by John Ellis
Many of the responses to COVID-19 reveal a confluence of fear driven irrationality, the desire for control, political partisanship outweighing critical thinking, and a worship of personal autonomy. The result is an embrace of conspiracy theories among professing Christians that is as embarrassing as it is stupefying. I’ve attempted to unpack parts of that confluence in previous articles. With this article, though, I’m going to do my best to avoid the philosophical weeds while merely attempting to get people to question the validity of the new pro-hydroxychloroquine video starring Dr. Stella Immanuel.
Ad hominems are a logical fallacy. And, no, this isn’t me wandering into the philosophical weeds because I’m confident that the vast majority of readers are familiar with ad hominem. If they haven’t accused someone else of the fallacy, there is a good chance that the charge has been thrown in their face at least once during a Facebook or Twitter “discussion.” I bring ad hominems up in order to acknowledge that Dr. Stella Immanuel’s quackery involving beliefs like “sex with aliens while your sleeping causes diseases” doesn’t refute her claims about hydroxychloroquine. That being said, for those who embrace her truth claims about the drug, I do question their understanding of legitimate sources. I’ll swing back around to that towards the end, though.
What does refute Dr. Immanuel and her “silenced” compadres – for the record, by definition, if you’re holding a press conference, you haven’t been silenced – is the actual research demonstrating the ineffectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. Below are links to papers detailing the results of three randomized trials of the drug. Please click on the links and read the papers before reading my article any further.
medRxiv (this is a pre-print site meaning that this study hasn’t been peer reviewed yet)
Again, to reiterate, if you believe the latest HCQ video or are even leaning in that direction, please click on the links above and read the studies. A refusal to do so reveals at least one of two things: 1. You have an agenda driven by some combination of the confluence of variables I listed above and don’t actually want to determine the validity of the video’s claims. Or, 2. You simply do not understand methodology or legitimate sources.
If number 2 applies to you, then please read this at least (click here) before continuing. If number 1 applies to you, you may as well stop reading this article because you’re so far down the rabbit hole as to render any sort of dialectic with you pointless. And I don’t say that to be rude; it’s simply a fact. If you’re unwilling to engage with actual research, I truly do not know how to have a conversation with you. Nor, frankly, do I want to.
If, however, you clicked on the links, read the papers, and still believe the HCQ video, I am curious: Why do you reject randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials in favor of a video touting an anecdotally based conclusion? And, to be clear, there are many other studies from around the world demonstrating the same result that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19. I only linked to three so as not to make my reading “requirement” too daunting. Do you actually believe that all of these researchers and scientists are in on some sort of global conspiracy? Frankly, answering in the affirmative beggars belief, but I can’t think of any other reason.
Look, I’m not denying that Dr. Immanuel and the other doctors have had patients get better after having taken hydroxychloroquine. Along the same lines, I’m not denying that she and the others have had COVID-19 patients recover after twitching their fingers a few times either. Or after having had their blood pressure monitored. And therein lies the rub.
The aphorism that correlation doesn’t equal causation is as oft abused as is the charge of ad hominem. It gets trotted out way too often and in contexts in which it doesn’t really apply. However, this is one time when it needs to be screamed from the tops of the social media mountains. Correlation does not equal causation. Just because Dr. Immanuel gave her patients the drug and they recovered does not mean that the cause of their recovery was the drug. The randomized studies from above (and the many more I didn’t link to) bear that out and reveal that some other variable(s) that Dr. Immanuel didn’t take into account (much less control for) is the reason for her patients’ recovery.
Do you understand how that works? Do you understand why researchers utilize double-blind trials that control for a whole host of variables? If your answer is yes and yet you still privilege a video of random doctors spouting anecdotes over actual research, are you familiar with the concept of cognitive dissonance?
Of course, you are. But, and this brings me back to the confluence of variables creating an environment that allows for the embrace of conspiracy theories, you don’t care. If you believe the latest HCQ video, you do so based on a whole host of reasons that have little to do with legitimate epistemology. You have your own internal reasons for rejecting the truth and no amount of evidence can sway you. This is why you’ve attached yourself to a conspiracy touted by a lady who believes that having sex with demons in your sleep causes diseases.
There’s an old joke that when you go to a barbershop for the first time, ask for the barber with the worst haircut. Similarly, not all doctors are created equal. As in, not all doctors are good doctors. I haven’t researched all the doctors in the video. No doubt, there are some fine, competent doctors standing on those steps. There are, however, anti-vaxers represented among the group touting hydroxychloroquine’s benefits. There is also, of course, Dr. Immanuel. A doctor whom most of you would not go to for personal treatment because she’s obviously a quack but who some of you are relying on as an authority about hydroxychloroquine. And for those who believe that I’m overstating her quackery, check out this tweet from her:
Again, her quackery doesn’t refute her claims about hydroxychloroquine. But, consider the source. And then consider that you are rejecting legitimate research in favor of a quack who is basing her claim on the fallacy of false causes.
Hydroxychloroquine is not the miracle drug President Trump wants you to believe. The coronavirus pandemic is not a Marxist plot to institute the One World Government. Bill Gates is not using this to microchip everyone. On the flip side, COVID-19 is a serious disease with the potential for serious long-term morbidities; it’s not the flu. Masks work. Social distancing works. The coming vaccines will be well-tested before being allowed to be used widespread. The last few claims in this paragraph have mountains of data and research as the foundation for their veracity. Yet, sadly, many professing Christians reject those truth claims, in part, because they call into question conspiracy theories that are making the rounds on social media.
Of all people, professing Christians should not be getting our information from demagogues, alt-right media outlets that traffic in conspiracy theories, and other illegitimate sources. Men and women gifted by our Creator are working hard to save lives and push back on this pandemic. Privileging conspiracy theories, illegitimate sources, and poor methodologies over the hard work of researchers and scientists reflects many things, including hubris and an ungrateful heart. This is especially obvious and true regarding the embrace of this latest hydroxychloroquine video by many of those who profess to love and serve the Author of wisdom and knowledge. If that’s you, stop bringing shame to the name of Christ.
Addendum: Yes, I’ve read the Newsweek op-ed written by Yale epidemiologist Harvey Risch touting hydroxychloroquine. I’ve also read this, have you? Today (Aug. 4) a statement from Yale faculty was published as a response to their colleague Dr. Risch, you can read that here.
Also, before commenting on this post (or blog, in general) please read this.