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Post Re: Coronavirus
Robert Tulip wrote:
The conspiracy theory of pandemic denial involves a thorough rejection of objective reality. There is still a lot of room for reasonable debate about what constitutes objective reality, but it does not include the argument that thousands of Americans have not died of the pandemic.


Interbane wrote:
The idea that one group's truth doesn't apply to another group is something I typically think of with respect to religion. It's historically been the main topic where there are conflicting mainstream worldviews, of which each can't be fully true. It amazes me that the beliefs in question aren't about events that happened 2 millennia ago, but rather events that happened 2 months ago. Alternative worldviews are almost growing of their own accord, spread less by evangelists and more by virality enabled by technology. Instead of a single person who is well versed in how to apologize for discrepancies, all you need is a quick google search.


Religious notions include propositions about what is good as well as propositions about what is true. In principle those can be separated and dealt with differently. In practice this is often not easy. Religion has, pretty much from the beginning, conflated the two by using myths, stylized stories about matters that are, for practical purposes, unfalsifiable, to express the vital importance of certain matters (such as the importance of following laws, in Hammurabi's time).

One might argue that this zone of epistemelogical uncertainty is the playing field for scam artists (see "The Sting") and religion is just an example, but religion also involves another dimension of epistemology, in which people decide tribally what to believe. Taboos, curses, love potions, and many other elements of social truthiness help us to understand that people's reasons for believing, and what they are willing to accept as evidence, may depend heavily on social factors at play.

A court of law has traditionally been the venue for bringing forth the facts to sort such matters out. If we can make the uncertainty small enough we can build the kind of social consensus that makes civil society possible. But we have learned, in the last 50 years if not earlier, that courts have their own stupidities. The thread about "12 Angry Men" reminds me of one of the big ones - society does not pay for a proper examination of the facts when it thinks the case is open and shut.

And of course there are orthogonal factors, like race and power, that influence what people are likely to consider open and shut. I am listening to Bessel van der Kolk's excellent book on trauma, "The Body Keeps the Score", in which he notes that trauma-repressed memories were an established fact concerning trauma until the matter came before a court, because of the Boston child molestation by priests, after which experts came forward whose laboratory experience showed that fake memories can be induced even though nothing actually happened. Van der Kolk observes that trauma-induced amnesia doesn't work in the same way and gives some examples that show why. But the court preferred to believe the witness testimony was unbelievable Factors like the prestige of the Catholic Church and the horror of contemplating repeated molestation interfered with willingness to try to get at the truth.

It seems pretty obvious that in the case of coronavirus people are willing to give precedence to the social reinforcement they get for disdaining experts and preferring the value of individual choice (though one wonders how these advocates of liberty justify to themselves the intimidation of mask wearers). And of course most of their foolishness would disappear, practically without a trace, if not for media amplification.

I suspect that if we set up a hearing venue for pinning down facts and let every piece of evidence be brought, a sort of "court of truth" or "Snopes with a big budget", there would still be plenty of conspiracy theories rolling on out there. As your comment suggested, crowdsourcing the apologies for discrepancies would probably do a manageable job of giving the theories oxygen.



The following user would like to thank Harry Marks for this post:
LanDroid
Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:45 pm
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