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We need Scepticism more than ever In times of crisis we should encourage — not penalise — critical thinking

The Hume statue on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Hume statue on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images


January 19, 2021   5 mins

For much of human history, doubt was considered a personal vice. Status and advancement was generally conferred on believers and cheerleaders for the prevailing orthodoxy. Questioning the status quo was regarded as sedition and, as a result, discussions of “doubt” were confined to pedantic philosophers determined to discover whether anything in the world could really be known.

It was not really until David Hume, writing during the Scottish Enlightenment, that an attempt was made to reconcile Scepticism with the real world. Frustrated at the “insipid raillery” of those who claimed mankind could know nothing, he dismissed their obscure thought experiments as “mere Philosophical Amusement”, and instead chose to reclaim Scepticism as a critical mindset. To put it simply, for Hume it was important to be “a philosopher; but, amidst all of your philosophy, be still a man”.

At the end of last year, Edinburgh University renamed its David Hume Tower because the philosopher — at least according to those who demanded the change — “wrote racist epithets”. Whether or not that is true is an argument for another day. But this erasure of Hume – the Enlightenment philosopher who reclaimed the meaning of scepticism more than 200 years ago – is symbolic of something far more significant. For it seems to me that the term “sceptic,” and the attitude it represents, is once again in urgent need of rehabilitation.

On paper, that shouldn’t be too difficult. As Hume put in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, to be sceptical is “to begin with clear and self-evident principles, to advance by timorous and sure steps, to review frequently our conclusions, and examine accurately all their consequences”. At the time, this was radical. It encompassed everything progressive about the Enlightenment and the emergence of the scientific method. But it also seems eminently sensible. Who wouldn’t want to be a sceptic today?

Apparently, quite a lot of people. Scepticism is suddenly perilously out of fashion. More than that, it is now deemed dangerous. The reason? The rise of the “lockdown sceptics”, who in recent weeks have taken a battering for having made claims about the virus that turned out not to be true.

In a sense, this is what should happen in the scientific method — commentators and experts being held to account for predictions they make. But the ferocity of the attacks has left us at a place where all questioning groups are subjected to the same moral condemnation. Whether they are pundits peddling conspiracies, credentialed scientists recommending alternative approaches, or intellectuals worried about the political implications — “Lockdown sceptics” is used interchangeably for them all. Any dissent will mark you out as part of the global “anti-science” movement. So sceptic has become a dirty word.

In our own LockdownTV interview series, which kicked off early in the pandemic, we put the scientific method into action. We featured eminent scientists from all sides of the debate sharing their views: advocates for a stronger response such as Profs Neil Ferguson, Nathalie Dean, Devi Sridhar and Fredrik Elgh put forward their arguments alongside advocates of a more liberal approach such as Johan Giesecke, Anders Tegnell and the Great Barrington scientists. As you might expect, some statements aged better than others; some voices became more credible and others fell away, but it was all conducted in a spirit of civility and respectful enquiry.

When Nobel prize-winner Michael Levitt’s prediction that the American epidemic would end in August failed to materialise, we had him back on the show to account for himself. Both Giesecke and Tegnell have also pledged to return to discuss their learnings later this year.

But the treatment of some of these scientists is troubling. Oxford Professor Sunetra Gupta is now bracketed with out-and-out cranks by MPs and columnists in national newspapers. I know her to be a kind, intelligent and accomplished person who cares deeply about saving lives. Perhaps she shouldn’t have speculated so specifically about the Infection Fatality Rate in her UnHerd interview so early in the pandemic; perhaps she should have caveated her theory that the epidemic was “on the way out” with the likelihood that it could come back again in the winter.

But she was a scientist giving her interpretation of the data at the time, not a trained politician stiffly parsing every word. The attacks on her fellow signatories of the “Great Barrington Declaration” by academic colleagues at Harvard and Stanford, as well as the “blood on their hands” rhetoric they regularly receive in the British press, sets a disturbing precedent for the next scientific controversy. Who would be a dissenting scientist now?

Creative thinking should be encouraged, not penalised. If new variants or developments extend this lockdown period beyond the spring, a more differentiated approach closer to the one the GBD posited — offering better protection to the vulnerable and letting others get on with their lives — may yet become relevant. At the briefing Boris Johnson received from Gupta, Carl Heneghan and Anders Tegnell, he rejected their proposals and continued with a lockdown strategy regardless — fair enough. But the Prime Minister should surely be praised rather than condemned for wanting to test and retest his assumptions?

At the level of government policy, the effect of the pandemic on attitudes should also give us pause. In the relentless comparison of different countries’ outcomes, the recipe for success on Covid-19 policy appears to be something like: presume new risks are worst-case scenarios and act immediately, and dramatically, rather than waiting for more evidence. Countries which acted in the opposite way to David Hume’s “timorous and sure steps” and swiftly imposed border controls and restrictions have generally had the best Covid-19 outcomes; “dithering” Western nations are unfavourably compared to their more commanding Asian counterparts. But while this may have been effective in the context of the pandemic, as a general lesson for government it would represent a terrifying new direction.

Many people might feel that we are in a wartime situation with this virus, and that something closer to martial law is therefore appropriate for this exceptional period. But as human rights lawyer Adam Wagner made clear in yesterday’s UnHerd interview, if history is any guide, emergency measures have a way of becoming permanent — most of the powers taken by the government during 9/11 are still there. We have now been governed in a “Napoleonic” style for almost a year, with new updates coming by ministerial decree on average every four and a half days and with very little oversight. Can anyone confidently say that none of that attitude will stick?

When it comes to the inevitable next virus or pathogen to be identified somewhere around the world, the playbook has surely now been written. As Wagner told me, “the danger is that if Covid never leaves us, or it mutates or a different virus arrives with a similar dynamic we’ll be in a semi-permanent state of “this is what we do” — when this happens, we have lockdowns, we have emergency laws, we take away parliamentary niceties like scrutiny, debates, votes, that sort of thing… And I think that is a danger that doesn’t come out of the fringes of the lockdown sceptic movement. That’s the real deal as a worry.”

At times of crisis, scepticism can be unnerving and the temptation to try to silence dissenting voices is understandable. But which is the bigger danger? That people are allowed to question the orthodoxy and potentially get things wrong but are held accountable in an open debate? Or that sceptical voices are censored for  “misinformation”, and no one dares dissent? Everyone loses when doubt becomes a vice once more.


Freddie Sayers is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.

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Derek Bryce
Derek Bryce
3 years ago

Early in lockdown 1, I argued in the comments section of a Scottish newspaper that it was the duty of every citizen to respond ‘why?’; ‘for how long?’; ‘based on what evidence?’ and ‘are the trade offs with other health matters and our liberties worth it?’ to each of Ms. Sturgeon’s decrees before considering consenting to them.

In the land of David Hume, I was met with such an onslaught of shrill hysteria that I simply gave up posting. Such was and still is the conflation of the Scottish covid response with the increased fortunes of the SNP, I was even accused of being – shock, horror – a unionist (I’m not and have campaigned actively for Scotland’s independence). We’re not in a good place, intellectually or democratically.

Tricia Butler
Tricia Butler
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

We’re not in a good place here in the U.S either. I had the same experience as you when posting anything even remotely skeptical of the lockdown narrative, masks, etc….Vicious and savage attacks always followed.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Tricia Butler

MSM & Government favoured Trolls…

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

I didn’t argue in either way – I simply spoke out for considering all options calmly and objectively since – at the start of the pandemic – no one knew how long the vaccine would take and what the exit would look like. I was shouted down for even suggesting taking herd immunity into consideration. It was crazy.

Come to think of it, the worst offender in that bout of “burn-the-heretics” hysteria within my group of acquaintances was a Scot…

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Please don’t do this guys, even if humour (maybe). I think we have the same feelings about this but if you’re going to try and divide us on these lines, as well as pro-anti Europe lines, you undermine all of us who are challenging the Covid madness.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

Don’t forget: the land of Hume was once the land of Knox – the hysterical, statue smashing bigot who erased most of his country’s medieval culture. The Scots are reverting to the earlier type, alas.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Yes indeed, Knox, the original ‘poisoned dwarf’.
You might have thought two years as French galley slave would have taught him a few manners, but not a bit of it.

As you say Scotland’s meagre medieval culture and buildings were nearly eradicated. Just look at the paucity of their Medieval Cathedrals as but one example.
.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Yes. Good job there were plenty of non-Protestants around to kill them for their opinions, like Bloody Mary, eh?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Not in Scotland. She was Queen of England long before the union of the two kingdoms. And persecution went both ways.

Unknown Anonymous
Unknown Anonymous
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

I had a very similar experience posting on the comments page of the Financial Times. I argued that lockdowns were not well thought through, were likely to cause more harm than good, and that more targeted restrictions were likely to be a better response.* I got accused of being a murderer, of having blood on my hands, of hating old people. Very few commentors were even willing to engage in debate. The situation is somewhat better now but we lockdown sceptics are still the target of censorship and hate speech.

*As just one example, retail supports 3 million jobs, and with social distancing and mask-wearing is a low-risk environment for transmission. So why close so-called nonessential retail? I find it hard to believe that the small reduction in transmission is worth the unemployment and mental health impacts to a very large group of workers, most of whom are low-paid and with limited alternatives.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago

‘Why close nonessential retail’ ? Probably because they think it makes them look tough and decisive. Most of the political class and civil service don’t really give a toss about the general population. Have they all had pay cuts ?? I’m not able to go about my lawful business by Government decree, so I have hardly earned a bean all this tax year. In my village some of my neighbours work in the public sector, so have been on full pay usually doing damn all. Life has been good for them, but not the majority of us. And what will be left at the end of this ? Well, an even more bloated public sector of that you can be sure, but probably loads of people will just decide, like some people I work with, ‘what’s the point?’ and pack up throwing millions out of work. And for what ? To control a virus which is perhaps a little bit more deadly than a normal winter flu virus.

