It doesn’t matter that you’re not an epidemiologist – if you darn well want to, you can have an opinion about COVID and the lockdowns and the mask mandates. You are a reasoning being. You have the ability to interpret ideas. It’s not incumbent upon you to simply swallow everything a person tells you simply because they have credentials.
Now I’ll launch the proverbial pre-emptive strike against those who would charge me with encouraging ignorance. Of course, someone’s credentials should be taken into account when evaluating a position. But the letters by someone’s name is not the only thing to consider.
Naturally, the lockdowners and social distance warriors are aware that this nuanced way of thinking exists, or at least they are when thinking about other topics that are not so politically fiery. They simply choose not to employ the nuance when evaluating people who advocate what they believe.
If a random blue checkmark, without an epidemiology degree, Tweets some soul-crushing banality like, “I saw so many people in town today. Please, guys, think of someone other than yourself,” there’s an automatic avalanche of likes and shares. Yet there isn’t anybody in the replies saying, “I don’t see any epidemiology degree in your bio, I guess you left it out?”
This is strange, since having their lack of scientific credentials pointed out is exactly what anybody gets if they express scepticism of government virus mitigation measures. Anybody with a public following who questions the need for further disruption of healthy life in the name of health will invite an army of these twerps in their mentions bleating, “Don’t listen to this person, he is not a scientist! Trust the science!” Yet not a peep from the NPCs when a similarly non-credentialed person Tweets something they agree with. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?
In all sincerity, what entitles non-epidemiologist A above non-epidemiologist B to tell us what to do? It cannot be, as they might say, that the pro-lockdown Tweeter simply listens to the science more than the other guy. This is just vulgar scientism. Especially when we’re talking about the impossibly hard-working Alex Berenson, the brave Jeffrey Tucker, the man of saintly patience Phil Magness, and the principled to the bone Tom Woods – these folks are almost religious in their willingness to look at the science, and not cherry-picking either.
These gentlemen put on their green hats, painting a wider, more nuanced and qualified picture that we don’t get from lockdowner central. Mr Berenson and company are all promoters of the Great Barrington Declaration, a group of scientists, yes scientists, who reject the need for widespread lockdowns, instead arguing for focused protection whilst allowing the rest of society to function. They cite Martin Kulldorff from Harvard and other infectious disease specialists. They back up their claims with studies. Is this the kind of thing that science-deniers do?
Any dissenters will be hurled with the lazy strawman term “COVID denialist.” If they aren’t, then they get accused of motivated reasoning. Which is at least getting somewhere. Then at least the debate is around interpretation of the data, rather than pushing this idea that there are the believers in science and reason on one side, and those who want to throw all scientists in a ditch on the other.
Once and for all can we dispense with this notion that scientists alone can make reasoned arguments for or against public health policy? Firstly, let’s be honest, nobody actually believes this. As I’ve been hinting, scientifically unqualified people fear no backlash in arguing for the lockdowns. Then, consider that scientists are not necessarily capable of promoting their own views in a way that’s digestible by the public – that’s why we have journalists and pundits, the interpreters of interpretations, to put the science in language that us knaves can understand.
Then further still, that scientific knowledge needs to be put into context with other public considerations – political, economic, sociological, moral, religious, etc. It makes the whole thing bloody complicated. Within the larger scope of interpretation, there will be disagreement. This is inevitable, especially since scientists don’t always agree with each other.
The people chirping “Trust the science!” must know this, so it must be wilful disinformation.
I appreciate Tom Woods’ arranging the podcast debate with the aforementioned Professor Kulldorff and Professor Eric Topol on this lockdown-or-not topic. I haven’t listened to it yet, but by all accounts it was a respectful and reasoned discussion. To quote the old sax player from The Commitments, “Well, it’s a start. And I’m a great believer in starts.” I do understand that in 2021, arguing for disagreement couched in a civilised manner is tilting at windmills slightly, but whatever, call me an optimist.
Latest posts by James Smith (see all)
- A Year and a Half in Communist China – Opting Out - February 18, 2021
- What Is A Libertarian? – Opting Out - February 11, 2021
- When Leftists Are Better Than Libertarians – Opting Out - January 28, 2021