A discussion on popular delusions.
Due to the pandemic, we will meet remotely on Tuesday, January 12 at 7 PM EST (Zoom link here)
- Who are you and what is the largest in-person gathering you would join at this very moment?
- Did we make the “right choice” in November?
- What will happen on January 20th?
- Across the country at this very moment there are thousands of people who would happily walk into a crowd with explosives strapped to their chest, detonate, and vaporize every nearby citizen. Now such people need merely walk into that same crowd maskless to achieve similar results. Are we ready for the coming age of stochastic viral terrorism?
- Does Twitter have the right/responsibility to (de)host world leader’s accounts given their obvious presence on “the world stage”?
- Does Zoom have the right/responsibility to (de)host participants discussing the Tiananmen Square Massacre and provide their information to “legitimate” governments of the world?
- What is the optimal number of people solving a problem?
- Why does it appear that “Fads & Fallacies” must be met with A Continued Need For Vigilance Against Fraud? Why can’t we snuff out fakery for good?
- What is the most dangerous conspiracy in our world right now?
- Why do people believe weird things?
- How/Can one reason with unreasonable people? What are a few strategies for de-indoctrination we can employ to help others?
- Is it our moral responsibility to get people out of cults?
- Burrell and Gill (2005) write of a series of “cholera riots” that broke out in Liverpool in 1832, where distrusting crowds believed “cholera victims were being removed to the hospital to be killed by doctors in order to use them for anatomical dissection.” One contemporary (writing in The Lancet no less!) said it was a “government hoax got up for the purpose of distracting the attention of the people”. Do you believe the increased civil unrest we have experienced recently is attributable to a similar set of circumstance – distrust, disgust, disguise of a disease – or would this civic strife happen independent of the pandemic?
- Some might say peer review represents the rails that keep us on the right track of science. Quality, we are assured, is ensured by the quasi-anonymous review by one’s intellectual colleagues looking over one’s work with keen and careful eyes. As Millard (2011) notes that while some invoke a “quality control” argument in favor of the practice, “others find the practice riddled with incompetence, conflict of interest, interpersonal strife, assorted biases (including pervasive bias toward positive results, along with predictable personal leanings), and occasional intellectual property theft.” How might we improve our peer-review processes? That is, how can we make the best use of our collective time to ensure the integrity of the scientific process/literature/landscape?
- Should the COVID-19 vaccine be mandated for the citizens of this nation?
Readings to consider
- The Liverpool Cholera Epidemic of 1 and Anatomical Dissection—Medical Mistrust and Civil Unrest (Burrell & Gill)
- The Wisdom of Crowds, the Madness of Crowds: Rethinking Peer Review in the Web Era (Millard)
- The Hippocratic Thorn in Bioethics’ Hide: Cults, Sects, and Strangeness (Koch)
- The Importance of Complying with Vaccination Protocols in Developed Countries: “Anti-Vax” Hysteria and the Spread of Severe Preventable Diseases (Pandolfi et al)