How Science Lost the Public Trust

WSJ How Science Lost the Public Trust

This article bears a lot on many of the discussions here. I wish it weren’t paywalled.

An  excerpt

“He(Matt Ridley) asks: “If you think biological complexity can come about through unplanned emergence and not need an intelligent designer, then why would you think human society needs an ‘intelligent government’?” Science as an institution has “a naive belief that if only scientists were in charge, they would run the world well.” Perhaps that’s what politicians mean when they declare that they “believe in science.” As we’ve seen during the pandemic, science can be a source of power.

But there’s a “tension between scientists wanting to present a unified and authoritative voice,” on the one hand, and science-as-philosophy, which is obligated to “remain open-minded and be prepared to change its mind.” Mr. Ridley fears “that the pandemic has, for the first time, seriously politicized epidemiology.” It’s partly “the fault of outside commentators” who hustle scientists in political directions. “I think it’s also the fault of epidemiologists themselves, deliberately publishing things that fit with their political prejudices or ignoring things that don’t.”

There are many things for which I fault Saint Fauci, but his changing position on a number of beliefs as our knowledge of COVID evolved is not one of them. Of course, if he would at times make the point that his previous position was in error, instead of just asserting the new position as though he had never said anything else, that would help a lot.

People need to understand that science is a process, not a sacred book.

43 thoughts on “How Science Lost the Public Trust

  1. Hard to argue with this. However, you could have referred to him as something other than “Saint Fauci”. Doctor, Anthony or Tony all come to mind. That is what those who completely disregard his fact based evolutions do. Instead you have to do what makes it hard to have civil discussions.

    But the point of what you posted seems legit.


      1. So Marjorie Greene, Trump himself, Paul are all paragons of truth instead. We should ignore Fauci and listen to them?


        “Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued an impassioned plea for residents of her state to get vaccinated against Covid-19, arguing it was “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for the disease’s continued spread.”

        Gee, what caused that turnaround from probably one of reddest of red state governors. Maybe Fauci was right after all. Needless deaths and hospitalization surges are hard to ignore even by the deniers.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Well, on the bright side, as transmissible as the Delta variant appears to be, the controversy will be moot in a few weeks,

          I have been saying people should get vaccinated since before they were available. I pointed out in this forum last October that there was plenty enough testing to make it available to volunteers and that if I could get a dose of the Russian Sputnik vaccine, I would take it while waiting for the FDA to approve ours.
          There is no one more pro vaccine than me. But I’m not going to hold someone down and force my will on them.


          1. You have been a light in the darkness with regards to vaccines, the efficacy and the safety. I would not force anyone to get a vaccine. But I have no big issue with making sure they don’t infect others who are trying to get back to some normalcy.

            That means allowing business, sports and entertainment venues to control the safety of their establishments with proof of vaccination. Inconvenient? Perhaps, but not as inconvenient as infecting others who may not have a choice regarding immunization.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I have no problem with the concept of a vaccine passport, though I would prefer it be through the private sector.

            But an endorsement on our driver’s licenses would be acceptable. It already noted that I was an organ donor, an endorsement that I had been vaccinated, confirmed by the registrations we got at the time of vaccination would do.

            Then if a bar chose to do so, they could exclude, or require masks, for anyone lacking that ID endorsement, and advertise their safety measures to attract those who re concerned.


          3. …an endorsement on our driver’s licenses would be acceptable. ”

            That is a good idea. However have you seen how long it is taking just to get RealID done? (sarcasm emoji)


          4. Well, if your driver’s license was issued by your insurance company(according to an industry standard,,) and not the DMV, that wouldn’t be a problem.


          5. “Come to think of it, putting an endorsement on picture ID will probably be called racist.”

            You bring up this whine out of the blue pretty damned often. What is up with that?

            Liked by 1 person

          6. Ludicrous?

            Uh, the objections are not to the form of ID. The objections are to forcing people to jump through pointless hoops that serve no valid public purpose. In-person voter fraud has NEVER been a thing except in the imagination of people who keep losing elections because their ideas and candidates are bad.

