Saturday, September 11, 2021

Ioannidis on the politicization of science


Like other academics, I first became aware of John Ioannidis through his influential 2005 paper “Why Most Published Research Findings are False.”  That essay was widely praised as a salutary reminder from one scientist to his fellows of the need for their field to be self-critical.  With the COVID-19 pandemic, Ioannidis would become far more widely known, this time for expressing skepticism about some of the scientific claims being made about the virus and the measures taken to deal with it.  His warnings were in the same spirit as that of his earlier work, and presented in the same measured and reasonable manner – but this time they were not so warmly received.  In a new essay at The Tablet, Ioannidis reflects on the damage that has been done to the norms of scientific research as politics has corrupted it during the pandemic.

The specific norms Ioannidis has in mind are, he says, “the Mertonian norms of communalism, universalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism.”  The reference is to an influential account of scientific method proposed by sociologist Robert Merton.  Science should be communal in the sense that research ought to be communicated to and shared with all scientists.  It should be universal in the sense of being judged by objective and impersonal criteria.  It should be disinterested in the sense that research should be pursued for its own sake rather than for the purpose of promoting some political agenda or personal aggrandizement.  It should be skeptical in the sense that scientists should make testable claims and welcome critical evaluations of their research.

Ioannidis notes several respects in which these norms have been violated over the last year and a half.  I want to call attention to two of his points in particular: the deleterious role that social media have played, and the damage that the politicization of science has done to science itself and to public health. 

The first is not entirely the fault of scientists.  Over the course of the pandemic, people of all political persuasions have confidently asserted that “the science” says this or says that, when in fact most of them have not read what scientists themselves have written and wouldn’t know where to find it if they wanted to.  Rather, what they know is what politicians and journalists have claimed about what “the science” says.  Worse, they know the simplified versions of what politicians and journalists have said that they find at Twitter, Facebook, and the like.  The doubly indirect nature of this knowledge of the scientific research already entails significant distortions.  Politicians and journalists of all stripes have biases, lack relevant expertise, etc. and this inevitably distorts their presentation of scientific findings.  And when their own presentations are reduced to sound bites by social media, there is bound to be further distortion. 

But it’s worse even than that.  For one thing, social media do not merely oversimplify complex issues.  They positively foster irrational habits of thought – snap judgments, snark and one-upmanship in place of dispassionate debate, groupthink, and so on.  And too many scientists active on social media have succumbed to these temptations, which erodes the Mertonian norm of disinterestedness.  Ioannidis writes:

Anonymous and pseudonymous abuse has a chilling effect; it is worse when the people doing the abusing are eponymous and respectable.  The only viable responses to bigotry and hypocrisy are kindness, civility, empathy, and dignity.  However, barring in-person communication, virtual living and social media in social isolation are poor conveyors of these virtues.

End quote.  Then there is the further distortion that follows from the political and financial interests that the owners of social media have in pushing certain scientific claims and censoring criticism of them.  As Ioannidis says:

Big Tech companies, which gained trillions of dollars in cumulative market value from the virtual transformation of human life during lockdown, developed powerful censorship machineries that skewed the information available to users on their platforms… Organized skepticism was seen as a threat to public health.  There was a clash between two schools of thought, authoritarian public health versus science – and science lost.

End quote.  We are constantly told to “follow the science,” but what we are given is not science itself but science as reflected in the funhouse mirror of contemporary media.  And everyone knows it.  The Big Tech companies and their allies in science who bemoan the skepticism that non-experts show toward pandemic-related scientific claims largely have themselves to blame for it. 

Regarding the damage that the politicization of science has done, Ioannidis says:

Politics had a deleterious influence on pandemic science.  Anything any apolitical scientist said or wrote could be weaponized for political agendas.  Tying public health interventions like masks and vaccines to a faction, political or otherwise, satisfies those devoted to that faction, but infuriates the opposing faction.  This process undermines the wider adoption required for such interventions to be effective.  Politics dressed up as public health not only injured science.  It also shot down participatory public health where people are empowered, rather than obligated and humiliated.

End quote.  The importance of these points cannot be overstated.  Genuine science must of its nature be coolly dispassionate, appeal to our reason, and eschew partisanship.  When you try to browbeat people into accepting some scientific claim, insult them for raising questions about it, loudly make a political statement out of adherence to it, etc., then you are inevitably only going to increase people’s doubts about its scientific status.  For if it really had the evidence and the best arguments on its side, what need would there be for the pressure tactics? 

Next to the enormous destruction caused by pointless lockdowns, the political factionalism Ioannidis refers to has been, in my view, the most depressing thing about the response to the virus.  Almost from the beginning, both sides have been reacting more to each other than to the facts.  Attitudes toward the COVID-19 vaccines are the latest example.  On the Left, some of the same people who were skeptical of the vaccines when Trump was in office and working to fast-track them are now insisting that everyone take them and condemn all reservations about them as unscientific.  Some who indignantly claim to favor sovereignty over one’s body when abortion is in question now favor making the vaccines mandatory.  Some of them talk as if unvaccinated people who get sick or die are getting what they deserve, though they would never show such hatefulness toward people who become ill as a result of eating too much or risky sexual behavior. 

On the conservative side, some who had no problem with the vaccines when Trump was working to get them developed quickly now regard them as if they arose as part of a sinister left-wing plot.  The Catholic Church has long taught that the use of vaccines developed using cell lines originally derived from aborted fetuses can be justifiable under certain circumstances.  But some conservative Catholics, though they had no qualms about this teaching when it was promulgated under popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, now claim that use of the COVID-19 vaccines necessarily conflicts with opposition to abortion – even though (as the CDF, the USCCB, and conservative and traditionalist Catholic scholars have noted) the same reasoning that the Church endorsed under those earlier popes applies to the COVID-19 vaccines too.  (My own view is that of the CDF – that use of the vaccines can be justifiable, but that they also ought to be voluntary.  Catholic readers who suppose that the vaccines cannot be justified might want to read this, this, this, and this.)

Each side is, in my view, largely reacting in kneejerk fashion to the other.  This is no more rational or defensible when right-wingers do it than when left-wingers do.  However, it is the Left that dominates the commanding heights in academia, journalism, and popular culture.  When the left politicizes science, as it manifestly has done through the course of the pandemic, it has itself to blame for sparking a reaction and generating the skepticism about science that it decries.

Related reading:

Scientism: America’s State Religion

Dupré on the ideologizing of science

Grisez on balancing health against other considerations

Preventive war and quarantining the healthy

Lockdowns versus social justice

The rule of lawlessness

The experts have no one to blame but themselves

What “the science” is saying this week

The lockdown is no longer morally justifiable

The lockdown and appeals to authority

The burden of proof is on those who impose burdens

The lockdown’s loyal opposition

Some thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis

134 comments:

  1. "If vaccines developed from cell-lines derived from aborted fetuses are a lesser evil than becoming infected with Sars-Cov-2, then said vaccines are morally licit."

    I think that the CDF is asserting the truth of the consequense without assesing the vaccine efficacy and safety and the real danger post by the desease.

    Any thought? I got that from Ann barnhardt blog here: https://www.barnhardt.biz/2021/01/01/michael-linden-returns-to-explain-that-yes-taking-a-vaccine-with-any-linkage-to-aborted-humans-is-illicit/

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  2. Thank you for this Dr. Feser, very good and sober analysis. I wish there were more of this and less hysteria all around.

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  3. Although I'm not catholic, I admit the use of HEK cells is unsettling to me, even more so because I now see them every day at work and am helping to culture two different HEK-derived cell lines. Unfortunately, a lot of infrastructure has built up around them (in part because they are easy to culture and HEK 293T is good for transfection). They are often used for protein production and modified cell lines are frequently sold for this purpose by the major biotech companies.

    Dr. Feser, what is your opinion on their use? Should students like myself try to avoid using them or refuse to use them? Is it not worth worrying over, since the deed that led to their creation is now long past and they seem to be around to stay, for better or worse? Would you feel the same way about HeLa cells?

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    Replies
    1. Yes it is morally unsound.
      If someone stole money and put it in a bank to draw interest, both the money and the interest would still be stolen and could not be shared with the thief's friends or donated to good causes. All of it would have to be returned to the original owner, or legally disposed of.

      The cell lines are stolen tissue being kept in a tissue bank, which is providing interest in the form of cells and marketable research. The tissue should not be shared or profited from regardless of the motives of those who use it. The tissue and it's derivatives should be buried since they cannot be returned to anyone but God.

      This is not the case with HeLa cells because they are adult cells.

      As you pointed out, continuing to use the present lines is a powerful incentive to create new ones, thus driving the abortion industry.

      I would like to recommend a book by Pamela Acker, M.S. that covers this topic as well as vaccination.

      "Vaccination: A Catholic Perspective"

      ISBN: 978-0-9715691-5-7

      available from The Kolbe Center at:

      www.kolbecenter.org

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    2. So, we should not use the organs of murder victims or those killed by drunk drivers?

      Delete
    3. "So, we should not use the organs of murder victims" -- or of those killed by the CCP for political crimes? Why not make the best of a bad situation? WWJD?

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    4. David McPike,

      Using cell lines from an abortion that occurred over five decades ago does not encourage future abortions. Using organs of murder victims/drink driving victims does not encourage murder/drunk driving. Using organs of political prisoners does encourage the CCP to kill people to harvest those organs. This seems like an important difference.

