Conspiracy Theories in the Corona Crisis
“There is nothing more practical than a theory“, Einstein is supposed to have said. Whether real or well invented, this saying is good. This time, I want to shed light on the function of theories in normal science, but also in the Corona crisis, where – stay the hell away from me – people shout “conspiracy theory!”.
So, what is the “useful” thing about a theory? Theories in the broadest sense guide our perception. They express what we expect based on our prior knowledge. The everyday theory that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west is such a bundled experience. The bundling of previous experiences into an expectation according to which we act is useful, or, to speak with Einstein, practical. For it saves us from having to develop everything all over again. Perception without theory hardly works, or at least only in specially purified states of consciousness. Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, spoke of the fact that we have to leave out all our pre-conceptions (i.e. “theories”) if we want to perceive reality as it is . This is a noble call, which is also made again and again by the spiritual meditation traditions: to let go of mental conditioning in order to perceive what is completely in the moment. If you meditate a lot, you can do that from time to time. But it would be too exhausting to do it all the time. We are also historical beings and bundle our experience – individual and cultural – into inner models of the world. In science, such models are called “theories”.
Read more →
Thoughts and new data on vaccination, lockdowns and other oddities in the Covid-19 debate
The highest good is health, they say. I am not sure if that is true. More precisely, whether this sentence is true probably depends on how we define health. Common definitions assume the absence of disease. More recent thinking tends to suggest that one can live well even with illness, provided one can do what is important. Perhaps, above all, a certain freedom is necessary for this? Namely, freedom from fear – which usually prevents us from doing what we would like to do. Freedom from material worries – which also restrict you a lot. Freedom from worries about the future – which are not exactly helpful either. So maybe freedom is at least as important as health, or more precisely, an important aspect of health? How would we characterize a person who is physically healthy in a cell awaiting the execution of his death sentence, even though he may have been innocently convicted? Healthy? Suffering? That, too, may not be so easy to determine.
With this little thought experiment, I am pointing out that the much-used practice of setting values against each other is not helpful. You cannot set health against freedom and vice versa. The “either-or” style of thinking, as I have often pointed out, almost always leads astray when it comes to complex questions. For the “either-or” that we know from the two-valued, Aristotelian logic which computers use, only helps in solving very firmly defined questions that can be described within a framework of propositional logic. The deep questions of life are usually more complex and require a style of thinking that is inclusive, or dialectical, or perhaps complementary. . In other words, a style of thinking that is capable of thinking about and is somehow including the opposite and thus finding either something new or a synthesis.
Read more →
…And What Distinguishes those Who Are Willing To Get Vaccinated from Those Who Are Hesitant?
Our representative survey is available
I was interested in why people in Germany get vaccinated, what their most important motives are, and also why people do not get vaccinated. In addition, I am of course interested in the question: what exactly distinguishes these two groups?
For readers in a hurry: The most important reason for getting vaccinated is fear of the Covid-19 disease (for 60%). The second most important reason is the desire to lead a normal life again (for 30%). The most important reason not to be vaccinated is that they did not want to be treated with substances whose long-term effects are unclear (for 40%), and the second most important reason is fear of side effects (for almost 40%). The two groups can be separated very well with a logistic regression model. Those who are willing to be vaccinated differ from the reluctant: they score higher on an “orthodoxy scale” that I developed specifically for such purposes and validated in our immunologist survey. They tend to not read the original scientific literature and rather follow conventional media. This model has a relatively good accuracy and is able to correctly match 78% of people.
Read more →
Let us begin with a little quiz. I recently found the following text on disastrous conditions in German intensive care units in a scientific journal. A survey among nurses is reported there, and the authors write:
Intensive care – care of the population in jeopardy
“When asked about a general dissatisfaction in the profession, 68 percent [of the intensive care nurses surveyed]responded with a “yes”. A worsening of working conditions in recent years was felt by 97 percent of the respondents.” 97% say that the workload has increased significantly, and working conditions have worsened considerably. 37% want to leave the profession, 34% want to reduce working hours. “The reasons for the poor working conditions mentioned by intensive care nurses are clear. They include the high workload, low esteem especially by hospital owners, poor care and staffing ratios, and mediocre pay.”
Prize question: what year is this text from?
It is from 2019 and refers to a survey from before . Even then, on March 8, 2019, intensive care physician Karagianidis sounded the alarm and wrote that the care of the population was in jeopardy. And this is not because we have too little capacity, but because we treat our medical staff too poorly. In the same paper, Karagianidis and colleagues note: Germany has by far the highest intensive care bed capacity in Europe. The problems are structural, nurses are paid too little. The hospitals, especially the private ones, want (and need) to make profits and do so by cutting personnel costs. Employers give nurses too little appreciation in the form of adequate pay, flexible services, sufficient time, etc. It is worth looking at the graphs of the statistics in the original paper. They tell you everything you need to know.
Read more →
Death, the killer virus SARS-CoV2 and our collective fear
Recently, US philanthropist Robert T. Bigelow, who runs his own institute, offered what is believed to be the highest amount of money awarded for frontier research, if not in the scientific enterprise at all; only the Nobel Prizes are higher, as far as I know. A total of 1.8 million dollars is to be awarded for a text that irrevocably proves that death does not mean the absolute end of consciousness. The award ceremony is taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada, these days.
Bigelow is an aerospace entrepreneur who used to work on remote Earth habitats for NASA and still has many contracts with all sorts of aerospace companies and makes his money from them. He probably experienced a conversion experience of his own, much like astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who, while flying back to Earth from the Moon, famously described the beauty of the Earth and its embeddedness in a cosmic whole as a spiritual experience that changed him. Mitchell went on to found the “Institute of Noetic Sciences” in Petaluma, California. Much like Bigelow: He founded his own institute and has used his money over the years to fund academics who tread unusual paths, such as Charlie Tart, who studies extraordinary states of consciousness.
Read more →