Did a Dean Koontz novel really predict the COVID-19 outbreak?
Conspiracy theories abound when a netizen uploaded a page of Koontz’s The Eyes of Darkness, released 1981, that supposedly “predicts” the existence of COVID-19.
The virus in question is called Wuhan-400, named after its place of origin — it’s supposedly bioweapon created in labs outside of Wuhan — and it is the 400th strain created in the research center.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
DNX downloaded a copy of the novel to ascertain the veracity of the theories and here are what we have found.
Other than the place of origin, there is nothing in common between Wuhan-400 and COVID-19. In fact, Wuhan-400 is described to attack the brain stem; COVID-19 on the other hand attacks the respiratory system, particularly the lungs.
The fictional Wuhan-400 also has the following behaviors:
- those exposed become infectious carrier only four hours after coming into contact with the virus,
- is worse than the Ebola virus with a kill rate of 100 percent.
The virus does the following:
- migrates to the brain stem,
- secretes a toxin that “literally eats away brain tissue like battery acid dissolving cheesecloth”,
- destroys the part of the brain that controls all of the body’s automatic functions.
In the end, “the victim simply ceases to have a pulse, functioning organs, or any urge to breathe.”
In other words, Koontz described an entirely different disease.
BARNUM, COGNITIVE BIAS AND GULLIBILITY
So why do people readily believe in conspiracy theories?
In Psychology, there is a phenomenon called cognitive bias, where how we frame information deviates from rational objectivity and affects our decisions.
This is the same phenomenon that explains how otherwise rational people believe in the horoscope and in fortune-tellers.
Michael Gearon, in his article Cognitive Biases — The Barnum Effect, cites what is known in Psychology as the Barnum Effect, named after the ringmaster who was believed to have said: “A sucker is born every minute.”
It is also known as the Forer Effect, named after Professor Bertram R. Forer who conducted an experiment on his students. His students were told that they were given a personality test, whose responses were then analyzed with personalized results.
The truth was, there were no personalized results. What he gave were vague motherhood statements, broad assessments that could apply to anyone.
Surprisingly, the students gave his results a high accuracy rating.
This explains a lot about human behavior, where we tend to apply vague statements in personality quizzes and horoscopes on a more personal level.
THE COVID-19/Wuhan-400 CONSPIRACY
The same type of cognitive bias applies to conspiracy theories surrounding the fictional Wuhan-400.
Believers of the conspiracy only looked at the place of origin (which could be explained as nothing more than coincidence) and immediately claim that Koontz could have unwittingly predicted the virus.
What were not taken into account were the characteristics and behavior of the virus, which were written in detail on the succeeding page.
Had readers bothered to read the other pages, they would realize that outright that there are more differences than similarities.