Galileo’s lesson for Covid

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As a Catholic, one of the most tiresome accusations I have to deal with is that the Catholic Church is anti-science, as demonstrated by its horrible treatment of Galileo 400 years ago. While the typical characterization of that conflict is often mis-characterized, there are some very interesting parallels to today’s situation with Covid. Allow me to explain.

To begin with, let me recap what actually happened with Galileo and the Church. Galileo had come to agree with a Catholic monk named Copernicus, who had 60 years earlier discovered that millenia of scientists had been wrong about the earth being at the center of the solar system (“geocentrism”). Instead, he determined that it was the sun around which we revolved, giving birth to “heliocentrism.”

Galileo agreed with this theory but did not yet have sufficient proof to begin teaching it officially. The Catholic Church, who was the sponsor of the university he taught at, therefore prohibited Galileo from teaching heliocentrism until more proof could be found, and he agreed to this limitation.

But, letting his pride get the better of him, he not only began to teach heliocentrism, but lashing out at those who would question his behavior. That’s what got him in trouble and led to his house arrest.

To be clear: Galileo was right about heliocentrism, but he was going against the scientific, political, and religious “consensus” of the time that had held the earth was the center of the universe. That theory had even made it into biblical interpretation and so wasn’t so easily put aside. Its abrogation presented too much of a threat for various parties to allow it to happen.

Flash forward to today. After Covid initially emerged, a strong consensus quickly emerged consisting of several elements. The virus originated in nature; it was dangerous enough to lock down all of society; it was not treatable with current drug regimens; the only viable solution was the vaccine; masks and social distancing were effective ways to stop the spread; etc.

When high profile figures in science or politics questioned elements of this consensus, they, like their forbear Galileo, were strongly attacked by the champions of the consensus because their ideas threatened the worldview and power of those who had become ascendant as a result of the pandemic.

Experts like Dr. Robert Malone, who developed mRNA technology, have been kicked off of Twitter or attacked by hit pieces in the national press for voicing his well-informed concerns.

Also like Galileo, many of these skeptics have turned out to be correct, or at least not as completely off-base as they had been characterized early on.

Hydroxychloroquine has been proven to be an effective treatment (as long as it’s used at the beginning of infection); the lab leak theory has been shown to be the most likely explanation for the virus’ origin; the vaccine has not turned out to be the panacea it was sold as, and has proven to be more dangerous than originally believed; cloth masks have been shown to be ineffective and largely symbolic; children have proven to be largely unaffected; and the danger has been shown to be primarily for the elderly or people with underlying health conditions.

A new approach based on actual science, not the politicized science of many in the public health community, has been advocated since the summer of 2020 by these skeptics of the consensus, one which entails counting hospitalization and deaths instead of simple case numbers, and which includes a stronger emphasis on therapeutics instead of a monolithic focus on the vaccine.

This view has finally begun to gain traction today for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, other than that reality has caught up with rhetoric and proven many of the earlier suppositions to be wrong.

Galileo’s lesson to us is that science is actually not a discipline of consensus, but one of truth-seeking unbounded by bias or sentiment.

What is truly sad is that the ruling elite, in their rejection of therapeutics because people like Trump supported them, have likely caused the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Ron DeSantis has been roundly pilloried as being insensitive to the plight of his Florida citizens when in fact his emphasis on therapeutics has saved thousands and is being copied now in other parts of the country as we realize that the vaccine and the boosters have limited effectiveness.

And then there’s the general silencing of dissent that has taken place in our society on this topic. It’s shameful, and would never have been tolerated in a nation that truly values free speech and genuine scientific inquiry, or one which cherishes human life.

The same people who are now advocated withholding treatment from the unvaccinated are, not so surprisingly, often the same people who support abortion as a solution for “unwanted” children.

Truth and science should indeed lead our efforts, not politics and prejudice. I cannot understand my country right now, where the tragedy of Covid has been allowed to grow exponentially worse for cheap political gain and shallow self-satisfaction. I hope we can learn from this and move on together to a better, more humane, and more intelligent future.

Trey Hoffman

Peachtree City, Ga.

11 COMMENTS

  1. One need not retreat to the 17th Century to find conservative Christianity’s assault on science. Witness the insistence that ex nihilo creation – only a few thousand years ago – be taught in public schools. We have clear knowledge that the universe is far older because we see light from stars that took millions of years to arrive in our view. To insist on believing in a “young earth” despite all the evidence that opposes it is little different from insisting on a geocentric universe.

    Reading Hoffman’s recitation of twisted infectious disease science demonstrates how he starts with a conclusion and then marshals “evidence” from any obliging source to confirm it. I applaud all the other commenters who have refuted these half-truths.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Hoffman proudly refuses to read any reasoned opinions that differ from his, so conversion to any semblance of truth for him is impossible. I hope he doesn’t lead many others astray.