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    5. Ethical organ harvesting should not include vital organs such as the heart. Hearts are taken in working condition, thus indicating the living status of the donor. If the donor is living when it is removed, he is directly killed by it's removal. The aim is to remove it from someone who is declared dead by some other criteria; usually "brain death", a new term invented for just such purposes. A person is not a brain, and brain death is not an excuse to extract someone's beating heart; even if it were, it can very difficult to determine to what degree brain damage has occurred, and if it is survivable or treatable. The only way to be certain would be to see if the victim deteriorates beyond survival, but then this would spoil the organ; a catch 22 that precludes removing the heart or other vital organs at all.
      Only those organs, or combination of organs, that someone can walk into a hospital to donate and walk out again should be used.

      Delete

    6. The Vatican issued a document in 2008
      that was quite developed and nuanced.

      In it, they tackled the issue of using vaccines developed from illicit material - ie from cell lines from aborted babies. They said this:

      Of course, within this general picture there exist differing degrees of responsibility. Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such “biological material”. Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available.

      There are, clearly, a number of facets that have to be dealt with in estimating (a) the remoteness, and (b) the necessity of using a vaccine in any given conditions, but these are (and must be) capable of being answered. Both the
      Vatican
      and the
      USCCB
      applied the principles laid out in 2008 to COVID vaccines, and both made nuanced declarations that when vaccines from aborted cells are available and vaccines from "clean" cell lines are not available, using the vaccines can be morally licit - in the current conditions of COVID.

      Having studied the
      principles of "cooperation with evil"
      carefully myself, I find myself in principle in agreement with these results: our using the vaccines is definitely "remote material cooperation" with the evil of abortion, and as such, it is at least possible for current conditions to provide proportionate reason to use such vaccines. With the caveats mentioned.

      This is NOT the same question as being a researcher using the cell lines from aborted babies. That's not as easy to establish as being "remote material cooperation", but (in my estimation) it remains possible that it can be remote material cooperation with evil.

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    7. @One Brow: Yes, that seems like an important difference. But it also seems more complicated than that. For starters, it seems that the victims of the CCP actually are murder victims, so it seems that sometimes using the organs of murder victims does encourage more murder. Also, as Tim points out (more or less), in some cases/circumstances the very practice of organ donation likely encourages murder. In any case, when someone is murdered, this is a horrific event. Even if it does not encourage more murder in most cases, "yo mama's just been murdered -- quick, can we harvest her organs while they're still warm?" seems... gross, crass, disgusting, wrong? What do you think? I think that's just clearly not the right thing to do after something horrific like a murder has just happened. At any rate, if I'm ever murdered, please leave my organs alone.

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    8. ...and similar arguments seem to apply for victims of abortion, i.e., murder victims, from 50 years ago.

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    9. Yeah, if you need organs, the CCP is selling them. You can probably pick the political dissident you'd like to get them from. We'll do that in the US before long, once the silly pro-lifers get past their hangups (sarcasm).

      When you think about it, what's the difference between killing people for research and killing them for spare parts?

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  4. this article seems pointless to me.
    A) the important part here is the mandate > forcefulness
    B) the second most important thing are the premises vs case when it could be considered > the context that is so far from a bad situation that it should shut everything up .. but the discussion is still good for the future
    C) conspiracy. you are not considering it, plus conspiracies intertwine and are agile ) , they adapt .

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  5. Tagging on to BioE, I would be interested in your thoughts on whether the bishops endorcement of the vaccine is a cause for scadal.
    Meaning, even if the vaccines are moraly licit, since most people don't understand or care about the philosophical underpinnings of that judgement, does this lead the average person to believe that it is a utilitarian calculus being used?
    If so, shouldn't a Catholic refrain from using even a licit product when that use further cements a utilitarian calculus in the popular imagination?

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    Replies
    1. You're right,

      See me reply to BioE above.

      Delete
    2. does this lead the average person to believe that it is a utilitarian calculus being used?

      The issue of scandal is almost as nuanced and complex as the basic issue of cooperation with evil. Nevertheless, there is a major principle that needs to be recognized in applying the point about when your action causes "scandal", i.e. when it causes another to sin. The major principle is this: you have very different responsibility for those conclusions others draw from your actions that are justly and reasonably educed from your actions, versus those conclusions that others draw from your actions that are unjustly or unreasonably drawn from your actions.

      Regarding the former: if your action X can ONLY be understood as being intelligible by being motivated by one specific purpose, then all people will justly and reasonably conclude you must have had that specific purpose P. It won't be rash of them to "judge" your motives in that case. In that case, any sin that springs out of their apprehending what your motive was, would be (at least in part) due to your action - you would bear partial responsibility in a significant sense.

      But if there are many motives that could readily lead you to take action Y, then nobody could reasonably and justly conclude that you "must have had motive Z" in doing the action. In that case, their being led to commit a sin by reason of thinking "you must have had motive Z" is NOT something for which you bear significant moral responsibility. Thus in the latter case, even a quite modest good result can justify doing action Y.

      This MUST be true, by the way, for morally upright acts, because even the very best of our actions sometimes appear (unjustly) to others as having been borne out of bad motives, and we would be stymied from doing most excellent things by unjust, rash judgments of others. For example, a great many of the acts Christ did were judged by others to have been done for motives other than what he really had: the cleansing of the Temple, healing on the Sabbath, and calling on God as his Father. These all led some people to commit sins - sometimes very grave sins - because they judged him rashly. The same is true of many of the apostles and saints - they had people misjudging them and were led to sins because of it.

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  6. In any case, the whole vaccine mandate seem to be an attempt to create stray voltage to distract us from the fact that the bureacracy of the American government funded the development of this disease. And apparently sees nothing wrong with having done so.

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  7. Thank you for linking to articles regarding why it can be acceptable to take abortion tainted vaccines and the remoteness to cooperation with evil.

    The “graveness” of not taking it is the problem in my current calculations on this matter. Is a 99+ % survival rate a truly grave situation where these vaccinations are the ONLY alternative?

    I would not mind having this objection of mine changed as I am preparing to loose my job over this . If death rates were even close to other outbreaks in recent past ( H1N1, Swine flu, etc) where the grave situation is better argued, it would seem more reasonable to take the vaccine.

    Please help me get past the “grave” situation- what am I missing?

    Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Mike R,

      For some people in high risk groups, their situation may be "grave". That is for them to evaluate.

      Delete
    2. As you pointed out, the survival rate makes it anything but grave for most people.
      For those who are high risk, it is not worth risking the side effects of these vaccines which can be lethal or debilitating, especially when there are alternatives like the anti-parasitics,(hydroxychloroquin and ivermectin ) and high dose vitamins.

      The fact that these vaccines are being used as a kind of loyalty test is also reason to avoid them. Why would you have to tell a third world county that they must give a vaccine manufacturer complete immunity from prosecution, and put up military bases as collateral, if these products were safe?

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    3. The fact that people are being fired for declining the vaccine looks to me very close to defrauding the worker of his just wages, i.e., a gross injustice, a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance. Perhaps that adds another dimension to the cooperation in evil that one is now implicated in, at least in many places, by accepting to be vaccinated. As long as one protests the totalitarian campaign, the cooperation would be only material, not formal. But it would also seem to be quite proximate: by agreeing to be vaxxed you're directly participating in bringing about the success of the totalitarian campaign. The vaxx-fascists can only be defeated by conscientious objectors refusing both formal and material cooperation with their campaign. So it looks to me at this point like there are serious moral reasons for thinking one might be obliged to refuse to be vaccinated that are stronger than those concerned with remote material cooperation with abortion.

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    4. @Tim the White: “ For those who are high risk, it is not worth risking the side effects of these vaccines which can be lethal or debilitating, especially when there are alternatives like the anti-parasitics,(hydroxychloroquin and ivermectin ) and high dose vitamins.”

      For people at high risk from Covid 19, the relative risks of taking the vaccines is negligible, tiny. It’s when you look at healthy young people who are already at very low risk from Covid, that the relative risks of the vaccine are even worth talking about.

      Also hydroxychloroquin and ivermectin are not serious treatment options. The fact that people keep claiming they are, despite the evidence to the contrary, shows that we’re talking about tribalism and propaganda at this stage. Also I find it interesting that people claiming that using these vaccines is “cooperating with evil”, then suggest using hydroxychloroquin. This was developed from Chloroquine, which was developed by the Nazis.

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    5. Simon Adams, I agree with you about vaccines. I don't understand why anyone over about 18 or 20 wouldn't get the Covid vaccine(s). The risk of Covid is negligible for younger people, but the risk from vaccines is even more so. It is only in minors where the vaccine may be more risky than Covid.

      On hydroxychloroquin that isn't quite true. I think it has been pretty much shown by now that it, when used with zinc and used early enough, can be a partial treatment for lessening the risk of severe outcomes from Covid. But it exponentially less effective than the vaccine.

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  8. Some who indignantly claim to favor sovereignty over one’s body when abortion is in question now favor making the vaccines mandatory.

