Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 52

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.

THE BIGGER PICTURE ON CONSPIRACY THEORIES

There is a relatively obvious (?) bigger picture on conspiracy theories.

And that is the life, the universe, existence, the divine seems to wish to express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways and in as many ways possible.

All beings live in their own world, and often these worlds intersect to some degree. Especially within the same species and community, beings tend to experience the world in similar ways.

In our age of online echo chambers, a huge amount of smaller global communities are formed. Some of these are formed around a shared passion for something within culture or nature. Some are learning communities. And some are conspiracy communities.

Conspiracy theories are one of many ways life or the divine explores, expresses, and experiences itself.

It’s part of the diversity of perception and mental guidelines for life within humanity right now.

It doesn’t mean the views are grounded in reality. It doesn’t mean they are logically very sound. And it doesn’t mean these folks are not sometimes a danger to democracy.

But it does mean it’s all happening within a bigger picture.

PUBLISHED SCIENCE ARTICLES – ON VACCINES, MASKS, THE PANDEMIC ETC.

A friend on social media referred to very weak articles published in less than reputable journals online.

Here is my response:

In any area of science, there are published articles that don’t fit the mainstream view. In most cases, the findings are not grounded in reality. This is just part of science, and – as I said – you’ll find this in any science and on just about any topic. Just because something is published doesn’t make it valid or something that reflects reality.

Especially these days, there are lots of online journals that, at first glance, look serious and scientific. They use the language and format of reputable publications. But the content is very weak and would likely never be published in serious and respected journals.

Personally, I have seen several articles on pandemic-related topics, published in these types of journals, that are almost laughably bad in terms of data and logic. And, often, the articles are written by people with some sort of credentials, just not in the area they are writing about. Which means they have no credentials at all. They have close to zero credibility.

For the findings and views to be taken seriously, it has to be published in reputable journals, the findings have to be replicated several times, there has to be a sound theory behind it, and competing theories and approaches have to be thoroughly disproven.

This is science 101 and I assume just about anyone learns about this in school.

RADICAL ANTI-FEMINIST?

I saw this label in a headline and thought it was both sad and slightly comical.

Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for men and women.

And more than that, it’s about valuing traditionally feminist qualities in all of us, including ourselves.

We all have what’s traditionally seen as masculine and feminine traits. And if you label yourself anti-feminist, you are anti half of who you are.

Not very smart.

Of course, it’s not meant to be smart.

These type of views and statements is a reaction to pain.

THE PANDEMIC REVEALS IRRATIONALITY

The pandemic reveals irrational thinking in many different ways.

The more blatant ones are…

People reading articles in less-than-reputable online journals written by people with zero credentials in the field they write about and actually taking it as solid information. Alternately, taking what one or a few people who do have credentials are saying when the vast majority of other experts have a different view. (In any field, there will be individuals with different views than the mainstream. That doesn’t mean they are right. Most of the time, they won’t be.)

People saying “it’s a violation of my human rights” when they refuse to take the vaccine or wear a mask. Nobody is forcing you to take the vaccine, so it’s clearly not a violation of human rights. And the ones enforcing vaccine passports are in their full right to do so.

Civilization is built on rules and privileges. We already accept a lot of laws and rules, including wearing a seat belt, not driving drunk, and so on. So why not accept masks and vaccines? There is no categorical difference between what you already accept and what you now refuse. The only difference is that you are used to most of it and take it for granted, and the vaccine and masks are new to you so you chose to react to it.

EROSION OF DEMOCRACY

Why do I spend any time at all writing about anti-science views and conspiracy theories?

It’s because I see it as a serious threat to our democracy and ability to effectively deal with our collective challenges.

Since Trump got onto the political stage, I have seen the erosion of democracy as his most dangerous contribution to politics. (Aside from starting wars as a president, which he fortunately held back from.)

And that’s how I still see it. He has been part of normalizing and legitimizing polarization, lies and advocating for one group (white Christians) against all other groups.

According to one who studies the dynamics of civil wars, the US now – after Trump – has a higher than 3% risk of civil war each year, which over time accumulates to a high and very real risk. (This is one of several reasons I personally left the US.)

He is, of course, as much a symptom as a cause. These are dynamics we have seen throughout history and at some times and periods more than others. And it’s also fueled by the internet, social media, and trolls of all stripes from individuals to intentional disinformation from organizations and governments (Russia is one clear example).

As I see it, those who hold anti-science, anti-vaccine, and anti-mask-wearing views are doing the same. They are choosing to be antisocial. They are choosing to hold onto misguided views. They are choosing to contribute to the polarization of society.

They are engaging in and fueling many of the same dynamics and trends as Trump.

THE BODY REACTS TO THE VACCINE AS IT DOES TO THE VIRUS

There are many arguments from vaccine skeptics and anti-vaccine folks that are baffling to me.

Among these is the possible side effects of the vaccine.

We know serious reactions to a vaccine happen, although it’s rare. Just about everyone already accepts far greater risks in daily life, like getting into a car. So why not also accept this very small risk when our individual and collective benefits are so great?

Equally important is that the serious side effects of vaccines typically reflect what can happen when we have the real infection. It comes from the body’s reaction to the vaccine and the virus. The vaccine mimics the virus, and the body’s reaction to the vaccine mimics its reaction to the virus. So if you are afraid of the body’s reaction to the vaccine, shouldn’t you be as or more scared of how the body may react to the actual virus?

THE NEWNESS FACTOR

In general, I see flawed logic in most arguments from people who hold views that are anti-vaccine, anti-mask wearing, and anti-pandemic measures in general.

For instance, they already accept a lot of restrictions and regulations. It’s part of society and what makes it work. It’s part of civilization. Many accept all this because they know it makes sense and because they are used to it and familiar with it.

I suspect a big reason why some react to pandemic measures is that it’s new to them.

Perhaps they are not familiar with the history or regularity of pandemics? Or epidemiology and what we know works to limit the individual and collective impact of pandemics? Or what can happen if we collectively don’t organize ourselves in certain ways to limit its impact?

If they were, I assume they would see that this is not new at all. It may seem new to us because we haven’t experienced it before as individuals. But it’s not at all new from the perspective of history.

And it is a bit baffling to me. They react to it as if it’s new when it’s not at all new to us as humanity. And they accept a lot of other restrictions and regulations because it’s familiar and reject these because they are new to them.

OCEAN FRONT PROPERTY?

Since I was a teenager in the ’80s, I have been baffled by how some still think oceanfront property is desirable.

Of course, it may be in the short term, as long as you find someone to sell it to who is willfully ignorant about the climate crisis.

But for the rest of us, it looks like a very bad idea. We know the ocean levels are rising and will continue to rise, and may do so for several meters in the next few decades.

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