URLs du Jour

2020-12-27

[Amazon Link]
<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>: we have sort of a theme today. The Susan B. Anthony quote on our Amazon Product du Jour is a hint.

Except I'd make Susie's quote a little broader (albeit clunkier): after the word "God", add in "or Science".

  • At the new site Persuasion, Yascha Mounk explains Why I'm Losing Trust in the Institutions.

    Who should be first in line to get the vaccine against Covid-19?

    These kinds of decisions are never easy, and there are many competing considerations. Highly trained moral philosophers can have deep disagreements about them. Though I myself have studied ethics and political philosophy for much of my academic career, I am deeply grateful that I don't have to make those judgment calls. But for all of those difficulties, there are also some bedrock principles on which virtually all moral philosophers have long agreed.

    The first is that we should avoid “leveling down” everyone’s quality of life for the purpose of achieving equality. It is unjust when some people have plenty of food while others are starving. But alleviating that inequality by making sure that an even greater number of people starve is clearly wrong. The second is that we should not use ascriptive characteristics like race or ethnicity to allocate medical resources. To save one patient rather than another based on the color of their skin rightly strikes most philosophers—and most Americans—as barbaric. The Centers for Disease Control have just thrown both of these principles overboard in the name of social justice.

    In one of the most shocking moral misjudgments by a public body I have ever seen, the CDC invoked considerations of “social justice” to recommend providing vaccinations to essential workers before older Americans even though this would, according to its own models, lead to a much greater death toll. After a massive public outcry, the agency has adopted revised recommendations. But though these are a clear improvement, they still violate the two bedrock principles of allocative justice—and are likely to cause unnecessary suffering on a significant scale.

    Mounk goes into detail on the CDC recommendations, and mentions how they are rooted in the postmodern-inspired illiberal principles of "Social Justice".

    So it's bad enough when that Social Justice stuff is pretty much isolated on university campuses among those wacky academics. But it's now leaking out from academia and, in effect, killing people.

    Mounck also mentions that this got minimal coverage in the New York Times: another reason, as if we needed one, to distrust the NYT to provide us with the whole story on contentious issues. But…


  • … the NYT managed to (perhaps unintentionally) provide another reason not to trust the public health "experts" in a story that appeared in Sunday's dead-trees edition: How Much Herd Immunity is Enough?. For months, we've been told that once 60-70% of the population has Covid immunity, we could return to normalcy. But:

    Recently, a figure to whom millions of Americans look for guidance — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser to both the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration — has begun incrementally raising his herd-immunity estimate.

    In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent.”

    In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.

    And what he "really thinks" is that the number could be as high as 90%,

    What does it say when the official spokesmodels for public health essentially admit they've been shading the truth for months, because they think the country isn't "ready to hear" what their actual estimate is?


  • Or as Eugene Volokh puts it at his Reason-hosted blog: And We Should Trust You Now, Dr. Fauci, Because …?.

    Errors happen; scientists' understanding changes; but Dr. Fauci's statements here aren't just about changed medical understanding, right?

    Right.


  • We finish up with Jonah Goldberg, who correctly observes: Progressives have made a mockery of the slogan ‘listen to science’.

    Over the course of the pandemic (and before that, in debates over climate change, stem cells, etc.), liberals have insisted that we must listen to science and heed the scientists. It was a cornerstone of President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign and a constant refrain of President Trump’s critics. 

    Taken literally, I endorse the phrase “listen to science” wholeheartedly. Scientists have important things to say to policymakers and citizens alike — and let’s not forget that in a democracy, voters are policymakers, too. A well-informed electorate is a useful check on ill-informed politicians.

    The problem, however, is that the people who say “listen to science” tend not to mean it literally but figuratively, and worse, intermittently.

    Jonah also refers to the NYT story mentioned in the first item above. It contains this chilling quote …

    Harald Schmidt, an expert in ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, said that it is reasonable to put essential workers ahead of older adults, given their risks, and that they are disproportionately minorities. “Older populations are whiter, ” Dr. Schmidt said. “Society is structured in a way that enables them to live longer. Instead of giving additional health benefits to those who already had more of them, we can start to level the playing field a bit.”

    "Level the playing field a bit" by killing people. Geez, those Ivy League ethics experts are something else.