Iraq star


The Appeal to antiquity fallacy is most commonly associated with alternative medicine, but it also makes appearances in pseudo-archeology. The fallacy latches itself to a romantic notion that peoples long ago mastered technologies that we associate with the modern day. Take, for example, an Iraqi clay pot that some believe was used as a battery a thousand years before such an advancement was thought to exist.

The object in question is a small fired pot whose top has broken off. Around the broken rim are asphalt remnants, suggesting the jar’s top had originally been sealed. Inside the jar rests a hollow tube of thin copper rolled into a cylinder. At the top sits a thick asphalt plug that fits snugly into the tube.

The National Museum of Iraq housed this “Baghdad Battery” until the artifact was looted following the U.S. invasion of 2003. Archaeologists agree that it comes from sometime during the Parthian period or the ensuing Sasanian Empire. This makes the pot about 1,600 years old, give or a take a couple of centuries. If it functioned as a battery, that would make it, by several hundred years, the first such device.

The idea of it being just that was the notion of Wilhelm König, an assistant at the museum, who speculated that the jar could have been a simple battery used for electroplating pieces of art.

There are similar copper cylinders in the museum, many of which contain fragments of long-decomposed papyrus, suggesting they were used to contain and protect scrolls. For reasons unclear, König supposed that this one particular jar might have been used as a battery instead. He experimented by constructing some versions that employed terminals, wiring, and an electrolyte fluid. König’s devices managed to achieve small voltages.  

Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted that extracting voltage from an object like the Baghdad Battery is quite easy, as a basic battery requires nothing more than ordinary items. All the experimenter requires are two different types of metal, and if placed in an electrolyte liquid, an electrical current will flow from one piece of metal to the other. Common household items and foodstuffs will do the trick.

While König’s conjecture was that the battery may have been used for electroplating jewelry or bits of art, other people have different ideas. Some think the battery could have been connected to a religious statue, so that when a worshiper touched it, they would receive a holy shock from a deity whose name is lost to history. Another conjecture holds that its mild shock helped with pain relief.

However, overwhelming evidence suggest it is a scroll jar. Almost any object could be repurposed. I was in a hotel once in need of a spoon and no such utensil was to be found, nor a fork or knife, nor even a beverage stirrer. I ended up using a coffee filter housing to scoop my food. As Dunning wrote, “The fact that something can be used as something else does not mean that it was ever intended that way.”

To this artifact specifically, there are other reasons so suspect it was never a battery. First, it would have lasted as such for a short duration as to be useless. The electrolyte fluid would need to be replaced continually. Second, the object lacks terminals, and batteries need negative and positive ones that are accessible for connecting wires. If rigged as a battery, this one would have had the terminals under the fluid level and inaccessible beneath a seal. Finally, no conductive wires have ever been found that would indicate the ancients knew anything bout wiring. And lacking wires, there would be no method of connecting a battery to the device that housed it.

Beyond these points, this is the only “battery” of the time period ever found. There are no written records or artifacts showing its development beforehand or improvements after. So it is either a clay jar consistent with all the others of the time or a completely isolated innovation that used a technology that made one appearance, then lay dormant for hundreds of years.

“Stoned Age” (Protohuman psychedelics)


There are various hypothesis as to how humans became the dominant species. Perhaps the least-known and least-supported of these is the suspicion that our distant ancestors used natural psychedelic compounds that led to societal advances and bodily adaptations.

To the best of my knowledge, the idea has zero support among anthropologists and archeologists. It seems limited mostly to psychedelic proponents, the most prominent of whom is Terence McKenna, who outlined the idea in his book Food of the Gods.

Specifically, he wonders if as we became bipedal and made our way from the Horn of Africa to the savannah, we consumed psilocybin, which formed naturally on the ground. According to the tale, this fomented an ability to think abstractly, to develop toolmaking and fire-building skills, and fostered the first use of rudimentary language. As to why the likes of gazelles, primates, and other animals who had equal access to the compound had no corresponding advancements is left unexplained.

