Sunday, Aug 1, 2021

New Truth Standards Emerging From The Covid Lockdown

The Covid pandemic has brought into sharp relief the conflict between the idealized image of science as a purely intellectual pursuit of observable facts, combined with the most logical theories to explain them, and the function of what is popularly called “science” in our society: a universally accepted body of knowledge that we are all expected to accept as “true,” based solely upon the declared consensus of suitably accredited and media-recognized “experts.”

In fact, “big science” is no longer the solitary intellectual pursuit of brilliant people like Albert Einstein, who, while sitting at his desk during work at a Swiss patent office, came up with the “thought experiments” in his head which led him to publish the theory of special relativity in 1905. The origins of what is now called “the scientific method,” providing experimental proof to test scientific theories, is often traced back to Galileo Galilei, who supposedly climbed to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy to drop objects made of the same material but of different weights, and confirmed by observation that they all fell at the same speed no matter how much they weighed.

Scientific research as we know it today is no longer purely a search for independently verifiable truths about the physical realities of the world Hashem created. Almost all serious research on the frontiers of science today consists of large-scale institutional efforts requiring millions or billions of dollars in research money, often provided by government grants and conducted by hundreds of scientists working in teams. It is being led by scientists who also possess the political and bureaucratic skills needed to successfully navigate the intricacies of today’s research empires in universities, government-supported labs, and private companies which dominate their respective fields.

Intellectual brilliance is no longer sufficient in today’s giant scientific research establishments to guarantee an individual’s success. Healthy measures of personal ambition, people and communication skills, and political savvy are also required to gain recognition and acceptance in these highly competitive fields.

HOW THE PRACTICE OF SCIENCE HAS CHANGED

According to Dr. Matthew Crawford, a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, a mismatch has been created “between science as an activity of the solitary mind, and the institutional reality of it. Big science is fundamentally social in its practice, and with this comes certain entailments.

“As a practical matter, ‘politicized science’ is the only kind you are likely to hear about. But it is precisely the apolitical image of science, as a disinterested arbiter of reality, that makes it such a powerful instrument of politics. This contradiction is now out in the open. The ‘anti-science’ tendencies of populism are in significant measure a response to the gap that has opened up between the practice of science and the ideal that underwrites its authority.”

Researchers devoted to the objective pursuit of experimentally verifiable truths often do so at their own peril. This is especially true if their discoveries differ significantly from the “consensus” of the publicly proclaimed “experts” in their chosen fields, whose continued funding and authority depends upon the unquestioned widespread acceptance of their theories.

For example, after Albert Einstein published his theory of relativity in 1905, it was initially considered to be so radical by the scientific establishment that Einstein was stuck at the patent office, unable to land even a junior level job teaching physics at the university level, for the next four years.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SCIENCE AND “SCIENTIFIC TRUTHS”

Even more so today, there is a widening disconnect between the accepted “scientific truths” promoted in the popular culture by self-serving members of the scientific establishment, and those more independent researchers who dare to challenge those truths based upon new experimental evidence or alternative theories.

Those scientists who dare to debunk popularized concepts such as manmade “climate change” and “global warming,” or the theory that Covid-19 must have originated as a natural mutation of a coronaviruses found in bats, rather than the accidental release of a genetically-enhanced virus produced at a viral research lab in Wuhan, China, risk censorship in scientific journals and ostracism by their professional peers, as well as open ridicule by scientifically ignorant politicians and reporters in the mainstream media.

“This contradiction is now out in the open,” Dr. Crawford writes. “The ‘anti-science’ tendencies of populism are in significant measure a response to the gap that has opened up between the practice of science and the ideal that underwrites its authority.”

The scientific method is based upon the premise that every theory, no matter how widely accepted, is subject to challenge by any experiment which can objectively prove that its predictions are incorrect, which is how Einstein’s theory of relativity was able to overturn classical mechanics and the three laws of motion formulated by Sir Isaac Newton in 1687.

While popular culture asks scientists to provide us with theories illuminating “absolute truths,” in fact, any theory not subject to experimental disproof is no longer truly scientific. It is likely to become obsolete over time as researchers uncover more hidden facts about the world. The public demands that scientific authorities explain reality and provide more clarity about the uncertain world we live in, even at the price of oversimplification. But to fulfill those expectations, those who dare to express absolute certainty in the name of science are actually transforming it into something much more akin to static religious dogma.

Even the nation’s most well-known authority on viruses, Dr. Antony Fauci, has been cast as either a hero or a liar for constantly changing his allegedly definitive public pronouncements about the coronavirus and the most appropriate and effective public health measures needed to bring it under control.

TRUE SCIENCE IS OPEN TO CHANGE

In an effort to defend himself against challenges to his credibility as a scientist, Dr. Fauci recently referred to the fundamental changeability of scientific theories in response to the constant emergence of new data.

“There is no doubt there are people out there, for one reason or another, [who] resent me for what I did [during] the last administration, which was not anything that was anti-Trump at all. It was just trying to get the right information, to try and get the right data. What they didn’t seem to understand [is] that science is a dynamic process,” Fauci said.

“So something that you know in January — you make a recommendation or a comment about it. But as you get more and more information, [it] leads you to change. Because that is what science is; it is a self-correcting process. So when you hear someone say something at one point, then two or three months later, if you stick with what you said at the original time when you had one-fifth the amount of data that you have now, I think that would be inappropriate. It is appropriate, although sometimes it is difficult for people to understand, how as you learn more and more, you have to continue to evolve with the data. That is what I was trying to do — always tell the truth on the basis of what the data is.”

That is a hard concept for the members of the general public to understand and accept. They expect scientists and “experts” like Dr. Fauci to present them with indisputable facts. The public then accepts those “facts” as an act of faith, simply because they don’t have the necessary training to understand the data and theories supporting those conclusions. Crawford and other scientists before him have called such dogmatic popular beliefs, which originated at one point from legitimate scientific theories which may no longer be current, “scientism.”

Decades ago, I edited a book on science and religion for the NCSY youth movement of the Orthodox Union. It addressed the same disconnect between dogmatic scientism and dynamic truly scientific theories in analyzing and explaining the apparent conflicts between the secular interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Torah’s account of the creation of the universe (Maaseh Bereishis). I applied the same arguments then to the scientific issues that underlie today’s controversies over popularized political concepts and conclusions, such as the climate change catastrophe allegedly threatening our civilization, which is being falsely marketed to the public by its liberal proponents as “proven” science.

SCIENCE IS A METHOD, NOT A COLLECTION OF FACTS

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s popular political catchphrase during the height of the pandemic, “follow the science,” was fundamentally misleading, because science doesn’t necessarily lead anywhere. It is a process of discovery and analysis rather than a fixed set of proven facts pointing to specific courses of action.

In Cuomo’s case, his claim to be following the science in first ordering and then extending draconian lockdowns of all schools and restaurants in New York City was no longer supported by the available scientific evidence as early as last summer. Data on the spread of Covid collected by the New York State Department of Health by that time proved that restaurants were not a significant source of infection and should have been allowed to reopen.

At about the same time, data from countries in Europe and Israel, which never closed or which quickly reopened their schools after the pandemic began, proved that the vast majority of younger school children have a natural immunity to the virus, and are highly unlikely to spread it to adults. Yet New York City’s public schools remained closed last fall, to the detriment of roughly one million students and their families whose lives were seriously disrupted.

In addition, Cuomo ignored warnings from nursing home officials that his March 25 order requiring them to accept transfers from hospitals of elderly patients with active Covid cases was inherently unsafe. Cuomo then ordered his officials running the state’s Department of Health to withhold the data documenting the thousands of additional deaths of elderly patients which resulted from that fatal order.

Science can quantify the risks and explain the tradeoffs of the available policies and courses of action. But it can’t make the necessary choices for us. By pretending otherwise, decision-makers try to avoid taking personal responsibility for the often difficult choices they are duty-bound to make on our behalf.

