X Close

How not to talk to a science denier A Harvard professor's book is filled with sneering conceit

He's probably a Popperian (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

He's probably a Popperian (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)


December 30, 2021   7 mins

Imagine you bought a book with the title How to Talk to A Contemptible Idiot Who Is Kind of Evil. You open the book, and read the author earnestly telling you how important it is that you listen, and show empathy, and acknowledge why the people you’re talking to might believe the things they believe. If you want to persuade them, he says, you need to treat them with respect! But all the way through the book, the author continues to refer to the people he wants to persuade as “contemptible idiots who are kind of evil”. 

At one stage he even says: “When speaking to a contemptible idiot who is kind of evil, don’t call them a contemptible idiot who is kind of evil! Many contemptible idiots find that language insulting.” But he continues to do it, and frequently segues into lengthy digressions about how stupid and harmful the idiots’ beliefs are. Presumably you would not feel that the author had really taken his own advice on board

This is very much how I feel about How to Talk to A Science Denier, by the Harvard philosopher Lee McIntyre.

McIntyre wants to help us change people’s minds. Specifically, to help us change the minds of these strange, incomprehensible people called “science deniers”. He addresses five main groups of “deniers”: flat earthers; climate deniers; anti-vaxxers; GMO sceptics; and Covid deniers.

This is, on the face of it, an important project. It’s a truism that the world is polarised, and our sense of shared reality is under attack. If there is some way of learning how to talk across difference, and to persuade without attacking, that might go a long way to bridging our various divides, not just the five he discusses.

The framing is that McIntyre goes and meets representatives of these groups and tries to persuade them out of their wrong beliefs. He goes armed with social-psychology research about how best to persuade people. His big trick (which I think is a good, if limited, one) is asking: what evidence would it take to make you change your mind?

But the whole book is premised on one idea: McIntyre is right, and the people he is “talking to” are wrong. 

And it’s true that all five groups are wrong, or at least their central claims are. The earth is in fact an oblate spheroid; the climate is warming, due to human influence, and will likely have severe negative impacts; vaccines work; GMOs are safe; and Covid is real.

The trouble is that by using these groups, McIntyre is playing on easy mode. When your example of a “science denier” is a literal flat-earther, it’s easy to say “look over there at the crazy deniers”.

Even with climate change scepticism, sure, there are people who literally don’t believe that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are warming the planet. But those people are relatively rare. People who believe that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are warming the planet, but that the emissions are going to be hard to stop because of economic growth in the developing world and it would make more sense to concentrate on adaptation rather than mitigation, are much more common. Are they “deniers”? Certainly they’re often called deniers. But McIntyre himself acknowledges that China is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases and that the IPCC says the sweeping global changes required to cut emissions sufficiently to avoid a 1.5°C warming are unprecedented.

McIntyre constantly wants to make a clean distinction between “science deniers” and non-deniers. So, for instance, he says that there are five “common reasoning errors made by all science deniers” [my emphasis]. They are: cherrypicking, a belief in conspiracy theories, a reliance on fake experts, illogical reasoning and an insistence that science must be perfect. If you don’t make all five of those errors, you’re not an official McIntyre-accredited science denier.

Hang on, though. A “belief in conspiracy theories”? McIntyre spends a lot of time talking about the tobacco firms who manufactured doubt in the smoking/lung cancer link, and the oil firms who did the same with the fossil fuel/climate change link. He says that the spread of Covid denialism through the US government was driven by Republican desire to keep the economy open and win the election. Aren’t these conspiracy theories?

Ah, but for McIntyre these aren’t conspiracy theories, they’re conspiracies. The distinction is “between actual conspiracies (for which there should be some evidence) and conspiracy theories (which customarily have no credible evidence).”

So, since some anti-vaxx conspiracy theories like the polio vaccine giving children polio, or the CIA using fake vaccination stations to take people’s DNA, are true, does that mean anti-vaxxers don’t believe in “conspiracy theories” but “conspiracies”?