On another topic, McKenna attributes the tripling of brain size that took place in upright hominids over three million years to regular ingestion of psilocybin. He does this while claiming science offers no other explanation. First, even if that were true, it would merely be a secular variant of the god of the gaps fallacy. Secondly, anthropologists and archeologists have a good idea of why this trebling of the cerebrum and related parts occurred. 

They attribute it to the evolution of the opposable thumb and to cooking food, which made the victuals more nutritious. Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted, “Anthropologists have cemented these ideas with the expensive tissue hypothesis, which provides a metabolic and biochemical explanation for how protohumans were able to afford the greater energy requirements of a larger brain on the same basic energy budget, by reducing the relative size of the gut which became possible once food was being cooked to make its nutrients much more bioavailable.”

The brain and digestive systems require the most energy to function, and we see the results of this is humans and other animals. There exists a negative correlation between brain and gut sizes. As one shrinks, the other grows, and vice versa.

Dunning used the cow as an example, noting that our bovine buddies “consume only grass, a terrible diet virtually devoid of nutrition. So it needs four enormous stomachs and a great long digestive system, all energetically expensive tissue, leaving it with a tiny brain.”

We, by contrast, eat a far more energy dense diet – including a lot of cow meat and milk – and this enables the human digestive systems to be small and fuel-efficient. That leaves plenty of energy to fuel the brain, which is why it is of ample size to see the folly in a hypothesis predicated on stoned apes. 




“On Gard” (HPV vaccine)


Gardasil, a vaccine which prevents Human Papillomavirus cancer, is sometimes eschewed even by those who normally embrace vaccination. Some parents ensure that their children are fully inoculated, with this one exception. 

But Gardasil’s safety record is excellent and the refusals are based on a misinformation campaign. The HPV vaccine is part of a regimen that makes is less likely to contract one type of cancer. Avoiding smoking and excessive sun and alcohol, along vaccines and a reasonable diet and exercise program all play their part in optimal health.

With regard to HPV, it causes nearly five percent on new cancers, the same as tobacco. Skipping the vaccine, then, creates unnecessary risk. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that 11- and 12-year-olds be vaccinated against it.

But since HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease, some religious parents feel that allowing the vaccine will cause their child to be promiscuous. But this is no more reasonable than thinking that skipping the vaccine will cause chaste behavior. Then there are those who think their children are too upright to fall prey to temptations of the flesh. This assumption about their offspring’s behavior is matched only by their inflated sense of their parenting skills. Moreover, the horrific but plausible idea of the child being sexually assaulted should be enough to override this line of reasoning.

The Skeptical Raptor cited a Gardasil safety study of 200,000 young women, which showed no “evidence of new safety concerns among females 9 to 26 years of age secondary to vaccination with HPV4.”

In another study of almost 1 millions girls and young women, HPV-vaccinated subjects were compared with those who received a placebo. The authors concluded that the study “identified no safety signals with respect to autoimmune, neurological, and venous thromboembolic events after the HPV vaccine had been administered. 

Additionally, an eight-year clinical trial comparing HPV to a placebo showed no difference in adverse results.

Points to the contrary consist mainly of anecdotes over data, offenses to religious sensibilities, and whispers (or shouts) about the evils of Big Pharma. In other words, not much science and research going on.

There are no legitimate, evidence-based objections to Gardasil, which research has repeatedly shown to be safe and effective. Studies published in authentic medical journals, highlighting work done by experts in the fields of epidemiology, virology, infectious diseases, and cancer research, all bear this out.

“Pushing it” (Applied kinesiology)


Pseudoscience refers to misusing or remarketing scientific terms in order to give undeserved credence to an untenable position. One such example is applied kinesiology. The second word in this phrase is a legitimate medical field, the study of movement.

By applying, so to speak, another word to the phrase, an area with no scientific backing attempts to coopt this legitimacy. Applied kinesiology is a putative muscle-testing technique based on the supposition that the way a subject’s muscles respond to being pushed, pressed, and prodded tells the practitioner what ails the patient.

