It's Time to Become Intolerant of Ignorance

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

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

Science as a Process, Not a Belief

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. Science is not a belief, it’s a process.

Far too many Americans 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 pursuit of the universal laws of truth.

Too many American see science, therefore, as an optional belief. As a belief, one can choose to believe it or choose to reject it. Ignorance of the scientific process has allowed anti-maskers to cling to research and doctors who “prove” their own misguided views, 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.

Specious Deception

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 different masks used in various industries and compares them with a relatively scant and flimsy surgical face mask.

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 during the Covid-19 pandemic 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.

The other masks in this 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 need to allow oxygen for the wearer, so they require either an oxygen canister or some kind of filtration system. This makes these of masks relatively 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.”

Unhealthy Skepticism

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 has held the rest of the country hostage to their false beliefs. This minority holds the country back with their blatant disregard of reason and their steadfast confidence in myths, superstition, and denial of truth.

With the deaths of 700,000 people and counting, it is time for reasonable Americans to step up and make their voices heard. It is time to stop pretending that all opinions are equal, and it is time to stop accommodating ignorance.

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