Pandemic irrationality: not trusting experts, and opposing rules because they are unfamiliar

 

In these pandemic days, some oppose the government rules and guidelines put in place to control the pandemic. (Fortunately, less in Norway than in some other countries.)

There are several things about that opposition that puzzles me.

Trusting experts

For instance, most of those opposed to these rules and guidelines are not epidemiologists. Why wouldn’t you trust someone who has spent their life studying what works in a pandemic? Why would you instead trust some random people on the internet?

If I have a health problem, I’ll trust a specialist in the medical profession, not some random person on the street. If I want a haircut, I’ll go to a hairdresser and not a fisherman. If I have trouble with my car, I’ll go to a mechanic and not a manicurist. If I want to build a bridge, I’ll go to an engineer and not a surgeon.

If I want to know what to do in a pandemic, I’ll go to an epidemiologist and not some random people on the internet.

These people who are so opposed to the pandemic rules and guidelines, do they go to a mechanic when they want a haircut? Do they go to a gardener when they have a serious health problem? Do they ask a nurse to fix the mechanical problem with their car? Do they go to a doctor to design a bridge?

If they don’t, why don’t they trust epidemiologists in a pandemic?

Opposing the guidelines because they are new and unfamiliar?

I also wonder if some of those who oppose the pandemic guidelines do so because the guidelines are unfamiliar to them. After all, these people likely follow a large number of other rules and guidelines put in place to protect us all and benefit society.

Most of them are probably happy to use a seat belt. Follow traffic rules. Pay their taxes. Avoid killing someone. Pay for the products they want in stores. And so on.

Society has a huge number of written and unwritten rules in place, and most are happy to follow them either because these rules are familiar, or also because they know these rules are in place to benefit all of us and so we can have a well-functioning society.

If this is so obvious, why do they still oppose the guidelines?

Both of these seem completely obvious. We go to experts to get something done, and we generally trust them. And we already follow a huge number of rules in society, so what do these temporary ones matter? After all, it’s only for a short period of time and they are put in place to protect us all.

I am not sure. Perhaps it’s because people are not used to thinking logically about things? Or that they prefer to engage in their reactivity rather than what’s more reasoned?

Real-life test cases

We also have real-life test cases, both from history and in the current epidemic.

From history, we know that masks, quarantine, lock-downs, and so on work.

And we see the same in the world today. The countries with leaders who largely minimized and ignored the advice from epidemiologists, like the US (Trump) and Brazil (Bolsonaro), have not fared well. While the countries that did follow the advice have largely done much better.

Reasonable discussion

Of course, there is a reasonable discussion to be had on these topics. For instance, I often think that the Norwegian government is strangely behind the science. They didn’t recommend masks until many months into the pandemic, and they still assume that young people are not very affected by the virus (in spite of a great deal of evidence to the contrary). It’s also clear that masks need to be close-fitting and high-quality to function properly, and that’s often left out in the discussion about masks.

There are many things open to reasonable discussion, although these tend to revolve around the details and the specifics, not the general benefit of masks, temporary lock-downs, and so on.

Epidemiologists know what works, and they agree on what works. So why not follow their recommendations? Why not follow the government recommendations when these largely follow the recommendations of epidemiologists?

Epstein-Barr vaccine for ME/CFS?

 

We’ve been sort of chipping away at this [long COVID] by treating each symptom,” he says. “If it’s really true that at least 40% of people have significant recovery with a therapeutic vaccination, then, to date, this is the most effective intervention we have for long COVID.

Mysterious Ailment, Mysterious Relief: Vaccines Help Some COVID Long-Haulers, NPR

Quite a few who have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) got it after an Epstein-Barr infection (mononucleosis), just like some got long-Covid following a Covid 19 infection.

Both are classic post-viral syndromes, so I wonder if an Epstein-Barr vaccine would help some of those CFS patients? Although most promising leads in medicine go nowhere, it would be worth testing.

Unfortunately, there is no approved vaccine for Epstein-Barr yet, but it may come. I assume it’s not a priority to develop this type of vaccine.

If this turns out to work for EB-related CFS, why would it? The trigger of CFS may be a low-grade chronic EB infection. So an EB vaccine may kick the immune system into better detecting and going after EB virus previously “invisible” to the immune system.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXVII

 

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

SOME LAYERS I USE WHEN I LOOK AT SOCIETY

When I write posts here, I write from one or a few perspectives.

These perspectives reflect my biases and conditioning as a male from a northern European country, university educated, and so on. And they reflect my own hangups, wounds, emotional issues, beliefs, identifications, and perceived lack.

There are many perspectives out there that are equally valid and important, and I leave them out to make it simpler (and easier for myself), and also because I am aware of only a small subset of all the existing and possible perspectives.

So what’s the bigger and more general picture for social issues?

My world – the world as it appears to me – happens within and as what I am. All my experiences happen within and as what I am.

The world appears the way it does to me because of my own mental overlay. This overlay consists of mental images and words, and it puts labels, meaning, and stories on my world. I am responsible for my own stories about the world, including the most basic assumptions about the world, others, and myself.

