Recently a friend asked me a very good question. He asked me ‘why is it that so many of the anti-vaxxers are also evangelical Christians or right-wingers, or both?” Why do these people also resist vaccines? I don’t have the stats, but I think the factual basis for the question seems to be correct. The classic example in our area is southern Manitoba, particularly the Winkler area which is known as the Bible Belt and also has traditionally (virtually forever) voted Conservative, unless more extreme right-wing candidates are running.
I remember early on in the pandemic when someone told me that all the eastern European immigrants in Manitoba did not believe Covid-19 was real. They all thought it was a hoax she said. Many of them are also very right wing politically. From my experience that observation seems to be largely true. Why is this enclave so adamantly opposed to vaccines?
I am all in favour of dissenting from authority, but it must be rational dissent. That means the dissent must be based on evidence, not on presumptions or anecdotes or gossip on the Internet. Otherwise, the dissent slips into paranoia. Paranoia, by definition means an unreasonable fear. We have too much of that already.
When it comes to public policy the best evidence is scientific data. Rational dissent must be based on better data or better reasoning from the data.
The Big question is this: why do so many people, not just conservatives or Christians, but surely plenty of those, distrust government so much? Many people distrust government so much that they are prepared to believe all kinds of nutty claims, no matter how absurd, and they are not prepared to believe anything the government tells them.
Everyone has right to believe what they want. But that does not make those beliefs right. Everyone does not have their own right to their own truth. Believing something does not make it true.
People who disbelieve everything they hear from officialdom are just as foolish as those who believe everything they hear from officialdom. We all need to exercise our own critical judgment–our own critical thinking–to find the truth. Then we have to be prepared to abandon our beliefs when presented with better evidence or better reasoning.
But too many of us prefer fantastic conspiracy theories, because such theories, by definition, are opposed to the official version. After official truth is what the are rebelling against. They believe these theories exactly because officials don’t. If officialdom is in favor of something than to these people they are against it. Automatically. Without thinking they are against it. And that is exactly the problem because thinking is what we need in a time of public health crisis. We need our best thinking and we are not getting it.
Of course, when officials are automatically disbelieved, it makes it very difficult for them to counter arguments against them. How do you fight such an opponent? Anything you say is automatically not believed. Good luck with opposing such “reasoning”. It is like quicksand, the more you struggle against it the more you sink into the morass.
So I have been trying to figure out, why so many of these people distrust authority and instead believe wild theories with reckless abandon? I intend to think about this and blog about, in my annoying meandering style.