Philosophy

Science Is Not The Answer: Should We Coerce Covid Drugs Because Science?

I have been asked by several, several times, to start a Substack. I have no idea why clicking on a Substack article is different than clicking here. But this might be like an old man ranting he can’t see why he has to move from MySpace to Facebook.

So I’m starting a Substack. I will post once a week there an article on the philosophy of science, and its tangents. I will either post that same article here, or link to it here. I will charge the same hefty fee for both. We’ll see which side gets more traffic.

Substack link.

The post works whatever the so-called Supreme Court announces, or doesn’t announce, today.

Science is not the answer. Not to any question, except those of this form: What caused this? The pursuit and measurement of the causes of things in the natural world, and the (under-appreciated) uncertainties in this chase, is science. That, and nothing more.

Saying what is good or bad about a thing, or that this thing is good, and that bad, is not science. Saying we ought to do this because it is good, and we ought not to do that because it is bad, is not science. Saying we ought to do this or that “because science” is always a fallacy, except when it relates to the practice of science itself.

Scientists have no special insight on morality, and, as history has shown, many scientists have stunted moral senses, and are often far too proud. Their ideas of right and wrong on any subject may be better than yours, or they may be worse. That a man is a scientist carries no weight in knowing whether his ideas about right are wrong are good or bad.

Scientists, and even more we, are often victims of scientism.

Scientism is the mistaking of statements about causes in the natural world for moral judgments. These mistakes are always a fallacy: extraordinarily popular ones.

You have witnessed this fallacy every time you hear somebody demand, “Follow the science!” or “Trust the science!” Again, saying we ought to do this or that “because science” is a fallacy.

The earnest person making these statements is often guilty of scidolatry, the worship of science as an idol. (Unserious persons are another matter.)

Science is a strange and incomplete god: science cannot explain itself. Science can, and should, measure cause. But it does not know why the cause of a thing is the way it is. That is, science does not know, and cannot know, the cause of causes. For this ultimate cause, which is necessarily present, is not measurable. There has to be a reason why things are as they are, and not some other way. Why things are the way they are, and not how they are, belongs to the realm of metaphysics, not physics.

So, too, for why things are bad or good. These are never scientific questions. When, as happens, a scientist claims to say some science is morally good or bad, it is because he has sneaked in his opinion on morality, but failed to recognize it.

These ideas stick best with an example.

Suppose a scientist issues this statement: You are more likely to be cured of covid by taking this medicine than by not taking it.

This is clearly a scientific statement. It mentions causes (the drug and other non-drug causes) of a cure, and it mentions a measurement of the uncertainty in these causes.

Trusting “the science” then comes down to trusting this scientist. We have to believe he did his job well, that he made no mistakes, that his model of a cure is a good one, that his calculation of likelihood was proper, that he has adequately controlled for causes other than his drug, causes that may mask or mimic his drug, that he has not injected his hope into the equations, and we have to add in our experience with statements of this type and their eventual outcomes, and so on and so forth. It is a long list.

Even granting all that trust, and accepting the scientist’s likelihood, it does not follow, at all, that you should take the drug. Even stronger, it also does not follow that all should be forced to take the drug.

Again, science is silent on what is right to do, or wrong. Insisting you must take the drug because of “the science” is fallacy. It contains a hidden value judgement, one which has not been made obvious by those doing the insisting. There are no values in science.

In this example, you might prefer to chance the other causes, which we might call natural. Because you believe these natural causes confer other benefits beyond the cure of covid at this single instance. There are costs to taking any drug (this is a scientific statement, too). Perhaps you judge the likelihood of those costs and consequences too high, and that it is better to suffer the disease. Perhaps you believe you will likely suffer very little with the disease.

Perhaps you believe you won’t get the disease at all. Perhaps you believe it is better to suffer a disease than be coerced into acting against your will. Perhaps you believe if you acquiesce in this instance, those who badgered you into taking the drug will grow too bold, and will only increase their tyrannies in the future.

Or you might be different and fret about the disease, thinking that if you got it you would suffer too much, and that you’d rather take your chances with the drug.

Or you might believe that if others aren’t made to take the drug, the drug you took won’t work. That its effects will be cancelled by the negative attitude of the non-takers. Coercing others is the only way to keep you safe.

On and on and on these kinds of considerations go. All of them are moral judgments. Not one of them is a scientific judgement. Most (but not all) rely in some part on science, or on previous or assumed scientific statements. The last, in particular, is based on bad science, or science that is (by most evidence) extraordinarily unlikely.

The problem is that the likelihood of a scientific statement, low or high, still tells you nothing about what is right or wrong.