THE PERNICIOUS INFLUENCE OF POLITICAL BIAS

A prime example of how political biases can interfere with the proper analysis of available scientific data is the controversy over the origins of the Covid-19 virus.

Many scientists and the mainstream media were too quick in dismissing accusations by then-President Donald Trump, amplified by his supporter, Republican Senator Tom Cotton, that the virus was likely manufactured with the support of the Chinese military and escaped during banned gain-of-function experiments research conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They refused to consider the possibility simply because it had been raised by Trump and Cotton, which they believed meant that it couldn’t be true.

Instead, the media readily accepted — largely on faith and the word of an American scientist who had a financial interest in supporting the virus research at the Wuhan lab — that the original Chinese claim that virus mutated and jumped naturally from animal to human, possibly at a nearby live animal market.

Andrew McCarthy, writing in the National Review, reminds us that based upon his experience as a former federal prosecutor, the claim by China apologists that the evidence supporting the Wuhan lab leak theory is just circumstantial can be safely dismissed.

Every good prosecutor, McCarthy writes, “will tell you that the best case is a strong circumstantial case. It is the most airtight and least problematic kind of proof. Circumstantial cases are a tapestry of objectively provable facts. No one of those facts, by itself, establishes the ultimate conclusion for which all the interconnected facts collectively stand. Instead, each single fact supports a subordinate proposition that must be true in order for the ultimate conclusion to be valid. Stitch enough of those subordinate propositions together and the ultimate conclusion is inexorable.”

McCarthy reminds us that in this case, the standard at a criminal trial, where the guilt of the accused has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, does not apply. There is a clear need to determine how the virus originated, if only to find a way to prevent a future repetition of the process. There is also a strong natural desire to establish who, if anyone, was responsible for nearly 600,000 pandemic deaths in the US, nearly four million worldwide, and many trillions of dollars’ worth of economic and collateral human damage.

NEW EVIDENCE ON THE ORIGIN OF COVID

“Lab accidents are common,” McCarthy notes, “and have been known to spawn infectious diseases (including the escape of SARS1 from the Chinese National Virology Institute in Beijing ‘no less than four times’…). Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists were conducting gain-of-function research on bat-based coronaviruses, in particular their capacity to infect humans. The bats in which are found closely related (but, importantly, not identical) viruses do not inhabit the vicinity of Wuhan — they are nearly a thousand miles away. . . and have limited flight range. The likelihood of naturally occurring interspecies transmission (outside a lab setting) is infinitesimal.”

On the other hand, the work of former New York Times science reporter Nicholas Wade and several other crusading journalists has revealed new evidence of lax safety standards at the Wuhan lab, and US intelligence reports of Covid-like symptoms displayed by three hospitalized Wuhan lab workers at the very start of the pandemic makes the circumstantial evidence in support of the lab accident theory much more convincing.

WERE THE LOCKDOWNS NECESSARY?

Similarly, an analysis by the liberal publication Vox of the severest pandemic lockdown measures employed by some states over the past year, including mask mandates, lockdowns, and school closures, comes to the disturbing conclusion that despite their strong endorsement by public health authorities such as Dr. Fauci, many of them appeared to have been largely ineffective and ultimately unnecessary.

Vox notes that “looking at the case and death numbers since the coronavirus pandemic began, it’s not obvious which states were cautious and which were not. New York, the original epicenter of the outbreak, has endured the second most deaths per capita behind New Jersey (271 per 100,000). Florida and Texas, despite much criticism of their laissez-faire approaches, rank right in the middle among states (26th and 24th, respectively) in the number of deaths per 100,000 people. California fared only marginally better, sitting at 30.”

Because the pandemic was constantly evolving, the article says it is more difficult to “figure out which policies worked and which didn’t. And while early on, some lockdown measures, especially stay-at-home orders and closing restaurants and bars, seemed to limit Covid-19’s spread, they may have become less effective over time, in part because [some] states abandoned them and in part because… some people stopped following those rules.”

