366. Epidemics and Delusions | Steve Templeton

    The pandemic decreased fear as people saw the reality of the actual risk, but remnants of authoritarian control remain. Proper historical accounting and defense of civil rights are essential for a truly free society.

    enJune 12, 2023

    About this Episode

    Dr. Jordan B. Peterson and Dr. Steve Templeton discuss his recent publication, “Fear of a Microbial Planet: How a Germophobic Safety Culture Makes Us Less Safe.” They break down the “discussed response” of the behavioral immune system, the pathogenic treatment of people during the COVID pandemic, the shift toward perceptual safety over common good, the programmatically induced fear that censors open discussion around these topics even now, and the impenetrability of those afraid, even when met with fundamental truths.


    Dr. Steve Templeton is the Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine Terre Haute, formerly CDC/NIOSH. Dr. Templeton is the author of the new publication, “Fear of a Microbial Planet: How a Germophobic Safety Culture Makes Us Less Safe.” The book examines pandemic responses, cultural and administrative, weighing historic examples against the COVID-19 pandemic.


    - Links -


    For Dr. Steve Templeton:


    Website https://www.stevetempletonauthor.com/


    Substack: stemplet74.substack.com


    Twitter: @stemplet74 https://twitter.com/stemplet74 

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • The fear caused by the behavioral immune system led to unnecessary mandates and attacks on unimportant targets. A specific, successful pandemic response is needed, like an immune response, to defeat the pathogen without collateral damage.
    • Liberal individuals enforced lockdowns while conservative individuals rejected mandates, as fear brought out left-wing authoritarianism more prevalent in those with low verbal intelligence, female gender, feminine temperament, and dark tetrad traits.
    • Understanding how fear is used as a tool for control and the impact of safety culture can help us navigate authoritarian responses and prioritize risk-taking in child-rearing.
    • It's important to strike a balance between ensuring safety and not over-exerting power, whether it's in parenting or public health policies. A nuanced approach that considers different groups can lead to better outcomes.
    • Lockdowns have had devastating consequences on people's lives, with evidence of an increase in excess deaths. Politics and pharmaceutical companies played a significant role, with incentives for hospitals to overcount COVID-19 patients and vaccines being minimally tested on older and infirm people. Open discussion and debate is hindered by fear of association with a particular political stance.
    • Keeping reasonable precautions to minimize transmission risks of dangerous viruses is necessary to maintain good health. Overreacting to hypothetical crises must be avoided while finding the balance in cleanliness and exposure to microbes.
    • Behavioral changes are necessary to slow the spread of respiratory infections, while some infections like HIV and hepatitis can be avoided. Lockdowns and restrictions can impact civil liberties and transfer wealth. Governments must prioritize healthcare resources and provide equal treatment for all events and activities.
    • It is important to balance safety culture in pandemic planning with individual rights, freedoms, and mental health. Collateral damage disproportionately affects those in poverty and fear of microbes must be balanced with understanding.
    • Prioritizing the appearance of safety over actual safety can lead to a cultural problem that enables the spread of disease. Accurate information and real safety measures are crucial in combating the pandemic.
    • While safety is important, the culture of safety has led to the unrealistic expectation of eliminating all risks, fueled by fear and the illusion of control. This can lead to irrational and non-evidence-based responses, which is a cause for concern.
    • While safety is crucial, striving for absolute risk elimination can be detrimental. Safety measures must balance with other aspects, including socialization and physical activity, and open-mindedness to research is key to striking that balance.
    • Despite initial reluctance from physicians and political pushback, presenting evidence and building a community can lead to meaningful change. Keep compiling evidence and using common sense to make a difference.
    • The pandemic decreased fear as people saw the reality of the actual risk, but remnants of authoritarian control remain. Proper historical accounting and defense of civil rights are essential for a truly free society.
    • Eliminating all risks is impossible and can lead to unintended consequences. A hyper-focused safety culture can make us less prepared to deal with threats and may cause other risks to increase. To promote true safety, we must learn to live with and manage acceptable risks.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Germophobic safety culture during pandemic made people less safe

    The germophobic safety culture adopted during the pandemic made people less safe, because it was based more on political and psychological responses than scientific evidence. The fear of the pandemic was caused by the behavioral immune system which made people disgusted and led to avoidance reactions. This situation caused an autoimmune response where people started attacking things that didn't matter, like schools and imposing unnecessary mandates. The response became more like a cytokine storm on the behavioral front which created fear and panic. It is important to have a pandemic response that is more specific, like an immune response, that is successful in defeating a pathogen without causing collateral damage.

