Last Monday, the comic-strip cat Garfield announced, “I’m a rule follower. Rule number one… The rules don’t apply to me.” That’s funny—in a cartoon. In real life, nonsense. That morning, a Garfield wannabe nearly killed me. 

I was crossing the street at Lake and Arguello when a red sedan sped through a red light and made a right turn in front of me. The driver had no use for traffic laws and the common sense behind them. (Disclosure: Ever alert, I heard him coming in time.)

If the driver was experiencing an emergency, he at least could have honked his horn and flashed his blinkers. That would have provided fair warning to other drivers and pedestrians. But Garfield behind the wheel exhibited a clear disregard for other people.

Oh, and where was I walking? To my urologist’s office for a routine follow-up regarding my prostate cancer and treatment several years ago. For the record, my PSA, which disclosing a protein indicating possible cancer, was again undetectable.

A connection exists among the driver, my urologist visit and our present COVID-19 crisis.

For starters, the driver ignored common sense. He didn’t give a damn about anyone but himself.

Continuing: Most people refusing vaccination also defy common sense. They not only expose themselves to COVID but also risk exposing others. They offer a variety of rationales, generally based on a distrust of science. Alternatives? At best—or worst—they offer quackery. 

The FDA, CDC, National Institutes of Health and medical scientists—Dr. Anthony Fauci only one among many—study the data. Importantly, they’re qualified to do so. Sure, every individual is entitled to read up on, and listen to, analyses of the latest valid science. That’s a personal duty. But one has to begin with the concept that science and scientists make a difference.

Sadly, distrust of expertise represents a political stance. It’s expressed more by people less-educated, highly conservative. Such anti-science views tend to be fatal. Roughly 90 percent of current COVID deaths occur among the non-vaccinated.

Healthy skepticism has a role to play in our lives. Sometimes, however, it crosses from one discipline to another and serves us poorly. Richard Hanania, president of the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, and a research fellow at Defense Priorities, wrote an interesting opinion piece in last Monday’s New York Times: “’Just Trust the Experts,’ We’re Told. We Shouldn’t.” 

Read past the headline. Hanania wasn’t commenting on vaccines but on Afghanistan. His view: Many geopolitical “experts” had no way to predict the outcome of that war. Agreed.

Subjective views drive foreign policy. You can disagree with geopolitical mavens while accepting objective scientific conclusions—and understanding that science often changes conclusions when presented with new data. 

I’m alive today—or at least not suffering the ravages of prostate cancer which, treated late, will kill 34,000 American men this year—because I trust the medical experts. And yes, diagnoses can be wrong. I questioned my urologist, did my reading, consulted with Carolyn and came up with the best course of action for me.  

I find no problem accepting advice from those who know more than I do—about science or safe driving and safe walking. Wider use of common sense could make individuals— and our nation—a lot healthier. 

Order my new novel 2084 in softcover or e-book from or your favorite bookstore.

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  1. David Newman on September 24, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    The problem with “common sense” is that it is not very common and frequently not very sensical. What we call “common sense” is the inferences we draw about a situation based on our own accumulated knowledge and experience. You can’t apply common sense to something that is totally outside of your knowledge or experience. For example, I am reading Richard Rhodes’ excellent chronicle of the creation of the atomic bomb. Most of the physics in the book is totally unsusceptible to “common sense” because it is completely outside most readers’ knowledge and experience.

    Moreover, our “common sense” is filtered through a set of unconscious biases that lie deep in our lizard brains. There is a ton of recent research in the field of behavioral economics that shows that we are predisposed by evolution to be risk averse, but that we routinely evaluate risks very badly. Thus, after 9/11, “common sense” dictated that we be very afraid of Islamic terrorists, but there were more people killed in auto accidents in most months in 2001 than were killed in the bombings.

    There is a lot to be said for eschewing common sense in favor of actual thinking. That requires the intellectual humility to recognize what we lack the experience and knowledge to understand and, therefore, when we need to rely on the expertise of people — like your urologist or Dr. Fauci — who actually do know what they’re talking about..

    • David Perlstein on September 24, 2021 at 1:09 pm

      Very interesting, David. Yet common sense tells me to respect other people when I drive. Or weigh Dr. Fauci’s comments—or my urologists’—more heavily than some quack with an ideological axe to grind. So our views of common sense may be a bit different, but this appears to be academic. I’ll leave it to the context of this post to help readers sort things out.

  2. Zoe on September 24, 2021 at 11:45 pm

    Congrats, David on your medical report. Love, Zoe

    • David Perlstein on September 25, 2021 at 7:56 am

      Thanks, Zoe. If some people realized that they have a role in safeguarding other people’s lives, I’d feel even better.

  3. Sandy Lipkowitz on September 25, 2021 at 9:16 am

    The anger I have towards anti vaccinators is beyond. They have not only damaged and/or killed thousands of innocent people, but has tanked our economy as well. People are facing evictions, worrying about the next meal etc.

    Great that you continue to be cancer free.

    • David Perlstein on September 25, 2021 at 11:49 am

      Thanks, Sandy. It is one thing to not care about yourself. It is quite another to be willing to put others at risk.

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