This article by James Surowiecki in the Washington Post touches on a point that reinforces my thoughts as to why misinformation – be it political, COVID-related, or otherwise – is so easily distributed and digested by many people in the world, but, in particular, Americans. The lack of critical thinking skills (or at least the unwillingness to employ them) plays the largest role, including a lack of applied math skills.

To be able to critically think when presented with an article proclaiming a premise to be one thing or another is crucial because it’s insanely easy for anyone to put a chunk of text together and publish it out without any regard for the truth of the matter asserted. Asking basic questions about what you’re reading or viewing such as, “Does this make logical sense?” or “What does the author of this piece have to gain by publishing this information?” or “Where did this person get their information?” is important because it helps one reflect on the premise and decide whether or not it should be accepted or rejected.

Surowiecki writes: > “It takes only an elementary grasp of math to see that McAnulty’s initial statement was self-evidently unbelievable. At the time, most of New South Wales’s population was unvaccinated. So even if the vaccines were totally ineffective, meaning vaccinated and unvaccinated people were equally likely to be hospitalized, some unvaccinated people would have ended up in the hospital with covid. But tens of thousands of people happily believed otherwise without a second thought.”

If one were reading the original statement and paused to reflect for even a moment, one would have easily determined that McAnulty’s statement was a simple error in speech. Literally a second and a half to ask oneself, “Does this make sense?” That’s too much to ask though, I guess.

Another example of this same disregard for critical thinking rears its ugly head when anti-vaxxers proudly proclaim that they don’t worry about the virus because 99% of people who contract COVID are “fine” ultimately. They’re a little loose-y goose-y with the definition of ‘fine,’ but we’ll let that pass for the moment.

Accepting their premise on its face, yes, that does sound wonderful. If 99% of people who contract COVID are ‘fine’ in the end and have not died of the illness, that must be something to celebrate right? I mean that’s soooooo close to 100%! That has to be good! So yeah, who needs a dumb vaccine, right?

Wrong. The population of the United States is 332,278,200 (but who’s counting?). If every single person contracted COVID1, and only 1% perished due to the disease, that means 3,322,782 people would die. That does not sound like a good thing to me. Objectively, that’s a terrible outcome. That’s not even considering the long-haul consequences of the disease if one doesn’t die.

Based on the actual data of vaccinated versus unvaccinated people and their respective hospitalization and death rates in August of 2021, unvaccinated people were 6.1 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11.3 times more likely to die than their vaccinated counterparts.2

In both instances (99% of people who contract COVID not dying and being 11.3 times more likely to die if you’re unvaccinated), the premises asserted stake out a pretty convincing case for why one should take their side. It’s only after doing a little more research into the information, rooting out the sources, doing some calculations, and reflecting on the information a little bit longer that one can make a solid determination that being vaccinated is better than not being vaccinated.

And if you think (based on ZERO evidence) that there are nano trackers, questionable chemicals, etc in the vaccines, and that’s why you’re choosing not to get vaccinated, well, there’s really not much anyone can tell you to change your mind. After all, you’ve made it up based on nothing at all anyway.