Beliefs, Facts, And Stupidity

We all rely on beliefs to get through life, but there’s a range of beliefs. There are beliefs based on hard verifiable facts; beliefs based only on wanting to believe; and beliefs that have elements of facts and elements of desire unfounded in hard reality.

Despite the beliefs of billions of people for tens of thousands of years, there still exists no replicable, verifiable proof that there is a god – or supreme deity. There are reports and prophets and scriptures, but there exists no proof of the sort required by science. Obviously, this hasn’t stopped people from believing in various deities, or for that matter, in believing there is no deity.

Every individual, one way or another, decides to what degree his or her beliefs are based on facts, rather than on considerations that cannot be supported by facts.

In this context “facts” present a problem. While the universe is complex, human understanding of that complexity continues to improve, but, all too often, that with that complexity comes a degree of uncertainty.

Covid-19 provides a good illustration. The early tests of the Moderna vaccine indicated an effectiveness of 94% in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 after the second dose. The Pfizer vaccine was rated at 95%. But even most of those few vaccinated individuals who do catch Covid and show symptoms only have mild symptoms. But the vaccines are not 100% effective. No vaccine is.

Currently, the recent cases of Covid-19 are showing that 93-97% of hospitalized cases and deaths are in unvaccinated individuals. Those are hard facts. Yet in some states, such as Utah, barely half the population is vaccinated.

All the “belief” in the world won’t change the fact that 95% of people hospitalized for Covid-19 are unvaccinated.

The problem is that people seize on single “facts,” anecdotes, proclamations by individuals or politicians not based on ALL the facts as a confirmation of what they want to believe. There are almost always exceptions to anything, but wagering your life on exceptions isn’t the best of strategies.

The associated problem with people who do this, for whatever reason, including citing their “freedom,” is that they endanger others… and restrict those others’ pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Which means that they’re not only stupid, but selfish… and in a sense, also criminal because their failure to protect themselves can result in the unnecessary deaths of others.

8 thoughts on “Beliefs, Facts, And Stupidity”

  1. Damon Seba says:

    I can’t disagree more. While I and my family have taken the vaccine, it’s still an over reach to say, or imply, that individuals have to do anything. I simply believe in natural selection, and let nature eliminate those too stupid to do what’s good for them.

  2. R. Hamilton says:

    We all would like to think that we have free will, that it can make a difference that we do this rather than that. And so we should, because otherwise we’d have endless excuses to ignore consequences to ourselves or others.

    Let’s say that deity gave us laboratory grade proof of its existence. Would we still have free will then?

    The mythology says that some things are meant to be approached on faith rather than proof. I think I just gave one possible scenario why that might not be an excessive requirement.

    That does not preclude some crossing the line between faith and fanaticism (those of Dickson’s “Dorsai” books that took place on the “Friendly” planets address that!) or cultism or even willful foolishness, but the existence of abusers does not make all cases of faith an abuse.

    As for vaccines, I got ’em (Pfizer, luck of the draw). Negligible reaction, no more than the yearly flu shot, and in recent decades, that’s been nearly no reaction. Still wear the mask in some places, depending on crowds and how much I suspect some of those present have traveled or circulated; a Walmart may not be the same situation as a suburban restaurant with a high proportion of regulars (in all shades, BTW) at an off-peak hour. But I much prefer that it’s my judgement call rather than some politician that doesn’t understand the science being spoon-fed by someone that may, but has a major case of CYA. (and I think that CYA is a huge part of why state and county executives prefer too much rather than too little restrictions)

    People do differ; a very few (hopefully many know who they are already, but that’s why they want you to stick around for 15+ minutes after a shot) do have serious reactions, or might have medical reasons not to take the shot. Ideally people with plausible uncertainties would talk to their doctor first (and in most case, then proceed to get the vaccine); but some doctors won’t accept in-person visits by the unvaccinated now, and in any case, the volume of people that might want individual answers might be overwhelming.

    But NOBODY trusts government anymore. When Trump was still in office, a number of Democrats said they would be reluctant to take a vaccine developed under his administration. With distribution under Biden, a number of non-Democrats are distrustful just because he’s in the White House.

    Some statements first claimed to be based on “science” were later acknowledged to have an element of manipulation for desired outcomes rather than strict accuracy. Some matters are not an easy sell; for instance, most masks protect FROM the wearer more than they protect the wearer, so everyone is depending on everyone else (which an IMO properly individualistic and non-collectivist population is not comfortable with), and nobody likes being told what to do, esp. by those they otherwise don’t agree with.

