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Conspiracy theories will always be with us, says sociology professor

Western University professor Howard Ramos says people need to think critically before reacting to new information
(stock photo)

While a recent survey says a majority of Canadians would get a COVID-19 vaccine, some are still skeptical about the pandemic.

According to a survey by the Angus Reid Institute, 46 per cent of Canadians would get a vaccine as soon as it was available while 32 per cent would first wait but eventually get one — a total of 78 per cent.

“Conspiracy theory is going to be with us all the time,” Howard Ramos tells NEWS 95.7’s The Sheldon MacLeod Show. “People often look for the evidence that supports their beliefs over looking at what the evidence really is.”

Ramos is a professor and chair in the department of sociology at Ontario’s Western University. He says he’s not surprised conspiracy theories are spreading, but he doesn’t think they’re spreading at an alarming rate.

On July 19, about a dozen anti-mask protestors gathered on the Halifax Waterfront for March to Unmask — a nationwide campaign against mandatory masks. A dozen of mask-wearing counter protestors also came to the Halifax Waterfront.

“Science is a social process and it’s an evidence-based process,” Ramos says. “Facts are only as strong as the evidence that supports them.

“We can’t expect science to be static. In fact, we want science to be changing and evolving so that it can improve. If we’re going to have any hope in finding a vaccine, it’s going to be through trial and error that we get there.”

In Angus Reid Institute’s survey, 14 per cent of Canadians said they wouldn’t get a vaccine while eight per cent were unsure.

A statement from the survey says that one aspect dividing the two groups is the worry of potential side effects, particularly because the vaccine would be new and potentially quickly developed. The survey says 76 per cent of those who say they’ll wait to get the vaccine also say they’re worried about side effects. On the other hand, 37 per cent of people who would immediately get the vaccine share that concern.

Ramos says that if people want to avoid getting trapped in conspiracy theories, then people need to think before they react to information. Instead of immediately reacting, people need to track down the source, read the article before sharing it and then take a step back to think about how many other people are voicing the same thoughts.

“There’s no point in arguing with somebody with facts that they don’t believe in,” Ramos says. “However, I think it’s always worth asking people, ‘where did you get that information? How many other people shared that information?’”


Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as CityNews Halifax's weekend editor.
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