Science, Philosophy and Politics

By Andy May

Greg Weiner has written a great essay in Law & Liberty, entitled: “Why We cannot Just ‘Follow the Science.‘” His point is that scientists and science are important, but relying only on “The Science” for decision making is both dangerous and foolish. Science is a methodology for proposing well-developed answers to questions about natural events, it is a tool for proposing answers, not the answer. Skeptical scientists will try and disprove any proposed answer or theory, it is their duty. Only the very best theories survive this process and gain universal acceptance, like Einstein’s theory of relativity. For further discussion of this idea, see my discussion of facts and theories here. Most proposed answers, like man-made climate change, are furiously debated. So, it is fair to ask, as Weiner does, “Which [scientific] experts should we listen to …?”

The phrase “follow the science,” is a way to duck responsibility. In Weiner’s word’s: “The slogan ‘follow the science’ is meant to exempt politicians from the duty of judgment.” Moral and political judgement must superintend science. It seems likely that the virus that causes COVID-19 was engineered in the Wuhan Virology lab. The U.S. NIAID, led by Dr. Fauci, supported this research. Was that money, distributed by a government scientist, wise or moral? Would the public or politicians have approved of sending money to a Chinese laboratory, connected to the Chinese military, to conduct research on a deadly virus? Was “following the science” wise in that case? I think not.

Scientists should not be making critical decisions; they should be in advisory roles and carefully supervised by elected political leaders, not unelected bureaucrats. Recently, Nature revealed that critical early SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 virus) gene sequences were removed from a U.S. government database, at the request of Wuhan University scientific researchers. The gene sequences contained valuable information that shows the early viral sequences from the Wuhan seafood market are more distantly related to SARS-CoV-2’s closest relatives in bats than later sequences found in humans from China and the U.S. This makes it less likely the market is the source of the first human infection.

Dr. Jesse Bloom discovered that the sequences had been deleted and managed to recover them from archives. He says there is no plausible reason for the deletions and suspects they were to obscure their existence. Bloom also believes we should be skeptical that all early Wuhan sequences have been shared.

The amino acid arginine is typically used in laboratories to “supercharge” a virus and make it more communicable and deadly. Arginine can be built with 36 different gene sequences in DNA. SARS-CoV-2 contains the sequence CGG-CGG, or “double CGG.” The same lethality is achieved with any of the 36 sequences (or codons) in the same site, but the double CGG sequence is the least likely to occur in nature. In fact, the double CGG sequence has never been found in naturally occurring coronaviruses. A virus naturally obtaining a new skill, will pick it up from similar viruses, yet no similar viruses have this combination, it was almost certainly the result of engineering.

While it is clear that politics has corrupted climate science, it appears the reverse is also true. Science has corrupted politics, in the words of Jon Stewart on Stephen Colbert’s show recently:

“Here’s how the world ends, the last words man utters are somewhere in a lab. A guy goes, ‘Huhuh, it worked.'”

Some pundits have tried to defend scientists and experts, but most of us should remember what Richard Feynman once said,

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

Science is scientific debate, with rules. Science is not wise words spoken from on high. Science, properly done, is so professionally researched and explained as to be self-evident. Once the paper is read, the data obtained and checked, anyone with the necessary skills can reproduce the author’s result and convince themselves that what the author said was true. “The Science” is not truth, it is a process that results in truth, if done properly. If no one can reproduce the result, if the underlying data aren’t available to the public, if the methodology is not clear, it is not a proper scientific theory, it is not “science.” Don’t follow it.