When out of the blue I start to hear a consistent narrative, remarkably similar, coming from a variety of people spread out across diverse geographical areas, I become suspicious. Over the past 10 days I’ve heard the following narrative coming from a spectrum of sources:
- The death rate for coronavirus infections is grossly overstated.
- The cost to America by having businesses closed, measured in deaths and ruined lives, will greatly exceed the pandemic if the society stays closed.
- Coronavirus infections are not much worse than a cold or the flu, just that the weak and sick are the ones to die. They are going to die anyway, even without coronavirus, so why punish all of society in our efforts to save these people who are going to die anyway?
- This whole hype over the coronavirus is being manufactured by those with a liberal agenda of government control of people.
Each morning I have a routine of finding out what’s happening in the world. My choice of information sources are based on the experts who evaluate media sources for accuracy and political balance. I start with NPR, listening through a smartphone app from my bed. Then I get up and listen to CNN on Hulu while I make and eat my breakfast. I recognize that CNN has an anti-Trump bias and I avoid several of their shows which are most biased, but they are mostly factual. I also tend to tune into the international version which is less Trump-centric. I stopped listening to MSNBC because of their bias. I eventually check out Fox News to see what they are saying and check out BBC and Al Jazeera (in the international and Arabic language news version) to see what’s happening in the world. I can do all of this information gathering within an hour. Additionally, about once a week I hold my nose and check out the far-right sources, Brietbart News Network, Judicial Watch, and Infowars. I believe that it is important to know what people are listening to, even if those latter news sources are so pathetically off the rails in their hateful agendas and pure bullshit.
After hearing this new narrative, I went back to look for the motherlode of misinformation about the pandemic and I found it within all those politically right sources, with the greatest exposure at Fox News. The fundamental narrative was not coming from public health or epidemiology researchers, but from the business world. After all, that makes the most sense because they have the most to lose (talking simply about money and wealth) by the societal shut down. They have almost nothing to lose from the disease itself because these are CEOs and owners who don’t work on the front lines and have minimal risk. They also have the funding to influence the public with this mis-information campaign. See: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackbrewster/2020/04/09/a-fox-news-conspiracy-are-coronavirus-death-numbers-inflated-attacked-by-fauci-birx/#aff8ed816afe
Here is the factual narrative as expressed by the real experts, those who have spent their lives studying pandemics and the behavior of viruses.
- The death rate for coronavirus is being grossly under reported due to the lack of testing and a political pressure to keep the numbers as low as possible. (see https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/28/us/coronavirus-death-toll-total.html)
- We are sitting on a time bomb. As bad as things are, they could mushroom into the deaths of millions without social distancing.
- Even with present numbers, we are more than 1 ½ times the death rate form coronavirus than from suicides (est 47K per year) and the uptick in suicides from social distancing is pale when compared to the deaths of coronavirus infections. If the infection takes off, then it will 100-fold worse.
- This novel coronavirus is much worse than the cold or flu both it is ability to spread and mortality.
- While there is a disproportionate number of deaths among the elderly and ill, it is killing people at all age groups from toddlers to those in their teens, to those in their youth and higher. Some of the deaths occur in very healthy young people and for reasons that are not clear. Still others come out of the infection with serious injury to their lungs and kidneys, from which they will never recover.
- There is no political agenda behind the information about the global pandemic but factual information from the real experts. There is no conspiracy behind this.
One of the most troublesome aspect of this new narrative is that I’ve heard it mostly from my evangelical friends. But that makes sense. As I’ve said many times, I spent 25 years of my life in the evangelical camp. During the later years of this time, before I came to my senses, I, like all of my evangelical peers, became a consumer of Fox News and even Rush Limbaugh. But eventually I realized I was being brain-washed with right wing pro Republican, pro big business bullshit and unfortunately, I like my evangelical peers were blending this right wing political agenda, in a very dark way, with our own Christianity.
But I want to look at what is being said from a philosophical viewpoint to try and unscramble this egg.
The Atheistic-Evolutionary Model
First, I want to look at the perspective from an atheistic, evolutionary view of humanity. I know many people who have an evolutionary viewpoint but as Christians, Muslims, or pantheists so it is an error to think that evolutionists and atheism are synonymous.
In this framework, and if you see the goal as the survival of our species (some would even argue with this goal, thinking that a human-less universe would be better), then there should be no social distancing and allow the viruses, as it did for millions of years, to take its full toil. This would “weed out” the weak and in the end, after possibly a loss of 10% of the population, that the genetic pool would be stronger and more resistant to future infections and have a herd immunity to this infection. This is so logical within that philosophical framework, that I call in to question those atheists, and there are many of compassionate atheists, who don’t think we should go this way but that we should intervene to save human lives and reduce suffering.
The Christian Model
Within this framework, there is a fundamental belief that all of creation is special because a personal and loving God created it. They also hold that humans are more special than all else because we, alone, are created in God’s image. Therefore humans, and all of creation, have intrinsic value and worth. The basic Christian philosophical viewpoint also states that evil and suffering entered the universe from the fall of Adam and the universe was not created with these flaws. Therefore, our struggle against suffering is not a struggle against God’s creative purpose.
The Christian message, as clearly stated by Jesus himself, is that one of our biggest problems is our love of money and wealth. Jesus was not pro big business, but was pro people, all people.
So it is odd that my compassionate atheist friends want to reduce suffering and save lives, while my evangelical friends are advocating this Darwinistic approach of sacrificing the elderly, the weak, the poor, the minorities, and those with underlying illnesses (like me) for the sake of money and wealth… and that money and wealth will mostly fall into the hands of the millionaires and billionaires.
To me, this is yet another example where American Evangelicalism as completely lost its way, where it was blended with right wing politics and now that politics have totally supplanted their original Christian ideals.