In my world, recognizing qualifiers is very important. Qualifiers are words like “could,” “may,” “might,” and on and on. Personally, when I hear a qualifier, I pay attention to how it is used and then put it on the back burner.
Could ultraviolet light help eradicate Covid-19? The answer to could is always yes. Anything could happen. I could get lucky, but that’s another blog for another day. In science and medicine, qualifiers are good for formulating theories and running research. What a doc wants to know is how certain are you that UV works. How did you come to that conclusion? Was the study blinded or double blinded and what’s the P value? According to Wikipedia, “In statistical hypothesis testing, the p-value or probability value is the probability of obtaining test results at least as extreme as the results actually observed during the test, assuming that the null hypothesis is correct.
I know it sounds complicated, but a practicing physician is taught to analyze P values and a host of other statistical terms so as to be able to evaluate how trustworthy the results of any test are. I often frustrate my friends when they present with anecdotal stories about the benefits of vitamins, medications, UV light, alkaline water, etc. It’s not that I don’t believe them. The heart of the matter is my profession requires proof before we accept any therapy or test.
What qualifiers are good for is avoiding the wrath of the press. Had President Trump said, “I’ve heard/read that UV light might be beneficial and think that further research might be helpful, no one could have criticized him. Had he said sanitizers do so well at killing the virus on surface that I wonder if we might be able to find a potentially effective and safe sanitizer to use on humans. No one would be able to criticize him.
Maybe I’ll hit a hole in one someday. Anything is possible assuming I start playing golf. Using qualifiers when you put forth an idea helps in assessing how reliable an idea is.
By the way, when you quote research such as the very small study done in China, be careful not to take it as gospel. In college, I was in charge of a rat lab and my research was worth 12 credits if done right. I screwed up! My results were not good and it looked like I was going to flunk 12 hours of credits. As a pre-med, it was a disaster. I spent an entire week in the library studying statistical analysis and came up with a statistical test that gave me a good “P” value. I got an “A” for those 12 hours.
While I could fool most of you, I did not fool my professor. Nor was my work ever published. Dr. Best gave me an “A” for my ingenuity in finding a valid statistical test that turned shit into gold. I learned a valuable lesson and have never screwed up again. Thank you, Dr Best! I participated in over 30 clinical trials in my lifetime and enjoy each trial. Research always kept me on the cutting edge of medicine.