Covid And The Rise Of Scientism

Science, that is done with good ethics, for the purpose of fighting disease, is a most admirable thing and should not be rejected nor eschewed. But, what happens when scientists become elevated to a dangerous level, and an ideology of scientism becomes a new religion? With the belief in evolutionism being seen as an obligation in the scientific establishment, it is not far-fetched to have a fear that Darwinism — really, eugenics — would be applied by this cult of scientism. With the rise of coronavirus came a societal reliance on scientists, specifically in the medical sphere. Now, we are not arguing that these scientists are necessarily evil or have malicious intent. We are merely pointing to the atmosphere that the covid crisis brought about, specifically the reliance on scientific experts on making policy decisions. We must specify here that it was completely acceptable and morally right to go to medical experts in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, since it is them who have the knowledge on viruses. But — and this is what we are stressing here — could the reliance on scientific experts be exploited          to advance an evil agenda, like eugenics? It has happened in the past.

In the first half of the 20th century, eugenics was justified because it was what the scientific establishment  said was the right thing to do. The mass murder committed by the Nazi regime had the underpinnings of scientism, and even the the Young Turks — who ruled the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century and orchestrated the Armenian Genocide — looked to Darwinist elitism. Scientific evils still exist and are even accepted as proper procedure. For example, in 2017 did a series of articles on the Max Planck Institute, the most prestigious scientific establishing within the European Union, and showed how common it is for their scientists to use aborted embryos for experiments. The Max Planck Institute even has thousands of brain samples which were taken by Nazi scientists during the Holocaust, and this was revealed after the institute swore that they had buried the brain remnants in a burial.

In Seattle there is the  “Birth Defects Research Laboratory” where the corpses of aborted fetuses (whose lives were terminated because they had handicaps) are collected and which is heavily acclaimed by scientists. The largest collection of aborted embryos is in Kyoto, Japan, known as the “Kyoto Collection” or the “Congenital Anomaly Research Center,” directed by Shigehito Yamada. In Croatia there is the “Zagreb Collection of human brains” which is the Croatian Institute for Brain Research where the brains of aborted babies are kept for research. Scientific evil still exists and it is both praised and accepted by the scientific establishments.

Thus, to have concern that the reliance on scientists would be abused for evil is not without warrant. The Western world has already seen glimpses of the elevation of medical experts above ethics. For example, in 2018 a British judge ruled in favor that 11-month old Isaiah Haastrup’s life be terminated because medical experts concluded that he should not be allowed to live with severe brain damage. In the words of one article, “a British judge ruled Monday in favor of doctors arguing to terminate his care and against the boy’s parents.” In 2017, “Britain’s courts, backed by the European Court of Human Rights, refused permission” to prolong the life of 11-month old Charlie Yates who suffered from a rare genetic condition causing progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.

In both of these stories, one can see how the courts based their decisions to end a life on the opinions of medical experts. One can see how such power could be wielded by the scientific establishment in order to go beyond, from pulling the life support of children to orchestrating more eugenic policies. In the words of Richard Horton, honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who has served various roles for the World Health Organization: “Danger comes when political choices are equated with scientific deductions, when good is only derived from truth. At that moment, a society comes to believe that the world is completely knowable. Experts are sought not only to set political objectives, but also to formulate moral norms. At that moment, democracy is in jeopardy.”

Horton’s warning of “good is only derived from truth” may confuse some people. Is not truth good? What he is emphasizing here is not moral truth, but a callous fixation on “facts” that are deduced by “experts.” For example, if certain people are physically handicapped to the point that they need government assistance, scientific experts could affirm that such people are ‘draining’ the system and are a burden for the healthy members of the society.

Now, it would be a fact that these handicap people are indeed costing tax payer money, but even if this is a fact it should not dictate moral decisions or ethics. In other words, ‘cold facts’ should not justify a cold view of humanity, and thus such facts should not be elevated above human dignity or the innate value of human life. GK Chesterton once wrote:

“It is typical of our time that it has to look for its god through a microscope; and our time has marked a definite adoration of the insect. Like most things we call new, of course, it is not at all new as an idea; it is only new as an idolatry. …But in our own time has appeared a very different tone, and more than one great man, as well as numberless intelligent men, have in our time seriously suggested that we should study the insect because we are his inferiors.”

