Here in Washington State, another draconian lockdown against Covid goes into effect at midnight tonight. It was announced yesterday morning by the governor, backed by an assortment of experts. As of last night the toilet paper had already been emptied from supermarket shelves. I’ve been shocked at the docile way in which so many Americans have responded to lockdowns, obediently panicking, because “Follow the science!” There’s a widespread assumption that government officials and public health scientists know what’s best and have our best interests in mind, always. Do they really?
Of course it’s the very same assumption at work in the evolution debate, on the part of those who dismiss the suppression of intelligent design dissidents, since as skeptics we’ve got it coming to us. The scientists know! We can trust them, always.
A Case Study from New York State
At Mind Matter, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor offers a scathing and important reminder that the science and government officials may not know what they’re doing after all. And that’s the best case scenario! His study is of the behavior of the New York State Department of Health early in the Covid pandemic. From, “Why Did New York Have Covid Policy That Killed Elderly Patients?”
Why did New York State health authorities and the governor of New York State order nursing homes to admit potentially infectious patients, and order nursing homes to disregard COVID testing as a criterion for admission — in the midst of a pandemic that was known to be exceptionally lethal to elderly people in nursing homes? Please note that the directive was a legal order, not merely a recommendation and not merely permission to overlook COVID status in admissions. Nursing homes were legally required to admit these patients, and legally prohibited from using COVID tests — even positive COVID tests — as a criterion for refusal of admission.
Several Possible Explanations
Dr. Egnor, who himself practices and teaches in a hospital in New York State and has seen the pandemic up close, weighs possible explanations: negligence, incompetence, and triage. He also considers another: deliberate, motivated action. Again, he sees several possible motives. One is that
The authorities, for some reason, wanted to maximize the political impact of the pandemic. Deliberate spread of COVID in nursing homes — nursing homes were known early to be the most deadly incubator of the disease — ran up the death toll enormously. It probably doubled or tripled it. It’s not what you’d do if your motive is to minimize the impact of the pandemic. If the motive of the state was to maximize fear, panic, and opportunities for lockdowns and crackdowns, this DOH directive would be very effective. Most New York residents would not immediately realize that the huge spike in deaths was coming largely from one specific source.
I personally would never underestimate the power of incompetence and confirmation bias to bring about catastrophe. Humans are incorrigibly incompetent and we see what we want or expect to see. For Dr. Egnor, the truth of what happened and why remains an open question but he has his suspicions. Read the rest at Mind Matters. It is disturbing and, if nothing else, compelling evidence that, as a rule, skepticism is warranted. The Scientists and The Experts do not always know, or do, what is best.