    Could any of the materialists/physicalists ("DonJindra", "Papalinton", "StardustyPsyche", "FreeThinker"? etc) that visit this blog kindly explain to us ("silly theists") how on round Earth can a "bag of chemicals" who is both created an manipulated by the Laws of Physics claim sovereignity over anything?

    I'm targetting them because it's them who say that "science is on their side" and "science has proved" (lol) that "free will is an illusion".

    How can an "illusion" exert causal powers? That amounts to a miracle and their materialist/physicalist religion forbids them from believing in such silly things.

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    Replies
    1. uncommonDescent,

      Could they explain? No. They cannot explain how it is that they think some chemical reactions are "wrong", or what standard even tells them this. In fact, they can't even allow themselves to understand the question.

      Delete
    2. UncommonDescent,

      I've always argued for free will, or simply, will. It's no illusion.

      Delete
    3. @DonJindra:
      I've always argued for free will, or simply, will. It's no illusion.

      But in Feser's post Make-Believe Matter you said you believe in the causal closure of the physical Universe.

      The problem is that the pairing causal closure + free will is incoherent, since pre-fixated, immutable laws can not allow any degree of freedom. They govern (and with an iron fist) each and every "movement" of each and every existent atom (past, present and future); therefore it's logically impossible to say that a "bag of chemicals" = (human being) can have any sovereignty over anything.

      Which of course includes the capacity of "choosing to be a materialist/physicalist/atheist" ;) You can choose nihil literally because it's an external imposition and your only "no-choice" is to acquiesce to it.

      Which (again), and it's indisputable, shows that materialism/physicalism is an irrational philosophy.

      Let's ditch it for the sake of sanity.

      Delete
    4. UncommonDescent,

      You think a materialist must necessarily believe in a strictly deterministic universe. But I don't believe in that sort of universe. Physics seems to back me up on that.

      Delete
    5. @Don Jindra:
      You think a materialist must necessarily believe in a strictly deterministic universe.

      A materialist/physicalist that believes in causal closure (and I know of no physicalist that is worth the name who is ready to ditch causal closure) believes (and has to believe if he wants to keep being a "physicalist") that The Laws of Physics govern the behavior of each and every atom existent in the Universe (past, present and future).

      Unless you want to assert that there are certain atoms in the Universe (for example those that make your brain) that are exempt of the effect of such laws. Which would be quite strange, counter-intuitive and clearly not supported by science.

      Is that what you are suggesting?

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    6. @T N:
      They cannot explain how it is that they think some chemical reactions are "wrong", or what standard even tells them this.

      True. The massive problem with their absurd philosophy is that they can not claim ownership of any of their thoughts, since thoughts are the result of the inner workings of their neurons, and the inner workings of their neurons are bound to obey The Laws of Physics.

      So each time that they claim that "physicalism is right", what they are in fact saying is that The Laws of Physics were the ones that  "moved" the atoms in their brains and forced them to output such result, which automatically and per own admission converts them into string puppets with no volition and no rationality.

      No amount of physical particles that are part of this Universe can "will themselves out" of the effects of The Laws of Physics. Once a puppet = forever a puppet.

      And that's why the West is in so much trouble. Because it has adopted this non-sensical philosophy as its official religion/ modus vivendi and irrationality (obviously) can only breed more irrationality.

      Materialism has to go. It has to be relegated to the level of "The Last Superstition".

      Delete
    7. UncommonDescent,

      I believe all physical states have purely physical causes. I also believe mental states have purely physical causes. I do not believe atoms disobey laws of nature. But I do not believe the laws of nature are 100% deterministic. At best the laws of nature are probabilistic. So you're wrong about at least one materialist.

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    8. @ Don Jindra:
      I  also believe mental states have purely physical causes.

      Meaning you believe that mental states are causally impotent since only physical states are needed to output neuronal results ("thoughts").

       I do not believe atoms disobey laws of nature.

      Which includes the atoms that conform your neurons and are responsible of both creating "you" (the "self") and the thoughts "you" experience.

      Meaning that you are a neuronal byproduct ( an epiphenomena ) forced to observe and acquiesce to anything that your master The Laws of Physics previously  "decides" to output (this is a metaphor since The Laws of Physics are impersonal/ not mental).

      Even the thoughts "I believe X", "I do not believe Y", etc are mere outputs of a bunch of atoms that are embeded in the fabric of the Universe and are subject to impersonal and inviolable natural laws ( per your own admission).

      So you're wrong about at least one materialist.

      Not at all. You are another materialist (among many) who is trying to escape the irrational consequences of your physicalist doctrine by adding more and more epicycles to it. But it does not matter (pun intended) because physicalism is a failed philosophy and it has to be ditched.

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    9. "Wrong"? A given Chemical reaction can't be "wrong". Chemicals just exist.

      Delete
    10. UncommonDescent,

      "Meaning you believe that mental states are causally impotent since only physical states are needed to output neuronal results ("thoughts")"

      That's simply you begging the question. Logical fallacy won't get you far with me.

      Delete
    11. "But I do not believe the laws of nature are 100% deterministic. At best the laws of nature are probabilistic."

      Must be the first time I have read a materialist taking solace in the probabilistic nature of the physical laws (presumably, this is related to QM. Whether QM is ultimately probabilistic is itself a vexing matter, but put that aside for now). It is the most desicated, vacuous concept of Will, free or otherwise.

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    12. @Don Jindra:
      That's simply you begging the question.

      Oh really? :) Then, according to you: what's the role of the "mental part" in a Universe which per your own admission is causally (physically) closed?

      "Mental" does the following thing/things:

      1. _______
      2. _______
      3. _______

      Logical fallacy won't get you far with me.

      Well, equivocating and twisting words (which is what you do in each and every post) won't get you far with me. I'm a hard nut to crack! ;)





      Delete
    13. grodrigues,

      I got this from Robert Koons: The interesting thing about the the deterministic and reductive claims around QM is that they hindge on an irreducible observer. Zing!

      In any case, Don is another troll who hasn't worn himself out . . . yet.

      Delete
    14. @ T N:

      Wrong"? A given Chemical reaction can't be "wrong". Chemicals just exist.

      And according to the bizarre physicalist religion, certain "bags of chemicals" (humans) have the "right" to keep undergoing physico-chemical reactions (life) while other "bags of chemicals" don't have that "right" to keep undergoing physico-chemical reactions (for example a child in the womb does not have it). Mummy can "choose" to cut him into pieces though according to physicalism no human has the capacity to choose anything since we are mere automata (except of course the atheist/naturalist who has freely "chosen" to be an atheist/ naturalist and bursts with pride for being such an intelligent "bag of chemicals").

      Delete
    15. grodrigues,

      "It is the most desiccated, vacuous concept of Will, free or otherwise."

      If that was the extent of my defense of will I would agree with you.

      Once we establish that the universe is not deterministic, it opens a can of worms for free will opponents. For if there is even a bit of randomness in the universe, it's impossible to say with confidence it's the only such non-deterministic activity in the universe. 'Will' becomes a second possibility.

      I originally answered a question because my name was mentioned. But I hesitate to stray too far from the topic of the blog entry. I also hesitate to accuse opponents of free will of political motivation. But I do think some of its detractors are politically motivated. They don't like free will because they want to excuse behavior either in themselves or others. We are to follow their pseudo-science, reject common sense and adopt their agenda.


      Delete
    16. UncommonDescent,

      You mysteriously phrase your question as if my mental activity must have a role in the universe. But you're really asking what good the mental has been in my life. That's not a serious question.

      Delete
    17. That discussion seems preeety away from the original post, should it be there?

      @Grodrigues

      Lucretius was probably the first materialist to do a similar thing: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinamen

      I was thinking it was Epicurus who had the idea but seeing a quote of his about free will he clearly would say(correctly) that the atoms just not being deterministic all the time by no reason would not give us free will. Funny.

      Delete
    18. @Don Jindra:

      But you're really asking what good the mental has been in my life

      Good to know how I'm asking something that I don't even understand because I have re-read your post several times and I have not been able to squeeze any meaning out of it. Care to explain the meaning of that phrase above, please?

      And by the way: who are you talking to? :) Physicalism can't neither ground the "self" nor its persistence through time, so the "bag of chemicals" that wrote certain posts here yesterday under the pseudonym "Uncommon Descent"  morphed into another different "bag of chemicals" a few minutes later and then into another "bag of chemicals" some more minutes later, an then into another "bag of chemicals" and then...

      You gotta love how this stupid physicalist religion has gotten so many adherents in the decadent West.

      Now please explain to us how a non-persistent "self" can "choose" diddly squat because he/she is being erased each and every moment in time and since his/her "non-persistent" existence is that of a string puppet in a Universe that exhibits causal closure.

      Did Ioannidis "chose" to write his post or was it the wind of physical causation blowing through his neuronal tree who created the post?

      Can a "bag of chemicals" choose to get vaccinated yes or no?

      Did Darwin "chose" to write "On The Origin of Species" or was it the sticky hands of Fate who gifted us with such a marvelous gift?

      Do your "probabilistic at best non-deterministic" Laws of Nature mean that:

      a) Nature is unpredictable? (which would render your beloved science useless)

      b) Or that our choppily evolved noetic apparatus (the brain) won't ever be able to grasp the immense complexity of the cosmos? (which would also render our attempts at "science" a mad pursuit since it's a task beyond our scope)

      Delete
    19. @Don Jindra:

      You keep evading TN's question :)

      How can a chemical reaction be "wrong"?

