It started out with “noble” lies:
The CCP virus is not much threat to Americans
(the Chinese say no evidence it’s airborne, and they’re still sending flights out of Wuhan);
masks are unnecessary for the public
(well, that’s wrong, but the public can’t be trusted with the real reason);
the virus was not engineered
(at a lab leading the world leader recombinant coronavirus, to which Americans transferred the technology, and which partnered with the People’s Liberation Army… who strategized about weaponizing it);
the idea the virus escaped from that lab is not remotely credible
(even though it wouldn’t have been the first time, and the Chinese are obviously hiding data);
herd immunity is an ever growing percentage of the population
(gotta keep the plebes motivated).
Dr. Fauci has admitted many of these statements were intended to manipulate Americans. It gradually became plain none of it was based on science. These were political acts. In some cases he said things he knew to be false, in others he assured us of things he knew to be uncertain.
If you criticize him for this, he calls it an attack on science. Au contraire. Public policy making by deceit is not the action of a scientist.
This mendacity has caused outcomes opposite of his central plan. At the low consequence end it surely contributes, for example, to vaccine hesitancy. Not that he didn’t have help on that from the President and Vice President calling it the “Trump vaccine,” and hypocritical Governors ignoring their own mandates on masks*, lockdowns, and travel.
*And, uh… others:
At the high impact end, he’s damaged the idea that our scientific institutions actually practice scientific methods. He’s mendastasized disrespect for science. See also, Michael Mann.
Now, defending himself with word games, Fauci expects to be believed in asserting his agency ever provided any funding for gain of function research in Wuhan. His personal stake in this matter does not make him more believable.
In fact, these dots can all be connected by assuming he was covering up the funding from the first. He approved waivers for it. His actions all are consistent with a desire never to be associated with it. He can’t be blamed for wishing the pandemic wasn’t real, but that is not what we pay him for. We pay him for applying the scientific method.
For all the ill effects of his haphazard, self-aggrandizing interference in public policy, the long term damage he has done to science is worse. THAT is the attack on science. Worse, he is not alone in this playing of politics by those who call themselves scientists.
Here comes Richard Feynman on “What is Science?” (1966). Read it. It’s funny, profound, humble, a defense of free thinking. It explains that words matter, but that a definition is just a label. It demonstrates that science is grounded on the idea of falsifiability. Which necessitates humility.
It is a paean to his father. An education in 10 minutes. I want you to read the whole thing, but I will provide one snippet:
[T]he importance of freedom of thought; the positive results that come from doubting that the lessons are all true. You must here distinguish–especially in teaching–the science from the forms or procedures that are sometimes used in developing science. It is easy to say, “We write, experiment, and observe, and do this or that.” You can copy that form exactly. But great religions are dissipated by following form without remembering the direct content of the teaching of the great leaders. In the same way, it is possible to follow form and call it science, but that is pseudo-science. In this way, we all suffer from the kind of tyranny we have today in the many institutions that have come under the influence of pseudoscientific advisers.
We have many studies in teaching, for example, in which people make observations, make lists, do statistics, and so on, but these do not thereby become established science, established knowledge. They are merely an imitative form of science analogous to the South Sea Islanders’ airfields–radio towers, etc., made out of wood. The islanders expect a great airplane to arrive. They even build wooden airplanes of the same shape as they see in the foreigners’ airfields around them, but strangely enough, their wood planes do not fly. The result of this pseudoscientific imitation is to produce experts, which many of you are. [But] you teachers, who are really teaching children at the bottom of the heap, can maybe doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.
When someone says, “Science teaches such and such,” he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, “Science has shown such and such,” you might ask, “How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?”
It should not be “science has shown” but “this experiment, this effect, has shown.” And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments–but be patient and listen to all the evidence–to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at.
In a field which is so complicated [as education] that true science is not yet able to get anywhere, we have to rely on a kind of old-fashioned wisdom, a kind of definite straightforwardness. I am trying to inspire the teacher at the bottom to have some hope and some self-confidence in common sense and natural intelligence. The experts who are leading you may be wrong.
I have probably ruined the system, and the students that are coming into Caltech no longer will be any good. I think we live in an unscientific age in which almost all the buffeting of communications and television–words, books, and so on–are unscientific. As a result, there is a considerable amount of intellectual tyranny in the name of science.
Finally, with regard to this time-binding, a man cannot live beyond the grave. Each generation that discovers something from its experience must pass that on, but it must pass that on with a delicate balance of respect and disrespect, so that the [human] race–now that it is aware of the disease to which it is liable–does not inflict its errors too rigidly on its youth, but it does pass on the accumulated wisdom, plus the wisdom that it may not be wisdom.
It is necessary to teach both to accept and to reject the past with a kind of balance that takes considerable skill. Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers of the preceding generation.
Feynman is probably spinning in his grave because of the adulation we give to people who pretend they are scientists. Spinning in his grave would come as quite a surprise to him.
I miss his brilliant humility.
For me, I haven’t yet got a grave to spin in. So I just weep.