Preference Cascade and the Wearing of Masks

Featured image is of the Flying Scotsman, 1862-1924, service from Edinburgh to London. They don’t make trains this gorgeous anymore.

False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science for they often endure long; but false hypotheses [theories] do little harm, as everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path toward error is closed and the road to the truth is often at the same time opened.

— Charles Darwin, from the preface to The Origin of Species

Most people don’t want to be an oddball. That means they may not always be truthful about their beliefs, especially political beliefs. Perhaps you believed all the predictions about a new age of global cooling that were going around in the 1980’s. It did seem to make sense, didn’t it. But then when the prognosticators suddenly shifted to dire warnings of global warming you might have begun to wonder if they really knew what they were talking about. When you noticed that seemingly everyone was fully on board with all the global warming hype it might have seemed to you that nobody else shared your skepticism, and so you became reluctant to speak out on it. You didn’t want to get into an argument, and you didn’t want to appear to be an oddball.

Now, many years later,  you know that you aren’t alone in your skepticism. There have been so many cracks in the global warming argument, the true believers have been forced to make another shift, this time from global warming to “climate change.” You can openly disagree with it now without being a weirdo. It’s okay to be a skeptic now. Probably a majority of the public is skeptical of the wild claims being made about “climate change.”

What is happening is called a “preference cascade.” It’s what happens when people who thought they were alone in their beliefs suddenly find out a lot of other people agree with them.  It’s when you realize you can be open about what you think without being shunned by your friends, at least not the ones worthy of friendship.  It’s when you find out who are the “true believers” who will cling to something they need to believe against all evidence and common sense.

I use the global warming ballyhoo merely as an example. There are many other popular ideas that are actually widespread delusions, but almost nobody wants to challenge them for fear of being labeled by others as the deluded ones. There is also the phenomenon of “preference falsification” in which people not only hold back on saying they really believe but may even profess to believe the opposite just to avoid what they perceive to be the likely condemnation by others if they spoke truthfully.  A great book has been written on this: Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification, by Timur Kuran.

This highlights why freedom of speech is so important. People already self regulate their own speech to a large degree. When social sanctions are imposed common knowledge is threatened with becoming unknowable.  Global cooling/global warming/climate change hype is a good example because now that the cat is out of the bag the true believers are doing everything possible to try to silence the skeptics.  First they labeled them “deniers,” a transparent attempt to compare global warming skeptics to holocaust deniers.  The media regularly ridicules anyone who dares to disagree with the climate change dogma. 

All this does enormous damage to freedom of speech and to science.  As Darwin says, false facts are only harmful if they aren’t refuted.  In a climate of open inquiry where others are free to disagree, the path to error can be closed and the road to truth opened.

In a seminal article, Steven Pinker has written of the twin pillars of conjecture and refutation as being necessary to the advancement of knowledge. The True Believers of man-made climate change  claim to have science on their side, all the while they try to prevent any refutation of their wild conjecture.  If they were truly confident in their theories and truly cared about knowledge and truth, they would debate the skeptics instead of suing them. If they really were following the science they would be glad to debate their position with others. Actual science depend on debate and argument, That’s how science works.

The latest cult claiming to have science on its side is the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Almost 50% of Americans have now been vaccinated, thanks to Donald Trump for getting the vaccine available in record time. The vaccines are said to be 95% effective. Masks are of questionable effectiveness, yet the mask police are adamant that everyone must wear a mask. For how long, forever?

There is one scientific fact about masks, and it may be the only one. Daily wearing of a mask for at least 8 hours a day will eventually have harmful effects on one’s health. That ’s because breathing through a mask results in one re-breathing part of his or her exhaled breath. What is exhaled is mostly CO2, which will build up in your lungs and eventually get into your blood stream where it will reduce the needed amount of oxygen. Your blood oxygen content will begin to fall below the recommended minimum of about 92 percent. Constant daily mask wearing will lower that number and when it gets down into the 80’s percent of oxygen in your blood all sorts of physical aliments can occur. You will become less resistant to all sorts of diseases.

The mask cops will make you wear a mask even if you’ve been fully vaccinated. That’s rich, forcing you to use a mask which is not likely to keep you safe, even if you have been fully vaccinated and now have near absolute protection. Forced mask wearing is tyranny after you’ve been vaccinated because then you no longer pose danger to others.

I can’t wait for the preferences cascade that will eventually come when enough people get fed up with the mask police and refuse to wear masks. It can’t happen soon enough.

Jay Bhattacharya at Stanford and Harvey Risch at Yale Hospital are the two best epidemiologists in the country. They  both say masks should not be worn inside or outside, period. They do no good and potentially do harm. Surgeons in an operating room wear them for completely different reasons, to keep the surgeon from inadvertently breathing bacteria or other harmful particles into the patient’s open incision. Bacteria comes in large particles that can be stopped by surgical masks. Virus on the other hand are so small they go right through the mask. Operating rooms are not usually hosts to any form of virus or bacteria, but we all have powerful bacteria in our mouths to help us digest food. Keeping bacteria in the surgeon’s mouth can be done with a surgical mask. Anyone with a virus infection will be kept out of the surgery room because the mask does not work for such small particles as in a virus..

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