Science is belief in the ignorance of experts, said Richard Feynman in 1969. Does that describe science today, or is science a state and/or academic institution that dispenses truth?
State science and science herded by well-funded and tenured academics has led to some mammoth missteps, muddles and misdeeds in the application of that science to policy.
It may be inaccurate to say, as Edwin Black did in War Against the Weak, that Hitlers racial hygienics ideology was imported directly and solely from American eugenics. But that Hitler’s race policy was heavily inspired by American eugenics is very well documented, as is the overwhelming support given eugenics by our reigning politicians and educators. For example, Hitler absolutely did borrow much of the 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Defective Offspring from the draft sterilization law drawn up for US states by Harry Laughlin, then Superintendent of the Eugenics Record Office in affiliation with the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Academic progressives and the educated elite fawned over the brilliance of eugenics too. Race Science was deemed settled, and that science had to be embodied in policy to change the world for the better. John Maynard Keynes and Woodrow Wilson loved it. Harvard was all over it too. Stanford’s first president, David S Jordan and the Yale’s famed economist and social reformer Irving Fisher were leaders of the Eugenics movement. All the trappings of science were there; impressive titles like “Some Racial Peculiarities of the Negro Brain” (American Journal of Anatomy, 1906) appeared in sciencey journals. In fact, the prestigious journal Science, covered eugenics in it lead story of Oct. 7, 1921.
But 1906 was oh so very long ago. right? Was eugenics a one-off? The lobotomy/leucotomy craze of the 1950s saw similar endorsement from the political and academic elite. More recent, less grotesque, but equally bad and unjustified state science was the low-fat craze of the 1980s and the war on cholesterol.
Last month the California Assembly has passed AB 2098, designating “the dissemination or promotion of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, or COVID-19 as unprofessional conduct,” for which MDs could be subjected to loss of license. The bill defines misinformation as “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus.”
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) now states, “If your child is 6 months or older, you can now help protect them from severe COVID illness by getting them a COVID vaccine.” That may be consensus alright. I cannot find one shred of evidence to support the claim. Can you?
“The separation of state and church must be complemented by the separation of state and science, that most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution.” – Paul Feyerabend, Against Method, 1975