America's brutal introduction to unsettled science.

Is science certain that Earth is doomed?

Climate change is “settled science,” but Covid vaccination science isn’t?

Oh, so now we’re being instructed that the safety of the Covid vaccine is not “settled science.”

Experts now are explaining that the all those recommendations and mandates about how to stop the pandemic are changing because the “science is changing.”

Never mind that anyone who points out that the science of climate change (i.e. global warming) might not be “settled” is labeled an “anti-science denier.” Might as well call those people apostates or heretics, terms more appropriate to theology than to science. As in “an article of faith.”

So it was fascinating to watch CDC Director Rochelle Walensky being interviewed by FoxNews anchor Bret Baier. He pressed her about how the recommendations and mandates keep changing–a growing concern by a confused American public that has had it up to here with expert dictums that prove wrong. “Moving the goal posts”, so to speak, about when we can live our normal lives without the schoolmarm admonitions.

She said, “As that science evolves, I evolve, with our — with the CDC, the guidance. What I will say is, I continue to be humbled by this virus…”

Walensky correctly argued that the science isn’t settled, that as we learn about the changing virus we might be compelled to change the advice. (My own view is that science has a lot of catching up to do about the nature and conduct of the virus and how to control it. Despite that, we’ve been inundated with blind and dangerous overreactions, such as keeping children out of the classroom. Watch the entire interview below to get the thrust of what she is saying about the changing science. It’s a good interview. Honest.)

It’s more than unfortunate that the high priests of global warming aren’t as honest with the public about their certainty that mankind’s activities are heading us toward near-certain and catastrophic global warming.

Here I’m talking about the political, media, environmental and others who deploy their ignorance about science to condemn anyone for challenging the “consensus,” as if a vote validates science.

I’m not talking about the likes of the proprietor of the SkepticalScience blog, whose purpose is to attack the “deniers” argumentation with the scientific evidence. But even he had this to say about changeable science:

No science is ever “settled”; science deals in probabilities, not certainties. When the probability of something approaches 100%, then we can regard the science, colloquially, as “settled”.

So SkepticalScience marshals all the evidence he can find to demonstrate that the probability of global warming is approaching 100 percent, or, if I may, certainty. Well and good. Yet, I find it fascinating that such advocates believe that they and their models can be so close to 100 percent when they attempt to capture the full universe of factors and variables that change our climate. Isn’t it possible that they’ve missed something, or got something wrong?

While they’re at it, I would hope that they could tell us what Earth’s best climate would be. Does Earth have an optimal or most viable temperature? With so many forces beyond our control, can the experts tell us the best temperature is to, for example, keep the oceans from rising? And more importantly, can they tell us how the hell they would do it?

My view of science, whether it relates to weather or pandemics, is reflected most in “Unsettled Science: Statistics and Government Decision-making in the Era of COVID-19.” in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services.

Unfortunately for these decision-makers, [politicians and policy makers] science and policy don’t always operate on the same timeline. Science is an iterative process—it usually takes multiple steps, dead-ends, recalibration and challenges to confirm anything with any certainty. It involves someone presenting an idea based on research and statistics then subjecting it to peer review and–quite often–heavy criticism, which results in correction and thereby progress. Science is, therefore, inherently unsettled and relies on challenge to move forward over time. Policy, unfortunately, likes settled science as a foundation for solid (and politically safe) decision making. [Emphasis added.]

This was published a year ago, but the facts and reasoning are so solid that I believe it is perhaps the best thing written about the promise and limits of science as they apply to public policymaking. I sincerely ask that you read it in its entirety.

To subscribe to the Barbershop and be notified when I post, type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Leave a comment
  • If I understand you correctly, science is never settled, so we should pick and choose what science we want to believe. When I go to my doctor, medical research is never complete, so if she prescribes something I don't like, the best thing for me to do would be ignore her advice in the belief that someone else may advise something else sometime in the future.

    That's a real revelation for me, since I always operated with the knowledge that doctors, scientists or other experts could never guarantee results, but that pragmatically I stood a better chance using the advice of experts than I would using the advice of people who know nothing.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    If I understand you correctly if your doctor prescribes a med for you and you have a horrible reaction you will not question her or seek a second opinion? She is medical science to you? Case closed?

    I don't think Dennis was saying listen to nobody with any experience, but to listen to a range of experts. I think you know that.

  • An interesting side note is introduced by a health care journalist in today's New York Times. Your desire to ignore science may have direct pocketbook implications. She reports that health insurers are considering raising the health insurance rates for those who refuse to get Covid-19 inoculations

  • In reply to jnorto:

    There are over 200 viruses that affect humans. Should insurance companies raise rates if a person is not vaxxed for all 200? Do you believe that all should be vaxxed for them? What of those who have had Covid and have natural immunity? Or, are you a disbeliever in natural immunity science?

  • What does Covid-19 have to do with climate change?

    “O Judgment ! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason !”

    ― William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

  • "Expert" is a very misleading term. Three people i graduated with are considered "experts" in their field. My classmates and I consider them frauds. PreDNA, one testified in a murder trial, his testimony alone as an "expert" led to the conviction of the defendant. Ten years later, DNA cleared him. He is now an "expert" on child abuse and many of his accusations of abuse are not found valid. The other two lecture around the country. What they don't tell in their lectures is which drug company or manufacturer is sponsoring them and their research, just like the "expert" doctors paid by the cigarette manufacturers to say nicotine was not addictive. And don't get me started on the AB prophylaxis and vaccine hoaxes of the past 40 years. And don't get me even more PO'd about patients who read something by an "expert" on the Internet about some OTC med or therapy and would rather listen to them than me with 40 years experience. Gravity is settled science, the Earth revolves around the Sun, but a lot of other science is far from settled.

  • In reply to Get out of IL now!:

    Then your suggestion is that we go back to listening to the oracles? Or better yet, Dennis?

  • In reply to jnorto:

    No, it's buyer beware when you pick your"expert". Your "expert" might be my "opportunist".

  • In reply to Get out of IL now!:

    So, should we go back to listening to the oracles? Or better yet, Dennis?

  • I listen to people who I trust, as well as people i don't trust. I believe what i find most pertinent, accurate, and compelling. For instance, I believe and trust in my own doctors...they have a vested interest in keeping me healthy and alive because I and my insurance pay them. I may read or listen, but I don't blindly follow or believe anyone or any group without weighing the veracity, relevance, motivation, trustworthiness, and expertise of the source. I certainly don't blindly follow or believe political fronts, quasi-government entities (CDC) (NPR) political parties and most of all Politicians. There are a lot of narrow minded lemmings out there.

  • In reply to HSPARKS:

    What do you find believable about Donald Trump or Tucker Carlson?

Leave a comment