And whilst in accusatory mode… As a former follower of the theistic evolution outfit BioLogos for a decade, and indeed having written an article for it long ago, I have previously expressed some misgivings about the apparent role of founder Francis Collins in the gain-of-function studies at Wuhan, and their subsequent cover up by major US players like Peter Daszak and Anthony Fauci. Since then the “mainstream” view has shifted towards a lab leak being more likely than not, making Collins’s involvement even more of an issue.
Well, now a new batch of Fauci’s e-mails reveals a far more unsavoury role for Francis Collins as head of NIH, in actually instigating the smear campaign against the founders of the Great Barrington Declaration last year.
The first e-mail in the thread, from Collins to Fauci, reads:
It’s followed by various links to published hit pieces from Fauci, and approving replies from Collins, strongly suggesting that Fauci, through his widespread influence, has actually engineered them so as to appear to be independent, rather than an open “quick and devastating public take-down of its premises.”
As Jay Bhattacharya tweeted in response:
“So now I know what it feels like to be the subject of a propaganda attack by my own government. Discussion and engagement would have been a better path.”
And herein lies the root of the issue: Collins, with a reputation both as a leading scientist and an Evangelical Christian, was actually practising anti-science, using the dirty tricks of a bureaucratic political operator, as indeed was Anthony Fauci, the “public face of science.” He did not publish a peer-reviewed article laying out the evidence for the lockdown policies being pushed across the world, and responding to the dreadful societal costs of the policies pointed out by the Great Barrington team, but instead hired hit men from the scientific community, the establishment press, and social media to engage in character assassination and professional sabotage.
One has only to hear Bhattacharya talk about the inaccurate and vicious condemnation by faculty members of his own Stanford University, or the pain expressed by Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University at the damage inflicted on her own health as well as her impeccable reputation to realise, if you have any sense of justice, that this was both reprehensibly unprofessional and fundamentally unchristian behaviour.
Even if the three GB spokespersons were “fringe epidemiologists,” true science requires that they be refuted by evidence, not slander, and with professional respect (not least to a Nobel Prize winner), not vendetta. But in fact they are not on the fringe at all, in terms of established science at least. The fact that to date 45,566 medical practitioners and 15,455 medical and public health scientists have signed the Great Barrington Declaration – despite the hate campaign and the professional risks of being associated with it – demonstrates that. I myself signed it because, at last, I saw a pandemic policy being advocated which was in line with what I was taught at medical school and which I had (as far as a GP can) put into practice over several pandemics during my career.
It is, in fact, the whole lockdown, facemask and mass-vaccination programme that is the innovation, and which lacked any real-world evidence to back it up. We now have the real-world evidence that it is a disastrous set of policies. But the world already knew enough, from long experience, for every WHO pandemic policy, and the national plans of most countries including the USA, to reject quarantining the well, mass testing and facemasks.
Maybe Collins and Fauci are too ignorant of epidemiology to know this, which beggars belief, or were champions, for whatever reasons, of a radical new approach. But if they were true scientists they would have argued the case in the literature against proponents of the existing wisdom, and not used dirty tricks to ensure that their view prevailed. “It was badly done, indeed, Francis!”
Two other aspects stand out. The first is the matter of disloyalty to one’s paymaster and President.
In one e-mail Collins says that his words, in an article, will not be appreciated in the White House. The background is that, knowing his stated policy was being consistently undermined, and even publicly spoken against, by Fauci and Birx on his own Covid Task Force, President Trump appointed Dr Scott Atlas, a health policy specialist, as a special representative on that body. It was Atlas, seeing how one-sided and closed to evidence the Task Force was, who had decided to call together leading doctors and scientists to thrash out the science in public, using the evidence, instead of behind closed doors.
In various ways this effort was sabotaged, such as by the late withdrawal of Dr Birx from participation for no good reason, and it was out of the downsized and publicity-starved conference that the Great Barrington Declaration emerged – from an initiative of the President’s own scientific adviser. I’m not sure what undermining your own elected head of state is called in the USA, other than Trump Derangement Syndrome, but there are biblical standards of respect for magistrates that may, in extremis, call for open rebuke, but not for court intrigues.
The second aspect that strikes me is from my experience with Francis Collins’s brainchild, BioLogos. He withdrew from its leadership before I joined, to run the NIH (for which appointment he was attacked for his “fringe superstition” by the likes of atheist Jerry Coyne, so that he should have learned something about the evils of character assassination). But over the years, various BioLogos associates faced problems, sometimes sacking, from their own Christian universities. Sometimes this was simply because of their embracing of evolution, against the Creationist beliefs of major donors. But in some cases they were teaching frankly heterodox theology, contrary to statements of faith they had willingly signed on their appointment.
In every case, the response of academics at BioLogos was a howl of indignation against bigotry, and in favour of academic freedom, even when the “victim” had views too far out for even the protesters to countenance. Yet the issues, though sometimes couched in academic double-talk, were pretty straightforward: Dr X has offended the faith basis on which this institution is founded, and must therefore seek new employment. Whether their treatment was fair, or unfair, its basis was clear and the process, if anything, overly discreet. Jobs may have been lost, but academic reputations were not.
What did not happen was a decision that Dr X was a “fringe” scholar and that a quick and devastating public takedown of his views should be engineered through the scholarly literature, the mainstream press, and social media. That seems to be more the methodology favoured by BioLogos‘s founder, but I haven’t had any circulars from the organisation trumpeting the academic freedom of Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff and Sunetra Gupta – though I have had messages from them decrying Christian support for “misinformation” against US official policy.
Francis Collins is retiring as head of the NIH at the end of the year, and perhaps some of that is because the faecal matter has hit the fan, and perhaps because (in a related metaphor) the last two years have left a bad taste in his mouth. But in Christian terms, a quiet withdrawal would not seem to be sufficient. Public repentance for a thoroughly reprehensible set of decisions is called for, to restore the honour of Christ – and more particularly necessary is public apology and restitution for the harm done to the three academics who dared to take a stand for established science against policies promoted by the Chinese Communist Party, Big Pharma, and an antidemocratic technocratic bureaucracy.