    Political considerations override disgust factor during the pandemic

    While studies suggest that conservatives tend to be more easily disgusted, during the pandemic, it was found that political considerations overrode this research. Liberal individuals were more likely to enforce lockdowns and public health measures, while conservative individuals rejected mandates. Left-wing authoritarianism, identified through low verbal intelligence, being female, having a feminine temperament, and dark tetrad traits, became more prevalent as fear was used to manipulate the population. Changes in authoritarianism can be observed between left and right, with power dynamics playing a role. Shopify offers a comprehensive e-commerce platform for businesses to easily set up and grow their online store, with 24 7 support and business course library available.

    Fear-based messaging and authoritarian responses in the pandemic

    The use of fear as a tool for power and control is a common tactic used by narcissistic psychopathic power mongers. The response of western countries to the pandemic was largely driven by a strong safety culture, which prioritizes safety over risk-taking. This safety culture can be seen in child-rearing practices, where a lack of risk-taking and injury is prioritized over allowing children to make mistakes and learn from them. Nordic countries, on the other hand, did not have the same authoritarian response to the pandemic, which may be attributed to their less extreme safety culture. Understanding the motives behind fear-based messaging and authoritarian responses can help us better navigate similar situations in the future.

    The Danish Parenting Style, Virtue Signaling, and Public Health Policies During COVID-19.

    The Danish parenting style emphasizes challenging children and allowing them to make their own decisions, which is different from the hyper-protective parenting style prevalent in many Western countries. This can explain the emergence of a safety culture, where parents justify their excessive power and control with concerns for their children's safety. However, this can lead to a dangerous virtue signaling element, where individuals use their moral superiority to exert power. The COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted the issue of tyranny, where excessive lockdown measures were taken without an appropriate focus on the affected population. The pandemic further revealed the need for a nuanced approach to public health policies that considers the unique characteristics of different demographic groups.

    The Cost of Lockdowns, Excess Deaths and Political Interference in COVID-19

    Lockdowns were significantly worse than the virus itself in terms of costs, according to Jordan Peterson's conversation with Steve Templeton. There is evidence that lockdowns hurt people badly, resulting in an increase of excess deaths statistics in Europe that are not going away. Additionally, incentives were provided for hospitals to overcount covid patients, which ultimately led to perverse outcomes. Politics and pharmaceutical companies played a significant role in mandates and removing liability from the vaccines, which were minimally tested on older and infirm people, rendering the actual public health benefits questionable. Steve Templeton's political views shifted to the center, but fear of being associated with a particular political stance hindered open discussion and debate.

    Finding the Right Balance between Cleanliness and Microbial Exposure

    The COVID-19 pandemic made people more afraid of germs and increased our obsession with cleanliness. However, it is not possible or practical to aim for zero microbial exposure. We are already exposed to microbes in our environment, and trying to eradicate them completely can have negative consequences on our immune system. Instead, reasonable precautions should be taken to minimize the risk of transmission of particularly dangerous viruses. The balance between cleanliness and exposure to microbes is a trade-off, and it is important to find the right balance to maintain good health. This is why we must learn from the current pandemic and be careful not to overreact to other hypothetical crises that confront us.

    The Impact of Behavioral Changes and Lockdowns During COVID-19

    Respiratory infections are highly transmissible and difficult to avoid, while infections like HIV and hepatitis can be avoided unless there is accidental exposure to blood. Behavioral modifications were necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the response did not consider the length of time necessary, and the interconnectedness of the world. The randomness of lockdowns and restrictions deprived people of their civil liberties, and there was a transfer of wealth from the working class to big retailers like Amazon. The government did not take actions to increase the availability of intensive care units, which could have prevented overwhelming hospital systems. Protests like Black Lives Matter and climate change meetings were exempt from restrictions, while ordinary people were not able to continue their lives. People should understand the importance of avoiding certain viruses and infections, and the distinction between them.

