How science became politicized | The Spectator Australia
Here is a paradox. Over the past two and a half years, a group of high-ranking politicians and their “expert” advisers around the world have successfully promoted a series of controversial public policies claiming they are based on “science” rather than on a moral or ideological vision. I am thinking of confinements and net zero in particular. Yet, at the same time, this group engaged in behavior that undermined public confidence in science. Why appeal to the authority of science to gain support for a series of politically controversial policies – and then diminish its authority?
Take Anthony Fauci, for example, who recently announced he was stepping down as Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser. Even though he once claimed to “represent science” to the American people, he misled them about the likely duration of lockdowns (“15 days to slow the spread”), exaggerated the effectiveness of Covid vaccines when they first appeared deployed, refused to admit the possibility that Covid-19 had leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (it later emerged that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, under his leadership, had given a grant to the EcoHealth Alliance, which helped fund ‘gain-of-function research’ at the Chinese lab) and conspired with other prominent scientists, such as Francis Collins, to smear the authors of the statement of Great Barrington (“There must be a rapid and devastating published takedown of its premises,” Collins Fauci said in an email). A recent editorial in the the wall street journalconcluded, “His legacy will be that millions of Americans will never again trust government health experts in the same way.”
Another example is a recent editorial in Nature Human behavior, one of many journals from the Nature Research stable, the world’s leading publisher of scientific research. “Although academic freedom is fundamental, it is not unlimited,” he begins, then lays out rules that future scholarly papers will have to abide by in addition to adhering to all the usual standards of publication, e.g. peer review. It says the journal will not publish articles that may cause “potential harm” (even “inadvertently”) to individuals or groups most vulnerable to “racism, sexism, ableism or homophobia”. ‘Academic content that infringes the dignity or rights of specific groups; assumes that one human group is superior or inferior to another simply because of some social characteristic; includes hate speech or denigrating images; or promotes privileged and exclusive perspectives raises ethical concerns that may require revisions or supersede the value of publication,” he says.
It should be obvious that far from being politically neutral, these rules embody a particular ideology and in the future the veracity of a scientific discovery will be subordinated to this perspective. To see this, all you have to do is do a simple thought experiment, like Bo Winegard did in keel. Imagine, he says, if this op-ed had been written by political conservatives who announced that “any research promoting (even ‘inadvertently’) sexual promiscuity, nuclear family breakdown, agnosticism and atheism, or the decline of the nation-state, would be suppressed or rejected lest it inflict unspecified “harm” on vaguely defined groups or individuals”. These progressive scientists applauding Nature Human behavior would throw up their hands in horror and point out – rightly – that these rules contradict one of the fundamental tenets of science, which is to seek truth wherever it leads.
This editorial is a disaster from the point of view of hidden ideologues who want to appeal to the authority of science to promote lockdowns and net zero, including, I assume, its authors. After all, the reason why rhetorical expressions such as “science” are supposed to convince those who are skeptical of these policies – conservatives, for the most part – is that they invoke a popular conception of scientists as politically neutral and disinterested “experts” who base their advice on reason and evidence, untainted by value judgments. Yet here is a group of top science gatekeepers announcing that the only knowledge that will count as “scientific” is that which promotes their agenda. It is as if they are saying that scientific research not constrained by this progressive straitjacket, i.e. science in the conventional sense, will produce results incompatible with their radical egalitarian agenda and should therefore be suppressed. In other words, “the science” actually contradicts their political views.
How to explain this own objective? Like I said, it’s a puzzle.