The field assumes the existence of unproven concepts like chi, meridians, and a universal intelligence which runs through nature, to include the human nervous system. Proponents believe that muscles reflect the flow of chi and that resistance reveals the health of the subject’s bodily organs and what nutritional deficiencies afflict them.

The original applied kinesiologist was George Goodheart, who claimed his technique could evaluate nerve, vascular, lymphatic, and digestive systems. The key was the flow of an undefined and undetectable energy along equally non-existent meridians.

Energy is the most frequently misused word among alternative medicine practitioners. It serves as a placeholder that substitutes for any meaningful term or function. In science, energy means “measurable work capability,” and using this phrase instead of energy will reveal just how silly and shaky such claims are.

For example, this site informs its readers that, “Kinesiologists test specific points along the Chinese acupuncture meridians to discover areas of stress/imbalance in the body, mind and energy systems. Then, by using one or more of the many balancing methods – including chakra balancing, sound, color and more – you will be able to balance the body’s energy.”

Using the scientific definition of energy would leave us with this phrase: “Kinesiologists test specific points along the Chinese acupuncture meridians to discover areas of stress/imbalance in the body, mind and measurable work capability systems. Then, by using one or more of the many balancing methods – including chakra balancing, sound, color and more, you will be able to balance the body’s measurable work capability.”

When subjects go to have their measurable work capability adjusted by an applied kinesiologist, the practitioner will consider weak muscle responses to be an indication of illness. Which muscles correspond to which organ or allergy varies by practitioner, which makes for a pseudoscience giveaway.

My astigmatism has been correctly diagnosed and treated by a half dozen optometrists in multiple states and countries. By contrast, a person whose left elbow responds poorly to pressure may be said to have pre-diabetes, gout, or celiac, depending solely on which applied kinesiologist is pressing the arm.

So it’s unsurprising that repeated double-blind studies have shown applied kinesiology to be no better than chance at diagnosing a condition. Any seeming successes are owed to post hoc reasoning, the cyclical nature of some illnesses, and the ideomotor response. The latter refers to how expectations can lead to infinitesimal, unconscious motor movements. Because the person is unaware of this, he or she attributes the movement to an external force. This can be spooky when glancing at a Ouija board, a revelation when holding a dowsing rod, or a diagnosis when at the applied kinesiologist.

Practitioners think they are applying the same amount of force each time, but their beliefs are causing them to apply more or less, depending on their subconscious expectations. Similarly, subjects believe they are applying the same amount of resistance each time the applied kinesiologist pushes, but expectations will alter this.  The difference is subtle, but enough to make a difference. Therefore, the technique seems to work. But anybody could do it. It’s just that nobody should. 






“This is your captain shrieking” (Ghost plane)


On Dec. 29, 1972, Eastern Air Lines flight 401 went down in the Florida swamps, killing 101 of the 176 people on board. The crash itself was indistinguishable from similar tragedies, but the legend that grew from it was most unusual.

Lore holds that plane parts from the ill-fated craft were installed in other airliners, which were seen carrying apparitions of the deceased pilots and passengers. Most often it was the ghosts of pilot Bob Loft, copilot Bert Stockstill, and flight engineer Don Repo who were said to be observed on these ghostly rides. The airline parts were seen as akin to organ donations, still living on as part of another.

While most ghost stories have various incarnations and a murky genesis, this one is known to have stemmed exclusively John Fuller’s book The Ghost of Flight 401. At the time of publication, this work claimed there had been sightings of these apparitions for four years, starting when an Eastern Air Lines 1011 – the type of plane that crashed in the Everglades – made its way to Mexico City.

Three flight personnel onboard saw the face of Repo, who warned the trio about a fire that would break out on the flight. A post-landing inspection indeed revealed that a fire had damaged an engine, and the next time the aircraft went airborne, another engine fire necessitated an emergency landing.

