Mistrust Has Consequences

Every now and then I come across someone online who is mistrustful. They don’t trust the government, or the World Health Organization, or the traditional media, or the Centres for Disease Control, or even fact checkers. I can understand why someone would have their doubts about some of the actions of these institutions, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Specifically, it is a bad idea to turn away from those established sources of information to instead trust people who denigrate all those professionals and experts.

When this happens I am really tempted to try to prove to the online antagonists that the medical experts offer us hope, but I stop myself. I know from past experience that it is impossible to break through that shield of denial. It’s a waste of time because they are just not a receptive audience. It must be exhausting to be so angry and skeptical all the time. I just would not want to live life that way.

Covid-19 Vaccine image by Shafin Protic, Pixabay.

I am talking, of course, about discussions around Covid-19 and the reliability of vaccines. These chats pop up sometimes when you least expect them, but they all seem to follow the same back-and-forth pattern with no flexibility on either side of the debate. I just feel sorry for all involved.

I’m sorry that it seems no-one taught the anti-vaxxers how to check their sources for qualifications and reputation. I’m sorry that it appears they don’t know how to check scientific evidence for peer reviews and the endorsements of experts. I’m sorry that, sometimes, they cannot distinguish opinion from fact.

I’m also sorry that I am not better at debate. I’m sorry that I cannot explain myself sufficiently well to persuade anyone. I’m sorry I don’t know more about science. I’m sorry that these discussions are even necessary. Mostly, though, I’m sorry that fear and/or rejection of vaccines is going to result in unnecessary illness and deaths.

Vaccine image by ABEL F. ROS, Qapta.es

I would never post an opinion online if there was a chance that I might encourage some behaviour that would risk someone else’s health, but that is what the anti-vaxxers are doing. It is bewildering to me that they think they are saving lives. It’s as though they are looking in a funhouse mirror and seeing everything upside down. I don’t know how to explain that what they are seeing is not an accurate reflection but is distorted.

Similarly, I can’t convince them that their ideas come from only a tiny proportion of scientific spokespeople and that the vast majority are emphatically supportive of vaccines. One of the reasons my ideas are dismissed is that there are far more anti-vaccination pages online than there are pro-vaccination pages. This makes it appear as though there are more people that agree with the anti-vaxxers than there really are. (Philip Ball, Nature.com) This relatively small group is now reaching out to a much larger number of people who are unsure what to think, and the sheer volume of messages becomes persuasive in itself.

You could argue that the majority of scientists could be wrong and that the minority are maverick dissenters who may ultimately be proven to be right. Well that could be so, but are you willing to risk someone’s health and life on such a shaky foundation? I hope not.

Here is a link to a short and simple guideline by Western Libraries for evaluating sources of information. It is the CRAAP Test, and the acronym stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. (https://researchguides.ben.edu/source-evaluation)

15 Comments

  1. I agree with the article, and have believed for some time that we believe what we believe first and google to prove we’re right. Also that, to some degree, being right is also attached to our very survival. (All those personal development books say it anyway). I’m the one who posted the video about vaccines but I’m not against them, I just feel like the voice that offers alternatives has been mostly silenced by the bigger outlets. I’m not for one blanket answer and I also believe, as you say so well, I won’t change anyone’s mind one way or the other. For me I, as usual, fall in the middle. If I’m at high risk of dying from Covid, I’m all in on the vaccine, If I’m young, healthy and have a 99.8% chance of surviving, I might go the preventative route of wearing a mask, social distancing and taking lots of immune vitamins. I do worry about the unknowable long term affects of this vaccine on the young and healthy, and I do search until I find evidence to agree with that take even if it’s page 12. I know one thing for sure is that all of us want fewer deaths and healthier people and for this damn thing to go away asap.

    1. My “as you say so well” comment is not sarcastic or derogatory in anyway…it should have been better stated “and as you, and the article both say…I won’t change anyone’s mind”.