Why do people stop following those rules? Because they have reason to question whether the rules decreed by government officials are actually based, as they claim, upon the best available scientific data and opinion. In the case of the Covid lockdowns, those suspicions were reinforced in the summer of 2020, when government officials suspended the emergency rules forbidding the public to engage in large gatherings and requiring social distancing — solely for the sake of enabling huge, often violent and destructive protests in the name of “racial justice,” following the shocking death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman.

When members of the scientific establishment were challenged to explain their support for these glaring politically-motivated exceptions to the anti-Covid measures, 1,200 of them signed an open letter, speaking as health experts and defending the large protests as necessary to address the “pervasive lethal force of white supremacy,” implying that it was even more dangerous than Covid itself. Respected scientific journals, including The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, Scientific American and Nature published editorials accepting the narrative of the Critical Race Theory and citing the urgent need to fight against the evils of “whiteness” as sufficient justification for any exceptions to the anti-Covid policies.

LOCKDOWN BURDENS WERE NOT SHARED EQUALLY

Another explanation for the growing resistance to the Covid rules was the perception that the burdens of the lockdowns was not being fairly distributed.

The social elites and members of the highly paid professional class who enjoyed greater job security were able to work comfortably from home. They typically endorsed the harshest lockdown measures because they didn’t interfere with their lifestyles and income. By contrast, many manual laborers, working class families, small business owners and their employees saw their livelihoods and lifestyles being totally disrupted by the closure of their businesses and their children’s schools. Many became particularly incensed when they realized that the elites and the government officials ordering the lockdowns did not feel obligated to follow the same rules they sought to impose on those who did not have their advantages.

The public rightfully began to suspect the politicians and the elites of exploiting the fear and panic generated by the pandemic to force their acquiescence in new and unprecedented levels of government control over their daily lives, often in direct violation of their constitutionally guaranteed American liberties, such as freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. When members of the government-controlled scientific establishment then publicly endorsed the dubious claims of self-serving politicians seeking to wield unprecedented power during the pandemic, they only further undermined their own credibility.

Additional evidence that the US government’s response to the pandemic was driven more by partisan politics than public health science comes from Dr. Martin Kulldorf, a Swedish-born professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. As a widely respected public-health scientist with decades of experience working on infectious-disease outbreaks, Kulldorf felt compelled to speak out against the lockdowns when they first began, because he knew there was never any “scientific consensus” that they would be effective at halting the spread of the virus. He also foresaw the tremendous amount of economic and social damage that would be inflicted by the lockdowns upon tens of millions of American families.

THE BIGGEST PUBLIC HEALTH FIASCO IN HISTORY

Kulldorff felt that a different response was needed once it became clearly early on that the primary threat posed by the virus was to medically fragile older adults, and that young children were largely immune.

“For society at large, the conclusion was obvious,” Kulldorff writes. “We had to protect older, high-risk people while younger low-risk adults [should be allowed] to keep society moving.

“But that didn’t happen. Instead, schools closed while nursing homes went unprotected. Why? It made no sense. So, I picked up a pen. To my surprise, I could not interest any US media in my thoughts, despite my knowledge and experience with infectious-disease outbreaks. . .

“Instead of understanding the pandemic, we were encouraged to fear it. Instead of life, we got lockdowns and death. We got delayed cancer diagnoses, worse cardiovascular-disease outcomes, deteriorating mental health, and a lot more collateral public-health damage from lockdown. Children, the elderly and the working class were the hardest hit by what can only be described as the biggest public-health fiasco in history.”

MISINFORMATION AND FALSE CHARGES

Kulldorff was also dismayed to discover that the mainstream media and even prominent medical journals were spreading incomplete and misleading information about the virus.

For example, in June 2020, the Swedish Public Health Agency reported that even though that country kept its day care facilities and schools open during that spring, without subjecting its 1.8 million children up to age 15 to testing, masks, physical barriers or social distancing, there were zero deaths in that age group, while teachers in the open Swedish schools had a Covid risk similar to the average of other professions. Nevertheless, in July, when the New England Journal of Medicine published an article on “Reopening Primary Schools During the Pandemic,” it did not even mention the evidence from Sweden.

