Scott Adams’ Mea Culpa—and Mine

“You won. You won completely. I did not end up in the right place.” — Scott Adams

Remember Scott Adams, creator of the syndicated Dilbert comic strip, when he was aggressively pushing the vaccine and condemning people who were skeptical? He was arrogant and intolerant. Now he admits that all of his fancy analytics got him to the wrong place. Check it out:

Of course they did. You could see everybody who was pushing the vaccine going through a set of mental gymnastics to justify obedience to technocracy. They were were victims of scientism. And they still are.

Adams admits that the heuristics used by those who were skeptical of the vaccine got them to the right place. Of course they did. Working from the right heuristic pushes aside ideology and creates the possibility of striking the vein of truth.

Now Adams has to worry about what the shot will do to him over the next several years of his life. I feel bad for him, of course, but I’m still trying to wrap my mind around why anyone would be so adamant about taking an experimental mRNA gene therapy designed to modify their cells to produce a protein that produces systemic inflammation throughout the body. What else is the code modifying? Parents marched their children to clinics to get jabbed. I feel bad for them, too. But it’s not as if I didn’t warn people.

Scott Adams is the creator of the syndicated comic strip Dilbert.

What’s so brilliant about Scott Adams’ mea culpa is not that he has the integrity to admit he was wrong and I was right. That’s obvious. It’s that he is saying that I was right because I don’t trust the corporate state. It is never wrong to distrust the government and corporations, he says. This is true. Yet that is exactly what Adams did.

In 2016, just a year or so away from realize how wrong I was about the motivations behind demographic patterns in lethal civilian-police interactions, I became a rather visible proponent of the idea that racism was the cause of the overrepresentation of black men in lethal police encounters.

I had no evidence to make this argument. Instead, I rationalizes the fact of racial disproportionality to explain racial disproportionality. When I discovered the body of scientific literature that finds that, accounting for disproportionality using benchmarks and situational factors, police are likely to shoot white men, I had to make a mea culpa of my own. I had made my assertions to the contrary so often and so loudly, I felt a responsibility to publicly admit my error.

I first wrote about it on Freedom and Reason in several blogs (search my blog for lethal civilian-police encounters). I produced a podcast on the subject. Then, in the fall of 2022, I traveled to downtown Nashville to speak about race and police encounters at a professional conference. My paper was titled “Racial Bias in Civilian-Police Encounters: A Review of the Literature.” In my presentation, I reviewed the scientific literature on civilian-officer interactions, including those involving deadly force, to show that the evidence does not indicate pervasive racial bias in police encounters.

I didn’t go into why I made the error at the conference, but I will hear: it was because of my political commitments. They had biased me. Political commitments are clearly biasing others on the matter of lethal police encounters to the point where the five black Memphis police officers who killed another black man are being accused of harboring anti-black prejudice—that their actions are a projection of white supremacy. But theories that work from the implicit bias thesis have no demonstrated predictive validity even for white officers. Moreover, the statistics on lethal police shootings provide no inferential support for racial bias in the phenomenon at all. Racism in lethal civilian-police encounters is a myth. Those trying to rationalize five black cops killing a black man as racist have reached the end of woke progressivism. They should take a break and reassess. All their beliefs are suspect.

Although my political commitments did not cause me to suspect that the Memphis police officers were tools of white supremacy, I did without sufficient evidence suppose that racism was behind fatal police encounters. And this is likely not the last time I will make this type of error. Indeed, another mea culpa may be coming.

After a record of scholarship in the field of environmental sociology, where I made several claims about the coming climate crisis (see a recent talk here), a review of the evidence to date is very powerfully suggesting to me that I may have gotten that wrong, as well. Give this podcast with Glenn Loury and Steven Koonin a listen to get a sense of what I am talking about. Here’s a video of their discussion.

While the innovation of my analysis in my award-winning paper “Advancing Accumulation and Managing its Discontents: The U.S. Antienvironmental countermovement” remains valid, the claims along the way about the pending climate crisis may not longer be supportable. So I promise to return to the subject when I feel more confident about it.

My point in this blog is to push Scott Adams’ observation (not original, of course) that it is never wrong to distrust the government and corporations. In fact, not trusting the government and corporations is the default position that allows one to avoid the fancy analytics constructed to distract you from the truth. It is not 100 percent foolproof. But it’s the necessary starting point. Those who trust the government and the corporation, their scientists and their experts, are at risk for getting everything wrong. “Trust the science,” by which they mean “trust the scientists we tell you to trust” is a thought-stopping device.

Never forget this:

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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