Unknown Anonymous
Unknown Anonymous
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Yes! If the MPs and their advisers were suffering the consequences of their actions, they might think twice. But their jobs are secure, they’re not worried about the bills, they mostly have nice houses with gardens to isolate in, and if they still feel like the rules are too onerous they can always go and take a trip to Barnard Castle. One rule for them, another rule for the rest of us.

Judy Simpson
Judy Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Where we live, many of those people, who can comfortably work from home, are actually enjoying this pandemic. It gives them a sense of purpose; they’re doing everything they possibly can to contribute to the fight. And more importantly, every day provides another opportunity to prove what good people they are. Dissenting voices are treated with shock and disdain. I know this, because we’re surrounded by them. Meanwhile, my husband has not been allowed to work in his chosen profession since March. The financially secure don’t care. They’re too busy saving lives.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Simpson

Indeed, but what would happen if their Waitrose deliveries were cut off ? Lockdown seems to be the virtuous middle classes ‘contributing to the fight’ by working from home, and everyone else having to deliver stuff to them. Meanwhile people like your husband (and myself) don’t matter. Our lives and businesses can be ruined just so they can polish their halos.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Simpson

My thoughts exactly

Toby Aldrich
Toby Aldrich
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

The issue here Andy is that those on full salary, the public sector etc are actually in the majority, and lockdown is therefore damn fine. All paid for by the most extraordinary increase in our public debt.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago

The FT used to be good with interesting articles and an educational comment section (I learnt a lot from it). Now it has loads of Europhile articles and the comment sections are filled with UK haters. I’m still trying to figure out where they all came from.

Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
3 years ago

Universities.

Unknown Anonymous
Unknown Anonymous
3 years ago

Now you’re one of the people demonising the other side. Remainers don’t hate the UK, although we think Brexit is stupid, and we may hate this government.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

Well, I’ve read more anti-UK bile from Scottish Nationalists (who all mysteriously have southern Irish names, and support Remain to boot) this past year than in a whole lifetime. What’s also interesting is that they go on about ‘the Scots’ and ‘Scotland’ in exactly the same terms as Hitler did about Germans and Germany (the SNP supported Fascism when they were founded, so ‘Godwin’s law’ can be overlooked in this particular case). And who is ‘we’? I have my own opinions. I don’t have to wait for the local ‘gang’ leader to tell me what I should think.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Frankfurt school, Or Teachers ‘Training college”

Dorothy Webb
Dorothy Webb
3 years ago

I have been re-reading my books on the Third Reich in Germany and the tactics, promoting fear, widespread thuggery, hysterical attacks on anyone who disagrees, are being used again today. The so-called “storming” of the Senate in Washington reminded me of when the Reichstag was set on fire (by the Nazis themselves) and the Communists were immediately blamed – thousands were imprisoned without trial and the Communist leader executed. We live in perilous times.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Financial Times is A Globalist Joke, totally buys ‘Climate Change’ ‘Green New deal” ”Biden being saviour of the West!” er no…

gbauer
gbauer
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

The shrill hysteria has come my way too. (I’m Canadian.) I don’t fully understand what’s driving the frenzy of moral outrage. All I know is that I feel less connected to (most of) my fellow humans than ever before.

Derek Bryce
Derek Bryce
3 years ago
Reply to  gbauer

Much of my family live in Canada (we’re all dual U.K./Canadian citizens), Gabrielle, all sceptical to a greater or lesser degree and report what you do. Sadly, most of them live in BC and are subject to the regular pronouncements of Dr Bonnie ‘Gloryhole’ Henry. My brother and I have begun playing one upsmanship games about the latest cockamamy rules imposed by the U.K. and Canada. Right now you guys are ahead on points because of the Quebec curfew. 😉

queensrycherule
queensrycherule
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

I know the feeling.

On Facebook, a friend of my Mum’s decided I was a unionist because I didn’t vastly overrate the virus

Henry Longstop
Henry Longstop
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

There are those who are so ontologically terrified in this ‘pandemic’, that they try to retain some shred of the old certainties by putting their hands over their ears to silence dissent.
In their view Nanny knows best and anyone who causes an upset in the Nursery must be silenced.
It’s congenital. No amount of argument or reasoning will change their view of ‘reality’.
Get used to it.

Maxine Shaverin
Maxine Shaverin
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

The hysteria which is evident is bewildering and unprecedented. Even if you point out that their risk factor is less than death through an RTA you are met with an incredulous stare and what my father used to call an ‘ah but’ and yet another ‘reason’ for the ridiculous precautions being imposed given which if analysed represents a similar very low risk factor. People seem to have forgotten that a) we die, b) when we are old and weak we succumb to whatever is going around at the time and c) we cannot prevent death when the time comes and that to try is frequently cruel to do so

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

Show me a country that consistently penalises critical thinkers and you show me a society where democracy is weak and which will never decide its own fate. Critical thinkers make leadership and management tough and can be frustrating but they are an essential part of creating the best solutions and achieving progress. They should be thanked, not vilified.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It may not be penalised by government policy but have you seen the response to anyone who steps out of line on climate change, covid, racism, trans etc. That IS being penalised.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

Yes I certainly have. A lack of civilised debate among individuals also weakens democracy. We all bear a responsibility to keep debate civil and respectful, no matter how sporty the discussion becomes. It’s so tempting to step right back into the shadows and keep your thoughts to yourself when your opponent thinks that shouting or insults are a legitimate tactic. But to do this is to make yourself complicit in the deterioration of democracy. By all means choose your battles, but then stick your head above the parapet! Getting a (metaphorical) bloody nose from a debate doesn’t kill you.

Pat N
Pat N
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

China

Jurek Molnar
Jurek Molnar
3 years ago
Reply to  Pat N

And the US. And Great Britain.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Freddy, you seem to be becoming one of the true believers yourself, from the above. OK, the virus has comeback wile some really glib experts said it would not, but that seems to be only a part of the story. The big story should be the cost/benefit which I have never run into here.

I actually consider China to be where Japan was in 1930 with the Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’, only with Africa very much too, and South America, quickly joining in this amazing nu-Imperialism. Same thing, need for raw materials so basically using dirty economic tricks to take over nations and whole regions.

If my analogy holds then we could expect a Pearl Harbor, and one wonders if we had one.

Your article says the dogma: fast and hard lockdown explains the 3 Chinese deaths per million to Western 1300 deaths per million. That and they lack the co-morbidity (I assume ‘Dark Matter Immunity’) seems to also be the explanation – but this all is utterly beside the point. They knew we had the co-morbidity, they knew we were susceptible, and that we are not machine like in fallowing rules. Basically they should have known they would have 3 deaths per million, and we the 1300. Thus they would know we would destroy ourselves economically and civilly wile they would not. They have growth, we have bankruptcy.

I do not say this was intentional, but then there is no reason to think it was not. Then the next part, we took our eyes off the ball and China is using that to expand internationally more, they use the economy destruction to capture Germany, Poland, the EU, and every where else, with China Biden they are in the last lap of the race wile we are just on the first.

That is why I will NOT ever wear the mask, I am anti-locckdown, because I think a state of diplomatic war exists between the West and China, and by wrecking the economy, the education, the focus, the society (creating so many expensive health problems by Lockdown to be paid for later) we are setting the world up to Chinese rule.

Disguised as saving the over 80s we destroy our civilization. Where are the cost benefit discussions? OK X lives saved and bla bla bla… But at what cost? That is the real issue, the cure worse than the disease, possibly even fatal.

alancoles10
alancoles10
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Not just scepticism but common sense and logic

jamesbrad1011
jamesbrad1011
3 years ago
Reply to  alancoles10

Aha..common sense is rare..

Maxine Shaverin
Maxine Shaverin
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

I am not aware of anyone who has said that the virus would not come back. What has been said clearly from numerous parties on the sceptics continuum is that it would be endemic and not pandemic. You cannot release something or have a new virus emerge which will then suddenly disappear. It could well do in time when it has run itself out of hosts but given that this is no deadly killer virus, that could be a long time indeed. Certainly what is known and what is clear from the data if analysed is that lockdowns do not work for airborne viruses, viruses cannot be controlled as we are endeavouring to do so and that given how we are recording covid deaths and how the CCP is hardly known for their honesty when communicating with the outside world; that analogies between the UK and China and drawing conclusions based on China’s performance and messages cannot be made

Martin Davis
Martin Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Who are ‘they’? Our response to the infection was entirely our own. You are peddling rubbish about China. Societies like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, etc., entirely unlike China, all adopted similarly effective strategies. Our own ineffectiveness was shared by all developed societies which had not had the experience of SARS. We must do better next time. But that requires learning from our mistakes.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Davis

I am not so sure Japan fits the pattern of extremely competent Asian responses… It’s ‘success’ is not so easily explained.. But East Asian societies are not in any case ‘entirely unlike China’ in terms of their social mores.

It is also very obvious to me that while many Brits are very self righteous about the sins of others, most people are in some way or form breaking the rules (just look at the 2 metre spacing….).

The Asian strain of the virus is also different from the one circulating in Western Europe and North America, which may partly explain the difference.

The numbers of cases in India, of all places, is now declining – on its own and without any competent government response.

Elizabeth Cronin
Elizabeth Cronin
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I listened to an economist last spring who had hopes that the virus would dissipate as he was in Thailand and he had a very low infection rate despite an enormous number of Chinese tourists in late winter. Right then I thought, they either have a different strain or had already been exposed to something similar and have immunity. (I’ve read that blood work of Europeans show that some have immunity to HIV based on ancient exposure in their DNA.) Blood work in the US shows that the virus was here in November – well before any lockdowns. We need excellent scientific detective work not glib conclusions.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It’s a matter of balance. Critical thinkers are wrong most of the time, but when they are right the implications can be substantial.

It’s also a mistake to draw a dividing line between people who are critical and people who are not. We are all mix, to varying degrees, of acceptance and criticism.

As above, I would argue there is so much critical activity that our social and political structures are beginning to collapse.

