Pandemic, science, and radical inclusion

Actualizado: oct 18

My wife Javiera says that our sister COVID is teaching us to respect one another, to genuinely allow every human being to feel and think just as they feel and think.


Perhaps some consider that for people to respect one another we would all need to think in the same way: "the" right way. I believe that if you are reading this essay it is because you and I agree that this, fortunately, is not going to happen.


In this essay, I show how the conflict of division among human beings can be alleviated if we release our fundamentalist belief in science as a source of absolute truth. I say it myself, being a scientist with rigorous academic training. Any fundamentalist belief obviously divides.


I also want to show how the tension in the face of the pandemic can be calmed if we deconstruct the idea that the virus is a creature that is separated from us. If I could with this essay contribute, even a little, to deconstruct the idea of separation between good and evil, right and wrong, we could contemplate a vision of the world where harmony is something natural: it is okay to protect oneself from the virus, it is okay for children to play hugging each other, it is okay to get vaccinated, it is okay not to get vaccinated. Ultimately, it is okay for each person to be true to themselves.


That is the world, quite possible, where human beings no longer judge each other.


Photo by Pablo Mardones. Radical diversity.


This essay makes a resolute contribution towards radical inclusion.

Our most precious treasure is the immense diversity of our voices. The more different we are, the greater our richness. I have a very distinct voice to contribute, a counter-cultural vision. All I ask is to be heard. This might be selfish of me, though I feel asking to be heard is quite a healthy expression of selfishness. Imagine how healthy it would be if all voices were heard and legitimized. Radical inclusion. Radical treasure.



The discourses


It is useful to portray the main discourses that come to the fore. With a little good will (because in reality there is a multiplicity), we can group them into two discourses: the official truth, that is the establishment narrative, or conventional narrative. And the alternative, anti-establishment discourse.


People who question the official truth are often accused of being denialists, those who deny the truth. Dissenting anti-establishment people, on the other hand, accuse the power elites, who supposedly dictate the official truth, of plotters.


There are those who express that if you wear a mask you are showing respect to other people. Some interpret these words as follows: if you wear a mask you are civilized, you are correct. If you don't wear a mask: you don't think of others, you are selfish and deny the scientific facts of disease transmission. Others may say: if you wear a mask it is because you are subservient to authority, you do what you are told without thinking for yourself.


One thing is respect. A different thing is when we use a moral superiority discourse to judge other people negatively. The use or non-use of the mask is not what I really want to talk about, it is just an example of the behavioral norms that can generate conflicts between human beings where we judge one another.


It is worth mentioning that the official civilizatory narrative has a multiplicity of norms about how human behavior should be, and not only regarding the pandemic. Today more than ever, the doctrine on which our civilization is based, for better or for worse, is the scientific one.


Supposedly, scientific doctrine is based on impartial observation of facts. Therefore it should provide, if applied with sufficient rigor, with universal consensuses.


There are those who say that this is a "plandemic" rather than a pandemic. According to this narrative, scientific data are intentionally altered to manipulate people according to a “plan”. The motive would be the greed of corporate elites and the corruption of institutions. In short, the selfishness that others seem to enjoy, especially while abusing the common people. According to this narrative, scientific data that contradicts the establishment is silenced.


Without wanting to display all the views that exist, I think it is important to point out that there are people with scientific rigor and ethical impeccability who believe in the official narrative of the pandemic. I know some people who think like that, whom I respect, even though I think differently. People like them find the accusations of conspiracy to manipulate absurd. Knowing as they do the rigor of conventional science, they find it very hard to believe that there are any sensible scientific facts or research that seriously challenge the truths about which there is broad consensus in the establishment. Surely, they would think, all alternative science is simply not that rigorous and possibly has an agenda conditioned by anger or ignorance.


I insist, I personally do not think that way. I know that it is possible to think in that way according to the neuro-cultural context in which one lives.



For one or the other, all we would need is that the science that guides us be generated with rigor and ethical impeccability.


The difference between right science and wrong science is, then, ethical: the true intentions, the agenda.


The difference between right human beings and wrong human beings is also ethical: their true intentions.


