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ANAHITA  February 1999

ANAHITA February 1999

Subject:

gynecology and childbirth

From:

Don Walter <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 1 Feb 1999 19:44:22 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Since I am not a classicist, only an interested amateur, I have kept out of
the interesting discussion on this Net (that is, kept from adding to them).
 But this recent riff about Soranos, and whether >he made an art into a
science -- transforming the patient
>from client into subject.
>
or whether he represented the concept >that women didn't have vaginas or
couldn't give
> birth until he came along?
>
resonates too strongly with my former field, Medical Research (I retired a
few years ago), for me to keep a wise silence.  What I spend my time on at
present is trying to write a book-&-CD titled "Without Formulas: Statistics
understood by computer," or some such title (plug, plug!).  This book tries
to empower oppresed minorities, like Life Science students, or
sociologists, who have endured the jibes and condescension of Math students
for too long: a new technqiue, called bootstrapping (_not_ my own
invention) calls into question all the Famous Formulas spawned by Dead
White Guys over the last 200-300 years, for answering questions like "Did
my wife's anti-nausea meds cause our kid's birth defects?" (Fictional for
me, but unfortuantely not so, for quite a few women).  And similar
technicalization of the Human Condition, like the one about Soranos and
sore vaginas.  Although the poster who complained about the AMA's effect on
ancient Rome was a little out of period, I completely sympathize with her
anger over nearly-dead white guys taking over maternity, by turning into a
medical problem.  My book will try to do what I can to return power to the
users of knowledge, instead of their Professors, in the particular small
area of statistics.  You may not have thought of it this way, but your life
expectancy is coming to depend more and more on your Physician's version of
medical statistical understanding.  Physicians are accustomed to claiming
that they treat the individual patient; and controversy about how or
whether statistics applies to individuals has a long and unsatisfactory
history.  But with more and more new drugs, which even the experienced
physician has had no time to become experienced with, she has to depend
more and more on statistical analyses of clinical trials.  But if she went
into medicine partly because she didn't do so well in math and statistics
classes, her understanding will be governed by the consensus of specialists
who guide those trials and their reporting.
        A friend of mine (another retired Prof, this time in Statistics itself) is
helping a small group of to us write up a study of blood-pressure lowering
drugs, and whether the extensive data really support current prescribing
practices.  Our conclusion is that they emphatically do not; but drug
companies have fooled physicians into think that they do, by sneaky
statistical twisting.  We're not likely to be real popular with drug
companies!  But these are just other examples of the pernicious effects of
medicalization and technicalization; rather than simply railing at those
trends, I am trying to provide tools for counter-actions, tools for
independent knowledge analysis.
But Soranos was probably not the first to try this, and clearly far from
the last!

Don Walter

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