The bump on your toe is probably cancer; levels of Arctic sea ice are both decreasing and increasing; the world is either 6,000 or 4.5 billion years old...
Because you’re online, you already know this: Google (or Mad-Libs your search-engine-of-choice) is able to vomit up “scientific” data to support, even “confirm,” nearly any private theory you want. And the truth—yes, the truth-truth—is that a lot of that data will be accurate, but a lot of it will not be.
You probably don’t have toe cancer.
Much screen-ink has been spilled over the fake news and pseudoscience that are returned to us by our searches — the information (let’s call it) that answers our sincere queries in a manner algorithmically aligned with our preferences, and our community’s preferences. Though for the word “preferences,” you might as well substitute “biases”…
Data as filtered by what calls itself the media, as opposed to data as filtered by an individual, should be better, but isn’t. After all, the statistics on CNN, on FOX, and in The New York Times—someone Googled them too. That’s what the media has become: someone Googling for you. And yet whenever the media presents statistics, it somehow never manages to remind us that statistics are inherently uncertain. The field of statistics is literally the study of uncertainty, of possible or probable likelihoods (or unlikelihoods), which are ten-out-of-ten times presented as the personally-applicable percentage chances, the Vegas odds that X or Y will (or will not) happen to YOU.
For many of us, to read the daily news is to assess our personal risk-levels and yet we rarely recall—and the media never mentions—that the true challenge is not to enumerate the risk, but to live with it; to stake out the resilient middle ground between denying danger altogether (and, say, refusing to wear a mask in a crowded train or bus) and finding nothing but danger everywhere (and, say, wearing a mask and gloves when alone in the middle of the woods).
The way we assess risk is inextricable from the way we process fear, and it is one of the many factors that determines our paranoia and susceptibility to conspiracy. Anti-vaxxers fear the vaccine (which saves lives) more than the disease (which ends or impairs them); climate-denying politicians fear the economic consequences of climate adaptation more than... the end of the world, which, you know, might have some impact on the portfolio.
One of the more interesting and urgent questions for me is how to deal with good research that also happens to be bad news—especially when it comes to Covid and the changes in our climate.
Coronavirus variants are multiplying; sea levels and temperatures are rising, unseasonable storms are more powerful and frequent than ever before, unprecedented wildfires are spreading, and “unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.” If you don’t want to hear about this stuff, you have a choice: you can either look at the other side’s “data” that says the opposite, or you can toss your phone into the ocean... which is littering.
When we decide the situation is so bad that there’s nothing to be done, we succumb to a kind of civic paralysis. An overwhelming concatenation of negativity, communicated as constantly unfolding catastrophe, leads even the most conspiracy-immune into apathy—and willful ignorance. And now here’s the baddest news: it leads us into apathy and willful ignorance whether or not we believe the science.
Take climate scientist Steven Chu’s nihilistic troika:
people who accept climate change and think it is caused by humans
people who accept climate change and think it is caused by nature
people who don’t accept climate change at all
What do all of these people have in common? They can usually agree on the “fact” that nothing can be done.
With Covid-19 persisting into ‘21, and this fall marking the second anniversary of our new lives, this mutant strain of “science denialism” has become its own pandemic—one that leaves us in denial about our ability to implement change.
The known scientific reasons to refuse inoculations include enhancement (quite applicable considering the enhancement observed in SARS and MERS) recombination, and contamination. As you stated statistical conclusions can be murky when relating to an individual, vaccines may save lives, they also damage and end life, for others. For someone so sharp on individual privacy and the implications to losing it, you seem to miss the grand implications of injecting viral genetic material and agents designed to affect such material. Hard to understand why anyone would accept a software patch, from anyone other than the OE Manufacturer. Best of Luck
From my limited knowledge of history it seems that we are threading a dangerous path with COVID legislation all over the world. I'm starting to see the precursors of 2001 and WWII everywhere. I don't disagree that COVID is harmful, I just can't help but see it as a 9/11 v2 where everyone is so deadly afraid of a danger to the point where they surrender everything for an illusion of safety. One study I became aware of around the start of 2020 is "Pathogens and Politics: Further Evidence That Parasite Prevalence Predicts Authoritarianism" https://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~schaller/MurraySchallerSuedfeld2013.pdf Having watched the events unfold with that in the back of my mind, as well as some basic knowledge of history and psychology, has been one of the scariest events of my life. It truly does seem to me like a carbon copy of 2001. We were facing an (at the time) unknown threat and the fear and uncertainty that created was abused to the fullest by politicians all over the world to introduce horrific and totalitarian legislation under the guise of safety. All around the globe it suddenly became "the new normal" to carry around cell phones with closed-source government apps for contact tracing. I doubt I have to explain to you how that can potentially be abused.
