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I’m Taking a COVID-19 Vaccine

I’m Taking a COVID-19 Vaccine

Back in 2016, I was interviewing my mom about her experiences as a nurse. At the time she was 98 years old. She lived to one month short of her 100th birthday.

She had the opportunity to watch as many of the vaccines we use today were introduced. There were many moments of passion, but one of the strongest was when she discussed vaccines.

“Can these people imagine what it was like before these vaccines were introduced?” she asked. “I can’t imagine that anyone would like to go back to what we had before.”

I have a simple point here. Experts make mistakes. Indeed they do. Medical opinions can be wrong. Just so!

But those mistakes and missteps are nothing like the arrogant ignorance of the non-experts.

I get to observe this with people who are ignorant on subjects in which I have some expertise. Jody says she avoids meeting my eyes when a preacher is using Greek or Hebrew in a sermon, because she knows how frequently I will have a fixed expression on my face, trying to avoid revealing what I’m thinking about what is said.

I have read and studied about vaccines, and I’m convinced my mother, and so many other experts, are right. But my conviction isn’t the issue. I’m so very not-an-expert. What I am doing is relying on those people who are.

When I get the vaccine (2nd dose as applicable), and the appropriate time has passed so that I can reasonably expect immunity, I will continue to wear my mask and social distance until we have a level of vaccination that I can expect the persons I come in contact with will not be threatened. Again, I will do this because the best expert opinions say it is likely possible to spread the virus. I see this not as an infringement on my rights, but as my Christian duty.

I could, of course, be wrong. But experience and mountains of data suggest that the best option is to follow the consensus opinion of those with the appropriate expertise.

And on a humorous note, no, I do not include Facebook posts that start out “I am a doctor” or even “I am an epidemiologist.” I have no way to verify that the person making that claim is actually what they claim. But more critically, that single opinion is not the consensus of the experts.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

When Experts Make Mistakes

When Experts Make Mistakes

Anyone can make a mistake. That includes the experts we need to depend on in order to make decisions in difficult situations. So what do we do about this possibility of error?

This problem becomes particularly acute in our minds in a time of fear. When we are afraid, we often seek something certain to hold onto. We don’t like solutions that are possible, partial, or even probable. We want certainty.

Then we find out that experts have made mistakes, most likely because two experts disagree.

I have a favorite saying, which I suspect was popularized by Voltaire, who adapted it from an Italian proverb.

The perfect (or the better) is the enemy of the good.

Most of us are simply too uninformed to have a valid opinion (on our own) about a pandemic. I certainly am. And let me note that if you come forward claiming that you do known enough, and lack serious professional education and experience in relevant fields, I will believe your opinion is of no value either.

You see, my point here is not that experts are not to be trusted because they make mistakes. What we do is disregard the experts because they are not perfect, but merely good, and thus end up depending on someone who is certain, but has only a random (or worse) chance of being right. Some people are positively fact-averse!

Let’s take an extreme example. Last year two Boeing aircraft crashed, and this was eventually traced to a flaw in the design of the software that controlled the aircraft.

Face it. The experts failed in this case.

So what do we do?

Well, if we acted like we do in many medical matters, for example the management of a pandemic, many of us would discard the experts and go with common sense. We’d find people who claimed they could design a better aircraft, but had no actual training or experience. We’d talk about how aircraft designers were in some sort of conspiracy to deny us better aircraft.

Fortunately, we would likely be prevented from carrying this stupidity to its rightful conclusion by the fact that such self-proclaimed superior aircraft designers would be unlikely to create an aircraft that would get off the ground. You gotta fly before you can crash!

It has been said that the problem with common sense is that it isn’t very common.

I disagree. The problem with common sense is that it is so frequently not sense.

What we need in many situations is not a retreat from experts, but rather to find better experts. In some cases, we need to find better communicators to communicate the message of the experts. More likely, we need to realize the current experts are the good, and the perfect isn’t attainable.

But at no time do we need to replace people who have actually studied the relevant sciences, who know the necessary math, and who have spent years developing models for this sort of thing with your next door neighbor who has an opinion.

I’ve had a few opinions along the way. Too bad for me. It’s time to surrender those opinions to people who know, however imperfect they may be. Don’t let perceived, or even real imperfections keep you from benefiting from the good that they can do.

I’m going for the good. Perfect is never getting here.

Featured image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay