enlightenment for ninepence

I know you didn’t ask — and you’re not going to read this anyway — but all the same, I have some advice for those of you who are going around proclaiming that COVID–19 is no worse than the flu, maybe not as bad as the flu. What I see you doing is looking for somewhere, anywhere, where the death rate seems to be small, and then declaring that that is the official universal death rate, on the basis of which you deny that anything truly serious is going on. And then you stop looking for data, because you’re no Lew Archer.

What I’m asking you to do is to act like a grown-up.

Don’t just cherry-pick the one number that seems to fit your narrative. Do a comparative study. Look at numbers from all over. Add and divide.

Discover how many people have died in this country from COVID–19 and over what period of time. Now compare that to deaths in the last few flu seasons, and ask yourself this: How long is a flu season? This page might give you a hint. Do the adjustments to correct for differences in the lengths of time you’re looking at, because that’s what grown-ups do.

Don’t just ask how many people die. Reflect also on the costs, both human and economic, of people spending extended periods in hospitals. Look at the evidence for COVID–19’s damage to lungs and to other organs. Do some more addition. Do some multiplication. Get out your calculator if you’re straining your brain.

Read something like this article by Ed Yong. Look at all those links. Follow them up, see what evidence he is citing and where the evidence comes from. This is the work of a grown-up writer. Try to imitate it, as best you can.

There’s a lot about this situation that we don’t know, and there are many things that we may never know. But there is a metric shitload of data out there for you to consult and reflect on. Consult it.

C. S. Lewis’s old tutor, whom he called Kirk or Knock or The Great Knock, was an irascible old Ulsterman who would regularly get exasperated by people who lacked intellectual discipline and even basic curiosity. He would sometimes say to such people, “You can have enlightenment for ninepence but you prefer ignorance.” That’s you. You can do better, and God help your sorry-ass soul if you don’t try.