I personally don't identify with any of this. I don't believe in the distinction between right and wrong science, because the only way to distinguish one from the other is on the basis of questionable cultural beliefs about what reality is. Just as I don't believe in the distinction between right and wrong, better and worse human beings, a distinction that is only possible when we see ourselves as separate individuals.


Either way, the only possible solution would be to convince the other side that we are right. Or, that they should "wake up" and realize that they are wrong, that their truth is not valid. Their selfishness blinds them, they need to overcome it just as we have been doing with our own selfishness; the difference is that we are more advanced. We are better people. We are more rational in terms of seeing reality as it is. We are more spiritual because we have overcome a larger amount of our ego.


However, that's where we're stuck. Within this story, within this narrow box, there is no room for genuine conversations to take place, between legitimate human beings.



In the end, it seems that separation, judgment and hatred have intensified. It's not just differences of opinion on the use of the mask, by the way. And it's not just the fear of getting sick that unsettles us: what about the long-term consequences of a generation of children indoctrinated, in front of screens, that human contact can be dangerous? What about the fear that state control will intensify to the point where we forget what freedom looked like? Actually, the conflict is intertwined with the economic, environmental and human collapse of our civilization (which I talk about, for example, in my essay on the social outburst in my country: Beloved Chile, the everything of you).


So, why does Javiera say that we are learning to respect each other, if it seems quite the opposite?


Science says


If we focus on scientific views, which phrase could we quote that is widely agreed upon?


Science says that "there is a virus called Coronavirus that causes a severe disease". Science says that "we have a pandemic where more than 115 million have been infected, and more than 2.5 million have died" (at the time of this publication). These facts are virtually irrefutable.


Of course, there is surely a broad range of scientific views on which there is no consensus, both in the conventional and the alternative fields. There are competing perspectives, for example, regarding diagnostic methodologies, determinants of transmission, and which are the best treatments. This is not the focus of this essay.


As I said before, in general the discourses which are skeptical and critical of the official truth challenge the intentions with which the scientific knowledge of the pandemic is developed and presented to the population. Basically, bad science should be replaced with better science (although I want to question something else).


But the first sentence I quote above is hardly disputed by anyone (not even by those who claim that the virus was created in laboratories with sinister motives). Let's examine some assumptions implicit in it:


"there is a virus called Coronavirus that causes a severe disease".

First of all, we are all presumed to agree on what it means to "exist". The virus exists. But what do we mean by existing? Does existing mean to be genetic material whose purpose is to subsist and propagate? I say that there is no consensus on the idea of existing: at least I do not agree with the prevailing ideas. It is quite different to exist in separation than to exist in oneness.


An important aspect of existing is seeing and being seen, which is why I say that I see my sister coronavirus and am seen by her (see my essay Dear Universal Coronavirus). Even if she is so tiny that it is impossible to see her, I still see her.


Second, the sentence says that the virus "causes a severe disease." There is also another very important implicit assumption here, which, in my opinion, is crucial to challenge.


The notion that there is a cause that brings about a consequence is a linear idea that makes sense in the abstraction of separation. In a universe of oneness where everything is interrelated with everything else, it makes little sense to talk about cause and effect. For example, perhaps the cause of the disease is not the virus, but a weak immune system, resulting in turn from stress, depression and the lack of resilience of our mostly urban human ecosystems.


For example, perhaps the cause of the disease is not the virus, but the very fact of believing in the disease and the virus (I will say more about the non-deterministic relationship between belief and reality later in this essay). I think that many people are not necessarily afraid of it, but simply believe in the separate-scientific truth of the disease and the virus. Perhaps others do fear getting sick, sometimes the fear is hidden in a rational narrative of what is supposedly happening. I am not saying that one should avoid feeling what one feels. On the contrary, it is much better to feel what one actually feels.


My point is, it makes no sense to focus on the cause. In our culture of separation, we are urged to find the cause(s) of any given problem so that we know what is it that we have to defeat.


Finally, there is another implicit assumption, I would say, in the phrase "severe disease". Most people think that disease is a bad thing and absence of disease is a good thing. Precisely, we are supposed to be at war with the disease, to avoid it at all costs. If the illness is considered severe, the urgency of the war and the adrenaline rush is even greater. In turn, such beliefs and consequent emotional states can heighten the "enemy".