In September 2020, to get the correct scientific message out to the public, Kulldorff met in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, with two of his professional colleagues: Sunetra Gupta from Oxford University, one of the world’s pre-eminent infectious-disease epidemiologists, and Jay Bhattacharya from Stanford University, an expert on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations. Together, they published what they called the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD).

“When writing the declaration [opposing the lockdowns], we knew we were exposing ourselves to attacks,” Kulldorff acknowledged, yet the level of the vitriol from his professional peers still caught him by surprise.

“Some colleagues threw epithets at us like ‘crazy,’ ‘exorcist,’ ‘mass murderer,’ or ‘Trumpian.’ Some accused us of taking a stand for money, though nobody paid us a penny. Why such a vicious response? The declaration was in line with the many pandemic preparedness plans produced years earlier, but that was the crux. With no good public-health arguments against focused protection, they [our critics] had to resort to mischaracterization and slander, or else admit they had made a terrible, deadly mistake in their support of lockdowns,” Kulldorff concludes.

RULE BY EXPERTS AND FEAR

Dr. Crawford notes that since the start of the pandemic, “a fearful public has acquiesced to an extraordinary extension of expert jurisdiction over every domain of life. A pattern of ‘government by emergency’ has become prominent, in which resistance to such incursions are characterized as ‘anti-science.’

“But the question of political legitimacy hanging over rule by experts is not likely to go away,” Crawford adds. “If anything, it will be more fiercely fought in coming years as leaders of governing bodies invoke a climate emergency that is said to require a wholesale transformation of society.”

He notes that in the latter half of the 20th century, especially after the spectacular successes of the moon landing, modern society came to expect new miracles of technology to improve our lives by leaps and bounds. For a while, the scientific community was able to keep up with those expectations, based on advances in consumer microelectronics and computer technology which emerged from the investment in the “space race” and related military research during the latter part of the Cold War era.

To sustain the level of government-funded research needed to maintain the myth of the invincibility of American science, the research establishment needed to protect its image by suppressing any independent work which might challenge the premise upon which that research was founded. An informal system of scientific gatekeeping was set up which rapidly pervaded the institutional research community to suppress or discredit any new findings that were out of line with the expected results.

Researchers soon found that they could no longer get their independent results published in peer-reviewed professional journals if it did not confirm the accepted orthodoxies of the institutionalized research community. If the researchers insisted on presenting their contrary evidence to the broader scientific world, they were in danger of being denounced as crackpots by their peers, denied grants to continue their research, and having their applications for tenured faculty positions blackballed at major universities.

THE LESSONS OF “CLIMATEGATE”

A glaring example of this kind of academic institutional censorship in action was the Climategate scandal which emerged in 2009, when leaked emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Britain revealed that the scientists who sat atop the international climate research bureaucracy were stonewalling requests for their data from outsiders who were questioning their results.

The cartel of leading climate research scientists had been able to suppress any new evidence which would have undermined their findings because they controlled the peer review process at the most widely respected professional journals in the field. The emails revealed how the members of the scientific cartel collaborated to keep all dissenting voices out of the journals and the media, based upon the circular logic that the new research data had to be wrong because it disagreed with their own findings.

But the lessons of Climategate were soon forgotten, because the combined international economic and political resources that are now behind the global “climate change” establishment, reinforced by the unquestioned acceptance by the mainstream media, are too powerful to permit their legitimacy and scientific foundations to be publicly challenged. The climate change theory also enjoys considerable prestige and recognition it receives from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN body dedicated to the promulgation of the climate change narrative. Its international policy ramifications are expressed by the far-reaching and legally binding environmental and economic consequences of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Henry Bauer, a chemistry professor and former dean of arts and sciences at Virginia Tech, published a paper in 2004 in which he describes how science is actually conducted much differently in the 21st century than in the past.

