“But the fact that I am not as smart, skilled, or great as any of the people you mentioned does not mean that I believe everything they say, or that I believe they are demi-gods, or that they are infallible. They are human beings, which means that like me, and regardless of how smart they are, they can err.”
Individuals can always err. Even groups can err. But you are underestimating the amount of work and the number of people whose work you are denying. The field of epidemiology goes all the way back to Robert Koch’s work with bacteria, and got a huge boost with the Spanish flu pandemic. Epidemiologists have been studying this stuff in detail for over a century. We’re talking about thousands upon thousands of scientists using millions of cases as their raw data, studying pandemics with dozens of different diseases, in different environments and cultures, and with hundreds of different experimental responses. Their work is reflected in tens of thousands of scientific papers, thousands of books, and thousands of conferences over the years. This is the accumulated wisdom of epidemiology. And you swan in and declare that your ‘common sense’ is more reliable than their efforts?!?!!?!
The more I learn, the less I know. That’s a truism that becomes more and more convincing every day. I’ve studied a lot of fields, and the more I study, the more respect I have for the professionals in that field. So I ask you, is it not reasonable to suppose that “The less you have learned, the more you think you know.” ?
Things are always more complicated than you think. Intellectual humility is something you learn one rude realization at a time. I was pretty cocky when I was young; with each passing year, I realize just how big the world is.
You point out that there is some disagreement. Yes, there is always disagreement in the scientific community. Nobody ever got ahead in the scientific world by agreeing with other people. But over time some hypotheses become broadly accepted, while some hypotheses remain controversial. The fact of controversy doesn’t mean that scientists don’t know what they’re talking about. It means that they’re still nailing down details.
So yes, by all means, retain doubts where the scientific community has doubts. But those conclusions that the scientific community expresses confidence in can be trusted, and rejecting those conclusions is sophomoric. The scientific community has urgently recommended that we retain the lockdowns for a while longer yet. They have prepared a detailed plan for how to open up the economy without restarting the pandemic. The White House suppressed the plan. Other plans are similar.
“If so, might I remind you that the majority of the smartest scientific minds in the 1950s assured Americans that cigarettes were not hazardous to health. A few rogue minds disagreed. They were silenced.”
That’s not true. While the tobacco industry advertised cigarettes as healthful, scientists were worried that it was harmful. They gathered what evidence they could, but were not able to build a conclusive case until the 1950s, and they strongly suspected tobacco long before then. Read this from the National Institute of Health. Here’s one quote from that:
“But the emergence of strong evidence related to cancer and other health risks from cigarette smoking during the 1950s shifted the focus to the scientific evidence on its health effects, setting the stage for evidence-based action.”