Dr. Anthony Fauci, the polarising director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, slammed everyday Americans for refusing to go along with ‘authority’ on medical matters, and accused people of ‘amazing denial’ when it comes to ‘truth’.
Speaking on a podcast called Learning Curve, produced by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Fauci charged that “unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are — for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable — they just don’t believe science and they don’t believe authority.”
Why should anyone believe authority? Why should anyone believe science?
I don’t automatically believe authority. I don’t automatically believe science. I’ll listen carefully to scientific authorities. But I’ll have my doubts about about the veracity of what they say. Science is a process of discovery, and implicit in the idea of discovery is the recognition of ignorance: there are a lot of things that nobody understands. In my view, an unquestioning belief in scientific authority amounts to credulity: believing everything you’re told. I don’t believe everything I’m told.
I’ve spent the past two years building my own climate model, precisely because I don’t believe what I’m told by climate scientists (who all disagree with each other anyway). I want to try to think for myself. I used once to construct heat flow models, so I know roughly how to do it. Yet I also don’t trust myself. I’m never certain about anything.
I was in hospital for a couple of weeks recently, but I don’t think the doctors knew what was the matter with me. None of them claimed to know either. Some of them guessed that I’d had a heart attack, but it was just a guess. Truth was that they didn’t know. And neither did I.
But that’s how it is with everything, all the time. We just don’t know.
Does anyone understand the new coronavirus pandemic? Not really. Different countries have responded to it in different ways, and that in itself indicates that there is a plurality of opinions about it, and they can’t all be right. If they knew what needed to be done, they’d have done it by now. So the pandemic is still sweeping the world. And this will continue until it eventually dies out, if it eventually dies out
For the past few days I’ve been watching historians give talks on YouTube about WW1 (like this and this and this). That’s something else I don’t understand. How could millions of men blaze away at each other with rifles and howitzers for four whole years? It was crazy. Completely crazy.
After listening to lots of the historians, who had lots of interesting things to say, it was clear that they didn’t know either. And they all had slightly different opinions anyway. I came away with the feeling that it could all happen again the next time some archduke gets shot somewhere, and nobody will know why it’s happening.
But that’s how it is with everything: we don’t understand. Nobody understands. And maybe they never will.
In such circumstances it is the right thing to do to not believe authorities. and not believe science.