Bauer wrote that, “journeymen peer-reviewers tend to stifle rather than encourage creativity and genuine innovation. Centralized funding and centralized decision-making make science more bureaucratic and less an activity of independent, self-motivated truth-seekers.” In universities, “the measure of scientific achievement becomes the amount of ‘research support’ brought in, not the production of useful knowledge.”

BIG SCIENCE IS BIG BUSINESS

Big science has become big business. It has transformed the priorities governing research at many leading universities from a disinterested effort to expand the frontiers of scientific knowledge to a self-serving quest for more lucrative grant funding.

In the name of self-preservation, the organized scientific community has created “knowledge monopolies” for the specific purpose of suppressing dissident views. The formerly independent process of peer review that had been intended as a check on the accuracy of research submitted for publication has been transformed by what former intelligence analyst Martin Gurri calls “informal pacts of mutual protection.”

A disturbing offshoot of this trend has been the recognition of a research “replication” crisis, especially in the fields of psychology and medicine. In recent years, a number of findings that lie at the foundation of whole areas of research and scientific empires have been swept aside because new reviews of the data upon which they were based were unable to reproduce the original results. These are no longer isolated incidents, and have shaken the faith of many researchers in conclusions they had long believed to be unassailable.

Some have attributed the phenomenon to a bias by some researchers in analyzing and reporting their results to attract the attention and support of potential research funding institutions, as well as a reluctance by researchers to report null or politically incorrect results running contrary to the consensus in their field.

The inability of other scientists to reproduce the same results of published experimental data is a telltale sign of faulty research, and should discredit the theories upon which those results are based. The revelations of Climategate forced many scientists to take a second look at previously published results of research which they had assumed had been verified by competent peer review. At about the same time, the general public gained ready access to the wealth of new scientific information published on the internet which was not subject to censorship by the self-appointed “gatekeepers” of the research establishment.

WHY EXPERTS ARE LOSING THEIR CREDIBILITY

In his book, The Revolt of the Public, Gurri describes how the internet and the social media platforms which gleefully publicize the many examples of when expert opinion was wrong, have made such gatekeeping impossible. These vehicles have finally democratized public access to unfiltered scientific data and research, breaking down the traditional academic structures of expertise guarded by professional accreditation standards and long apprenticeship, whose members share what Gurri describes as a “reflexive loathing of the amateur trespasser.”

The result has been a rising public phenomenon which Gurri calls a “politics of negation,” resulting in a wholesale collapse of respect for recognized authority across the domains of politics, journalism, finance, and science. A much more skeptical public now views many of the pronouncements by the so-called experts in these field as “fake news.”

As a result, there is a new trend in which high profile celebrities have taken over the role formerly played by recognized scientific experts. The mainstream media has accepted and celebrated them as society’s new opinion setters, enabling them to promote their own private prejudices or unproven conspiracy narratives — such as the so-called critical race theory — in the name of science, and to condemn anyone who dares to criticize or disagree for spreading disinformation.

To defend against the threat of credible information reaching the public that has not been approved by the gatekeepers, government officials and leaders of the government-supported scientific establishment have created an informal alliance to create and aggressively defend the pseudo-scientific narratives which support their economic and political self-interests. With the willing help of the mainstream media, they can then effectively censor or discredit any inconvenient facts or scientific evidence which might challenge that narrative, by dismissing them as baseless “conspiracy theories” or the ravings of scientific crackpots.

POLITICAL EXPLOITATION OF NATIONAL EMERGENCIES

This method has been remarkable effective. It has made it nearly impossible for credible scientists or public health officials to gain a serious public hearing for new theories based upon more current data which challenges any of the pseudoscientific narratives which have gained such wide public acceptance.

Examples of such narratives which have attained the status of unquestioned dogma in the popular media culture include the benefits of the pandemic school and restaurant lockdowns; the necessity for continued mandatory mask-wearing for vaccinated individuals to prevent the spread of virus; the need to eliminate the burning of all fossil fuels, regardless of cost, to prevent a global climate change catastrophe; or the liberal accusations last year that anyone who believed that Covid-19 might have originated as an experiment gone bad in Wuhan must have been infected with a Trump-like racial prejudice against anyone of Chinese or Asian descent.

