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At ACSH: Understanding the loss of credibility of expert opinion, post-COVID-19

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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.

14 Replies to “At ACSH: Understanding the loss of credibility of expert opinion, post-COVID-19

  1. 1
    asauber says:

    This is all obvious and the same brain-dead science-touting progs will just continue stare into infinite space. It means nothing to them.

    Andrew

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    It isn’t public health experts who have lost credibility, it’s their political masters who treat them as nothing more than paid lackeys to be tossed aside the moment they don’t say exactly what the Dear Leader wants them to.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky, did you even read the OP? For instance, did you bother to read this?

    “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.”

    That type of nonsense just does not cut it.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    BA77, we are seeing a case in FL, USA where a motorcycle crash victim in his 20’s is added to CV19 death statistics, raising serious questions. Especially, given apparent official responses. KF

  5. 5
    Mac McTavish says:

    And there are plenty examples of COVID deaths not being reported as COVID deaths.
    https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna1221496

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    MMT, the point is that there are legitimate questions on the statistics. Your point only adds to the force of that if deaths FROM (as opposed to WITH) CV19 are not being reckoned accurately. However much of the report you link boils down to it will take time for statistics to be sorted out. My concern is different, it is about flawed counting and a response by officials that raises red flags regarding duty to truth. KF

  7. 7
    Mac McTavish says:

    KF

    MMT, the point is that there are legitimate questions on the statistics.

    I agree. But it goes both ways. For example, excess deaths in the US from April to May are 28% higher than accounted for by COVID. I suspect some of this is due to the stresses associated with the pandemic (eg, suicides, opioid use, etc). But it is also possible that much of it is due to not categorizing legitimate COVID deaths as such.

  8. 8
    ET says:

    Dr. Fauci has flip-flopped on COVID-19 as much as is expected from any politician. The WHO has totally screwed the pooch. They aren’t credible any more. The CDC is always late and sometimes accurate.

    So yes, the public health experts have lost credibility.

  9. 9
    Seversky says:

    Bornagain77 @ 3

    Seversky, did you even read the OP? For instance, did you bother to read this?

    Yes, I did and I saw a vague and unsubstantiated smear tossed out to be swallowed hook, line and sinker by the gullible.

  10. 10
    jstanley01 says:

    From the “I’m from the government, I’m here to help” Department:

    Fact check: Hospitals get paid more if patients listed as COVID-19, on ventilators

    …Hospitals and doctors do get paid more for Medicare patients diagnosed with COVID-19 or if it’s considered presumed they have COVID-19 absent a laboratory-confirmed test, and three times more if the patients are placed on a ventilator to cover the cost of care and loss of business resulting from a shift in focus to treat COVID-19 cases.

    This higher allocation of funds has been made possible under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act through a Medicare 20% add-on to its regular payment for COVID-19 patients, as verified by USA TODAY through the American Hospital Association Special Bulletin on the topic.

  11. 11
    Seversky says:

    From the “I’m from the government, I’m here to hand out more taxpayer money to Christian churches” Department:

    Secret White House Meetings Helped Faith Groups Snap Up Small-Business Funding

    BY VAL WILDE

    In a shocking violation of church-state separation, President Donald Trump and his administration have offered billions of dollars in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to religious organizations.

    We’ve known this for months — and recently we learned which organizations receiving the largest paychecks — but now the Freedom From Religion Foundation has evidence showing that the Trump administration urged those churches to ask for the money, suggesting they would receive it if only they applied.

    The group has released audio recordings of secret phone calls — one participant described them as “tele-town-halls” — in which hundreds of church leaders met with prominent White House officials, who encouraged those pastors to apply for the loans.

    That’s a big deal for more reasons than one. Besides the violation of church/state separation, considering the administration never held similar calls with non-Christian groups to our knowledge, it’s also worth mentioning how they encouraged religious groups that don’t need the help to take advantage of the loan program at the expense of secular businesses who do.

    The PPP loans were meant to help prevent job loss during the COVID-19 crisis by providing a forgivable loan to help small businesses retain workers while quarantine interfered with their cash flow. As early as April of 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) determined that faith-based organizations were eligible for PPP loans even if they served no secular purpose, so long as they met the other criteria for inclusion.

    But even before that decision was made public, FFRF recorded the first of two telephone conversations in which high-level members of the Trump administration explained the process in great detail to church leaders, all while reassuring them that churches could keep on discriminating in hiring even if the government was financing their staffs’ salaries.

    Trump-allied faith leaders were assured by the federal government that even a discriminatory fly-by-night “church” that provides absolutely no secular social services, and of which the owner is the sole employee, could have its wages covered by taxpayers during the PPP time period.

    The second of the calls, recorded on June 22, was even more explicit about the group’s intentions to channel funding towards religious groups. SBA Regional Administrator Ashley Bell stated outright that the virtual meeting was being hosted “in partnership with the White House” to encourage faith-based groups in particular to scoop up PPP funds:

    “The goal today is to set the stage and let you know that we have over a hundred and thirty billion dollars left in the CARES Act, and we want to make sure that those resources from the Paycheck Protection Program are able to make it to America’s faith-based communities.”

    On top of that, televangelist Paula White — best known for being Donald Trump‘s spiritual advisor and lining her pockets in the wake of the pandemic — urged her audience of preachers and faith leaders to sign up for SBA mailings and webinars advising them of available grant money that could now, thanks to Trump’s loosening of restrictions, be used for specifically religious projects.

  12. 12
    jstanley01 says:

    Seversky @ 11
    You’re deflecting. Lots of people have lined up at the trough for free money, no doubt. But PPP borrowers have no role in reporting COVID-19 numbers, while hospitals and doctors remitted through Medicare have the primary role. The question is, did giving them incentives and leeway to pad the numbers produce exactly that?

  13. 13
    PaV says:

    Severesky:

    Do Church’s hire people? If they are not allowed to assemble, and hence collect contributions, will they not eliminate jobs in response? If not the purpose of the PPP to help businesses stay open so that people won’t be let go, leaving them with no means of support? Should this NOT be done for religious congregations because they’re religious? Wouldn’t that be tantamount to discriminating against religion? Isn’t that prescribed by the First Amendment?

    Just trying to help you through the thinking here.

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    PaV @ 13

    Do Church’s hire people? If they are not allowed to assemble, and hence collect contributions, will they not eliminate jobs in response? If not the purpose of the PPP to help businesses stay open so that people won’t be let go, leaving them with no means of support? Should this NOT be done for religious congregations because they’re religious? Wouldn’t that be tantamount to discriminating against religion? Isn’t that prescribed by the First Amendment?

    Is the Christian church a commercial enterprise? Are the individual churches small businesses or franchisees? Although I am now agnostic/atheist/materialist I was raised as a Christian and I can assure you that the foregoing was in no way a tenet of that faith.

    If they want to be treated as businesses then I suppose they could but then they should not be eligible for the massive tax breaks which they currently receive.

    I would argue that, constitutionally, for the Trump administration to quietly but deliberately funnel billions of dollars towards Christian evangelical churches is a clear violation of the separation of church and state. It clearly favors one faith over all others. That is quite apart from the fact that it diverts money away from the small businesses for whom it was intended and who, in many cases, need it to stave off permanent closure. I don’t think evangelical Christianity in the US is in imminent danger of financial collapse if they don’t get those funds.

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