Fuller claimed that Repo’s voice talked the crew through all this. The cockpit voice recorder, however was nowhere to be found, which would seem to put a hole in this extraordinary claim. But according to Fuller, this is instead evidence that it was whisked away by the airline to cover up the story. In usual conspiracy theory think, the lack of evidence was not seen as lack of evidence but as evidence of a hush up.  

In the years that followed, pilots and flight attendants made frequent sightings of Repo and Loft, with the pair offering pointers on how to maintain the craft. According to the legend, the ghosts always appeared on aircraft that contained equipment salvaged from Flight 401.

Fuller claimed Eastern tried to repress any evidence of spirit encounters, going so far as to destroy any plane logbooks that made reference to them. He also wrote of an unnamed mechanic who discovered workable plane parts that had been removed from planes once it was learned they had been on the flight that crashed.

Assigning no name to what would be a key witness matches Fuller’s modus operandi. He litters the book with anonymous sources and claims that cannot be examined. An Eastern representative told author Robert Serling, “We spent weeks trying to locate anyone who claimed to have seen a ghost and couldn’t find one person.” Serling also learned that not one part was salvaged from the wreckage to be used on another airplane, irrespective of whether the craft was carrying animated deceased spirits.

Unlike Fuller, Serling wrote an entirely credible book about Eastern Air Lines history and in so doing, tacked down the crew from the fabled Mexico City emergency landing, and found no corroboration of a Casper appearing to warn and guide them. Serling learned that the entire story stemmed from a comment the pilot on this flight made when asked how he managed the landing with just one engine. He joked that Repo’s ghost may have been of assistance. Fuller ran with that one line and rather than turning it into a halfway decent movie, penned a collection of libelous tripe.

“Chip shot” (Bill Gates and coronavirus)


In a Yahoo News/YouGov poll, three out of five U.S. adults were at least open to the possibility that Bill Gates plans to use any COVID-19 vaccine as an avenue to implant microchips in people and track us – as opposed to just using the device in their pocket that they answered the survey with to do it.  

To state what should be obvious, the technology to track people via a vaccine is nonexistent. Writing for Slate, June Hu noted that while there are injectable microchips, they are incapable of tacking the recipient. Our husky periodically escapes and when she ends up with an animal control officer or veterinarian, her implanted microchip lets the person who found our wayward hound know what my telephone number is. But neither I nor anyone else can use the chip to locate where she is.

In order to track a dog, human, or cyborg, the person desiring to do so would need to receive information from a source, such as a cell tower. This would further necessitate that the chip house a battery, which in turn would need a way of being recharged. And even if this technology existed, the required chip type could not be delivered by way of syringe.

Since the supposed plot is impossible, where did they idea that anyone want to implement it stem from? Billy Binion touched on this is as essay for Reason. While there are multiple versions, the most popular holds that Gates not only wants to chip us with a vaccine, but that he created the virus to make this eventuality possible.

This may be because of TED Talk Gates he delivered in 2015, during which he warned about the dangers of being unprepared for pandemics. This was hardly a shocking revelation, as it was true 10, 100, and 1000 years ago,  and will continued to be true until science finds a panacea and the anti-vax movement withers completely.

Still, to a paranoid conspiracy theorist – perhaps a redundant phase – this was evidence that Gates had caused the coronavirus. To be clear, they hold that an evil that will be clandestinely unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace was publicly announced by the one committing it.

That he is backing COVID-19 vaccine research is seen not as altruism but as a means of funding his nefarious agenda. Some attempt to bolster this belief by citing Revelation and its references to the Mark of the Beast, with the chip being the item that one must have to buy or sell. 

Bunion speculates that the idea may have stemmed from a substantial misreading of what Gates said about keeping accurate numbers on how many patients had recovered from the virus once a vaccine is discovered. He said. “Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered.”

How this discussion of possibly having digital records of recovered COIVD patients morphed into a mandatory surveillance-enabling microchip is left unexplained by the theorists.




“? and the Contrarians” (Just asking questions)


The most hardened conspiracy theorists make reckless, baseless accusations based on wild conjecture that represent the most extreme examples of begging the question, which is when one assumes their premise to be true without offering supporting proofs.