Obviously not. But the point is that there’s not some clear line between “real conspiracies” and “conspiracy theories”. When Alex Jones says that chemicals in the water are turning frogs gay, he’s referring to real claims that endocrine disruptors are affecting sexual development in lots of animals. It’s not easy to draw a line between real and fake, evidence-based and not evidence-based.

I think the basic problem is that McIntyre is a Popperian. That is, in hugely oversimplified terms, he believes that no amount of evidence can confirm a theory: but evidence can falsify it. “If we find only evidence that fits our theory, then it might be true,” he writes. “But if we find any evidence that disconfirms our theory, it must be ruled out.” 

I, on the other hand, am a Bayesian. I have some prior belief and I assign some level of probability to it: “climate change is real and dangerous”: 90%; “the world is flat”, 0.1%. And then each new piece of evidence shifts my belief a little: if next year NASA say “we got new photos in, looks like Earth is sitting on the back of a turtle”, then I’ll upgrade my belief in a flat earth to, I dunno, 1.5% (but also upgrade my belief in there being mad people at NASA to 95%).

So I don’t need to draw a bright line between “denial” and “reality”. I can say: “I think it’s likely that tobacco firms conspired over lung cancer, but I think it’s pretty unlikely that NASA faked the moon landings.” And I can update my beliefs as new evidence comes in. I don’t have to “rule anything out”, I can simply downgrade how likely it is.

McIntyre, though, is stuck with two categories: things that might be true; and things which have been “disconfirmed”. If you believe things that have been disconfirmed, then you must be a “denier”. And so he needs to find ways of explaining why these “deniers” are so different from the rest of us. 

He has various ideas about “inflated self-confidence, narcissism, or low self-esteem”. But if you reject the idea that there are two groups of people, “deniers” and “non-deniers”, then you can avoid the need to explain it at all, beyond saying “some people are better than others at working out what’s true”. 

But we’re not just here for his epistemology: we’re here for a masterclass in how to persuade people out of false beliefs. Over the course of the book he meets various people — the flat earthers; two coal miners; a couple of hippyish friends of his — and tries to talk to them about their beliefs, using the methods he has learnt. His solution is to listen, to be respectful, to meet people face to face, and to do so over several meetings. Does his approach work?

In short: no. Hilariously, both of the coal miners he meets cheerfully accept the reality of climate change, but say that the economic value is worth the potential damage to the climate. His first hippyish friend is entirely pro-vax and only slightly GMO-sceptical; the other one is anti-GMO but on anti-corporate grounds rather than safety ones. 

So he falls at the first hurdle: he not only doesn’t convince anyone, he doesn’t meet anyone who unambiguously disagrees with him, except the flat earthers. (He also struggles to be respectful, at least in the book itself. There’s an astonishing line on p77 in which he says “When speaking to them, we should remember that it is an insult to use the word ‘anti-vaxxer.’” There are 109 uses of the term “anti-vaxx” in the book. Occasionally he remembers and says how important it is that we listen and pay attention, then he immediately reverts to calling, say, Covid scepticism “ridiculous conspiracy theories and partisan nonsense”.)

But there’s a bigger problem. McIntyre’s big question, as mentioned, is asking: What evidence would it take to change your mind? But at no point does McIntyre ever ask himself what it would take to change his mind. 

For instance: when he was talking to the Pennsylvania coal miners, he accepted that they were just trying to feed their families. I assume he’d also acknowledge that Chinese coal mining is allowing that country to get richer and improve its citizens’ way of life. But I don’t think I’m misrepresenting him when I say that he thinks coal mining is a disaster.

When he talks to a friend of his about GMOs, though, that friend says that even though GMOs can save lives now (in the form of golden rice), they’ll cause disaster in the future. McIntyre says, OK, so the kids who can’t get the golden rice now, they’re just going to die? And his friend says yes. McIntyre says that’s easy for him to say, “because he had money and wouldn’t be one of the ones who suffered”.

