Misguided journalist argues that science—and wearing of facemasks—are based on a quasi-religious faith

January 12, 2021 • 10:15 am

Despite what I consider my strong refutation of the idea that “faith” is pervasive in both science and religion, that idea persists. I won’t go through the arguments that I made in Faith Versus Fact or, more concisely, in an article in Slate, “No Faith in Science,” but people nevertheless persist in their nescience. The latest attempt to argue that science is faith-based is in the pages of The Post Millennial, a conservative Canadian news magazine. It’s just so tiresome in every way that I get no pleasure from putting fingers to keys. But since that rag is fairly widely read, I’ll say a few words.

The article is really a disguised harangue about how mandates to wear face masks during the coronavirus pandemic are infringements on our liberty. In other words, it’s the right-wing libertarian argument against masks that we see so often in the U.S. And, says Andrew Mahon—identified as “a Canadian-British writer based in London who has written for the Spectator, the Daily Wire, Conservative Woman, New English Review, Brexit Central, Catholic Journal and others”—the notion that masks reduce Covid-19 transmission is based on faith, because there’s supposedly no evidence behind it.

Click on the screenshot to read and weep:

You can read my Slate piece to see that when scientists use the word “faith”, they use it differently from believers. Scientists use it to mean “confidence born of experience.” And when people say “I have faith in my doctor” or “I have faith in Anthony Fauci’s views”, they mean that they trust authority figures who have a good track record. That’s not the same as religious faith, characterized by philosopher Walter Kaufmann as ” “intense, usually confident, belief that is not based on evidence sufficient to command assent from every reasonable person.”

Read my piece if you want more. The upshot is that the scientific notion of “faith” does not turn science into a religion, as Mahon implies in his headline. If you look up “religion” in the Oxford English Dictionary, you find this definition:

 Action or conduct indicating belief in, obedience to, and reverence for a god, gods, or similar superhuman power; the performance of religious rites or observances.

Even if science were based on a religious-like faith, which it isn’t, it couldn’t be described as a religion. We have no obedience to or reverence for gods or the supernatural. End of story.

Mahon, who I suspect is a believer, has a weird notion of religion, claiming that it is not based on evidence or claims about reality. That’s of course untrue, but it does adhere to the Gouldian “Non-overlapping magisteria” view of science and religion:

The religious impulse cannot be avoided. Alongside faith, everyone participates in ritual and follows prohibitions in one form or another. We do it in every human interaction, and we certainly notice whenever anyone doesn’t follow conventional norms. The question becomes where to direct the religious impulse. And, leaving aside the truth or falsehood of its claims, what Christianity achieved was to direct man’s religious impulse to the ideal place, away from the empirically knowable. Unlike other religions, Christianity directed it wholly towards things unknowable, unprovable and unfalsifiable. This effectively freed up the knowable world, severing it from the realm of faith, and allowed the scientific method to step in and transform human civilization.

Away from the empirically knowable? But if you’re a Christian, don’t you have to have some “knowledge” about the existence of Jesus and God,  and of their powers and their plans? In fact, empiricism is the only way to know about these things, making the term “empirically knowable” a bit of an redundancy. I guess he’s talking about “other ways of knowing,” i.e., revelation, authority, and sacred books, which are non-empirical. Neither are they a way to arrive at the truth, as we know from all the contradictory claims of the world’s diverse religions. As Mike Aus, a pastor who quit the church, said:

When I was working as a pastor I would often gloss over the clash between the scientific world view and the perspective of religion. I would say that the insights of science were no threat to faith because science and religion are “different ways of knowing” and are not in conflict because they are trying to answer different questions. Science focuses on “how” the world came to be and religion addresses the question of “why” we are here. I was dead wrong. There are not different ways of knowing. There is knowing and not knowing, and those are the only two options in this world.

So, although Mahon gives credit for science to religion’s wise decision to step away from empirical claims, I can’t be all that grateful. And I wish that religion would keep its mitts off evolution.  But of course Mahon’s claim bespeaks a profound ignorance of religion, many of whose proponents really do make claims about reality that they believe absolutely, and are constantly trying to buttress with evidence (viz. Biblical archaeology, miracles, and so on).