    There’s plenty of blame to go around for all parties, ideologies, etc. The rabid anti-vaxxers (a tiny number, really) don’t help; but the presumption that people should be made to feel obliged to put some substance in their bodies (even if their odds are vastly better with the vaccine than without it) for the sake of the common good comes REAL close to stomping on individual liberty, and IMO it’s quite good, even if there’s a higher body count, that we’re not at ease with that.

  3. Michael Creek says:

    Society is based on accepting restrictions on what we can do based on the common good. We are not free to speed on shared roads or to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Where I live, people are not permitted to smoke in restaurants or on public transport as well as shared spaces like offices. Lots of other restrictions on our freedom to act as we please exist, usually for a good reason.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      If you’re not a fool, get vaccinated unless your doctor says not to, and say the same to anyone you care about.

      But let persistent fools die and even contribute to each other’s death (the unvaccinated are most seriously endangering one another), otherwise you’re also asking for your own freedom to be taken away – if not in this situation, then in the next one, perhaps when things are not so clear. You cannot expect to save or protect all (or meet all needs) and remain free, and without freedom, life is at best waiting for an opportunity to regain freedom.

  4. Tom says:

    Proof of God:
    is an infinitely perfect being,
    not infinitely perfect if God did not exist,
    thus God exists.
    Descartes.

    Interesting that the printing press gave writers a very much larger audience and enhanced the Renaissance and the devolution of belief in truth from authority. Chaos of belief to the empiricism of order.

    We now have the internet and social media increasing the ability of people to reach an even greater audience and yet it seems to have enhanced the reverse – a belief in utterances from Celebrities’, Authoritarians and Ourselves. The appearance of individual sovereignty at the expense of continuation of progressing evolution.

    We may need an Asimov Hober Mallow.

  5. Joe says:

    Transmission is less reduced by these COVID vaccines than people seem to believe: the vaccines aren’t sterilizing. We’re not talking about a flu vaccine.

    Asymptomatic vaccinated cases can still transmit as much virus as the unvaccinated.

    Most of the world isn’t going get vaccinated. Therefore the virus is here to stay and will continue evolving elsewhere.

    Thus there is a very good argument to be made that we’re never going to get to herd immunity. Instead, the virus might eventually mutate to being less dangerous. One of our common colds used to be deadly a century ago.

    Furthermore variant evolution to work around the vaccines is of concern. (It’s listed as a concern by the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (aka SAGE). They’re worried about recombination between beta and delta). The Israeli numbers showing that vaccine effectiveness falls with number of months since you got the vaccine means such variants are more likely to evolve.

    Another problem is that the media is concentrating on mortality, not morbidity. Around 10% of cases (asymptomatic or not) develop long COVID, which involves IQ loss of up to 7 points, cardio vascular sequallae, no energy, etc.

    The conclusion seems pretty obvious: One still needs to wear masks indoors, preferably N95’s.

    The fact we have not yet built factories to make millions of N95 masks, and instead still rely on supply from China is, to my eyes, criminal. We should also be developing 222nm UV light fixtures (222nm kills viruses but does not cause eye damage) indoors. And so on.

    However from the moment you are relying on masks to prevent transmission, the advantage of vaccines falls significantly.

    I am simultaneously concerned that we are entering an authoritarian moment, and the unvaccinated will be blamed and/or forced to take the vaccine. That is a step too far. Experimental Use Authorization specifically forbids coercion: people should only take such medicines if they agree with informed consent.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      Agree that we should not depend on anything essential from China. They played the planet; banning internal travel but encouraging foreign travel seems to me like turning a largely domestic crisis into a weapon against the rest of the world, ensuring no other country an advantage over their disadvantage; and they use supply chains that way too, not to mention buying up rare earths and other critical resources worldwide.

      I admit to astonishment that the Russians have shown no indication of realizing that their Chinese neighbors will not be their friends forever – the Chinese have 10x the population, greater production, and are approaching parity with the Russians on military technology including rockets, and even expanding their strategic arsenal. Russia is vast, has lots of natural resources, and is relatively sparsely populated.

  6. Postagoras says:

    I’m vaccinated against Covid-19. So I’m no longer relying on the “good sense” of the most foolish person near me.

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