Sick Of Science Deniers
I’m back home after getting my first Pfizer shot earlier this morning. Feeling great, just some pain in my arm where I got the injection, and that’s all. Normal work day, writing emails… Another regular day, although yeah, sure, I’m very happy for finally getting my first dose. Finally! My next dose is already appointed in 3 weeks and I’m sure everything’s also going to be great.
Yet, these last months have been awful in the stupid discussions department. I’m not a Natural Sciences girl; I’m a linguist… but Linguistics, if done correctly, is a science. Not an exact one, but it does follow scientific procedure.1 And programming is an art, yes, but it’s also a science… So I appreciate and promote rational thinking.
I feel this since quite a couple of years so far. We are entering into a sorts of “Dark Ages” since way before the pandemic, let alone Trump, or you name it. I have some theories as to when it started, but they’re pet theories of mine that, well… they’re probably biased. What I do find undeniable is that irrational, magical, science-denying discourse of all sorts is nowadays present everywhere, amplified via social media, it attracts money via ads… It’s there, and it’s intoxicating your close friends, your relatives… and even maybe yourself.
Yep, yourself too. As I said, I had my first shot yesterday and I consider myself someone who trusts the scientific process… But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t a bit worried things could go wrong today. I was; it’s probably normal, I guess? What wasn’t normal was that at some point I was worrying about an impossible interaction between the vaccine and HRT. I started worrying a lot about the chances of me getting trombosis… It was a hellish succession of worrying thoughts.
OK, I usually don’t talk too much about me being a transexual woman. I’m just a woman and being trans is just another small quirk I have… like obsessing about POSIX correctness and memory leaks or making good coffee. But on today’s post this is important.
So the thing is that when you transition after quite a share of bad things, you promise yourself your transition is that thing you’ll do right for once… (and that has set me in the right mindset for lots of things!) HRT is very… whimsical… Everyone’s experience with it is different, you can’t expect the same prescription to work exactly the same on everyone,2 etc. So when you’re subjecting your body to HRT and to a very new kind of vaccines for a virus that’s radically changed everything…
Girl, collapsing into negative thoughts that are just a reflection of fear, fear from doing something wrong in your transition (not the vaccine!) that could harm you… I believe it’s a normal reaction firing from my lowest-level reptilian brain up to my human neocortex…
In fact, after getting the shot I immediately felt awful. I didn’t tell the nurses because I knew it was my mind playing tricks on me. I was sweating, on the verge of an anxiety attack, was seeing lights dancing in front of me… Fortunately I immediately realized I also had the same reaction the first night I took my HRT dose. That realization made me feel better almost immediately. It was hypochondria, from fear… I controlled my breath. I felt better… Awesome! I ended up having a nice walk through places I haven’t ever been to before here in Pamplona.
It’s all fear. I guess us humans are not that good at processing things we cannot see, touch, or hear. I know very well that the endocrine system has little to do with how antibodies are formed. I know it. But do I see the interactions between my immune system against the mRNA of the shot in my blood stream while molecules of estradiol (female hormone) and ciproterone acetate (testosterone blocker) are just passing by through that mess just doing their stuff and not caring at all? No, I know that’s the reality, but I don’t see it. It’s not like I can get an electronic microscope out of my purse3 and check out what’s going on, you know? So, there is a leap of faith even if rationally and scientifically I knew what was going to really happen: nothing.4
Science deniers are just fearful… Because being afraid of the unknown is… human. But the drive to conquer the unknown is also very human. That’s why sent some guys to space in the 50s and 60s and set foot on the Moon… or discovered so many things, with their good and their bad sides, of course. Yes, science forces you to assume you don’t know everything, that things can be complex to the uninitiated even if we think we really understand it all because… “common sense…”
Be it climate change, be it the pandemic, be it how socioeconomic factors determine the lives of people, be it LGBTQ+ and race issues, be it even programming… We don’t know everything, but we know how to know things better. And we know how to disprove easy talking points that cling to the fears of people… and especially disprove talking points designed to take advantage from the natural, deep-rooted fears of people. The world has grown up to being very complex, that makes us anxious because we seem to know less and less about our surroundings… Perfect scenario for bad people to tell lies to others and manipulate for their own personal benefit.
Yes, even programming! How many times do people say that using Python, Rust or any of the HLL is better than C or C++ because the former are “safer”? Safer with respect to? OK, an invalid pointer in C or C++ leads to a segfault, but a segfault doesn’t crash your machine if it’s a 386+ CPU running on Protected Mode. What’s the possible harm? Your code written in an HLL might not segfault but might crash from some other reasons, right? In both cases you lose whatever you were doing with your program but your OS and hardware will stay fine. Fearmongering about how “C is dangerous” or, on the other side of the spectrum, “Web applications never perform well” is just… fear and science denial. I don’t like webapps, but I do see people taking great lengths to create awesome webapps that perform great… I presume because those people have studied and tinkered a lot with the platforms they use as their tools… Exactly like I study and tinker with my platforms of choice. That study is science. Throwing blanket statement is just… anything but science! (And probably comes from some ego issue… and, hey, I’m definitely not immune to being like that!)
Wow, I’m not even sure what this post is about anymore. All I know is that I do believe it’s healthy to uphold science as a standard for thought. Science isn’t always right, granted. We thought Newton was right and, OK, he sorta still is, but not completely… because a guy named Einstein came in with his work. But science is more about the journey than the destination. And that journey, I think… humbles us by connecting us with the universe… but not in a New Agey way, but in a real way.
Oh, and if you can, get vaccinated, please. Don’t be an idiot like that guy on the LKML, will ya?
And increasingly so, for the best, especially because Neuro- and Psycholinguistics have seen enormous developments in the last decade. ↩︎
Trans men seem to have a more uniform experience among them… I think? This is from my totally unscientific observations without any survey nor proper logging! ↩︎
That would be so cool, though. ↩︎
OK, there is a catch. It is true that HRT increases the risk of blood clots and some of the vaccines do too. The risk associated to the vaccine is very, very low. The risks associated to HRT are higher than the vaccine’s in this regard, but there’s a super easy way to avoid it, as my endocrinologist prescribed me: Living a healthy life, no smoking, reducing alcohol to a minimum, good hydration, and being physically active. So, in summary… there’s no actual catch if you’re already being as healthy as possible. ↩︎