delivered every other week and avoiding people in lockdown may face a high risk of dying of COVID-19 if they get it, but they face a very low risk of actually getting the virus (on account of their lack of social contact, by virtue of their work). A 50-year old operator in a meat packing plant, however, is much more likely to actually get the virus in the first place.

I have been astonished that these famous writers and journalists have all failed to address this point. It is such an obvious omission (Fox News style omission) that I cannot take the outcry seriously.

I know there is a lot of money to be made these days from ascribing problems to the "woke" and to the campus snowflakes, but I expected a little more responsible and honest work from you (if not from Andrew Sullivan - also known as "David Duke with a PhD").

Utterly irresponsible "journalism". The woke may be cuckoo-clock crazy, but the anti-woke are even scarier because they run around claiming to be high-minded folks in defense of liberal democracy. But they are just backward-justifying their opinion, too.

I'm genuinely appalled.

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Thanks for the gas lighting wokey.

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Thomas, please don’t respond to a good faith argument with abuse.

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Jeremy - Mamma Miya is not making good faith arguments, neither are many other people on this thread who seem to be blindly opposed to any criticism of wokeness or Left lunacy. And let's remember Persuasion often publishes criticism of Right lunacy as well. The problem with the criticism of Yascha's article on this thread is that it does not engage seriously with his argument.

Although Ananda Barton (the comment above that you liked) does not engage in trolling, her/his comment is also not a serious response to Yascha. Essential workers are dying at extremely low rates relative to elderly people - CDC acknowledges that; that's the reason they acknowledge that giving the vaccine to them would cost many more lives. Given that, what's the rationale for them to recommend it anyway? They provide woke logic to justify this decision. You say you agree with criticism of this decision, but your comments don't seem to suggest that. I think it would be good if you can explain your position clearly instead of dancing around this issue. If you agree with the CDC's decision or you think it was not so unreasonable, why not say it directly?

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Sinchan, thanks for asking. I am persuaded by Yascha's and others' critique of the CDC draft plan, but don't see it as a reason to lose trust in American institutions. I am drawn to Yascha's larger critique of the pathology of political discourse on both Right and Left, and have a fantasy that the Persuasion community could model a better form of debate.

What makes you sure that the people defending wokeness on this thread aren't making good faith arguments?

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Thanks for responding. Are you persuaded that the CDC draft plan is a result of wokeness? Because CDC certainly did use woke logic to justify it. I am not sure people are defending wokeness here. I did not see a straightforward defense of wokeness. What I see are ad hominem attacks by one person which lowers the standard of discourse.

For the others, a good faith argument also requires that you engage with and address the arguments of the other side. Saying that preventing deaths was not the major objective of US pandemic policy from the beginning is disingenuous. In fact, the same people who are now making that claim were saying that every single death is Trump's responsibility. The attempts to defend CDC's draft plan are extremely bad arguments which seem to just about blindly defending our side. And ad hominem, rather foolish attacks against individuals (Andrew Sullivan is David Duke with a PhD etc etc) is not fitting with Persuasion's agenda. If most people post comments like that (of course they don't), many of us will lose interest in the comments section here. I just had a LONG exchange of arguments with a left wing Professor on another article , but without any personal rancour or gaslighting involved.

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Have you found that comment boards are a rewarding space for discussion? I’ve never really participated in them till now. I’m impressed at how thoughtful some of the comments are, and at how quickly people leap to insane over the top vitriol.

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"Sullivan aka Duke with a PhD" is not good faith.

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That’s only one of many abusive aspects of the original post. The writer is “astonished” and “appalled;” compares Mounck to Fox News; calls him irresponsible and dishonest and accuses him of trying to make money off of tragedy. The bigger question is what is the correct response to abusive wokeness.

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It's about as bad faith as it gets....

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Thanks, Thomas, for your kindness.

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Man it must suck to be stuck between woke and anti-woke, the sole sane voice in ocean of abject chaos.

Also, did you catch that the CDC's own guidance said that it would lead to more deaths, rendering your theory, while creative, completely moot?

Also, did you catch that the idea of prioritizing "slowing the spread" over "saving lives" makes absolutely no sense? Because the reason why you slow the spread is to save lives? Do you see the problem there?

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Trisolaran, tell me about it, "bro". This ocean of abject chaos is drowning the sane voices of reason, isn't it?