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

What is destroying our social structure is not critical activity but the failure to distinguish critique from cancellation. Critique equates to moderate scepticism (identified by Merton as a characteristic of science). Cancellation is the very opposite of critique. The root of the problem lies in Postmodernism which allows both lazy educators and overweening educational bureaucrats to undermine academic and intellectual standards

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

There is little moderate scepticism. It usually takes the form of moral hysteria. The Left accuse those on the right of being evil, racist and stupid. Those on the Right accuse those on the left of being traitors, cowards and sheep.

Both sides are full of outrage and a type of dogmatic hysteria. Refusing to engage with each other, refusing to trust each other and casting aspersions on each others intent.

The Left is admittedly worse. Although the Right are now giving them a good run for their money.

jackeddyfier
jackeddyfier
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Like I wrote above:

“Critical thinking” is not the same as skepticism.

jackeddyfier
jackeddyfier
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

In contrast skeptical thinkers are never wrong – because skeptics always defer to the facts, and, indeed, base their arguments on the facts. Or have done for the past 400 years since Enlightenment thinkers revised skepticism. This can witness a real skeptic changing a viewpoint halfway through a discussion when some, as yet, unearthed fact comes to light.

Facts are sacred to skeptics but not for self-styled “critical thinkers”; who generally just want to win a debate.

Mark Gilbert
Mark Gilbert
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Try the US(?)

jackeddyfier
jackeddyfier
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Critical thinking? = is not really skepticism. Real skeptics must follow rules. Skepticism assumes the “critical thinker” can by lying, as they sometimes are. Skeptics are never allowed to lie.

Joe Francis
Joe Francis
3 years ago

In fact, this article is touching on a massive elephant in that room which is known as “western civilization”. The Long March through the Institutions is now complete and the entire philosophical bases of those institutions have been overthrown. Every arm of society, be it courts, media, academy, police, social services (particularly social services), health and even now, the military is infused with leftist assumption. And, indeed, presumption.

Thus, in America, the left can spend the entire summer systematically burning their cities to the ground while Democrat prosecutors flatly refuse to prosecute, Democrat judges dismiss cases or give OR releases and Democrat “celebrities” raise money for bail for those who catch the judge on an off day. Meanwhile, when a Trump supporting mob crash the Capitol, it’s an “insurrection” requiring that the president with “the most votes in history” import more troops into Washington to protect him on his inauguration than were present there during the Civil War.

The UK is not much better, with, as an example, lawyers, twisting the definition of provocation to its breaking point in pursuit of leftist assumptions and in the process destroying the legal system as an engine of truth and fact and turning it into some kind of socialist rain-making machine designed to bring about the final earthly paradise. The unthinking arrogance of these people is emblematic of what the author of this piece is attempting to illustrate. “We don’t need to find the facts of this particular case because whatever they are, it’s all the fault of the patriarchy/white supremacists/racists/transphobes or whatever”.

I’m reminded of the creation of the Soviet Union under Lenin. We’ve all heard the wailing of the left about how it would all have been wonderful if only Lenin had lived and that degenerate Stalin had not come to power. Besides the fact that the “only for that” attitude is so typical of leftist excuses of why it never works, it was Lenin not Stalin, who created the gulags, and when he did, he put actual criminals in charge of them, then filled the camps with so-called “bourgeoisie” who suffered terribly under the regimes of these people. And he did that because the ideology of the left is absolute on this point. Criminals are never responsible for anything (except those on the right, of course). Whatever they’ve done, it’s due to the oppression of … whoever. But once the Earthly paradise is born — and birth in blood is an unfortunate necessity; can’t make an omelette and all that — it’ll all be fine for ever. Just one more push needed and we’re there.

That’s where we are today, folks. That’s why “scepticism” of any sort isn’t allowed, not even in the sciences where, you might think, it’s an absolute necessity. From the point of view of he left, it’s a bad habit to allow to take root. You’re down to your last pound coin of freedom, people. Find a good vending machine and spend it wisely.

Tom Adams
Tom Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

Quite so, Joe. The West is wracked with this cancer – welcome to the Chinese century. As otheres have remarked, when the barbarians are at the gate, we’ll be wondering what their pronouns are.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Adams

Cicero’s, Traitors Within the Gate are the real problem, they make the full conquest by the barbarians possible.

Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Adams

But they won’t!

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

This is how Freedom and Liberty die. As I said above I have come to the conculsion that our leaders have gone Mad. And damn all of us for following them like sheep.

andyconners5
andyconners5
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

We must follow…a new mantra

andyconners5
andyconners5
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

Brilliant…

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

One small point – the incoming Vice-President was also pushing the bail fund to benefit the mob. A sitting US Senator at the time and failed presidential candidate, but that’s since been shoved into the memory hole.

Dusty Pence
Dusty Pence
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Indeed. We sit by while history, whether ancient or last-week, is quietly rewritten. My brother and sister and I used to talk about purchasing copies of Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day by the gross and handing them out on street corners. The novel, even as it entertains, illustrates a world where the people handed over body and soul, bit by bit, to a vague government represented by Uni, a computer that takes care of all their daily needs and decisions, creating, of course, a submissive, peaceful world, bereft of pain, joy, or meaning. When I read the book, in the eighties, I could see disturbing hints in our society of how such a world could come to be: giving drugs to subdue boys who dared to be boys; pressure to assign new words to conditions or behaviors deemed to be unpleasant; attempting to eliminate competition from children’s games.

Why didn’t we hand out that book on the street corners? Because society would have laughed at us. Maybe it was already too late.

Dorothy Webb
Dorothy Webb
3 years ago
Reply to  Dusty Pence

We had “Brave New World” and we had “1984”. People who actually read them were horrified but helpless.

Deleted User
Deleted User
3 years ago
Reply to  Dorothy Webb

I read them, along with Fahrenheit 451, and other dystopian novels. They all have a lot to say about extremses – but the extreams they portray (particularly “Brave New World” and “1984”) are polar oposites of each other, we seem to have so far walked a shakey line that has found some sort of middel ground.

As for book burning and rewriting history – I’m also not convinced thats a complelly bad thing. I’ve come to realise that a lot of 20th centuary history at least was political spin at the very least – it would be logical that other history suffers from the same problem.

Fanatical responses by people who find that things in the past are more complicated than their primary school teacher taught them are a great worry though.

Deleted User
Deleted User
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

I’m by no-means a leftist or for that matter a particualrly ardent libralist. However your speal above seems a little to close to paranoia to me – I’m sorry to say that you come across as angry and delusional.

We currently live in a world where Donald Trump has managed to convince appoximatally half of the voting population of America that the main stream has been brain washing them for years

Over this side of the pond we have recently had a massive break from the status quo in the form of a referendum and termination of our membership of the EU.

Both of these have come about because people are more sceptical of the things they are told than ever before, and disenting voices are more able to find a platform and reach people who will listen.

Yes some people are scared about Covid, and as far as i can tell the media are pushing quite biased opinions. However as time goes on peolple are starting to take less and less notice, rather than becoming indoctrinated.

I’m also troubled by the idea of us living in a non-liberal world – which ever side of the left/right political spectrum that were to fall on it essentially amounts to the same thing – do what I say because I know whats best for you.

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

Excellent. How do we get our civilization back?

Joe Francis
Joe Francis
3 years ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

Only two ways. One is a long march BACK through the institutions. The other doesn’t bear thinking about, but I suspect certain gents in places like Montana and Idaho are presently examining their options.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

Where we are now in relation to covid is not where we were 10 months ago and where we will be in 10 months time.

I’m personally of the opinion that there will have to be the mother of all public inquiries into how this has been (mis)handled by our politicians when the dust finally settles on this debacle.

We’re still not truly there yet, but as more and more news trickles out in time in terms of jobs and business losses, the rising suicides, the unheard court cases that threaten to seriously undermine our already creaking criminal justice systems, the predicted exponential rise in child and domestic abuse and mental illness cases, particularly amongst the young robbed at crucial stages of their educations, the many tens of thousands of undiagnosed cancer cases and those effectively denied treatment for other serious conditions due to Covid, the severe restrictions on funding for future healthcare thanks to a knackered economy, the list will just go on and on.

This litany of shame and disaster will build and build as the profound long-term social and economic effects of these monstrous measures finally begin to dawn on and impact more of those who naively believed that this was always all but a simple, binary choice between ‘compassionately’ saving lives or ‘cruelly’ and ‘cynically’ not saving them.

It will provide mighty cold comfort for all of us I fear, but perhaps then it’ll be far obvious as to who the real ‘covidiots’ were.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Well a ‘scapegoat’ will be required of that you can rest assured. But I suspect any public inquiry will be a window dressing exercise. The reality is the political class as a whole were bounced into their actions by a combination of hysteria, stoked by the media, and farcical predictions from so called ‘academia’.

What is most worrying is the fact that our Government has decided to take away ALL our freedoms and liberty on the strength of fighting a virus they really don’t know how to fight, using measure that haven’t worked and wont work, but measures that must be repeated over and over again. When this nonsense is over, as one day it will be, I doubt they will return our freedoms and liberty as it was. And having done it once, and we all meekly going along with it like daft sheep, they wont have much compunction about doing it again. It wont do, wont do at all.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

I fear you might be right, but sincerely hope you are wrong.

If nothing else this government, along with a good many others across the world incidentally, seem intent on proving Einstein’s definition of madness and testing it to the point of destruction.

Most ably egged on by political oppositions that seem to have used covid as little more than cynical self-serving opportunities to further their own agendas, invariably by suggesting that encumbent governments haven’t gone far enough, soon enough or often enough.

Grim, quite frankly.

andyconners5
andyconners5
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

So very true….its likely vaccinations will now be rolled out every year along with flu…..& whatever next…

Alex Camm
Alex Camm
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

I do hope you are right but my fear is that any attempt to hold a realistic objective and independent inquiry will be undermined by those wanting to protect themselves for the decisions that could be shown to have been catastrophically wrong.

andyconners5
andyconners5
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Camm

That’s very ‘sceptical’ Alex…chuckle..

