Briefly, in case you didn’t get it from the title, this is a post about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and our confidence in them. Most of us (correctly) trust these vaccines, but some people, having fallen victim to their own overconfidence in knowledge they do not possess (but think they do), do not trust the vaccines. I’d like to remind you how the Dunning Kruger effect works and affects us all.
I’m writing this while on leave for a week. I’m mostly playing Diablo 2 Resurrected, which was recently released with enhanced modern graphics. I did go for my second vaccine jab on Tuesday though, and like most people, I experienced zero side effects. (All I got was a slightly sore shoulder that’s already completely healed two days later.) I’m writing this because I’m amazed that people are choosing not to trust science. [Full disclosure – I was directly exposed to COVID-19 in December 2020 at a work function, where I stayed indoors for a while and assisted someone who had it but didn’t know. Unfortunately I only found out months later. So in theory I may have been infected already but was asymptomatic. I guess I’ll never know.]
Let’s start with the simple definition of the Dunning Kruger effect as per Wikipedia:
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a hypothetical cognitive bias stating that people with low ability at a task overestimate their own ability, and that people with high ability at a task underestimate their own ability.
Notice that it refers to everybody. That’s important. We all have limits to our own area or areas of expertise. As a software developer, I know quite a bit about software development – bot not so much (zero) about vaccines. So why do I say you must trust them? Simple: I recognize my own lack of knowledge about this subject, and thus I defer to experts. The best I can do is go with the broadly held scientific consensus. As it happens, I do a little more than that, and read widely about certain subjects, including science based medicine. But it remains an interest of mine, not something I am an expert on. I would never give you medical advice other than to go to relevant experts, and in general, trust in science, including vaccines. It’s as simple as that.
You defer to the relevant experts when you don’t know something. You do not refer to a bunch of idiots on YouTube who parrot widely debunked anti-science nonsense. That’s not how it works.
The Dunning Kruger effect also notes that when we are experts on a subject, we doubt ourselves. Since we doubt ourselves, we double check with other experts to make sure we’re right. That’s what clever people do. Doubling down and telling everybody about a subject we know fuck all about, and should not be talking about, is not what clever people do. That’s what stupid people do. Anti-vax is a position borne of ignorance. Don’t be stupid. Trust science.
Recently I tried to get through to an anti-vaxxer on Facebook, I tried for several days, until he unfriended me for “spreading vaccine misinformation” and “facilitating genocide”. I kid you not. But before he unfriended me, he shared an interesting (OK, I lie. It’s not interesting) rambling and mostly incoherent video on YouTube, which revealed the gist of his position… a conspiracy theory where his opposition to vaccines is really because he opposes “blind trust in authority”.
Here’s the thing: Nobody says you must blindly trust authority. Nobody. Trust the science. Trust the broadly held scientific consensus. Trust the experts – the same ones that multiple governments are relying on in the middle of a pandemic. It’s the obvious, correct, sensible position.
OK, I’m sorry… I’m not doing this to shame him. I’m not going to embed his video, but since it is public, here’s a link to it. I think it shows quite clearly what I mean. It’s rambling and barely coherent. It’s like the poor dude is talking off the top of his had about something he knows nothing about. It’s sad, but don’t forget, people like him are not only a danger to themselves… It’s easy to dismiss them and suggest “Darwin” takes care of them. The real danger they pose is to slow down or stop herd immunity, and I don’t mean the term as used by science deniers a while back… I mean real herd immunity that comes when most of us are immune and the disease is eradicated. Herd immunity is necessary to protect those whose immune systems are so compromised, they really can’t take the vaccine for valid medical reasons. I work with one such person – a guy in his early twenties with a heart condition. He was recently off work for a while because of an enlarged valve in his heart and he is in genuine danger from anti-vaxxers. Him and many others for valid medical reasons. They are the ones whose lives are placed in danger by these overconfident YouTube buffoons.