Discussion about COVID-19 non-scientific origins considered harmful
[Text status: rough draft after initial review]
[Epistemic status: unclear on actual risk values and how to reduce it]
[Edit log: added missing word, added a explaining link to ban and a disclaimer that a question in the end is rhetorical]
The important thing is to get rid of the arrow, not to inquire where it came from.
-- Sangharakshita, about the “Parable of the Poisoned Arrow”
tl;dr, avoiding the existential risk of a nuclear war between the US and China is reason enough for the rationalist community to ban discussion of COVID-19 non-scientific origins and actively seek to reduce the spread of this idea.
Discussions about COVID-19 true origins have been happening for a while. Scientists debate about the virus ancestry and laypeople are conceiving conspiracies about biological warfare. Whenever a piece of news appears new messages start circulating among our family and friends. This meme is spreading.
For this kind of news it doesn’t matter if the source is reputable or not, just how far it reaches and how strong is the public outcry.
We’ve seen how far politicians are going to cover their mistakes and pretend they’re saving their nation. The containment failures that already and will continue to happen are increasing incentives to find a scapegoat.
We entered this year in the worst state of nuclear war ever:
Closer than ever: It is 100 seconds to midnight
How close to midnight do we want to get? How probable is a nuclear war in 2020.
This is not a detailed analysis, but a sequence of disturbing pieces of evidence, that seem to point our governments are willing to commit absurd acts with catastrophic consequences.
The Covid-19 bioweapon conspiracy theory has not only failed to be debunked; it even seems to be getting a second wind, and prominent politicians from countries around the world are embracing it.
Trump first denied the strategic reserve to the states, heavily aggravating NYC’s crisis. Then US started taking supplies shipments from its own longtime allies and fellow NATO members. Then it started taking supplies from the states. Then went on TV saying this was all right and correct, because America first, above all, and America does not seem to include the states. How many of us could have predicted that? Last year, before the pandemic? Thirty days ago? This unpredictability of the government coupled with we global effects we’re seeing is the most critical component of the risk.
This rising unemployment is unprecedented in modern days. Using only US data: in 2008 it took eight months to go from 5% to 7.2%, but now it went from 3.5% to 17% in two weeks. Historically, mass unemployment was a trigger to nationalism and war tendencies.
Western democracies are failing really hard to contain the damages caused by federal executive government. In the US and Brazil, my country, we the federal executive government actively harming lock down efforts, problems reported by the media and denounced by congress, and still these rampant abuses are happening. Our social institutions are unable to fix such problems because they’re happening too fast and there are political interests (e.g. reelection for legislative). The media reports this as yet another power struggle.
The US started a nineteen year old multi-trillion dollar war (still ongoing) over a tragedy that had a much smaller impact in lives (a tragedy still) and in the economy. Initially the pandemic didn’t have a target, but now it seems that China will be the villain.
After the peak passes and things seem to get under control, how long before the governments use China as a scapegoat for the population’s outrage. How will this unfold? If we see the actions taken in the past few weeks, we can expect sudden grand gestures followed by quick escalation. How would China react to any action that may be seen as a threat? Moving battleships towards South China Sea? Moving more and more troops to Japan and South Korea? How will Russia react with a potential conflict near its borders?
I was running with the scarily huge number of 1-2% risk of nuclear war in this century. How is it possible to justify a number smaller than 1% right now? [non-rhetorical question]