For society to look for “its god” in a microscope is to search for moral truth that springs from faith in science, and in such a paradigm the human becomes lower than the animals that science studies (hence why the Nazis were for animal rights while deeming certain people as inferior). Another current example of scientists dictating government policy that leads to death is what occurred in Sweden where its head epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, affirmed that no lockdown should be made at all. Because of this, Sweden had the highest death rate from covid in Scandinavia. Since covid is most dangerous against the elderly and those of diminished immune systems, Tegnell’s policy was essentially “let the weak die”. This “let the weak die” mentality was exhibited in New York City where thousands of covid patients were put into elderly care centers, setting off explosions of covid outbreaks amongst those most vulnerable to the contagion. Elderly care centers were even prohibited from testing new or returning residents for covid. As Laura L. Appleman notes:

“Compounding the problem, several states allowed hospitals to send COVID-19 patients into nursing homes and long-term care facilities, thus seeding the virus there and ultimately increasing infections and deaths. New York, for example, issued a state directive in March 2020 permitting COVID-19 patients to be placed in nursing homes in order to free up hospital beds. The order required nursing homes to readmit former residents with COVID-19 who were released from hospitals, as well as accept new “medically stable” residents, whether or not they were infected with COVID-19.232 The nursing homes were also explicitly barred from testing new or returning residents for the coronavirus.  Minnesota did likewise, and then faced a similar explosion of nursing home COVID infections and deaths.”

Who came up with this policy? It was the New York City health department, as we read in the AP:

“More than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York state were released from hospitals into nursing homes early in the pandemic under a controversial directive that was scrapped amid criticism it accelerated outbreaks, according to new records obtained by The Associated Press. …New York’s health department in July released a 33-page report, heavily criticized by health experts and resident advocates, that said patients sent to homes posed little danger to residents because they had spent an average nine days at the hospitals — consistent with federal guidance at the time about how long it took for people to stop being contagious.”

If governments want to enact a darwinistic policy, they can simply commission the scientists willing to provide their blessing. Alex Stevens, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Kent, warned about the use of scientists to justify state policy: “My previous research on the use of evidence in policy-making showed that ministers can trawl for evidence that suits their purposes or invest selectively in the types of research that are likely to show them in a favourable light. What results is the ‘survival of the ideas that fit’ … In working alongside senior civil servants, I learned how skilled they can be in selecting evidence that will tell the story that ministers want to be told.” (Ellipses mine). 

In addition to the reality of the exploitation of society’s reliance on science to justify destructive scientism, there is also the reality of how with the spread of covid came the acceleration towards technocracy, since people plunged into a deeper reliance on technology due to the pandemic. The rise of automation means more economic disparities as those with more tech knowledge will get far more ahead than those without it. When Pew Research asked 915 innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists about what to expect for 2025, they responded that they expect that “those who are highly connected and the tech-savvy” will “pull further ahead of those who have less access to digital tools”. And since social media is becoming more advanced and our use of these platforms is only deepening, the use of the internet to spread political propaganda that would incite populist rage will only intensify. Many of the respondents to the Pew survey stated that “their deepest worry is over the seemingly unstoppable manipulation of public perception, emotion and action via online disinformation – lies and hate speech deliberately weaponized in order to propagate destructive biases and fears.” With economic disparities widening due to automation, and the utilization of social media for propaganda purposes and misinformation becoming more and more expedient, political turbulency is to be expected as class tensions will be manipulated and exploited. Socialist ideologies will grow in strength, and class war will only be increasingly stoked. So with the atmosphere that the covid situation facilitated, there has been exposed a heavy reliance on science, and there has been accelerated a deeper reliance on technology and automation. With this, we have a reliance on scientists which could be capitalized upon for scientism; an acceleration towards automation which will make it more difficult to find low-skilled jobs, and the existence of social media which will make it easier to rile up those embittered against the system for economic reasons and unemployment. What we have here are accumulating trends towards a vicious populism.