Differing Perspectives

Is there an attack on empirical evidence?

Is there something more to the belief that people are out to get you?

Is the government sacrificing people to their God, Baal; during the month of April, only to disguise the sacrifices as tragedies?

Did Carole Baskin kill her husband?

Conspiracy theories have been around since the 1800’s, and continue to make headlines throughout history, whether looked at seriously, or laughed at and made fun of. Whether there is substantial evidence to prove or disprove these theories isn’t what I am driving at because there is reason for such thoughts, and they stem from looking for an alternative way of thinking. The current talk on 5G networks, the earth not being the center of the universe, the theory of evolution, climate change, and the earth being round; these ideas have been fought against by institutions and people for years, regardless of the evidence. And those scientific ideas have opposed some religions and other beliefs throughout the world. I believe conspiracies stem from a refusal to believe in scientific evidence. And do these theorists have a basis for these thoughts? Is there a shadow government at work that uses and twists empirical data to make people believe at a whim whatever they want? Is science really a belief that has found a new scripture besides the Koran, or the Bible? Maybe money has something to do with it, and anything to acquire more and to get back to making more is important.

As of writing this, there is a global pandemic of an acute respiratory syndrome called COVID-19, similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Mediterranean acute respiratory syndrome (MERS). This virus has been growing exponentially according to reporting from around the world, and Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s official on disease prevention, has been leading the charge on how the Canadian government handles this novel corona virus. The steps the government has taken to lower the spread includes and isn’t limited to: maintaining a distance of no less then 2 meters from people, school closures, businesses not operating with no more then 10 people, no get togethers with more then 10 people, and self-isolation. Suffice to say, these are lot of limitations on our liberties, and the potential long term impact of all this self-isolation could last a really long time, not to mention all the people that could be stuck in abusive situations or are suffering from mental illness; they and many others could feel trapped and unable to cope.

Credit: Sushi Nash

And with all that said, the question on whether COVID-19 is even real has been growing on YouTube and other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit through conspiracy theories. There is a growing backlash against self-isolation, and currently in the U.S., there have been people protesting the lockdown, and are questioning the validity of the virus. I have heard of people talk about the loss of savings and money acquired from years of hard work, and the impact the halt on our workforce will have on the global economy (which was already in serious debt). While I sympathize with the people seeing all their hard work being drained, what about the people with no money? People with no place to stay and are limited to “social distance” outside on park benches and transit stations? Or those that were barely making enough to pay rent, let alone a box of cereal? I also see anger and blame being placed on Dr. Tam and Dr. Anthony Fauci and the way the Canadian and U.S. governments has handled the pandemic, acting rather slowly and even applauding the actions of the Chinese government. Though if you look at other governments, including the US government, you’ll see everyone was throwing President Xi and the rest of China a bone – even the US government transported 17.8 tons of medical supplies to China. A timeline of events in how the United States government has handled this pandemic also paints a clear picture on how Donald Trump responded to the warnings.

Hmm, all this talk makes me think of the Mayans with their sacrifices. Someone or something must be sacrificed to appease their God, whether it be people, money, liberty, or morals. And which God is that? Religion, money, democracy, freedom, or science? At this time, we are sacrificing our liberties and freedom, though you can argue whether we have free will as many things hold us back from any sort of “freedom.” and considering we have had the freedom to walk about, go out and see people, it seems our liberties have been slowed to a crawl.

These conspiracies are growing in support with the restlessness people are experiencing while in lock down. What is it about all these conspiracies that have people believing them fully? And how come the evidence that is provided seems flimsy at best, but is enough for them to believe? I think of the flat earth theory for example: the only evidence that some people need is looking at the horizon and seeing how “flat” the earth is in the distance. It sounds ludicrous considering there is photographic evidence cementing the earth as round, but when presented with said evidence, theories are shot back indicating that NASA faked it all to lure people into a safety net so they can continue their shadowy activities, or profit from funding from the government and continue to put up a fake banner of space exploration, all while being part of a supposed shadow government.  I mean, wake up sheeple, don’t you see the signs?

I truly think that science is viewed like a belief, very much like someone believes in God, and it explains why some churchgoers refuse to adhere to social distancing or scientific evidence when going to church because, “God will protect them,” from the virus. After all, people are already sinful and deceitful according to scripture from the Bible, which is why they seek repentance from God. I guess that could be it: empirical evidence is a belief in the queries of people, and those that don’t believe in science perhaps don’t believe in the legitimacy of people, which is why the deep state and other conspiracies come into play. It also indicates that humans are untrustworthy and don’t mean what they say or are lying through their teeth; and considering the track record of many politicians, those theorists have a point. But it makes me wonder: do people that trust conspiracies have trust issues with people? Is there more of a personal vendetta with humans than just hating the government, or distrusting scientific inquiry? Is there a lack of trust in the goodness of people that they would rather believe the worst possible scenario?

