Science is Real!

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… but that doesn't mean you should believe everything scientists say. Matt Ridley and Alina Chan take to the WSJ editorial page to outline the latest example: The Covid Lab-Leak Deception

The controversy over the origins of Covid-19 refuses to die, despite efforts early in the pandemic to kill it. It was natural to doubt it was a coincidence that an outbreak caused by a SARS-like coronavirus from bats began in Wuhan, China, the only city where risky experiments were being done on diverse and novel SARS-like coronaviruses from bats. The Chinese Communist Party did its utmost to dismiss such suspicions, but so did a group of influential Western scientists.

On March 17, 2020, the journal Nature Medicine published a paper by five scientists, “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2,” that dismissed “any type of laboratory based scenario” for the origin of the pandemic. It was cited by thousands of news outlets to claim that the virus emerged naturally. But Slack messages and emails subpoenaed and released by the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic suggest that some of the authors didn’t believe their own conclusions. Before, during and even after the publication of their paper, they worried privately that Covid-19 was caused by a laboratory escape, perhaps even of a genetically engineered virus.

Or if you would prefer a video version (a mere 85 seconds):

The politicization of science will end badly. Maybe it already has.

Also of note:

  • In our "Other People You Shouldn't Believe" Department… Jeff Jacoby has more on the curious case of The mendacious assault on Florida's new curriculum. (Mentioned briefly here yesterday,)

    THE LATEST left-wing indictment of Governor Ron DeSantis is that his administration, through its new Social Studies curriculum standards, is actively seeking to downplay the evil that was slavery. If you haven't examined the standards, or if you are easily swayed by tendentious headlines, you may be tempted to assume the accusation is true. In fact, the accusation is idiotic.

    Jacoby quotes historian John Hope Franklin:

    "In the Charleston census of 1848, for example, there were more slave carpenters than there were free Black and white carpenters," Franklin notes. "The same was true of slave coopers. In addition, there were slave tailors, shoemakers, cabinetmakers, painters, plasterers, seamstresses, and the like." With the coming of emancipation, many white Southerners demanded legislation barring freedmen from certain trades. When that didn't work, they resorted to "intimidation and violence to eliminate the competition of free Blacks."

    Nevertheless, Franklin writes, "thanks to . . . the practice of training many slaves as artisans, a considerable number of free Blacks possessed skills that enabled them to achieve a degree of economic independence."

  • But doubling down on mendacity… is PolitiFact. Who deemed Kamala Harris's characterization of the Florida standards "mostly true." In contrast to Jacoby and Charles C. W. Cooke, who deemed that characterization a "brazen lie".

    How did Politifact figure that? Well, they dug deep and found…

    Several historians who have studied slavery cast doubt on this lesson’s educational value.

    Or: "We found some credentialed people who supported our preferred narrative about which historical facts should not be taught."

    CCWC provided a (relatively mild) rebuttal: PolitiFact Once Again Shows Its Limitations

    This is hyper-literalism, followed by the cherrypicking of “experts” — both of which are choices that ought to be evaluated as such. When, as happens often, PolitiFact wishes to pronounce that a given claim that is clearly true is, in fact, untrue, it takes the opposite approach and finds mitigating context where there is none. Likewise, when it wishes to elevate experts who disagree with a given claim over those who do not, it does so. The whole thing is a game — and a game we’d be much better off without. “Fact” doesn’t enter into it. Like me, PolitiFact is making an argument — and an argument that ought to be evaluated like any other. As one might expect, my view is that PolitiFact is making a bad argument, that, by design, serves to allow the vice-president of the United States to flit wildly between a Motte and a Bailey, and thereby to indignantly tell the general public that Florida’s course teaches kids that slavery benefited the slaves, and then, when challenged, fall back onto the extremely narrow claim that one of the 191 references to the practice includes the word “benefit.” But, whether one agrees with that or not, it would be much better for everyone if PolitiFact, and those who pretend to perform the save service, were to drop “Fact” from their names and descriptions and come down into the arena with the rest of us.

    In case you haven't heard about the "Motte and Bailey Fallacy"—no, they weren't an old vaudeville team—CCWC provides the Wikipedia link for you.

  • Truth is the first casualty in war. And that's no less true of California’s War on Math, as revealed by Julia Steinberg:

    Perhaps you’ve read the headlines about kooky San Francisco discarding algebra in the name of anti-racism. Now imagine that worldview adopted by the entire state.

    On July 12, that’s what happened when California’s Board of Education, composed of eleven teachers, bureaucrats, professors—and a student—decided to approve the California Mathematics Framework

    Steinberg discusses the Framework's deliberate dumbing-down of California's government school students. All in the name of "equity" and "anti-racism". She notes that the inherent racism of the implcit assumption that "black and Latino kids were cognitively or culturally incapable of advanced mathematics."

    And (of course) the well-off in California will hasten to place their kiddos in math programs outside the government schools. Leaving poorer kids stuck with stunted math skills.

  • Speaking of folks who could use some remedial math… J.D. Tuccille finds them in lofty positions within Uncle Stupid's organization: Under Multiple Budget Scenarios, the Government’s Numbers Still Don’t Add Up

    If you're a glutton for punishment, you might be a follower of the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) depressing analyses of the federal government's fiscal prospects based on tax and spending trends. The term "unsustainable" features frequently, though "fiscal crisis" seems to have recently gained popularity. But circumstances and choices affect outcomes, so the CBO recently peered into its crystal ball based on scenarios that vary from official assumptions about economic conditions and policy choices. The results vary widely, but all examined paths lead to a future of growing debt and a hobbled economy.

    For starters, it's worth knowing the CBO's formal projections, as published last month in the 2023 Long-Term Budget Outlook. Reason's Eric Boehm summarized the findings at the time: "The federal government is on pace to borrow $116 trillion over the next 30 years, and merely paying the interest costs on the accumulated national debt will require a staggering 35 percent of annual federal revenue by the end of that time frame." Federal debt will rise from 98 percent of GDP in 2023 to 181 percent in 2053 "and pose significant risks to the fiscal and economic outlook; it could also cause lawmakers to feel more constrained in their policy choices," according to the CBO report.

    Remember: these are the folks who think they can spend your money more wisely than you.

Last Modified 2024-01-12 6:05 AM EDT