Reply To: Covid: pick a side

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J, let’s consider your introductory waffle for a moment. It’s a crude exercise in sophistry: the same spin could be applied to any domain to defend or attack any position. (“Do you believe in fairies? Don’t listen to the indoctrinated fools who’ve never even seen them; listen to the people with more open minds.”) You’re trying to stack the deck before you deal the cards, but your sleight of hand is a bit too obvious, I’m afraid.

Your first trick is evident in the title Covid: pick a side. You’re setting up a false dichotomy: ‘them’ vs ‘us’; the ‘dumbfucks’ (including people who believe the media plus most scientific experts) vs the ‘enlightened free thinkers’ (who actually get most of their ‘knowledge’ from radical websites). But who says there are only two sides? The scientific field is rife with active debate (which is an essential element of scientific method). The various protest camps are far from unified: some think there’s no virus, some think there is a virus but it’s relatively harmless, some think the vaccines are designed to kill or sterilise, others that masks are useless, and so on; they have as many disagreements with each other as they do with the people they’re attacking. But you ignore all those divisions and serve up a simple ‘good vs evil’ plot that would be considered too primitive for a Hollywood flick.

Once you’ve set up your simplistic dichotomy, you then allocate different groups via the black-and-white fallacy. You put the experts on the evil side with the dumbfucks, because they’re they’ve been trained in scientific method and therefore (according to you) have been taught to deny reality(?), which makes them evil (though they don’t know it). It’s a safe guess you’re not too familiar with postgraduate seminars. New scientific proposals are scrutinised in meticulous detail to find methodological weaknesses or a lack of fit to the available data. PhD candidates have to prove that they can examine and challenge existing ideas, and proceed to defend their alternative. That’s how they become experts – not by, as you seem to think, regurgitating information from a textbook. Moreover, any decent textbook clearly flags the issues of ongoing controversy, noting the areas that require further research. Your characterisation of evil experts, I’m afraid, doesn’t pay sufficient attention to real world science.

If you smear scientific experts as incapable of critical thinking, you run into a slight problem (or should that be a “sleight” problem?): you need to put some scientific experts on your ‘good’ side to support your argument. You solve this with a sleight-of-hand move: “these experts aren’t like those other experts because … because they disagree with the majority consensus and are prepared to speak out about it. That’s what makes them ‘good experts’, so they can go in this good pile”. Err … nope, that’s what makes them mavericks – who aren’t automatically “good” or “evil”.

Having stacked the deck you can deal out your cards into the good and evil piles: “Majority consensus? Evil.”, “Maverick view? Good.” Well, thanks, that’s quite entertaining, and it gives us useful information about how you think, but it doesn’t tell us much about things in the real world.

Your good-vs-evil dichotomy is a crude attempt to skew the debate before you’ve even mentioned the medical issues. I hope we can sweep that sophistry away first.

“Clarke, over time I have satisfied myself that your opinions are not only negligible, but harmful.”

Thank you for telling us how satisfied you are, but I dare say your level of personal satisfaction is not a reliable arbiter of truth. I think you’re unlikely to be much of an expert in Clark’s opinions if you can’t even spell his name right.