The last point makes sense when you think of the conspiracies of Bill Gates and George Soros. The conspirators would rather believe they are in cahoots and are trying to reduce the population with a killer vaccine, then as humanitarians and philanthropists that want to make the world a better place. I guess it is about not believing in humanity. Or maybe past trauma really creates the idea of distrust in humans, and finding anything to make someone out to be a monster only makes sense.

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

I would describe myself as a humanist as I don’t believe in God or anything more then that. I think we decide our fates, and that we are the shapers of our destinies. It was us that created magnificent pieces of art and wonders of the world. It was humans that created tools and technology to advance humanity to the point we are at now. But it was also humans that killed millions of fellow humans with weapons of mass destruction, waged wars for the sake of beliefs, and made many animal species extinct. We have enslaved fellow humans to perform tasks that are considered inhumane and barbaric, and we have killed each other for sport over generations. Modern day sports like boxing, football, and UFC continue to highlight our violent tendencies, and despite the negative impacts those sports display on our brains, they still go on like nothing is wrong. And if history has taught us anything, it is that humans are undeserving of trust, and that world leaders and corporations may be trying to do more then meets the eye. But I would pose this question: Is living in fear, in denial, in such a neurotic manner of skepticism going to prove to be a fulfilling life?

Libertarians would say “Fuck the Government” because the government is self serving and corrupt. But the government is there to also ensure safety, as much as some of us may not want to believe. Think about it, if the government was planning to kill us all, why haven’t they yet? Perhaps us being enslaved is more their fancy, and what better way to do so than with technology at our fingertips, or television to dull our minds. Well as easy as it is to believe the heuristic of world domination, the reality is they need us as much as we need them – not to mention we have control over who leads us. And despite all the negativity of government control, I find it funny that the naysayers or the conspiracy theorists usually have disdain and throw out their theories on a government because their “guy” didn’t win, or isn’t leading the charge. And you can argue that we don’t need a government, but then we got ourselves a kill or be killed situation; an anarchist state that only leads to ruin and an eventual new government, because let’s face it, we like organization and lines to colour in, just look at kids and how much organization they need to thrive and grow. We all want security at the end of the day, and you don’t need a study to prove that.

I keep seeing arguments about other things that kill us but aren’t talked about in the mainstream, like the flu, cars, smoking, and obesity. However, these topics have been discussed at large and have received funding for research, not to mention those are all preventable, I mean have you seen the smoking warnings on cigarette boxes? Or how about the taxes that have been placed on buying a pack of cigarettes? I remember when buying a pack was about $8 CAD, now it costs over $16 CAD for the cheapest brand. And I agree that obesity and heart disease is a killer, but they are preventable, and there are many things people can do to prevent those diseases from happening, but marketing, lobbyists and the desire for wealth are partly the reason for the continued need for fast food and processed foods in our market. I think cars is a reasonable discussion to have because there is minimal effort to getting a license these days. However, the emotional impact of owning a car, the societal status that owning one presents seems to minimize the actual responsibility of owning a car because owning a car does so much for our egos. Who cares who gets a license when owning a car will do wonders for their self-esteem!

Cognitive Bias, or rather, the specific bias: Confirmation bias, is when we seek out information that feeds into our beliefs and values. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that utilizes reason, has been studied to be defunct when we are viewing things with rose colored glasses, while the area where emotions stems from, the orbitofrontal cortex, is used to greater affect, with dopamine even rewarding us for furthering those thoughts. Heuristics, which are rules and shortcuts we implement to minimize thought, is also responsible for cognitive bias. And especially with the advent of social media, the desire to find something that aligns with our values seems to come easier and easier. And then with cognitive dissonance, which is where we experience conflict when we hear something that opposes our beliefs or values, could be prevalent among many people; and these thoughts and desires for patterns (conspiracies) that helps the mind simplify the world and it’s complexities, they are leading the charge in finding cause to rebel against the facts that conflict with their beliefs. The thing is, confirmation bias is as natural as sardine oil attracting the appetite of a tiger (I’ll give you a second to think that reference over). We are always looking for patterns to help us understand everyday living since life goes by faster then we like, and since what we look for is already aligned with what we already believed in, it leads to this bias of ideas. And couple that with the illusion of explanatory depth, which is where we think we know more about a topic then we may really know, also makes discussion difficult to have. Heck, even the alleged murder of Carol Baskin’s husband is a type of heuristic, certainly Joe Exotic found patterns that stemmed with his emotional response to her trying to shut his zoo down, which would be an affect heuristic. (But let’s be real, Carol Baskin killed her husband)

The problem is some of these ideas and theories are shared to the masses where people are more likely to be scared, uncertain, or angry with the current situation. Sound familiar? cough* Anti-Semite propaganda cough*. It feeds into the feelings of cognitive dissonance and creates this bias. A traumatic past, our emotions in response to these times, and a lack of trust for people could be why there are thoughts that COVID-19 is more than meets the eye. All those factors could also be why theories of a shadow government working in the background, or that lizard people truly do pull the strings are prevalent.  If you believe in God, or if you believe in the spiritual world, or if you believe what George Orwell calls the “Money God,” then no matter what is said, you may not even budge when given information that opposes those beliefs. If it isn’t falsifiable, then it will be a waste of time to debate and argue, or to even present evidence that supports what you see as factual. Well, then what? Is it merely arguing with a wall? And will that information seep into the minds of millions, creating anarchy, rage, or people that will be unwilling to think for themselves, and perhaps seek guidance from a “messiah” that will ease their worries?