      Delete
    20. @Don Jindra:

      "Once we establish that the universe is not deterministic, it opens a can of worms for free will opponents."

      No it doesn't. Glad to have straightened that out for you.

      "For if there is even a bit of randomness in the universe, it's impossible to say with confidence it's the only such non-deterministic activity in the universe. 'Will' becomes a second possibility.
      "

      Exactly as I characterized: a randomness-of the-gaps argument. This is to mistake the fact that non-determinacy will block some unsavory consequences of a deterministic universe to the completely different claim that it opens space for any robust kind of will, free or otherwise. You have absolutely no idea how to even argue that it does, because there isn't any way as non-determinacy leaves you exactly with nothing to work with. You are simply stuffing the gap opened by non-determinacy with wishful thinking.

      Delete
    21. UncommonDescent,

      "Did Darwin 'chose' to write 'On The Origin of Species' or was it the sticky hands of Fate who gifted us with such a marvelous gift?"

      You sure like this straw man.

      For years I've made a similar argument against free will opponents. I tell them that in their deterministic universe Shakespeare did not write Hamlet. He merely observed his hand scribble on sheets of paper. Hamlet was actually written at the moment of the Big Bang. It was determined at that moment that Hamlet would come into existence. This idea is preposterous to me. You insist that a materialist must take this absurd position. You cannot wrap your head around the fact that I think it's as absurd as you do. As I understand it, you reach this conclusion because you believe a physical machine, no matter how complex, cannot choose on its own. But you have no good reason to stick with this belief, imo.

      Delete
    22. @ Don Jindra:

      This idea is preposterous to me. 

      So what? Who's to say that reality has to be of such a nature that for example Darwin could not have merely observed his hand scribble on sheets of paper "On the Origin of Species"?

      The idea that the Universe is a lawful place stems from the Classical Theist, who grounds its existence on the summum of rationality (God).

      The atheist has no basis to believe that it's not possible for the Universe to be a preposterous place. A Universe that just "poofed" itself into existence for no apparent reason owes you nothing.

      I understand it, you reach this conclusion because you believe a physical machine, no matter how complex, cannot choose on its own. But you have no good reason to stick with this belief, imo.

      The problem is that you are not offering me any reason to abandon my position, except some vague appeals to "complexity" (and of course the never-ending materialist appeals to some "future" science that will confirm you are on the right track).

      Where did you get the idea that beyond certain level of "complexity" matter can become "autonomous"?

      Delete
    23. Since Dr. Feser is probably finding this funny enough to stay, lets contribute:

      @UncommonDescent

      Your whole problem with Don worldview seems to be that you understand that when he says "i'am a materialist" he is agreeing with the common materialist definition of "material", so he has to believe that besides the material world there is this other bizarre thing called "laws of nature" that organizes the matter extrinsically. This is truly the normal and dumb materialist position.

      Have you considered that Don believes on a diferent meaning of "laws of nature", maybe even the aristotelian one, and just does not know the diference between this and mainstream materialism or does not care about the distinction enough to call himself a diferent name? It also would be what i would call a flawed metaphysics, but not for the reasons you are using.

      To test this:

      @Don

      Hey, how do you see naturalist who has a bit more aristotelian view of the natural world, like Thomas Nagel? Reading the discussion i was a bit curious about your particular meaning of "materialism". Maybe you and UD could just be talking pass each other all this time.

      Delete
  9. “We need to fight fascism by creating a legal underclass of citizens who will not be allowed to take part in polite society until they demonstrate submission.” -- Michael Malice

    ReplyDelete
  10. Here's something that works well on the vaccine nut cases on both sides: ask them "why would I have a problem with Trump's vaccine"? Then watch their heads explode.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trump is not a doctor.
      To fight a disease, he had to turn to Fauci, who we now know is corrupt. Some people knew this already, but Trump and most people didn't.
      Once Fauci laid out the vaccines as the way to go, Trump was all in.
      Of course, it then became a political football, regardless of whether the vaccines are any good in themselves. Trump however, is either principled enough, or politically talented enough to not try and force the vaccines on the public.

      Delete
    2. Tim the White,

      So . . . you think I'm arguing that Trump is a doctor?

      Delete
    3. No, I was trying to clarify the situation and I started with a fact.

      Delete
    4. Tim,

      I just watched a montage of Joe from before the election going on at length about how we need to be very careful about experimental vaccines because they need to be fully tested, and we shouldn't just trust them right away especially since they were developed under Trump.

      Today Joe says you can't participate in society unless to do all the things he warned against.

      Delete
  11. Ioannidis: "Social and mainstream media have helped to manufacture this new breed of experts. Anyone who was not an epidemiologist or health policy specialist could suddenly be cited as an epidemiologist or health policy specialist by reporters who often knew little about those fields but knew immediately which opinions were true." -- Right, so not just social media, all media -- so why single out social media? (All media is social media, really; spare me the pretentious academic hacks who gratuitously dismiss anything anyone has learned from youtube, or, worse, 'the internet.') But this is supposed to be something new? Puh-lease. Where is the exercise of scientific norms when it comes to propounding this kind of hypothesis, as if it were unquestionably true?

    Ioannidis: "There was absolutely no conspiracy or preplanning behind this hypercharged evolution." -- Skepticism, anyone? So-called skepticism can be (has been) politicized too and turned into a universal solvent (or well-poisoning agent) against all so-called conspiracy theories, yielding a form of good old-fashioned -- highly and crudely selective, of course -- verificationism.

    Ioannidis: "Science remains the best thing that can happen to humans, provided it can be both tolerant and tolerated." Scientism, anyone?

    Isn't this a better take on the reality?: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/the-war-on-reality-gutentag
    Certainly you can say it's biased, it has an agenda; but also it actually says something about reality, something that is arguably actually true and extremely important. And that's kind of essential, whereas the mere abstract confession of faith in the Mertonian norms of science is maybe... not? Especially when that confession is tainted with a fundamentally irrational scientistic attitude.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Perhaps the best way to summarize the problems with our social/political apparatus made manifest by the Chinese Communist Party Virus, is the refusal to accept that life has dangers that cannot be mitigated by big government. The Tom Parsons' of the world are truly in disbelief that the stupid rubes won't save themselves by swearing instant fealty to everything the properly credentialed authority decrees. The fact that the properly credentialed authority keeps lying and is almost always wrong, notwithstanding.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly. Remember Fauci saying, "You still have to socially distance and double mask" in January 2021? I believe that's when the vaccine skepticism exploded.

      Delete
    2. Karl,

      Two weeks to "flatten the curve" turned into two years; No masks turned into 1 mask, which turned into 37 masks; the vaccine turned into boosters and now a twice-a-day pill for the rest of your life (all to protect against what is, for most people, the sniffles); repurposed drugs (whether they work or not) apparently don't exist anymore; and now that we've reached 80% herd immunity (former threshold was 60%) we need to be locked in our closets.

      Now I understand the concept of doing the best we can in a changing situation, but just be honest about it and stop infantilizing everyone.

      This whole debacle is a perfect illustration of why subsidiarity is good, and centralized planning is bad. And the central planners all grind their teeth and wonder why the stupid people don't listen.

      Delete
  13. Basically, they are not scientists. In times of epidemic, all politicians call it "science", and in fact most scientists do not read what scientists have written and do not know where to look. Politicians and journalists probably only know what "science" means.

    What’s worse is that politicians and journalists are aware of only the simple things they see on Twitter and Facebook. There is also bias in the context of this or that study as well. It's an Adverse situation for various politicians and journalists due to lack of related skills - this interferes with their interpretation of scientific results. And after exploiting the Sonic app on social media, it is impossible to prevent further abuse.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "Some of them talk as if unvaccinated people who get sick or die are getting what they deserve, though they would never show such hatefulness toward people who become ill as a result of eating too much or risky sexual behavior."

    Well arguably the unvaccinated are getting what they deserve (as are those other categories) -- provided you accept their premises. But it's actually much worse: The real odds of sickness and death (from the dread virus) for the unvaccinated is negligible, but they talk as if the unvaccinated (including those with naturally acquired immunity!) are a mortal danger also to the... vaccinated! And if the unvaccinated are denied access to stores and restaurants and social events and if the unvaccinated lose their jobs (in some cases perhaps even their medical licenses) and are effectively barred from finding other jobs, then too they are just getting what they deserve. But this isn't fueled by hatefulness so much as by fearfulness, and that in the register of insane paranoia.

    "On the conservative side, some who had no problem with the vaccines when Trump was working to get them developed quickly now regard them as if they arose as part of a sinister left-wing plot."

    So why do they think this? Reasons matter. That's where the universal solvent of "dismiss the conspiracy theory" can get you in trouble. After all: "When you try to browbeat people into accepting some scientific claim, insult them for raising questions about it, loudly make a political statement out of adherence to it, [make insinuations about motive while ignoring reasons,] etc., then you are inevitably only going to increase people’s doubts about its scientific status. For if it really had the evidence and the best arguments on its side, what need would there be for the pressure tactics?"

