Resisting fallacious arguments

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Respect for empirical evidence has been undermined

I spent the decade I lived in New Zealand as a member of the New Zealand Skeptics. The gist of the organisation’s reason-for-being was to promote a broad-based support for the Enlightenment belief in empirical evidence. For instance, what does the data say about alternative medicine’s worth? Or taking vaccines? Or homeopathy? Take away the placebo effect and what have you got? What do double-blind randomised control studies show? That sort of thing. And behind this lay a commitment to the scientific method founded on doubt, debate, testing, data, and replication. Behind that, in turn, was the realisation that there is an external, causal world (so Berkeley was wrong and Hume was right) and that there are mind-independent answers imposed on all of us humans by that external, causal world. That means that truth about that external world (it’s more complicated as regards values, especially if you’re a Humean like me) is objective and real and not subjective and touchy-feely. Readers can trace out for themselves what this means as regards, say, the transgender lobby groups’ claims that a man can be woman if only he wants it enough, gets some cosmetic surgery and takes some drugs only invented in the last half-century or so. All of us have what, 3 to 4 trillion odd cells in our bodies, each with an XX or an XY chromosome. Like it or hate it, you’re born with it, a few XXY rare exceptions excepted. And that drives very different facts about strength, muscle twitch, speed, and why someone born male has immense advantages in most sporting events.

I start with that preface because the last three years since the start of the pandemic have done more to undermine trust in the institutions that were supposed to uphold this set of commitments to an objective truth than anyone could ever have imagined. First off, most everything the doctorly caste in the form of the official organisations told us has turned out to be either wrong or highly questionable. Heck, last week a new study came out suggesting elderly people did better versus Covid if they were near young ones. Our politicians, backed up by the doctorly organisations, kept grandparents away from grandchildren and left many old and elderly to die on their own. We got myriad idiotic rules – sorry, no golf or tennis for you – that made no sense to any questioning being.

Then there were all the lockdown supporters. At the end of 2019 every major democracy had pandemic plans that said ‘do not lockdown’. These were based on a century of data. In six weeks, based on what a thuggish, authoritarian China was doing, most everywhere outside of Sweden and soon Florida swapped over to despotism. What new data was there? None. Now Sweden has the OECD’s lowest cumulative excess deaths – the hardest criterion to game – and excess deaths about one-third of the other Scandinavian countries. Moreover, even that mouthpiece of lockdown mania, the Washington Post, is reporting that during the pandemic Covid deaths were wildly over-reported. You don’t say? Upwards of half, maybe more, were people who died ‘with Covid’ not ‘because of Covid’. Know what? When it comes to the flu, dying ‘with it’ is not counted as a flu death. My kingdom for a sceptical reporter!

Then there were the three years of the establishment suppressing dissenting views and nudging fear. Read what happened to three of the world’s best epidemiologists – Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford), Martin Kulldorff (Harvard) and Sunetra Gupta (Oxford) – who wrote the Great Barrington Declaration. They were censored online. With the Twitter Files dump we now know that the Biden administration was pushing for them and many others to be silenced and pilloried. If anyone thinks that sort of ‘we are the government and the medical establishment and we know best’ type thinking is consistent with Enlightenment values – or with long-term good consequences for society – then he or she is frankly deluded.

We saw similar cravenness from the churches (who disgracefully closed their doors); we saw it from Dr Fauci, with his laughable claim that ‘I represent the science’ (when we now see he was wrong on more than he was right, perhaps starting with the lab-leak origin theory); we saw it with the endless appeals to authority (that’s not a scientific argument), claims about disinformation and misinformation and myriad personal attacks on dissenters; we saw it with the media’s fearmongering and distinct lack of curiosity as regards anything fed to it by Big Government and Big Tech. Meanwhile almost no media is reporting Germany’s all-cause deaths are now higher than at any time during the last three years and it’s not Covid.

Here’s something else that needs pointing out. One can believe all the long-established vaccines are virtually medical miracles and those who refuse them basically stupid. That’s my belief. And that same person can have real questions about this mRNA vaccine governments indirectly forced many to take. Having questions about one particular pharmaceutical injection (which was given the label ‘vaccine’) does not mean you have questions about them all. Nor does it make one an ‘anti-vaxxer’. If Jeremy Clarkson dislikes one particular brand of car that does not make him ‘anti-cars’, right? This ‘anti-vaxxer’ label is being thrown around now solely as a rhetorical tool. Look, I got the first two shots but no more. The data coming out is making it pretty clear that no young person needed to get any of these mRNA shots. Firstly, the young were 1,000 times less at risk from Covid deaths than the elderly. Their risk was basically zero. So if this new mRNA shot has any risk to them, and it is plain it does, it makes no sense for them to get it. Well, unless perhaps they’re being forced to take it for others, the old. But now we know these shots do not do anything to slow Covid’s spread or the chances you, the taker, will get it. There is data now that suggests the boosters make it more likely you’ll get it. Explain to me the ethics of forcing the young, or any dissenter, to take it, please.

In fact, there are all sorts of questions out there. In the past we would have had a back-and-forth debate that appealed to studies and empirical evidence. The last three years we’ve had only the cancelling of dissenting views. Such behaviour only makes doubters like me more likely to doubt. You see, the science is never settled. I spent a few years teaching the philosophy of science way back when living in Hong Kong. Anyone who tells you the science is settled simply doesn’t understand how science works. You never know when an Einstein will show that two centuries of Newtonian physics turns out to be wrong at some level. For these experimental vaccines just remember they were not tested nearly as rigorously as standard practice requires and that Pfizer and Moderna got government indemnities. If that’s such a great process then why not make it standard practice for all medicines? And if it really was just a case of ‘we’ll take a lot of collateral damage in the hope this is better than nothing’ then you can see why no government will now say so. Ever.

This article is a republication of an article originally published here by the Spectator Australia.

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  • Prof James Allan

    Professor James Allan holds the oldest named chair at The University of Queensland. He practised law in a large Toronto law firm and at the Bar in London before shifting to teaching law and has taught around the Commonwealth, arriving in Australia in 2005. Allan also writes regularly for the Spectator Australia, the Australian and Law & Liberty in the US as well as semi-regularly for British and Canadian outlets. He came out against lockdowns, in print, as soon as they were imposed and never waivered from that position. His core research areas are moral and legal philosophy and anglosphere constitutional law.

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