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

I certainly hope there is a public inquiry, as I think there are a lot of lessons to learn. But I do think a lot of the criticism of the government is rather simplistic and assumes an alternative scenario that has a lot more benefits and no additional costs. I just don’t believe this alternative is or was available. The GBR model of sheltering the most vulnerable, whilst everyone else ‘carries on as normal’ does not sound credible to me. Many people would change their behaviours anyway, even without formal lockdown rules. And it’s hard to see how the millions of older and more vulnerable people could really be isolated fully from the rest.

I think the ‘sceptics’ should acknowledge that their approach would give a higher priority to younger people and those with other health problems, such as cancer, who are the big losers at present. Under their model, if the NHS could no longer cope, which frankly would only be a matter of time, patients who reached a defined state where recovery looked unlikely, especially if they were over X age, would be put to sleep. I would not agree with this approach at present, but I definitely think that it should be considered – for example, if the vaccines turn out to be ineffective against a future variant of the virus. But I don’t recall anyone actually putting forward this argument – apologies if I have missed someone posting to this effect. It’s all an alternative with lots of benefits and no costs.

Raoul De Cambrai
Raoul De Cambrai
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

I thought that was the whole idea of not allowing elderly patients to be tested before shoving them forcibly into care homes to infect others. Care homes ill-equipped with PPE, thanks to Scummings and our lovely government. It worked quite well, didn’t it?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Prepare With Buckets of Whitewash..

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

Even as a self-confessed sceptic I genuinely don’t blame the government for not being ready for this, and nor do I blame them for the first lockdown. Back in March 2020 covid was a novel illness.

Hasty preparations had to be made, fear was heavy in the air and nobody really knew what to expect.

In fairness then no government anywhere could have properly prepared for covid and its effects on their health systems not least because, by design, they have very little slack built into them for the simple reason of cost.

Sure, one might argue, why didn’t we have 10 times the numbers of ICU beds and 10 times the number of trained staff to man them and why didn’t we have a gazillion pieces of PPE in anticipation for this random once in a hundred years event, but if you argue for that then that’s probably a good indicator as to why you should never, ever be let anywhere near the levers of power.

That all said, ideally an elected government’s job is to recognise, react and act in the greater, long-term interests for the country and its people when facts become clearer and even when there are those who, arguably in good faith, might constantly seek to pressurise them into doing otherwise and in that task one can only conclude our politicians, pretty much of every hue, have been found to be seriously wanting.

The covid debacle has been an abject lesson in the political expediency we’ve come to expect from our politicians writ hideously large where no politician was up to facing down the cynical, but inevitable emotive charges of having blood on his hands and deaths laid at his door secure in the knowledge that what he was actually doing was ultimately seeking to achieve far less suffering overall not more of it.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Good post. In fairness though, put yourself in their shoes. They have no alternative but to appease the mob. That’s democracy.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

Good reply also, and I fully accept your point, but it implies that politicians are simply tools of the tyrannous majority, like they themselves have no powers whatsoever of rational persuasion over them.

Pale and weak reflections, never sculptors. Eternally passive, never pro-active.

A notion which I don’t buy into not least because to accept it is an outright admission of the failure of the power of reason and that is unconscionable to me.

Joe Francis
Joe Francis
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

You’ve just made an argument for aristocratic government.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

Given how common that type of government is, it shouldn’t surprise us that it has some positive things to recommend it.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Yes, “fear was heavy in the air” but that fear was stoked quite deliberately by the Government itself and the media, particularly the BBC. I am quite amazed that sane and sensible people I know seem to be terrified to set foot out of their front doors, content to hide under the kitchen table – always allowing for a delivery from Waitrose of course.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Governments are there, ideally, to make rational, on balance decisions without fear or favour for the greater good, and this inevitably involves uncomfortable compromises sometimes.

To fly in the face of the prevailing climate at the time, the overreaction to Covid was near global remember and would have informed the decision making, would have been the correct and courageous thing to do in retrospect, but that’s an easy thing to say and hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Even politicians are human…well mostly.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Kudos for not treating hindsight as something else and recognizing that govt is run by people, with all the flaws and strengths of people in any other walk of life. I’d suggest a big part of the issue is way too many citizens blindly going along with one govt edict after another as they’ve been conditions to expect a govt solution to every problem.

Ironically, the US had moved toward a pandemic prep plan n the Bush years but that lost steam after a time, and that time was long before covid. Being ready for the unpredictable is quite the expectation. What’s worse is how govt officials refuse to back down from their original orders given what is known now. This is not the new black death; it simply isn’t, and causing widespread economic harm and also injuring mental health is a lousy prescription.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

The biggest flaw of politicians is perhaps being concerned more about their political career than anything else, no matter what c**k-ups they make.

jackeddyfier
jackeddyfier
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Smith

Politicians biggest concern is getting power and keeping it.

Dusty Pence
Dusty Pence
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Perfectly said.

Derek Bryce
Derek Bryce
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

I’m honestly coming to the view that the western world would be in a far better place right now if only Ron Swanson were in charge of our covid response.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Eloquently put, GH!

Mauricio Estrela
Mauricio Estrela
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Yes, we have to remember governments are made of people, with their flaws and fears as well (not to mention populism). Also, how you put perfectly, nobody wants blood on their hands.

However, I think one of the main goals of the article is not to necessarily condemn gov. actions, but of the people constantly attacking any skepticism – even the smallest questioning is being labeled by many as misinformation or stupidity.

Merely asking if lockdowns are really effective, necessary or what are it’s consequences (and if they pay off) will usually follow accusations of being anti-science or pro-murder.

Also the media didn’t promote open debate, didn’t discuss different points of view on the measures or helped develop more analysis on the data. Usually you only see number of cases and deaths, promotion of fear and tragedy – which brings more audience, especially with everyone staying at home and serve as distraction for who knows how many new temporary rules that are probably here to stay, since no government wants to give out power once it has the taste. The media should be on top of the opportunistic politicians, not only covid 24/7.

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
3 years ago

Mauricio / G Harris
Well done, bringing the discussion back to the main theme of Freddie’s article. At one time freedom of speech and academic freedom were prized in the UK and in most western societies. Alas the “long march through the institutions” of Postmodernism and woke culture has almost destroyed that tradition. The most dismaying aspect of the whole debacle is the way that bureaucracy has exploited this culture war to undermine the authority of academics and investigative journalists.

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

The pressure was on from the very start, not just from the media but even more, I would argue, from social media.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

The govt could have been better prepared. A pandemic was considered to be a top national security threat and it’s inevitable at some point. A sensible approach would have been to have good numbers of ventilators, stockpiles of PPE, a NHS with a much higher number of beds per capita (the UK is well down the international comparison list even though we have a GDP in the top 10), and follow advice that until last year was not to use lockdowns.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Smith

Without Isolation Hospitals, no amount of preparation would help..or made a difference, This is the cleverst Virus EVER. It will enter Sport Grounds,Libraries,Museums, but not supermarkets, chemists, Garages, etc..but i mustn’t be cynical>>?

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Smith

They could also have taken a good hard look at the “data work” or lack of it surrounding the practices of death certification, which might have ensured that statistics were not actively misleading.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago

I think they have all gone Mad. If ‘Lockdown’ was such a rip roaring success how come we are on the fourth version of same ? And what on earth is everyone thinking when blindly agreeing to be imprisoned in their own home indefinitely ? Agreeing that the Government has the right to decide how many people you can have to dinner etc. Does no one love and respect Liberty anymore ?? And just how deadly is this Chinese Virus ? Does it kill 70% of all those it infects ? Less than 70% ? More perhaps ? Is it worse than the black death in the middle ages perhaps ? And just exactly what is the exit strategy for all these ‘temporary restrictions’ ? This has already gone on for 10 months so does everyone envisage it lasting another 2 months, or 4 months, 10 months or 10 years, or is everybody willing to ‘live’ like this for ever ? And just exactly how much of the economy does everyone expect to be left at the end of all this ? Or does no one actually care. I’m starting to suspect no one does.

stephen archer
stephen archer
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

A lot of valid and important questions but those who care or have the b**ls to stand up and be counted do not include those in power and with influence, witness the BoJo consultation with experts and GBD-proposers. It’s disappointing that the qualified epidemiologists are not more forthright in their judgement of the widespread and misdirected pandemic measures which governments have imposed blindly. Even Tegnell and Giesecke are reluctant to give straight answers to some questions, and issues such as effect of measures on spreading due to international travel are a no go area. According to WHO’s earlier recommendations these are ineffective and meaningless where travel between areas with similar infection spreading levels represents no increased risk.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Career wise i can see why genuine epidemiologists and public health acedmics have kept schtum. There is also another issue. As a scientist and engineer i have constantly had to put up with accusations of being what BJ calls a “girly swot”. Doesn’t bother me, i’ve been partying for most of my 60 years . If however your life is pretty drab and you are stuck in a poorly rewarded academic job i can see why you may not be so keen to help your fellow citizens. Especially when their own stupidity makes a bad situation worse, as is the case with SARS-CoV2.

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Why genuine epidemiologists kept shtum?
A recent Telegraph piece by Sherelle Jacobs described Epidemiology as “a failed and bullying discipline”. No chapter and verse for that, but it put me in mind of a Mail article in early-ish 2020 about how Neil Ferguson’s mentor had had to leave Oxford 20 years ago because he made scurrilous accusations against Sunetra Gupta, of which she was cleared. Which is how Ferguson came to be at Imperial. Interesting if true.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

As i said in an earlier post i know something of the back story from gossips at Uni of Ox and that’s pretty much what i heard.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

And what on earth is everyone thinking when blindly agreeing to be imprisoned in their own home indefinitely ?
This question is beginning to attract a measure of civil disobedience, from Italy to the US. In the states, we were told of the need to shelter in place for roughly two weeks in order to flatten the curve so hospitals would not be overrun. That was last March and here we still are. Seems the public has noticed the emperor’s wardrobe.

