You must see this.
The Psychological Reason Why Some People Aren’t Following COVID-19 Quarantine Orders
How to handle the people who aren’t convinced by facts
Despite the repeated consensus that adhering to social distancing guidelines is the most effective way to diffuse the novel coronavirus pandemic, some people were slow to cancel their plans; some are still engaging in get-togethers.
It’s frustrating if this is one of your friends, endangering if it’s one of your immediate family members, and a tricky situation if it’s one of your colleagues, or someone who reports to you.
How do you handle someone who is blatantly ignoring social distancing guidelines? How do you reason with someone who is, essentially, a COVID-19 denier?
I urge you to please take special note of the opening words: “people who aren’t convinced by facts” and “Despite the repeated consensus …”
This isn’t merely sloppy reasoning — although it’s certainly that as well — but something far more insidious: it is a method of manipulation, a tactic universally employed and which works with great effectiveness on unsuspecting readers.
Please be aware that, despite using the word “facts” in the subtitle, no facts are actually given.
Also, just for the record, I could right now provide you with the names of 800 medical specialists who disagree about the “repeated consensus” purported by the writer — as I can cite the brilliant Stanford epidemiologist Dr. John P. A. Ioannidis and his recent paper: “Coronavirus disease: The harms of exaggerated information and non-evidence-based measures,” as I can cite the equally brilliant Harvard Medical School professor and immunologist Dr. Michael Mina, as I can also cite Johns Hopkins infectious disease specialist Dr. Amesh Adalja, and plenty of others — but even this is not the primary point here.
The primary point is to observe the passive-aggressive form of intellectual bullying (or “shaming,” as everyone likes to say it these days) being employed: observe that it is fully and yet obliquely implied (and the obliqueness is part of the manipulation-tactic) without regard or reference to any actual data or factual information, that anyone who does not know this or “adhere” to the official “guidelines” is wrongheaded and out-of-touch. This premise is assumed in the very language of that first sentence — something presupposed, not even to be questioned.
That is how unsuspecting readers are manipulated into convictions which they very often never realize they’ve formed.
That is the process by which you end up with a 16-year-old Swedish girl lecturing the world on a topic she knows nothing substantive about, and the world simply nods in total acquiescence and deference.
That is the process whereby dogmas, with all their buzz-words and jargon, are formed, and over which people will fight you to the death, even less than a month after the dogma was created.
Dogmas spare people the responsibility and effort of reasoning, which requires time and work and is a continual process. It’s also an individual act of volition each time it’s activated — reason is choice — and it’s not easy. Yet it’s how humans live because it’s how the conceptual apparatus functions.
The key phrase in the cited passage above is “repeated consensus,” which is here used as a way to bypass any need for rigorous reasoning — saying, in essence: “This is a fact and everyone knows it. The debate, if there ever was one (and there wasn’t), is over.”
Notice as well that there is no attempt whatsoever to back-up that so-named “repeated consensus” — which is also not just another sloppy form of reasoning, insofar as it seeks to deepen the psychological manipulation in the very circumventing of any factual data to back it up: specifically, by implying that it’s taken-for-granted, a given, so that if you don’t know about or believe in this “repeated consensus,” you are out-of-touch.
This is a specific type of logical fallacy, usually known as the Argument from Authority or, less commonly, ipse dixit. But this writer isn’t necessarily committing an honest error of reasoning — though I will leave it to each reader to decide how consciously manipulative the writer is here being.
The fallacy culminates in the final words of the passage cited above: reason with and denier.
That last word — popularized, as you know, the past decade by catastrophic climate-change activists — has deep holocaust connotations and largely for this reason is a type of ridicule. But ridicule, like ipse dixit and like bullying, are lazy forms of argumentation and cannot substitute real reasoning, nor survive under the light of logic.
There is a fatal flaw built into this type of polemic, and that fatal flaw is this: the process of conceptualization and comprehension does not happen merely by consensus, whether the consensus is alleged or actual.
Knowledge, scientific and otherwise, isn’t determined by numbers of people.
True knowledge, which is an act of integrating new information into your existing context-of-knowledge, is determined by data. It’s determined by facts, no matter how many people understand them or not. That billions believe does not make anything so. Concerning Covid, because of the paucity in testing, there is simply no way yet to know the true infection rate. And just as you cannot calculate an accurate death-rate without first knowing the infection rate, so you cannot calculate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of any “guidelines” without knowing what the infection rate is. It’s a baseless claim without complete evidence — especially considering that many infected people, according to the Iceland study, are symptomless or with symptoms so mild that they don’t connect it with Covid-19. And more: there is strong evidence to suggest that forcing people to stay inside, in close quarters with one another, as the official “social distancing guidelines” recommend, increases the number of infections.
