Yet another god damn lockdown

As of Friday, Wales has imposed yet another lockdown on its citizenry. This time it is what they call a “circuit breaker” or “fire breaker” lockdown, which is (in theory at least) a brief period of increased strictitude that is imposed with the intent of forestalling an increase in COVID-19 transmission. The fact that many local areas have not suffered an extreme rise in cases has not been factored in. The rationale behind this decision stems from the fact that, after areas of Wales had begun to see an increase in COVID-19 cases in mid-September, local lockdowns were imposed in various counties of Wales, but these local lockdowns have not succeeded in curbing the spread of COVID-19, and indeed it would appear that in many local lockdowns the case spread has actually increased. Therefore it has been deemed necessary to reinstate a general lockdown for short period in order to halt case growth and buffer our healthcare system in preparation for the winter, when it will have to deal with both COVID-19 and seasonal flu.

One thought that never escaped me is the simple fact that this measure seems to simply be a matter of extending the local lockdowns to the entire nation – that is, simply making it so that it is the whole nation rather than a collection of counties that undergo a certain set of restrictions. If the local lockdowns ultimately still see a growth, rather than reduction, in cases, is it reasonable to assume that extending the same policy across an entire nation will have a different effect? Will we not continue to see growth in cases, but on a national level? And if that’s the case, what is the guarantee that we will not have our two-week (or rather 17 day) lockdown extended for another two weeks in order to further curb infections? Although having said that the government has already announced that after this short lockdown we can expect another one after New Year’s Day (either in January or February), so it does make me think they probably are sticking to a timetable for rolling lockdowns.

What doesn’t help matters is that Welsh Labour is very insistent on this measure, to the point that any all criticism is roundly dismissed by Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly. Conservative MPs who criticize him on the grounds that his measures are rash and destructive and that he has not considered alternative policies, such as shielding, are not debated faithfully but instead dismissed. Drakeford does so on the grounds that it’s the Tories who mismanaged England, but while that is true I do believe it’s a case of Mark Drakeford doth protest too much considering that Wales’ handling of the pandemic has been, objectively speaking, only marginally better than Scotland and England, with the lockdown only barely controlling the spread of COVID-19, which, as I’ve said, was all any lockdown was ever going to be capable of doing for our situation. But hey, I suppose if it owns the Tories and follows the Labour Party line it’ll be worth it, right?

And I’m not exaggerating when I say that. Mark Drakeford’s circuit breaker program is more or less consistent with what the Labour Party is talking about at the moment, which makes sense considering Drakeford represents the Labour Party in Wales. The leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, agitated in parliament for the implementation of circuit breakers on the grounds that SAGE (The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) had advised Boris Johnson to do so, and he complained that Boris Johnson had chosen to decline their advice. It’s worth bringing up because between him and Joe Biden you get a common thread: “listen to the scientists”. In theory a simple and sound point, until you get down to the question of which scientists are we to listen to? After all “the science” is not a unified field of harmonious expertise but rather a collection of scientists who follow the same scientific method but can dissent among themselves on the findings of their inquiries. In simple terms, some scientists will say one thing, others will say another, and you have to decide through the power of empirical reason and critical thinking who is closest to the truth.

Take stock, for instance, of the Barrington Declaration. In this case we have three public health experts from prestigious and well-regarded universities – Oxford, Harvard, and Stanford, in theory surely bastions of scientific expertise – calling for nations to pursue a policy of “focused protection” (meaning focusing on isolating and thereby protecting the vulnerable, mostly the elderly) rather than full-scale lockdowns, so that most people can live their lives with some sense of normalcy. Their statement also takes the form of a petition that has been signed by thousands of other scientists who clearly share their outlook. But when people like Keir Starmer in Britain and Joe Biden in America tell us that we should listen to the scientific experts, I have the nagging feeling that they don’t mean those scientific experts. Indeed, I have the distinct feeling that they only tell us to listen to scientists whose findings justify their own policies. We see here an expression of a broad vision of positivistic technocracy, in which “science” serves as a vehicle not for the determination of empirical truth, as is its rightful purpose, but instead as simply as a vehicle of rational authority in which a select body of experts, the scientific “elite” as it were, determine the truth for the masses to passively accept. The new Church, you might say.

In any case, my abiding worry has been my ability to see my girlfriend again. And this time, it’s honestly a little confusing. I was rather certain that the lockdown would mean I can’t just go out and visit her for the duration of the lockdown, but I had heard that it was possible for people living alone to form extended households, and not only that apparently the only process there is for this is for the two parties to simply agree to form an extended household. This still has me wondering a little and I feel inclined to ask around, but if true, there might be hope. On the other hand it does also make me think that there is a case of either mixed or simply unclear messaging from the government. We are supposed to stay at home and not meet others, but also it’s possible to just agree with other people to see each other. At that point, I’m surprised we aren’t just following the advice of the Barrington Declaration already because we might as well at this point. I said it before: no lockdown we undertake will suppress COVID-19 in our country. Only a vaccine or some anti-viral drugs will do that. Keeping us isolated from each other and shutting down the economy is not sustainable going forward. Therefore, if our options are either let everyone who’s not high-risk go on with their lives or keep doing lockdowns, then we should take the former choice simply because it’s too late to just suspend travel and tighten the borders for an infection that has already made itself comfy here months ago.

