Science writer Alex Berezow puts his finger on the problem:
It’s not simply a matter of being wrong. It’s okay to be wrong, especially when confronted by a situation in which confusing and contradictory evidence changes on a daily basis. As long as experts admit to being wrong and can explain why, trust can actually increase because the public appreciates transparency.
A loss of credibility, therefore, happens for other reasons. In the case of coronavirus, we believe there are five reasons: Incompetence, waffling, moving the goalposts, disregarding unintended consequences, and being political.Alex Berezow, “Coronavirus: Five Reasons Public Health Experts Have Lost Credibility” at American Council on Science and Health
Specifically, he notes,
Many of the same experts who endorsed strict lockdowns in order to “stay home, stay safe” then endorsed anti-racism protests in which thousands of individuals crammed together on city streets. Public health advice is supposed to be apolitical and evidence-based. Such blatant political advocacy did not go unnoticed. A damning headline in Politico noted, “Suddenly, public health officials say social justice matters more than social distance.Alex Berezow, “Coronavirus: Five Reasons Public Health Experts Have Lost Credibility” at American Council on Science and Health
But there is a bigger issue here. As noted earlier, such a point of view involves a marked departure from scientific thinking. Presumably, the morally sensitive virus can distinguish between the virtuous anti-racism protestors and the evil Deplorables. If the experts have not come to believe that that is true, why do they act as though they believe it?
I (O’Leary for News) asked a friend the other day, when did we last hear that kind of thinking anyhow?
She: Oh, maybe around 592 A.D. …
It’s possible that the experts don’t believe the overall story they are telling the public. Maybe they also don’t care if people die. I don’t know. But no scenario leaves them sounding worthy of trust, as a group. People will still obey, if they must, but there is a difference between obeying and trusting or believing.
See also: At American Council on Science and Health: Political Partisanship is a Public Health Scourge The situation poses a threat to science itself. For example, politicians act as though COVID-19 restrictions only matter for some people, not others.