By Peter W. Dunn, PhD
We are protesting what the government is doing to us: Lockdowns, masks, school closures, business closures, and now more than ever, vaccine mandates that violate informed consent laws. But we face opposition from the media, from political leaders, from unelected health officials and from our neighbors, friends, and families.
We are the dissenters. We disagree with the official COVID narrative. For this disagreement, we get called yahoos, idiots or lunatics; some even calls us winners of the Darwin awards because, in their view, we are so dumb that evolution will select us for extermination before we can even pass on our stupid genes. This is form of hate speech. But I find invariably that people who make these sorts of claims have far less academic qualifications than I do. Now we find that my anecdotal observation of lower level of education of those promoting such hate speech against dissenters is actually verified by a study in the USA that shows that the group most likely to be hesitant about COVID 19 vaccines are PhDs. It must frustrate the gaslighters to find out that many vaccine hesitant people are far better educated than they are.
It is not as though all PhDs are vaccine hesitant. Indeed, the majority are not. It’s only that there is a higher percentage of PhDs that are hesitant than in other levels of education. The study from Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh University, based on a sample size of 5 million people, showed that you are more than twice as likely to be vaccine hesitant if you have a PhD at 24%, than if you have a bachelor’s (11%), a master’s (8%!) or a professional certification (12%).
As someone with a PhD I can comment on some of the reasons for this. First of all, if 76% of people with PhDs are not vaccine hesitant, the reason is likely because most academics focus narrowly on their own specialty and don’t really have the time to study popular subjects to that same level. I know lots of scholars like that. But I would like to comment mainly on why PhDs might be hesitant at a higher rate than people with less education.
I also want to comment on what is the international standard to obtain a PhD degree—it is the requirement of making via research a non-negligible contribution to the existing body of knowledge. Normally to succeed in a PhD also requires erudition in one’s narrow scope of study—no stone must be left unturned—the PhD must normally be aware of all the relevant research on the subject, well at least in English language, and often in other languages, such as French and German. But it doesn’t suffice to take into account the research of others, one has to also make an original contribution to knowledge. So this means that a person with a PhD is ideally the quintessential researcher and independent thinker.
That said, I would like to suggest several possible reasons why people with PhDs are more likely to be hesitant. Here are some of what I’ve observed:
- PhDs may have respect for the craft of academics. And this means that we are not going to dismiss out of hand when other people with PhDs have made arguments against the official COVID 19 narrative. We consider their statements as significant and do not lightly dismiss them as quacks or crazies. Scholars with established reputations in the fields of epidemiology, computer modelling, vaccinology, immunology, and psychology have warned against COVID 19 orthodoxy, and we are much more likely to be as interested in what they have to say than what non-scholars such as Anthony Fauci or Theresa Tam say. Both of those people have MD degrees and have spent much of their careers in administration. Neither are scholars or experts. But people like Byram Bridle, Michael Yeadon, Luc Montagnier, Geert vanden Bossche, Beda Stadler, and the signatories of Great Barrington Declaration—such people carry weight in the eyes of PhDs because we have respect for the craft. A journalist or tv announcer or even a government public health official have not so much weight, because normally such officials can’t hold a candle to the heavyweights in their respective fields. As for government health officials like Fauci or Tam, they are examples of the Peter Principle, that people get promoted until they reach a position for which they are incompetent; they are maybe good at following rules and that gets them promoted to their position of authority; but they are not good at making rules.
- PhDs may be interdisciplinary. I find that the really bright intellectuals that read well beyond their own field are interdisciplinary and thus able to see the bigger picture. They don’t look at things only from the narrow perspective of their own field, as did the public health officials who lockdowned the entire world because of fear of a contagion. They didn’t even take into account the mental health effects that this pandemic would have. They didn’t take into account the lack of historical precedent; the economic fallout, the legal ramifications, the human rights and bioethics abuses. I personally have time and I like to read on other issues like health, economics, history and law. Also, I’ve had to be interdisciplinary to be able to handle the problems that life has thrown at me such as unemployment, disappointment, persecution by government, and health problems. Some of my PhD friends that are in complete agreement with the pandemic narrative are not doing any significant study outside of their field.
- PhDs may pay more attention to academic publications than to news media articles. We deal everyday with the quality of sources, and we correct our students if their sources are of poor quality. My experience with speaking with reporters is that they are talking to me because I know far more about the subject than they do. So I normally have given a primer on the subject, so that they can have a grasp of it. Thus, I do not have much confidence in the authority of news articles. I read them mainly to have a sense of today’s happenings and never to formulate my opinion on a subject.
- PhDs may have better math skills. It may not be that they are able to do higher mathematics, but what helps is if having a sense of scale. If 9418 people have died of COVID 19 in the province of Ontario (according to official stats), then that seems like a big number, yet it’s only .06% of the whole population or about 1 out of 1,500. Furthermore, most of these people were either living in long term care homes (i.e., end of life facilities) or were very advanced in age. COVID 19 is not something that is a significant threat to people under age 60, and zero risk to children.
- PhDs may have a sense of history. When it comes to history, we may be aware that no one has ever chosen to lockdown a society to deal with a seasonal illness. COVID 19 is a bad cold for some people and it is seasonal in its impact. We also know that bioethics exist because of the violations of them in the past, such as Nuremberg Code which exists because of experimentation done on prisoners in Nazi internment camps.
- PhDs may have a grasp of the importance of laws and rights codes that impact the decision making of authorities. There are many laws in Canada that contradict what is happening. For example, the Healthcare Consent Act of Ontario contradicts vaccine mandates. Also contradicted are the Nuremberg code and other bioethical codes, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights, and the list goes on. When someone tells me that I don’t understand human rights, my studying to the level of PhD is a help, because I know that these codes are perspicuous—they are in clear language and intended to be understood by people with an average education.
- PhDs may know propaganda when they see it. We are supposed to be trained in seeing manipulation techniques like gaslighting, bullying and demagoguery. Since the beginning of the “pandemic” these techniques are almost all that one sees in the mainstream media. But on social media, that gets translated into an everyday onslaught against anyone who dissents. Logical and rhetorical fallacies are commonplace: E.g., straw man arguments, begging the question (e.g., invocation of conspiracy theories or “misinformation”), and ad hominem (guilt by association, poisoning the well, name calling).
- PhDs may resist intimidation better than other people. I have to admit that gaslighters and other detractors of my positions have virtually no effect on me. It is indeed a bit comical for me to see people do this. Doing an earned research degree from an internationally esteemed university has given me confidence in myself and my ability to do research and to come to reasonable conclusions. When people abuse me I instantly recognize the inferiority of their arguments and their lack of skill and knowledge.
- PhDs may also be victims. Nothing has motivated me to research health subjects than dealing with my own problems that are caused by fluoroquinolone drugs (Cipro), which has rendered me in many respects a handicapped person with serious limitations. I have had to research health to try to restore my own health. I researched constitutional law, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the international rights codes, in order to fight the persecution I experienced during the Obama administration. Necessity has forced me to research subjects outside of my own field to be able sort through my own issues. And this is the case with some other people who have PhDs that I know. They or a loved one may also have issues with vaccines or some other medical treatment. They too are victims.
If you don’t have a PhD and you are dissenter, I want to encourage you that you have many very well-trained academics on your side. If you oppose anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, and anti-lockdown protestors, then I encourage you to rethink you position. Many very smart people with high level academic training are taking such positions.
(This speech was presented at the Vaughan anti-lockdown protest, at Bathurst and Rutherford, Sunday, August 15, 2021)