There is another essential component necessary for this method to achieve the desired level of acceptance and compliance from a skeptical public. It is the creation of a sufficient sense of fear and hysteria to justify the suspension of personal liberties long guaranteed by the Constitution and most other Western democracies, to respond to the crisis of the moment.

In March 2020, the emergency was triggered by the arrival and rapid spread of the coronavirus, which created enough fear to convince most Americans to go along with unprecedented lockdown restrictions — at least initially. The following May, a new “public health” emergency due to threat from “white supremacy” was declared in response to the death of George Floyd. “Systemic racism” was allegedly so evil that it justified suspending some of Covid lockdown restrictions, thereby presumably exposing tens of thousands of demonstrators to infection.

Democrat strategists noted the spectacular success of these media-hyped emergencies in generating fearful compliance by most of the public, and urged the incoming Biden administration when it took office in January to use the same tactics to sell huge liberal spending proposals in response to Covid — but which actually were unrelated to Covid.

At about the same time, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recommended to Biden that he declare a national “climate emergency” and demand that Congress step aside and permit him to impose “Green New Deal” climate control policies by executive fiat.

To create a sufficient level of public alarm, scientists with personal and professional interest in the continued acceptance of their pet narrative would deliberately distort or suppress any actual scientific findings which didn’t fit.

For example, in a newly published book, Dr. Steven Koonin, who served as undersecretary for science in the US Department of Energy under President Obama, and was the lead author of the department’s 2011 Strategic Plan, cites three examples in which the leaders of the international climate change establishment deliberately misled the public about the allegedly dire consequences of greenhouse gas emissions.

Based upon the scientific data in the most recent reports by the IPCC, the UN’s official climate change agency, Koonin asserts that, contrary to the popular pseudoscientific narrative:

Humans have had no detectable impact on hurricanes over the past century.

Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t shrinking any more rapidly than it was 80 years ago.

The net economic impact of human-induced climate change will be minimal (less than 2% of total GDP growth) through at least the end of this century. It will probably be far less than the impact of other factors, including population trends, technology, inflation, and governmental regulations.

Koonin reports that when he privately discussed these findings with other prominent environment experts and policy-makers, they accepted their accuracy, but expressed disappointment that they failed to make a sufficient case to support the draconian greenhouse gas emission reduction measures that these experts have been publicly advocating for many years.

CAN WE FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE CANCEL CULTURE?

This new generation of self-appointed gatekeepers who dominate the popular social media platforms are the driving force behind the cancel culture. They exploit their huge following to defame dissenters and destroy their careers in an effort to silence them, effectively depriving them of the right to free speech. The gatekeepers have no respect for the opinions of others and no tolerance for criticism. Over the past few years, they have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to all but destroy independent journalism and intimidate the nation’s leading corporations and political leaders with distorted or false facts, unproven accusations and unfair innuendos.

Most of these false claims and allegations are eventually disproved, but by that time the damage has been done, and those responsible have been able to move on to attack their next targets.

The rapid rise of the cancel culture and its total intolerance for any form of ideological dissent has paralleled a sharp decline in the percentage of the American population who affiliated with organized religions over the past 20 years.

The United States has never had a single official state religion. Several of its earliest colonies were founded by minority religious groups (Puritans, Quakers) which had suffered discrimination in their home countries and came to the New World in search of religious liberty. Religious tolerance was recognized by the Founding Fathers as a fundamental feature of American society and was guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

Historically, most Americans had been religiously affiliated. Polls showed that from 1937 to 1998, about 70% of people claimed membership in an organized house of worship, but something changed over the past two decades, and that percentage has steadily declined. In March, Gallup reported that US church membership had fallen below the 50% level for the first time in the Gallup poll’s 80-year history.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans claiming to have no religious beliefs or affiliations grew from just 8% in 1998 to about a quarter of the total American population, and a third of those under the age of 30 today.

