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Beware the subjective phrase ‘listen to the science’

In the age of COVID, perhaps no phrase has gained more instant popularity than “listen to the science.”

But as Jonah Goldberg notes, one needs to beware of cock-sure progressives touting that phrase because concerns about “science” go out the window whenever a conflicting — and allegedly more important — issue comes to the fore.

For instance, large, mass gatherings suddenly weren’t that big of a deal following the killing of George Floyd back in May.

“Telling people that they can’t see their dying parents, attend a funeral or make a living because science says it’s too risky but that protesting systemic racism and police brutality is OK is a great way to convince millions of people that ‘listen to science’ is a weaponized political term, not a universal apolitical standard,” Goldberg writes.

So-called professionals make things worse when they get political. A Johns Hopkins epidemiologist had said that “the risks and benefits of efforts to control the virus” should always be evaluated, and with Floyd’s death “the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism” outweighed those associated with COVID.

Interestingly, that same sentiment did not apply to the economic livelihoods of millions of Americans.

From the article:

I trust epidemiologists to explain how epidemiology works. But there is no transitive property to their expertise. The opinion that the protests would even come close to eradicating systemic racism and police brutality is just that — an opinion, and a flimsy one at that. Moreover, the opinion of medical scientists on such matters has no more authority than that of plumbers or electricians.

Which brings us to the point. Again, politicians should listen to scientists, but at the end of the day, they must consider factors from outside science. That’s not only fine but unavoidable. Using the phrase “listen to the science” as a shield for your preferred policies or as an attack on policies you dislike is not only bad faith, it’s a bad idea, because it will undermine the credibility of scientists and politicians alike. …

Scientists are free to make such arguments, but these aren’t scientific arguments. They are political opinions, and they don’t become any more legitimate simply because you wear a lab coat at work.

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