    ReplyDelete
  15. Ioannidis is half right, but in reality science (the real thing, which he terms Mertonian) was dying quickly from the 1960s, and had pretty much gone (replaced by generic bureaucratic research and careerism) by 2000 when John Ziman published Real Science. I merely documented the fact in Not Even Trying, in 2012. There is almost zero professional real science now - and uncorrupt truth seeking and truth speaking is confined to small numbers of amateur scholars.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bruce,

      The battle against politicizing science is as old as humanity itself.

      Delete
    2. Is that not the theme of the 1979 book The Postmodern Condition? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Postmodern_Condition

      From what i read about it, that thing about this search for universal truth being dead and science being only a useful thing nowdays was what it argued was the case.

      Delete
  16. An interesting example:
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9980015/26-Lancet-scientists-trashed-theory-Covid-leaked-Chinese-lab-links-Wuhan.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary,

      Even John Stewart could figure it out.

      Delete
    2. It is amazing that the likes of The Lancet and the WHO have been shown to be badly corrupt, and there has been no consequence or reaction. This is part of the reason we have such a bad problem with conspiracy theories…

      Delete
  17. The value of these articles should not be underestimated. True science must be cool in nature, participate in our work and protect us from discrimination. If you find scientific evidence and try to intimidate people and ask political questions, you are questioning their scientific position.

    ReplyDelete
  18. On the way the media report research, you probably know this xkcd classic, but it never stales:

    https://xkcd.com/882/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So what about the computer modeling that kicked off this whole covid junk science fest. Since it apparently isn't based on assessment of any observational data from any actual experimental trial, is p simply undefinable?

      Delete
  19. Check this out!

    Zoom meeting from a hospital in North Carolina with Dr. Mary Rudyk and Carolyn Fisher discussing inflating Covid numbers by counting recovered patients as active Covid patients.

    “I think we have to be more blunt, we have to be more forceful, we have to say something coming out, you know you don’t get vaccinated, you know you’re going to die. I mean, let’s just be really blunt to these people.”

    pic.twitter.com/KVDIbUq9ZV

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hello Ed,

    I'm confused by this comment: "When the left politicizes science...it has itself to blame for sparking a reaction and generating the skepticism about science that it decries."

    You've made some similar comments in this article about "Big Tech" and about other groups in past articles. I'm struggling to understand the general moral principle that seems implied by these kinds of statements.

    If I do something wrong, and someone else does something wrong in response to my action, each of us bears responsibility for the wrong that we've done, even if the second action was provoked by the first. Much of the rest of this article seems to be in agreement with that principle. For example, in the sentences immediately proceeding the one I quoted above you write:

    "Each side is, in my view, largely reacting in kneejerk fashion to the other. This is no more rational or defensible when right-wingers do it than when left-wingers do."

    So I'm struggling to put these two things together. Seems like there's some nuance I'm missing.

    Peaceful days,

    Jordan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jordan,

      It's pretty simple really: people stop trusting people that lie to them.

      Delete
    2. Jordan, yes, like TN said, it is pretty simple. You write as if it is wrong to be skeptical about politicized science. It's not. It's wrong (it's stupid) not to be skeptical about politicized science.

      Delete
    3. Organized (constructive) skepticism is also supposed to be one of the basic "Mertonian norms" of doing science right (as you hopefully noticed while reading Ed's post). "Skepticism is wrong" is no more a defensible presumption than "science is wrong."

      Delete
    4. Hi TN,

      Yes, I agree it is reasonable to stop trusting people that consistently lie. That is different than the question I'm asking.

      Suppose that Person A lied to me a lot. Which of these things is a morally defensible response:

      1. I stop trusting Person A.
      2. I start trusting Person B, who is also obviously lying to me.
      3. I start lying to Person C.

      Obviously the first one is morally defensible. The second two are not.

      Suppose now that I committed errors 2 and 3. Who would bear moral responsibility for my actions? Depending on the exact nature of the lie, Person A might bear some, but certainly I would also be to blame.

      This is particularly the case if Person D is telling me the truth.

      Does that make my question more clear? I don't actually know if I'm in a disagreement with Ed here. I'm offering this example to check my understanding of the relevant moral principles.

      Peaceful days,

      Jordan

      Delete
    5. Hi David,

      I am not claiming that skepticism is wrong or that it is wrong to be skeptical of politicized science. I've tried to clarify in a response to TN.

      Peaceful days,

      Jordan

      Delete
    6. Jordan, you're right that "responsibility" is not a zero-sum game. If I decide to murder my neighbor, then that's my fault and my guilt will be fulsome. If my uncle sees me going out with the gun in my hand and red in my eye, knowing that I intend to murder my neighbor, and says "Yeah, you go get him, boy, he's had it coming to him for ages. Plug him right between the eyes" then my uncle then shares guilt in the murder, without my guilt being lessened in any significant way. We can BOTH be morally responsible.

      But in the cases Feser cites: I think the point is that when Person A is the initiator of some unjust wrong situation, and then Person B responds, let's say, in a right KIND of action but in excessive degree, then Person B is morally guilty of the excess, but Person A is also morally guilty in some degree of the excess. And B's guilt, while real, is in some sense mitigated by the fact that Person A "caused" the whole thing, including the response.

      Take a simple example: two little kids are on a playground, and one of them (A) decides to be ornery and takes the other's ball, just for the hell of it. The second (B) gets angry and (a) punches A and knocks him over, and (b) then takes the ball back. Clearly, A "had it coming" at least to the extent of B taking the ball back, but the punching was (probably) in excess. Yet because A had no justifiable reason to initiate the trouble, the "trouble" that came of it is at least partly laid to his door - even though B is also guilty of an excess response due the anger he caused. That B would get angry is both (at the same time) understandable and yet not wholly justifiable - certainly not angry enough to punch A to knock him down. That A intended to make B angry means that the anger caused is partly his fault, even if that anger is in excess and therefore partly B's fault. A doesn't escape responsibility for the anger going to excess just because B bears some of that responsibility.

      In political shenanigans, it is of course famously difficult to say "who started it", but there are places and times where we can say "X is the one who elevated the issues to a whole new level." Or opened a whole new battle zone that didn't need to be fought over.

      Delete
    7. Courts and judges contend with having to make these decisions everyday on the bench. Political 'shenanigans' are exactly that because there are no standard, generally acknowledged and accepted rules, either morally, ethically, intellectually, factually or evidentially that are practiced. The Trump era has made it even more noticeable than ever before that politics practiced with principles and personal integrity is a mug's game. And a sizeable proportion of the US population has been sucked into this vortex what President George Bush recently noted at the 9/11 commemoration as borne from the "same foul spirit" both within and outside the country.

      Delete
  21. Dr Feser,
    I see that Pasadena City College, where you teach, has a Covid Vaccine Mandate for all staff. So, have you gotten your vaccine yet?

    https://pasadena.edu/about/president/coronavirus-updates/vaccination.php#:~:text=All%20students%2C%20faculty%2C%20and%20staff,campus%20classroom%2C%20facility%20or%20office.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dr Feser
      It's good to read that you have sensibly and rightly taken advantage of having the COVID vaccine. With the spread of so much misinformation that has exponentially exploded particularly since the advent of the Trumpian era, it behooves all of us to vigorously challenge that menace wherever it raises its ugly head. I note with interest you make much of John Ioannidis in your OP. I applaud Ioannidis for shining a light on the many shortcomings in the area of science and science research. The more light that can be shone can only be of beneficial service to the science cause and make it a stronger and much more powerful explanatory model than religion could ever hope to achieve.

      It's interesting in two ways. One, it exposes the fact that there are indeed flaws in science, and by such exposition those flaws can be mitigated, if not eliminated, to build a better explanatory model. Two, the flaws are not with the science per se but rather are a result of the shortcomings and the motivation of the people involved. Just as Churchill once said: “democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried”, so too is "Peer Review" the worst form of assessment until you've tried .....

      However, I would advise against putting all your eggs in the Ioannidis basket on COVID-19. It seems Ioannidis' last paper on the COVID outbreak, at a time when he sought to bend Trump's ear last year, is currently encountering very strong criticism, for pretty much all the same reasons he once accused other scientists of doing; suffering from his own bout of hubris, sloppy maths, and inflating or deflating, as the case may be, the statistics on which his findings rely. Of the innumerable articles I could have chosen THIS ARTICLE provides the most comprehensive of reviews of Ioannidis' somewhat shambolic response to the COVID pandemic and his use of the 'evidence', which has largely been proven either wrong or inadequate.

      HERE IS ANOTHER which is a little more gentle on Ioannidis but not compromising on genuine criticism of him.

      I am not concerned that he is a right-winger, just as I am not about your right-wing tendencies. Being a right-winger doesn't equate with being a right-wing nutter, but there many right-wingers on your blog that are indeed nutters, and religious nutters to boot. This is an explosive mix that has been identified by every US federal security and investigative agency, as an immanent threat to democracy and the rule of law in the US.

      So it will be interesting whether Ioannidis can salvage his credibility from this folly.

      Delete
    2. Dr Feser,
      It seems to me that such a mandate is manifestly unjust (tantamount to defrauding workers of just wages) and that one ought not to cooperate with it, even if duress is certainly a mitigating factor for a man faced with losing his livelihood. What do you think?

      Delete
    3. Paps yer country is a totalitarian shite hole right now. Liberal democracy is dead in Australia. Yer cool with that? That is insane regardless of what you think of Trump.

