asserting rationality has become a controversial act
Never in my life have i seen the world make less sense than today. It started with alternative facts but it is now becoming widely socially acceptable to "think with your feelings" and to shamelessly promulgate uneducated, illogical or irrational thoughts and ideas.
Exhibit 1: don't wear a face mask
Um.. scuse me? For some insane reason, in 2020, during a viral pandemic, Westerners were told not to use the most basic tool available to defend themselves against a respiratory virus: the face mask.
This is an epic breakdown of common sense. We were told that if worn incorrectly, masks could increase our chances of getting infected.
In essence we were basically told: nothing > imperfect. But this makes no sense. As we all know, in most cases, something > nothing. A viral load is not binary, but a continuous value which once it crosses a certain threshold has you infected. Let's assign a numerical value to the protection a mask offers, with
no protection = 0,
partial protection = 0.5,
total protection = 1.
no protection > partial protection.
In other words:
0 > 0.5 which is arithmetical heresy.
Meanwhile in Asia, everyone wore whatever they could, i.e even makeshift masks. And yes of course, we can delve deeper into the conversation, because different types of materials stop different amounts of particles of varying sizes.
But the idea that literally anything will be more effective at stopping viral droplets from entering your lungs than nothing is common sense. How is it possible that common sense is becoming rarer as we move into the future.
To make matters worse, this falsehood then got reinforced by a commitment and consistency bias, where wearing masks is now percieved as unmanly in the U.S.A. 🤦
Exhibit 2: i won't get vaccinated
Refusing a vaccine before it's even been made available, during a pandemic, once again goes right to the top of the greatest en-masse act of irrationality and distrust of everything ever seen.
This nonesense is circulating widely on Facebook, and convincing these idiots that Bill Gates is not an evil robot sent from the future to kill us is incredibly time consuming and difficult.
"Frankenstein" comments one user, "No Bueno Gates" says another. The irony being that viruses alter our DNA. You can find out more at the: Khan Academy series on viruses.
After some digging, it turns out they're basing their fears on some documentaries, including Vaxxed. The documentary was swiftly withdrawn by Amazon, yet we now have unthinking swaths of the population refusing vaccines, and blaming all of their ailments on them.
What Vaxxed forgot to tell its viewers, is that not a single shred of evidence links vaccines to autism.
Let's remind ourselves what smallpox looks like:
The eradication of smallpox (by a vaccine) in the 1970s is considered one of the greatest achievements in Human History. An estimated 300 million people died from smallpox in the 20th century alone.
This kind of idiocy has to stop. This message in the thread actually sums up the whole sentiment:
I do try, however i simply fail to understand what kind of world anti-vaxxers want to live in. Ilnesses that are either eradicated or on their way out thanks to vaccines:
- Tetanus (remember your parents warning you about rusty metal?)
- Hepatitis A & B
- Pneumococcal Disease
- Yellow Fever
I'm sorry to hear you think eradicating these illnesses, and possibly saving millions of lives due to a potential COVID19 vaccine has something to do with your ailments, but more likely you're suffering from Hyperchondria, confirmation bias within your peer group, or downright stupidity.
What about anti-bacterial resistance?
We are rapidly returning to the pre antibacterial era. Bacterial infections are incredibly dangerous.
Are anti-vaxxers against those too? After all, if their immune system is so strong from all the spirulina they've been drinking, then surely we should save our current stashes of anti-bacterials since they apparently don't need them. Why don't anti-vaxxers get added to a register, and agree to never recieve an anti-bacterial for the rest of their lives.
Anti-bacterial resistance is scary, and it's coming to your neighbourhood faster than you know. How about going to the dentist and returning with a flesh eating virus? Scratching yourself at the gym and needing to get a chunk of flesh cut out to save your leg. I wish i were exaggerating. It's around the corner and has already firmly started in many Asian and African and South American countries. Might not be serious enough in your neighbourhood yet for you to worry about it, but it won't be long before it is.
And then when these anti-vaxxers are laying on a hospital bed, begging for an anti-bacterial treatment, we can show them their form, and instead sprinkle a bit of homeopathic spring water on their wounds. Because modern medicine is a sham, right?
Antibiotic treatment for COVID-19 complications could fuel resistant bacteria. COVID19 attacks the lymphocytes, leading to opportunistic infections of the epithelium, lungs etc.
As a result, COVID19 patients are given a cocktail of drugs as a standard practice, and in many cases they're not working. Many of the deaths from COVID19 are not due to COVID19 itself, but due to the opportunistic bacterial co-infections. So when an idiot tells you they won't take the vaccine, what they're telling you is:
- they don't care about infecting others
- they don't care about fueling our society's rush into the pre antiobiotic era
- they're selfish
- they're ignorant, uneducated, paranoid
- or a powerful mix of all of the above
There is a growing distrust of experts in the USA, and apparently worldwide.
I get it, i too was the kind of idiot who thought he knew better than experts in their field. But it had to do with inconsequential matters like my diet. When it comes to more important matters, i'm intelligent enough to defer to the experts. Difering to experts is a pretty good heuristic when you think about it.
The scientific community has concensus mechanims in place. Sure, they are not perfect. There is a reproducibility crisis, and the peer review system appears to be broken.
But still, i'm assuming that thousands upon thousands of scientists can't be working on something unless it's important. Using Occam's razor, it's simpler to assume experts are telling us the truth, to the best of their knowledge, than otherwise.
The fight for rationality
Rationality used to be cool, and with all the misinformation circulating these days, i invite you to make rationality cool again.
Rational critical thinking is achieved by first realising how impossibly ignorant we are. Once our inherant ignorance is profoundly accepted, we can begin the lifelong journey of retraining our sensorium through education and logic. Join me in attempting to become more educated and logical, everyday. Spending one or many afternoons on Wikipedia or the Khan Academy. Whether studying biology, mathematics, proofs, logic, history, etc.
Learn to recognise when you're being biased, or maybe you have irrational ideas of your own. Learn how to let them go.
Do not back down in the face of ignorance
As humans, we evolved as social animals. So even when we have convictions, we are never 100% sure. We naturally seek social approval.
"Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions that differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions." --Albert Einstein
Resist group think. Learn to think for yourself. Learn to think critically. Learn to identify and admit when you are wrong. The faster you admit you are wrong, the easier it is. Learn about mental models and cognitive biases.
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored" – Aldous Huxley
Rational thought is more firmly grounded in reality than irrational thoughts, ideas and beliefs, so be gentle when you break the news to people, and be the best informed to explain to them why.
p.s it's ok to call people idiots when they are being idiots.