Nobody seems keen to stay locked in all the time, nor do we want to be prevented from doing things that we like – except for those that already like to stay in. I think the choice of going out and about is what is at stake, the choice and freedom to do as we will. Considering all the different methods of entertainment (TV, phones, video games, books, etc,) and the fact that Skip the Dishes, Uber eats, and other delivery services have been growing in popularity over the past year speaks volumes to the desire to stay in and not go out. Social media is a good example of getting lost and distracted, and it is even how some people choose to talk these days, or to share thoughts and ideas. But we are only human, and we desire autonomy and the freedom to do as we will. But if Jordan Peterson has anything to say about that, we all have the capability to be monsters if presented with an opportunity to do so. Would you steal something while invisible, or how about if no laws are present? According to him, chances are you will.

And what if the government truly do mean to keep us safe, but the methods aren’t to our liking? I mean, the democratic system allows for us as a society to control who we want as our “protector,” but what if our protector acts against our liberties?

I watched this anime a few years ago called Gurren Lagann, a goofy show about mechs set in a dystopian world. It has some slapstick moments and times where they are taking the piss, so I initially wrote it off. But, with the central plot revolving around humans and their enslavement, it captured my attention and surprised me with it’s existential themes, ideas of freedom and control. In Gurren Lagann, humans are forced to live underground, ruled by these beasts that pilot mechs, and the beasts make sure humans never come to the surface, killing them if they do. In a twist (SPOILERS), it turns out that humans were actually being hidden away for their safety and were to remain at a certain population to ensure their survival. The events of the story have the humans overthrow these beasts and create a utopian society above ground in a matter of years. However, an extinction protocol by a hidden group called the “Anti-Spiral,” a race that was working behind the scenes, is set to kill all humans on the planet. Humans and other “Spiral” races are destined to destroy the universe, at least according to these Anti-Spiral beings that speak to the populace, and the Anti-Spiral race kept the beasts and humans in check to ensure they don’t destroy the universe and themselves. The question of whether that is sound or not is answered with the entire show’s theme being survival and defiance, and the operatic song “Libera Me From Hell,” that borrow’s lyrics from Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” highlights this as well. So, is government necessary to ensure we don’t kill each other? Or is it our responsibility to ensure our own safety and well being? I suppose that is a whole thing with all this theorizing. It is also interesting witnessing the actual government of “Kamina City”, and the actions they take to ensure the safety of their people.

I find the way to understand these theories and beliefs is understanding yourself. I mean think about it, have you ever questioned why you believe what you believe in? Why you study what you study, or read what you read? Cognitive biases exists with all of us; however, I think it takes a lot to try to understand another perspective, along with understanding your own. Instead of being quick to agree with a theory, maybe try to understand why you are so quick to do so, or why it makes sense? And if you think a theory is stupid, maybe really look at why you do. Trauma and other factors in our lives really do have an impact on how we view the world, I mean, have you ever been in a relationship? Have you wondered why you attract the same kind of people that hurt you over and over again? Maybe you were abused as a child, or suffer abandonment issues and have trouble believing people and empirical evidence. Believe it or not, I think it takes really getting to know ourselves, but also about the person we disagree with. I have been out of work, like many others, but I was already doing all this self-development and therapy, along with working towards a new goal in my life, so this whole thing feels like a leaf in the wind (not to dismiss the impact this has had on those affected).

We are all on the same path at the end of the day.
Our paths may not be so different after all

So is there an attack on empirical evidence? Maybe, but I think self-reflection is the answer rather than fighting and creating a divide, because that is all this is doing, dividing us up. Look inside, as uncomfortable as it sounds, then really get to understand a perspective that isn’t your own. Researching what you question, and I mean really research – not cherry picking your research to disprove the other side – research like you really believed it. And I also think acknowledging that you may not know everything about a subject will help, since when did being a know-it-all help anyone? I have seen so many people attack others for their opinions and thoughts, and all it does is further the bias and the divide. It is nuts how partisan these theories can be, and how all this dismissal of ideas continues only because of who is saying it. It sure is hard to understand another human, but it takes no effort to attack someone for their thoughts and ideas. If any of my experiences in my life has told me anything, is that the hardest of tasks are usually the most rewarding.

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