Although the article starts with these two charts, it is not about the Chinese Flu but about why people believe things in spite of all the evidence to show they are utterly untrue. The title is Why Facts Don’t Matter to People. That is, why it is near impossible to get those who seem able to believe ten impossible things before breakfast to change their minds. It is like dealing with members of a cult, except they are now the mainstream.
Here’s his point. “Engage them in conversation”, he suggests, meaning getting others – you know, like people who want to blow up power stations and defund the police – to explain their views while listening sympathetically to yours.
If you’re wondering why so many people don’t see the world the way you do, engage them in conversation. You will find they are as well-intentioned as you are, but they are looking in a different direction. Beneath their opinions and fears, beliefs are shaping how they see the world.
Because of different beliefs, your villains may be their heroes. They may look at the world of effects while you are looking at causes. They’re hoping a better leader comes to power, while you’re considering how the presidency became so powerful and destructive.
Until their beliefs change, they will never consider how politicians and experts with too much power turned a pandemic into a catastrophe. As Einstein put it, “Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is theory which decides what can be observed.”
The “clear guidance” politicians claim to dispense and “the truth” my friend wants to learn are not rooted in the principles of human flourishing. My friend is waiting for a government official to blow the all-clear whistle. My friend doesn’t want to believe experts are as fallible as he is, and that the prevailing scientific consensus may be false. For me to explain to him why “defining risk is an exercise in power” would bring a blank stare of disbelief.
I don’t think the author has an answer. He adds this at the end which only emphasises how deep the problem is.
Read Hayek’s famous observation about order, replacing the words “that in complex conditions” with the words “during a pandemic:” “To the naive mind that conceives of order only as the product of deliberate arrangement, it may seem absurd that in complex conditions [during a pandemic], order and adaptation to the unknown can be achieved more effectively by decentralizing decisions.”
With that simple substitution, we expose a core belief shared by many Americans. They believe centralizing decision-making is effective in unknown, complex conditions and they want their politicians to do something.
Well, that’s the problem right there. No one any longer wants governments to do nothing, even if that really would be the best thing to do. We are therefore falling towards a totalitarian state. One day no one may even notice our freedoms have gone, since those who grow up in this new world may never have known what freedom is.