Then there is a less-stringent type of theorist who paints themselves as being merely curious or skeptical. And if that’s what a person is genuinely being, fine. Good, even. But asking questions can be different than seeking answers. The latter may involve genuine research and querying sites and sources one holds in low regard. Most importantly, it means being willing to arrive at a different conclusion than what you might wish for

This week, I saw an offensive and absurd meme which insists that the George Floyd tragedy was staged. The “evidence” is an assertion that the officer is resting the bulk of his weight on his free knee and that the police license plate has no numbers or letters other than “POLICE” in large characters across the breadth of the plate.

The answers to these issues could be found by seeking out physiologists or the Minnesota DMV. But those making such assertions make no such attempts. They merely pronounce victory over the brainwashed sheep and ignore any evidence that would come out during trials or investigations and assume an impossibly-large stable of crisis actors to pull of the ruse.

If an answer were to be offered, those posting such memes would reject the response, regardless of the science, the evidence, or the credentials of the speaker. We are nearly two decades removed from 9/11 and some people are still “just asking questions” about melting steel beams or how a passport could avoid incineration. These types portray themselves as open-minded and, by default, anyone who disagrees with this approach to be closed-minded. After all, who could be against examining and “just asking questions”?

But again, people who use this phrase are generally not actually just asking questions. Rather, they are disingenuously phrasing a hardened belief as a question while trying to maintain a façade of being reasonable and open to truth.

An anonymous Logic of Science blogger wrote, “Good questions stem naturally from known facts and evidence. In other words, they have a basis in reality.” Bad questions, such as those related to the Floyd tragedy, are without evidence and just unfettered conjecture being crammed into a predetermined narrative.

The blogger demonstrated the difference between a genuine question and one which only aims to make the speaker seem curious. He used an example from his field of herpetology. Regarding why aquatic turtles emerge from water to bask on rocks and logs, there have been suggestions that this action might be related to temperature, immune functions, or parasite cleanings.

“All of these are good questions…based on our existing knowledge of biology,” he wrote. But suppose someone ambles along and posits that maybe the shelled creatures are seeking escape from interplanetary interlopers who have invaded their lake.

“That would be a bad question, because it’s not based on any known facts. There is no reason to think that aliens are involved, and we’d need good evidence of the presence of aliens before it would be rational to even consider the possibility that they are involved.”

Indeed.  Yet the conspiracy theorist response such dismissals is to declare the other person to be in on the plot, scared of the truth, or trying to hide something.

But since there is no rationale for thinking aliens are chasing turtles or that Floyd and his murderer props in a ruse, these ideas can be discounted out of hand. Christopher Hitchens nailed this one when he declared, “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

So wondering how COVID-19 came to be is a natural thought and could even be the first step in the Scientific Method of trying to find a cure.

However, asking, “Did Bill Gates orchestrate the coronavirus so that he could microchip us all” is a poor question. There is no evidence to suggest Gates devised the virus or wants to use the resulting vaccine to track our movements. Persons arrive at such conclusions by taking a circuitous route of cherry picking disparate points and ignoring the Law of Truly Large Numbers.

The “just asking questions” crowd rarely issues such interrogative statements in good faith or for genuine dialogue. Anyone who asks if Bill Gates is going to microchip us via a future vaccine has already answered their own question.

There is nothing wrong with asking a question if one will examine the evidence and accept where it leads, but that’s not usually the case. I have presented strong evidence to the contrary when persons have asked if HAARP is controlling the weather. The response was not to thank me for the enlightenment, but rather a galvanizing of their beliefs. They were “just asking questions” based on those beliefs, not on wanting to know.

“Frack no” (Hydraulic fracturing)


Hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, is a procedure where workers pump high-pressure water into natural gas reserves that sit deep underground. It serves to break up the rock and make the natural gas easier to mine.

There are a few supposed issues with fracking: That it so pollutes tap water that the liquid can catch fire if a match is lit near it; That it unleashes toxic chemicals which contaminate our ground water; and that it causes earthquakes.