Already during the initial panic people completely lost their composure and in many countries allowed their governments to pass "temporary emergency legislation" to give them emergency powers and in many cases blatantly violate the constitution of the country. For instance in Denmark 18m mink were culled due to suspicion that they were infected with COVID. The farmers who had their lives ruined were of course promised full compensation. Unfortunately someone forgot that and when it came to actually handing out that compensation suddenly the money printers ran dry and money was nowhere to be found. This was later declared unconstitutional, and the government started backtracking and saying it was "just a recommendation" in spite of armed police forcefully entering mink farms. Ultimately this of course ended up with no one major being held accountable and everything proceeding as usual.
After the initial panic had died down I started researching COVID a bit more in depth due to my inherent mistrust of the CCP owing to their less-than-ideal human rights track record. I pretty quickly came to the conclusion that it was very likely related to the Wuhan Institute. The moment I tried to talk to anyone online about this I was of course immediately banned from social media for "spreading misinformation" and even pointing out how the WHO had uncritically shared CCP propaganda around "No human to human transmission" would immediately get me labelled a nutjob in my social life. Regardless of repeated attempts at civil discourse most people seems to have swallowed the whole "authoritative sources" of social media hook, line and sinker. Even purely scientific criticism routinely got dismissed. Science very quickly got replaced by the religion of scientism where any criticism of the official narrative is crazy and people just need to "follow the science" which I find rather ironic since that would usually be accompanied by some random news article. I try my very best to remain objective and open around my own biases. I'm fully aware that I am far from what one would consider "normal" but sometimes I just can't help but think it is the world that is going mad. I've unironically had people call me a science denier for pointing out that it was ridiculous to compare the raw number of cases in Denmark and the US with eachother despite Denmark having a population of 5.6 million. (In case anyone is interested, yes, Denmark did have less cases than the US. Go figure) As Glenn Greenwald pointed out in a recent piece there is also the bizarre refusal to ever apply cost-benefit analysis to COVID measures. https://greenwald.substack.com/p/the-bizarre-refusal-to-apply-cost.
Since then government propaganda has gotten even worse. Once again I've seen examples from all over the world of leaders assuring people that they have no plans to introduce vaccine passports or anything similar while at the same time in other interviews openly advocating for vaccine passports. And when called out on it the near-universal response has been "That is just a conspiracy theory".
Of course, one cannot have events unfolding on a global scale without politicians lying about it somewhere, but I cannot shake the unease that comes from observing these clear inconsistencies and the complete refusal by the mainstream press to address any of them. I'd personally feel significantly better about taking a vaccine if politicians would just be open about it. It was developed in less than a year, of course there are going to be mistakes, and yet there has been pretty much no transparency around the process. For instance I think the contracts the medical industry have scored are completely unacceptable. I would prefer to get vaccinated but I cannot with good conscience allow the complete erosion of our rights to get it. I find the lack of understanding for the anti-government perspective absolutely baffling. If there is one thing that can make me start questioning something it is censorship. After all "If you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar. You are simply proving that you fear what he has to say". Yet for some reason the government seems to think that the best way to go about things is the use of force. I've talked with an Australian friend of mine about this a couple of times and he is likewise terrified and the psychotic behavior of police and how they seem to have completely lost touch with reality. See this video for an example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YtsdzkDZ5o This is yet another massive red flag to me. I am reminded of the Nuremberg trials and the insistence from the nazis that they were "just following orders".
This raises the question: even if you make the assumption that someone is 100% on board with everything that has happened so far, what makes you think that the police/military/anyone else will step up and protect you if it ever does go too far. I fear that we are heading down the path of WWII were we end up so terrified of a certain group of people (In this case those of us that are not yet vaccinated) that people are willing to commit the same atrocities, this time in the name of medical fascism and with no regard for people who cannot take the vaccine for medical reasons.
Perhaps I just don't stray far from the beaten path of the internet but it is very rare for me to bump into anyone who is genuinely completely lost in a conspiracy theory and think COVID is actually sent to earth by aliens as a form of population control or that vaccines cause autism, etc. It seems to be an overwhelming majority of people who has seen through the obvious propaganda (Not saying that the propaganda is necessarily untrue, but it is still propaganda nonetheless) surrounding it and how many of our rights have been infringed in the name of "safety".
In my eyes the issue seems to be that we DONT all agree on the facts. And that anytime anyone asks an honest question they are met with a wall of obvious propaganda and often massive hypocrisy from politicians that will say that we should all be extremely careful and wear masks, only to then the next day go to a private party with no mask. I for one do not blame people for getting cynical and nihilistic, I frankly struggle to understand how you can remain so optimistic and hopeful that things will change when most of the (legislative) damage that happened as a response to 9/11 is still around.
A complete sidenote to all of this: Is it just me or did your post end rather abruptly?