I am not saying that it is great to get sick or that you should not take care of yourself, I am just pointing out that there is no consensus on the idea of disease. An illness is not necessarily an enemy that generates harm and needs to be eradicated. With all due respect to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, even death is not a bad thing per se. No one can avoid the pain of losing a loved one. I perceive that we are living in an extremely difficult time of grief. But what if something valuable is born out of pain, when we let it pass?


For me it is very important to highlight the lack of consensus in these implicit assumptions, because otherwise it seems that those of us who think differently are totally excluded, we have no legitimacy. Every human being needs to express themselves freely.



Freedom of expression and radical inclusion


Freedom of expression should not only be a socio-political issue. It is not enough for every human being to be allowed to say what he or she wants to say. It is not enough for me to be able to say what I want to say, if at the same time there is a judgment that dictates that my expression is not valid or not legitimate, no matter if the judgment is loud or silent (even worse if I am judged in silence).


Freedom requires love, unconditional compassion.


I do not believe that anyone would feel truly free and open to express, if what they express is not considered a legitimate expression. In our society of separation, most human beings do not consider others, are not considered and/or do not consider themselves, as fully legitimate creatures.


We all think at some point of the day that such a person is "doing it wrong", that he/she is guilty or responsible for such a problem or situation. I believe that we all think at some point of the day that we are "doing it wrong", that we are not fully legitimate. Honestly, many times human beings drown in anguish for these reasons.


The radical diversity of life is the most immense richness. Billions of human beings: each one unique, with a different voice to be heard, and something special to be seen.


I would like us to agree that we want all human beings to be considered as legitimate beings, and be able to see themselves as such, just as they are. Radical Inclusion is complete inclusion. That is how unconditional love is: unconditional. I for one say that radical inclusion can do no harm.


However, I understand that many people will disagree. How could someone abusive, dishonest or evil be considered a legitimate being? We are supposed to set limits on such people. The absence of a doctrine of right and wrong, and institutions to oversee it, would certainly mean total chaos.


My respects, I could not ask you to think just like me, which would be quite boring. Besides, I too have the impulse to exclude others for thinking differently when it involves something I deeply care about.


The paradox is that radical inclusion includes exclusion. That is what makes it complete inclusion. There could not be a complete inclusion that excludes exclusion.


I don't expect anyone to think the same way I do. But I do want to ask you for something. I would like that what I express be received as a legitimate expression by you, by your hearts really. After all, I am a scientist with rigorous academic training, I have the right to express my view on what I know:


I want to say that there is no absolute, cognitive truth in science.

I want to say that believing that there is absolute truth in science is an atrocious limitation of our freedom, just as external religious dogmas limited our freedom. Science, as a reference of absolute truth, is no different than any religion.


I am not saying that science is a bad thing or that it should be discarded - I love it and enjoy it all the time!


By allowing different truths, different contexts and narratives to coexist, the beauty and power of knowledge and wisdom are not weakened. On the contrary, they are strengthened.

Just as inclusivity in terms of gender and sexual preferences enriches us tremendously as a human community, inclusivity in terms of wholehearted respect for the truth of every human being also enriches us. Likewise, inclusion in terms of a holistic science, or science of oneness, could also enrich us beyond imagination. Ultimately, inclusion in terms of allowing reality to no longer be restricted to a set of facts and circumstances in a Cartesian space-time plane. Such a vision of reality does not allow for multiplicity. Reality does not fit into any box; it cannot be reduced to linear logical thinking.





The Science of separation


In search for understanding, humanity took a step forward when at some point in time it said: "we cannot just stick to religious beliefs, we need to observe life and draw conclusions from what we see". The wise human mind, with its precious curiosity for the unknown and its insatiable hunger for certainty, developed the scientific method.


We devoted ourselves for centuries to applying the scientific method to everything we observed, perfecting along the way the method itself. Whenever we encountered imperfections or discrepancies, we responded with even more scientific rigor.


