By Dr. Anthony Policastro

It is sometimes interesting to see how far fetched conspiracy theorists are in their logic. They make things up. There is no data to back what they have to say. However, they believe it wholeheartedly.

We will have people claiming that the earth is really flat. They not only claim it but also believe it. Recently a boat got lost in the Mediterranean Sea while the boaters were trying to prove the theory.

Another one that flies in the face of logic are those individuals who claim that the Muslim population is going to “out birth” us and take over the country.

There are about 3.6 million U.S. births per year. There are 3.45 million Muslims in the country. That would mean every Muslim (man, woman and child) would have to have a baby every year to just come close.

Perhaps the conspiracy theorists can explain how Muslim men and children are going to have babies every year. It would make for great listening.

One may wonder what there is psychologically that makes people believe these far fetched things. As is often the case, there are multiple reasons.

One is related to our basic wiring as human beings. In prehistoric times, the suspicious person was more likely to survive being eaten by a predator. In line with Darwin’s theory of evolution, this meant that the suspicion gene survived better.

Second reason is that we are by nature social animals. We like to belong to a group. If the group thinks a certain way, it is easier for us to go along with that.

Social psychologist Stanley Milgram showed this back in 1961. He had someone stand on a street corner and stare up at the sky for no reason. About four percent of passersby stopped and looked up as well. 

He then increased the number of people standing on the street corner and looking up. He got to planting 15 people on the street corner looking up. At that point 40 percent of the passerby also stopped to look up. They believed there was something up there.

This is known as social proof. It is much more effective than actual scientific proof. An example of this is the TV news ad for Prevagen that states it is the number one pharmacist recommend memory brand aid. They hired a single pharmacist and told him to recommend it. He did and so they use social proof to get you to buy it.

Social proof is related to the justification bias that I have so often written about. You latch on to a belief and dismiss everything that does not match it.

We may sometimes wonder how people can believe far fetched ideas. However, it comes down to being part of human nature. We would much rather agree with something far fetched than have our social group disagree with us.

COVID update- Sussex County remains in the high zone for hospitalization for COVID-19 cases. Hospitalization numbers have shown very little change.

The total number of new cases nationally has gone from 779,000 last week to 771,000 this week. Sussex County has gone from 840 new cases last week to 787 this week. The numbers are pretty much the same. Even if we agree that the numbers are low because of home testing, they are consistent from week to week despite that. This suggests that the current surge is peaking.

This would not be a surprise. The Delta surge began on Aug. 2 and peaked on Sept. 6. That was 35 days. It lasted until Oct. 18. That was an additional 42 days. So it ran its course in 77 days.

The Omicron surge began on Dec. 6 and peaked on Jan. 17. That was 42 days. It lasted until Feb. 21, so it ran its course in 78 days.

The current surge began on April 25. It appears to peak on May 27. That is a period of 32 days. So it appears that the current surge is following a similar pattern to the previous two. 

If it continues to do so, we can expect a return to baseline in another 40-45 days. That would put us somewhere between July 7 and July 12. Thus the current recommendation to remain masked when indoors with crowds for a prolonged period would only last for that long.

If that does indeed happen, it would help us understand how long to remain masked indoors for future surges.