“Rise and fall of Fauci illustrates death of ‘expertise’”

"As members of the institutions both tout and hide behind their credentialism, their obviously ideological positions shred the public’s faith in their credentials. The rise and fall of Anthony Fauci is illustrative of this trend." - CPost

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

First, when you retire at age 81 after more than three decades of leadership in your field, that's not exactly a "fall."

Second, populism has done at least as much damage to public trust in institutions as elites in those institutions have done.

Third, Fauci's missteps are widely exaggerated. He certainly did make some choices that undermined his own credibility and caused some confusion. I can't say I know anyone else would have done better in that role.

Four, it continues to be bizarre the way populists talk as though what went on in government during Trump's tenure is somehow distanced from Trump... but everything bad that happens under Biden is Biden's fault. It's like Trump was in charge but somehow simultaneously 'the people,' rather than an elite governing the people. But every person who becomes US President is elite. There have only been forty something of them over hundreds of years!

This is the definition of a governing elite.

So let's cut the nonsense.

The death of expertise is partly the failure of experts themselves and partly the widespread attitude that every individual's opinion is just as good as every other individual's opinion on every topic. So we have the hubris of elites and we have the hubris of populism. They're both making a mess of things.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron,there are a bunch of really major omissions and failures of Fauci, and I for one can think of someone I'd have rather had in his office; my daughter's father-in-law, a pathologist at Mayo.  Some of the more egregious failures of Fauci:

1.  He failed to act on the reality that sub-micron particles tend to form aerosols when forcibly expelled from a column of air--e.g. coughing.  Most of the things that didn't work to solve the problem--mask mandates, etc..--didn't work because they don't work against particles that stay in the air for hours to days.

2.  He quarantined the healthy instead of the sick, despite knowing from early 2020 that most people of good health were extremely unlikely to suffer unduly from the disease.  (this one directly from my friend, BTW)

3.  He failed to speak out against the practice of sending recovering COVID patients into nursing homes, the most vulnerable areas for the disease.

4.  He failed to apply the reality "the solution to pollution is dilution", and as a result, people were prohibited from doing the most effective way of avoiding the disease; going outside for recreation.

5.  He outright rejected the notion that herd immunity would slow or stop the disease, which violates first principles in infectious diseases.

6.  He and his staff repeatedly lied to the public, starting with the infamous face mask comments of March 2020 and continuing with his refusal to consider seriously the likelihood that it was a lab leak, and finally of course his tortured definitions of "gain of function."

7.  Then you've got his collaboration with WIV.  OK, we've got here the #1 perpetrator of genocide in history, what could be a smarter idea than to do research with them that could readily be used for making bioweapons?

8.  He never figured out what any clean room engineer would tell you; if you want to eliminate micron sized particles and smaller from the air, you introduce laminar flow., where air enters at the ceiling and is pulled out at the floor.

So I'd argue that a lot of people could have done better than Fauci, starting with "just about anyone who passed "Infectious Diseases 101" and took to heart what he learned.  There is something incredibly troubling about what was done in this case, because a lot of the failures are so basic.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

....is Fauci's failure to act on what we knew about the epidemic early in 2020; that it seems to select the old, smokers, and those with "metabolic syndrome."  You can't fix age, but imagine the gains that might have been possible if Fauci had stood up and said "Folks, best thing you can do to deal with this is to replace any smoking you do with nicotine gum or nicoderm, get your blood pressure and glucose in check, and get out there and get some exercise and drop some weight.  Curing viral diseases is notoriously difficult, but you can take some steps to reduce its impact on you when you will likely get it."

(and then you slap governors and mayors silly when they try to shut down city sidewalks and health clubs)

The trouble with this plan, IMO, is that it does not confer a "priesthood" on public health officials which allows them to command and control, and it does not allow them to ask for ever larger budgets, and it does not confer on them the kind of influence that allows them to get gargantuan sweetheart deals from drug makers.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

Moderator

I can't say I know anyone else would have done better in that role.

There were a lot of people who, in 2020, predicted exactly what would happen in various scenarios. And they turned out to be right. And they encouraged a course of action that is now being widely accepted as the right course of action. So yes, I think there is plenty of evidence that others could have done better in that role. 

Ken S's picture

RajeshG wrote:

I have seen some sources saying that mortality rates have increased after the mass vaccinations that have taken place. Here is one such article: Exhaustive study of German mortality data finds excess deaths tightly correlated with mass vaccination

Certain people warned that this would happen with mass vaccinations. Only time will tell whether their warnings will prove to have been legitimate.