    2. Thanks for this, Sally. I know you were offering up alternative voices, and I appreciated that. Although your post and the subsequent comments were on my mind when I wrote this, I was also thinking of many other comments, posts, blogs, and messages I have read recently.

      I think we can all agree that we want this damned virus to go away asap!!

  2. There’s nothing inherently wrong with skepticism or doubt. Those precautionary cognitions help all of us to critically analyze situations, information, and hopefully background/context. However, chronic doubt, skepticism, fear, and ignorance alone, i.e. maintained but not tested, further examined, is merely stagnation—the proverbial frog in the frying pan—and on many levels, if not all levels, leads to self-extinction sooner or later. THAT is sheer stupidity.

    Living in constant fear and doubt without confronting the causes, eventually manifests the very events one is trying to avoid! By definition isn’t that “insanity”… or at least a form of it?

    Wonderful provocative post Anne. Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. That’s a good point, Professor. Measured skepticism can move us forward, or at least cause us to find information that settles our doubts. As such, it has great value.

      As you point out, though, a constant state of fear and doubt is counterproductive.

      I’m glad you found the post provocative. I’m still wondering about my responses to people who spread fear willy-nilly.

      1. Well, in my own experience with those types, if I detect a willingness to ASK questions (the novel idea & concept of DIALOGUE! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿคญ ) then the first hurdle is passed.

        If they are not open to dialogue and enquiry, then I merely stay silent, no facial expressions, no body language, no hints of reactions at all—in some cases after 10-15 minutes of their ranting/rambling I’d purposely fall asleep (pretending) and snore. They usually get the point, or I certainly hope so. I mean, who wants to sit and listen to a non-stop cymbal-crashing rant? I don’t. That’s what Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al, ad nauseum, are all for. ๐Ÿ˜„ However, this posture does NOT mean I can’t interject or challenge them. On the contrary, I can go the distance with them. They just have to show me they are willing to have TWO-WAY dialogue. That happens only if they ask me questions, right?

        Once they are quiet and genuinely listening, then I start asking them, digging for extremely specific evidential support by reputable, qualified, career-lifers in the relevant fields demonstrating their theory/hypothesis. Anne, I grill them so much that 7- or 9-times out of 10 they begin to (hopefully) realize their basis for their belief/posture is unfounded on any reliable sources, scholars, studies, or institutional research.

        This is at least a start and suggestion for you. People who demonstrate to me that they have done ALL necessary homework/legwork on what they are postulating, promoting, or selling/propagandizing if you will, going the full distance… THEN they have my full attention. ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. It has been a long, long time since I had a good in-person dialogue! Your description made me yearn for the olden days before Covid-19. All my conversations these days are online. When I come up against ideologues, it seems they tend towards rants.

          1. Yep. Not interested in constructive, impactful dialogue that helps make life easier, happier, and more manageable because MUCH is learned!!! Oh what a Utopia that would be, huh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Amen to those distant days of delightful, ORGANIC two-way interactions with people, right? ๐Ÿ™„ I too long for those days to return! I have reached a point now where I LOATHE, despise so much effin electronic-virtual interaction. We humans, all of us who require a Herd to thrive in, to smell, see body language, hear all slight tones and inflections non-virtually, and share in ORGANIC life… were never designed to or have evolved to interact via silicon and microwaves. I fear what humanity might be turning into, becoming increasingly detached from HUMAN contact/touch and replacing it with machines. :/

            1. You as well Anne! Keep that smart, safe guard up every single time you go out into public, work, etc. As President Biden has emphasized repeatedly… wear the N95 mask, not all the less effective masks you see out there.

              If there is a possible positive spin to that horrible 2020 year and maybe half(?) of 2021 (fingers crossed), it is the fact that maybe all those idiot, science-haters and science antagonists to the seriousness & lethality of COVID-19 who refused to wear masks, social-distance, and many anti-vacciners will exterminate themselves with each other. ๐Ÿคญ I know, I know… what a horrible thing to say. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But GEEEZZZ, talk about “Natural Selection” in overdrive!!! ๐Ÿ˜†

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