Children conditioned by religion can’t tell fact from fiction

sunday school

A study published in the July issue of Cognitive Science determined that children who are not exposed to religious stories are better able to tell that characters in “fantastical stories” are fictional — whereas children raised in a religious environment even “approach unfamiliar, fantastical stories flexibly.”

In “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds,” Kathleen Corriveau, Eva Chen, and Paul Harris demonstrate that children typically have a “sensitivity to the implausible or magical elements in a narrative,” and can determine whether the characters in the narrative are real or fictional by references to fantastical elements within the narrative, such as “invisible sails” or “a sword that protects you from danger every time.”

However, children raised in households in which religious narratives are frequently encountered do not treat those narratives with the same skepticism. The authors believed that these children would “think of them as akin to fairy tales,” judging “the events described in them as implausible or magical and conclude that the protagonists in such narratives are only pretend.”

And yet, “this prediction is likely to be wrong,” because “with appropriate testimony from adults” in religious households, children “will conceive of the protagonist in such narratives as a real person — even if the narrative includes impossible events…”

This conclusion contradicts previous studies in which children were said to be “born believers,” i.e. that they possessed “a natural credulity toward extraordinary beings with superhuman powers. Indeed, secular children responded to religious stories in much the same way as they responded to fantastical stories — they judged the protagonist to be pretend.”

The researchers also determined that “religious teaching, especially exposure to miracle stories, leads children to a more generic receptivity toward the impossible

Then, they grow up and vote.

Thanks, Helen

Verizon says, “Gee, all the kids do it” — Not a legit defense for data throttling

During a news conference on Friday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler responded to Verizon’s claims that its planned data throttling program is a “widely accepted” practice, saying that an “all the kids do it” argument is not justifiable.

…Wheeler chided Verizon for its defense of an upcoming “network optimization” change, which consisted of pointing fingers at other U.S. cellular providers, calling it an attempt to “reframe the issue.”

“‘All the kids do it’ was never something that worked with me when I was growing up and didn’t work with my kids,” Wheeler said.

In July, Verizon announced plans to slow down data speeds for a select group of high-use subscribers when its 4G LTE network bogs down. The shift is scheduled to take effect in October, when users with grandfathered-in unlimited data plans may see slower than normal data speeds when performing high bandwidth operations like streaming high-definition video.

“My concern in this instance is that it is moving from technology and engineering issues into business issues,” Wheeler said. “Such as choosing between different subscribers based on your economic relationship with them…”

When smartphones first hit market, cellular providers like Verizon and AT&T offered unlimited data plans to help spur on sales. A boom in popularity, largely driven by Apple’s iPhone, left the telcos with an infrastructure poorly equipped to deal with the glut of data-hungry subscribers, which in turn prompted the halt of unlimited plans.

At the time, both Verizon and AT&T let subscribers keep their all-you-can-eat data allotments as long as they continued to pay the same top-tier monthly fee in perpetuity. With faster wireless technology and ever-increasing demands for more data, however, companies have started to throttle speeds for power users…

The creeps who run the American telecom monopoly are stuck in the same business model that’s been around since Ma Bell owned the whole national network. They will give us as little advancing technology as possible while charging every possible penny they can squeeze from mediocre service. Perish the thought they share with little guy start-ups or even medium-size competitors. This applies to Comcast fibre as completely as it does with Verizon’s cell towers.

Which is why Americans get telecom service that barely ranks in the Top 20 in the world. Elsewhere, either nationalized services provide the best that technology has available – because the people deserve it. As in South Korea. Or hardware, copper or fibre, must be leased to others so there will be actual competition. And that’s worked out equally well. As in the UK.

Listening to corporate barons whine about fairness is enough to make Adam Smith rollover in his grave.

Thanks, Mike

Subsidized birth control = 40% decrease in Colorado teen pregnancy

A Colorado programme that offers free birth control to teenagers has dramatically reduced the rate of teenage pregnancy. But the nature of the scheme’s funding – a large anonymous donation – leaves it unclear whether it could work on a broader scale…

That opening paragraph is a non sequitur. The source of funding isn’t relevant at all. What was done with the contribution is about a qualitative effect on the lives of young women.

