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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke May 25, 2021

A professor’s ideas are wrongly recast as a nefarious federal plot

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  • A philosophy professor at Western Michigan University has written about moral bioenhancement, including ideas that a “morality pill” could end the coronavirus pandemic and that such a pill could be compulsory or administered secretly, “perhaps via the water supply.” 
     
  • An abstract for a paper the professor wrote that was published in a journal called Bioethics appeared in a database maintained by the National Institutes of Health, where Anthony Fauci’s wife works.  
 

A series of screenshots posted on Instagram build the shaky framework for a big claim — that Christine Grady, chief bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health who is married to Dr. Anthony Fauci, has a "secret plan to put psych drugs in drinking water … to get Americans vaccinated."

"Why does the federal government need a secret plan?" the post says. "Because half of the American citizens refuse to take vaccines." 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The screenshots come from a March 22 blog post that points to a 2018 paper and its author as evidence for this plan. But that doesn’t make sense, and here’s why. 

The blog post shows a screenshot of the paper’s abstract in PubMed, a database of more than 32 million citations and abstracts of work that appear in biomedical and life sciences journals. PubMed is maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which is located at the National Institutes of Health. The site doesn’t include the full text of journal articles. Rather, it links to the original source. 

That’s the case here for the paper by Parker Crutchfield, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at Wetern Michigan University. The paper, titled "Compulsory moral bioenhancement should be covert," was published in a journal called Bioethics

Moral bioenhancement deals with using drugs, surgery or other devices to improve moral decision-making, as Slate wrote in 2017.  

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In his paper’s abstract, Crutchfield wrote that while "some theorists argue that moral bioenhancement ought to be compulsory, I take this argument one step further, arguing that if moral bioenhancement ought to be compulsory, then its administration ought to be covert rather than overt." 

The blog post then shows more screenshots of an article by Crutchfield that appeared in The Conversation in August 2020. The headline says: "‘Morality’ pills may be the US’s best shot at ending the coronavirus pandemic, according to one ethicist."

In the article, Crutchfield made the case that the problem of people who choose not to follow public health guidelines concerning the coronavirus — "defecting from the public good" —  could be solved by moral enhancement, such as a psychoactive pill that increases cooperative behavior.

"A solution would be to make moral enhancement compulsory or administer it secretly, perhaps via the water supply," he wrote. 

But Crutchfield, a university philosophy professor, is exploring ideas in both the journal paper and this article — he’s not laying out Grady’s secret plan to drug Americans via our water supply.  

His paper appeared on PubMed, which is maintained by a branch of the National Institutes of Health, but it wasn’t published there. It appeared in one of the many journals PubMed links to on its website. 

And we found no evidence connecting Grady to the work that appears in the blog post. 

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

 

Our Sources

Instagram post, May 23, 2021

National Institutes of Health, Meet our doctors: Christine Grady, visited May 24, 2021

Blog post, March 22, 2021 

Slate, Are you creeped out by the idea of a "moral enhancement" pill? March 20, 2017

The Conversation, ‘Morality’ pills may be the US’s best shot at ending the coronavirus pandemic, according to one ethicist, Aug. 10, 2020

PubMed, Compulsory moral bioenhancement should be covert, published online Aug. 29, 2018

Bioethics, Compulsory moral bioenhancement should be covert, published online Aug. 29, 2018

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A professor’s ideas are wrongly recast as a nefarious federal plot

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