Until relatively recently, the bipartisan acceptance of the concept of separation of church and state and the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs mostly removed the emotional fervor of clashes between differing religious beliefs from political debates.

THE RISE OF A NEW SECULAR AMERICAN RELIGION

Some contemporary American religious observers claim that the decline in the overall percentage of religious believers in American society, and a simultaneous trend in the separation of religious believers from non-believers by affiliating with opposing political parties, are parts of the same phenomenon. In particular, many Democrats seem to have traded their former religious affiliations for the atheistic, socialist-based ideologies of the progressive extreme left. Furthermore, the progressives pursue their secular beliefs by attacking the right of individuals to follow their religious practices whenever they come into conflict with those secular beliefs, with the intolerance of converted true believers.

The progressives have also grown impatient with the classic system of checks and balances in the American form of government. The claim a moral right, or even an imperative, based upon their secular beliefs, to radically alter the institutions of the federal government, and reject some of its constitutional guarantees of personal liberties to pursue their social-economic and political objectives.

Individuals of faith, in response, have grown alarmed by the concerted legal and legislative attacks on their right to practice their beliefs. They have been drawn to the more conservative positions of the Republican party, which is committed to defending those rights in the larger context of its support for traditional American values. These include the defense of individual liberties — including freedom of religion — against excessive government intrusion, and the principle of giving everyone an equal opportunity to realize their version of the American dream, combined with a responsibility to respect the same rights of their fellow Americans.

Even many Republicans who do not claim a deep personal religious belief are disturbed by the rejection by progressive Democrats of the legitimacy of the American idea, and of the moral/religious and freedom-loving principles which guided the Founding Fathers.

Some contemporary religious commentators view the concept of American exceptionalism based upon the safeguarding of individual liberties and opportunities as a unique form of secularized creed, guided by a basic set of Judeo-Christian moral principles, but without any set religious or anti-religious beliefs. However, the Declaration of Independence does define the protection of every individual’s “inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as “endowed by the Creator” as the American government’s highest goal and priority.

THE REVOLT AGAINST CRITICAL RACE THEORY

Progressive Democrats today seek to impose on American society the “Critical Race Theory,” an updated socialist view of American history which condemns classic American ideals as morally corrupted by the institution of slavery.

Ideologically, CRT attempts to substitute the struggle for minority rights against “systemic white oppression” for Karl Marx’s original socialist concept of economic class warfare. But by rejecting traditional American values, it is incompatible with the high esteem and affection with which most Americans have always viewed this imperfect yet great democracy. That is why CRT is the target of a fast-growing grassroots revolt by angry parents across the nation who strongly object to its adoption as required part of the public and private school curriculums of their children.

The deep-seated conflict and political turmoil we are seeing today is the result an inevitable culture clash between these two competing views of the American reality, accompanied by a sea change in accepted standards for journalistic truth, scientific facts, and acceptable political opinions and social conduct. That conflict is still too new for us to fully understand all its implications, but this is not the first time the tranquility of this country has been upset by manufactured hysteria and ideological witch-hunts.

LEFTIST MCCARTHYISM

Seventy years ago, during the first decade of the Cold War, a demagogue of the Republican right, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, used tactics quite similar to those being employed today by the progressive activists of the cancel culture. McCarthy deliberately created a climate of exaggerated fear, warning the American people of a “Soviet Red Menace” in our midst in his attempts justify his ruthless inquisition to expose and punish loyal American liberals for their dissenting beliefs and for practicing their right of free association.

Fortunately, the McCarthy era was a brief passing phase in American history. His ruthlessness was ultimately exposed and denounced by his congressional colleagues, and our system of government quickly adjusted, reaffirming its dedication to the rights and liberties that lie at its core.

Hopefully, the lessons the American people and the leaders they elect will learn from the pandemic, as well as the turbulent events of the last five years, will enable our democracy to restore itself once again by a renewing its dedication to the fundamental principles of individual liberty and human rights which still make this country great.

 

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