            BTW, If I had made this post interjecting racial issues out of the blue, you or Roberts would have leapt in with stern threats of moderation if I did not stay on topic.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. In other words, Dr. Fauci is not telling the truth in a manner that suits you.

    He has explained the mask confusion early on.

    He has kept us apprised when new facts or theories emerge.

    His “crime” is that he pissed off Trump by contradicting a few statements. For that he has a security detail from threats by trolls and internet scum.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Again, the criticism is more toward those who invoke his opinions as fact.

      And yes, is telling the truth in the wrong way. When you speak as a scientist, you must temper your speech to the degree of certainty you can prove.

      You can say “This is an apple” but until you bite into it you can only say “I believe it to be a Winesap” so when it turns out to be a Fuji you have not been invested in an incorrect opinion.

      It is very important to distinguish between what you know and what you believe.


      1. “It is very important to distinguish between what you know and what you believe.”

        Dr. Fauci is a reliable source of the best available scientific information about the pandemic. The confusion between his beliefs and the facts that he shares is your creation. In reality there is no such confusion. When he does not know something with certainty he qualifies what he says.

        If he says something and fake Doctor Rand says the opposite I will continue to believe what Dr. Fauci says. You should too.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. RE: “Again, the criticism is more toward those who invoke his opinions as fact.”

        I dunno. Fauci was among the first to compare Covid-19 to Influenza. Many of those who treat his words as gospel today scoffed at this comparison back then. Some even claimed it was Donald Trump who invented it.


        1. He made that comparison in Feb 2020 when we had 15 cases of Covid and many hundreds of thousands of cases of flu. He was not speaking of the relative severity of the illness but of the public health concern at that moment.

          Later Trump DID say that Covid and Flu were similar in severity and was publicly rebuked by Fauci for his happy horseshit.

          But go ahead, keep spreading disinformation – it is what you people do.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. So, Fauci gets a pass for changing his opinion as facts evolve, but Trump doesn’t?

            Trump is not a scientist. so blurring the line between fact and opinion is more excusable in a politician than a sicentist(though poor practice for both)


          2. Trump never changed his tune. Just like he hasn’t changed his tune on the election. He’s a one-note Johnny and once he hits that note, there is no coming off of it. He doesn’t evolve one bit. Regardless of facts. Comparing Fauci and Trump is a bad comparison.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. “So, Fauci gets a pass for changing his opinion as facts evolve, but Trump doesn’t?”

            Your lame attempt to defend your hero is another swing and a miss.

            The relative public health implications of the seasonal flu versus Covid-19 changed very rapidly after those first 15 cases. At each moment Fauci told the truth.

            The the facts of the relative severity of Covid-19 versus the flu did not evolve. In fact, from Bob Woodward’s work we know that Trump was well aware of the extreme danger of Covid-19 at a very early moment. The information available to Trump did not evolve. He chose to lie. His lies killed uncounted thousands of people. They are still killing as we speak.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. “At each moment Fauci told the truth.”

            No. at each moment Fauci stated his opinion. Not the same thing.

            Trump has repeatedly advised people to get vaccinated and that the vaccines are safe and effective. Is that what you think is harming people?


          5. “No. at each moment Fauci stated his opinion.”

            You are making a distinction without a difference in discussing the honesty of Fauci versus Trump

            Fauci opined truthfully, based on all the facts available to him.

            When Trump told the American people that Covid was like the flu and it would soon go away he was not speaking truthfully based on the facts available to him. He was LYING. The difference between speaking truthfully and lying is not hard to understand if you really, really try.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. “Fauci opined truthfully, based on all the facts available to him.”

            Opined is right, he was stating an opinion.

            But in science, you clearly label opinion as such.

            Again, the fault is more that of reporters and politicians quoting him, but scientists have to carefully segregate speculation, however well formed, from fact.