      Delete
    4. David,

      Pasadena City College allows two exemption: one based on religious ground and another on medical ground. Since the Church says taking the vaccine is morally licit and Dr. Feser agrees, then he has no reason for not taking it based on religious ground. He, supposedly, does not have medical reason because he would have appealed to that as a reason for exemption. Other reasons would be considered invalid.

      If Dr. Feser had another reason besides those mentions, he would take the vaccine out of fear. But, I don't think Dr. Feser is that kind of person so I would say he is just ok with the vaccine and/or just wants to take it

      Delete
    5. There are a lot of good reasons to be skeptical of the vaccine. There are studies out there like this one that demonstrate that those who've taken both doses of the Pfizer jab are thirteen times more likely to have a breakthrough infection and are at greater risk of hospitalization. Or how about how, in Israel, over 60% of the hospitalizations for severe Covid cases are in fully vaccinated people? Mind you, this is in spite of the fact that it has among the world's highest levels of vaccination for Covid-19. Or how the threat to children that Covid supposedly represents is vastly overexaggerated..

      Delete
    6. Mr. Geo, I have heard this statistic, but I have also heard opposing claims about the SAME DATA set, so I am not confident the "thirteen times more likely" is an accurate representation of what's actually in the study. Not that I am claiming it's wrong, I am just saying that there seems to be some lack of clarity about it.

      Delete
    7. Or how about how, in Israel, over 60% of the hospitalizations for severe Covid cases are in fully vaccinated people?

      Can you cite the Israel study? CDC is now claiming something quite different, looking at June - August hospitalizations:

      Among adults hospitalized with COVID-19–like illness (14,636; median patient age = 65 years, interquartile range [IQR] = 48–77 years), laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections were identified among 18.9% (1,316 of 6,960) of unvaccinated and 3.1% (235 of 7,676) of fully vaccinated patients.

      https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7037e2.htm?s_cid=mm7037e2_w

      I want to look at the CDC sources, too, because something is odd when studies are that far off from each other.

      Delete
    8. Mister Geocon @ 2.19PM

      Don't just spread this crap. And don't be lazy. Your claims are crapola unless and until you support them with bona fide citations.

      Delete
    9. Why was most of my post cut off? And why were the hyperlinks broken? What the heck?

      Delete
    10. Papalinton,

      I did. They got cut out. I'm not sure what happened.

      Here's your citations:

      https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.08.24.21262415v1.full.pdf

      https://www.science.org/content/article/grim-warning-israel-vaccination-blunts-does-not-defeat-delt

      https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/nearly-60-of-hospitalized-covid-19-patients-in-israel-fully-vaccinated-study-finds.html#:~:text=Conferences-,Nearly%2060%25%20of%20hospitalized%20COVID%2D19%20patients%20in,Israel%20fully%20vaccinated%2C%20data%20shows&text=Of%20514%20patients%20in%20Israel,Israel's%20largest%20health%20management%20organization.

      https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.08.30.21262866v1

      Delete
  22. There's no doubt that the browbeating that's gone on in the name of public health has encouraged conspiratologists. They suspect they'll drop dead in a year if they take the vaccine - why else would media and politicians obsess about it? But the real damage is the disruption to ordinary social, political and religious life, which doesn't seem on track to recover. People have been trained to accept even more nonsense from their governments, media etc, and that's the last thing that was needed.

    On the other hand, the carrying on has spawned a generation of paranoid doubters whose political ideology seems more like anarchism than anything else, even though they are put under the extreme right umbrella.

    Some Catholic conservatives have indeed lost the plot. The Vigano/Siffi team is a case in point. Their religion seems to be centred on 'Reset Apocalypse" with "Bergoglio" as the prophet of the antichrist. True to form, they are a symptom of the unhealthy domination of social media during this crisis; Vigano/Siffi have no real existence outside big tech social media. What a sham.

    ReplyDelete
  23. The vaccine mandate is legal and will most likely withstand legal challenges.

    https://www.freep.com/story/news/health/2021/09/11/biden-covid-19-vaccine-mandate-legal-challenge/8266738002/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Biden had no choice but to mandate vaccinations for Federal workers because that selfish inconsiderate rump of humanity was putting the whole community at risk; blinded as they are by the massive misinformation programs of the crazed right-wing [De Santis, Trump, Abbot, and that idiot Larry Elder] and their own stupidity towards fighting against their own best self-interest. Such a mindset is anarchic and self-destructive.

      Delete
    2. Papalinton,

      Are you suggesting that De Santis and Abbot are anti-vaxx?

      Also how does it put the vaccinated at risk if some are unvaccinated? I'm vaccinated and I don't really care if others do, except, in a very general way, that I hope all act for their own good.

      Contrary to this Anon, the vaccine mandate is grossly unconstitutional and will almost certainly be quashed by SCOTUS.

      Delete
    3. @ Proclus at 11.02PM
      You ask:
      "Are you suggesting that De Santis and Abbot are anti-vaxx?"

      Asinine and misdirected question. Both De Santis and Abbot have understood the wisdom of the vaccine which both have had. But it is their dangerous politics in banning masks and framing the argument against vaccination as one of individual freedom, rather than a critical Public Health issue [and a global one at that] that will bring them down. These are not the actions of leaders protecting their constituents from what is arguably the greatest health catastrophe that has taken almost 700,000 American lives in one year; more than all the wars in American history combined. These are indeed the actions of closed-minded Trump arse-lickers [both of them], each tarred with the same amoral and unethical brush that are key features of Trump's personality and behaviour. Both have absolutely no interest in saving peoples' lives but rather to use them as cannon fodder in their personal struggle to find relevance in a morality-free Trumpian world of grievance politics. When, and not if, there is a congressional investigation into the handing of the national COVID response, as a long-time observer of American politics, I am confident that De Santis, Abbott and Trump will be called to account for their maladministration, along with all the other enablers who sought to peddle their own monoscopic agendas at the expense of peoples' lives for whom they were responsible as Governors with the moral and governance responsibility for those in their care. People will not forget. It's only a matter of time.

      You write:
      "Also how does it put the vaccinated at risk if some are unvaccinated? I'm vaccinated and I don't really care if others do, except, in a very general way, that I hope all act for their own good."

      Again, a selfish, self-centred ego-driven navel-gazing question. Just because you are vaccinated doesn't mean your responsibility ends towards others in your community who may well be unvaccinated. A vaccinated person is just as capable of passing on the virus to an unvaccinated person; and if you cared about community or your neighbourhood you would not display such, what I clearly see as, depraved indifference toward your fellow human beings. Your statement: "... I'm vaccinated and I don't really care if others do, ..." is a shocking measure of that indifference. Indeed your final, "... except, in a very general way, that I hope all act for their own good" has about the same effect and impact as a prayer; absolutely useless. Prayer is what you do when you can't think of doing anything useful.

      Finally, you say:
      "Contrary to this Anon, the vaccine mandate is grossly unconstitutional and will almost certainly be quashed by SCOTUS."

      You've been reading from the Breitbart Prayer Book or Newsmax. 1. The vaccine mandate as applied to Federal Government Agencies is not unconstitutional. Equally corporations that mandate vaccines for their employees is not unconstitutional. Both of these circumstances will hold up in court. No doubt about it.
      2. Any quashing by SCOTUS will not be about vaccine mandates per se and will be thrown out even with the 6 right-wing Justices.
      Want to put a little wager on it?

      Delete
    4. @Proclus: your screen name suggests you may be a Neoplatonist. Are you?

      Delete
    5. Papalinton, you twisted literally everything I said. Logical fallacy manuals are meant to show you how to avoid them, not commit them.

      Ficino, yep, I lean that way. So does your screen name. Are you?

      Delete
    6. @ Proclus at 2.41PM
      How so? There are no logical fallacies in what I have written. I diligently parsed your commentary before responding and I wrote straight to the content of your message. You would do well to think carefully and with clarity before putting pen to paper.

      Delete
    7. Papalinton, go away.

      Delete
    8. @Proclus: no, I'm not a Neoplatonist, but I do read their stuff. Years ago I was working on Marsilio Ficino's Latin translation of Plato, and I took Ficino as my trail name - now screen name.

      Delete
  24. Vaccine mandates are not absolute and without limits.

    https://townhall.com/tipsheet/leahbarkoukis/2021/09/14/federal-judge-temporarily-halts-medical-worker-vaccine-mandate-in-ny-n2595865

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    Replies
    1. Religious exemptions against mandating COVID vaccinations to protect the whole community is one of, if not THE greatest scams ever perpetrated on the community. The Pope has already spoken; there is no moral, ethical, medical or social reason against having the jab. Besides it's only a temporary pause. The Thomas More Law Centre is disingenuous to flout 'religious exemptions' as an excuse for those plaintiffs who simply don't want the jab because of their ego-driven, self-centred, uncaring, bugger-you attitude towards the well-being and safety of all those others in their community who are doing the right thing.

      Wasn't it also the Thomas More Law Centre that was crushed by the courts in the <a Href="https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/cases/kitzmiller-v-dover-area-school-district><b>KITZMILLER vs DOVER AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT legal case</b></a> a number of years ago?

