What Happened to Our Ability to Understand Cause and Effect?

This whole COVID-19 thing is making it quite clear we are incapable of thinking and reasoning for ourselves. We are incapable if understanding – or following – cause and effect. Gone is all common sense and logic. Or is it just easier to accept what others tell us? That we hear something, our brains lock onto it, and we take it to be the truth, supporting it and strengthening that ‘truth’ as we find more ‘evidence’ to back it?

I am sick and tired of the political bullshit in this country – the right vs left crap. I am more tired of realizing how many people can’t think for themselves. What the fuck?

Politics aside

I rarely discuss my political beliefs. Too many make judgments based on which side of the fence our ass resides. I’ll make a point to state it now. I have been registered Independent since I moved to Arizona in 1991. I don’t follow party narratives. I don’t follow ANY narrative. I apply common sense and logic to an issue. I read. I research. I investigate. And I will change my thoughts on a subject when there is enough logical evidence to show I may not be right. 

Unlike most, I don’t always agree with my parents when it comes to issues. There is none of the ‘generational bias’ bullshit that seems to plague so many. Yes, my views were shaped by my upbringing. Good parenting does that. It creates a belief system from which to work. Better  parenting does more than that. It creates an environment where learning and free thought are encouraged. Where it’s not about ‘towing the family line’, but finding YOUR line. 

I learned to think and reason. To find out things for myself. To keep an open mind. That maybe, just maybe, what I thought to be right was, in fact, wrong. I learned to accept and process new evidence rather than dismiss it for not fitting my views. I did my own research. I spent time trying to see if it could be legitimate, allowing it to shift my thoughts on a subject, even when it contradicted what I ‘knew’ to be the truth. I accepted that I was wrong when the data said so. 

The stupidity of the human race

While I do not believe, as a whole, humans are unintelligent, COVID-19 is making a great case that we are less evolved than previously thought – or we’re devolving.

What separated (and I use the past tense on purpose) us from most species was our ability to think,  reason, and understand cause and effect. Best I can tell, there are a number of others in the animal kingdom who are more capable of rational thought than most of whom I encounter – and social media is proof.

Once we accept something as true, we cast it in stone. We cannot accept – won’t accept – anything that contradicts it. We lock onto that which supports it. We’ve been brainwashed. All I can think is that it’s easier than free thought, than deciding for ourselves, than understanding the following cause and effect.

The COVID-19 ‘Unnarrative’ 

The afternoon prior to the first case reported in Pierce Co, WA being announced, I knew about it. The source was a well-respected individual in the medical community. At that moment, several points were made by this individual:

This was serious. It was highly infectious and already known that the incubation period was long – long enough to spread exponentially faster than anything prior. That the effect on the human body was devastating. 

A bad case of the flu would have you in the hospital for a week or two. COVID-19 would put you there for up to 11 weeks.

The concern has never been the mortality rate. I was told, as part of that conversation, that it was going to be about 3%. The fear was always in overwhelming the system, because, as it was put, this country’s healthcare system was not capable of handling something like this. 

His final words:

He has been spot-on accurate.

And while most are lapping up the spun narratives on both sides, very few seem to be thinking through this logically:

The goal of social distancing has ALWAYS been to flatten the curve. There was a need to slow down the rate of infection to prevent hospitals and the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. It was always about giving us time to create a vaccine or a cure – to ‘buy us’ the 12-18 months necessary. It was never about stopping the virus. 

It has worked. Washington was the epicenter. Social distancing was ordered late March. (My girlfriend and I started self-quarantine / distancing closer to 9 March – me cancelling a flight to AZ the week of the 16th.) Now, two months later, as we near the end of May, Washington has dropped from the top spot to 19 on the list of active cases. Once having the highest mortality rate, we’ve leveled off and been passed. 

So…the cry has come from the masses – including lawsuits and body-armored assault weapons toting fringe groups marching on state capitals – to open up. Skipping the whole ‘constitutionality of the lockdown’ notion and the concept of our freedoms being curtailed, people are pointing to hospitals well within their capacity as proof that we now longer need to remain sheltered in place. 

