A Journal of the Plague Year (55)


May 10, 2020

How many times have you heard from politicians and leaders that they are “following the science” in their decisions and deliberations regarding Covid-19? While it is admirable that they are paying attention to the science, it has to be remembered that the science of any particular issue, and particularly medical and biological issues, is often confused and contradictory. It is certainly not “settled science” as the well-known fraud Al Gore claimed with climate science.

There was another devastating review of computer modeling of the Covid-19 pandemic from Lubos Motl, a well-known Czech theoretical physicist and right-wing blogger on The Reference Frame. He recommended the excellent video (screenshot above) produced on British TV by Dr Deborah Cohen, yes, an actual doctor and not a journalist posing as one. It blasts some big, deserved holes in the modeling farce that is mesmerizing politicians. “Following the science” does no-one any good when you find out that three weeks later “the science” was wrong. Reacting and changing course when new facts and data become available is what rational people do; they don’t scream “anti-science” at anyone.

Skilled scientists can reach different conclusions from the same set of facts. Constant vigilance is essential for finding the best course of action in a rapidly changing environment.

The fetishization of computer models and “the science” blinds many people to the inherent uncertainties and changing probabilities. Good leaders respond to these changes; they do not fixate on one model or course of action.

That the British government relied, essentially, on one model of the pandemic to annihilate the livelihoods of millions of people is staggering. Even more so knowing the very poor prediction record of the Bonking Boffin, Professor Ferguson.

As Lubos Motl says of Dr Deborah Cohen:

…It seems to me that she primarily sees that the “models” predicting half a million of dead Britons have spectacularly failed and it is something that an honest health journalist simply must be interested in. And she seems to be an achieved and award-winning journalist. Second, she seems to see through some of the “more internal” defects of bad medical (and not only medical) science. Her PhD almost certainly helps in that. Someone whose background is purely in humanities or the PR-or-communication gibberish simply shouldn’t be expected to be on par with a real PhD.
“Models” and “good theory” aren’t just orthogonal. The culture of “models” is actively antiscientific because it comes with the encouragement to mindlessly trust in what happens in computer games. This isn’t just “different and independent from” the genuine scientific method. It just directly contradicts the scientific method. In science, you just can’t ever mindlessly trust something just because expensive hardware was used or a high number of operations was made by the CPU.

This is the problem. If the government were serious about “the science”, they would have asked for several competing modeling teams and scientists from a wide variety of institutions. Yes, the SAGE Committee is supposed to be that, but look at the names (only just recently released to the public—-why?); a perfect model for group-think.

As we learn more about Covid-19, namely, that rigorous hand-washing and masks in confined pubic places like stores and public transit are probably 90% of the disease suppression, the case for the total lockdown is getting much weaker. Further, in many countries, more than half the deaths have been in long-term care facilities, retirement homes and other such institutions. A much more reasoned and targeted approach is called for. However, many politicians, particularly Democrats in the US, are really getting a taste for totalitarian actions based on arbitrary claims of infallible knowledge of “the science”.

This has got to stop.

Rebel Yell