But the “religious impulse” that “can’t be avoided” is now, argues Mahon, directed towards the pandemic, in particularly those nasty mandates to wear masks. He gets into his anti-mask argument slowly, as he doesn’t want to look like a crazy right-winger at the very beginning.

Step 1: A general assertion:

The rush to accept the claims of scientists with blind faith rather than insisting on proof is a distinct sign of our times, as is the demand for proof of unprovable tenets of Christianity. In thrall to this topsy-turvydom, many scientists expect politicians to trust them in the absence of evidence and many Christians try to construe the book of Genesis as if it were a scientific treatise.

Step 2: Mahon gets more specific:

Surely, given the unprecedented disruption to people’s lives, the suppression of basic liberties and the destruction of the economy, the decision to shut down society ought to have been evidence-based rather than faith-based. But with few exceptions, our politicians didn’t insist upon evidence, choosing instead to defer to (or should we say, hide behind) their scientific advisors, who presented them with predictions, models, worst-case estimates and beliefs.

And of course those scientific advisors, who were blindsided like many of us, initially went on the best guesses they could make from evidence derived from previous coronavirus epidemics and from epidemiology. In other words, they went on evidence, scanty as it was at the beginning of 2020. They weren’t always right, but they did not rely on revelation, sacred books, or mere unevidenced pronouncements of authorities. And of course those scientists eventually presented the politicians with a vaccine. That vaccine wasn’t, of course, based on faith.

Step 3: Mahon reveals his real animus:

Take mask mandates. People who believe in wearing masks think that they’re basing those beliefs on science. But if that were true, they’d be able to show evidence. What you get instead is a patronizing cartoon of people peeing on each other, or Paul Rudd trying to be funny and then yelling at you from his celebrity pedestal. “It’s science!” he shouts. But is it?

Wearing masks makes some people feel better. It also satisfies a naive intuition. The mask is clearly a barrier that will at some level prevent fluids travelling through fabric, just like your pants. But that doesn’t constitute scientific proof that masks prevent the spread of a virus. Scientific proof in this case would take the form of randomized controlled trials. There was one five years ago which compared medical masks to cloth masks and found that “Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection.” This was the line that most governments were taking at first, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. But then they altered course without any new evidence, and the vast majority of people now accept it as an article of faith that masks save lives.

There has been a grand total of one randomized controlled trial conducted to determine the efficacy of masks in preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The Danish study that initially struggled to find a publisher conclusively showed that there is a statistically insignificant difference between wearing a mask and not wearing a mask. Add to this the fact that masks are disgusting, unhygienic sneeze receptacles that in practice are rarely washed or replaced, that people touch their masks and faces constantly before feeling up avocados in the supermarket, that because of the false sense of security, people wearing masks are less likely to do other, more effective things, like wash their hands, and finally, that there is little to no evidence of asymptomatic transmission, and we have to wonder why all these healthy people are still walking around with their faces covered. The answer is quite simply that their faith is misplaced.

Now let’s grant that we lack the direct controlled, randomized trials that we need to show with absolute certainty that masks are useful in helping contain the epidemic. (Of course other things are very useful as well: hand-washing, avoiding big social gatherings, quarantining, and so on.) Doing those types of experiments would be unethical.  But we have correlational evidence that show mask wearing by symptomatic and asymptomic people, whether the latter be infected or not, reduces the incidence of transmission; that masks contain respiratory droplets, a source of infection; and so on. All the evidence is summarized in this post on the website of my doctor, Alex Lickerman—a post I’ve mentioned before (click on screenshot to read it):

You won’t find any faith in the post above, just data—data sufficient to buttress the argument that we should all be wearing masks.

At the end, Mahon reprises his claim that mask-wearing is a religious act, and makes what I call “The Argument from the Norm”:

Not wearing masks is the norm, freedom to visit family and friends is the norm, freedom to conduct business is the norm, and evidence should be required to displace by legal compulsion each and every one of these norms. But too many people aren’t interested in that, preferring instead to trust in the government’s claim to be following “the science,” and if challenged, they often react the way a religious person reacts when his beliefs are criticized — offended and scandalized.

