Who do you trust?

This was the name of a T.V. game show of the 1950s and 1960s (it apparently featured Johnny Carson as it’s host), but I think it also describes one of the major problems, at least in America, today. For too many people, gone are the days when we trusted experts, whether they be doctors, scientists, people in government, or people trained in other fields, to guide our opinions and decisions in life. I think social media have played a large role in this phenomenon. People gravitate to others who think the same way that they do, and read opinions that agree with their own, without looking for alternative arguments. The examples of the harms causes by this phenomenon abound.

One example is “vaccine hesitancy”, most recently prominent in relation to COVID vaccines, but something any old pediatrician such as me has been aware of, related to many vaccines, for years. The story of the resistance to pediatric vaccines started with a thoroughly discredited article in a medical journal, and was spread, largely though social media, to become a large and harmful “movement”. Outbreaks of Measles have been largely attributable to resistance to getting the Measles vaccine, which is one of the most effective of all pediatric immunizations. A large part of the hesitancy of many people to get the COVID-19 vaccine is due to reliance on conspiracy theories, often spread on social media, including the one that microchips are being injected with the vaccine as secret tracking devices–all obviously ignoring the information and advice from medical researchers and physicians, who are the people who have the real information on the subject. A recent celebrity example of vaccine refusal is that of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is excellent at his profession, but very misguided about the vaccine. After implying that he had been vaccinated for awhile, he admitted he hadn’t (though he’s been taking the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin, which has no effect on coronavirus). He stated that he’s allergic to one of the components of the mrna vaccines (which wouldn’t apply to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine), and stated the commonly-given fallacy that the vaccines “haven’t been studied enough”–there have been over 7.3 billion doses of COVID vaccines given worldwide over the past year. The severe reaction rates have been very low. According to the CDC, 2-5 per million people have had an anaphylactic reaction. The best way of getting the coronavirus pandemic under control is to vaccinate as close to everybody as possible.

There are many other examples of peoples’ unwillingness to trust reliable sources of information. Many of these are related to science. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is a cornerstone of how we think about mankind’s and life’s place in the universe. There have been adjustments over the years to some of the details, but its overall veracity hasn’t been questioned by most modern thinkers. Nevertheless, there are some who believe in the “literal” truth of the Bible, and have put forth the entirely unscientific “theory” known as creationism, for which there’s no scientific support. Another “hot” topic these days is climate change, a theory that, largely through activities of us humans, the Earth is warming at a rate that will severely harm our ability to continue to live on it as successfully as we do now, not too many years in the future (if not right now). Although I realize that there are those scientists who disagree that this is a severe problem, the vast majority of scientific experts think that it is, and the data, year after year, shows that the Earth is warming steadily. Once again, some choose to not believe the experts.

In the political sphere, there’s the insistence of those who did and do support Donald Trump that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him, and that he did, in fact, win it. This is despite the countless recounts and other studies, done by experts in elections, demonstrating every time that Joe Biden won, and by a large margin. Again, the Trumpists are believing what they read on social media, and Fox News and the like, and distrusting what experts in the field are saying. They’re believing what they want to be true, not what’s shown by the facts.

I think we’d all be much better off if more people relied of learned experts to guide their opinions about many subjects, rather than what they’ve read on Facebook and the like.

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