The stories I have about the world reflect me as a human being. Whatever stories I have about the world or others also fit me, and I can find very specific examples of how each one fits me.

Each person perceives and acts from their own filters and biases, including me. We cannot escape this but we can be a little more aware of this happening and some of the specific filters and biases.

Each person has valuable perspectives and views, especially when we drill down to the essence of what these are about.

Everything is a whole and part. What we see happening here and now are expressions of movements within the whole – going back to beginning of time and stretching out to the widest extent of existence.

It’s all lila. The world as it appears to me is the play of this consciousness. Or, we can say it’s the play of life – or the divine. It’s consciousness, life, or the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

I cannot know anything for certain. I am operating from a huge number of questioned and unquestioned assumptions.

When I write, I typically highlight one or a few of these even if all of them are there in the background.

A SAD IRONY OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES

There is a sad irony in the conspiracy theory world.

I suspect some – or many? – who get into conspiracy theories do partly to feel they know something others don’t and to feel special, smart, and perhaps even powerful. They may try to compensate for feeling like an outsider, a failure, rejected, and powerless.

Although they may find a sense of belonging in the conspiracy subculture, they may also separate themselves from friends and relatives. To the extent they get identified with the conspiracy world, they may isolate themselves from those who are not into it. In that way, they create for themselves even more of what they try to escape.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXVI

 

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

POLITICAL DIMENSIONS I FIND USEFUL

There are some political dimensions I find as useful as the conventional ones.

The main one may be inclusiveness. Is this policy aimed at benefiting all life, as far as possible? Or is it aimed at benefiting one particular group at the expense of others? Of course, we may not be able to find policies that always benefit everyone, but we can do our best. And when I say all life, I mean all life – including non-human species and future generations.

Another is reality orientation. Is this view or policy grounded in reality? Is it grounded in science? Or is it based on ideology, logical fallacies, misinformation, or conspiracy theories?

And yet another is democracy. Does this policy, party, or politician aim to deepen and strengthen democracy? Or does it aim to undermine it?

The first one has been important to me since my mid-teens. The second has become more salient and relevant in our post-truth era. And the third has similarly become relevant due to anti-democracy forces that are both unintentional (social media, echo chambers) and intentional (weaponized fake news, conspiracy theories, troll farms), and leaders of democracies that actively undermine these democracies like Trump and Putin.

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Pandemic dream: out among people as before and thinking I need to be more careful

 

I am out among people, talking with them, and being physically close to several. During these interactions, I keep thinking to myself: It’s a pandemic, I need to be more careful. How is it possible that I am so close to these people and none of us seem to remember the pandemic precautions?

I remember two or three of these types of dreams since the pandemic precautions started in Europe in March. I haven’t written them down here since they seem relatively self-explanatory.

In waking life, I am cautious about preventing spread of the infection, and the dream reflects some natural cautiousness and slight worry in me around it. It seems similar to the classic going-out-of-the-house-without-pants type of dreams.

Although the dream itself is perhaps not so interesting, I thought I would write it down here in case someone after the pandemic is curious about pandemic dreams. Or perhaps someone out there now or later is searching out pandemic dreams for some research purpose! It would be an interesting topic for research.

Reducing the viral load

 

This is something I have written about since early in the pandemic as I feel it’s an often overlooked point.

When it comes to protecting ourselves against the C19 virus, an important factor is to reduce the viral load.

Sometimes, we may be able to avoid getting infected in the first place – through physical distancing, good hygiene, facemasks and so on.

And in case we do get infected, the same measures helps us reduce the viral load. The fewer viruses we get into our system, the better chance our system have to deal with it.

Pandemic and chronic fatigue

 

An infection with the new-to-humans C19 (corona, covid 19) virus may lead to chronic fatigue. Although Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) often comes after mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus), it can follow other infections which is why it’s sometimes is called a post-viral syndrome.

So in two or three years, we may see a significant increase in people with CFS. And although I don’t wish it for anyone, I also realize that this can come with some upsides. It can increase awareness of CFS in general. It can help increase acceptance of CFS as a serious biological illness. And it can spur more research into CFS and its causes and possible treatments and cures.

The pandemic has already had some upsides for people with CFS and other disabilities or chronic illnesses. It has opened up the world through increased use of virtual meetings, socializing, and public offerings (talks, concerts, performances). I personally am very grateful for that shift and feel more included.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Why I love science fiction

I have loved science fiction since I was little, reading Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and others.

Why do I love it? Probably for the same reason as others love it.

It gives us an opportunity to think about different possibilities for the future. It highlights what can happen if we take different paths. It gives us visions for what’s possible – both of what we want and what we don’t want.

It mirrors back to us our own society, mindset, and worldview. It can show us ourselves by reversing roles – for instance by having humans treated as we treat other species. It’s a great setting for exploring different ethical dilemmas. And by setting the story in the future and/or another place in the universe, it creates a slight distance that makes this mirror more palpable to us than if it’s more direct, literal, and heavy handed

Science fiction may seem like an escape, and it often does have that element. And at the same time, it can be deadly serious – in showing us possibilities for the future, and showing us ourselves as we are now.

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