Friday, November 5, 2010

Harm Caused by Animals

Possibly due partially to my most recent post re: personal alcohol expenditures, several people have sent me this few days old link, Harm Caused by Drugs, from The Economist. They show a plot of the relative harm caused by various drugs, both to society and to the individual. Alcohol ranks first. I guess I'm effed. 

While I guess it's cool, what I keep pointing out is that as far as I can tell, what they are plotting is not data on { mortality / crime / loss of dignity / accidental pregnancy / increased probability of jumping naked on a trampoline } that can be attributed to use of the drug. They are plotting some "drug-harm" experts' opinions on how much harm each drug causes. I'm certainly not saying that these people's opinions aren't valid, but how can the experts even assign a number to this? I actually looked at the summary of the study, and they are not giving rankings; they are coming up with these numbers based on weighting several different sub-categories of personal/societal harm. What is one unit of harm? How do you come up with the weights? Are harm to self and harm to society additive like this plot suggests? 

Also, the way this is phrased makes it seem as though this is a score of the intrinsic potential harm caused by the drug. I have a hard time believing that alcohol is fundamentally more harmful than, let's say, crack cocaine. I think what got alcohol it's primo number one ranking is the fact that it's so common.  

In this same spirit, I thought I would plot the harm caused by various animals according to an expert on the subject: Napoleon Dynamite. Each animal is ranked based on the harm it can cause to people due to natural fierceness and supernatural magic skills. Each of these is of course comprised of several subcategories, which were weighted according to their importance in determining overall  potential harm.   

On a related note, WTF, California??

1 comment:

  1. From the paper: "most criteria listed as to others take account indirectly of the numbers of users." Unclear whether this means it is or is not supposed to be expressed per number of users. In any case, there is no way that alcohol is more damaging to society per user than meth, heroin, or crack. This bizarre result may have something to do with the fact that this study relies on zero data. Well debunked, as always.