      This COVID law suit, temporary as it is, has all the smell of the frivolous and stupid reasoning of 'religious exemption' the Thomas More Law Centre defended in the Dover case.

      Delete
    2. So basically Paps yer a full on fascist at this point. Got it! You believe in a totalitarian government that controls yer every move.

      Yer own country has turned into a totalitarian shite hole where there once stood a western liberal democracy. Yeh good luck with that.

      Delete
    3. PS The Pope opinion is simply that his opinion.
      The CDF has said Catholics do NOT have a moral obligation to take the Vaccine. If Pope Francis' prudent opinions on this matter where binding moral dogma then he would have instructed the CDF to change their stance.

      Catholics know this but Atheist leftists from China Lite down under might not get it....

      Delete
    4. Also Biden is underwater here....

      https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/09/15/poll-joe-biden-coronavirus-approval-rating-sinks-underwater-after-vaccine-mandates/

      Delete
  25. I was a virologist for 25 years, 8 of those in the military in the 90's. I retired in 2020, just before all this. I am so glad I did. It has been horrific to see what health care officials (politicians really), politicians and the media have done with science. My beloved science has been eviscerated by incompetents with agendas and those trying to hide their (possible) culpability. Heart breaking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unknown,

      That's what Marxist/Leftist/Authoritarians do; they destroy things.

      Delete
    2. Well there are two extremes at play. One side are the mandate fascists who no longer believe in "my body my choice" it seems? They go out of their way to make people suspicious of the vaccines and making us all wear masks when the science doesn't support it & that has become tedious.
      The other side are the conspiracy theorists who think the Vaccine is the Mark of the Beast.

      Nuts to both of them.

      Delete
    3. That is truly the issue in a nutshell, the TWO far extreme groups that are causing this pandemic to linger and extend far more that it ever would naturally.

      Delete
  26. I'm almost finished with my second reading of Aristotle's Revenge. It's just a treasure of how to think about scientific issues (and just how to think).

    ReplyDelete
  27. As I see it the problem is that science is a slow process of consensus . When scientific questions become questions of public concern, you get premature consensus, causing public authorities to make statements of "fact" which are not factual at all. An example of this is early statements on the effectiveness of the covid vaccines, which is less than originally claimed. When public authorities make statements and then later retract them because "the science has changed," when in reality there was no settled science to begin with, it damages their credibility, the credibility of the public health establishment, and faith in the entire public health program, including vaccination and measures to fight covid.

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  28. No surprise here. We have been trending toward authoritarianism for quite some time now, and the slide is only accelerating. In any authoritarian regime, right or left, science is always coopted by the ruling power and used as a weapon to enforce subservience. Veracity is not only not a distant second, it is irrelevant or counterproductive to authoritarians.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hello Dr. Feser. I've been a long time reader of your blog. Your articles are as always first rate. However I can't say the same about the comment section. It appears that the toxic partisan divide you have in the US has infected every article discussion, and furthermore expresses itself in the most putrid manner. Almost every comment line beneath each article degrades into a shouting match between people who have no common grounds for any reasonable agreement on anything.

    I've spoken with and know personally a number of hardline liberals, including some members of the Canadian government. None of them think in such absolute categories you see on social media and on this comment section. There's always some nuance. Some of them agreed for example, that the vaccine mandates could serve as a basis for serious social discrimination, especially if people who can't or won't get vaccinated for medical or ethical reasons would lose access to employment opportunities, which could create a health hazard in and of itself. Furthermore, the ones I've spoken to at least, don't question the right to refuse to take the vaccine on religious grounds. This is just an example of one such digression from the official narrative that they claim to uphold in public. There are many others. The point is that I've never met somebody espousing such total ideological conformity with the consensus positions of the official "left", except in a Ben Garrison caricature or social media, which is hardly a reflection of the breadth of public opinion.

    Personally I think Dr. Feser, you need to put a stop to these trolls. They're incredibly obnoxious, derail every discussion and behave like utter buffoons. I don't even understand what these people are doing on a Catholic blog. They show a complete lack of comprehension of even the basic principles which draws people to here in the first place and only rehash the same well trod baseline talking points over and over again. They aren't convincing anyone, people are just rolling their eyes. It's like debating with grade schooler who can't comprehend the concept of a real number and continues to aggressively maintain that only integers exist. And that furthermore in his view these integers only go up to 10.

    I humbly suggest for you to introduce a means of filtering out such comments. If a commenter, regardless of his or her place on the political spectrum, has demonstrated on a continued basis, a truly pitiable incapability of rational thought, then they should be politely directed elsewhere. Otherwise it is a pain in eyes for the silent majority of your readers who seek an elaboration of the subjects discussed in a given article. At the very least you should make it mandatory for people to stay on topic as opposed to veering off into nebulous debates about the basics or virtue signaling their adherence to this or that party line.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Michael,

      Actually, the combox discussions were often much worse before I started moderating them a few weeks ago. You should see the garbage I delete.

      I try, however, to confine myself to deleting only the most egregious stuff -- posts which are off-topic, which are nothing more than drive-by insults, which are blasphemous or obscene, etc. Part of this is because I simply don't have the time to read through every comment carefully and judge its merits. I'd be doing little else if I did that. But also partly because I think it better to allow people a fair amount of latitude to speak their minds, decide for themselves who is worth engaging, and so on. Admittedly, his works out better in some cases than in others.

      Delete
  30. @ Micael at 3.15PM

    You say: "I don't even understand what these people are doing on a Catholic blog."

    There is nowhere in Dr Feser's information about this site being a Catholic blog, either implicitly or explicitly. It is first and foremost a philosophy blog. The closest reference to Catholicism he notes is: "I also write on politics, from a conservative point of view; and on religion, from a traditional Roman Catholic perspective."

    I repeat, none of what Dr Feser writes draws us to conclude that this is a specifically Catholic blog as you suggest. Indeed, its principle focus is Philosophy, not Catholicism; each of which I might add [along with conservative politics] are fair game to robust scrutiny in the open marketplace of ideas.

    But your statement, the one I quoted above and your referral to: 'positions of the official "left"', are in of themselves egregious examples of virtue signalling writ large. So I, for one, don't buy your argument that comments you disagree with warrant censorship.

    Dr Feser is correct and proper in not accepting your rendition of cancel culture simply because comments here might offend your fragile sensibilities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no worries dude, from what I've read underscored by your username, your comments are absolutely hilarious, so please keep them comming as much as possible.

      Some of the golden gems

      "Joe Biden is a fundamentally decent person"

      and the more recent one, just from a few posts above:

      "those plaintiffs who simply don't want the jab because of their ego-driven, self-centred, uncaring, bugger-you attitude towards the well-being and safety of all those others in their community who are doing the right thing"

      LMAO, I never "yes'd" this hard in a while. Thank you sir.

      Also I thought that you'd consider virtue signalling, cancel culture and fragile sensibilities to be desirable things? There's no pleasing you it seems.

      Delete
    2. Michael, I can see you have a sense of humour. That is good. But I think your humour is somewhat misdirected by the 'golden gems' you provide as examples.

      The interesting one is the bit on Biden. Is he not 'a fundamentally decent person' because of his stance on a woman's sovereign right to determine the circumstances of her own reproductive health? If it is, and I'm taking a punt here, you and the Magisterium have utterly missed the boat on that score. Biden is well and truly at one with Catholic women and this will be borne out over time.

      Here is a bit of compelling information from a Times article on the "The Catholic Case for Abortion Rights"

      "The concept of reception means that a church law must be accepted by Catholic people in order for it to effectively guide the community. Many of the hierarchy’s teachings on reproductive issues have not been received by the faithful. Worldwide, Catholics have soundly rejected the church’s ban on contraception. In many countries only a minority of Catholics agree with church leaders on abortion.
      Catholics disagree with the hierarchy’s stance, even without knowing the background that supports Catholic women making a moral and ethical decision to have an abortion. So often, the complexity about the teaching on abortion goes unmentioned, either because the hierarchy isn’t aware of it or ignores it. However, Catholic women are wise. They know that when it comes to decision about reproductive health, following their conscience is the best thing they can do."

      With some element of disrespect I admit, the Old Boys network of the Catholic Magisterium is very much on the wrong side of history on this matter and it is only a matter of time when women's sovereign rights over her own body will be accepted, if not respected by even the most recalcitrant of groups.

      You say: "Also I thought that you'd consider virtue signalling, cancel culture and fragile sensibilities to be desirable things? There's no pleasing you it seems."

      Why would you think that?

      Delete
    3. @Paps,


      >There is nowhere in Dr Feser's information about this site being a Catholic blog, either implicitly or explicitly.

      Really?

      You not only jumped the Shark with this weird claim you are in freakin orbit above the Shark.

      That long list of "Catholic websites" should be a giveaway this is not a Presbyterian Blog or a Hindu one.

      You then contradict yerself "The closest reference to Catholicism he notes is: "I also write on politics, from a conservative point of view; and on religion, from a traditional Roman Catholic perspective."

      So you don't think at minimum this reflects this is implicitly a Catholic Blog?

      I am at a loss for words....

      Delete
    4. I guess that Paps is saying that this is not a catholic blog on the sense that only catholics are allowed. I mean, sometimes i laments that some ideas have defenders here(or in life), but we let everyone play.