Well, read Alex’s post above and see if you think there’s no “science” behind mask mandates.

But the best part of Mahon’s argument is his claim, at the very end, that because the erosion of Christianity in our society has also eroded the distinction between “the knowable and the unknowable”, then perhaps a return of Christianity will actually help revive science! I kid you not:

I’m not sure whether a return to Christianity is necessary to salvage the unknowable/knowable partition and preserve the utility of the scientific method. But whatever direction our society chooses to go in future, one thing’s for sure: we will have a religion. We may not have science.

Can you believe that? Mahon’s not even wrong here. Eventually religion will largely disappear from Western society, but science never will because it cannot. In the modern world, we don’t really need religion that much, but we’ll always need science. How else would we have gotten a vaccine? Science is the only good way to materially improve humanity, whether it be through technology, nutrition, or health. And, of course, it’s the only way to satisfy our insatiable curiosity about the cosmos.

The Post Millennial was in fact irresponsible in printing this piece, implying as it does that mask-wearing has no effect on viral infection rates. Mahon may have the right to endanger Canadians with his pabulum, but the paper should exercise better judgement in allowing columnists to make misleading statements about science, particularly when they affect public health. If this column were on Twitter, it would have gotten one of those “false tweets” warnings.

h/t: Paul

p.s. If you saw a mattress ad, ignore it. I had to turn off adblocker to get the article, and accidentally copied that ad. It should be removed now.

43 thoughts on “Misguided journalist argues that science—and wearing of facemasks—are based on a quasi-religious faith

  1. Surely, given the unprecedented disruption to people’s lives, the suppression of basic liberties and the destruction of the economy, the decision to shut down society ought to have been evidence-based rather than faith-based.

    A mask requirement in no way shuts down a business, any more than the old shirt and shoe requirement shuts down a business. There were certainly other orders that shut down businesses, but a mask mandate did not, and does not, do that.

    1. “Destruction of the economy” is an immediate glaring warning sign that this journalist is spouting excrement.

    2. Exactly, wearing masks (effective masks that is) will allow more economic activity to be carried out, not less, while maintaining comparable, or even less, risk of infection. ‘Masks destroying the Economy’ is topsy turvy. As said: not even wrong.
      Basic liberty? Is that the liberty to DUI? The right of Typhoid Mary to continue to infect?
      Moreover, wearing a mask in public spaces is such a small ‘burden’, and only during the state of emergency at that. Calling it an infringement on ‘basic liberty’ is not just here nor there, but profoundly unconscionable.

      1. I have a slightly libertarian bent by nature, but I totally agree with you and PCC(E) and the above commenters that the notion that these things are infringements on rights are the moanings of spoiled children, not the statements of responsible adults who want the best for themselves and for their societies.

  2. Saying something like- ” masks reduce Covid-19 transmission is based on faith” is the same as saying – ” vaccine curing a patient is based on faith”. Those out there don’t want to seek actual truth.
    That I think.

  3. Here in the UK, we’ve been wearing masks in shops and other enclosed spaces since last summer. If covid infections are now surging, it at least warrants the suspicion that they’re not very effective, unless of course you want to posit the unfalsifiable hypothesis that cases would have been even higher without them.

    I don’t have any particular axe to grind here. I wear one when I go shopping, and don’t consider it any great imposition to do so, but I do agree that there is an element of moral grandstanding in some mask advocates.

    For an alternative view, this is worth a look:

  4. I have a major quibble with “The religious impulse cannot be avoided.”

    Now if it had been written as “The social impulses cannot be avoided.” we would be talking about how mask wearing (or not) was another social impulse. “Religion” was an unsurprising primary social impulse when the idea of gods, or god, or organised god workers appeared to explain how the world worked. Now not so much.

  5. “… and we certainly notice whenever anyone doesn’t follow conventional norms. The question becomes where to direct the religious impulse.”

    Jeez-o-man, conventional norms based on religious impulses used to including stoning adulteresses and subjecting suspected witches to the ducking stool.

    Count me out, dude.

