The English Philosopher talked about “folly on stilts.” I have forgotten what he was talking about when he used that expression, but he might have been talking about our current Member of Parliament.
The Member of Parliament for the federal riding in which I live is Ted Falk. Recently, He got into trouble during an interview with our local newspaper the Carillon News when he claimed that according to a Public Health England Study of 130,000 people that, “you were 13 times more likely to die from the Delta variant if you were double vaccinated, then if you were unvaccinated.” Later he said that he came up with this statement when he was doing “his own research” into Covid-19. Doing their own research is of course what the anti-vaxxers keep saying we should all be doing. That sounds good, but it is actually tricky if you have no background in science. In fact, Falk showed exactly why it is a problem. It’s difficult. It is really beyond most mediocre minds, like mine, without great effort.
It seems to me that Mr. Falk ought to have been alerted to a problem with his research when he encountered such a far-fetched position. 13 times more likely to die? What could be more dubious than that?
In times of emergencies what we all need, particularly from our leaders, is critical intelligence. Thinking. Clear thinking. Not credulity. Our leader proved himself incapable to that.
Tom Denton, an opinion writer for the Winnipeg Free Press said we need common sense. That is not quite right. John Prine warned us that common sense isn’t any sense at all. What we need is the capacity to think critically about the issues of the day. As Denton said,
“It means considering all the available evidence before making decisions—and it means making decisions, not avoiding them. It means seeing the world as it is, not as we pretend or wish it. It means leaving behind ideology on the trash heap of history where it belongs, and making practical plans for the future instead of being held hostage by the mistakes of a troubled past.”
This is especially important for our leaders. In times of crisis we need the best leaders. Sadly, this is not what we have. Not only that, but too many people are discarding their critical thinking and believing what they want to believe. That is why Ted Falk jumped to believe something absurd, because it fit in so well with his ideology, his preconceptions, and what he wanted so much to be true.
The last few weeks in Manitoba have shown us something new—protest rallies near hospitals that have been so exuberant they interrupted access to emergency health care. It is hard to believe it has happened, but it did. As Denton said,
“As I watched the anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-science, anti-evidence protesters blocking access to hospitals, it seemed common sense was clearly on life support. If we want to avoid the QAnon-style lunacies that befuddle American politics and threaten its democracy and stability, we need to follow the evidence, not invent it.”
Common sense (or critical thinking as I prefer to call it) can lead us out of the wilderness of unreason in which we now find ourselves. We must use these skills with diligence and not fall into the trap into which Falk fell. Yes, we should not just believe as we are told. We should look at the evidence. But we must be careful. As Denton said,
“There is no situation you can’t research for yourself, thanks to the internet, but you need to look beyond the click-bait and self-appointed experts.”
We have to use our critical thinking skills or we will be throwing ourselves to the barbarian mobs and the monsters of unreason. And if we do that, there will be a price to be paid.