Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #16 – Whom Do You Trust?

April 19th, 2021

Whom Do You Trust?

 

I think that was the title of a quiz show in the late 1950s or early 1960s, hosted by Johnny Carson – if that means anything to my audience, most of whom were not even born yet. It is, however, the best title I could find for the subject I want to share today. I am concerned with how trust in our personal narratives is formed, and how difficult it is to change such trust even when what we previously believed is proven wrong. This is how my concerns arose.

 

I am not a big fan of masks. I generally avoid wearing them, but I have utilized them in certain situations for the simple fact that they protect one from airborne disease. I was then sent a video that said otherwise. I was not particularly attracted to the website where it came from, but the video itself seemed well-reasoned and authoritative. I am skeptical, however, about accepting anything on face value that I am not expert on. I thus shared it with a person whom I very much trust for his trained critical eye and objectivity. In several other instances where I have sent things to him, his response caused me to re-evaluate my initial judgment. His reply: “Sounds sensible and well supported. I’d be interested in seeing a reply. Otherwise: It does seem reasonable.”

 

As the conclusion was still puzzling when considering the overwhelming national consensus on wearing masks, for further confirmation I sent the video to another person whom I similarly trust for their intelligence and neutrality. It made sense to them especially considering “the size of the virus and the size of the natural gaps in even well-woven fabric?” They questioned, however, whether other factors were considered in terms of validating the utility of masks, such as “creating an automatic awareness of people’s space and staying safe and distanced enough, etc.”

 

Finally, I consulted an intelligent friend with a scientific background who thought that the video was not worth his time watching: “I made my decisions after reading at least 100 highly technical papers and attending 25 hours of Zoom discussion led by my own skeptical physician. Nothing I have read has convinced me otherwise other than saying more research is needed.”

 

I will summarize the finding below, include a link to the video[1], and then cite an opposing study. Finally, I will share what I learned about my own thinking from this endeavor at trying to figure out the truth here. A summary of the video:

 

Dr. Bostom is a respected professor of epidemiology and an experienced researcher on the science of medical intervention. He became skeptical about the use of masks after hearing Dr. Fauci dramatically change his previous declaration that masks are ineffective, a view also held at the time by the CDC and the NIH. What particularly disturbed Dr. Bostom was one of the reasons Dr. Fauci gave as a contributing factor to his previous statement about the ineffectiveness of masks—that he needed to discourage ordinary people from buying them at a time when there was a shortage for the health care workforce.[2] Dr. Bostom found that excuse quite strange for several reasons, but especially since cotton cloth is in abundance, can easily and quickly be mass produced, and even a makeshift one could be made in a few minutes. He therefore decided to study the published research on the matter. He was shocked by the findings:

 

Dr. Bostom explained that the “gold standard” of scientific testing is called random controlled trials (RCT), a type of scientific experiment that aims to reduce certain sources of bias when testing the effectiveness of a new treatment. He was quite surprised by the consistency of the studies. All the RCT studies, including those going back to a study during the Spanish flu, showed negative results. In other words, there is no benefit from masks in protecting one from airborne diseases. To confirm the conclusions of his research, Dr. Bostom even referenced a meta-analysis of all the major RCT studies on masks from The Journal of Emergency Infectious Disease, the CDC’s main inhouse journal. Again, the results were negative.

 

Finally, he referred to two recent studies, beginning with the Danmask-19 study, which was published in the peer reviewed Journal of Internal Medicine. The study was done in March 2020, where, of the 4900 people tested in Denmark, there was no significant difference in COVID-19 infection from those who used a mask and those who did not. Conclusion: “The answer was a nearly identical proportion – 42 of 2,393 people (1.8%) in the mask group and 53 of 2,470 (2.1%) in the no-mask group. The difference was not statistically significant.”[3] He also cited another RCT study about masking done with six thousand people visiting Mecca for the Haj. The results were exactly the same.

 

Although I couldn’t find any RCT study directly supporting the efficacy of masks to counter airborne disease, I did find a study in the respected Journal of Health Affairs[4] that found that states that mandated masks did better than states that didn’t, although the reasons why were not clear. [5]

 

Now let me share my thinking while reading these studies. Perhaps my readers can meditate on their own reaction.

 

I resisted claims that were against my previous opinions, almost as if I was a fan of my own opinions and against those that opposed it, rather than being a neutral umpire of the facts. I was surprised by just how difficult it is for me to change the direction I am moving on a particular ideological issue, which in many ways is what COVID has become[6], out of fear of being wrong and what that does to my ego’s thirst for superiority. Simply put, in so many ways I could see and feel the push to see the world according to my desire, rather than the way it is.

 

I could also see that by my practice of regularly writing on topical subjects, which forces me to look at issues objectively, how my mind has been trained a bit to resist the tendency to avoid facts that oppose my opinion and desires, although it is not easy.

 

It also dawned on me how our opinions are so dependent on which authority we accept, and how helpless we are in such material matters when, due to commercial interests and unbridled ego, all major public institutions have become substantially corrupted and untrustworthy.[7]

 

Now, “whom do I trust?” I’m not sure in these matters, but there is one thing I did learn from Śrīla Prabhupāda that can be applied in all endeavors to understand the truth—without sincerely wanting and praying for the truth, no matter whether that truth conforms to our desires or not, and in addition cultivating the detachment to accept that truth, we will always be susceptible to the false authority of cheaters and rogues.

 

 

Those who are addicted to unrestricted sense gratification can never be truthful, nor can they be trusted with any faith.” (Krishna Book, Ch. 1)

 

 

 


[1] https://www.lewrockwell.com/2021/03/no_author/dr-andrew-bostom-interview-with-naomi-wolf-on-studies-not-supporting-masking/

[2] https://www.bitchute.com/video/rJ3I74oEWvtq/

[3] https://www.medpagetoday.com/blogs/vinay-prasad/89778

[4] https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00818

[5] There is difference between being effective because they inoculate one from airborne diseases and being effective because they make one socially aware to socially distance and so on. I am also not a scientific researcher, so I can’t claim that my research is thorough.

[6] A bit of a disclaimer: While this video contains what some might consider explicit and implied vulgarity, it doesn’t change the relevance or importance of Maher’s message, which is the separation of politics and medicine: https://youtu.be/Qp3gy_CLXho

[7] The pharmaceutical industry has been sued and paid over 35 billion dollars in the last ten years for withholding, misrepresenting, or falsifying data that would impede their commercial interests, resulting in tens-of-thousands of deaths. Just one example: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-astrazeneca-texas-lawsuits-idUSKBN1KT0Q9

 

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