    The Collateral Damage of Pandemic Lockdowns

    The collateral damage caused by pandemic lockdowns is immeasurable in areas like healthcare, education, and community support. The alliance between left-wing authoritarians and pharmaceutical companies to force people compels power mongering through fear and justifies the use of power. The safety culture promotes the planning and execution of pandemic response, but it can also lead to doom and virtue signaling. Collateral damage affects people in poverty the most and could further force them into it. The fear response to microbes is essential to survival but should be balanced with a proper understanding of the microbial biome's prevalence. Planning for pandemics with safety culture should not undermine individual rights, freedoms, and mental health.

    The Illusion of Safety: How Concern for Vulnerable Groups Can Enable the Pandemic to Spread

    The pandemic response was not just about safety but also the appearance of safety. People use concern for vulnerable groups to signal their moral virtue and gain power. The author's experience with his daughter's hand, foot, and mouth disease highlights how a cultural problem enabled the pandemic to spread. The daycare and health department prioritized the appearance of safety over actual safety, making parents feel helpless. As an immunologist, the author emphasizes the need for accurate information and real safety measures. People should not remain ignorant of their real risks just to maintain an illusion of safety.

    The Unrealistic Expectation of Eliminating Risks in the Culture of Safety.

    The culture of safety has led to an unrealistic expectation of eliminating risks, which is not always possible. This mindset has been fueled by people's fear and the illusion of control leaders want to portray. Parents and institutions often behave as though children are disease vectors. The prevalence of safety culture could be attributed to various factors like having children later, having fewer children, being wealthier, and more female-dominated families and institutions. The personal experience of the speaker being booted from a daycare due to being vocal about their opinion on a safety measure that had no basis shows that irrational or non-evidence-based responses prevail in such situations, which is a cause for concern.

    Balancing Safety and Other Aspects of Life for a More Effective Safety Culture

    The safety culture has become increasingly important due to various factors such as changes in family size, age of having children, availability of technology, and desire for certainty in uncertain situations. However, the desire to reduce risk to zero is not always possible and can lead to ineffective and even harmful measures such as excessive use of hand sanitizers. The opaqueness of the human mind to scientific research can also make it challenging to implement evidence-based policies. It is essential to balance safety with other aspects of life, such as socialization and physical activity. Being contrarian and challenging prevailing beliefs can be helpful in creating a more balanced approach to safety culture in various settings.

    Overcoming Resistance to COVID-19 Measures in the Medical Community

    Physicians are cautious due to fear of malpractice and are hard to convince of certain measures like masks which may hurt children rather than make them safer. The writer compiled evidence and gave presentations to convince them but ultimately the governor overrode local district's power. The writer's writing got national attention and he was able to write a book on the issue. Social media helped him form a community, make connections and get a push for his book. The pandemic restrictions have been lifted and things are returning to a new normal. Contrarian opinions and common sense prevailed and it is important to keep compiling evidence and presenting it to make a difference.

    The lingering effects of COVID-19 and the importance of preserving civil rights

    The pandemic response machinery is still in place and there needs to be a real accounting of what happened. The fear level of the pandemic decreased when people were directly exposed to the actual pathogen, and they saw the reality of what the actual risk was. This led to a return to normality. However, there are still remnants of authoritarian control, such as eliminating respiratory viruses from buildings and suppression of endemic viruses. The history needs to be told correctly, and there needs to be a fight to ensure that it is not whitewashed. The severity of the illness due to COVID-19 made people realize the importance of the civil rights tradition as we reverted back to being a free society.

    The Risks of Zero Risk

    The demand to reduce risk to zero is an impossible totalitarian overreach that leads to a radical increase in other forms of risk. This applies not only to eliminating respiratory viruses from the air we breathe but also to the war on drugs and net zero on the climate front. A hyper-concerned safety culture paradoxically makes children less safe, less prepared to face the world and deal with any threat. We need to reverse some of the losses from the safety culture and encourage parents to foster independence in their kids for a proper risk-free approach. It's always one risk or another, and thus reducing risk to zero is not feasible. Instead, we should learn to live with some degree of acceptable risk.

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