Scientific rigor, we soon realized, had to be installed above our emotional limitations, so that our knowledge would not be seriously affected by fear conditionings or by unhealthy intentions of domination or evilness.


Where we were once fundamentalists about religion, we reasonably became fundamentalists about science. After all, our scientific knowledge became immensely sophisticated. And, what's more, it works.


We placed in science the only trust that we believe should be universal. We decided that scientific knowledge is irrefutable, unless the dispute is rigorously scientific as well (that is, with the same language). But the questioning of implicit assumptions, such as those I raised above, was ignored.


Moreover, any questioning that breaks with the basic assumptions about how reality is supposed to be, is impossible to incorporate into scientific thought. It is un-incorporable, un-considerable. That is, unacceptable. Therefore having the space to be heard does not only depend on the good intentions and open mindedness of conventional thinking.


We still do not realize that the scientific method is also based on beliefs, not so different, though less evident, than religious ones. Above all, the belief that there is a reality that it is possible to observe impartially and by parts. Impartiality is impossible, not because of ethics or intentions, but because everything is one, everything is intertwined. What's observed always has to do with the observer, because in reality they are one and the same. Moreover, as long as the observation is incomplete (there is a part of the Whole left out), the conclusions will never be absolute or permanent, and in fact sooner or later the predictions will cease to be accurate. They cease to be accurate especially when we broaden the perspective, looking at the interrelation of more aspects at a time (for example, when looking at the long term).



While it is true that scientific knowledge and its predictions work, and that allows us to have an abundance of positive technologies working, it is worth asking:


(1) To what extent are we creators of that reality because we believe in it? After all we are one with everything we observe.


(2) Second, to what extent can we be sure that technologies work, what if we dig deeper? For example, with all the time-saving technologies we have created, do we have more or less free time today than before we created them? Another example, after centuries of medical research and winning countless battles against enemies of our health, such as pathogens through antibiotics, antivirals, and vaccines: is human health today strong and resilient, or rather increasingly vulnerable and dependent?


And (3), might it not be worth re-evaluating some of these beliefs?





The word science comes from the Latin Scire, which means to know, a word that in turn is associated with the root skei, which means to cut, split, divide. The scientific method is a method of knowing, which is based on separating.


Interesting that from the beginning we associated knowing with separating. We probably understood that to learn something about what we observe we need to separate it from the Everything that surrounds it. We also saw that we could learn a lot about the observed if we split it into parts of itself. By focusing our vision on "the observed" as a delimited object to be observed, we are already shrinking the phenomenon of life.


Deep down, separating is not a process that occurs "outside", but a way of reasoning. The phenomenon of separating occurs before. In the "outside" realm, we can change from "separated" opinions to "non-separated" opinions without ceasing to reason separately. Similarly, it is possible to reason about circularity in a completely linear way.


Separation, not only as a scientific method but as a collective neuronal arrangement for reasoning, is equivalent to dual thinking (good/bad, right/wrong, side A/side B). Separation and duality are in turn equivalent to linear thinking. Geometrically, a line connects two points, A and B; and so linear is equivalent to dual.


This is not to say that the separate way of learning and knowing is bad or wrong (to say that would be separate in itself). The only possible non-dual thinking, then, must embrace all separate knowledge and all separate views.


But it is important to say this: Separating is not the only method of learning. Nor is separation the only way to know.

I do not believe that proposing the holistic vision is the solution to the human, environmental and economic collapse we are facing. While it is true that I have thought so (if only everyone would listen to me), at the same time I realize how absurd and futile it is to promote it.


I don't really say what I am saying with the expectation of solving something. I say it because I want to be heard, because I want my point of view to be legitimate and not excluded. I think this is much more valuable than having "the solution": the fact that mine and all voices are heard, legitimized, accepted. That is the real treasure.



The shelter of the soul


What is truth? What is the idea of truth? It can be said that it matters a lot to us. Nowadays it is common to say that "each person has her truth". Although as I argued before, saying this is not the same as respecting from the heart: giving sincere permission to the truth of another person. Perhaps we began to say it out of weariness, and not so much out of a heartfelt feeling, after centuries and millennia of fighting to convince one another of the truth.