Covid and Climate “Science”

by Don Boudreaux on September 5, 2022

in Archived writings, Current Affairs, Environment, Media, Science

My latest column for AIER was prompted by my reading of physicist Steven Koonin’s superb 2021 book, Unsetted? – a book detailing the reality that much of the science (and even more the media’s science “reporting”) used to drum up hysteria about the changing climate is incomplete or shoddy and sometimes even corrupt. And very little of this science can be truly said to be “settled.” There are ominous parallels between climate ‘science’ and covid ‘science.’ Two slices:

A public frightened into believing that some collective calamity is in the offing is a public more eager for, or at least more docile in the face of, authoritarian efforts marketed as necessary to prevent the calamity.

With the turn of almost every page of Unsettled? I was struck by the ominous parallels between the mainstream narrative on the climate and the mainstream narrative on COVID. Pointing out such parallels wasn’t at all Koonin’s purpose; in fact, I suspect that he himself took no notice of these parallels. And, of course, I’d earlier been alerted by other writers to these parallels. But the length and reality of these parallels weren’t driven home to me until I’d read Koonin’s tract.

…..

Science is an especially sweet and nutritious fruit of the Enlightenment. But an even sweeter and more nutritious fruit is the recognition that truth – including, but not limited to, scientific truth – is only reliably approached without ever being absolutely and forever secured, and approached only through open inquiry, discussion, debate, and tolerance for dissenting opinions and perspectives.

Too many elite intellectuals and public officials today – and, I fear, also too many ordinary men and women – have lost sight of the fact that science and reason are tools for improving our understanding and for supplying us with some information that’s useful for making the complicated and inescapably value-laden trade-offs that, in this vale, we must make. The belief that science is a source of complete and godlike knowledge is not merely mistaken, it’s a toxic fuel of authoritarianism when it’s combined with the false understanding of social problems as being a science project to be ‘solved’ by persons in power.

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