A More Honest Explanation for Medical Skepticism

Jacob, Z. Hess, Ph.D.

Stop pretending your friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters with serious questions about prevailing COVID-19 policies are simply selfish, ignorant, or dishonest. As gratifying as that might feel to those of you frustrated over their dissent, it’s simply not an honest or fair position to take – at least, not if you intend to represent the full scope of people’s motives. If you’re open to it, there’s another way to explain much of the public resistance, in a way that doesn’t misrepresent the experience of those who continue to maintain it.

David Brooks wrote recently suggesting that people hesitant to go along with the program and get vaccinated (or mask up) demonstrate an insufficient trust and willingness to “sacrifice for the common good” and support “collective action.” Jay Evertsen similarly argued in recent days that hesitancy around wearing masks among those who have opted out of the vaccine largely reflects a question of “basic honesty of Americans” – hinting that those resistant to these measures are perpetuating at least some “sort of lie.” 

Many others have insisted that those harboring such skepticism for prevailing public health guidelines are willingly ignorant – even hostile to – “the science” and the common knowledge they see as indubitable and obvious.

Ignorance. Dishonesty. And selfishness. 

That’s about the extent of many people’s conceptions regarding what’s behind the skepticism significant portions of America feels towards prevailing medical dictates. And it baffles me, to be frank, that so many of these same people struggle to imagine any other explanations for resistance.  

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