It's Time to Become Intolerant of Ignorance

Anti-Maskers Are Costing Lives: will America Stop Accommodating Them?

Two hundred and nine thousand lives…and counting. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed deep flaws and rifts in American society. To that end, perhaps nothing has been as divisive and revealing as the “debate” regarding the use of face masks in disease prevention. Over two hundred thousand deaths are a testament to growing American antipathy toward science.

It is important to remember that science is an iterative process and is rarely definitive or absolute in its conclusions. Science is a continuous battle of research, theories, and experimentation in the messy pursuit of truth. Far too many Americans appear to see science in absolute terms; that something “is” or it “isn’t,” with no room for disagreement. They see science as being conducted by a wacky man in his garage playing with test tubes, with all breakthroughs stemming from Hollywood-style “eureka” moments. They don’t understand that much research is done by teams of scientists from around the world, transcending politics, religion, language, and other social barriers in search of the universal laws of truth.

Ignorance of the scientific process has allowed anti-maskers to cling to research and doctors who “prove” their own misguided view, while ignoring the scientific consensus entirely. For them, it is not the pursuit of truth, but rather the pursuit of self validation. Anti-maskers cherry pick studies and statements to confirm their preexisting beliefs.

As an example, I notice that many in the anti-mask community are sharing the below graphic which purports to throw cold water on the idea of wearing masks to prevent Covid-19. The diagram shows a number of face masks using in various industries and compares them with a relatively scant and flimsy surgical face mask….the kind that the CDC is asking the American people to wear to save lives.

This graphic is clever in its deception, for the argument it presents is specious. The problem here, is that this is a false comparison and illustrates a total misunderstanding of the purpose of face masks. The face masks that we are asked to wear for Covid-19 are not intended to protect the wearer, they are designed to reduce (not eliminate) the transmission of the virus from the wearer, should he be infected, and allow it to propagate into the air.

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The other masks that are being used for comparison in the graphic are designed to protect the wearer, and to do that with 100% efficacy. To do this, they must be sealed to the face with an airtight seal, and with that seal comes the need to allow oxygen for the wearer, so they require either an oxygen canister or some kind of filtration system. This all makes these of masks bulky and complex. In short, these masks are fundamentally different in what they are intended to do and the comparison between them is totally farcical…but for an anti-masker, it doesn’t matter, the facts that are believed must always fit the narrative….anything else is “fake news.”

I want to reiterate that healthy skepticism is a great thing. It is great that many Americans do not automatically accept that what they are told is gospel. But when questioning authority, one has to have at least some understanding of the scientific process and respect for those who have dedicated their lives to it.

America isn’t only doing this with Covid-19 either. The science of climate change is equally derided by largely the same group of individuals (remember, the President himself called that a hoax too.) The United States stands alone as the only major nation to not take the threat of climate change seriously. Too many Americans are deciding that climate change is a hoax first and then cherry picking obscure research articles to confirm their beliefs. Americans have, to the determent of the world, chosen to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that growing carbon concentrations in the atmosphere are not an issue at all.

And so I propose that a new paradigm is needed in America: intolerance of ignorance. For too long, this minority of Americans have been holding the rest of the country hostage to their beliefs. This minority holds the country back with their blatant disregard of reason and science, their steadfast confidence in myths and superstition, and denial of truth. With the deaths of 209,000 people and counting, it is time for sane Americans to step up and make their voices heard. It is time to stop pretending that all opinions are equal, it is time to stop accommodating ignorance.

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