    1. Surgeons have worn them for decades. All of these naysayers have conveniently forgotten their tacit support for that practice, and continue to treat it as if it’s irrelevant to their objections. Which is either selection bias, or mercenary disingenuousness.

  6. I know that anecdata does not data make – but since the mask mandates took place and I began wearing mine, I’ve not had (knock on wood) the merest sniffle. I’ll be using my mask after they lift the order when travelling, going to crowded public places, etc. I like it.

    1. Similar to you, and knocking on wood like you, my family and I have been free of any cold or flu for the past ten months. At the start of the pandemic lockdowns and mask mandates, I reflected on all the times in my life when I was laid low with the flu, and I found that I could remember in what situation I got infected and who infected me practically every time. I palmed my forehead saying to myself if only I had been wearing a mask during those times, I probably wouldn’t have gotten sick. I may have written on this site before that, because of the lessons of this pandemic, my wife and I have concluded that from now on we won’t consider ourselves fully dressed when we leave the house unless we’re carrying masks with us. I’m hoping carrying and using masks to ward off illness will be the new normal in human society.

    2. I didn’t have a cold from March to November: a whole winter without a single cold! In November I got one from my youngest, but that kind of within family infection is hard to avoid.

    3. And think how many infections we happen to catch that we would be less likely to spread to others if, whenever we get a respiratory infection, we did like so many Asian people do and wear masks. It’s so simple and minimally intrusive…and it makes people like me look better! ^_^

    4. I had my annual physical 12/7 and my doctor told me visits and hospitalizations due to the flu had gone down significantly this year. Yes, an anecdote, (and there was probably a large increase in flu vaccinations) but common sense tells me, “wearing a mask reduces the risk of getting sick by microbes”.

      I bet you won’t be the only one who continues wearing a mask after the mandate is lifted. I don’t know how I’ll react when I can go into public maskless.

  7. A couple of thoughts …
    Yes it is an imposition on our liberty
    But then so are traffic regulations and trespass laws for example. Mahon next time he has surgery perhaps should not step of the surgical team’s liberty to do the operation mask free.

    I am not sure there have been studies of mask wearing to non mask wearing specifically for COVID 19 … I suspect not. I assume some precautionary principle is being used here. But once this is all over and analysis of the comparison of mask wearing communities with those that don’t Mahon can comment on that.

    1. I believe there’s ample evidence when you compare Sweden (no mask mandate) to neighbor Norway (mask mandate). I don’t remember the last statistics I saw, but Sweden’s deaths and infections are significantly higher than Norway’s…or Germany’s and other countries with mask mandates.

  8. This will set the cat among the pigeons.

    Despite the bullshit about faith in science it is true we don’t actually know how effective masks are, just as we don’t actually know how effective two meter social distancing is.

    The one trial this guy cited doesn’t show any differences between wearing a mask and not, but his example only serves to illustrate WHY it is so hard to get a firm idea about how effective mask wearing is. The authors of that work are careful to cite the limitations of their study because they’re scientists, which means they will use data, NOT faith, to come to whatever conclusions the data suggest. From the paper;

    Inconclusive results, missing data, variable adherence, patient-reported findings on home tests, no blinding, and no assessment of whether masks could decrease disease transmission from mask wearers to others.

    To me (YMMV), mask wearing and two meter distancing are no-brainer types of things that really don’t need clinical trials to be a recommended (and/or required) public health directive. We don’t need clinical studies to show that sticking your head in a vat of liquid nitrogen is a bad idea either.

    Nevertheless, there really is scant evidence that mask wearing is effective.

    1. Seems to me the evidence is pretty good. Compare countries with high mask compliance (eg: Vietnam) with countries with low compliance.

      1. Correlation /= causation. One would need far more work than a simple observation to draw the equivalence. Beside, much more than mask wearing (or not) goes into virus transmission rates. I think you know this and are just poking me (totally ok and welcome – that’s what the discussions here are for).

          1. Actually, it’s not evidence but it IS an hypothesis generating observation – perhaps the most important kind of observation there is in science. It suggests mask wearing IS effective – IOW, something to test.

              1. Can you give me the cite, please? (not a test, just busy and you may have it at your finger tips)

                nevermind, I think I found it; https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/11/20-3003_article

                Sorry, last word and I am in violation of da rulz.