Again, what the fuck?

Cause and effect, logic and reason

The positive capacity in our hospitals (effect) is the direct result of social distancing (cause). As soon as the cause is removed, the effect will go with it. . Without a vaccine or cure, easing up on social distancing will lead to more cases and place us back in the position of a system beyond its capacity. 

So why the capacity issue? 

We can debate about the fact that a for-profit healthcare system is motivated by money, not lives saved, later.

Back to what I was told when this all began – a bad case meant 11 weeks in the hospital. Under  no circumstance is that good. With COVID-19, that’s a disaster. The infection rate, thanks to how easily it is spread and that many are asymptomatic for so long (and can carry it without ever showing symptoms) means (if we apply an ounce of reasoning) that more will be admitted than discharged at any given time. 

Thinking this through, if there were as few as 10 new cases every two  weeks requiring admittance for care, within 30 days we’d have 40 new admittances to three discharges. In a single month, it would mean 37 beds (let’s leave ventilators out of this for now). Sorry – not sustainable.

As for the revised, lower mortality rate:

Some are pointing to it as proof that this is less deadly than previously reported. They are citing the increased number of those who have recovered as their evidence. There is flawed logic here. COVID-19 was never considered to be ‘deadly’ – only highly infectious. 

I have been tracking the mortality rate for closed cases from the beginning. It was as high as 32% – the number of deaths relative to the number of recoveries. That has dropped to 20%. Logic tells me this is not an indication the virus is less deadly. It’s an indication that the recovery time is as long as was mentioned to me back in February. It stands to reason that when we’re passed this, the mortality rate will be that 3% or lower. 

Lower due to time for those infected to recover. Lower due to having a better handle on how to treat patients. Lower thanks to a system capable of treating patients, a system no longer overwhelmed, or at risk of being overwhelmed, thanks to social distancing. 

Remember the reports where Italy was forced to consider prioritizing care when faced with more patients than available equipment and capacity to treat them? 

More cause and effect:

  • Social distancing led to fewer cases. 
  • Fewer cases prevented the system from being overwhelmed.
  • A below-capacity system means available and better care.
  • Better care leads to fewer deaths.
  • Fewer deaths decreases the overall mortality rate.

This model (cause) means we have control over the virus – fewer infected, fewer dead (effect). It buys us time to develop the vaccine or cure. 

And that was the whole point of social distancing! 

Social distancing saves lives. Period.

As soon as we remove the protocols in place, the end effect will be very different. 

Wanting to end social distancing because it has worked is a very clear indication we have little ability to think and reason.

Even more cause and effect:

This time about the economic crisis (effect). We have one – no question there. The problem is the lack of understanding as to why. Here’s a hint – IT’S NOT THE VIRUS! If you want the root cause, you need to follow things through – or back to the origin, not accept a point midway on the timeline because it suits your narrative.  

We have an economic crisis because we have a public health crisis, yes, but why did we have a public health crisis? 

Systems in place to prevent that crisis existed, even if not perfect. No one can state we’d have no issues now had they remained, BUT we can surmise we’d have been better off. 

Systems were dismantled. Delays existed. The cause of our economic crisis is not the virus. It is what we did to allow the virus to ‘take hold’ and get to the point that we were left with an economic crisis. 

To be clear:

It seems rather clear we cannot properly apply cause and effect

Or maybe, more accurately, we choose to accept the cause that fits our narrative. That leaves us no better, no more evolved than the rest of the animal kingdom. And, as with other species, nature will take her course. 

At this point, I say let it. Let’s see what that effect is.

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Wet great blue heron huddle on the edge of a deck over the water illustrating how I feel about What Happened to Our Ability to Understand Cause and EffectCopyright: Robert Nissenbaum, 2020; rnissenbaum.com
We're Living in Strange Times - apartment building in Kenton, England
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COVID-19 self quarantine - Day 3 picture of my daughter drawing in the sand at Salmon Beach Tacoma as part of her homeschoolingCopyright: Robert Nissenbaum, 2020; rnissenbaum.com