During the Roman Inquisition in the 1600s, Copernicus and then Galileo were found to be “foolish and absurd in philosophy” and “vehemently suspect of heresy,” respectively, for espousing theories that, contrary to the conventional scientific wisdom of the time, the Earth was not the center of the universe and, in fact, rotated daily and revolved around the sun.
Imagine that. Those in charge of governing were later proven wrong about science.
Sound familiar? Of course it does.
It’s just shy of three years since the COVID-19 pandemic injected itself into Californians’ lives, and over that time, we have seen the “conventional scientific wisdom” shift. And then shift again. And then shift again.
It’s quite a moving target, this conventional scientific wisdom, and some of it has later been tossed aside for updated wisdom, or found to be partially or even completely wrong.
Imagine, then, if no dissent or further discussion were allowed?
California is embarking on just such an experiment with the approval of Assembly Bill 2098, which bans physicians from disseminating “misinformation or disinformation” about COVID-19.
So who gets to decide what “misinformation or disinformation” is?
The government, of course.
What could possibly go wrong?
Recognizing that AB 2098 is, on its face, an unconstitutional infringement upon the First Amendment rights of physicians, a group called Physicians for Informed Consent, along with physician LeTrinh Hoang and the California chapter of Children’s Health Defense, has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the new law.
The plaintiffs are also seeking a preliminary injunction against the state of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California to protect the free speech of physicians in California. A hearing on the injunction request is scheduled Jan. 17.
“The lawsuit argues that the state has weaponized the vague phrase ‘misinformation,’ thereby unconstitutionally targeting physicians who publicly disagree with the government’s public health edicts on COVID-19,” the plaintiffs said in a prepared statement.
The statement added that cardiologist and PIC member Sanjay Verma has been tracking and cataloging Centers for Disease Control errors and has provided what he calls “a detailed declaration exposing the government’s scientific errors and the constitutional dangers of censoring dissent.”
“To demonstrate these points of vagueness and the general unsuitability of using ‘contemporary scientific consensus’ as a disciplinary criterion, I have prepared a detailed overview of public health response to the pandemic broken down into categories such as Masks and Vaccines (transmission, safety, efficacy of natural immunity). I have also included evidence of what [I testify] would be considered misinformation promulgated by the CDC as well as its withholding of information which led to the then ‘contemporary scientific consensus’ eventually being proven wrong.”
PIC President Shira Miller wrote, “Public health is not achieved, and scientific knowledge does not progress, by censoring dissenting physicians and surgeons or anyone else. AB 2098 is anti-doctor, anti-public health, anti-science, and anti-free speech.”
Are the plaintiffs “right” in all of their positions on COVID-19? Maybe, maybe not. But that’s not the point, because they are 100% right in their argument about freedom of speech and dissent.
The appropriate response to speech one considers “wrong” is never to squelch speech. The appropriate response is more speech, not less. Our Constitution guarantees as much.
We need speech and dissent, not only to remain free, but also to move forward. Without robust discussion of matters of public interest, without diversity of opinions and thought, and without those opinions and thoughts being expressed, well…
We all might well still think the Earth is flat and the sun revolves around it.