I was having discussion about how vaccination makes people much less likely to get sick and die, and a bloke, again, jumped into a thread about deaths from vaccines (as is his wont)1, and asked if “you ppl source information anywhere other than your television?” I replied: “Yeah. Science, Nature, NEJM, The Lancet, New Scientist, ATAGI, TGA, NIH, CDC, ourworldindata, worldometers, assorted universities and other scientific organisations. Where do you get yours? Craig Kelly? George Christensen? Matt Canavan?” He replied with “which of those is saying ivermectin is no treatment for Covid” (Sigh…..)
Some wacky QAnon conspiracy theorist then jumped in and said: “We can B certain nothing is true from public health sources with coronavirus because it has never been isolated in pure form [sic] to make gross inaccurate claims like this or any other hypothesis they use poisoning a nation.” I replied with ‘If it has never been isolated, then how did we sequence the genome?’
The original bloke of course took it the wrong way assuming that the genome probably hadn’t been sequenced, replying “a good question..u gotta wonder if they have”. I replied to this with: ‘Of course they have. That is how they determine which strain they are dealing with. Do you know what PCR* stands for?’He replied with (I kid you not): “is that the test they binned because it cldn’t tell the difference between Covid n the Flu?” I replied with ‘Google Polymerase Chain Reaction*, or read this’, to which I attached a fact sheet on PCR2. Hilariously, he replied “mine is from January this year… superceded [sic] this”. Attached was a link to stuff to which he referred. It was from the US Food and Drug Administration which referred to the recall of two rapid antigen tests; the “LLC CovClear COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test** and ImmunoPass COVID-19 Neutralizing Antibody Rapid Test”3.
He seemed to think that because a rapid antigen test kit and a rapid antibody test kit had been recalled, then all tests were suspect; RATs** and PCR* tests included. The fact that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have approved 23 RAT test kits seems to have escaped him4, as has the fact that PCR tests do not come as kits. Then he said “they still use the rats..if you can find one in Australia..they do not use the PCR test”. I couldn’t contain myself. I replied: Hahahahaha! Where did you hear that one? That is hilarious. I continued with “I have had three PCR tests, sport. Are you a religious nutter?” (he occasionally posts cheesy stuff referring to his god). He replied with “I don’t care how many you’ve had.. you won’t be getting another”. I replied to this with “Wrong” and “Whoever is telling you this garbage, is lying to you. Surely you cannot be this gullible.” I accompanied the latter with a link to the Australian Capital Territory’s Health Department Covid19 website which tells you where you can have your PCR test and how long the queue waiting times are5.
I don’t know where these buffoons get their information; it seems not to be from this planet. The QAnon nutter then chimed in saying that the “first rule [is] trust no authority whatsoever” and that we should all take our masks off as they “restrict breathing and recycle exhaled germs and bacteria” (QAnon technical jargon?). So, what did he accompany this with? He gave a link to an ‘authority’ from his cult. You have to laugh. The fact that neither of these blokes knew the difference between PCR tests and RAT kits is astonishing as the information is everywhere on the web.
Sometimes I wonder if people like this are simply unable to use Google or Safari (I use both) or any other web browser, are too lazy to try to find things out, or whether they are functionally illiterate so that if they found anything informative, would be unable to comprehend it. As a consequence, they believe any old horseshit they are told up the pub or at their church or One Notion or United Australia Party meeting.
We live in an age where a large proportion of the world’s knowledge is only a few keystrokes away and yet people are unable or unwilling to inform themselves. Their ignorance, wilful or otherwise, is a danger to us and even more to themselves in this third year of the pandemic. This is a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect which, in psychology, refers to a cognitive bias whereby people with limited knowledge or competence in a given field greatly overestimate their own knowledge or competence in that field relative to objective criteria or to the performance of their peers, or of people in general6. They are too deficient in knowledge and ability to realise they are deficient in knowledge and ability.
*Polymerase Chain Reaction. Sometimes called ‘molecular photocopying’, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a fast and inexpensive technique used to “amplify” – copy – small segments of DNA. Because significant amounts of a sample of DNA are necessary for molecular and genetic analyses, studies of isolated pieces of DNA are nearly impossible without PCR amplification. Often heralded as one of the most important scientific advances in molecular biology, PCR revolutionised the study of DNA to such an extent that its creator, Kary B. Mullis, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993. To amplify a segment of DNA using PCR, the sample is first heated so the DNA denatures, or separates into two pieces of single-stranded DNA. Next, an enzyme called “Taq polymerase” synthesizes – builds – two new strands of DNA, using the original strands as templates. This process results in the duplication of the original DNA, with each of the new molecules containing one old and one new strand of DNA. Then each of these strands can be used to create two new copies, and so on, and so on. The cycle of denaturing and synthesizing new DNA is repeated as many as 30 or 40 times, leading to more than one billion exact copies of the original DNA segment. The entire cycling process of PCR is automated and can be completed in just a few hours. It is directed by a machine called a thermocycler, which is programmed to alter the temperature of the reaction every few minutes to allow DNA denaturing and synthesis. PCR is valuable in a number of laboratory and clinical techniques, including DNA fingerprinting, detection of bacteria or viruses (including SARS-Cov2), and the diagnosis of genetic disorders2.
**Rapid Antigen Test. Rapid antigen tests detect the presence of specific proteins of the virus. They are most accurate when used to test symptomatic individuals. They are not as good at detecting the virus as a PCR test. Rapid antigen tests are generally best performed within the first 7 days from when symptoms first appear. They are not as accurate if you do not have symptoms and can produce false negative or false positive results. Most tests produce a result within 10-20 minutes7.