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?

2 thoughts to “Pandemic irrationality: not trusting experts, and opposing rules because they are unfamiliar”

  1. Probably because these people who are “experts” generally don’t tell the truth. They constantly whine about “trusting the science” but believe that a man can suddenly declare himself a woman, and we are all supposed to play make believe, that he’s now a woman! He can now go into women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, and can compete against normal women. Plus, these “experts” (like Billy Gates) change their tune at every opportunity. Fauci the Elf, said DON’T WEAR MASKS! The W.H.O. said don’t wear a mask also. Then they suddenly say, “wear two masks!” Now they say wear two masks even after getting vaccinated!! Huh? There’s no science there!! Absolutely none at all!
    Also, science says there are two genders. Science says life begins at conception, therefore abortion is murder, the taking of a life.
    Trust the science bro!

  2. Thank you, Ernie. I feel you are using a lot of straw-man arguments here and much of what you write is based in misconceptions about science.

    When it comes to the topic of gender, I think you confuse sex and gender. Sex is biology and gender is a social construct. I learned this relatively early on in school and I assume most people do.

    Since gender is a social construct, it’s clearly fluid and can take all sorts of forms – and it does.

    You seem to talk about sex, even if you call it gender. Science is very clear that sex is not binary, and you can find innumerable scientific articles addressing that topic. A brief one is “Stop using phony science to justify transphobia” from Scientific American:

    Also, you don’t seem to grasp a fundamental principle of science: the content of science changes over time. We learn new things, we get new data, so the content of science changes. Also, when it comes to advise, that will naturally change with situations and circumstances.

    I don’t live in the US so I didn’t really pay attention to Fauci and what he said. If you read what I wrote, I was critical of the “no mask” advice in the beginning of the pandemic, although I suspect it was because high-quality masks were needed in hospitals and they didn’t want regular people to buy up the stocks.

    And if you knew anything about the covid vaccine, you would know that you can still get infected and spread the virus even if you have been vaccinated. The vaccine prevents serious illness, not the illness itself. So it makes 100% sense to wear mask even after vaccination. It’s the responsible thing to do.

    You say “trust the science” but you seem to base your own views on a lot of very basic misconceptions.

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