comScore Dear News Media: Being Skeptical of Science ‘Experts’ is Not ‘Anti-Science’

Dear News Media: Being Skeptical of Science ‘Experts’ is Not ‘Anti-Science’

Of all the many frustrating aspects of being an anti-Trump conservative, none has been more maddening than being reflexively labeled as “anti-science” because of what the former president has done to the “conservative” brand. Somehow during the pandemic, being skeptical of edicts from scientific or medical “experts” has been successfully equated in the liberal news media to being inherently “anti-science,” when, in reality, such cynicism is not only greatly warranted by the facts of this situation, but has always been, at least until March of 2020, an essential element of the scientific method.

Ironically, at the start of the pandemic, “conservatives” were slow to express skepticism towards the scientific “consensus” because Trump was seen as being mostly on board with the unprecedented restrictive measures which we were being told by the experts were necessary to save millions of lives. Also, there was not nearly enough data at the time to substantively justify a strong contrarian position, and almost no one dares to be seen, especially in these hyper-sensitive times, as being “pro-death.”

Consequently, the media narrative here has been embedded in the almost religious belief that the experts are not be questioned and that there is only one side to this story. This led to major social media platforms engaging in overt censorship of even “qualified” people to question whether what we were being forced to do made real scientific sense.

Even the modern history of science and medicine is replete with significant examples of how the experts were very wrong and where the contrarian position turned out to be correct, especially in circumstances where panic and politics played important roles. For context, this is a particularly sore point for me, as my grandfather was noteworthy “rocket scientist” who was once ridiculed by the “experts” for correctly insisting that our fledgling satellite program needed to be powered by solar panels.

There are two basic reasons why blindly following the public policy recommendations of science and medical experts is dangerous and misguided. Being human beings, they can be wrong, and are influenced by personal — often well-intended — conflicts of interest that make them particularly poorly designed for being given nearly unlimited power to impact the lives of people in what was once a country founded in freedom and liberty.

There is no better example of this reality than the now super-famous Dr. Anthony Fauci, who quickly became a media darling of epic proportions, and whose every whim for the last year has been treated as if they arrived on stone tablets presented by Moses returning from a mountain top. Now that we have a year of information from which to evaluate him on Covid (it is interesting to note that as early as 1988, and as late as 2014 many of his current fans on the left saw Fauci as a shameless self-promoter who had performed poorly during the AIDS epidemic), here is a list of a dozen different topics on which Fauci has either admitted he was wrong by dramatically changing his position, or where the facts make it clear that his assessments were flawed.

  1. He originally told us emphatically that asymptomatic spread is not a driver of pandemics
  2. He said just over a year ago that the risk of the coronavirus in the United States was “minuscule”
  3. Exactly one year ago, he mocked the effectiveness of masks against a virus on 60 Minutes, and then months later, after masks became widespread, laughably claimed that he lied to protect supply
  4. He dramatically proclaimed that the drug Remdesivir was the “standard for care” of Covid, but just a few months later the WHO found that it should not even be recommended
  5. He jumped all over the “Kawasaki Syndrome” scare among New York children, even testifying about it to Congress, only to have the issue disappear when it quickly became clear that it was a red herring misinterpreted due to panic
  6. He has flip-flopped on school closings numerous times, with his current position effectively an admission that we were wrong to ever close them in the first place
  7. Last April, just a week after saying that 240,000 deaths was the most we would likely suffer, he wrongly predicted that closer to only 60,000 lives would be lost due to Covid-19, which, going by the recorded data, will be off by at least half a million, and probably more than tha
  8. He routinely attacked Florida for daring to reopen “early,” and yet that state performed far better during the winter wave than the lockdown havens of New York and California did (Fauci and his boss President Joe Biden are now making the same mistake with Texas and other “Neanderthal” states which actually believe in the effectiveness of vaccines)
  9. He bizarrely boasted that New York was the “model” for how to fight the coronavirus correctly, and then they got crushed again in the winter wave and it became clear that his pal, Governor Andrew Cuomo, was no hero, while New York now has the second-worst per-capita death rate (behind only New Jersey)
  10. In an extremely telling moment, he flat-out admitted that he had absurdly adjusted his guess on the threshold for obtaining “herd immunity” based not on science, but on public polling data
  11. Even after having almost a year of data from which to draw conclusions, and knowing that very effective vaccines were coming on the market, he predicted in later December that “the worst is yet to come,” before the most dramatic and sustained improvement seen so far.
  12. He warned that the Super Bowl would act as a “super spreader” around the country, but every single data point has continued to improve in the month since that event, even in Florida where the game and post-victory celebrations took place.

Being wrong obviously does not disqualify someone from being an “expert,” or invalidate their opinion for all-time, though being incorrect this often with the stakes this high should, at the very least, cause the news media to provide a lot more scrutiny to such sources. But the Dick Morris-like record for bad predictions from Fauci and other “medical experts” like him during the pandemic is not even the most under-considered problem with giving these unelected officials so much power.

It is not only inherent within humans to often be wrong, but also to do what we perceive to be in our own self-interest. That selfishness dramatically impacts the prism through which we see reality, and what positions we are willing to take publicly.

Can anyone possibly doubt that the careers of the pandemic “expert class” have improved in the last year, and will diminish if this nightmare ever ends? Or that none of them wants to provide a contrarian opinion that puts them outside of the thundering “group think” herd, and may raise questions about whether enormous damage was created by the “experts” being wrong?

These factors are exacerbated when those being relied upon to create “emergency” orders without even legislative oversight happen to be medical doctors, who are trained to reduce all risk to life, and who famously develop a god complex. Giving unelected doctors ultimate power to determine a formerly free society’s risk assessment is as nonsensical as if media companies had to pass every single editorial decision through a lawyer who has no incentive to ever approve anything which might even theoretically result in a lawsuit (a dangerous reality to which we are inching closer nearly every day).

No rational person is saying that experts are not very valuable, or that their guidance should not be considered when it comes to how to handle a situation as serious as this pandemic. The point here is that after a year of the media treating them as infallible religious figures, it is far past the time when responding to experts with actual journalism is more than warranted, and long over-due.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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