          7. You are still making a distinction without a difference. To prove what? Your dutiful hatred of “Saint Fauci” and love of Dear Leader are rational and justified? You will have to try harder.

            Fauci is an honest and honorable man. Something that you people always seem to find fault with.

            Liked by 1 person

          8. RE: “He was not speaking of the relative severity of the illness but of the public health concern at that moment.”

            Wrong. His JAMA article predicted that Covid’s infection fatality rate would be comparable to that of a severe flu.


          9. “Wrong. His JAMA article predicted that Covid’s infection fatality rate would be comparable to that of a severe flu.”

            Let’s see. What to call such a false statement? An “alternative fact,” a “wrong assumption,” “hyperbole?” I know there must be a short pithy word for it.

            Never mind. Below is the entire JAMA article. In it, Dr. Fauci makes no such claim. It was written very early in the pandemic – January 23, 2020 when very little was known about Covid-19. Assuming that you actually read the piece and are not just spreading some LIE about it, here is the ONLY paragraph where he discussed the possible severity and which may have lead to your “confusion” . . .

            “The situation with 2019-nCoV is evolving rapidly, with the case count currently growing into the hundreds. Human-to-human transmission of 2019-nCoV occurs, as evidenced by the infection of 15 health care practitioners in a Wuhan hospital. The extent, if any, to which such transmission might lead to a sustained epidemic remains an open and critical question. So far, it appears that the fatality rate of 2019-nCoV is lower than that of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV; however, the ultimate scope and effects of the outbreak remain to be seen.”

            See, he compared the severity NOT to the flu but to earlier Coronavirus diseases.


            There are two other points in this article worth noting.

            1. The looming threat of animal emergent Coronaviruses described explains why it was vital for NIH to study these things more carefully – studies now being lied about for political reasons.
            2. Fauci predicted that mRNA technology could lead to vaccines in 3.25 months or less. So much for the magic of OWS.

            And, thanks for referencing this article. It is one of the best and clearest (and short) pieces that I have seen putting this current virus in context. Well worth reading.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. I don’t remember the wording a the time, but if he said, ‘This new virus is equivalent to the flu.’ that would be very different from ‘So far, this virus appears to be comparable to the flu.’

          That makes it much more credible to later say that ‘For older people, this virus appears to be far more dangerous than the flu.’

          There is a huge difference between statements of fact and of expert opinion.

          Uncertainty must always be acknowledged. (Hint to Michael Mann)


          1. Unfortunately, the voices of right wing talk radio and FOX were adamant that this was like the common cold. And this was, as we now know, long after Trump already knew it was severe and told Woodward on record he knew it.

            Some of these people who are hospitalized asked nurses for a vaccine shot saying they thought it was just political or a hoax. Now who told them that?

            Now this may be ancient history in political posturing, but it set a tone of disbelief that has been undermining our efforts both before and after the vaccine. Even today right wing commentary will disparagingly reference Fauci’s reversal on masks once supplies were good enough so healthcare workers had what they needed.

            This vaccine hesitancy has been a year in the making. At least now some Republican governors are actually worried and telling people that the unvaccinated are the problem. But much damage has been done in the name of conspiracy central.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. RE: Unfortunately, the voices of right wing talk radio and FOX were adamant that this was like the common cold.”

            Those voices were correct in a number of ways:

            • Just like Covid-19, the common cold and influenza are caused by coronaviruses.
            • As Dr. Fauci himself reported, Covid-19’s infection fatality rate was comparable to that of a severe cold/infuenza.

            • The same behaviors that would slow the spread of the common cold or flu would slow the spread of Covid-19.

            Have you possibly become a victim of panic porn? Do you wish to leverage the pandemic for political advantage? What exactly motivates your conspiracy-theory thinking?


          3. My conspiracy theory thinking? Could you be more specific?

            (The other two questions are pointless. The politicization of the pandemic was the strategy of the right from the beginning.)

