A skeptic's guide to the universe, part V: Who are the guardians of peace and prosperity?
By Charlotte B. Cerminaro
All is a mystery, but he is a slave who will not struggle to penetrate the dark veil. -- Benjamin Disraeli
Over the past two years it would seem that the plight of humanity is on a hapless collision course with the chaotic and overwhelming forces of nature and tyranny. News reports and press conferences with purported "experts" have repeatedly given the false impression that our civilization is powerless against viral plagues and rogue states. Straight answers to simple questions have proven elusive. Reasonable explanations based on facts in evidence have been replaced by perplexing ambiguity; the dogmatic assertions of a few limited thinkers, now ubiquitous. Innumerable entreaties, to those same few in authority, all end in predictable fashion-–continuing to veer off-course with a helpless shrug of the shoulders. This controlled freefall is entirely dependent on a misled populace, an unscientific rhetoric, unchallenged.
Nobel physicist Dr. Richard Feynman was a well-known champion of the scientific method. He emphasized the necessity of rigorous self-reflection, analyzing one's own thought processes and honestly challenging inherent biases. These precepts form the backbone of intellectual enlightenment, ethics, scientific reasoning and research. Without them we are lost, without a compass; like a ship with no rudder we are pulled by every breeze, turned by the winds of opinion, swayed by greed and power. Ignorant of such widespread bias, the public is easily manipulated by a charade—scientific fallacies and childish debate tactics.
One of the more common scientific fallacies is technically a cognitive bias. Called the Confirmation Bias, it occurs when certainty is held so firmly (an opinion, hypothesis or diagnosis) that any and all contrary evidence is blocked from consideration. At this moment a significant portion of the population and its leadership is entrenched in a particularly insidious form of confirmation bias. It is further reinforced by the continuous media drumbeat of self-righteousness–name-calling, bullying or silencing any disagreement. This is known as an ad hominem (personal) attack, used in debate by those who have no evidence to support their beliefs.
Currently, some of the most firmly held beliefs—about COVID-19, inflation, supply and demand—are nothing more than opinion gleaned from popular media. Without any overarching scientific consensus or hard data, there is a pressing need to bully and silence those who ask important questions. Cancel Culture is a euphemism for propaganda: the use of power and political leverage to block a free exchange of ideas. It's also a tactic used by every totalitarian regime for over 100 years.
That many of our most highly respected scientists from Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Oxford, etc., have been silenced, their research taken offline, is a truly ominous portent. With so many lives lost and even more at stake, free and open dialogue among experts in the fields of virology, epidemiology, infectious diseases and genomic research is the most vital means of gathering data; the problem cannot be solved unless it is fully understood.
Almost 70 years ago the Polio pandemic was effectively conquered with the advent of Dr. Jonas Salk's new vaccine. This well-established and proven vaccine platform has protected our lives and livelihoods ever since, providing immunity to everything from a dozen influenza strains to hepatitis A&B and diphtheria. There has been no satisfactory answer to the most fundamental question of the COVID-19 pandemic: If we get updated influenza vaccines every year, using the killed or weakened virus for full-spectrum immunity to every new variant, why is this already-proven mode of protection not being used for COVID-19? At around 99% effective in preventing infection, it's just as potent against viral spread, with no sub-clinical carriers infecting vulnerable populations.
Our so-called experts have had over two years to find effective means of treatment and prevention. We still have none. There are still so many questions, and no answers. So many precedents were set; many billions of taxpayer dollars were given to corporations like Pfizer, and even more went to the FDA in order to rush the approval process, while the world held its breath. And more people died.
Perhaps it is time to find more competent "experts". Hordes of intelligent, highly educated economists and scientists are dismissed with a wave of the hand and a pejorative word. Cynical pseudo-scholars sit in their armchairs and spew the same rhetoric that they heard on CNN: "Inflation isn't a monetary issue, it's a political issue." Meanwhile, our country's economic and humanitarian woes only deepen. More politicians will make vague, ambiguous gestures, putting a band-aid on an arterial gush that gets more alarming with every unnecessary death, every visit to the petrol station.
It's time to stop blaming Russia for our inflation. Ukraine was invaded in February and our economic crisis was already up and running a year ago. Nobel Prize economist Milton Friedman put his finger on the pulse when he said, "Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output. It is spawned by the creation of excess money by local central banks." In other words, the Federal Reserve.
There are shortages in the global supply chain, but there is no global inflation. China, Japan and Switzerland are facing the same shortages but they are not suffering the ravages of inflation because their central banks aren't printing excess currency that cannot be backed. Prof. Steve Hanke from Johns Hopkins and London's chief economist John Greenwood concur. The only solution: Reverse the trend. A small, transitory rise in unemployment will follow but this is minor compared to our current heading.
How many lives must be destroyed before any real solutions are allowed at the table? In a true free market system, dozens of biotech labs and pharmaceutical companies would be vying for the top spot as the safest and most effective vaccine or treatment. According to current FY reports, a full 65% of the human pharmaceutical budget is funded by user fees, paid by the very pharmaceutical companies that are being regulated; the FDA can no longer be considered an independent watchdog. Clearly our lives and our posterity are not in altruistic hands, but in the inscrutable forces of bureaucracy. Human interests are not even a realistic part of the equation. With unwavering integrity and true skepticism, we must search out the truth for ourselves. Cynicism and gullibility are biased and vulnerable mindsets. To be defeated, they must be fought by reason and facts. Without these, our basic liberties and that which we hold dearly are surrendered to those who are most undeserving.
Charlotte B. Cerminaro is a Juilliard-trained classical musician and recording artist. In her free time she enjoys writing and regularly contributes to Enter Stage Right and she attained a Bachelor's Degree in Molecular Biology.