                You are correct. This is from the conclusion; “Our findings provide evidence that mask-wearing, handwashing, and social distancing are independently associated with lower risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection in the general public in community settings in Thailand.”

                I stand, or rather, sit, corrected. Take THAT, Mahon

    2. I think there’s good evidence that wearing surgical masks or better helps reduce transmission to and from symptomatic individuals. The evidence for cloth masks and bandanas is significantly weaker.

      But most important in my opinion is the near lack of evidence for mask-wearing by uninfected and otherwise asymptomatic individuals. The first study Alex mentioned found no evidence that asymptomatic carriers will spread the virus under normal circumstances.

      … except for four of the patients infected with seasonal coronavirus, who didn’t cough at all and around whom also no viral RNA was detected in either respiratory droplets or aerosols even in patients not wearing masks. Though this was a very small number, it suggests that patients infected with seasonal coronavirus aren’t likely to spread the virus into the air by merely breathing…

      The second study merely shows that when “testing, quarantine, contact tracing, lockdowns, and mandated face mask-wearing” “were instituted simultaneously” there was a subsequent decline in infection rates. I’d call that no evidence for mask wearing by asymptomatic individuals.

      The third says that in two places (NYC and Italy), some weeks after lockdowns and social distancing were implemented, and shortly after mask mandates were implemented, there was a reduction in spread. They’re still mixing lockdowns and mask-wearing, and why those two specific places? Cherry picking? I’m sure I could cherry pick two other places that show the opposite effect.

      The fourth is hard for me to evaluate. They use a complex model that tries to control for age demographics, socioeconomic status, population density, school closures, shelter-in-place orders, nonessential business closures, closures of restaurants, closures of gyms, closures of movie theaters, testing rates, “fixed effects”, “day fixed effects”, and other things. At the end they find a reduction in spread of about 1.4% 20+ days after mask mandates went into effect. It’s not clear how much of the effect is real and how much comes from their controls which transform the raw data based on their assumptions of how much various things matter. (The raw data show areas with mask mandates having much higher infection rates than areas without mask mandates, probably due mostly to population density. So some controls are necessary, but which ones and how much? I don’t know.) So I’d call this uncertain but possible evidence in favor of mask-wearing.

      The article omits contrary evidence, though. The first, and to my knowledge only, randomized controlled study of public mask wearing, with 6000 participants, found no statistically significant difference in infection between the group that wore masks and the group that didn’t.

      A metaanalysis of 54 studies of COVID-19 transmission within households (where you’d expect transmission to be most certain) found no statistically significant evidence of asymptomatic transmission. And if asymptomatic carriers aren’t spreading it in their own homes, they’re not going to be spreading walking around outside.

      A study of 1,174 close contacts of asymptomatic carriers found zero cases of transmission.

      But let’s assume Alex is right. If you take his worst-case numbers on asymptomatic spread, those 57.9 million infected people result in an additional 191,070 infections and, what, 760 deaths via asymptomatic spread (given a 99.6% survival rate)? And as far as mask mandates go, that’s about casual contact in public, not intimate contact in the home, so Alex’s factor-of-ten lower numbers are more likely correct (given the other numbers he referenced about the difference between intimate and casual spread). So that’s, what, 76 deaths? Even if it’s 760, that’s only a 0.02% increase in deaths over normal. I’m not seeing an argument here to fundamentally change the social norms of the nation.

  9. Total aside – the email I received for this post has a mattress ad embedded in the middle – first time I had ever seen that.

    1. Yeah, I had to turn off adblocker to get to the site, and accidentally copied an ad that didn’t show up in my draft post, as I have adblocker on my posting site, too. It’s been removed now, and in the future I’ll be very careful about copying from sites for which I can’t turn off ads.

  10. “… leaving aside the truth or falsehood of its claims, what Christianity achieved was to direct man’s religious impulse to the ideal place, away from the empirically knowable.” Mr. Mahon, exhibiting an unfortunate lack of Christian charity, neglects to mention all the other ways to direct man’s impulses
    away from the empirically knowable. For example, leaving aside the matter of truth or falsehood,
    offering human sacrifices to the worship of Huitzilopochtli would accomplish this valuable aim just as
    well. For that matter, even within Christianity there were other routes to the unknowable, such as that
    followed by the Cathars, but something seems to have happened to them.

