As readers of this blog might surmise, I am an avid believer in science and keeping an open mind. Dogma is the antithesis to scientific method. The ability to accept that known science may be wrong, is the underpinning of modern scientific method. The advent of COVID19 has changed everything. The nearly 1 million deaths worldwide are a tragedy, but the impact of COVID19 may have much more far-reaching consequences. Imagine if the events of the 1918 pandemic or the Black Plague had resulted in halting of the quantum mechanics and the industrial revolution respectively. The ability of modern medicine to save lives would have been stunted, resulting in billions of deaths. A sort of “butterfly effect”.
Science is under threat today.
Evangelical and religious people are not that threat. It is possible to both be a believer and to have faith and yet, accept science. Science is under threat from within. The core of our community has significant rot, where dogma and petty cronyism as well as politics have reared their ugly head.
Let me give you an example. As the proud few, that make up the readership of this blog, will recall, I signed up to receive the Moderna vaccine against COVID 19. I did it because I went through the due diligence to assure myself that the trialists and the technology proposed made sense. I did so, not as an expert in vaccine design, but as someone that believes that there have to be scientific underpinnings to any approach. Satisfied with the propriety of methodology, I have since received both the primary and booster doses.
The greatest pushback that I have experienced about doing so, has not been from rural farmers or evangelical priests or even some of my mask-refusing compatriots, it has been from so-called people of science: doctors, nurses and self-professed scientists.
This is indeed a surprise.
When I signed up for this, I thought there would be a crush of those who believed in science, lining for this. In fact, my experience is to the otherwise. I do not know of any of my colleagues – in medicine or science – who have agreed to receive the trial vaccine. When asked why, the replies are variants of a single theme:
“I don’t know if it is safe and I’m not willing to take a chance.”
If people of science do not sign up to these studies, then why should your patients or the public, believe in your scientific edicts. A randomized quadruple blinded research Phase III trial is as scientific and safeguarded as it gets.
Can bad effects occur?
But I would rather these occurred in a scientific study and not during a wider release of the vaccine.
Many of my colleagues are so-called clinical researchers. This involved convincing patients to try “experimental” treatments. This adds to their scientific glory and promotion prospects. Yet, none of them, are willing to consider this a scientific endeavor that is necessary to change the world.
COVID19 has changed everything. As we wait for the second surge, the IHME modeling suggests mortality this fall, that will make heart disease sink to a second place. We need ALL the tools we can get to deal with this. the first step is accepting and enjoining scientific method as the single most effective tool against this.
I am a scientist and a devout believer. I respect the faith of those who believe in the almighty’s deliverance. I believe that science is a gift to Humankind from the Divine. While the role for faith is something I cannot explain or understand, as a physician, I have seen miracles abound. It does not dim my devotion to science.
The threat to science is not from maskless Evangelicals. It is not from creationists. It is not from the rural farmer who worries about how he/she will make payroll in these times. It is from pseudo-scientists out there, who would be happy for patients to enroll in their well-paying pharma-company sponsored trial, but lack the moral turpitude to stand up for a vaccine to the greatest threat to humanity in modern times.