The exact same question, though, can be asked about coal mining. Sure, McIntyre can say stop using coal, and it’ll help prevent future disasters. But it will also presumably mean some number of tens or hundreds of millions of Chinese people losing electric lights and functioning hospitals, and a smaller number of Pennsylvanians losing their jobs. McIntyre himself would be fine, except for somewhat higher electricity bills. 

Is the tradeoff worth it? McIntyre clearly thinks so (and I think I do too): but what would change his mind? I can tell you: I would update my beliefs significantly if you showed me a utilitarian calculation showing that more people would be harmed by ending coal mining than by continuing it. But McIntyre never asks himself the question. He is stuck on transmit, never on receive.

What’s sad is that he sometimes comes close. He recognises that beliefs are part of people’s identity, and that that makes it hard to change them – but again, applies the lesson only to the weird, wrong, other people, not to himself and people like him. The near-total lack of introspection renders the whole grand project largely meaningless. I am right, you are wrong, the only thing we need to discuss is how to make you realise how wrong you are. The idea of working together to establish a shared reality is hamstrung by his certainty that the reality that needs to be shared is his one.

It’s mainly a book designed to tell readers that people they already think are dumb are, in fact, dumb. It is, really, How to Talk to A Contemptible Idiot Who Is Kind of Evil.

This piece was originally published in August. 


Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

41 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mo Brown
Mo Brown
2 years ago

Such blather, really. “Let’s lump people into these silly groups of clones that we invent ourselves so we can hate them.” No thanks.
Also, “the climate is warming, due to human influence, and will likely have severe negative impacts”. You can *believe* that, but no one really knows. Sorry Mr. Science Editor.

Mo Brown
Mo Brown
2 years ago
Reply to  Mo Brown

Not to mention, anyone using the phrase “science denier” unironically has to be either a zealot, a political hack, or is just trying to cash in with a pop-culture book. “Harvard philosopher” says to me probably a combination of all three.

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago

OK so basically, scientific discourse is always being held between the side that is “right” (you know that by media coverage) and the science-denying side. As a result, any scientist is a science-denier, unless they side with the (paid-for) media narrative, which is regularly attributed to “experts” who often didn’t even study the actual field they comment on.
I would like to hereby prove myself to be a man of science, through and through. Hear me out:
“SARS”-CoV-2 is one of the most dangerous diseases to ever exist. Heavy restrictions and government regulations must be taken to control its spread around a spherical (!) earth. Regular and constant vaccination of everybody on earth (including cats) is the only way to effectively fight the virus. Live genetic manipulation of human cells is the only way to achieve immunity against this virus. There is no possibility of any unexpected side-effects with genetic manipulation of humans or any other organisms. Regulations taken by the government, such as lockdowns, will also be necessary to save the earth (which, again, is very round) from purely human-made climate change. Indeed, stay at home today, save the planet tomorrow!
Great job abolishing the West!

Michael Richardson
Michael Richardson
2 years ago

“And it’s true that all five groups are wrong, or at least their central claims are. The earth is in fact an oblate spheroid; the climate is warming, due to human influence, and will likely have severe negative impacts; vaccines work; GMOs are safe; and Covid is real.”

Tom Chivers would call me an anti-vaxxer. I also accept that vaccines work. I think that the point is that Tom Chivers does not necessarily know what claims are made by each group.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

I have commented on Paul Marshall’s article that the humanities educated politicians are incompetent to run scientific policy.
Here I think we have an illustration as to why those having a purely scientific view are not much more reliable in deciding on policy because inevitably they think having a deep knowledge of one aspect of science gives them unrivalled insight into the whole range of policy implications flowing from scientific views outside their own speciality. The covid advice on lockdown is probably again a good illustration of this.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

Most scientists are pretty mediocre. They’re about recording endless streams of boring data for the one or two Newtons or Einsteins who exist in a given generation to properly interpret. The problem is, they ALL think they’re Newton or Einstein and they ALL think they should be doted on accordingly. This attitude skews the produce of science.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 years ago

The number of scientists who think they are Newton or Einstein is zero or very close.