More than a question of a liberty is an adoption of the precautionary principle which puts safety so far ahead of anything else that a sort of paralysis sets in. Combine that with much of the public willing outsourcing risk to unaccountable third parties, and this is what you get. Not only that, but a fair portion of the population remains insistent that lockdowns are necessary and if you disagree, it’s because you’re unfeeling and want grandma to die.

Dorothy Webb
Dorothy Webb
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Some of us “grandmas” would prefer to break rules, build their immune systems, (Vit D in particular) and then get out, visit their relations and have some social life in their last years. However, when I called on my daughter to collect a vital piece of equipment I had left in her house (my handbag), I was not allowed inside and she was too frightened to hug me! How have the younger generations been so easily brainwashed? I think it’s education since the ’80s. I thought I had brought mine up to be more independent.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

it Kills 3-4% Mostly 97% people have diagnosed or Undiagnosed Cancer,Heart,Lung,Blood,Obesity Conditions

David Slade
David Slade
3 years ago

The importance of scepticism to a healthy debate that has any chance of arriving at a sensible outcome can’t be overstated; I have been shocked at the near religious fervour with which lockdowns and untried NPIs have been embraced by the public. More than embraced, any questioning of them is met with either hostility or a refusal to engage. It is like the defensiveness you encounter when questioning the existence of God around a certain (though certainly not all) kind of religious advocate.

I sometimes wonder though if the mistake lockdown sceptics have made is to adopt the mantle of ‘scepticism’ and give the impression that we are the ones arguing against popular wisdom. As we have now learned, it is not the lockdown sceptics that are proposing something out of the ordinary – it is not actually us who are engaging in the costly and dangerous social experiment that has never been tried before or reliably proven; and was noticeably absent from the recommendations of its current proponents until 2020.

Lockdown sceptics actually argue for tried and tested pandemic management that takes a holistic approach to the crisis and accounts for all human well being. After all, pandemic management is not merely an epidemiological issue – though this is were the study of it resides, it’s management is too multifaceted to be the preserve of any one group/discipline. We basically have pandemic management by computer.

Maybe lockdown sceptics should be reclassified as pandemic traditionalists or conventionalist, the lockdown advocates meanwhile are – maybe mechanists, given the mechanistic way they assume we can all be just sacrificial variables on the way to their quasi religious quest against Covid.

I expect, in a few decades, the ‘Covid delusion’ will be available in all good (assuming they still exist) book shops.

Alex Camm
Alex Camm
3 years ago
Reply to  David Slade

I believe in God but i don’t believe in lockdown.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

It seems that Sweden has had no more deaths than in a normal year, and fewer deaths per head of population than in 1993, the last time they had a serious flu outbreak. And that was without really taking steps to protect the vulnerable last March/April. That is why are both sceptical and dismissive of the insane and tyrannical lockdowns imposed upon us.

paul.collyer
paul.collyer
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

They have had about 8-9000 excess deaths since March so not really a normal year and with obvious failures around care homes but their approach of trying to keep measures consistent and sustainable is the very opposite of U.K. and looks like yielding far better overall results in terms of public health and economy.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  paul.collyer

OK, so Sweden has had some excess deaths but this was caused largely by:

– Care home failures
– Covid messaging not reaching unhealthy non-Swedish speakers
– Low death rates in the two previous years, leaving quite a lot of ‘low hanging fruit’

Allowing for all that, Covid probably led to about 4,000 unavoidable deaths in Sweden, almost all of them among the very old and infirm. This is a pretty good outcome given the fact of a new virus that will inevitably kill quite a few people. Moreover, Sweden has not applied anything like the lunatic and tyrannical restrictions imposed on much of the rest of Europe, most of which probably do more harm than good.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

So you went from “…had no more deaths than in a normal year…” to “OK, so Sweden has had some excess deaths…”
When countries measure excess death rates they compare the current year with the average for the last 5 years.
As of today Sweden, according to its own government, has c.10,200 C19 deaths…unless of course the SWED GOV is (unique in the history of the world) trying to “cook up” the numbers in such way as to make its performance look utterly miserable.
I don’t know if you are a liar or just a nutter that believes in conspiracy theories…

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

As a former evangelical Christian, I found the article
The Psychology of Apologetics: Biblical Inerrancy
(as usual, no links on UnHinged, but Google finds it) a good description of the contortions I’d go through to maintain the belief that the Bible is without errors. The author refers to the philosopher W.V.O. Quine:

When a new experience (i.e., evidence) presents itself, we must update or alter our existing belief systems to accommodate it. But which beliefs actually get altered is never forced by the evidence itself. Any evidence can be accommodated, logically, in more than one way ““ infinitely many, in fact. Quine called this the “underdetermination of theory by data.” As the metaphor suggests, though, there are some beliefs that are more central to the web than others.

If “Sweden done good” is a central belief to be maintained at all costs (much like my former Biblical inerrancy), whenever new evidence arrives, it can be rationalised or re-interpreted. Sweden had no excess deaths! Oh, it did? Why then, those were people who would die soon anyway, and anyway, it was worth it not to have a lockdown. and so on.

Cassian Young
Cassian Young
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

I suggest Imre Lakatos and degenerative research programmes as a closer philosophical parallel. “A Lakatosian research programme is based on a hard core of theoretical assumptions that cannot be abandoned or altered without abandoning the programme altogether. More modest and specific theories that are formulated in order to explain evidence that threatens the “hard core” are termed auxiliary hypotheses. Auxiliary hypotheses are considered expendable by the adherents of the research programme”they may be altered or abandoned as empirical discoveries require in order to “protect” the “hard core”.

More humility required here though. IIRC Lakato identified scenarios in which apparently far fetched auxiliary hypotheses ended up winning out.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

I agree. Being a Christian and surrounded by believers of all stripes, I am quite used to this kind of thinking, and may even indulge in it myself. I am sure I can see it at the edges of the lockdown debate and other contentious debates. What I find equally interesting, however, is how when some subsidiary belief (i.e in a noetic system of X > Y > Z, Z is a subsidiary belief, e.g. “I believe in God” > “God wrote the Bible” >”therefore the Bible is perfectly inerrant”) becomes unstuck, the believer tends to switch to the opposite extreme. For example a lockdown sceptic, having noticed the second Swedish wave and having presumed that Sweden should have had herd immunity, could then flip to becoming a lockdown zealot.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

When it comes to Covid many people talk about excess deaths as if they’re somehow all attributable to it.

We simply don’t know this, and likely never will, but it seems to be taken as gospel in some quarters by implication.

The effects, both in the practical sense in terms of accessing medical treatment and its effect on people’s overall mental well-being, lockdowns in themselves are likely in the frame for seriously adding to the non-covid related death toll, but apparently that’s either judged ok for some as a price worth paying for saving the lives of people who might otherwise die of covid or a complete falsehood.

It’s a question of equivalence, I guess, but which category would you say you fall into there?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

We simply don’t know this, and likely never will, but it seems to be taken as gospel in some quarters by implication.

Actually we do.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Perhaps you would like to enlighten me with some figures then if it’s so clear after you’ve answered my question about which category you fall into?

By way of a related aside, as a rather loftily named key worker in the UK I’ve had around 60k interactions with people now, pre and post facemask imposition, and one of the interesting themes is people telling me about people they know who’ve fallen victim to Covid.

One such yesterday involved a gentleman whom I’ve known personally for years telling me how his sister in law had succumbed to the virus.

As is frequently the case upon further inquiry it turns out she was 82, had had leukemia off and on for years and was due to go into a hospice for end of life care but apparently ‘covid’ took her from us before her time.

Now, I can’t say for sure what that death will officially go down as but I know what it will be reported as and I have a pretty strong suspicion what will appear as the cause of death on that death certificate.

Given that you eerily seem to unequivocally know so much about these things what do you think that death should be reported and then recorded as?

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

It should be covid, same as that prisoner just executed that had had covid prior. (if it was within 28 days that is)

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Nope. Because Covid did not contribute directly or indirectly to the technique of execution.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

The cause(s) of death will be reported by the doctor who was taking care of her. If there are any queries/uncertainties s/he would order an autopsy.

Covid could appear in box 1a (cause directly leading to death) or 1b and 1c (cause leading to 1a) or 2 (cause contributing to death but not directly related).

For example she might have died from a complication of Covid-19 ““ for instance a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) or a bacterial pneumonia in which case that will be 1a with Covid as 1b or c.
Or her doctor may have decided that Covid just contributed to her being weaker or more susceptible or starting a chain of events that led to her death in which case it would appear in box 2.

Covid being the sort of disease that it is, it’s unlikely that it had no influence at all on the timing of her demise.

What do you believe doctors gain by lying about the direct and contributory causes of death ? or do you believe that the medical profession is full of Harold Shipmans ?

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

Thanks for taking the trouble to reply so fully.

In terms of your last point, no I don’t think that the medical profession is full of Shipmans, but I’m also acutely aware that the profession is under considerable, albeit unavoidable, strain at the moment and that in such circumstances expediency is far more likely to play its part in what a death is attributed to, not least amongst the elderly.

Under normal circumstances such similar ’causes’ like the prolific ‘pneumonia’ which kills tens of thousands of UK citizens each year would be a moot point and go unchallenged, but the specific cause of the covid virus and its transmissibility carries with it a particular political weight and charge that is inescapable at the moment and brings with it a distinction I’m sure you can appreciate.

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
3 years ago

Elaine: In the UK doctors were ordered to record Covid as the cause of death even if the patient had another pre-existing fatal illness Given that as many as 25 % of Covid infections occur in hospital, this can be seriously distorting. It is not a matter of individual Shipman’s, it is the effect of bureaucracy replacing professional judgement.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

Who ordered them ?
Evidence ?

