A pandemic of fallacious thinking and civic irresponsibility: The precarious state of reason

Who anticipated the awful arguments/claims that would result in response to the Pandemic?

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Given that life and death literally rest on the validity of the “arguments”—if they are even worthy of the term–that have been bandied about in favor of not getting vaccinated for Covid19, they deserve the most intense scrutiny we can muster. Each is bad enough in itself, but taken together, they reinforce one another. They bunch together in distinct clusters thereby buttressing one another in the most insidious of ways.

But by far, one of their worst features is the sheer fury that underscores each of them. Threats of harm and violence towards those who don’t share the same are too close for comfort.

The following are the major arguments/claims for not getting vaccinated:

1.     “By virtue of my age, health, lifestyle, and special circumstance, I’m totally immune to the Virus.”

2.     “My body, my choice! The government has no right to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body. It’s an infringement on my Basic Freedoms and Liberties! It’s nothing less than Tyranny. Besides, I and I alone know best when it comes to my own body.”

3.     “The Bible tells us that we are made in the Image of God. Wearing masks is nothing less than a desecration of His Image. It’s a Sin of the Gravest Order!”

4.     “The vaccine is responsible for causing the Virus.”

5.     “The authorities have reversed themselves so many times that they’re not to be trusted.”

6.     “The Virus is not a big deal.”

7.     “The wearing of masks is foolish.”

8.     “We cannot allow science and scientists to rule our lives. Who gave Anthony Fauci the power to make decisions over us?”

9.     “It’s time to stop worrying about others.”

10.  “The Virus is part of Nature. Thus, in harmony with all things, it’s morally and 

         universally appropriate to let Nature run its course.”

11.  “The vaccines are an insidious plot to put microchips in us not just to track our whereabouts, but even worse, to read and thereby control our minds.”

The first claim is that by virtue of a person’s special circumstances, and/or basic characteristics, he or she is totally exempt from the disease, therefore requiring no intervention or treatment whatsoever. The rebuttal is that there are no such known circumstances or characteristics that make anyone immune. To believe otherwise is wishful thinking of the worst kind. It’s made even worse by the fact that it’s a direct threat to the well-being others.

The second is a complete misunderstanding of Freedom. Freedom does not mean that one has the absolute right to do whatever he or she pleases. By definition, all civilized societies put limits on what its citizens can and cannot do. As such, they are absolutely necessary to protect the general health, safety, and well-being of society as a whole. The acceptance of limits is one of the keys that binds people together as one.

Even more basic, one is not always the best judge when it comes to one’s body. It’s impossible for anyone to possess all of the relevant knowledge that experts have acquired though years of arduous and specialized training.

The third is a gross misreading and interpretation of the Bible, or any particular text for that matter. The inherent nature, let alone the image, of God is not defiled by the wearing protective equipment, especially that which safeguards the health and well-being of our fellow beings. To the contrary, it’s testimony to our God-given intelligence and that we choose to exercise it wisely.

The claim that the vaccine is responsible for the Virus is not only completely bogus, but a total misunderstanding and complete reversal of the correct order of things. The “correct sequence” is that the Virus is responsible for the vaccines and the protection they offer from the disease, not the reverse.

It’s true that authorities such as CDC and Dr Fauci have reversed themselves. But they have not done so arbitrarily. Rather, they have changed their recommendations as the underlying conditions themselves have changed. Indeed, one of the prime features of science is that it’s self-correcting. Ideally, the institutions that are based on it are as well.

The Virus is a big deal, Period! It’s one of the worst calamities to strike in modern times. It’s responsible for over 4.5 million deaths worldwide.

Furthermore, in response to another variation on the same theme, it’s not a hoax created by Nefarious Liberals to impose their will on others.

To the contrary, not wearing masks is foolish. Along with being vaccinated, masks are one of the best protections we have against the Virus. Recent studies only confirm it.

Dr. Fauci earned his position by virtue of his specialized education, experience, and qualifications. No one “gave it to him.”

When indeed is it ever time to stop being concerned about others? Aren’t we all in this together? Do we really want no one to be concerned about anyone other than him or herself? If so, it would be the ruination of society.

The Virus is not the result of “Nature acting alone” for there is no such thing anymore. It’s the case of humans not taking appropriate precautions to prevent animals from all-too-readily transmitting a deadly disease from one species to another. In today’s world, there’s little humans do that does not affect all of Nature. The most potent example is the recent Nobel prize in chemistry which was awarded for gene-editing technology. While it was created for the express purpose of correcting genetic effects in young babies, in the wrong hands it can be used to create “designer humans.” Once again, there’s not a single aspect of Nature that is not affected by our actions, intended or not.

The last would be laughable if it were not conspiratorial thinking of the worst kind.

Again, the individual arguments/claims are bad enough in and of themselves, but they’re made even worse by the fact that they group together in distinct clusters thereby reinforcing one another.

First and foremost is the Hoax Cluster, namely that Virus is not real, and as a result, not deserving of any, let alone serious, attention. It’s supported by the false assertion that the numbers of people affected are too small for us to worry about. It’s reinforced by the Conspiracy/Paranoia Cluster. Namely, the Virus has been fomented by the Government so that not only can it track our whereabouts and thoughts at all times, but control them and thereby take away our God-given freedoms and rights. The I Know Best Cluster is more of the same. Another is the Invulnerability Cluster, namely that “If in the highly improbable case that the Virus is real, I’m immune to it.” The Product Defect Cluster is the unfounded claim that the Vaccine, not the Virus, is the true danger since it’s responsible for causing the Virus in the first place. In addition, the vaccine has not been tested enough to ensure its absolute safety.

While these do not cover them all, they more than capture the general spirit of the major arguments/claims.

In the end, all of the above and more are symptoms of the general failure to inculcate critical thinking and civic responsibility in society at large. Their failure is especially pernicious for they are the foundation’s democratic societies. Indeed, they cannot exist without them. Without the ability to reason critically from premises which have themselves been subject to serious examination, Reason itself cannot be trusted.

It cannot be said enough. Without an understanding and acceptance of civic responsibility, society itself is not possible.   

Finally, there is another aspect which deserves special attention. Efforts are of course underway to learn the lessons of Covid19 so that we’re better prepared for the next Pandemics. Indeed, Epidemiologists have been warning for years that it was only a matter of “when” not “if” that a major Pandemic would occur. To better our understanding and thus preparations, they’ve even conducted simulations for them. But no one to my knowledge has proposed, let alone performed, actual simulations for all the systems that would be affected by a major Pandemic: The Economy, Education, Hospitals, Nursing Homes, etc. It’s the result of our failure to think and act Systemically. Indeed, who anticipated the awful arguments/claims that would result in response to the Pandemic?

Yes, the situation is not entirely without precedent. There have always been fallacious and demented arguments in response to terrible outbreaks such as HIV and SARS. But why didn’t we learn from them and thus better prepare? If we had, would it have increased the rates of vaccinations?

If we are to do better, it will not only require the cooperation of diverse experts to plan for the serious Medical, Economic, and Social consequences of the next Pandemics, but it will require Experts of diverse stripes to anticipate as many of the outlandish and downright bizarre arguments/claims that that will follow. It can no longer be left to chance.

Thinking and Preparing for the Unthinkable has never been more critical.

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