JAMES MEIGS: Trust, But Verify, the Science.
But the people promoting transgender athletes aren’t really basing their views on science. They are expressing a value—that transgender people should be fully accepted—and then recruiting “science” to give that moral sentiment some extra weight. Values like tolerance are wonderful things, but they aren’t science. Science describes the world as it is, not as someone thinks it should be. Lately, some transgender advocates have gone beyond simply claiming science is on their side and have tried to bully scientists into agreement. Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage reveals how activists have worked to silence and banish medical experts whose research doesn’t support the latest transgender orthodoxy.
For all the administration’s talk about putting science first, on Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order on “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” Fighting discrimination sounds great. But, as Shrier writes in the Wall Street Journal, the order means that virtually every public high school “must either allow biological boys who self-identify as girls onto girls’ sports teams or face administrative action from the Education Department.” Biology be damned.
Sometimes, scientists themselves succumb to the temptation to put advocacy ahead of accuracy. For over 30 years, a few climate scientists have sought prominent roles in the political debate over global warming. There’s nothing wrong with scientists talking to the public. But when they appear to be finessing their research in order to bolster their advocacy, science and advocacy both suffer. In one famous case, a batch of leaked emails showed several leading climate scientists discussing techniques to massage contradictory data. They seemed to be looking for a way to make a messy story appear simpler to the public. As John Tierney wrote in the New York Times at the time, the scientists “seem so focused on winning the public-relations war that they exaggerate their certitude—and ultimately undermine their own cause.” Blogger and law professor Glenn Reynolds calls this phenomenon “the suicide of expertise.”
Public trust, once squandered, is hard to restore. In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, polls showed widespread support for masks and lockdowns. People thought they were following the science. Then came the summer BLM protests. Suddenly, health officials started sounding positively blasé about the risks of thousands of strangers shouting together for hours. A group of over 1,200 health experts signed an open letter encouraging the protests, saying, “White supremacy is a lethal public health issue.” Millions of Americans got the message: People expressing the correct political opinions get a pass from COVID restrictions. Support for even reasonable precautions collapsed in many parts of the country.
Read the whole thing.
Related: From America’s Newspaper of Record: Democrats Vow To Follow The Science Of Whichever Union Donates The Most Money.