Geez, did you happen to catch all the doctors who pleaded to slow the spread so the healthcare system wouldn't collapse? Because chaos will result when the healthcare system collapses? You saw that, bro?

Also, bro, did you happen to see the bit about how healthcare policy is a multi-pronged, multi-faceted thing that renders your attempt at binary thinking utterly impractical? Do you see the problem there?

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(1) The CDC's reasoning was not about "slowing the spread" - it was about "equity" as they define it - *The CDC said so themselves, stop trying to pretend that this didn't happen*

(2) "the CDC did this to prevent a healthcare system collapse" is a post-hoc rationalization by *you*, not the CDC.

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The article linked below is something that rings true to me about Wokism, which is basically "anti-racism" turned into a fanatical, anti-fair-dialogue, virtue-signaling, smear-campaigning cancel cult. I'll gladly point to the Amy Wax "bourgeois values" episode at Penn in 2017 as an unambiguous example of the hideousness in action: the context-dropping strawmen with no opportunity for the target to respond or correct, the virtue-signaling and content-free letters of denunciation, that kind of stuff. James Damore's being fired from Google fit the same dynamic perfectly (the Woke reaction at google only proved his point about the company's "culture of misrepresentation and shaming"), only he wasn't protected by tenure.

If you're blind to all this ugliness happening in the name of anti-racism and anti-sexism, you need some red-pilling and a lot less hubris/arrogance.

https://newdiscourses.com/2020/12/university-woke-mission-field-dissident-womens-studies-phd-speaks-out/

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To take your very own approach: "Red-pilling" and "virtue-signalling" are anti-Woke-speak; how about you speak some English?

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If this is the only comeback you have in the context of the points I've raised in this thread, then the claims in this thread of bad faith on your part begin to ring true more and more.

How about a gesture of good faith from you, over your "David Duke with a PhD" smear. What makes you think this is fair comment? I'm not looking for some smeary, stretchty, slipshod, cheaty attack like with Amy Wax and James Damore (e.g.), for which the Woke have become widely loathed. Just some common sense, a sense of proportion, a sense of interpretive charity, dishing out what you're willing to take, that sort of thing. The things all too sorely absent from political "discourse" right now.

Then we can cover the subject of what words are fitting to use.

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Avi1 min ago

I read the comment made by Mamma Miya, mentioning some reasons why essential workers should be prioritized (like spreading the virus), which I agree with.

But Mamma Miya and many others are missing the whole point of this article is that based on the presentation provided by CDC (page 31) puts the racial injustice reasons to prioritize essential workers even tho it is mentioned that more people are estimated to die because of that, is insane. This is not the right direction that America is going.... We should learn from history that such extreme actions make American people to not to believe in their government anymore. Hope you understand Mamma Miya

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What your are mentioning is that "science" would indicate that vaccinating people at larger risk of contagion, even if not member of a risk group, might save more lives. However, the assessment of the organization, as you can see on the table, is that this is not the case. An elder is 100 times more likely to die than a young person. And in every country, eventually the disease spread to all age groups including elders. Thus, the institution correctly assessed that vacinating elders would save more lives even if would not minimize contagion.

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Why couldn't it just be the case that they have not thought of or heard the argument you just stated. No point in ascribing bad intentions to people, it just makes progress difficult.

However even if your argument is true (I agree with it), the main problem then is that it's not the argument used by officials to explain their course of action, rather they explained it the way he argued in the article.

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"I know there is a lot of money to be made these days from ascribing problems to the "woke" and to the campus snowflakes, but I expected a little more responsible and honest work from you (if not from Andrew Sullivan - also known as "David Duke with a PhD")."

Thanks for proving the author's point.

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That was not the basis of their prioritisation, only their ethnic background. That was explicitly stated.

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This would be a fairly sound objection if it weren’t for the fact that the vaccines (both I think) do not actually prevent transmission, but rather just mitigate the symptoms of the disease.

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James, you seem to have information about the vaccine's ability to prevent transmission. I have heard epidemiologists and doctors say they don't yet have any data about the vaccine's ability to prevent transmission. Do you have any credible sources to back up this "fact" that you stated above - if so, please kindly share? I'm genuinely curious because this will have a huge multiplicative effect soon!!

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Hi : )

So unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be explicitly stated in any official sources that the vaccine does not prevent transmission.

I’m fairly certain though that in Britain a public health official is on record saying essentially this — but I’m having difficulty tracking this down now.