I quote David Oliver Consultant in Geriatric and Acute general medicine in Manchester :
“Certificates can only be completed by doctors who looked after the patient in the lead up to death and knew the full facts of the case.
We have a clear statutory professional duty to complete certificates to the best of our knowledge and beliefs.
Falsifying certificates would be a serious offence with serious sanctions.
Certificates are checked by an independent medical examiner of deaths.
Even if we list Covid as cause 1b or 1 c or II we do not mention it if it did not play a part in the final illness and cause of death.
There is no pressure of any kind from government agencies or acts of parliament for doctors to falsify death certificates or inflate death numbers.
No incentive for us to do this (financial or otherwise).
No evidence that it is happening.
and you are talking to doctor with 31 years in the job, 10 months of solid Covid medicine experience and the RCP London elected officer who used to oversee the “learning from deaths” programme”

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

Ordered by whom ?

Certificates can only be completed by doctors who looked after the patient in the lead up to death and knew the full facts of the case.
Doctors have a clear statutory professional duty to complete certificates to the best of their knowledge and beliefs.
Falsifying certificates would be a serious offence with serious sanctions.
Certificates are checked by an independent medical examiner of deaths.
Even if Covid is listed as cause 1b or 1 c or II it is not mentioned if it did not play a part in the final illness and cause of death.
There is no pressure of any kind from government agencies or acts of parliament for doctors to falsify death certificates or inflate death numbers.
No incentive for doctors to do this (financial or otherwise).
No evidence that it is happening.

All this information from a consultant in geriatrics and acute medicine in Manchester who writes for the BMJ and who used to oversee the “Learning from deaths” programme at the RCP

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Unless J smith has done Autopsies himself he is whistling in vacuous echo chamber

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Actually we don’t. Since the number of excess deaths is much smaller than corona deaths, and since the COVID largely kills people on their way out anyway, we won’t know until the histories are written. If then.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

First of all they did a lot better than us. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peop
Secondly, they’re bound to affected by their neighbours doing badly because of their badly focussed lockdowns.

Daniel Björkman
Daniel Björkman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Yeah. Our politicians are actively going, “ehhhh, we’ve maybe not done so great.” These would be the same politicians who are strongly incentivised to never admit fault for anything, ever, because admitting that you were wrong costs you votes.

I feel like I live in Bizarro World. It wasn’t that long ago when foreign conservatives screeched about how we were a Muslim-ruled hellscape of non-stop rapes and beheadings. Now all of a sudden they won’t believe us when we try to freely admit that we’re not perfect.

Mike H
Mike H
3 years ago

I’m not sure politicians are incentivised that way, to be honest. I mean, yes, if Sweden was alone in the universe then I’m sure they’d be incentivised to praise their own response. As is, they’re not.

They’re surrounded by countries and leaders that have convinced themselves they are making a highly moral sacrifice for the greater good. Sweden, sitting out there and just disproving all the “science” and subsequent actions, is making all the other countries look very bad indeed. The Swedish leadership will need to go to conferences and other social events with other leaders at some point and defend their decisions, of which the only reasonable defence is “we were right and therefore, you were all devastatingly wrong”. That’d be sort of a tough call socially, even for argumentative loose cannons like some of us.

If you look at Switzerland, they had very few restrictions up until a few weeks ago. In particular their second wave epidemic peaked and went into decline in November, at a time when no new restrictions were introduced. Now in January all the shops are closing, despite hospitals being ~25% empty. As far as I can tell the only real reason for this is a desire not to stand out, after a bit of a bruising argument over Christmas about keeping ski resorts open.

Groupthink and fear of being shamed is in my view one of the primary drivers of lockdowns and government responses around the world. I have no doubt that Löfven and others would LOVE to get rid of Tegnall but the man just doesn’t seem to make mistakes, so they’re stuck with him, and have been desperately trying to find ways to join the rest of the world and stop being exceptional ever since.

Adam Lehto
Adam Lehto
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It’s endlessly frustrating that hard questions about excess mortality, how to calculate it, and how it relates to the Covid death toll (whatever *that* is; a few problems there too) have had such a low profile. Criticize him for his failed predictions, but Michael Levitt has surely been right to push these questions from the start. And yes, there continues to be ample room for skeptical inquiry here. Let me give you an example from Canada (but in principle the same thing can be done anywhere if you have access to cause of death statistics). Without getting into the details (but please check this out from Statistics Canada yourself if you want), the big picture is that in 2020 there was a sharp decline in deaths from all the leading causes of death (cancer, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, etc). It’s true that any previous-years baseline average is just a reasonable guess, and that any given year can see some fluctuations, but these are categories of death that change very little from year to year. The signal in the data is really obvious. And the obvious conclusion is that a significant percentage of ‘Covid deaths’ in Canada would have happened anyway and been labelled as something else. By my rough estimates, this could easily account for anywhere between a quarter to half of Covid deaths. A further step would be to take full account of excess deaths that can be reasonably attributed to lockdown policies, which also now has some clear signals in the data (deaths by overdose are *way* up, for example). How this could have failed to have been part of the decision-making process form the start is beyond me. I put this forward as a hypothesis about the Canadian data, and invite criticism. But the approach, as I said, can and *should* be replicated everywhere. It would be the skeptical/scientific thing to do. And, in an ideal world (sigh!) it would help to moderate the official messaging we’re all swamped with. None of this is intended to call into question the fact that a real challenge to public health exists. But the devil is in the details, and we desperately need to get back to realistic assessments of the risks and impacts we’re dealing with, both from the virus itself and from our responses.

Unknown Anonymous
Unknown Anonymous
3 years ago
Reply to  paul.collyer

Excess deaths are more like 3,000 vs recent years.

https://www.statista.com/st

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

You are completly wrong about Sweden and excess death rate – that is why Swedish GOV changed policy.

nick.holt59
nick.holt59
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

You can look at the excess death data on EUROMOMO – https://www.euromomo.eu/gra

Sweden is up, like pretty much everywhere (with the exception of Norway, to which Sweden is continually compared, although Norway would appear to be an outlier in the data).

So surely the comparison to Sweden isn’t that they fared better, which they clearly haven’t, it’s that without strict lockdown, they don’t appear to have fared dramatically worse?

Alex Camm
Alex Camm
3 years ago
Reply to  nick.holt59

But that means they may have escaped some of the unintended consequences of Lockdown that will kill people over time.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Camm

No one wants to talk about those consequences. In fact, a mention of them draws everything from blank stares to insults. Various studies have estimated up to a half-million deaths in the US from the recession last decade. No virus, just the health fallout that comes with economic harm. And here we are, repeating the process, ignoring spikes in domestic and substance abuse, suicide, the impact on children, and what will follow when business owners are forced into bankruptcy.

Mike H
Mike H
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

It’s easier to see on the yearly data. Look at the last 10 years of mortality in Sweden by year. Virtually no difference in 2020. Weekly figures look like it should be higher because there’s a wave in April, but, many years have virus seasons and mortality can be lower than average the rest of the time without it being easy to notice that.

A quick way to check this is to compare the sum of 2017+2018 deaths vs 2019+2020 deaths. If you do this you get 184,157 deaths for 2017/2018 and 183,788 for 2019/2020! I think this puts it in perspective that actually Sweden hasn’t had abnormal mortality at all, even though it is easy to construct comparisons that make it look like it did, e.g. Norway has had extremely low mortality and is a general outlier so that’s what people love to compare Sweden to. When you compare them to Denmark or Finland the apparent “Swedish disaster” disappears.

Edit: a few hours after I posted this comment Statista refreshed their dataset so these numbesr are now a bit out of date. See elsewhere in the thread for updated numbers.

Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
3 years ago

Is anyone surprised? We have seen it all before. We have seen calls for people who express sceptical opinions on Anthropogenic Global Warming to be prosecuted. Pretty soon you are going to be “lockdown deniers” if not worse.

Unknown Anonymous
Unknown Anonymous
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Reardon

While I agree that prosecution is wrong and unjust, it’s fair to say that there is a mountain of scientific evidence supporting the claim that human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide are warming the planet and there has been for decades.

By contrast, covid is a brand new virus, the science is still very uncertain, and the use of prolonged society-wide lockdowns to control an infectious disease is brand new. There are still a huge number of unknowns.

Put another way, the lockdown sceptics (like me) have very little pro-lockdown evidence to be sceptical of, while climate sceptics have a mountain to climb.

CL van Beek
CL van Beek
3 years ago

Infrared is absorberend and scattered by water vapor into the atmosphere. This cannot happend twice, by both carbon dioxide and water vapor. That is why there is little greenhouse effect by CO2, because it reflects the same wavelength of infrared (except for a very small part).
Oh, and 35 % of the atmosphere consists of water vapor, vs 0.04 % is CO2.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  CL van Beek

Volcanoes affect Climate ,Meoteorites ,Solar Flares,Solar Minimum all affect Earh’s climate..CO2 is Vital for foodcrops,Forests to Grow…

Dorothy Webb
Dorothy Webb
3 years ago

I am not a scientist but I have always understood that the destruction of the rain forests has the most devastating effect on the atmosphere. Why is no-one talking about this? It seems to me that “somebody” is aiming to make civilised countries cowed and under control.

alancoles10
alancoles10
3 years ago

Absolute rubbish!

jackeddyfier
jackeddyfier
3 years ago

There is no scientific evidence supporting the lie that carbon dioxide warms the planet, more than trivially. There is just fake science, bad statistics and models written by astrologers claiming to be “scientists”.

gbauer
gbauer
3 years ago

I discovered Unherd as a result of the pandemic. It heads the short list of publications that have kept me sane throughout this ordeal. Keep celebrating skepticism!

nmainferme
nmainferme
3 years ago
Reply to  gbauer

Hi, please share your list. Thanks.

Sue Ward
Sue Ward
3 years ago

The pro lockdown side has made a lot of false predictions and U turned repeatedly but they are never crucified over it.

