Mainstream biology authorities often acquire erroneous opinions on important topics. Once they reach such erroneous opinions, mainstream biology authorities tend to stubbornly cling to their errors. There seems to be some haughty conceit in such stubbornness. A biology authority may regard himself and his colleagues as being some elite band of sages that the average man should not question.
On this blog and another blog of mine, I have given countless examples of the dubious claims of mainstream biology authorities. This year we had the most glaring example of the errant stubbornness of mainstream biology authorites. As a global pandemic raged thoughout the world, killing about 400,000 people around the world, the World Health Organization kept teaching the ludicrous advice that ordinary people did not need to wear face masks to limit the disease from spreading. Today the news tells us that the World Health Organization has finally recanted its absurd teaching on this topic. We read the headline below:
In the news story, we read this:
“In light of evolving evidence, WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
This "in light of evolving evidence" phrase makes it sound as if something new was recently discovered to warrant this change. That is not the case. A meta-analysis published in the leading medical journal The Lancet on June 2, 2020 concluded that "face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection." A CNN story on this meta-analysis says, "The chance of transmission without a face mask or respirator (like an N95 mask) was 17.4%, while that fell to 3.1% when a mask was worn." But this meta-analysis was not at all some new research result. This meta-analysis was simply an analysis of previous studies that had already been published, almost all before March 1, 2020.
During the months of March, April and May 2020 that the World Health Organization was senselessly telling people that they did not need to wear face masks as a lethal pandemic was spreading around the world, and that only sick people and medical personnel needed to wear face masks, the evidence was right there proving the common-sense idea that having ordinary people wear face masks will do very much to help stop the growth of a pandemic. So why on earth did the World Health Organization keep teaching during March, April and May that ordinary people did not need to wear face masks?
Maybe during those months the WHO people were thinking something along the lines of, "We must have got it right -- after all, we are the World Health Organization." And similarly, many a neuroscientist or evolutionary biologist may think to himself something like, "No doubt we are teaching the right thing -- after all, we are professors."
Here is a timeline on this topic:
October 1, 2013: I published a post imagining a devastating pandemic in New York City, a post that also gives advice on how to survive such a pandemic, including the advice to "wear a surgical mask or dust mask" to protect yourself.
January 2020: The coronavirus starts spreading massively in China, causing the shutdown of big Chinese cities.
January 30, 2020: The World Health Organization declares coronavirus to be a "global health emergency."
February 3, 2020: Infectious disease czar Anthony Fauci strangely predicts there will be a "dampening down" of coronavirus cases in the United States.
February 20, 2020: In an interview with USA Today, infectious disease czar Anthony Fauci strangely says that the risk of coronavirus in the US is "minuscule," and that ordinary people should not wear face masks to protect themselves.
March, April, May 2020: Coronavirus spreads like wildfire throughout the United States, causing more than 100,000 US deaths by June 5, and roughly 400,000 deaths worldwide.
March 8, 2020: A news story states that the position of the CDC is that ordinary people do not need to wear face masks: "For healthy people, both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend they wear masks only when taking care of those who are sick or suspected of having the virus."
March, 2020: Throughout most of March, infectious disease czar Anthony Fauci keeps saying that ordinary people who are not sick do not need to wear face masks. On the widely watched 60 Minutes TV show, he states, "There's no reason to be walking around with masks."
March 28, 2020: In a postscript I made to my March 22, 2020 post again urging ordinary people to wear face masks in a pandemic, I stated, "The fact that some biology experts in the US have told us we don't need to wear masks is another example of the extremely common phenomenon of biologists teaching unwise or unwarranted opinions contrary to facts or logic."
April 3, 2020: The US Center for Disease Control recants its previous position, and starts recommending that ordinary people should be wearing face masks to prevent coronavirus. About the same time, Anthony Fauci reverses his previous position, and tells us we should all be wearing face masks to prevent coronavirus spread.
March, April, May 2020: As the coronavirus spreads like wildfire throughout the world, the World Health Organization teaches on its website that ordinary healthy people do not need to wear face masks (see here for a news story about that).
June 2020: The World Health Organization finally recants its previous position on face masks, and starts teaching that "governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult."
What takeaway can we derive from this timeline? The takeaway is that mainstream biology authorities can be very wrong about very big things, and that for long lengths of time they can stubbornly cling to their erroneous opinions, ignoring evidence such opinions are wrong. We should remember this the next time we are told that we must believe this or that because it is currently being taught by a majority of biology professors. We can only wonder how many thousands of deaths would have been prevented if the World Health Organization had given us the right advice on face masks throughout 2020.
Postscript: An article in The Atlantic details some other blunders of the WHO regarding coronavirus:
"The WHO should not have waited until January 22 to confirm human-to-human transmission, after China finally did. By that point, a deadly horse had mostly left the barn. The WHO should not have waited until the end of January to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern—a move that recognizes the severity of the crisis and calls for' 'a coordinated international response.' The WHO should not have let February and nearly half of March pass before finally declaring a pandemic. By that point, a staggering 114 countries had already reported cases, and more than 4,000 known deaths had occurred. By then, the declaration did not matter in the same way an earlier one would have."
Several days after my post on the WHO's coronavirus blunder on face masks, we have an article in the New York Times entitled, "In the W.H.O.’s Coronavirus Stumbles, Some Scientists See a Pattern."