The Lag Time between Knowing and Doing
The post is meant to round out two other recent posts by the popular Substack icons, Robert Malone and John Leake. Dr. Malone cites the tobacco industry as being a watershed moment when science got distorted, while Mr. Leake connects the dots showing why solving problems is mostly not desired, due to not being as profitable.
If you tried to stop an addict with a single conversation, then you might say:
“I’d like for you to admit that there is a problem and to commit to stopping your flagrant abuse of the mood-and-mind-altering substance, [insert drug here].
Is that too much to ask?”
The response from the addict may turn out to be something along the lines of:
“I do see why you might say that, and I admit that it could turn into a problem for me, but I do plan on stopping, at least at some point in time.
Just … not … now.”
As can be gleaned from this hypothetical interchange with an addict, it is possible for someone to know about a problem before they become willing to do something about that problem.
The longest gap between knowing and doing
While in ancient times, truth was avoided for centuries, in modern times, the award for the longest time of the phenomenon of “known-problem-but-unwilling-to-fix-it” likely goes to Socialism/Communism, as it has been known to be bad for you ever since Mises demonstrated it to be an impossible economic system in 1920.
Here we are, 104 years later, and majorities of people still seem complacent to allow their politicians to push for it. But knowing the truth and acting on the truth require different virtues. Intellectual curiosity, intellectual honesty, and disciplined persistence are all that is required to know the truth of something.
But acting on the truth requires recognizing perverse incentives which act against you, and then having the courage and the prudence and the patience to attempt to overcome them in a comprehensive process which might take years to resolve.
The hallmark early-example in modern history
In 1848, Ignaz Semmelweiss, working as an obstetrician, discovered that washing your hands between surgeries, autopsies, and childbirths led to a dramatic decrease in childbed (puerperal) fever in the expecting mothers. His supervisor, critical of Semmelweiss’ advocacy for hand-washing, dismissed him the following year.
Even 17 years later, his peers tricked him into getting admitted to a mental hospital. The medical profession — faced with irrefutable evidence — had failed to incorporate the new knowledge of how hand-washing reduces infections. Those decades where the truth was known, but not acted upon, are explained by mere arrogance.
Honorable Mention: Asbestos
Asbestos is profitable for industry because it is such a good insulator. But back in 1924, it had become known to create fibrosis of the lungs:
Pay particular attention to the wording in the first sentence: “definitely proved.”
This led insurance companies to stop selling insurance to asbestos workers in the 1920s, because the asbestos workers collected insurance benefits so much (because of being so sick) that it was unprofitable to sell to them.
But in 139 nations, the median year for a ban on using asbestos was 2017 — almost 100 years after it had become known that asbestos causes lung disease.
Concerns over the lead in gasoline began in the 1920s, but in 75 nations, the median year for a ban on leaded gasoline was 2000 — almost 80 years after it was suspected (and at least 25 years after it was fully known) — that lead is highly toxic.
“Cancer Villages” in China
In the 1970s, evidence began coming in that villages near industrial sites in China had begun to see higher cancer rates. It wasn’t until 2013 — about 40 years later — that China admitted the problem officially though.
Rachel Carson wrote the book, Silent Spring, in 1962, decrying the use of the pesticide, DDT. Because DDT persists in the environment, it can bioaccumulate throughout the food chain. But it wasn’t until 2001 — 39 years later — when there was a worldwide ban of DDT in agriculture.
In most cases, the reason that nations are slow to act on known dangers is corruption. A recent example is the FDA attempting to impose a 75-year waiting period before the safety data of Pfizer COVID shots gets released to the public.
That is an instance of regulatory corruption. These examples show that it can take 40 to 80 years before the truth is acted upon — after it has been recognized. Ironically, recognizing a problem is all that this post, on its own, accomplishes:
This post recognizes a “delay problem” in acting on recognized problems.
But it is still a necessary first step to get it out into the open. Then we can strategize as to how to circumvent the ~40-80 year delay between knowing and doing.
[Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Ignaz Semmelweiss] — Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ignaz-Semmelweis
[asbestos known to harm the lung by 1924] — Cooke WE. FIBROSIS OF THE LUNGS DUE TO THE INHALATION OF ASBESTOS DUST. Br Med J. 1924 Jul 26;2(3317):147-140.2. doi: 10.1136/bmj.2.3317.147. PMID: 20771679; PMCID: PMC2304688. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20771679/
[leaded gas, cancer villages, and DDT] — Coad, Alexander & Biggi, Gianluca & Giuliani, Elisa. (2019). Asbestos, leaded petrol, and other aberrations: Comparing countries’ regulatory responses to disapproved products and technologies. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344267272_Asbestos_leaded_petrol_and_other_aberrations_Comparing_countries%27_regulatory_responses_to_disapproved_products_and_technologies
[corruption at the FDA] — Judge scraps 75-year FDA timeline to release Pfizer vaccine safety data, giving agency eight months. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/healthcare/judge-scraps-75-year-timeline-for-fda-to-release-pfizer-vaccine-safety-data-giving-agency-eight-months