            Links to Fauci’s statement would be helpful for context and timing.

            If Trump knew early on, by his own admission, that the pandemic was a serious threat, why not say so. Wall Street was the first indicator to many when it nose dived. People don’t generally read the financial sections to find out about serious diseases.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. And why is that?

            Right now the only panic we see is in the red states that are experiencing a surge. The statements of raw urgency and finger pointing among several governors is very telling.

            The disease is causing the panic.

            Liked by 2 people

          5. We’re talking about last year, when the disease was concentrated in NYC and a few West Coast cities. Remember that COVID was brought to Chesapeake by a woman fleeing NYC who did not quarantine when she got here thinking she had gotten out in time.

            AT the time, postponing panic by downplaying the urgency was what is often referred to as a noble lie, buying time for protective measures to be developed.

            It did not work. Plagues have been spread by people fleeing cities for centuries.


          6. But because Trump had no idea how to address what was happening without casuing a panic; he just kept it under his toupee.

            Several times, I addressed how he could have made a statement concerning the virus, its effects, his response (well, not so much that…), and to attempt to maintain some level of calm. It is not in his make-up nor is telling the truth. And for four plus years his minions toadies and Kool-Aid infected supporters, including yourself, gave him a pass.

            I even provided a sample statement that a normal President would have used in some form to INFORM and treat the American people with the respect WE deserve. His disdain for us was a cancer that the voters removed in Novemeber.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. “Panic spreads diseases faster.”

            Well, that is very true if you are referring to Donald Trump’s panic that the disease would harm the stock market and hurt his re-election chances.

            If you are invoking yet again the behavior of people in the Dark Ages when the Black Death was looming I think your imagination is running away with you.

            Liked by 1 person

          8. No, I am pointing out that behavior has persisted for a long time, The difference is now they flee in cars and airplanes, and ox carts. It happens a lot faster gut the principle remains the same.


          9. Noble lie?

            Your rational for Trump’s stupid, self-serving and deadly dishonesty is laughable to me. There was nothing “noble” about his lying. Panic is more likely to be triggered by rumors and disinformation than by an honest assessment of the situation by a trusted leader. Trump had his chance to be that leader. He was not up to the challenge by temperament, character or intellect. And this could not be more obvious.

            And, where is your common sense? People moving freely and unconcerned around the country are going to spread a virus far more quickly than are people who are warned of the danger and advised to practice social distancing and avoid unnecessary travel. And, where do you suppose these imaginary migrating hordes are going to go. People in the Dark Ages might be okay with sleeping under a bridge – modern Americans? Not so much.

            Liked by 1 person

          10. “Well, Chesapeake for a start, and Florida.”

            I am not sure what your point is? Viruses spread?

            Did it spread to Chesapeake because Trump lied? Wasn’t his lying supposed to stop such spread? Or was it a rumor of how bad it was – maybe even worse than the truth – that panicked this ONE individual?

            I learned as a child – honesty is the best policy. I strongly believe that this policy was called for from the moment Trump was first briefed on the looming catastrophe. It could not have turned out worse and it could have been much, much better. But, it was Trump. Honesty is not a thing with him. The rest is now history.

            Liked by 1 person

          11. I guess you missed that comment.

            COVID came to Chesapeake by way of a woman fleeing NYC. She did not quarantine when she got here because she thought she had gotten away in time. She infected several people.

            Of course it would have gotten here anyway, but a weel or two delay would have given the hospital time to prepare


          12. Yes, I understood from the context that someone fleeing NYC was identified as the first case here. What I do not accept is that Trump’s lying is justified by such an anecdote. Did his lying slow her down? Had she heard rumors that made her think she was escaping certain death? Did the difference between the horror in NYC and Trump’s cheerful presentation spook her?

            Finally, it is worth noting that widespread migrations a la the Black Death did NOT occur as reality trumped Trump’s lies.

            Liked by 1 person

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