The biggest impediment to containing Ebola in Congo is not its contagiousness, but suspicion of the state and of aid personnel… The international responders aggravated the community’s distrust by interpreting reluctance to follow rules about safe burials and patient isolation as a lack of understanding of public health that required reeducation. In fact, the reluctance reflected an understandable lack of enthusiasm for practices that required total separation from loved ones during their illness, denial of human touch at the point of death, and the abandonment of traditional funeral rites, which are of central importance to social and cultural life.
The samples contained a surprise: huge amounts of iridium, so much that it would have taken tens or hundreds of millions of years to deposit at background rates. What could explain it? The Alvarezes came to a radical conclusion: the high concentration of iridium in the band must have come from outer space, and it must have been delivered in bulk by a colossal asteroid strike – an event destructive enough to have triggered the end-Cretaceous extinction. The iridium-rich clay band at Gubbio was the shroud of dust and debris that had eventually settled on a devastated world.
‘Mill believed that even when you know something, defending your argument against sceptics will heighten the justification for your belief,’ Srinivasan explains. ‘I think the opposite can happen, particularly in cases where there’s deep practical disagreement coupled with power differentials.’ She gives the case of a black person who has knowledge that the cops in his town are racist in virtue of his interactions with them but, when pushed by a sceptic, is unable to counter every argument with which he is presented. Srinivasan thinks such a person is ‘at risk of losing his knowledge’, not because his evidence is defeated or he loses his justification, but because he might feel psychologically that he needs to give up his view.