Pandemic Impressions III: The Great Beclowning of Science
Scientists promised to solve the pandemic and failed to get anything right. They discredited themselves and their profession before millions, and in consequence they're more powerful than ever before.
This is the third of a four-part series on my own subjective impressions of how pandemic policies have changed culture, society and politics, and what I think it all portends. Part I, on The Lie of Aufarbeitung and The Great Silence, is here; and Part II, on The Great Turning Inwards and the Great Opting Out, is here.
It is an enduring theme of the plague chronicle, that Western science been in decline for a long time, and for many reasons. These include the enormous growth in mass and scale of the postwar university system, which has induced the professionalisation of the academy and in the Anglosphere spurred an enormous explosion in administrative positions. Wokeness is only one symptom of the decline, and perhaps not even the most important. Field after field has filled with a new kind of paint-by-numbers scholar, who publishes primarily to secure promotion and prefers to work within existing paradigms, rather than to break new ground or attack accepted theories. Probably most scholars have always been deeply conformist people, but the crucial breed of disagreeable visionaries is now all but extinct. Academia has become one vast, banal wasteland.
These changes happened gradually over many decades without anybody much noticing. Only a minority of scientific findings, after all, have any relevance for the lives of most ordinary people most of the time. As a rule, scientists confine themselves to closed intellectual ecosystems, in which they generate praise for their own work and assess their own progress. The pandemic changed this. Suddenly, a doubtful class of pallid prognosticating virologoids were thrust upon the political stage, like a great horde of ancient court astrologers, and they were granted enormous power over everyday life. These charlatans, who had spent most of their careers being wrong in small ways hidden even from themselves, were suddenly granted the opportunity to be wrong in very big ways before the entire world. They didn’t disappoint: They were wrong about masks, they were wrong about seasonality, they were wrong about school closures, they were wrong about ventilators, they were wrong about lockdowns, they were wrong about vaccines, and above all, they were repeatedly, horrendously wrong about what the virus had done and what the virus would do next.
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