Robin P
Robin P
2 years ago
Reply to  William Shaw

The number of scientists who think they are Newton or Einstein is zero or very close.

It’s more than zero, as proven in http://www.pseudoexpertise.com/biogr6.pdf

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
2 years ago
Reply to  William Shaw

But a number of scientists, whatever their self assessment, which is probably expansive, are the Very Model of a Modern Major Bureaucrat. His Eminence Cardinal Fauci the prime example.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ray Zacek
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Most scientists are beholden to corporate and political money so interpret their findings accordingly.

gavin.thomas
gavin.thomas
2 years ago

I see Lee McIntyre is a graduate (BA) in Social Sciences and has a Ph.D in Philosophy. Not a ‘real’ scientist, then.
Perhaps the problem with his philosophy/ideology is that he ‘believes’ what he reads and is told by people he ‘trusts’ – irrespective of the validity of their qualifications.
As an example, the various ‘Chairs’ of the IPCC comprise: an economist (Lee), ‘climatologist’, manager, statistician, environmentalist and social ‘scientist’.
Real scientists deal in proven laws, (all) observed data and the Scientific Method, not beliefs, ideas, and ‘modelling’.
Which is why AGW is faltering in the scientific community – observed data is not supporting the hypothesis.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  gavin.thomas

Why do you put climatologist in inverted commas? Climatology is a legitimate scientific discipline – the study of climate and how it changes over time. I would expect a statistician on the IPCC, and if there weren’t one would want to know why not, I would also expect an economist as the economic effects (if any) of any changes to the environment would need to be addressed. As far as environmentalist is concerned, such a person may or may not be a trained scientist, I expect he or she is a scientist. I have no comment about the . social ‘scientist’, as I share your concerns there. Overall these are the types of scientists that I would expect on the IPCC, I also hope that there are meteorologists, zoologists and botanists either on the panel or available for consultation. What I would not expect are physicists or astrophysicists if those are whom you term “real scientists”.

Last edited 2 years ago by Linda Hutchinson
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

I felt moved to Wiki it (not that Wiki is reliable). 30 years? OK then.
Climatology (from Greek ÎșÎ»ÎŻÎŒÎ±, klima, “place, zone”; and -λογία, -logia) or climate science is the scientific study of Earth’s climate, typically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of at least 30 years.[1] This modern field of study is regarded as a branch of the atmospheric sciences and a subfield of physical geography, which is one of the Earth sciences. Climatology now includes aspects of oceanography and biogeochemistry.

Mo Brown
Mo Brown
2 years ago

Climatology is certainly a real field. As are meteorology and oceanography, as related fields. They are all a long way from having much of a clue about any of it though, as it consists of enormous complexity piled on top of enormous complexity. So anyone who claims that any of it is “settled” science or any such absurdity is a know-nothing. There is a grand tradition of these people going back farther than I can remember, always sure of themselves and always wrong.

James Pelton
James Pelton
2 years ago

An astrophysicist, or more specifically a solar physicist, absolutely belongs on the IPCC. The sun is dynamic. It’s influence on our climate is huge, undeniable and very poorly understood, especially by journalists, politicians and the general public. I suspect this lack of understanding extends to the field of climatology which explains the failure of its models to predict anything past tomorrow’s weather.

Mo Brown
Mo Brown
2 years ago
Reply to  James Pelton

Climate models are akin to covid models. Really just toys at their best and instruments of manipulation at their worst.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Talking about books, I have started reading RFK’s book The Real Anthony Fauci (et al) and already have a crick in my neck after the first chapter.
Of course there are those who believe that Fauci is a man of good character, consistency, truth and integrity. A man who has built strong public health institutions that operate independently solely in the interests of citizens and that are impervious to manipulation by organisations and people driven by financial gain.

