Liberals are constantly demanding that we “believe the science.” I’m all for that. But the problem is “the science” changes, often quickly. Worse yet, what some want to call science is increasingly politics masquerading as science. And nothing has demonstrated that better than the coronavirus.
Consider House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden to take part in CNN town hall in Baltimore Manchin on finishing agenda by Halloween: 'I don't know how that would happen' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Build Back Better items on chopping block MORE (D-Calif.). In an April press conference discussing the coronavirus pandemic she said, “If you don’t believe in science and you don’t believe in governance, that is their [Republicans’] approach.”
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin meets with Sanders, Jayapal amid spending stalemate America can end poverty among its elderly citizens Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair MORE (I-Vt.) said last March that the Trump White House “has shown the world that it does not believe in science.”
And let’s not overlook Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenJan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms MORE. On May 19 he tweeted, “We need a president who believes in science.”
These “believe the science” scolds are little more than thinly vailed efforts to attack conservatives who ask reasonable questions. They also convey a sanctimonious intellectual superiority over anyone who challenges the left.
But demands that we believe the science raise the question: Which science are we supposed to believe?
Earlier this year the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rejected the notion that the public should be wearing face masks. CDC Director Robert Redfield told a House committee, “There is no role for these masks in the community.” And U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted, “STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing the general public from catching coronavirus.”
I watched several of the experts explaining last January and February why wearing anything but an N95 mask wouldn’t protect the wearer — or others. And several TV pundits went so far as to mock people who did wear masks.
But by early April, the CDC had flipped. “CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus.”
So in February you were silly if you wore a mask, and by April you were a fool not to. As Biden said of President Trump the day after Memorial Day, he’s “an absolute fool” for not wearing a mask.
Here’s the question: Was it science (1) when the CDC rejected mask wearing; or (2) when the CDC strongly recommended everyone wear a mask; or (3) does the CDC flip-flop demonstrate that the science may change when more information becomes available?
Warning to liberals: If you choose the third option you undercut all of your politically motivated “believe the science” rants.
Oh, and now the health experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) say heathy people should only wear masks if they are taking care of someone with COVID-19 or coughing or sneezing or under a few other circumstances.
So while Trump’s recent in-person meetings with businesses apparently did not meet Biden’s “science,” he did meet the WHO’s science.
Will someone please tell me which “science” I am supposed to believe?
There’s more. In March and April, we saw lots of scientific studies discussing how long the coronavirus could survive on various objects. That led to massive wipe-downs, fumigations and sterilizations of everything.
But the CDC recently updated its guidance, informing us that “the virus is spread mainly from person-to-person.” While it can happen, the CDC does not think the virus spreads easily through contact with things.
And the political nature of “believe the science” appeared again in the recent protest marches and even riots over the tragic death of George Floyd.
For the past few months the left has warned us against reopening the economy too soon. The science, we were told, said it would lead to a spike in coronavirus infections and death.
But those same people have been largely silent as thousands of people flooded the streets to protest the Floyd death. Most protesters were not wearing masks. Most were not socially distancing. Many were singing, chanting and even screaming — all of which the science now says are the primary ways the coronavirus is spread.
The George Floyd demonstrations are both understandable and a constitutional right — unless they devolve into riots and destruction. But not only are the believe-the-science scolds not criticizing the protest marches, they are supporting them.
Science changes over time as we learn more, which is why one has to be careful in proclaiming that an issue is “settled science.”
It’s the blatantly political nature of “believe the science” that has so many people questioning and even doubting the claims. Because when liberals admonish people to “believe the science,” what they are usually saying is “shut up and do as you’re told.”
Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.