First — Happy Yule, to any heathens or divers other pagans who stumble across this blog. Today is Sunna’s day, and may we appreciate her all the more on this shortest of days.
Now on to the post.
Sometimes I think the overall purpose of this blog gets lost in the details of this or that issue I write about. Am I just ranting for the sake of being controversial? Am I some kind of masochistic freak who enjoys hate mail? Well, maybe. But the above-board reason I write this thing — or at least, the reason I continue to write this thing seven years after its creation — is an abiding concern to do my part to preserve public trust in science and scientists. The Great Awokening, beginning I think in 2014, carried with it a wide variety of claims that, while completely political in nature, justified themselves in the language of science. Because nearly every word of these “scientific” justifications was blatantly and obviously false — there are not more than two genders, there are important biological differences amongst sexes and races, climate change is not an “existential crisis”, etc — they run the risk of eroding public trust in science as an institution if actual scientists are not seen to push back against them. But of course most of my colleagues are either collaborators or cowards, so almost no one pushes back, creating an ever-greater moral imperative on those of us who are not collaborators or cowards to do something. So I do what I can, with my limited audience, to push the needle back toward objectivity and sanity.
I worry, especially, that the bullshit surrounding the coronavirus vaccines is the “straw that broke the camel’s back” re: public opinion toward science. As recently as the late 2010s scientists and the military still held relatively high levels of bipartisan support from the public, at least in comparison to previously cordycepted professions like journalism, education, and economics. But in the wake of the “pandemic” even these two august institutions have suffered in the public eye. David Cole, in this piece released today over at Taki’s Mag, lays out the problem pretty well:
A Yahoo News article last week detailed how Americans have become “exhausted” and “shell-shocked” by endless contradictory and sometimes flat-out wrong Covid directives and predictions by scientists. Back in February, a Pew poll found that fewer than two-in-ten U.S. adults believe that scientists are transparent about conflicts of interest, and only one-in-ten believe that “scientists admit their mistakes and take responsibility for them all or most of the time.”
So, less than 20% of poll respondents believe that scientists, you know, do science, because being willing to change one’s position in light of new evidence — i.e., admit one’s previous mistakes and abandon pet theories — is at the core of ethical scientific practice. Cole continues:
The public’s relationship with science should, ideally, be governed by what’s known as “good-faith skepticism.” It’s an assumption going in that scientists are not trying to do harm, and indeed, most sincerely want to do good. But, under certain conditions, be it human error, avarice, political pressure, or competition for grants, even people with decent intentions can foul up.
Good-faith skepticism regarding scientists is vital for a healthy society. It’s a balance: Should it tip too far in one direction (mindless gullibility and acceptance of everything a lab-coater tells you) or the other (automatic dismissal of science as a field and scientists as “Tuskegee Frankensteins”), it’s bad news. And two years of Covid have brought nothin’ but bad news, with some leftists coming to view scientists as gods, and some rightists coming to view them as Mengeles.
The “politician/scientist alliance” (typified by the Democrats and Fauci) has done much to encourage both extremes, exhorting the left to lionize lab-coaters (Fauci literally declaring, “I am science”), and taunting the right with a stubborn refusal to admit errors and uncertainties.
Cole’s term “the politician/scientist alliance” is, I think, incredibly apt. Politics is an innately corrupting force, and to the degree that it intersects with any field, it will corrupt that field. The Founders’ purpose in “separating church and state” was not to protect the state from the church, but the other way around — to shield the sacred from the corrupting influence of the politician — because nothing encourages atheism more than a political priest, and by the same token, nothing encourages blanket skepticism like a politicized scientist.
Cole calls this blanket skepticism “Bad-faith skepticism” — as in, the observer no longer gives the benefit of the doubt to the scientist that he/she is being honest about data. This is surely justified today, as “health authorities” refuse to acknowledge exculpatory evidence regarding vaccine skepticism, refuse to present data contrary to their political positions, and obfuscate about published research that contradicts the talking points they have been told to publicly support. Cole concludes:
Science is merely a discipline. But it’s an essential discipline for any civilized nation. The exploitation of science by the likes of Fauci, Soros, and the Democrats, and the resulting evaporation of trust in science among large sectors of the public, is not beneficial.
It’ll boomerang back on the Dems, and that’s good. But it’ll also harm the nation…and that isn’t.
So true — which is likely to kill more people, SARS-2 or 50% of the population losing faith in doctors and scientists? Was the real problem with the Tuskegee experiment that it hurt a handful of Alabama blacks directly, or that it indirectly led to nearly all African-Americans losing trust in medicine, for generations? My goal with this blog is to very publicly demonstrate that not everyone in academic science is a political goon, and to attempt, with what little power I have, to maintain the conditions to salvage our discipline after our current cold civil war is over.
In both of the last two semesters, I’ve included one lecture per course critical of coronavirus orthodoxy. In the spring, I had my microbiology students read a peer-reviewed manuscript in a well-regarded journal laying out the case that SARS-COV-2 was a product of genetic engineering. I was quite nervous giving this lecture, but amusingly before the semester had even ended, fellow cancelled science writer Nicholas Wade had written a very thorough article laying out the case with even more evidence, and my “controversial” position had become commonly accepted as true. This past semester I had my students read the article by Kennedy and Read mentioned in this earlier blog post: briefly, a 2017 review/hypothesis article focusing on why vaccines usually work for a long time, and what causes them to sometimes fail. In short, the few human vaccines to have conspicuously failed in the past all have characteristics similar to the SARS-2 vaccines, and one predicts that those, too, will fail, as evidenced by massive amounts of evidence from around the world that vaccinated and unvaccinated people get infected at the same rate and transmit the virus at the same rate. While this certainly hasn’t become commonly accepted at this point, situations like this suggest that the dam is breaking and the reality that the vaccine has become useless less than a year after its introduction will be undeniable. BUT REGARDLESS, the point behind taking the risk of some kool-aid drunk leftist student trying to cancel me again is the necessity that students see some evidence during their time in university that science still works, at least a little bit, with the hope that it will preserve some kernel of good faith skepticism in them in later life, since most of them will (hopefully) outlive the crisis the US is going through.
The alternative is a dark age, which we know is a possibility after the collapse of an empire. My role is small, but like Aetius at the Catalaunian Plains, all I can do is try.