Think again if you believe draconian controls recommended by a few (but far from all) medical experts are saving many lives from COVID-19. Facts reported by mathematician Yitzhak Ben Israel of Tel Aviv University don’t support such beliefs.
Professor Israel found that no matter how much or little politicians quarantined the population, “coronavirus peaked and subsided in the exact same way.” Whether the country relied on politicians shutting the country down (the US and UK, for example) or private voluntary actions (Sweden), Prof. Israel’s work shows that “all countries experienced seemingly identical coronavirus infection patterns, with the number of infected peaking in the sixth week and rapidly subsiding by the eighth week.”
In short, coercive measures imposed to protect the public from COVID-19 are as effective as throwing magical “tiger dust” in Central Park to keep tigers at bay in Manhattan.
Why are we so enamored with experts and their tiger dust? Simply, we don’t understand the inherent fallibility of human beings. Well-meaning experts can be as destructive as authoritarian politicians.
Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman is a behavioral economist and psychologist. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, he writes, “Every policy question involves assumptions about human nature, in particular about the choices that people may make and the consequences of their choices for themselves and for society.” Mistaken or unexamined assumptions corrupt decision-making.
Experts Have Cognitive Biases
In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman catalogs the many cognitive biases impairing human beings. Kahneman and his late research partner Amos Tversky “documented systematic errors in the thinking of normal people, and [they] traced these errors to the design of the machinery of cognition rather than to the corruption of thought by emotion.” In short, “severe and systematic errors” in cognition prevent us from being the rational thinkers we’d like to think we are.
Reporting on the work of psychologist Paul Slovic, Kahneman writes, “[Slovic] probably knows more about the peculiarities of human judgment of risk than any other individual.”
If you’re thinking, that’s why we need to entrust these decisions to experts, you would be wrong: Experts have the same cognitive biases as the rest of us.
Because of expert bias, Slovic “strongly resists the view that the experts should rule” and dissuades us from believing “their opinions should be accepted without question when they conflict with the opinions and wishes of other citizens.”
Please note the following and remember it (it’s new):
And so now this:
The only real way that knowledge and human progress can be derailed is by the systematic rejection of inductive reasoning, which forms the underpinnings not just of all science and the scientific-method, but of the entirety of human apprehension.
No scientist — whether researcher or practitioner or both, whether biologist, chemist, physicist, geologist, climate scientist, or any other — none can pursue knowledge without first having a view of what knowledge is and how that knowledge is acquired.
All scientists, therefore, whether they know it explicitly or not, need a theory of knowledge.
This theory must come from the most fundamental science: the science of philosophy.
The science of knowledge specifically belongs to that branch of philosophy called epistemology.
Epistemology — from the Greek word episteme, which means “knowledge”— is an extraordinarily complicated discipline that begins with three simple words: consciousness is awareness.
All scientists, I repeat, need a theory of knowledge, and this theory of knowledge subsequently affects every aspect of a scientist’s approach to her research — from the questions she asks, to the answers she finds, to the hypothesis and theories then developed and built-upon.
Very rare geniuses like Galileo and Newton and perhaps even Kepler (who, for all his mathematical brilliance and tireless work, held to a metaphysical viewpoint deeply flawed) were ferociously innovative in epistemology as well as physics —specifically, in systematizing and codifying the core principles of the inductive-method, which they all three came to through their scrupulous use of scientific experiment.
Experiment is induction.
Benjamin Franklin testing a notion he had about electricity by flying a kite into a lightning storm, a metal key tied to the kite string, is an example of the inductive method at work.
Induction more than anything else — including deduction — is the method of reason and the engine of human progress.
A proper epistemology teaches a scientist, as it teaches everyone else concerned with comprehension and actual learning, how to exercise the full power of the human mind — which is to say, how to reach the widest abstractions while not losing sight of the specifics or, it you prefer, the concretes.
A proper epistemolgy teaches how to integrate sensory data into a step-by-step pyramid of knowledge, culminating in the grasp of fundamental truths whose context applies to the whole universe. Galileo’s laws of motion and Newton’s laws of optics, as well as his laws of gravity, are examples of this. If humans were to one day transport to a sector of the universe where these laws did not hold true, it still wouldn’t invalidate them here. The context here remains. In this way, knowledge expands as context grows. The fact that all truths are by definition contextual does not invalidate absolute truth and knowledge thereby, but just the opposite: context is the means by which we measure and validate absolute truth.
Terms like “broad consensus,” “repeated consensus,” “guidelines,” “climate change,” they’re so vague and imprecise as to be virtually meaningless.