Reflections on a conversation with someone who doesn’t believe in covid

Humans are not good at finding the truth: Look at science.

There are too many examples of scientists and physicians in history who couldn’t see the truth because they were too entrenched in their own beliefs and ways of thinking.

For example, we all know smoking is bad for us these days. But only seventy years ago, people, even medical professionals, doubted the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

And there’s an even more recent example of people being wrong about the body.

In 1999, Russell Foster made a discovery about the eye that everyone in his scientific community would not believe. He discovered a third photoreceptor cell type that has nothing to do with vision. It only senses brightness to recognize day and night. When he announced his finding, the ophthalmological world found him ludicrous. At a meeting where Foster presented his findings, one member of the audience left, shouting, “Bullshit!”

He did a remarkable experiment to prove his point. He asked a woman who was utterly blind to tell him when the room was light or dark. And as the light went on and off, she told him with complete accuracy when it was light or dark.

His discovery is now taken as gospel, but it sure took him getting a shellacking to get here.

These people, who couldn’t see smoking as a killer or a new receptor in our eyes, weren’t stupid. These were and are scientists, researchers, scholars, doctors. They were intelligent. But they refused to accept the truth.

They were just stuck in a worldview. They were the fish in the proverbial water.

Look, humans have a hard time seeing new facts, new data, even with evidence and research, even if it’s outright true.

Just last week, I talked to someone who doubts covid.

He told me that no one he knows had had it. To him, it’s just a news headline without any evidence in his life or those around him. And all he could see was politicians making decisions that affected his life, his work, his kids. His daughter just got married and had only thirty guests there. All he’s seen is disruption from a force that he doesn’t see.

I tried to tell him that I know people who’ve had the virus, even knew some who’ve died. He didn’t disagree with me, but he didn’t seem convinced either.

These days there’s a lot of disagreeing over facts. And I’ve heard all kinds of words hurled at differing parties. Each side is apparently “stupid” or “foolish” or “misinformed.”

But they’re not. Just as the cigarette toking doctors of the 1950s and profanity yelling ophthalmologists weren’t dumb, neither is the person who disbelieves in covid or the people from the other political party.

The truth is often the hardest to see in the present. When it becomes the past, it’s more easily recognized, accepted—believed. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Today, no one denies that smoking increases our chances of getting lung cancer. It took years to get there.

And I think the virus and the election and the president and all of the things that we argue about these days will also play out, and the “unknown” truth of today will be undeniable tomorrow.

It’s true, humans may be terrible at finding the truth, but the truth does find us.

It just takes time.