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Is “Trust the Science!” beginning to take a beating?


A recent opinion poll could signal something we’d suggested watching out for earlier: Crackpot authoritarianism around COVID-19 damages the reputation of science:

Overall, 29% of U.S. adults say they have a great deal of confidence in medical scientists to act in the best interests of the public, down from 40% who said this in November 2020. Similarly, the share with a great deal of confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interests is down by 10 percentage points (from 39% to 29%), according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Brian Kennedy, Alec Tyson and Cary Funk, “Americans’ Trust in Scientists, Other Groups Declines” at Pew Research (February 15, 2022)

The pollsters also note “Republicans’ confidence in medical scientists down sharply since early in the coronavirus outbreak.” But one may need to balance that against this: “Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications.” Despite the dubious record many official sources have for getting it right. That’s not trust in science; it’s trust in authoritarianism.

Rational trust is more easily lost than earned.

You may also wish to read: The cultural changes that destroyed trust in media. The critical question isn’t whether traditional media are trusted but whether their model can even survive the tsunami of the internet. It’s difficult for any traditional medium to match the immediacy, personalization, and breadth of social media — consumers create their own news channels now.


Royal Society: Don’t censor misinformation; it makes things worse. While others demand crackdowns on “fake news,” the Society reminds us that the history of science is one of error correction. It’s a fact that much COVID news later thought to need correction was in fact purveyed by official sources, not blogs or Facebook or Twitter accounts.

Polistra at 1: My sense is that people who would not have done so previously are starting to give themselves permission to doubt, based on their experiences. News
The terms used in the survey are confusing. "Medical scientist" is not a real occupation and was never used in the media. "Scientist" can mean Fauci or it can mean actual scientists. No actual scientists work in the field of Public Health. Only psychopathic demonic holocaustal Nazi torturers work in Public Health. Actual scientists, in physics or engineering, tacitly approved the Nazi torturers but didn't participate. A poll that used terms like "Local public health offices" and "CDC" and "Fauci" and "My Doctor" would give more meaningful results. polistra

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