Yale neurologist and self-proclaimed science expert Steven Novella has replied to my post about Joe Blow, my truck driver friend whom Novella called “anti-intellectual” because he doesn’t bend the knee to experts as often as experts think he should.
For those who reject science this is a core issue — they must attack expertise, reject consensus, and defend populism as their justification for promoting the idea that the consensus of scientific opinion is wrong. They do so with the same tired and rejected arguments they have for decades, which I guess is in line with their anti-intellectualism. Recently Michael Egnor… marshaled all the old tropes, which I have already dealt with, but I felt it was especially poignant in the middle of a pandemic. We are actually seeing in real time the consequences of science-denial, of rejecting the advice of experts and basing opinions on your “hunches”, and of approaching reality with a general attitude of anti-expertise populism.
I stopped by Joe’s house to talk. Joe read Novella’s essay, and he didn’t think much of it. In the middle of a pandemic, Joe said, a smug science expert is calling him and people like him stupid.
The Miracle of Globalism
Joe thinks that Novella’s got stupid all wrong.
Who was it, Joe asked, who told us that globalism is the miracle that will safeguard our future? Experts, of course. The pandemic is deadliest in Iran and Italy — both countries that bought heavily into globalism, just like the experts recommended. Experts gave us open borders — they insisted that The World Is Flat and our country is better off as a bus station than a home. There was nary a peep about the pandemic dangers of open borders and globalism among experts — experts love consensus. It’s ironic, Joe says, that the experts who rightly tell us to quarantine now in our homes are the same experts who called us xenophobes when we had the foresight to want a wall on our border.
Joe appreciates the work the CDC is doing, but he wonders why the CDC didn’t speak out about the need to secure our borders when typhoid fever, typhus, and tuberculosis hit Los Angeles a few months ago? The CDC has always known that pandemics come from outside the U.S. — often from China — so why were they quiet about our open borders policies and our astonishing dependence on China for trade and manufacturing? The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has spoken out about gun control and all sorts of things that have no relation to disease control and prevention. Why were they silent about the dangers of open borders, which is a vital issue — the vital issue — in disease control and prevention?
And, Joe quips, what about the experts who run Seattle and San Francisco and other cities where tens of thousands of homeless people are allowed to live, shoot up, and defecate on our sidewalks? Joe watches the science experts on TV: “Never ask questions about evolution!” “Overpopulation will make us starve!” “The Earth has a fever!” “Ban plastic straws!” But Joe thinks it’s funny that the science experts — infectious disease experts — never protested the open borders policies that sent medieval diseases flowing across our unguarded borders and never protested the virtue-signaling-as-governance policies that let human excrement cover our city sidewalks. Joe laughs — they even circulated maps of poop in public places in San Francisco. But the experts didn’t do squat.
Maybe the experts had their reasons for endorsing this insane public policy of open borders and permitting the homeless to commandeer sidewalks and shoot up and defecate in public — these policies were the expert “consensus” — but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to Joe. Joe may be an “anti-intellectual,” but when he sees a mess, he doesn’t make a map of it. He cleans it up.
Another Public Policy Debacle
And there’s another public policy debacle — an expert debacle — that really hits home for Joe. Joe used to work in manufacturing, until his job got shipped out to China. It’s more efficient economically, experts said. So Joe took a job driving a truck. His wife took a job at Shop Rite, cleaning shelves and floors at night. His daughter took a job as an aide in the local hospital, cleaning up and helping patients in the ICU. They had to make ends meet. What really gets Joe is that a lot of the manufacturing jobs went to China, which is ground zero for wet markets and pandemics. Experts knew this, but did nothing to protect us from it. In fact, they made us more vulnerable. Why would our experts work feverishly to help China, the very country that is the source of modern pandemics? And Joe is amazed that we shipped our pharmaceutical industry to China — the industry that makes our medicines. The experts were fine it. It doesn’t seem so smart to Joe.
What Makes You a Real Expert
Joe thinks that what makes you a real expert is being right about things. Joe asks: Were science experts right about open borders, shipping our industries to China, and letting homeless people defecate in our streets? It seems to him that, a lot of the time, experts are wrong. Really wrong. Pandemic and let-China-make-your medicines and feces-on-your-doorstep wrong. And when you politely point it out, they call you stupid. Perhaps being experts is part of what makes them wrong so much — you have to be capable of considerable mental gymnastics to believe some of the dumb stuff experts believe.
There are hundreds of millions of people dead in the past century because experts got it lethally wrong — wrong about DDT and malaria, wrong about “overpopulation” (which inspired forced abortions and femicide of baby girls in China and India), and wrong about eugenics which sterilized 60,000 innocent Americans and served as a trial run for the Holocaust. Joe says that Dr. Novella’s insult to him and his family — that they are “anti-intellectual” because they don’t take a knee to the experts who opened our borders to plagues and sold our jobs to China and who let people defecate in our streets — is starting to sound pretty familiar. Joe remembers the last election, when they called him “deplorable” because he didn’t believe everything the experts said. It’s the same old game, Joe says. The experts aren’t nearly as smart as they say. And the worst thing is that experts never ask themselves: “How much of this is my fault?” A common theme runs through the eugenic fiasco and the Malthusian-overpopulation fiascos and the DDT-malaria fiasco and now the coronavirus pandemic. Experts don’t apologize.
As I drove home from Joe’s house, I got to thinking about what’s really happening in this coronavirus pandemic. Tomorrow morning, before dawn, Joe will go to work in his truck delivering food and his wife will go to work cleaning virus-slathered supermarket aisles and his daughter will go to work bathing ICU patients in the eye of this plague. The curve will flatten, in a few months the pandemic will burn out.
The experts will pat each other’s backs and exchange accolades. Science experts will pen essays extolling science experts. During these months, a hundred million quiet ordinary Americans will go to work each day, delivering the food, cleaning the supermarket isles, bathing the sick and dying, and will get us through this pandemic.
Deplorables will clean up the plague our experts caused.