Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 work “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” revealed why we should not confuse scientists with science.
“Attacks on me are, quite frankly, attacks on science,” said Anthony Fauci to widespread ridicule or approval, depending upon which side you are on. If you doubt his judgment personally, you must not believe in “the science.” Fauci went on to claim that all of the “things he’s talked about” were “fundamentally based on science.”
Let’s put the weasel words aside and recognize that what he wants you to believe – that all his official policy recommendations (“all the things I’ve talked about”) were firmly proven effective through application of the scientific method – is demonstrably false. The most rigorous, most scientific studies show precisely the opposite.
Fauci was a proponent of what has become to be known as “lockdowns,” the widespread closure of businesses and/or stay-at-home orders for the general population. Dozens of studies show this had no demonstrable effect on the spread of Covid-19. As one after another came out, Fauci went on talking about lockdowns as if this evidence did not exist.
Now, there are studies being conducted every day on this or that aspect of Covid-19 and I’m sure Fauci and his supporters can produce links to some that support lockdowns. While there are no absolutes, here is a general observation: the most scientific studies – the randomized controlled trial studies with large sample sizes measuring results in the real world – tend to point towards the inefficacy of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). NPIs include (anti)social distancing, masks, and lockdowns.
Less scientific studies – those with small sample sizes or based on laboratory experiments rather than experience in the real world – tend to point towards efficacy. Remember the experiment on mannequins wearing masks? You get the picture.
Let’s not forget that early in 2020 Fauci said a study based on a single case of asymptomatic spread of Covid-19 “lays the question to rest.” And guess what? It turned out the patient documented in the case had never been asked if she had symptoms. When it turned out she was symptomatic at the time of transmission, the study was unpublished. Subsequent studies failed to prove asymptomatic spread was significant. A December 2020 study looking at secondary attack rates within the same household – published right on the NIH (Fauci’s agency) website – says it’s miniscule if it exists at all.
Yet, Fauci goes on talking as if this study doesn’t exist. He has no choice. Without asymptomatic spread, there is no justification for lockdowns or mandating masks for asymptomatic people.
On a rare occasion where the largely useless national media confronted Fauci with a question about how Texas could be doing so well four weeks after abandoning all Covid restrictions, he had no answer. “Maybe they’re doing more outside,” he mused. Then, he went on recommending the same policies as if the question had never been posed.
Fauci wasn’t alone. When White House coronavirus advisor Anthony Slavitt was asked why locked down and masked California and restriction-free Florida were having similar results in terms of Covid spread, he began his answer with perhaps the only honest words that have escaped a public health official’s mouth: “There is so much of this virus that we think we understand, that we think we can predict, that is just a little bit beyond our explanation.” But then, in literally the same breath, he said we do know masking and social distancing work.
Now, you don’t have to be a trained journalist for the obvious follow-up question to occur to you: “No, Mr. Slavitt, the question I just posed to you suggests we don’t know masking and social distancing work because we are seeing equivalent results in states that are and are not following those policies.”
Of course, that follow-up was not put to Slavitt. And you really have to ask yourself why.
The Problem With Blindly Trusting “The Science”
The failure of scientists to be scientific is not a new phenomenon. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) dealt directly with the tendency of scientists to reject evidence that contradicts the prevailing theory or “paradigm.”
“Part of the answer, as obvious as it is important,” wrote Kuhn, a Harvard educated philosopher of science, “can be discovered by noting first what scientists never do when confronted by even severe and prolonged anomalies. Though they may begin to lose faith and then to consider alternatives, they do not renounce the paradigm that has led them into crisis.”
Kuhn’s overall thesis challenged the prevailing understanding at the time that science proceeds in a linear fashion, with new discoveries incrementally adding to the accumulated knowledge that preceded them. Instead, argued Kuhn, science throughout history has featured a series of revolutions, where paradigms like the geocentric theory of the solar system or Newtonian physics collapsed under the weight of “anomalies” (evidence which contradicted the theory) and made way for new paradigms like the heliocentric theory of the solar system and Einsteinian physics.
There is much nuance in Kuhn’s argument which his critics have tended to ignore, but one takeaway that we’re seeing proved in real time is that these scientific revolutions are only revolutionary because of the tendency for scientists to cling to a theory regardless of evidence that refutes it. Kuhn argues that scientists will not abandon a disproven theory until a new theory is presented that they are convinced explains the evidence better than the old.
What makes the New Normal so strange is that a scientific revolution occurred with no anomalies. It was firmly established by a century of scientific research that suggested nonpharmaceutical interventions weren’t effective in combating respiratory viruses. Indeed, Fauci himself initially repeated the established scientific consensus that lockdowns and mask mandates were not effective policy responses. He even discouraged people from voluntarily wearing masks.
Then, he and the rest of the government scientists did a complete about face. There was no new evidence that motivated this. They simply abandoned the prevailing scientific consensus based on a desire to do something – even though the scientific evidence before, during, and after the outbreak of Covid-19 said what they wanted to do wouldn’t work. As a result, there is now a New Normal paradigm based on…nothing.
It should be noted that there were plenty of non-government scientists protesting vehemently right from the beginning. The authors of the Great Barrington Declaration were already loudly protesting lockdowns as early as April 2020. Others contested asymptomatic spread, the mortality rate initially reported (they were right), and the efficacy of masks.
Here is the problem. This New Normal paradigm can’t collapse in the face of anomalies, no matter how numerous they are, because the anomalies are now simply ignored. Anyone who calls attention to them, no matter how credentialed or qualified, is systematically discredited.
In such an environment, unsubstantiated assertions like “Covid-19 spreads asymptomatically” and “lockdowns and mask mandates work” continue to form the basis of policy. The same goes for vaccine mandates.
The Price of Obedience
It’s not that evidence against New Normal science can no longer be found. Much of it is available right on the websites of the government agencies denying it. It is simply a matter of saying “no” when governments and media demand you refuse to believe your lying eyes and obey.
Obedience has a price. We will be feeling the economic effects of lockdowns for many years. An entire generation of children will suffer psychological damage from being forced to wear masks during their most formative years. The damage to society as a whole from lockdowns, mask mandates, and (anti)social distancing policies may be immeasurable.
Neither can you simply go along to get along until things “get back to normal.” If and when the COVID Crisis finally ends, there is a Climate Crisis already teed up to begin as surely as night follows day. It will feature the same breathless media propaganda and ignoring of contrary evidence as did the COVID Crisis. The cost this time will be a significantly and permanently lower standard of living for you and your children.
That’s the price of obedience. Are you willing to pay it?
Tom Mullen hosts the Tom Mullen Talks Freedom podcast and is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. His podcast episodes and writing can be found at www.tommullentalksfreedom.com.
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