Crackpot conspiracy theories have no place in the real world

What makes my blood boil is blatant quackery, so says Colette Sheridan
Crackpot conspiracy theories have no place in the real world

A demonstrator holds an anti-vaccination sign during a protest against Covid-19 restrictions in 2021.

FOR the New Year, could we make an effort to be rational, trusting in science as opposed to latching onto anecdotes that attempt to denigrate the Covid vaccination, for example?

We all know the kind of person that will trot out an anecdote about an extraordinarily bad reaction to the vaccination and the boosters, all the better for them to conclude that this medical precautionary procedure stinks to high heaven and that all medics are in the pocket of Big Pharma.

What starts as a curious story ends up as a reason to condemn western medicine.

And while it has its faults with, it seems, a pill for everything, medicine generally serves us well.

How many of us are on statins, reducing our risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol?

Our life span has increased. One of the unfortunate offshoots of this is a propensity to suffer from various conditions of old age, but many of us can be confident of reaching our very senior years with a good quality of life, aided by the help of medication.

The alternative – not engaging with orthodox medicine – is unthinkable.

Alternative medicine sometimes has a role to play in our well-being. Traditional Chinese medicine is something that some people swear by. And I buy into aspects of it because acupuncture, for example, can help certain pain conditions.

What makes my blood boil is blatant quackery. The world we live in, which allowed a snake oil salesman like Donald Trump to rule America for what turned out to be a terrible reign, is mired by fake-news, the rise of populism and anti-intellectualism with its attendant lack of logical thinking.

Is it any wonder that misinformation holds so much sway and propaganda seeps through social media like a cancerous growth, poisoning people who block out rationality and become proponents of conspiracy theories?

Irish science writer and author of The Irrational Ape, David Robert Grimes, would like to see society getting back to clear reasoning.

Instead of knocking science – which should be valued as enlightening – and believing nonsense that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by scientists, we really ought to embrace it.

Access to all the knowledge in the world is at our fingertips but the downside of that means falsehoods can be perpetuated faster than ever before.

As David Robert Grimes points out, everything from healthcare to geo-politics is subjected to the claims of the misguided or the malicious. And this has detrimental consequences for all of us in an era where we are constantly bombarded with misinformation, skewed logic, devious rhetoric and our own psychological biases. These biases can leave us less informed and more divided.

We’re familiar with various health scares that have little or no basis in science. Some people believe that autism is linked to the MMR vaccination, but Grimes explains that rising rates of autism have nothing to do with vaccinations. Instead, the most likely explanation for the phenomenon is widening diagnostic criteria for it.

And there is nothing surprising about the appearance of autism after vaccination, given that it manifests in early childhood, and the signs such as impaired communication tend to become apparent by the age of two or three – not long after immunisation.

On a more trivial note – but no less fatuous – is the whole positivity movement.

In the age we live in, where God no longer exists, we think that we can come up with our very own alternative to divine intervention.

You often see on social media posts about a person being ill or undergoing a serious operation. You’re asked to send ‘positive vibes’ to the patient.

What does this mean? You lift your head from your laptop and think positive thoughts about the object of your focus?

Thinking that this will contribute to the patient’s wellbeing is daft. But it’s almost taken as an article of faith that you can ‘send’ the equivalent of a cure to the person, just as long as everyone else contacted is doing the same thing. There’s power in numbers, certainly, but not in directing ‘vibes’ at someone who needs decent medical care and not bizarre promises that everyone they know on Facebook is praying/vibing for them.

Sorry for being so black and white and not allowing for that element of the supernatural.

Another bugbear, but thankfully an amusing one, is being a passenger in a car where the driver is trying to visualise a parking space. They believe that by concentrating on finding an elusive gap between cars, they’ll be somehow directed to it.

The fact that they have to circle a certain area a number of times before eventually spotting a parking space has nothing to do with it. Chances are someone will pull out.

But folk prefer the whole barmy magical thinking element.

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