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The Dumbest Debate

March 25, 2020

Benjamin Radford offers some guidance on dealing with coronavirus news and information; not just about telling the real from the fake stuff, but also the useful from the trivial. Just as importantly, he reminds us not only to be careful of what we believe, but what we share online, recommending some types of “social media distancing”:

You don’t know who will end up seeing your posts and comments (such is the nature of “viral” posts and memes), and while you may think little of it, others may be more vulnerable. Just as people take steps to protect those with compromised immune systems, it may be wise to take similar steps to protect those with compromised psychological defenses on social media—those suffering from anxiety, depression, or other issues who are especially vulnerable at this time.

This isn’t about self-censorship; there are many ways to reach out to others and share concerns and feelings in a careful and less public way, through email, direct messaging, video calls, and even—gasp—good old fashioned letters.

Wow, Sylvia Browne was wrong about SO MUCH. You already know folks are all a-flutter over her pandemic-prediction in her book End of Days. But you don’t think that’s all she wrongly prophesied, do you? Hell no. Following up on his first debunking, Benjamin Radford (who has been busy, obviously) goes into the Sylvia Browne Archive of Failure™ to see many of the other predictions she made and totally botched. I mean, have telemarketers vanished? Is most medicine administered by gas? Has blindness been eradicated? We still have til next year to see if she was right about the asteroid. (I just hope the bit she’s wrong about isn’t the “harmless” part.)

Snopes announced that it has to scale back its work because, much like a hospital, it is being overloaded by the coronavirus. The Verge reports:

In a blog post that was later published as a series of tweets, the organization said the pandemic is “overwhelming” its small team and that it can’t ask them to ramp up productivity at a time when everyone’s personal lives are being placed under such strain. “Yes, publishing less may seem counterintuitive,” the organization wrote, “but exhausting our staff in this crisis is not the cure for what is ailing our industry.” Going forward, it said it intends to focus its efforts “only where we think we can have a significant impact.”

Stephen Young at Religion Dispatches spells out what’s really going on with the religious right’s excitement about Trump “reopening the economy” before Easter:

Given the prevalence of religious voices among support for Trump, perhaps we could think about our situation with the ethics of religious responsibly as outlined above. A simple translation of “restart the economy” suggests itself: the economy or the free market is God. It rules over and defines reality. And this God demands human sacrifice to rescue us from Coronavirus. … The surprise is not that this god’s followers are eager to offer human sacrifices, but that anyone is still shocked they would offer the rest of us to him or try to sell us on this approach by warning against the “the false god of ‘saving lives.’”

I’m loving the facepalming expressed by Harvard global health professor Ashish Jha in his response to all this kill-the-old-to-save-the-market nonsense, as told to the Post:

“It is possibly the dumbest debate we’re having,” said Jha, who has written articles for the Atlantic proposing some solutions. “People are being incredibly simplistic and are not thinking through this beyond the next two weeks. The number of people who have emailed me and said, have you thought about the economic effects? You know, it turns out, I’ve thought about that!”

And in the same piece, we see why Russell Moore is on the outs with the Trump-worshiping Southern Baptist Convention:

“The economy is, of course, important in terms of human life and flourishing, but human life is paramount,” Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said Tuesday.

He said he’s concerned that some people seem to be talking about human lives as expendable, while others are talking about rationing health-care resources. Such ideas go against basic Christian tenets, and Americans must uphold the dignity of every human life, Moore said.

“We cannot define people in terms of their age or their perceived usefulness,” Moore said.

Jerry Falwell Jr. just doesn’t care. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:

As the coronavirus threatens to spread across the Lynchburg region, Liberty University officials are preparing to welcome back up to 5,000 students from spring break this week. … Meanwhile, hundreds of professors and instructors without a valid health exemption will come to campus to hold office hours. …

… The threat of the coronavirus became more immediate for the Lynchburg region this weekend when the Virginia Department of Health announced cases in Amherst and Bedford counties. Statewide, as of Monday evening, more than 250 people have contracted the disease and seven have died.

The president hopped on a White House conference call with religious leaders, and of course the theme was I alone can protect you. RNS reports:

“We have a pretty wild world out there, both in terms of people that are opposed to what we believe and what we think and also with respect to this whole new virus that came upon us so suddenly.” …

… Trump thanked the leaders for their prayers for the country. But when asked by Perkins, who hosted the call, what he most wanted pastors to pray for, the president sought petitions for the country’s health and strength and “that we make the right choice on Nov. 3.”

“It’s a big day, Nov. 3; that’s going to be one of the biggest dates in the history of religion, as far as I’m concerned,” the president said before [Tony] Perkins asked for Trump’s prayer requests. “We have to keep aware of that ’cause as we fight this (virus), people are forgetting about anything else.”

Following Trump’s stagecoach-like promotion of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus cure, which has already killed at least one American who believed him, doctors are reportedly now filling out baseless prescriptions for the drugs for stockpiling. ProPublica reports:

“It’s disgraceful, is what it is,” said Garth Reynolds, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, which started getting calls and emails Saturday from members saying they were receiving questionable prescriptions. “And completely selfish.” …

… The two drugs are only available through a prescription and cannot be purchased over the counter. Hydroxychloroquine, sold under the brand name Plaquenil, is approved to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis while chloroquine is an anti-malarial treatment.

In other words, sick people actually need these drugs for what they’re intended to do.

Hillary Clinton offered this bit of wisdom:

Please do not take medical advice from a man who looked directly at a solar eclipse.

The U.S. Navy has loosened its rules on religious head coverings, following suit with the Air Force, so that Sikh sailors can wear turbans.

Jamie Hale, in his “Rationality of Science” column for CFI, gives the lie to the polygraph:

The earliest version of a lie detector used a single physiological measure to detect lies, and as time passed more measures were added. None of these measures accurately detect deception. There are no specific physiological profiles that are indicative of deception. The so-called Pinocchio Response has not been found.

I found it. It’s called a presidential coronavirus press briefing. Zing!

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.