Angry citizens, conspiracy theorists, science skeptics, anti-Semitism – The dangerous post-Corona cocktail

BLOG: Beobachtungen der Wissenschaft

Grenzgänge in den heutigen Wissenschaften
Beobachtungen der Wissenschaft

For a long time, people in Europe have impressively endured lockdown, obediently followed the instructions for social distancing, silently submitted to the general fate of reasonableness. In the process, the Corona virus has achieved something that reason has almost desperately und unsuccessfully tried to achieve: the public exposure of the stupidity and intellectual dishonesty of right-wing populists. Every interview and press conference by Donald Trump, every Twitter message from Jair Bolsonaro, every macho outburst by Vladimir Putin and every clownish performance by Boris Johnson (before his own infection) has let the people of Europe breathe a sigh of relief that they were blessed with comparatively level-headed, sensible and honest political leaders at home. Boring, because pragmatic and level-headed politicians like Angela Merkel in Germany or Simonetta Sommaruga in Switzerland (acting Federal President) or even the young and dynamic Sebastian Kurz were a pleasant contrast to the narcissistic and irrational outbursts of the types of Trump or Bolsonaro. Unlike in the USA or Brazil, where “anger citizens” – invoking their “anger president” – were on the streets early on in order to express their state of mind, people in Europe have been quiet for a long time waiting to see how the pandemic would develop. And it is becoming increasingly clear that Europeans have been far more successful in fighting it. While in the United States and the United Kingdom the new case and death figures have been stagnating at an alarmingly high level for more than six weeks and in Russia and Brazil the corona victims are actually still rising dramatically after initial assurances of the invulnerability of the respective citizens, Europe seems to be out of the woods at least for now. Germany, Switzerland and Austria are seeing their case statistics back to where they were before the corona measures, while Italy, Spain and France, which have been particularly hard hit for a long time, are well on the way to that point. It appears that following the advice of the scientists, prudence on the side of the political decision-makers (who followed the advice of the scientists) and the reasonableness of the citizens represented the decisive advantages of the European way in the inter-democratic comparison with England, America, Russia and Brazil in the Corona crisis (a discussion of the measures of the autocratic, but not populist governments in Asia shall not be given here).

But suddenly, after many weeks of perseverance and waiting, we now see protests in Germany, Switzerland and Austria rising against the measures taken weeks ago. The success proved the governments’ decisions right, but at the same time makes them open to attack. More and more we hear statement like “It wasn’t all that bad after all”, “Did we really needed it”, “The therapy was worse than the illness”. Such statements do not lack stupidity, or, as Wolfgang Pauli, the famous physicist would have said, they are not just not correct, they are not even entirely false. They thus correspond to pre-corona statements such as “It’s only a flu” or “It can’t affect me” or “When it gets warmer, it disappears miraculously”, which we have heart excessively from right-wing populist rulers in America, England, Brazil or Russia.

If we look at the people who are now shouting out their anger at such demonstrations (thus violating the rules of social distancing), we recognize in them certain recurring groups that are much more vocal than numerous:

  • Right-wing extremists who use the moment to spread their agitation against the government, against foreigners and those who think differently, against science and just about everything that does not fit into their limited world view, and in doing so again and again tell the old fairy tale of an opinion dictatorship of the government and the scientists,
  • Anti-capitalist left wingers, who see the opportunity to finally get even with a much-hated economic system,
  • Conspiracy theorists who believe that dark forces (Bill Gates, Chinese 5G technologists, a secret world government like the Bilderberg conference or freemasons) are pursuing their own interests at the expense of the vast majority, the “people”, and thus claim their right for resistance ,
  • Esotericists who, with their over-knowledge, point to otherworldly forces on which we are supposed to rely instead of following government instructions,
  • Vaccination sceptics who warn that governments will soon force us to put a chip in our bodies so that they can control us,
  • C-celebrities who try to use every opportunity to attract attention, no matter how stupid the way,
  • Reactionary church representatives who utter hate slogans and insist on their right to preach mass sermons, both of which already in the Middle Ages made the plague so bad,
  • Anti-Semites who see the cause of all evil, and thus also the Corona crisis, in the machinations of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy against non-Jews,
  • Science skeptics who want to throw established knowledge overboard and replace it with their own theories and who see the corona crisis as a welcome opportunity to now inform the world about the abstruse products of their mind, or who just want to show “power-hungry scientists” their limits. True to the “logics”: We are in a corona crisis. It is therefore time to finally break the interpretive power of corrupt scientists. There is an astonishingly loud group of people who, without even coming close to having the necessary education, believe they have disproved the theory of relativity or use the apparent contradictions of quantum theory to fundamentally condemn the world view of modern physics. In corresponding internet forums, an astonishing overlap of this group with “corona sceptics” shows up.

Fact is: In countries like Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, or in any democracy in the world, fundamental rights are currently severely restricted, such as freedom of assembly or freedom of movement. As long as these rights are not arbitrarily suspended but come with good reason and for a limited period of time, as they do now, this goes 100% conform with our constitutions. It is also a fact that scientists are still far from knowing everything about the Covid-19 virus. Therefore, every political decision is also a risk assessment. It lies in the nature of such risk weighing that with hindsight and clearer knowledge, one or the other decision turns out to be less than optimal. But that is not the point. It is not the method of science to know everything about a new object or phenomenon at the beginning. Rather, science follows a method of constantly questioning the status quo of our knowledge, so that in a never-ending critical reflection of our present thinking, recognizing, and believing we become better and better informed over time. To less patient contemporaries, those always 100% convinced of the truthfulness of their own knowledge and those generally driven by strong messages, this laborious way of getting to the bottom of things is not easy to convey. What is normal in science, namely that every knowledge is always doubted and controversially discussed within the community, causes uncertainty among these people – and unfortunately allows esoterics and other fanatics among them to attack scientific knowledge per se precisely because such never carries with it the claim of eternal truth.

Especially in the current crisis, in which we still try to better and better understand the Covid-19 virus, scientific results are always put to the test and are thereby controversially discussed. But they nevertheless give us the best truths and guidelines in these difficult times. The different successes of the various countries in the Corona crisis as outlines above have impressively demonstrated this.

Lars Jaeger

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www.larsjaeger.ch

Jahrgang 1969 habe ich in den 1990er Jahren Physik und Philosophie an der Universität Bonn und der École Polytechnique in Paris studiert, bevor ich am Max-Planck-Institut für Physik komplexer Systeme in Dresden im Bereich theoretischer Physik promoviert und dort auch im Rahmen von Post-Doc-Studien weiter auf dem Gebiet der nichtlinearen Dynamik geforscht habe. Vorher hatte ich auch auf dem Gebiet der Quantenfeldtheorien und Teilchenphysik gearbeitet. Unterdessen lebe ich seit nahezu 20 Jahren in der Schweiz. Seit zahlreichen Jahren beschäftigte ich mich mit Grenzfragen der modernen (sowie historischen) Wissenschaften. In meinen Büchern, Blogs und Artikeln konzentriere ich mich auf die Themen Naturwissenschaft, Philosophie und Spiritualität, insbesondere auf die Geschichte der Naturwissenschaft, ihrem Verhältnis zu spirituellen Traditionen und ihrem Einfluss auf die moderne Gesellschaft. In der Vergangenheit habe ich zudem zu Investment-Themen (Alternative Investments) geschrieben. Meine beiden Bücher „Naturwissenschaft: Eine Biographie“ und „Wissenschaft und Spiritualität“ erschienen im Springer Spektrum Verlag 2015 und 2016. Meinen Blog führe ich seit 2014 auch unter www.larsjaeger.ch.

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