  11. I perused the paper (did not read exhaustively, for lack of time). Someone may modify this conclusion, but an important statement near the end shows that this person is not getting the main limitation of that study (even though its an interesting study):

    “The findings, however, should not be used to conclude that a recommendation for everyone to wear masks in the community would not be effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infections, because the trial did not test the role of masks in source control of SARS-CoV-2 infection [Meaning: they did not look at whether masks reduce transmission from infected people]. During the study period, authorities did not recommend face mask use outside hospital settings and mask use was rare in community settings (22). This means that study participants’ exposure was overwhelmingly to persons not wearing masks. [Meaning: People who were infected were probably infected by people who were not wearing masks].

    To elaborate: the study was mainly about whether wearing surgical masks in public protects you from people who don’t wear masks. The data showed a small but not statistically significant protection. I think it’s been understood for some time that this whole thing about mask wearing is mainly about protecting other people, and less about protecting yourself. I am happy to be corrected.

    1. Correct, there should be a clear distinction between protecting and spreading.
      Masks protect you only in a limited way, unless you use N95 or higher.
      There is some difference in different masks the other way round: spreading. Some are good at preventing that, and some, such as these fleece shawls and bandanas, appear useless.
      Lesson? Try to maintain a distance of at least 4 meters from people wearing a mask that does not cover their nose, or that wear bandanas or shawls. And avoid any closed spaces (eg. cars, waiting rooms) with them.

    2. You are 100% correct and on target, and the journalist doesn’t know what the heck he is talking about. I’m not impressed with his reasoning skills either. He’s a pretty good whiner though.

  12. I think that many non-scientists treat science the same way they treat religion. When a study/tenet agrees with them, they says “science/god says it” in a manner that is supposed to end debate. When a study/tenet goes against their belief, they pretend it does not exist.

    GMOs are the best example of this. For coronavirus, leftists treated Fauci as a prophet for months. But when Fauci said schools should re-open, they pretended it never happened.

  13. Would Mahon jump from a plane wearing a placebo parachute? So far as I know, there are no double-blinded peer reviewed studies that prove that a parachute will save your life. I bet he wouldn’t even volunteer to join such a trial.

  14. People do have primitive impulses. They are comforted by things that do not necessarily make them any safer. It may not be religion exactly, but it is reasonable to think that those impulses come from the same place that religious impulses do.
    Lots of people wear masks because it makes them feel like they are somewhat in control, that they are doing something.
    The right sort of masks, worn and handled properly, are certainly helpful. Most people do not wear the right masks, and almost nobody handles them properly.

    At this point my wife has been through the full course of the disease, recovered, has been re-exposed to the virus several time since with no ill effects, and has now had both shots. She still is expected to social distance and wear a mask all the time. She does this because it reassures people.

    As far as shutdowns go, it is certainly the judgement of epidemiologists that people staying home is a sound solution to the spread of the virus. But that is from a slim perspective of preventing the spread of viral infection. It does not take into account things like fatalities from cancers not discovered because testing is not happening, suicides of those who have suffered economic collapse, or countless other unanticipated effects of quarantine. It is not the job of a physician to analyze and weigh all those factors and decide which course of action will result in fewer short and long-term deaths and less suffering.
    Right now, we have a large number of people who are having their rents and mortgage payments deferred. As far as I know, people participating in those programs are going to be required to make those payments as a lump sum when the program expires, or negotiate a payment plan, which just converts it all into debt. When that comes due for so many people in a short period, there are going to be adverse effects. It will ripple through the economy, and no doubt result in measurable adverse health effects.
    A year of no school is going to be detrimental to many of the kids who most need in person instruction. I don’t think we can predict what long-term effects that is going to have.

    Perhaps we need to bring in people like Robert McNamara and his whiz kids to attempt to weigh all the factors involved, and present a solution that is more likely to result in fewer deaths and less suffering in the long term. I expect they would be no more able to do it than they were able to sort out the issues in Southeast Asia.

