Reader Stephen Shipman found the JAMA—prestigious journal!—peer-reviewed note “Science Denial and COVID Conspiracy Theories: Potential Neurological Mechanisms and Possible Responses” by Bruth Miller.
Let’s don’t breeze by that KGB-style subtitle: Potential Neurological Mechanisms why people might deny items on the list of Official Beliefs, or why people offer alternate causal explanations for these beliefs, might be explained, says Miller, by “Neurological Mechanisms”—which is to say, bad brains.
Passing off critics as neurologically damaged, and therefore in need of caring, loving, possibly confined, treatment, sure is easier than successfully rebutting criticisms.
The opening paragraph is a wonder, especially considering the paper’s date, 2 November 2020. Here’s most of it.
The US public health response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been dismal, characterized by antimask behavior, antivaccine beliefs, conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID-19, and vocal support by elected officials for unproven therapies. Less than half of the people in the US heed health recommendations to wear a mask when out in public. Antiscience rhetoric has consequences. While only 4% of the world’s population resides in the US, the US has accounted for 20% of the world’s deaths related to COVID-19 and has performed less well than several other wealthy nations.
Not wearing a mask is “antiscience”? What about all the old-school, and even some new-school, science that recommends against masks? Like this and this? Doesn’t count, presumably because that science was done before Official Science became fully woke. Or maybe because science that doesn’t fit official narratives is ruled invalid.
As far as the US death count goes, yes, amen, it is damn curious. It can’t be high because a few people on the internet are posting evidence showing masks don’t work. Take NYC, where mask usage is 98%+, and has been for months. Yet people still die, though at decreasing rates.
On the other hand, Florida, which doesn’t have lockdowns or mask mandates, and California, which does, have similar relative deaths. Curious.
This suggests Americans are older and unhealthier, not science denying. Denying science, and even supposing the origin of the coronadoom is entirely natural, denying that and insisting on Chinese misbehavior, can’t make you more susceptible to catching a bug. What possibly causal mechanism can this Miller have in mind that ties denial and death?
Answer: none. Because there is none. If anything, people who think the doom is a plot are likely to be more careful than those who think science will save them. Miller just can’t stomach people out of his social circles doubting his word, an increasing emotion among our elites.
As far as those origins of the doom go, he said this, recalling this was three months ago: “15% among those with some postgraduate training endorsed” the idea “that COVID-19 was planned”. Some 48% of folks outside Miller’s class thought the same.
Now scientists have been known to soup-up bugs to study what it would be like if those souped-up bugs were to get loose and cause—wait for it, wait for it—pandemics. Scientists are not required to read Mary Shelley. There isn’t much, or any, evidence China released the doom intentionally, but there’s plenty it got out by accident, a not-at-all-implausible explanation.
Don’t worry. The other bugs scientists study the world over, like ebola^2, can’t escape.
Skip all that, and peer into this:
Beliefs grounded in false information, just like those grounded in truth, have neural origins and reflect connections in dedicated brain circuits. Individuals are organized to hold beliefs and to evaluate their merit based on facts and experiences. Studies of neurodegenerative disorders that target selective brain networks shed light on the neural mechanisms that underlie the creation and sustenance of beliefs that are not based in reality.
You can’t help but be a dumbass, says Miller, because of your dedicated brain circuits.
“False beliefs are common in neurodegenerative disorders,” says Miller, caused by “faulty prefrontal systems”. Indeed, quoting papers suggesting the ineffectiveness of masks is like those who have “Capgras syndrome, the false belief that a loved one has been replaced by an impostor.”
Is that the same as when a person wrongly believes hacks are quality scientists?
How do we bypass dedicated brain circuits and faulty prefrontal systems and turn those who couldn’t help but believe falsities into science-loving upright citizens?
Education! “Developing frontal circuitry to support the process of reasoning is part of education and science literacy and stands at the core of a healthy democracy.”
Miller doesn’t say how forcing people to watch boring videos will fix their screwed up brains, but I’m sure he must be right that it can. Because Miller is a scientist.
Subscribe or donate to support this site and its wholly independent host using credit card or PayPal click here