Belated New Year Contributors’ Roundtable

by Robert Gressis, Daniel Kaufman, and Kevin Currie-Knight


Robert, Kevin and I inaugurate a new feature at EA: a New Years Contributors’ Roundtable. Publication was delayed due to my father’s passing, so please excuse the discussion’s lateness. Most if not all of what we discussed remains relevant, though of course, this was recorded well before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


6 responses to “Belated New Year Contributors’ Roundtable”

  1. s. wallerstein

    Interesting dialogue!

    I’d call Robespierre “Dionysian” for what it’s worth.

    Above all, Dan’s description of his marriage impressed me very favorably. There are very few people who are tolerant, open and big enough to make a marriage work when there are such sharp political and cultural differences.

  2. Rageforthemachine

    It’s funny that Robert Gresis mentions having to endure political discussions on even a wrestling podcast. I myself have abandoned two popular wrestling forums because of politics.

    Once I made the mistake of opining that freedom of speech meant more than just no government censorship and the belief that people should be punished for saying certain things was against the spirit of free speech too. Within 20 minutes it degenerated into “since I am defending everyone’s right to free speech I must agree with that speech which makes me a pedophile”. Sigh.

    The other was a classic wrestling forum with an odd penchant for people making political comments outside the political forum. All I can say is if people don’t believe there is a faction of the left that is just as conspiratorial, bigoted, and jump to as many hasty generalizations as any QAnon supporter, perusing the level of discussion there will give you an eye-opener.

  3. Rageforthemachine

    I am somewhat confused by Kevin Currie-Knight’s statement in reference to the Kyle Rittenhouse case that our opinions don’t really matter. Yes of course our opinions don’t in the sense that almost never will they directly lead to a different outcome, but I don’t think that is the purpose. Ideally the point will be that our opinions will have such force and clarity behind them that they will influence enough other people that down the road a popular consensus will form and that consensus is what will lead to the change we want.

  4. All I can say is if people don’t believe there is a faction of the left that is just as conspiratorial, bigoted, and jump to as many hasty generalizations as any QAnon supporter, perusing the level of discussion there will give you an eye-opener.

    For sure, there is a nutty extreme of the left. But I think they a significantly smaller group than the extreme of the right.

  5. Lucien Mott

    Robert keeps saying that the information is always changing. There is certainly some political reason for this, but the science is not always clear cut. It is normal for scientists to change their position as more data becomes available and different interpretations get expressed. Normally, this discussion is carried out in obscure journals or on email between Scientists. During the pandemic these discussions were carried out in the open, it takes time for scientific consensus to be developed and it can be a difficult process. Furthermore, scientist had to convey information to politicians who all had their own agenda.

  6. I agree that changing science is what we should expect. But there was also strange behavior from scientists that made it extremely difficult to figure out the extent to which scientists were changing their recommendations because of scientific or non-scientific concerns.

    E.g., Anthony Fauci earlier on said that we shouldn’t get masks. Then he said that he said this because he wanted to make sure there was enough PPE for medical personnel. But, not only is this an indirect reason for why we shouldn’t wear masks, I also think he wasn’t telling the truth about this. The WHO and (I think) the CDC have been saying not to wear masks since 2003. My guess is that they have been saying this because they honestly thought that masks didn’t work. I think that Fauci gave the PPE excuse because he wanted to look Machiavellian rather than wrong.

    Fauci kept on revising his estimates about the percentage of the population who needed to be vaccinated, or who had to have had COVID, for herd immunity, upward: from 60% to 90%. But he said that he did this, not because he was following the data, but rather because he thought the population would freak out if he started out with the higher, 90%, estimate that he thought was true.

    Francis Collins sent a letter saying that the epidemiologists and public health experts behind the Great Barrington Declaration had to be discredited as people who didn’t know what they were talking about, in order to increase the chances that the public wouldn’t take the Great Barrington Declaration seriously. This, despite the fact that they were obviously extremely well-credentialed experts who happened to disagree about the best public health strategy for dealing with COVID.

    During congressional testimony, Fauci claimed that the phrase “gain-of-function research” had no meaning. Despite the fact that he had been using it regularly before.

    A bunch of public health experts (about 1,200) signed a letter saying that it was a public health imperative for people to go outside in large crowds in order to protest systemic racism. This was before we knew that you were safe from COVID if you were outdoors.

    With Omicron, Fauci said that the quarantine time should be reduced from ten to five days because this would be good for the economy. I agree with him, but it’s not a medical reason to reduce the quarantine.

    Those are the six examples I could think of off the top of my head. I think they are cases where scientists weren’t just changing what they said in response to the science, but for different, arguably political, reasons.