  15. Jerry, your response is too mild mannered. The author Andrew Mahon is severely misrepresenting the situation; he is a liar, for he makes it seem as if the use of masks was totally unsubstantiated and based on faith — superstition — alone. This could not be further from the situation.

    He begins by throwing a lot of sand into the reader’s eyes by bringing in religion. What he says on this matter is sheer nonsense, too. Perhaps his severe poverity of understanding has led him to form his opinions on masks. In this case he wouldn’t be a liar, but incompetent to an unsual degree. Can he not run a basic search for papers, or science journals to see what’s up?

    If he did that, there is no way that anyone can come away thinking we only have opinion to be taken on faith, and patronising cartoons. He claims …

    Take mask mandates. People who believe in wearing masks think that they’re basing those beliefs on science. But if that were true, they’d be able to show evidence. What you get instead is a patronizing cartoon of people peeing on each other, or Paul Rudd trying to be funny and then yelling at you from his celebrity pedestal. “It’s science!” he shouts. But is it?

    Note, the article by his is dated Jan 10. The Nature article I göund within a minute (see below) is from Oct 06 last year. Further, knowledge doesn’t work that way. Even if we had zero studies on masks and covid, we do know that masks work as a filter and have been designed, and are in widespread use for this very purpose. This isn’t some superstition. We know that covid is not a miasma, but has to do with tiny matter that can be filtered or blocked. Of course it gets really into the weeds since “mask” is also a misleading term. Obviously, “mask” can mean anything that conceals some part of the face. Zorro wears a mask. Obviously not all masks are equal.

    This is how Nature reports on this:

    The standard mask for use in health-care settings is the N95 respirator, which is designed to protect the wearer by filtering out 95% of airborne particles that measure 0.3 micrometres (µm) and larger [… but N95 became scarce, what about other masks … ] So, scientists have relied on observational and laboratory studies. There is also indirect evidence from other infectious diseases. “If you look at any one paper — it’s not a slam dunk. But, taken all together, I’m convinced that they are working,” says Grabowski.

    They then summarize what else was learned ever since, citing studies, etcetera (I also easily found papers on pubmed).

    Face masks: what the data say
    The science supports that face coverings are saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic, and yet the debate trundles on. How much evidence is enough?”

  16. PCC (E) writes: “The Post Millennial was in fact irresponsible in printing this piece”

    HAHAHA. You kill me professor. It is hard to find any responsible reporting in the Kanuk version of Breitbart. It is a dumb assed joke of a rag.

    I think I read of a recent scientific study in Japan about mask wearing (it was pro). I”ll try to find it. They’re big into them there. Even before all this, for decades, it was common to see people wearing them in public. They’re not hypochondriacs/ people afraid of *getting* sick themselves, they’re people who are already ill (cold/flu etc) who DON’T WANT TO INFECT OTHER PEOPLE. And that, my friends, is “social trust” scaled LARGE.

    NYC (formerly of Tokyo)

    1. I am formerly of Tokyo as well. Wearing a mask when you are sick is the respectful thing to do. Japanese people can more or less be expected to be considerate of others, with plenty of folks ready to politely explain the rules to those not following them.
      Making everyone wear one at all times with the presumption that they are sick is a somewhat different proposition.
      From listening to my wife’s complaints, people do often fail to recognize that they have active Covid sickness. They convince themselves that it is just their allergies again, or a cold. And they don’t relate their loss of taste or smell to the other symptoms. Of course, a Japanese person who mistakenly believes they have a cold would be wearing a mask or staying home, at least that is the norm in urban areas.
      People here generally distrust the government, with fairly good reason. When guidance is inconsistent, or when the people making the rules do not follow them, people assume there are other priorities at play.

      Speaking of Japan, when I was little and we traveled to the US to visit relatives, there were always little brochures giving Japanese travelers advice about what to expect or avoid at their travel destination. Some of it was a bit silly, but I always felt that the advice was given out of a genuine concern for their residents traveling abroad. As an adult, I know that has not always been the case, but it generally applies.

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