In 2008, an anonymous donor made a $23 million five-year commitment to provide long-term contraception such as intrauterine devices or implants for teenagers who needed them, for free or at very low cost.

The state’s health department rolled out the programme, called the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, through clinics that were already offering family planning services…

When Greta Klinger, the director of the programme, got the first results back about how the initiative was working, she and others were stunned.

“The demographer whom I worked with on the analysis of the data kept coming into my office and saying, ‘Look at this, I’ve never seen this before.'” Klingler says…”It’s really incredible. From the public health perspective, it’s pretty rare to have a programme that produces such dramatic results.”

The US birth rate for teenagers is decreasing across the country, but Colorado has seen a quicker drop – between 2008-12, it jumped from 29th-lowest teen birth rate in the nation to the 19th lowest.

Not everyone is happy. There is fierce opposition to the idea of offering birth control to teenagers from groups like Colorado Right to Life…

I’ll not waste space in this post on spooky arguments leftover from centuries of ignorance. Suffice it to say the arguments from opponents range from fear and hatred of evolution and science to instructions from an invisible old white guy in the sky.

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Hospitals could face penalties for missing electronic health record deadline

More than half of U.S. hospitals were on the hook to meet a new set of “meaningful use” of electronic health records criteria — known as the stage 2 criteria — by the end of the fiscal year that ended in July. The new study’s data, which was gathered in late 2013, suggests that many may have missed the milestone. At the time, only 5.8 percent of those hospitals were on track to adopt all 16 of the stage 2 meaningful use goals.

Hospitals that bill the Medicare program and didn’t meet the criteria in fiscal year 2014 will be subject to financial penalties in fiscal year 2015…

The criteria, set forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, include relatively easy items such as using electronic health records to enter orders for medication as well as lab and radiology tests, to chart patients’ vital signs and to record patient demographics. More difficult activities include sharing electronic health record data with patients online, sharing electronic data with other providers who care for the same patients and submitting electronic data to vaccine registries…

The criteria are the second tier of compliance with the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, also known as HITECH. The act requires hospitals to move from paper to electronic recordkeeping. At first, only a basic set of criteria is required, but once a hospital starts down the path, it must meet higher benchmarks at scheduled dates. The more than half of hospitals that were scheduled to meet the stage 2 meaningful use criteria in 2014 were the first wave to begin adopting digital medical records.

The study determined that the number of hospitals adopting electronic health records continues to rise steeply. Nearly 60 percent of hospitals now have at least a basic system. And 90 percent of those were on track to achieve many of the 16 core criteria.

The study suggests that, where hospitals are not able to meet criteria, they aren’t always to blame. Vendors must upgrade their products to make necessary functions available to meet the criteria. These challenges, however, appear to be concentrated in specific types of hospitals.

“Policymakers may want to consider new targeted strategies to ensure that all hospitals move toward meaningful use of electronic health records,” Adler-Milstein said. “We found that rural and small hospitals lag behind, suggesting a need to expand federal efforts to help these institutions select, purchase, implement and successfully use electronic health records in ways that earn them incentive payments and enable them to engage in new care delivery and payment models.”

Overdue. Way overdue. One of the best things we can thank Obama for – at two levels.

I really enjoy being able to access my medical records, diagnoses and communications – and love seeing them available between my physicians. Two of the four physicians on my Medicare chart are there: my GP and my eye doctor. Mostly just annual checkups; but, I’m glad they can see other’s work. The other two have just as perfunctory a relationship – and I’m confident they’ll soon be on board.

The best reason in the world to get hospitals into the mix makes me feel great – as a cynical geek. Because computational analysis is turning up crooked hospitals, administrators and healthcare conglomerates all over the country. And I love it.

When a hospital’s billing practices distort general rules of practice – it shows up. When a hospital is requesting ten times the national/regional average of one kind of profit center test – it shows up. Etc.

Like I said. Overdue.