  2. Once again the Gish Galop from Trey that takes longer to rebut than it took to read (and doubtless to write).

    “Hydroxychloroquine has been proven to be an effective treatment (as long as it’s used at the beginning of infection);” — No it has not – The Lancet’s recap on the efficacy of HCQ: “Available evidence based on the results of blinded, placebo-controlled RCTs showed no clinical benefits of HCQ as pre-and post-exposure prophylaxis and treatment of non-hospitalized and hospitalized patients with COVID-19.”

    “the lab leak theory has been shown to be the most likely explanation for the virus’ origin;” — No it has not. There IS no “most likely explanation.” The New York Times concludes, “We don’t know. Both animal-to-human transmission and the lab leak appear plausible. And the obfuscation by Chinese officials means we may never know the truth.”

    “the vaccine has not turned out to be the panacea it was sold as, and has proven to be more dangerous than originally believed;” — No it has not! There are no credible reports of death by vaccine and very rare reports of an allergy or reaction to it! The vaccine is not dangerous for Pete’s sake and please stop saying it is unless you have the documentation. (And not Nicki Minaj’s tweet about her cousin’s friend’s balls swelling! That stuff is anecdotal and not evidence!)

    As for the vaccine’s being a panacea:
    1) It could have been if all eligible people would have gotten it! Had we eradicated Covid through vaccination the variants wouldn’t have had a chance to develop.
    2) It has saved lives! That may not be a panacea, but when you consider that the vast majority still dying today from Covid are unvaccinated and that the vaccinated are much less likely to require hospitalization at all, you can see that the vaccine is darn near a panacea. So shut up.

    “cloth masks have been shown to be ineffective and largely symbolic” — even a cloth mask can still help prevent the airborne spread of the virus, and if more infected (read mainly unvaxxed!) people wore them when in proximity to others, they would work better! Your mask doesn’t protect you, but if you are infected, your mask may protect someone else, if you care at all, which clearly many people don’t. Trey.

    “children have proven to be largely unaffected” — well, thank God — what is your point? And also, “largely unaffected” is not the same as completely unaffected, and when it’s your child, that is a HUGE difference. The CDC says, “While children have been less affected by COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and some children develop severe illness. Children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness compared to children without underlying medical conditions.”

    “and the danger has been shown to be primarily for the elderly or people with underlying health conditions” — while the danger is worse for these people, the danger of death is PRIMARILY for the unvaccinated. Those are the ones who are hospitalized for weeks on end and dying, now, at 14X greater rate than the vaccinated. Check out the website called Sorry Anti-Vaxxer-dot-com to see stories of much younger and not seemingly vulnerable crusaders against the vaccine who are dead or on ventilators right now because of Covid. It is not just killing the old people and the vulnerable (about whom you, as a Catholic, Trey, should be concerned), it is killing the unvaccinated of all ages.

    I don’t understand your desire to minimize how deadly Covid was and still is, Trey. It’s bad. Stop your nonsense.

    • I have a dear friend who lives in Macon. He had been reluctant to be vaccinated due to stuff he had been reading online. By early September he came to the conclusion that it was probably better to go ahead with the vaccine. He and his wife made an appointment. He had some business-related thing come up and he missed his appointment, although his wife went ahead and got her shot.

      A couple of weeks later he was infected with COVID. His wife was too, but her symptoms were mild. My friend had fairly severe symptoms with breathing difficulty for about two weeks. At that point he checked his oxygen level with an oximeter and it showed a very low level. His wife checked hers and it was normal. My friend is a pilot and understood just how dangerous it is to have hypoxia, so he had his wife take him to the hospital where he was admitted and put in the ICU. On the trip to the hospital, he and his wife had the gut wrenching conversation that starts with “If I die, this is what you need to do…”.

      Fortunately he was not put on a ventilator, but he was still in ICU for 7 days. When he was released he also had the joy of a hospital-born fungus skin infection that required prescription anti-fungal drugs for weeks. It took about two months before he was able to return to normal activities.

      The cost for his 7 day ICU hospital stay was $100,000.

      He has since made sure that everyone he knows hears his story and he urges them to get vaccinated.

      He owns a small business. Before he was hospitalized none of his employees was vaccinated. Now they all are, so he sees that as something good coming from the ordeal.

    • I have grown to count on VJax”s measured and factual responses
      (often to long and disjointed…opinion pieces). Especially in this case where the stakes are so high, her effort and time are appreciated. Sincere thanks, Jax.

      Considering those stakes, may I suggest (even beg) that Mr. Hoffman exercise caution and restraint. His careless half-truths and unfounded claims could discourage someone from following healthcare recommendations and social protocol.

      To gamble with one’s own life is surely sad; but to encourage others to follow your example is tragic.

      Mr. Hoffman–as appealing from one follower of Christ to another, if you cannot love your fellow men and get on board with the program to protect their lives, please don’t actively endanger them further with your misinformation.