Public Health

How 'Cranks' Advance Science

A major lesson of the pandemic is that science is "not a priesthood," says Dr. Jeffrey A. Singer, a general surgeon and senior fellow at the Cato Institute.


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"Don't believe the claim that the internet has corrupted our public discourse with misinformation," says Jeffrey A. Singer, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and general surgeon in Phoenix, Arizona. "Experts don't have a monopoly on the search for truth."

In his recent article, "Against Scientific Gatekeeping," which appeared in Reason's May 2022 issue, Singer examined the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which those who broke with the establishment were branded cranks or accused of having blood on their hands. "The medical science priesthood has a long history of treating outside-the-box thinkers harshly," he writes.

Most theories turn out to be wrong—"American science fiction and fantasy writer Theodore Sturgeon said, '90 percent of everything is crap,'" Singer notes. "But the remaining 10 percent can be important," which is one of the major lessons of the pandemic.

"Science should be a profession, not a priesthood."

Photo Credits: Institute of Oceanographic Sciences (Great Britain); National Institute of Oceanography of Great Britain; Great Britain. Colonial Office. Discovery Committee, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons; Dr. Dalia Ibrahim, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; BSIP/Newscom; Gavin Kent Mirrorpix/Newscom; Dr. Laughlin Dawes, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Tamar Hayardeni, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Gupta 1 Sharkpixs/ZUMApress/Newscom; PLOS Video Channel, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons (for iondannis photo); Abaca Press/Berzane; Nasser/Abaca/Sipa USA/Newscom; Internet Archive,; Envato Elements.

Music Credits: "Blue Race," by Out of Flux, via Artlist; "Ant," by Evgeny Bardyuzha via Artlist.

Written by Natalie Dowzicky and Jeffrey A. Singer; narrated by Singer; edited by Regan Taylor; camera by Benjamin Gaskell.