aaron david
aaron david
2 years ago

I am the son of a scientist, as my father had a Ph.D. in Genetics and was a professor for his professional life. I am also the nephew of a scientist (Ph.D. in nuclear physics) and grandnephew of multiple scientists (astronomy, soil science, organic chem). And while I am very much not a scientist, being much more of a lit guy, the two most important things I took away from all of these people were 1) actually understanding the scientific method and how to actually apply it, and 2) that science will always be suborned to morals.
This is why we are horrified by the actions of Joseph Mengele, the Japanese experiments on airmen, the Tuskeegee Syphilis study, and countless other actions that absolutely “follow the science” but pervert our morals. Indeed, this is why the scientific method, replicability, and oversight are so important. Science can take people to some very dark places when moral and social control is removed.
Science is like money; it doesn’t care what you do with it. Only you can do that.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

Tom Chivers – science editor – he knows nothing about physics and so accepts the utter nonsense that we can control the climate. He also does not even see that empirical evidence does not support the claim. Time for an editor that knows something about science.

David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago

Too long as usual and presumptious, especially concerning alleged global warming and that it is due to human agency.

Andrew Sweeney
Andrew Sweeney
2 years ago

It’s funny how people who accuse everyone else of indulging in conspiracy theories seem to see conspiracy theories everywhere.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Sweeney

Leftism 101. Always accuse the other guy of doing what YOU’RE doing. It’s a conspiracy, I tells ya..

Mark Kerridge
Mark Kerridge
2 years ago

This Harvard prof and James O’Brien would get on famously.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
2 years ago

In the olden days, when I was in college, there were usually flat earth societies but these were just drinking clubs where I suspect they talked about football

Robin P
Robin P
2 years ago

In my experience just about the entire university system is a flat earth society!

William McClure
William McClure
2 years ago

Chicken Little must be right! The sky is falling. The laws of conservation of matter and energy be damned.
The population bomb never exploded.
Algore was correct about the polar ice caps melting wasn’t he?
And Greta can dance blah, blah, blah.
Herr Dr. Fauxci can’t be wrong, because at 81, his vast experience at filp-floping is unmatched in the world of science.
Oh well, Joe Biden will save us…

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

I think 7 billion on the planet is way too many though. I’d like to see reduction, not celebrating a slight flattening of the growth curve.

Mo Brown
Mo Brown
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

By what measure is 7 billion “way too many”?

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
2 years ago

Enjoyed this piece immensely. C.S. Lewis’s Old Professor in The Lion etc. puts his young charges through some logic paces, and at the end, wonders, “What do they teach at schools nowadays?” Logic, in itself may bear no necessary relation to reality — but the subjective “reality” of the woke seems to not have even a passing acquaintance with logic.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Liz Walsh

Wokeism is more like a religious cult. Complete with dogma, sinners and heresies

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
2 years ago

Newton was sort of right but also completely wrong about gravity. The natural universe is run on simple laws that lead to great complexity. The goal you choose determines which elements of truth you need to cling to.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 years ago

It must take someone with a massive ego to trash Newton so casually and confidently.

Robin P
Robin P
2 years ago
Reply to  William Shaw

I think you’ll find that even Einstein considered Newton’s gravity to be unfalsified. Just the myth has been promoted by those who were too taken in by the “spheres” on mattress “theory”. (Spheres because the word beginning with b was rejected by uh’s system.)

Last edited 2 years ago by Robin P
T Doyle
T Doyle
2 years ago

Tom Chivers also comes across as patronising. Conflating flat earthers with climate change sceptics is totally disingenuous. It’s comparable to the cliche that all Brexit voters are racists. There are two types of people in the world – the elite smug commentariat conditioned to one way of thinking

and the rest of us.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago

You give McIntyre way too much credit. He is just performing for his audience of white academic progressives, confirming for them what they already believe, which is a proven path to money and media adulation. Convincing those with different opinions would mean treating them with respect and is the farthest thing from his mind. Whether or not he admits it, or even know it.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Johnson
Robin P
Robin P
2 years ago