It’s true that holding a match next to a running tap that contains enough methane – the main ingredient in natural gas – will result in a burst of flames. However, whether this can be pinned on fracking is doubtful.

Water wells are shallow, whereas fracking takes place miles underground. There are usually several layers or rock formations between where the fracking takes place and where well water resides. There’s little if any transfer of gas or liquid between these two stratum, which are separated by many rock layers.

The burning of water can happen anytime wells are near an area housing natural gas. Mining of this gas can cause methane to move from a high-pressure area to a lower-pressure one. Also, an inadequate seal on natural gas wells may leak methane. This is especially likely to occur near old, abandoned wells.

Now, onto the assertion that fracking pumps hundreds of poisonous chemicals into the ground. Water makes up at least 98 percent of fracking fluid. Another one percent consists of a proppant, which is mostly sand. The rest of the fracking fluid serves as a lubricant and what is used differs based on circumstance. Toxicity is determined by amount, not ingredient, and while there are trace elements used in fracking that would be hazardous in higher concentrations, they are used in safe numbers during this process.

As to earthquakes, in the strict definition, fracking causes these, but only ones so minor that they do no damage.  Whenever a rock cracks underground, it qualifies as a seismic event. However, fragile shale is the main kind of rock involved and fracking drills horizontally through natural gas, not through a hard rock fault zone.

Fracking the shale to break it up is unlikely to relieve any massive forces. Rather, fracking opens up shale in a stable manner, the sand holds the fractures open, and no unstable layer results. Finally, since all this takes place miles below the surface, pressures are easily sufficient to hold the ground in place.


“Golden deceiver” (φ)


With this year being an unfortunate exception, I have traditionally ran an NCAA Tournament pool. For the last several seasons, I have used a point-distribution system based on the Fibonacci sequence, in which any given number is the sum of the previous two numbers. When applied to a Tournament pool, this means that the sequence awards up to 8 points for a correctly naming a regional final winner, up to 13 points for calling a national semifinal correctly, and up to 21 points for picking the right champion.

The system’s originator also devised a control whereby upsets are worth more points, relative to how big a shocker it is seed-wise. The system used some fairly advanced mathematics, and being not fairly advanced mathematically, I forwarded the pool outline to a Ph.D. in the field, who confirmed that the ideas presented were sound. As if I needed more proof, the first year that I used the system, I won the pool.

The Fibonacci Sequence is frequently associated with the Golden Ratio, although there is no evidence that the 13th Century Italian mathematician was thinking about the ratio when he came up with the formula. He devised it while solving a problem that centered on rabbit populations.

The idea that Fibonacci employed the Ratio while coming up with the sequence that bears his name is one of many myths associated with the Ratio.

The Golden Ratio has the value of 1 to φ, or phi. φ is about 1.618, but like pi’s 3.14, this is an approximation since phi is an irrational number that strings along infinitely.

φ and the Golden Ratio have multitudinous mathematical applications. Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning explained one such case thusly: “If you take a rectangle whose sides are proportional to the golden ratio, you can cut a square off one end of it, and the resulting small rectangle that remains is of the exact same proportions as the original. You can cut a square off of that and you’ll get a still smaller golden ratio rectangle, and you can do this ad infinitum.

Nature has discovered its applications. Dunning noted that, “A tree is most efficient if as many leaves as possible are visible and not shaded by other leaves. As a stem grows, it follows a genetic formula to know how often to produce a leaf and at what angle from the preceding leaf…Produce φ leaves per turn and no two leaves will ever shade each other.” A similar process allows sunflowers to grow with maximum efficiency.

Phi also plays a role in better acoustics and dynamics. Engineers can cancel unwanted audio waves or resonances if they design sound rooms or theatres on Golden Ratio principles.

This is all wonderful, but the Golden Ratio’s beauty has been coopted by the pseudoscientific crowd. Perhaps the best known example is the claim that the ancient Greeks who designed the Parthenon employed the Ratio, as assertion without historical or mathematical evidence. A look at the Parthenon’s design shows no employment of the Ratio, though some armchair archeologists think they have discovered it, which is mostly based on miscalculations.   