 

That is not a credible source and does not reflect the data from many credible sources.

Bert Perry's picture

Rajesh, your source is ultimately a psychologist, clearly writing outside his area of expertise, and the article is not peer reviewed yet.  Your immediate source is a guy who clearly has an axe to grind on multiple levels.  That's not a recipe for accurate representation of the truth, to put it mildly.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Dan Miller's picture

I've been thinking about this since last week. I am an eye surgeon and I have the privilege of working as an expert in eye care. 

1. Science and Truth 

I appreciate Bert listing some of Fauci's mistakes. "Expertise" is certainly damaged when experts make mistakes. But science learns and the very nature of learning is moving from ignorance to truth - I should say towards truth. Because science always intermingles error. Careful science must be cognizant of what is unknown. 

The knowledge that science has made errors should not cause us to discard science. That doctors famously recommended cigarettes in the 40s doesn’t invalidate the current science that they are dangerous. 

My point is that mistakes are par for the course with science. And as Mark pointed out in another thread, mistakes also happen in Biblical interpretation. 

 

2. Science and government 

But let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that Fauci didn't make any mistakes. At least any scientific mistakes. I still would have a huge problem with how Fauci and others were used politically.

Science can say, “As we understand this virus, X many lives could be saved (extended) by doing [shut-down, making, vaccine, etc.].”

But that’s only one ingredient in the decisions to be made. 

Was a restriction on USA-China travel early 2020 a good idea? Or xenophobic? 

As 2020 played out, how much / when should we shut down? Two weeks to slow the spread? Months? Years?

The spin of the liberal media and liberal politicians was not only disagreement with whatever Trump decided. It was that he and Fauci were at odds. And, therefore, that Trump wasn’t “following the science.”

Fauci had the duty to give a scientific view on what measures would help or hinder the spread of the virus. And to predict deaths and ICU burdens. 

But other important factors were simply not part of his expertise. What would be the effect on children of various ages if we attempted to do schooling on zoom for a year? Or longer? What would the be the effect on the economy if we shut it down for weeks/months? What would be the effect on the economy if we did the PPP? 

And what’s the effect of all those things on the future generation in terms of widespread poverty and the effect that will have?

Just because Trump didn’t agree with doing what Fauci wanted did NOT mean he was ignoring or even disagreeing with the science.

Bert Perry's picture

I should have said not that Fauci made mistakes, but rather that he stood by them even as the science advanced.  That's the biggest problem, IMO. 

But that noted, a lot of Fauci's mistakes are ones that no trained epidemiologist ought to be making.  Nobody should be surprised when 128nm particles form aerosols, or that quarantines work best when applied to the sick, or that you don't send sick people with infectious diseases to live with the most vulnerable population.  Those are basics, what should be the automatic null hypotheses when you test the question.

There are reasons, I'm sure, why these mistakes were made, and I shudder to think what those reasons are.  I don't think it will be pretty.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

I should have said not that Fauci made mistakes, but rather that he stood by them even as the science advanced.  That's the biggest problem, IMO.

That was one of the big problems, for sure.  However, I think the biggest problem with Fauci was his not being honest with the American people.  As soon as he admitted (very early in 2020) that the change in recommendation about the masks was about keeping people who ostensibly didn't need the masks from buying them out from under those who did, rather than a change in what science had learned, he lost my trust.  At that point, every future thing he said was suspect, because I frankly didn't know whether he was telling the truth or lying for our supposed "good."

His loss of credibility was entirely independent of whether or not masks would actually be effective for virus particles if the masks weren't properly fitted N95 or better, which would be an argument based on science.

I think most people know that science changes, and many even know that that is completely normal, if they have even studied basic middle-school and high-school science.  It's when the actual science is subject to political maneuvering or outright lying, that people don't trust the scientists.  It's not science that's the problem.

Fauci's fall isn't about the death of expertise, it's about losing the people's trust by lying to them.  And IMHO, in his case, the fall is well-deserved.

Dave Barnhart

JNoël's picture

To me, this is the most damning problem with Fauci.

How Fauci and Collins Shut Down Covid Debate - WSJ

He and Collins purposefully shut many experts out of the debate, possibly causing permanent damage to their reputations. This is not science.

Add to it the strong possibility that the GBD was, in all likelihood, a better approach than what Fauci and Collins pushed, and you have enough worthy of indictment.

It matters not whether Fauci and Collins had the best of intentions in their decision to shut down the GBD - but what does matter is Fauci's insistence that what he and Collins did was still the right thing.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)