How not to talk to a pseudoscientific charlatanism denier….
Ask them to explain why they believe what they do.
And see how the RUN AWAY from the opportunity for a scientific discussion.. They RUN AWAY because they know in their marginally conscious that they have no rationality behind their behaviour.
“Excuse me, why are you wearing a mask (in the street?)”
“Because I want to” And runs off before you can ask why he wants to.
Another instantly raises the “no such thing as truth” pearl of “wisdom”. Strange that they never apply that principle to anything else. Why bother to eat if the need for food is not true? Why bother to wear clothes if they don’t really exist anyway? And why believe “there is no such thing as truth” if by self-definition the statement is inherently not true, and hence self-disproving?
To another lady I mentioned that Dr Fauci sneered at the mask wearing in 2019, you can find the video on youtube Peak Prosperity channel. “But that’s not true, I’m a scientist” AND RUNS OFF. (Because questions are violence you know!)
Ultimately you can show them the decisive FACTS…
http://www.pseudoexpertise.com/cherry.pdf
http://www.pseudoexpertise.com/clarke-covid3.pdf
and then you have to leave them to their pathetic fate, like the drowning sailor who has no arms or legs to swim with.
The main point is, if someone is paid a lot of money to say something, and honoured as “Professor Sir….” as well, you can be sure he is only interested in telling you the truth.

Last edited 2 years ago by Robin P
Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago

“Harvard philosopher” says all you need to know.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

Excellent piece, thank you.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

I think part of the reason some people are willing to reject certain ideas is because those ideas have been politicised, and because people have lost trust in our institutions to have their best interests at heart rather than the interests of politicians and corporations. When the only people who gain out of a global pandemic are big business and billionaires it stinks. When the Left treat climate change like a religion and that any disagreement on the specifics or the solutions is deemed heretical then that gets an opposite reaction. I don’t doubt we are killing our planet but I don’t know why far left utopianism is the only solution. No-one even mentions the elephants in the room which I think are really driving it – 3 to 7 billion population growth in 50 years, the creation of new consumer economies and the hypocrisy of corporations proclaiming their green credentials while still measuring their performance on growth. Growth of sales, growth of global supply chains, of consumerism. So I’m not a denier but I AM a sceptic.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
2 years ago

My observation is that most ‘deniers’ lack a basic understating of an evidence-based approach.
All civilisations have used such an approach, even if just a ‘trial-and-error’ approach. How else would Chinese have built the Great Wall, Romans the Colosseum etc etc. However, before about 1800 this was heavily balanced by a super-naturalist belief system. For example: thunder as Thor’s anger; diseases caused by God’s punishment for sins; etc.
The modern era saw a shift in the balance towards evidence. The resulting benefits from engineering, chemistry etc were so obvious that most people, who did not understand the science, went along with it and valued the scientist.
Consequently, we, the evidence-based community, never developed the skills to explain the method to the majority (because we didn’t need to).
Now we are reaping the dis-benefits if this. If people do not know even the basic science of animal cells, nucleus, ribosome, protein formation, virus structure, RNA, antibodies, immunity, vaccination etc, how are they to make sense of COVID? (Note: the Google spell-checker doesn’t recognise the word ‘ribosome!)
The problem is that, those who do not share the evidence-based model of disease (for instance) will have their own model in their heads. The brain produces these automatically. It is pointless trying to persuade someone that their ideas are wrong if their unconscious model in their head is also wrong.
Recently a climate-denier told me: “It was 3C warmer in the Medieval Warm Period.” He had know idea where this figure came from nor how it was derived. There’s no evidence to support it.
You can also read that the mRNA vaccine with wrap itself around your DNA and permanently change you genome. Again, completely oblovious to the fact that your cells are churning out mRNA al the time to code for proteins.
We’ll have to start with education, so that at least a minority of politicians and journalists understand the basics. No doubt, the deniers will accuse us of indoctrination.
This is a central crisis of modernity. If we do not take it seriously………

Mo Brown
Mo Brown
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

Here’s a tip for you sir: humans of all stripes and eras have made decisions based on their observations and understanding. There is no special class of wizards who are the ones who do this and need to explain this process to others.
Also, Fauci and the rest of the public health establishment have no desire or interest in explaining anything to the unwashed. Hence, they have not done so.