But as far I’m concerned (being someone who cares slightly about proper science), if there is no evidence or data which proves that it prevents transmission, then it cannot be said to prevent transmission.

So I personally think there’s a bit of a problem with this, and I’m a little bit suspicious that if they’re telling us there is no data (which is sort of important data) then it’s not a far-removed possibility they know full well that it does not — and are naturally perhaps being misleading by with their language.

So I’m genuinely curious about this, too.

If I find anything, I’ll share.

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James, I have heard some of the officials say they need more time to determine whether it stops transmission entirely. It was "easy" for them, in trials, to determine whether the vaccine keeps you from becoming ill or not, and also to see if the trial participants got the virus or not. But it apparently is a bit more difficult to see whether it prevents transmission (this, I'm told, takes a bit of time to see and is indeed one of the things the scientists are very eager to find out about). I surely hope so because that may make "opening up" come sooner.

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This argument is very weak, because most young people who are infected don't get sick, are not superspreaders and die at FAR lower rates than the elderly. We care about infections because lower infections usually means lower deaths. In spite of the fact that it is possible for the elderly to isolate themselves, they have been dying at FAR higher rates than people below 55 from covid. The "woke" logic of racial equity is what the CDC offered to justify a decision that it acknowledged frankly would cost many lives.

There are too many ad-hominem attacks in your comment. Andrew Sullivan is David Duke with a PhD? You have no idea how foolish that comment sounds to anyone outside your bubble. There is a lot more money to be made by repeating the standard talking points of the liberal media, which most television channels do ad infitinum. Any CIA scumbag can get a lucrative contract from CNN or MSNBC if they are prepared to shout about how Republicans and Trump are evil. If critics of wokeism could make more than money than supporters or proponents of it, then it is hard to explain why elite American corporations aggressively support wokeism.

Most elite corporations, all elite universities and cultural institutions and media and Hollywood seem to be believers in the woke ideology. Yet there is little analysis of this ideology in NYT, Washington Post, New Yorker or even CNN/MSNBC etc. Why? That's why we need Persuasion or Quilette, to offer a critique of this ideology from a Liberal perspective. Democrats will probably lose the Senate and are in an excellent position to lose the House in 2022. After every loss, their standard response is to wonder at how racist and sexist the country is. No doubt people don't trust the Democrats to run the country; even when they find the alternative deeply unappealing.

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Again the endless focus on only one metric (deaths amongst the elderly) in spite of the fact that public health policy for this pandemic has long considered many many other factors (not least "flatten the curve"). To ask the CDC to drop all other factors and focus on only one is to ask them to abdicate their responsibility to protect public health, all in service of an anti-Woke, "own the libs" religion. Good luck on that mission. The CDC has decided to ignore the kooks who want to prioritize isolated retired elderly folks over, say, middle-aged folks who work as bus drivers and see hundreds of people each day.

As for the rest of the usual "Libs are evil" stuff...

I won't address any of the usual rantings about successful media institutions beyond stating that Andrew Sullivan, who rails against the NYTimes as bizarrely as you did above, has a piece out yesterday in the very same NYTimes. These anti-Woke brigades remain a constellation of failed journalists (including many outright bigots) who couldn't find success in elite institutions. If given a chance, as Andrew was today, they'd grab it with both hands.

There is hope for you, too. Maybe one day, like Andrew, you, too, will get into these elite institutions from which your ilk have been purged.

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Yeah hopefully, and it would of course be difficult research because of the obvious moral constraints; you can’t exactly expose people to the virus, etc.

There should be some data though on this, though — as far as those trials and whether or not those recipients have tested positive since and how many.

I personally think, given the nature of the PCR tests, that there likely WILL be positive tests results still. They’re running the tests in ways that result in too much amplification of the ‘noise’, and I don’t think they’re reliable therefore. 🤔

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You characterize seniors as: "An 85-year-old retired writer man, sitting at home with his 85-year-old retired writer wife, getting groceries delivered every other week".

This is destructively prejudicial characterization of the elderly. Most of the elderly who are dying are blacks and Hispanics. Many elderly live in multi-generational households. Many are low income, living and small dark apartments that open into narrow hallways filled with aerosolized virus. Many elderly don't own or know how to use computers, which are essential for ordering groceries. A large fraction of the elderly live alone and have been in virtual solitary confinement for almost a year. Many elderly have medical conditions that force them to doctors, hospitals or emergency rooms that put them at great risk of acquiring the virus.