Another pseudoscientific claim is that the Golden Ratio is found throughout the human body, such as the width of the shoulders compared to the height of the head, where the belly button is in relation to the rest of the body, or the forearm’s length competed to the distance from the head to the fingertips. The glaring issue with such claims is that such proportions are different for everyone and thus, the Ratio is not in play. In the tree and sunflower cases, application of the Ratio is uniform for every such living organism.

A nearly soundproof way to tell real manifestations of the Golden Ratio from assumed ones is whether it serves a purpose that could not also be served by a similar number. A tree’s employment of the golden angle for its leaves’ distribution serves a clear purpose and requires φ. An example of a mistaken assumption is claiming that the joints in human fingers become longer at a rate that follows the Golden Ratio. Not only is this measurably wrong, but it would provide no specific benefit to people when they are filling out NCAA Tournament brackets or otherwise using their hands.

“Home evasion” (Social distancing and the immune system)


There are many conspiracy theories centered on the coronavirus. Some of these would seem mutually exclusive but all are still bandied about by believers. For example, the suspicion that China developed it as a bioweapon is at odds with the idea that COVID-19 is mostly innocuous and being greatly overblown by leftists hoping to wreck the economy. Harmless chemical warfare does seem a tad contradictory. Yet this position, at least when broken into two separate charges, is a regular feature of the conspiracy crowd, whose members make appearances on my news feed with annoying regularity.

While there are many COVID conspiracy theories, our focus today is the narrow idea that being mostly homebound damages our immune system. In short, proponents feel that social distancing harms, not helps, the situation. Similar attempts to invert the normal order pop up frequently among conspiracy theorists: Excess carbon dioxide is good for the environment; insulin causes diabetes; vaccines are worse than what they prevent.

In Mother Jones, Keira Butler wrote of three persons who have posted claims about the putative immune system damage that social distancing is causing. She referenced two physicians and one engineer, who made separate videos outlining their positions.

It is telling that these claims were pitched to a sympathetic audience on YouTube and not submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Alas, we will still assess the legitimacy of their assertions, not where they aired them.

The gist of their argument is that the lockdown is harming the immune system. They base this on the notion that germs and disinfectants are in constant battle, both evolving and adapting as they try to get the upper microscopic hand. Without exposure to enough germs, the trio argue, the immune system may grow lax and put up too feeble a fight. In some cases, there is merit to this idea, which is why some immunologists argue against trying to develop ultra-germ killers since it opens the chance that the germs which survive will further adapt and form a superbug, which is impervious to all treatments.

But this does not apply here since COVID-19 is not a chronic immune condition, but rather a novel virus that attacks the afflicted in ways immunologists don’t fully understand. As a novel virus, our immune system has no defense in place for it.

Moreover, isolated persons are still exposed to germs at home, which is another strike against the notion.

Social distancing helps to slow the spread of the virus and the anti-lockdown fervor, which is based not on the rate of infection or any projections, but on livid persons wanting a haircut and dine-in pizza, figures to be a public health disaster.

I miss the park, PTA meetings, and arcades, but not more than I value the health of my children, myself, and everyone else. A nationwide commitment to social distancing and pursuit of a vaccine would have solved this problem.

But selfishness and the ignoring of science are winning. A virus has no idea nor concern if its host is a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or independent, so this should have been the ultimate non-partisan issue. Instead, it is highly divisive and shows how dangerously close to the mainstream anti-science tropes and conspiracy theories are becoming.

Rather than isolation and inoculations, the other side embraces the naturalistic fallacy, where it is assumed that whatever is natural is good and whatever is artificial is bad. Butler cited one error-laden anti-vax group post, which claimed that masks, gloves, vaccines, and synthetic soap damage the immune system. This is another example a topsy-turvy belief where the prevention is labeled as the cause. They also claimed that fear damages the immune system. There is no truth to this, a good thing for the bazooka-toting Subway patron.