My thoughts on science

Science is the study, analysis, and interpretation of physical phenomenon. Forget all that crap about science versus faith. Forget the notion of science existing only after religion. For you see, science has been around since the first caveman tried to figure out how to make fire, or how the world around them was born. It was born of the desire to know about the physical world around them. To that end, we have created, tested, and demolished (and rarely revived) many ideas pertaining to physical phenomenon.

But be aware that science can only test what we can see. It can only observe physical phenomenon. Science is not a religion to be blindly followed, despite what some people will say. There are some who will take science as the replacement for religion, when in fact science and religion have completely different goals. This is often perpetrtated by advocates of scientism, who believe that physical science is the only path to the truth.

Compare scientism with Abrahamism. You’ll see that the two are no different.

As I said before, science can only go so far. It will find causes for physical phenomenon, but it will never truly answer the big philosophical questions like “Why are we here?”, “Is there a god?”, or “What lies beyond death?”, among so many others. Take evolution, for example. Evolution only explains how Man came to be the way we are and not why. So you could still say that a god or something similar orchestrated evolution, if you believe in one. Or the Big Bang. You can find a physical cause for the Big Bang, like a god-like particle or something like it, but it still leaves the possibility of saying that a god planted it there, or made the universe explode into birth.

Not mention, people are still searching for a theory of everything. And I’m not talking about a personal worldview or general view on life. No, a bona fide, solid, final, unified theory of everything. Such a thing is not only impossible, considering there are some things we can never account for or measure, but also dangerous for human society. Why? Because it will create a situation in which people no longer have to think for themselves or come to their own conclusions, there already being a dogmatic theory of all for everyone to follow. Not only would people be lazy and not thinking for themselves, but people would also ostracize anyone who disagrees. It’d be no different from what the Catholic Church tried to do.

Nice going, jerk.

The point is, don’t look up to science to answer every single thing, because it can’t. It is a means of studying physical phenomenon, and it has brought great progress, but it can never answer everything for you, let alone on its own.

My problem with “New Atheism”

The Four Horsemen of New Atheism, apparently. Not nearly as badass as the other Four Horsemen.

Atheism simply means not believing in the existence of a god. That’s all there is to it. Unfortunatelty, not everyone understands it that way. In fact, very often, atheism gets lumped in with secularism, maltheism, naturalism, antireligion, the value of science and logic, and materialism. There’s even a bullshit belief that not believing in god makes you smarter, and that believing in god makes you stupid. This is the fault of what is only generously called “new atheism”.

These guys are responsible for the current of image of atheists, and they are complete posers. I don’t mind that they criticize morality of god, but it seems like they forgot they they’re supposed to be atheists, because for a brief moment it appears that they actually believe in the Christian God, just that they hate him. This is especially true of Christopher Hitchens (in fact, that’s what he’s most famous for). The difference between “new atheism” and actual atheism is that real atheism just says there’s no god and nothing else, while new atheists believe that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises”. That does not describe atheism. It describes antireligion.

To be fair on them, though, they may be both atheist and antireligious, but I have never seen their criticism of religion being treated as antireligious, which it actually is. All their antireligion and secular advocacy has been misguidedly lumped in with atheism. Why? Maybe because “new atheism” gets the most media attention, but that only comes from the fact that, most of the time, all they do is promote themselves and proselytize their views. Their books sell for millions of dollars and are considered best-sellers, and some of them make documentaries solely for the purpose of espousing their viewpoints, far from exposing the truth as they’d like you to think. Probably the king of new atheist promotion is Richard Dawkins, who, though good at criticizing Christianity, tends to be incredibly condescending towards religion in general and anyone who believes in anything that isn’t scientifically proven. His fame probably comes less from his outspoken advocacy of atheism and criticism of religion and superstition, and more from the fact that he’s had nine TV documentaries and several publications all promoting said views.

Pictured: a constantly self-promoting poser

I swear they’re no different to fundamentalist Christians or evangelists, in fact one could call them atheist evangelists. Why? Because they treat their own opinions, and science itself, as a gospel of truth. Now I’m opinionated and somewhat judgemental myself, but at least I’m not going around creating a secular religion for all to follow and making idiots of those who don’t. Even then, all that matters to me as that, in my eyes, they’re all posers.

What I also dislike is that, much like the dogmatic fundamentalist Christians, they miss the bigger picture. Life isn’t all about science and logic. In fact, there’s a lot about life science can never prove, and religion can’t prove either. Lots of times, life is about your own judgements. But for new atheist thinkers, science is a gospel and a secular religion, though they’ll never say that. The problem is when religious scientism and militant materialistic atheism become the atheism of the modern time, or, in other words, the “new atheism”.