There are some specific situations, like that of meat-packers working close together in refrigerated conditions that put them at unusual risk. These situations can be dealt with as exceptions to the rule of putting the elderly and those with relevant medical conditions first.

The reason that avoiding death is a more important goal than decreasing rate of infection is that infection per se is not a problem. We can infected with viruses constantly and don't think much about it. The problem with this virus is that it has such a high rate of fatality.

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That's a thoughtful point, but it seems to me more than reasonable to consider the severity of death as something that vastly outweighs the unknown, uncertain, and irregular occurrence of impacts from younger people getting the disease. After all, something like 80+% of younger people don't even realize they have Covid when they get it, whereas older people have chances of dying that can be as high as 20%.

Which is to say I take your point, but I just don't understand the argument which claims that young people getting the disease is remotely comparable to a situation that is, for older people, worse survival odds than playing Russian Roulette.

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Yes, I would wholly be in agreement if the argument was that, to slow the spread and save more lives.. But that was not the argument. The argument put forth was an "ethical" one of better representation, not efficacy. If the definition of "anti-woke" is calling out the most ludicrous of woke virtue signals then that's a label people should proudly wear. Because if the CDCs own documents are to believed, it's better that more brown people die as long as the CDC can give itself a pat on the back for trying to right past wrongs with wrongheaded advice.

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1. Limiting spread is accounted for by the CDC model assuming the vaccine fully prevents infection (which is not shown, and probably prevents spread at a lower rate than 95%). Even with that assumption, prioritizing the elderly minimizes death.

2. If you vaccinate a population at higher risk of infection, you also vaccinate a larger share of people who were previously infected. This countervails any benefits from targeting groups at higher risk of infection.

3. On other drawbacks of infection, these are presumably similarly more likely in elderly people than in others, so this will probably prevent hospitalizations/other health impacts as well. I'm open to a source showing risk of other health consequences is less age-driven than risk of death, but that doesn't strike me as a reasonable prior.

4. This doesn't effectively address the reason Black people face higher Covid mortality than White people. Elderly Black people, who are presumably not essential workers, also are at a higher risk, so it doesn't seem like this is the primary driver of the racial disparity. A much more honest way to account for this would be to simply consider race directly in distributing the vaccine. Prioritizing an 80-year-old Black person over an equally old White person addresses the disparity through saving lives; prioritizing a 34-year-old Black FedEx driver does not.

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Households being the highest plane of infection. So if a particular minority's younger generation is front facing the disease and tends to also culturally live with the older generation and that social group is also poorer and consequently has more significant health problems, causation becomes clearer.

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What you’re getting at with the example of the writer and the meat packer is that P(death) = P(Infection)*P(Death|Infection). I think you’re implying we’re making the risk judgement on the basis of P(Death|Infection) but really we’re looking at P(Death). Just look at the numbers, the overall risk of death (even given lower infection rate) is still much higher with the elderly than <55 in any profession.

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The CDC actually DID adopt a plan that will end up killing more people of color. As Yascha Mount points out later in the article, the CDC is STILL not prioritizing seniors between the ages of 64 and 75 (even ones with comorbidities) -- and this includes people of color who are dying in the largest numbers.

This is what happens when you call 87 million non-medical workers "essential", and then prioritize people between the ages of 65 and 75 below one third of them and equal to two thirds of them, as the CDC has done. Since there are only 209 million adults in the country, you have essentially thrown these vulnerable seniors -- INCLUDING SENIORS OF COLOR -- in with the general population.

This results in articles like the following from yesterday's lawsitesblog.com with the headline: "CDC Says Lawyers and Judges A Priority for Coronavirus Vaccine". The CDC committee's priority list is a product of professional/managerial class interest using a dishonest rationale of "social equity" as cover.

If the committee had honestly been interested in "social justice", they could have prioritized seniors in the hardest hit zip codes. The data is there; it would be easy to do. They could even lower the definition of "senior" to 50 in those zip codes. And then they could go on to the remainder of the seniors, in descending order of age.

As Yascha Mount frankly put it, this is "one of the most shocking moral misjudgments by a public body" he has ever seen. Other countries have adopted a rational and humane priority list, vaccinating people in order of risk of death by covid-19 right behind front line medical workers.

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55274833

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