This all means that whenever anybody asks you to Trust the Science or to Follow the Science, what they are really saying is trust me, follow me.

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Categories: Philosophy

27 replies »

  1. When I was a child, scientists were timid, steady, pencils-in-the-shirt-pocket geniuses who generally kept in their corner seeking discovery and certainty. Today? … many are cause-celebs with apparent little interest in anything other than money. How things have changed!

    One of the problems going forward, which is not necessarily a new one but increasingly predominates, is that science has reached the stage where it must bump up against basic morality and the very fabric of our existence in order to advance.

    Galileo went against religious authority and lost (at least from his perspective). But now science has gone way beyond the realms of religion and threatens the existence of this planet and all who inhabit it. At some point this has got to stop, or we all will learn how small the ‘blue dot’ (as Sagan would put it) really is. At the moment we seem to be on running down the path to our own demise. Follow the science!

    Hard to fathom where this is all going – but we’re not going to make another billion years on the current trajectory.

  2. I just saw on TV where VP Harris expects 500 million(!) coronadoom home test kits to be out by next week(!). The madness continues.

  3. @PaulH: Dem leadership has to distance themselves from the disaster they have created, while at the same time holding the line that absentee voting is required due to RONA. It’s a tricky route to navigate.

  4. But Briggs, if science, and by extension man’s reason, and by further extension man himself, is not God, the ultimate authority, then how is it that man might strut about, puffed with power and pride, shout do this, do that!, chop babes in utero, stick wicks in poop, magically switch sexes, cause the earth to cool or to warm, and all man’s other modern marvels? Huh? Only a god, an authority unto himself, can do those things.

    In undermining faith in science you undermine faith in Man as God, and so undermine faith in the Modern, you heretic.

    How dare you.

  5. PaulH: ”The madness continues.”

    The more we follow the science the crazier it gets. How can that be?

    If Briggs wasn’t undermining faith in science that would not happen.

    It’s all Briggs’ fault.

  6. Interesting that this post follows on from the one of the day before. Pro abortion supporters argue that no one has the right to enforce women to do something with their bodies, while many of the same argue that vaccination should be mandatory. On the other hand some will happily tell women what to do with their bodies, while insisting that vaccines certainly cannot be coerced. On the one pro abortion supporters appear to believe they are not harming humans…I think they are completely wrong. However those against vaccination insist it is harmful beyond what is acceptable…I think they are likely wrong too. Life’s a double edged sword eh!

  7. Science we’re still in the stone age of science; like the schizophrenic rock art
    priests of old up all night working out the apparitions and movements of heavenly
    bodies for telling the future and what it might portend. Their flights of fancy, musings, and
    predictions guided the masses and kept the offerings heaped high. Introduce microscopes,
    telescopes, colliders, dress it all up in the purest of white robe lab coats veritable mantels of
    perfection, laced with conflation, rationalization, and retraction science emerged from the gut
    of a chicken.

  8. “I have been asked by several, several times, to start a Substack.

    Substack is cool, man: you take a submarine, and then stack another sub on top, and then another, and another, until you have the Tower of Substack, and then you climb up top clutching a submarine sandwich and shout your lungs out, and the people marvel, and applaud, and call you an idiot while dancing like lunatics at a gay disco.

    Might be the right place at the right time.

  9. @Robin – Galileo did not go against the religious establishment. His patron was the Pope himself, who was also his best friend. Galileo’s trial and punishment had nothing to do with science, but with mocking the Pope in book form.

    @Plantagenet – Depends on which vaccine you’re talking about. Beneficial vaccines against deadly diseases? Or a “vaccine” that is nothing of the sort, and does naught but kill and maim?

    Having met and interacted with scientists, I can affirm that the vast majority are maleducated midwits. (They attended college, after all.) At least 80% of them may be charitably described as bottle-washing button counters.

  10. Trust Me!

    Radio ads promoting SARS jab for children (5-11 y/o) in NYC conclude with the female voice reporting that her female pediatrician has jabbed her own children, “that’s all I needed to know, I totally trust her.”

    I stopped listening to the radio, for all the propaganda carried about the jab.

  11. Stacking subs on their sides, using the conning tower as a prop, is child’s play. The real challenge is stacking subs end-to-end. Let’s see an Air Force guy do that..

  12. “Most (but not all) rely in some part on science ” should probably be “Most (but not all) rely in some part on the individuals understanding of the scientific evidence.”

    The science has already been done, it was completed before the evidence was presented. Science is a process we use to validate theories. Nobody makes decisions based on how well the experiment was designed. It is the scientific evidence that is used to make moral judgement. Moreover, it is the individuals understanding of that scientific evidence that is used to make the judgement. Two people can review scientific evidence and come to completely different conclusions, which is why confirmation bias is so dangerous.

