Becker: Fear amongst the general population has historically led to disastrous consequences
President Biden delivered a divisive speech on September 9th when he underscored and even encouraged the division we already see in America. He said, “For the vast majority of you who have gotten vaccinated, I understand your anger at those who haven’t gotten vaccinated.” Anger. Because another human being hasn’t made the choice someone else wants, based on the dubious belief that it affects them. Such anger, based in fear, is usually expressed as a variation of accusing someone of “not listening to the science”. Let’s discuss that argument. I have two concerns, the first of which is the premise of the statement itself, the second of which is what is meant by “science”.
As to the premise, these statements are usually made with overwhelming emotion. This is likely because they have been marinating in fear, constantly stoked for the last 18 months. As such, it may be more accurate if they were to say, “You aren’t listening to the fear.” Moreover, this argument is almost always faulty. Faulty arguments are called logical fallacies, and this particular one is called “an Appeal to Authority”. It means we ought to believe the argument because it is stated by someone in a position of authority, rather than because of the actual merit of the argument. In other words, they are not asking you to listen to the science. Instead, they are asking you to listen to Dr. Fauci, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), public health officials, and physicians. “Who do you think you are”, they say, “to have an opinion different from these authorities?” But what are we to think when Dr. Fauci contradicts himself, when the WHO contradicts the CDC, when Swedish epidemiologists contradict U.S. epidemiologists, or when Israeli health officials contradict British health officials?
If the accusers were following the science rather than following the authorities, these situations would give them pause to reflect on their positions, to review the data, and to realize that they may need to change their position (just as we need to be willing to change our counter-position). Instead, they choose their “science”. They agree with the WHO unless the WHO disagrees with the CDC. They listen to Israel when vaccines were mandated, but disagree with Israel when they now show loss of vaccine effectiveness at six months. They hold Sweden as an example of what not to do when their numbers begin to look bad, but ignore Sweden when their numbers turn out to be quite good. The accusers are not asking us to follow the science, because they rarely understand the science. Instead, they are asking us to follow authorities, and not just any authorities; only the ones that espouse the accepted narrative.
As to my second concern: what is science? It’s not really a noun, although it is commonly used to refer to a body of knowledge achieved by observation and investigation. Truly though, science is a process of discovery more than it is a set of facts. That process is called the Scientific Method. It involves having a hypothesis or “belief”, and it must be able to be tested and proven false if it is false, or repeatedly shown to be true if it is true. Challenging a hypothesis, or the results of a test or study serves to either show the results to be false, or girds the validity of the results to be true. In either case, it is always necessary and helpful to the scientific process to question and challenge. It is the very essence of what science is. Data that we are directed to believe without question is not science, it is propaganda. Isn’t it ironic that we who question the dictums are truly “following the science”, while those that demand, “You must follow the science” are being tenaciously anti-science?
There is so much more to say about the science of COVID, but I will end with this: Respect people's decisions to do what they believe is best for them. When it comes to coercion to do something you personally don’t believe you should do, understand that this is based in fear. Although we ought to try to be empathetic to those that are fearful, we must also remember that fear is a very strong and destructive emotion. Fear amongst the general population has historically led to disastrous consequences. I believe fear has led us to a precipice. We must stand for freedom over fear while we still are able.