Alex Camm
Alex Camm
3 years ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

Crucified? For expressing a different view! I suspect that the jury is still out on what has been effective and what is not . A bit early to call for execution of those who dare to disagree.
Nb I was to quick to comment I initially read it that you wanted to crucify the sceptics not the advocates – so thats alright then..

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Camm

How about simply being called out for having been wrong and for advocating a stance that carries a great deal of collateral damage. Thus far, the call for execution, deprogramming, or other measures seems reserved for people on the right.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Pelosi &her Corrupt Cohorts,Called for Anyone who didnt believe in Paris -Accord Or Love big government to be ”deprogrammed” last week ..her poisonous botox infused roza Klebb impersonations,will turn people away from Mainstream politics

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Camm

The jury will be out for a long time. The trouble is that the advocates have gone so far down this route will never admit they were wrong – too much at stake. I said this towards the end of the first lockdown and it’s even more the case now.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

I think crucifiction is too good for them.

Greg Maland
Greg Maland
3 years ago

Skepticism is portrayed as virtuous only when it is applied in the “correct” situations, meaning that it is aligned with the dominant narrative. We should be skeptical of “conspiracy theories”, but not about the Covid vaccine or the necessity of lockdowns. When we are skeptical of the “wrong” things, we are punished in some way, often by reputational and financial destruction. And, the power to inflict this damage is generally held in common with “official” or mainstream views.

The message in all this is very clear – that unless you are prepared to martyr yourself, or are protected against financial ruin, you must either accept the dominant narrative or keep you mouth shut. Why more people aren’t worried about this escalation of authoritarianism is unclear to me, although I suspect a good percentage of people are worried about this, but don’t feel safe enough to talk about it.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Greg Maland

Well some of us wont keep our mouths shut. If we are going to be ruined we might as well fight.

As to the ‘escalation of authoritarianism’ I reckon most people do not understand the importance of ‘Liberty’ and how it has evolved mainly because people don’t understand history. Under the cover of ‘Save the NHS’ and other such bullish*t the Government and Establishment have managed to enslave us all. Once these rights and liberties are lost you can guarantee that they will not be restored in their entirety when this damn Chinese Virus disappears, as all viruses eventually do. And having done this once, and we all went along with it like a load of brain dead sheep, they will have no compunction at doing it again on slender reasons.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I think most of us are sceptical of everything that British governments, the authorities and the experts say or mandate because they have such a disastrous track record. Certainly, in my lifetime, one struggles to think of anything they have got right beyond a few social issues (equality for women etc) and a few economic reforms during the Thatcher era. Beyond that, it has been nothing but disaster after disaster.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Fraser – I wonder if you are really sceptical at all, in the real sense of the word? Your posts all come from the perspective of a confirmed opponent of ‘authority’, whether that’s the current government, more or less any western politician, the ‘MSM’ or anything that might have the word ‘consensus’ attached to it. My problem with that point of view is that it is just as unthinking as its opposite, an automatic acceptance of everything those in power and authority do and say. Isn’t the point about scepticism that one should always be questioning, even of one’s own assumptions and prejudices, and only accept as true, or likely to be true, that which good evidence supports? And I just do not believe that there is no good evidence for anything the government, ‘the authorities’, etc do or say.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

Believe me, I constantly question my views and assumptions etc. For instance, from 1973 to around 2005 I was very pro-EEC/EU, but came to be very much in favour of Breixt. (I didn’t vote for or against Brexit, because personally I have benefited considerably from the EU).

It’s fair to say that I was once something of a neo-liberal globalist, but am now much more in favour of localism/nationalism. I once believed in immigration to the UK but now understand it have been, in too many cases, a disaster, certainly over the last 25 years.

Yes, I am profoundly anti-authoritarian and could not bear the thought of having any authority over another human being. Added to which, my experience is that all the structures of authority are self-serving, incompetent, unpleasant and endlessly wasteful.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I always enjoy your posts Frasier, I think of you as some hot-shot finance guy with over achieving children in exclusive schools and a trophy wife, and so I am glad to hear you often have similar views to me, who am rather the opposite of that.

From 1973 to now I have believed authority to almost always get it wrong, the reasons being political. Politicians first act in ways which protect their vote streams, and voters are not that wise, then politicos are almost never worldly wise, usually being so focused on the other swamp members, local and national reality, they misunderstand foreigners every time so make a mess of everything they do outside their countries.

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

While I can sympathise with your point of view, sometimes – and certainly don’t agree with all your posts – what would you put in the place of authority? In a less populated world, we might revert to a form of tribalism which in itself means we would spend our time grabbing territory from other tribes. Or the other alternative seems to be total anarchy.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Try explaining to a German, Spaniard or a US citizen that the guy who runs the prisons was never a warder or governer, the guy who runs schools was never a head teacher etc and they take some convincing you are telling the truth. I think your wise skepticism is a logical response to a poltical system that does not try to manage, check and balance the technocrats. Instead it seeks to replace them entirely with time serving, buggin’s turn idiots.

Alice Hodkinson
Alice Hodkinson
3 years ago

One of the saddest things of this this crisis is how I’ve fallen out with many colleagues because I am a natural skeptic. I value liberty and education very highly. This pandemic shows just how much the whole world is governed by the priorities of the old and well heeled, at the expense of the young and impoverished. While we rush to immunise against a disease that 90% don’t notice (but kills and debilitates the powerful), we ignore the needs of the poorest in the world to receive basic care and support, including vital measles vaccines, and the development of vaccines against the diseases that kill millions, like malaria and dengue.
The fall out from our reaction to Covid will kill so many people. Time will only tell if it’s more or fewer than Covid itself.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago

We’ve always ignored the poor. Regardless of viruses etc. Nothing new there.

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
3 years ago

We’ve always ignored the poor.

Except when they can be exploited for raising lots of money, and little of which actually goes towards helping them.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Lucy Smex

True!

Phil Bolton
Phil Bolton
3 years ago

Exactly right Freddie, and this is one reason why Unherd is a good platform, because it allows critical thinking and accepts alternative views too. The bigger concern for me, outside of the covid debate, is how criticism in many countries is now considered to be an attack on the state and there are an increasing number of countries that outlaw it with the threat of prison. Healthy debate of strategy and principle help progression to the correct view. Stifling debate is a classic characteristic of a despotic and insecure Government afraid of its’ own people.

Terry Maxwell
Terry Maxwell
3 years ago

I think a lot of the problem lies with a basic misunderstanding about the nature of the scientific method and the notion of uncertainty. People have difficulty with uncertainty, particularly when faced with existential crises. The press did not do a good job with communicating that any statement about the pandemic (particularly in its early stages) had to be taken with a huge grain of salt because of the high degree of uncertainty regarding its lethality, method of spread, etc. And often the “experts” seemed to let their newfound relevance get the better of them, framing their guesses as gospel. The problem was exacerbated by the requirement that politicians do something, so they framed their guesses in the mantle of certainty in order to project competence, while arguing they were “following the science” as if the science at that point was certain.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago

I am extremely sceptical of this article. Claiming its pro scepticism and then dismissing people as wrong who are far more right than the official narrative. Your “sceptism” is similar to the critical theory variety. i.e. its ok to question as long as you question in the “right” way and find the “correct” answers.

brett.youd
brett.youd
3 years ago

or you need to be prepared to take fair criticism when you get it so wrong as some in the article ie Dr Gupta got it.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago
Reply to  brett.youd

In what way did Dr Gupta get it so wrong?

Cassian Young
Cassian Young
3 years ago

IIRC She said 60% of the population had immunity in March

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

She wrote a paper saying that it was consistent with what we saw back in March. Basically you need more evidence to differentiate between a very rapidly spreading but less deadly virus and what SARS-nCOV-2 actually does. See @jameshay218’s twitter thread back in Mar 25, 2020: “They showed you can estimate the same number of deaths with either a high % of the population at risk of severe disease and a recent epidemic start, or a low % and an earlier start. Some media outlets have reported this as suggesting “majority of the UK has already been infected””

The paper said that serology (antibody testing) would provide the evidence. The real problems with her approach are:

– she now appears to say that antibody testing (which showed what SARS-nCOV-2 actually does) wasn’t evidence (classic modification of auxillliary beliefs to preserve a central one, see my comments elsewhere)

– she should have known better than to put such a low number on the IFR in her interview with Freddy when it was already apparent at that point that it couldn’t be right. And as far as I know, she has not issued any corrections about this.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

SARS-nCOV-2 isn’t particularly deadly. It’s the same as flu. The problem is, that hardly anyone dies of flu anymore due to vaccination. All those ‘vaccinees’ were just waiting for an unvaccinatable type of flu’ to kill them. There’s 500,000 of them accummulated since 2003. prior to that , the normal death rate from flu’ was higher than the death rate from this virus.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Nice graph at github shows IFR of Covid 19 versus seasonal influenza, by age. Covid-19 is definitely significantly more fatal than influenza at all ages above 30 years. 14 studies for the Covid figures and flu stats for the USA back to 2014.

and the big VA study looking at what happens to people if they are unlucky enough to end up in hospital with Covid comapred with flu :

“The risk for respiratory complications was high, consistent with current knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza pathogenesis (1,6).
Notably, compared with patients with influenza, patients with COVID-19 had two times the risk for pneumonia, 1.7 times the risk for respiratory failure, 19 times the risk for ARDS, and 3.5 times the risk for pneumothorax, underscoring the severity of COVID-19 respiratory illness relative to that of influenza.”
and
“The percentage of COVID-19 patients admitted to an ICU (36.5%) was more than twice that of influenza patients (17.6%); the percentage of COVID-19 patients who died while hospitalized (21.0%) was more than five times that of influenza patients (3.8%); and the duration of hospitalization was almost three times longer for COVID-19 patients (median 8.6 days; IQR = 3.9″“18.6 days) than that for influenza patients (3.0 days; 1.8″“6.5 days) (p<0.001 for all).”