  13. Morality vs Science: the twain always meet. Values vs Rationality is not a dichotomy. They are deeply intertwined, codependent, and inform each other. Note, for instance, the logic and rationality underpinning Aquinas. Metaphysics cannot stray too far from physics or it becomes alchemy, magic, and deluded irrationality.

    There are, however, both crappy morality and crappy science — and crappy metaphysics for that matter. Junk science abounds today because of moral failings. Too many “scientists” have abandoned the scientific process for reasons of fear, pride, greed, and power. Their “findings” are false. Morality based on falsity is immorality.

  14. Good luck with the ‘next wordpress’! It looks like an interesting publishing platform, but as you have your own website I don’t really see the point. Ah well, its the new cool thing.

  15. C-Marie

    The concluding paragraph:

    However, it might simply be too late. Substack has gained a reputation as a home for reactionaries and cranks that will stick even if the company does make changes, which seems unlikely while one of its founders is railing about the “thought police.” Facebook and Twitter are launching competitors soon. Substack’s race to sign up big, controversial names before those platforms started may have been an attempt to hold off those giants. But that strategy came with a price.

    Substack is the perfect place

    I don’t think “The New Republic” is anything you’d agree with Marie

  16. C-Marie, They lament “A number of prominent Substack authors have left the platform in response to revelations that it paid advances to several controversial writers, while some writers with long histories of anti-trans work are thriving. ”

    Well, that sounds okay to me.

  17. But Briggs! You can’t say that!

    Think of the economy!

    Much like then stock market it’s all about perceived value! And likewise the same is true of science! Because science relies on your monetary contributions to stick around much like any other local religious affiliation.

    There is a lot of stock in science! And like forcing others to take the vexxine to keep you safe, it is necessary to believe in science to keep it holy, and to believe in the legitimacy of your vote to have a legitimate government!

    If you stop believing in any of these things, then you are more likely to die of covid! You are providing ammunition to the far-right to take over the country! And your computer will immediately stop working because you do not trust the science!

    Atheists by and large believe in all of the above! This includes the practical followers of other creeds. They have a lot of stock in them! So by undermining science you are persecuting a minority! That’s racism – something that atheist science raised to the level of naturalist dogmatism and justification through the depressed musings of Charles Darwin!

    McChuck – Galileo was tried because he directly contradicted the judgments of the Holy Office against Copernicus, and claimed things contrary to the Deposit of the Faith, the Fathers, and Scripture that were long held and which science then and now supports. That Galileo was an ass and took the Pope’s friendship and the lenience allowed to him for granted is also one of the things that contributed to his problems. But in the end he recanted, then freely admitted his bumbling, and even modern science quietly admitted that Galileo was wrong, though it tries to salvage the overall Copernican system in spirit via recourse to mathematical mysticism. A spirit of conniving dum-F-ery that continues strong throughout this covid hersteria.

  18. Johnno: ” But Briggs! You can’t say that! Think of the economy!”

    Briggs never thinks about the economy. Profligate bastard.

  19. Plantagenet,

    The observed data:

    -Leftists do not believe in “choice” when it comes to the decision to inject a potentially deadly and barely tested vaccine. In fact the danger does not lessen their almost gleeful desire to inject as many people as possible.
    -Leftists strongly believe in “choice” when it comes to allowing mothers to kill their unborn children, and in fact very strongly push this choice over the sane one of having mothers not kill their children.

    One hypothesis is that the leftists are acting rationally following a set of consistent principles. But this hypothesis blatantly contradicts the observations. Thus if we are following a Popperian view of science, it must be rejected.

    Another hypothesis is that the leftists are acting under demonic influence. This does hypothesis does not contradict the data so we do not reject it, which is the closest we can get to accepting it in a Popperian view of science.

  20. Speaking of the $cience:

    David Maddison
    January 14, 2022 at 12:11 pm · Reply
    (Copied.)
    There is a new variant.
    It’s called Anothercon.

    OldOzzie
    January 14, 2022 at 10:00 am · Reply
    Biden Asks Social Media Companies to Crack Down on Any Vaccine Discussion That Does Not Comply with Official Government Narrative

    From the Comments
    Any truth to the rumors that Hunter is doing a study to see if cocaine is an effective treatment for covid?

    (My comment: Of course any social media that wishes to comply with official government narratives is required to memory hole any content older than 48 hours to remain in compliance.)

    https://joannenova.com.au/2022/01/repeat-boosters-may-reduce-the-immune-response/#comments

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