      And come on, Michael, you complain about these that turn things on idealogical battles and them take the bait and does just that! Not cool, bro.

      Delete
    5. What a sorry spectacle when you see materialists (like this weirdo Paps) mumbling about "body sovereignity", because their philosophical system directly precludes any kind of agency from the individual. The nerve impulses in the brain are the ones responsible for the generation of the conscious individual and also sustain and produce everything about it, prohibiting it from having any real power to decide anything.

      And it's even funnier (or sadder?) reading these materialists parroting (quak, quak, quak!) the old tired cliché of the "right side of History" (lol), which implies the existence of an objective scale of morality, which again is in direct violation of the subjectivist premises that beleaguer the materialist philosophy.

      Any comments coming out of the fingertips of materialists should have a warning label attached to them: "materialist comments are riddled with inconsistencies, glaring contradictions, general stupidity and are intellectually deleterious."

      Delete
  31. Anyone else notice that Papalinton was above pontificating on the moral rightness of vaccine mandates and now has switched to defending women's bodily sovereignty? The Biden admin did this recently as well, when Biden gave a speech in favor of his unconstitutional mandate within a few hours of his VP, Hilary 2.0, opining about a woman's right to bodily autonomy.

    Also that article's understanding of the Catholic Magisterium is ridiculous on its face. Catholic doctrine is not decided by the counting of heads at anyone time. The Church has taught the evil of abortion with one voice from at least the time of the Didache onwards. That today many have been seduced by the times into abandoning Catholic teaching, including the allegedly Catholic POTUS, doesn't change Catholic teaching and cannot. I must say it was good of you to show Michael was right about the hilarity of your comments so forcefully and so quickly.

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    Replies
    1. Cardinal B @ 7.46PM
      You ask:
      "Anyone else notice that Papalinton was above pontificating on the moral rightness of vaccine mandates and now has switched to defending women's bodily sovereignty?"

      It must be terribly difficult to string together a sentence that has all the anencephalic characteristics of a mind struggling to follow even the simplest of logic. Let. Me. Explain.

      Your sentence has all the logic and reasoned judgement in: "Anyone else notice that Bellamine could only play football when the ice skate rink lights were on."

      In justifiable rebuttal, I said nothing about the 'moral rightness' of Biden's vaccine mandate. If I recall correctly, I noted that Biden, as President, has the legal authority to mandate that Federal workers be vaccinated. Such a mandate is in the interest of the greater good of protecting the vast majority of the American people in a time of a global health crisis. I might add that the mandate also goes towards mitigating some of the massive damage that the self-centred, ego-focussed, navel-gazing clowns that have caused the deaths of so many other Americans. Interestingly, the mandate strongly encourages the unvaccinated to get the jab, but what has been so egregiously left out by you and your nutters, is that workers don't have to get the jab. They can opt to have a weekly test. Now, I've had the test a couple of times now, and it is a complete non event, and so easy and non-intrusive, even with the cotton-bud up the nose.

      On the matter of women's rights, there is nothing, and nobody, in this world who is a more determined defender of allowing women to be the sovereign arbiters of their own reproductive health care than me. For me, that is the quintessential human right imbued with such moral rightness that no freaking God can take away, not even yours, Cardinal.

      You and your ilk are on a hiding to nothing here, including the arch-misogynist Abbott and his cabal of foul-spirited enablers. They will be called to account, no doubt about it.

      Delete
    2. Yer contradicting yerself. You have what Orwell called "Double Think". You hold two contradicting principles in yer brain yer accept both as true.

      So much for "My body my choice"......I guess some bodies and some choices are more equal than others....

      Delete
    3. @ Paps:

      Jesus, you wrote 55 lines of pure, unadulterated garbage on your own and offered nothing of intellectual value in the end! You deserve my most sincere congratulations and I have brought, totally free of charge, a sack of bird seeds for you, because you are such a faithful parrot to your materialist trainers that you have warmed my heart. Do you sleep on a perch or do you prefer golden cages?

      The problem for materialist weirdos of your caliber who mumble about "body sovereignity" is that, according to your inane physicalism, there aren't individuals with bodies to govern, but a bunch of neurons that create and sustain a conscious subject and produce everything about it, so it has no real power to decide anything on its own and is totally under control of the physical forces producing it.

      Maybe you like to impress some clueless nubiles with your philosophical garbage, and it's even probable that you succed at it. But here, fella, here you are totally out of your league. As a materialist, you can not write coherent, logically consistent sentences. And do you want to know why this happens to both you and your ilk all-the-time? Because your philosophical system is simply a pile of incoherent, laughable, childish and underdeveloped garbage.

      Delete
    4. What has abortion got to do with reproductive health? Reproduction has happened by the time an abortion can occur. This is one of those slogans that leftists use that don't mean anything.

      Delete
    5. @Anonymous:

      This is one of those slogans that leftists use that don't mean anything.

      Well, most of leftist 'reasoning' consists in piling up logical fallacies upon logical fallacies and of adding to it an unending stream of appealings to emotions: (cackling about ungrounded and unrooted "rights", unexplainable "injustices" and moral absolutes that, paradoxically, come out of the neuronal tissue of biological automata who affirm that objectivity does not exist in the real world).

      That's why the philosophically illiterate ones are the first to fall prey of leftist idiocy, since because they do not know what they are up against, they usually fall prey of such an apparently brilliant doctrine and are easily manipulated.

      But once you start to scratch the surface, you realize that beneath the glitter, what you really have in your hands is just a t*rd.

      Delete
  32. Is Biden that decent? Leaving aside abortion, he was pretty callous to the Afghans and American citizens and visa holders he stranded there. He also was pretty callous in taking away monoclonal antibodies from Texas and Florida to use in places they are less needed, seemingly for political reasons.

    But then I specifically remember Papalinton's pathetic defence of Biden's nasty dig that Romney wanted to put black people back in chains in front of a largely black audience. He claimed this wasn't meant to evoke images of slavery, yet who thinks he would ever let a Republican or conservative get away with such insensitivity, even if there was evidence that is was really accidental. But that's Papalinton for you.

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    Replies
    1. Goodness gracious, Anonymous. War is ugly at the best of times. War by its very nature is cruel and messy. There is no easy way out of war for anybody, especially a war both our countries have shamefully lost. Be thankful that Biden bit the bullet and has taken you out of the war, especially a war that should never have been as protracted as this one. A twenty-year long utter failure. I'm embarrassed to the extent that a close ally of my country could have been so sucked into the diaphanous fantasy of 'American exceptionalism' in thinking they could effect a regime and governance change in a part of the world where congenitally entrenched tribalism is the only form of 'governance' they know and understand, and theocratic to boot.

      Taking the monoclonal antibodies away from Texas and Florida? That is not correct. He didn't. That is scuttlebutt. There was a surge in demand [that far exceeded supply], so much so, that over 70% of the demand came from just 7 states, you know then ones, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Louisiana, those that have been the tardiest and the most recalcitrant of states to get the vaccine roll-out up and running, to the detriment of the other 43 states. Biden was forced to ration these monoclonal antibodies so that all the other states could also equitably have access to these drugs. I'm sure Idaho and South Dakota would have been absolutely pissed if Florida and Texas took away their access to a share of the drugs. Why should the laziest and tardiest states be given preferred treatment?

      So Anonymous, your continued misrepresentation of the facts for reasons that can only be described as dumbfounding is indecent. SEE HERE FOR THE FACTS

      Oh Dear! You're still smarting over being exposed for your foolish and embarrassing support for Romney?

      Delete
    2. The thing is Paps, it just doesn't seem worth continuing this conversation when you respond with such a obvious mix of pompous rhetoric and fallacious reasoning. It tips us off that we will get nowhere by further engaging you.

      Farewell.

      Delete
    3. @ Anonymous at 2.44PM

      So no rebuttal whatsoever on the truth claims I noted above; (1) not on the political, moral and ideological correctness of ending a war that proved to be an utter sham, propping up an American-made puppet government, a government as equally corrupt and untrustworthy as the Taliban, on the misguided belief that it was going to somehow lead the Afghanis to the 'paradise' of democracy; (2) nor even to acknowledge the facts and the evidence of Biden's forced decision to ensure every state had fair access to the monoclonal antibody drugs.

      Truth is the casualty here while you remain committed to peddling conspiracy, half-truths and outright lies as your first line of response. There is nothing fallacious about my reasoning. But you are correct in one domain; it would be best not to engage in further discussion because your character is worthless as an honest, decent, reasoned and engaging interlocutor where fact, evidence and truth is not your guiding principle.

      Delete
    4. I have no intention of actually debating with you, but I will point out one glaring instance of your own patented brand of mendacity mixed with stupidity. When the unconstitutionality of Biden's vaccine mandate was brought up, you focused entirely on his one for federal workers and ignored the more controversial one that applies to private companies with more than 100 employees. That one is more controversial and is almost certainly unconstitutional, yet you ignored and tried to narrow the debate to a relatively marginal issue. This was deliberate, this was sophistical, this was stupid, this was Papalinton.

      Delete
  33. So basically Paps you are in full Tom Parsons* mode here?

    Yeh all his kissing up to The Party didn't help him in the end. The Ministry of Truth still got 'em. Take about being brainwashed...yikes!


    *See Orwell's 1984.

    ReplyDelete