What are they teaching?

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The professor who takes in the Pevensie children in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe famously asks “What do they teach in schools these days?”

Well, whatever is being taught in schools, we have quite a good idea of what is being taught in our universities and by whom. We know because academics quite happily tweet out their weird and wonderful ideas.  Throughout COVID I’ve been treated to a whole range of pet theories popping up on my timeline. And not only the pet theories but the aggressive and abusive responses to anyone who hares to take a different view.  I’ve witnessed other academics be subjected to what clearly amounts to bullying.  Not being in secular academia I’ve managed to escape under the radar most of the time except on the one occasion when  a scholar got a little spikey with me because I’d dared to read a book and even footnoted it 12 years ago by an author she believed should have been cancelled.

Anyway the latest exhibit of what passes for academic thought was provided this week by Hisham Ziauddeen here.

Hisham’s profile tells us that he is a psychiatrist and neurologist at Cambridge University where he is a Senior Clinical Research Associate.  His tweet has been positively quoted on numerous occasions including by other academics. And yet, here we are reading a message from him accusing the Government of intentionally desiring our deaths. This is not the kind of message you expect from an academic at a respected university, it is in all out conspiracy theory territory.

Now, this is not to say that the Government has got everything, or even anything right throughout the pandemic.  My personal view remains that there were some things that were unavoidable, other things where we did okay and that overall, the UK’s experience of the pandemic is broadly comparable to other countries with similar demographics, geographical contexts and economies.  There were some things where the UK has been outstanding including

  • The vaccine roll out
  • The development of a vaccine that will be affordable for many countries.
  • The development of mass testing through LFTs.
  • The furlough scheme protecting industry and jobs
  • The work on sequencing variants
  • The detailed and open reporting of data.

However, there were areas where we seriously failed including

  • Protection of care homes
  • Test and Trace for the first 8 months
  • Border control (especially around the entry of Delta into the country).
  • An unhealthy competition between central government and devolved administrations.

Yet, it is possible to identify mistakes the Government got wrong or even accuse them of incompetence without accusing them of wilfully desiring the loss of life.  This is the case not least because the evidence is that the Government introduced lockdowns and invested heavily in a vaccination programme specifically in order to minimise the loss of life.  The results of this can be seen in the way that the vaccination programme has reduced by two thirds the likelihood of those infected with COVID of ending up in hospital.

In his twitter thread, Dr Ziaudeen singles out the decision concerning vaccination of under 15s. The JCVI recently decided that it would not advise the role out of Pfizer to 12-15 year olds.  He presents this as evidence of the determination of those in power to kill.

Yet, his example completely and utterly disproves his claim. The Government were eager to provide vaccines for younger teens and were frustrated at JCVI’s caution.   He is right that the JCVI are a body we would expect to look after kids and that’s exactly what they were doing by taking a cautious approach. We may not have liked that caution, we may have disagreed but we need to remember that neither Hisham or I are experts in either vaccination or paediatrics.   

What we have here is someone throwing around wild, scaremongering claims that defy logic and lack evidence. Yet, these claims are being talked up by other academics as worthy of serious consideration.

The correct answer to his wild eyed question “how do we convince people that those in power want to kill them?” is “you don’t when it’s not true.” You see, to claim something about someone which isn’t true is scientifically, academically and morally wrong. It’s slander. Furthermore, to do so from an account where you rely on your credentials as a University employee brings your employer into disrepute. It’s no good claiming your opinions are your own when you also mention the employer and when you are clearly tweeting during your working day.

It seems to me that if this is what passes for academia then the greater danger to our young people as they head off to university is not an outbreak of COVID-19 but coming face to face with some of the people who make their living out of academia and have been entrusted with our young people’s minds!

Yet what concerns me even more is the number of times that I see fellow believers entertaining and giving weight to the conspiracy theories. We’ve seen this on both sides. Christians were quick to join in accusing the Government of a reckless, unethical experiment with re-opening. They have been slow to come forward and admit they got it wrong when cases have proven otherwise. Indeed, some went so far as to double down and accuse those responsible for sharing the data of deliberately manipulating it to support the Prime Minister’s narrative.

At the other extreme I’ve seen Christians willing to share stuff from the anti-vax, COVID denying end of conspiracy theory too.  We should be concerned about both extremes. Christians should love truth and be careful to speak it.