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Driving the Car Over the Cliff

One of the greatest things about science is that it helps you get rid of wrong ideas. You might not like it when you see your hypothesis is wrong, but having the desire to think rationally, not emotionally, and to go wherever the facts lead, makes it easier to accept being wrong and trying to correct course. Thinking emotionally, on the other hand, is following a road that can leaf off a cliff. 

Photo from Pexels.

You don't have to look very hard to see cars heading for a cliff--or falling through the air. Australia is a penal colony again, New York state is about to fire over 80,000 unvaccinated health care workers in the midst of a pandemic and labor shortage even though whatever vaccinated replacements they can find can spread COVID, and everywhere there's a forceful push to vaccinate everyone even though it hasn't slowed down spread anywhere it's been tried. 

It's not just policy makers: an online acquaintance thinks unvaccinated people are committing involuntary manslaughter despite all evidence people have presented to the contrary. A friend--the same one I warned about nursing homes possibly closing for lack of help--told me about the remodeling at her mother's nursing home: the remodeled units have big kitchens with an island, a built-in microwave above the counter, and cupboards you'd need a ladder to get to. Just the sort of kitchen needed by frail, elderly people whose meals are provided in a dining hall, right? I said it sounded like the units were being remodeled as regular apartments; she said it was "just weird." I doubt she suspects that her mother might have to come live with her soon. 

Why are people ignoring facts?

Temperament. Public health seems to attract germaphobes, authoritarians and compulsive liars. Look at Kerry Chant from Australia ("don't start up a conversation!")--she looks like a crazy aunt who disguised herself in her grandmother's clothes and escaped from the attic. Likewise, people who awfulize, have black-and-white thinking, learned helplessness or other neuroses. All of these flaws prevent rational thinking.

Ideology. Lockdowns, school closures, store closures, mask mandates and other micromanagment measures were a waste of time--but if you made these policies because your head is cabbaged up with authoritarianism, you'll think you need to double down instead of correct course. On a personal level, there's Trump Derangement Syndrome, which leads sufferers to do the opposite of whatever supposed Trump supporters do (like show up in person at work). 

They're on their high horse. People with personal, practical reasons for getting the vaccine (or not), for instance, have had an easier time learning more about the vaccine. But people who took it to help end the pandemic or because science have generally been unable (I have observed) to process any facts showing the vaccines aren't, in some respects, working as advertised.

Status. If you were calling the delta variant the redneck variant last month, finding out your shot will eventually leave you vulnerable to it has to induce some cognitive dissonance. Or if you've been enjoying your emergency powers, you might veto legislation that stops your perpetual emergency--and then try to sue when the legislature overrides your veto. I'm looking at you, governors of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

What can you do? The only person you can do anything about is you

Think about your thinking. Are you thinking scientifically? Can you name the steps in the scientific method? Do you have a favorite science book? A favorite field of science? Can you name scientific things you've changed your mind about in the past year? If so, congratulations--you're probably thinking scientifically and rationally. If, on the other hand, you think science is believing whatever an alphabet soup organization says, taking studies at face value, using a smart phone, or looking at pictures of outer space, you should review the scientific method

It's OK to find out you're wrong. Being wrong isn't being a failure, it's the first step to correcting course. Instead of being attached to a particular conclusion, I try to be attached to following the evidence and finding the truth. 

Painful facts are best faced sooner, not later. Face up to facts and you can plan for a move, or waning immunity, or a job change instead of being blindsided. Leadership is so derelict in some places that there are people who will need to make these big changes; others need to realize they can infect other people despite vaccine propaganda to the contrary. The stakes are high. Get out of the car while you can!


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