What's a university for, if not to question 'the science'?

Imagine offering a million dollars to anyone willing to debate you and having no one take you up on your offer.

And then upping the ante to "name your price" and still having no takers.

This is precisely the situation of Steve Kirsch, tech entrepreneur, and one of the many well-educated critics of the mRNA "vaccine."  He has been making this offer for months now from both social media and his Substack newsletter, and through those outlets, he has kept his readers informed as to the outcome.  So far, his offer has generated nothing but a silence more complete than anything John Cage ever recorded.

I wonder why there are no takers.  All a person has to do is formulate reasonable answers to his questions, propose alternatives to his speculations, and bank a million!  Of course, in order to successfully make this attempt, it would probably help if one has a solid background in respiratory viruses or immunology.  But there must be thousands of such persons in the United States!  And those credentials would far exceed anything Kirsch himself possesses, with only a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering and computer science.

What would anyone have to lose by taking Kirsch up on his offer?  It's not as if the person would be bucking the establishment or anything.  And if Kirsch really is a vaccine "misinformation spreader," as he is currently labeled in virtually every online reference source, that person could credit himself with having vigorously corrected some important untruths.

Perhaps doctors and scientists are just too wealthy, and a million or so is simply not worth the time.

After all, as a tech entrepreneur, Kirsch has certainly made money.  Twenty-four years ago, he donated $2.5 million to his alma mater, MIT, and got an auditorium named after him.  (I wonder what the fifty bucks I send every now and again to my undergrad institution would get me.  The cushions on one of the seats in a lecture hall?)  But even after donating an amount of money, I will never see in my lifetime, Kirsch, who made it known that he wanted to speak on the campus in the auditorium that bears his name, couldn't get any takers there either.

All MIT requires for such an event is a faculty sponsor, someone to stand up and say, "Yeah, let's give him a podium for a night."  But for the longest time, apparently, no podiums were available.  I was thinking that perhaps if he were to toss them a check for another two and a half mil, they might be able to rustle one up.

But then, finally, out of the hitherto silent thousand-member faculty, a sponsor materialized.  Kirsch then contacted the university for instructions as to how to proceed with the event, only to encounter yet another obstacle.  He was reminded that MIT's COVID policies for campus gatherings were still in place, "which currently include mandatory masking and the requirement that all event attendees must be vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19."  Foiled again.

I'm not going to go into the details of Kirsch's concerns about the mRNA jab.  He lists them in some detail in his Substack newsletters (which gives any would-be debater a leg up on the event).  I am deadly serious about the fact that we are at a crucial period in our history.  At this moment, we are defining what scientific inquiry is and is not — and what educational institutions are fundamentally for.

Rodney Stark, in The Victory of Reason, writes that "[s]cience is a method utilized in organized efforts to formulate explanations of nature, always subject to modifications and corrections through systematic observations."  In other words, contrary to what we've been hearing, science isn't a thing, but a process.  And it certainly isn't static.  There should never be a definite article before the word science.  That's adherence to dogma, not rational inquiry.

Further, the university should be aggressively seeking out controversial subjects, not shielding itself from them.  In the words of mathematician and philosopher Jacob Bronowski, "it is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known but to question it."

But here we have a topic that could not be more vital — our medical response to a virus — and the subject is off-limits as if the very notion of interrogating it introduced a ripple in the placidity of doctrine, heresy into an unchanging belief system.  Consequently, as Kirsch puts it so simply, "students will not have the opportunity to consider that there may be an alternate hypothesis that better fits the evidence on the table."

In the past, even the devout risked unspeakable suffering to get their religious questions out there, despite the infamy (or worse) that followed being labeled a heretic.  Now we can't even countenance debate in science?  

Image: Tyler Menezes via Flickr.

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