Dear reader

You may wonder about that viral video and if so, I hope you read this. I hope you thoughtfully consider everything.

 

We should hear all arguments, but all ideas do not deserve equal weight. Ideas receive the weight that the supportive evidence commands. You are under no obligation to entertain me saying I have magical powers in the name of fairness. Please don’t. That’s a misapplication of justice.

In the past, ideas were suppressed, not because they lacked merit, but because they threatened people (think the dark ages) or the wrong person proposed them.

Now, we weigh new ideas on merit. The video never presented a single shred of evidence, so I think it’s dishonest to say that people are looking for truth. Google searches do not constitute research, though they can educate us on the subject and make things more accessible. When that is the depth of people’s research I question their sincerity.

If you want to know, why not conduct a study?

The journalist never challenged a single thing the protagonist said. Scientists face critical commentary from peers when they have an idea. They will tear it to shreds because they know the subject best. Then, the recipient takes it and improves before they dare share it.

Even then, it may be ignored. Not because it’s a conspiracy, but because scientists learn quickly that revolutionary finds are rare, while errors are not. That’s why studies assessing all relevant studies — meta-analyses — together carry the most weight.

If we knowingly tell people something that isn’t true or something we’ve not verified, we have done something immoral. We may give false hope, we may waste others’ time and money. At worst, the error may take lives. That is why a scientist checks and double-checks. If they get it wrong, people may never believe them again.

Sometimes a crisis means offering the best guess; we have to be honest about what we know. Sometimes the void left by the unknown leaves people hungry for answers. People feel scared and vulnerable. Some will prey upon this and say what people want to hear. If people cannot show how they know what they say and that the most advanced scholars or professionals have criticized it, be cautious. Ask why they would avoid scrutiny. The truth can take it.

If they shirk criticism without address, be wary.

The best scientists welcome criticism from those most able to give it. It’s not proof my idea is sound if I ask a lawyer or my mail carrier if it’s good. How would they know? If they say it’s wonderful, it’s not proof my study was good.

Aside from that, much of this tale employs magical thinking and suspends reality. There are many highly ethical people who would not stay silent about this — me among them.

To believe the video’s claims you tacitly assert that the entire scientific community is immoral or not smart enough to see the truth. I struggle to understand how anyone could believe that. People believe it’s safe to entertain a deeply flawed argument. Then, they’re not right or wrong, but you are wrong. One way or the other, you entertain a lie.

Things that are true, are true apart from this video. If an unrelated problem also appeared in the video, like a troubling law or issues with healthcare, the truth of that problem has nothing to do with the fantasy in the video. By conflating a valid concern with unrelated ideas, the story garners credibility. It’s like saying Lord of the Rings is a good book to consult about wildlife because there is some truth in it. Maybe it’s all true because there are some truths in it.

People on social media can say anything and bear no responsibility if it isn’t true. That is the opposite of science.

When someone suffers discredit and their study gets recalled, it is likely peers have already tried to repeat it. If we suspect something is off, we check. We may redo an experiment to confirm a result. If no one can repeat it, then it’s reasonable to ask if the original study had problems. Imagine finding an error so basic as to cast doubt that anyone could have missed it.

I would feel robbed of time and money, like they had played me for a fool when I tried to corroborate their work. It’s an insult to those who spent time and funding and a betrayal to people suffering from the disease. If you make a mistake in science or you propose a shocking theory, that won’t be the end of your career. A scientist’s career is over when she no longer accepts that she may be wrong. Without growth, there can be no discovery.

I want to believe that people know it’s not true but are struggling because their mind has fallen prey to biases they’ve mistaken for reality. Feeling like it could be true doesn’t show the truth any more than an optical illusion depicts reality.

Our perception makes us feel and see things that are not a reflection of reality. We fear airplanes but not cars — we don’t always feel things that make sense — sometimes people hallucinate, sometimes you see a shadow in the corner of your eye. That does not make it real.

The same is true here, except it hurts people. People feel safe behind a screen speculating the worst about others with no evidence, but it is no less cruel. I believe people know it’s wrong, and that is why they do not bring it directly to these people. That is why they do not let the accused plead their case.


When I took my first graduate classes, the people at my school stunned me — they still do every day — with their deeply moral character. Any of them might have gone to private industry and been endlessly wealthy. They chose public health. They work in a field that often serves the poor, oppressed, and voiceless. It serves people who can offer nothing in return. People do not suddenly change because someone offers them money.

If you weigh ideas, I support that, but you must follow it to its logical conclusion. If what the video says is true, there isn’t a half-truth option. If it’s not reputable, then it’s not credible for anything. Misinformation is not a credible source.

Lies believed ruin lives; they create a false reality where no one ever agrees. It threatens society. This isn’t a harmless conspiracy video like the many, many that float on the internet where anyone may say anything without consequence.

So why remove this video and not others? Social media is not a moral gatekeeper. Companies allow some distasteful material. Misinformation like this is a threat to national security, so Facebook did some “research” and decided how to handle it.

If you ever want an example of why it’s a terrible idea to draw conclusions without experience or knowledge, this is it.

Facebook made the error conspiracy theorists make: misunderstanding the data. The removals triggered the boomerang effect. It’s when you tell someone they’re wrong, and they reflexively believe it more. People more readily believe the first thing they hear in a crisis and think less critically.

Ask yourself, why, if many researchers leave the country to study elsewhere, why could this scientist not do that. The US is not the entire world. She could conduct research anywhere. Many scientists travel all over the world to research. Why not repeat the studies and prove them wrong? Others tried to repeat and could not.

Are there no honorable people in science anywhere? I am skeptical that this field could be so universally, morally bankrupt that not a single person will speak against this. The powers of evil must reach so far and wide as to eclipse the ends of the earth.


Social media removed the video knowing people might believe it — and they were right — and it would lead people to behave in ways that would threaten lives. More to it, Facebook can do whatever it wants and people are free to share their materials on their own websites using their own software and programs.

It’s not a human right to post whatever you like. People may build their own platforms, so why don’t they? They can make their own website and start their own labs. Why don’t they?

They can band together and do credible research under a 24/7–view and post it for all the world to see. This is about the truth, so why haven’t they?

People who create platforms are free to determine what we may post; you are free to protest by not using it.

Terrorist groups have posted videos that were taken downin the past. It is not because they were on to something. The best way to vet an idea is to follow it to all logical conclusions. If something is true, ask yourself what that means.

This is not a magical story where you may — without just cause — accuse innocent people and go on as if you have done nothing wrong. They’re actual people.

I have seen them. I have seen how exhausted they are, struggling to find solutions over excessively long hours, only to face accusations they have done nothing to warrant. You are burning them at both ends, and still, they work.


Few people are close enough to me I would fraternally correct their behavior, but if my child, my husband, someone close to me was denigrating a group of people working to get us out of this, I would have strong words. It would not be because their words were right. The more incorrect, the stronger my objection would be.

I believe in truth and integrity and that people do not deserve to be accused of that for which no evidence exists. I do not believe in mistreating people because something sounds like it might be true.

We like to balk at the past.

“How did they believe in a flat world? How were they convinced those poor Salem women were witches?”

I don’t know; you tell me.


Sincerely,
an exhausted, caring scientist devoted to the truth

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Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

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