This is an endothelial, thrombotic, multi organ disease.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

Oh really well as I understand it we have roughly 30% of the population who were immune due to previous coronavirus infection, 30% after May who had caught the virus and were immune basically giving us herd immunity already and then we have false positive PCR tests and people who lockdowns have caused not to be treated fast enough to show why we supposedly have lots of infections and excess deaths although the excess deaths are relatively no greater than 2008

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

I thought it was up to 60. But then they did not really know the asymptomatic were not just immune.

Mike H
Mike H
3 years ago
Reply to  brett.youd

Can we have Neil Ferguson back on to give a mea culpa for the entire field of epidemiology, which has been consistently and massively wrong about everything, as well as in some cases extremely deceptive? Hmm no, I thought not.

And yes, it’s been wrong. Beyond the fact that their models don’t predict seasonality for COVID either, Sweden was supposed to have 100,000+ excess deaths this year, actual number around 2000 but even that is inflated because 2019 had the lowest numbers for a decade so there was some reversion to the mean going on. When that’s controlled for they basically had a normal year. No lockdowns, no masks, no disaster.

This whole narrative that’s taken hold in the media set in recent days about how lockdown sceptics were wrong is itself the start of yet another deceptive narrative. No they weren’t. Their core argument – that COVID is nowhere near serious enough to justify the response- has been borne out with hard data in lots of places and ways. Meanwhile the people who claimed otherwise are busy ignoring all the data that contradicts them and attacking their opponents. (Not knocking Freddie here, because he isn’t taking sides)

It’s probably the case that the most shrill lockdown demanders are now realising the magnitude of their error, that they’ve boxed themselves in with no way out intellectually or morally, and figure maybe if they just go on the attack enough people won’t notice that they destroyed society over something that calmer countries have taken completely in their stride.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike H

When countries (including Sweden) compare the excess death rate they compare it the the avg. of the last 5 years.
The Excess death rate in Sweden – according to the government and the independent commission that published the first part of the investigation – is over 10,200 not 2,000 as you say.
And is Swedish policy was a success why has the government changed its policy ?

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Do you happen to know what the average age of those 10,200 slaughtered were?

I would guess they were, to use Fraser Bailey’s wonderful metaphor “low hanging fruit”, and thus ready to drop anyway.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Probably the same as the UK. The average death from COVID is older than the average age of death in the general population.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

I am astonished that this figure is not more widely reported.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I just googled it on statista. It’s 5000 excess deaths v the last 10 years. It’s 3000 deaths v the worst year in the last 10 years. that’s 3%., You, are just as bad a cherrypicker as anyone on here

Mike H
Mike H
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I was just about to write down the table from Statista, and noticed they just updated the dataset again this afternoon. So now the number in my above post is slightly out of date. It’s increased by about 2000-3000 from where it was this morning (I don’t have a screenshot of the prior graph).

The differences depend on what baseline you measure against. The delta between 2019 and 2020 was (as of Tuesday afternoon at least) 97941 – 88766 = 9175. But 2019 was an abnormal year – the lowest number of deaths for Sweden in at least a decade. Some of the 2020 deaths were just reversion to the mean and would have happened anyway. This is easy to see when summing 2017+2018=184157, summing 2019+2020=186707 or a difference of 2550.

The 5 year average is another way to do it, but captures the abnormal 2019 which pulls down the average, leading to a misleadingly low baseline and consequently (slightly) exaggerated figures.

But fundamentally the point about the Swedish excess deaths is not about the difference of a few thousand between different sources or different baselines. Sweden has 10 million people in it. On the scale of a country these numbers are all tiny. The point is, we were told crystal clear that if we didn’t take the most extreme actions in history to control the virus there would be mass deaths. See my comment above: academics predicted 100,000 extra deaths for Sweden if they engaged in “moderate” suppression. What matters here is not the absolute level of change in Sweden but the levels relative to what was used to justify global action. And for that it doesn’t really matter which exact years you compare against. The conclusion is the same: the predictions were catastrophically incorrect.

maria vl
maria vl
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike H

well said. Both positions must be accountable, why just one Freddie?

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike H

Before making stuff up, I advise reading Report 9: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand (the Imperial paper published in March 2020).

Beyond the fact that their models don’t predict seasonality for COVID either,

Wrong, see Figure 3.

Sweden was supposed to have 100,000+ excess deaths this year, actual number around 2000

There is no mention of Sweden in the paper. Where are you getting this figure from?

Their core argument – that COVID is nowhere near serious enough to justify the response- has been borne out with hard data in lots of places and ways.

If they admitted actual case numbers/deaths and still said the response was too severe, I’d have some respect for them, but instead they have their foregone conclusion (too severe) and carefully pick their evidence to justify it, so we get the PCR truthers and all the rest.

Mike H
Mike H
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Wrong, see Figure 3.

Figure 3 has dates on the X axis but if you read the text of the paper or source code of their model (which you did do, right?) then you’ll find that’s just a mapping of “days since start of simulation” onto the point when they ran it. The reason Report 9 shows second/third/etc waves is nothing to do with seasonality but rather a prediction about what happens if lockdowns are released. Note how the curve is perfectly symmetrical around the blue shaded region “in which restrictions are assumed to remain in place”.

See this sentence:

Once interventions are relaxed (in the example in Figure 3, from September onwards), infections begin to rise, resulting in a predicted peak epidemic later in the year.

Relaxing restrictions in September was just an example and it’s what drives their model. If they’d told it restrictions would be held in place until the start of the summer, then their model would have predicted a summer second wave. If you look at the model in depth then this is clear – there’s nothing in it about seasons.

There is no mention of Sweden in the paper. Where are you getting this figure from?

Gardner et al, who re-parameterised the Ferguson ICL model for Swedish demographics. See the paper “Intervention strategies against COVID-19 and their estimated impact on Swedish healthcare capacity”.

If they admitted actual case numbers/deaths and still said the response was too severe

They’re talking about total all-cause mortality at the moment, which is literally deaths and the simplest possible measure. Indeed it’s much more robust than the “COVID deaths” that relabels large numbers of people dying of old age. As for carefully picking evidence to justify it, what evidence are they overlooking? The people you call “PCR truthers” have been pointing out that nobody seems to be measuring false positive rates on these tests, because as far as they’re concerned, COVID is defined as having a positive test. That seems pretty important.

By the way, do you really want to be the sort of person who attacks people who care about the truth (“truthers”)?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike H

current lockdown is Really number 4,So I expect a 4th Wave Around Easter April 4,2021

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike H

Not sure I would describe Sweden’s year as “normal”
Restrictions started in Sweden in March.

16 March 2020, Public Health Agency recommended that people over 70 should limit close contact with other people, avoid crowded areas such as stores, public transport and public spaces. At the end of March, 93% of those older than 70 said that they were following the recommendations.
They also recommended that employers should recommend their employees work from home. One month later, roughly half the Swedish workforce was working from home.

18 March, the PHA recommended that everyone should avoid travelling within the country … They also called for the public to reconsider any planned holidays during the upcoming Easter weekend. Confirmed by mobility data.
All schools 16 + and universities swapped to online teaching
Restaurants were closed down if they didn’t follow reduced occupancy rules

27 March the government announced that the ban on public gatherings would be lowered to include all gatherings of more than 50 people. Anecdotally, (from a pal in Sweden) most of the entertainment industry closed down until October.

1 April No visitors to retirement homes. Reopened to visitors on Oct. 1 without masks recommended for visitors or staff but all had to have a negative PCR test

Just because the restrictions were voluntary and lots of people didn’t wear masks doesn’t mean that life was “normal”.

They knew from the get go that they were short of ICU beds (5.3 / 100,000) and were concerned that Stockholm, in particular, was going to be another Bergamo so they triaged elderly patients up front – they were never taken to the hospitals – only 13% of the people who died in hospital in the first wave were > 70

From 24th of December:
Only 4 persons can gather at a restaurant; No alcohol sale from 20.00; Limited number of people at shopping centers, shops & gyms; Use of face mask during certain hours on public transport; High schools closed until 24th of January; Non essential business to close until 24th of January; All non essential workers must work from home until 24th of January; Everyone who can work at home must work from home; Vaccine is a new & sought after tool against #COVID19
and now today from Marc Bevand on Twitter :
Sweden mortality from 1900 to 2020.
This week’s data update from SCB puts Sweden past a sad milestone: year 2020 recorded both the most excess deaths as well as the highest excess mortality (population adjusted) since the 1918 flu pandemic.
All sounds a bit familiar to me and they took an 8.6% hit to their economy in Q 2 and are still down 3.5% on 2019 in Q 3 although forecasting a big rebound in 2021.

John Stone
John Stone
3 years ago

If there is an absence of trust the government are much to blame. For instance, many sceptics question whether the virus actually exists and some of the scepticism quite rightly surrounds the anomalies of PCR testing. In November I wrote to Public Health England asking how many cases of COVID the government had diagnosed by DNA sequencing and received an FOI answer stating that they only diagnosed by PCR. Five days later we were into the era of ultra transmissible mutations and I read in the the BMJ (Jacqui Wise) that the government had DNA sequenced 140,000 cases: it had suddenly become politically expedient to mention it! The government will apparently only use data in a manipulative way, and for those not happy with the treacle coming from the mainstream media this is deeply troubling. From the scientific point of view it is obviously essential that we have bona fide information and open debate, otherwise the government will just blunder from one position to another. The conflicts are also very serious: Ferguson, for instance, was has always been a prospector for the vaccine industry, heavily funded by GAVI and Bill and Melinda Gates (Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium). This is even more serious than his lockdown bed-hopping (though that might be something to swallow).

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  John Stone

You tube censored the guy who designed the PCR test explaining it can’t test for a specific virus. It test the amount of viral load/ T&B cell reaction in the patient at the time of test. So SARS- CoV2, H5N1, H-CoV229E etc will all give the same “positive” result. The guy who designed the test died before SARS-CoV2 was discovered which was unfortunate timing.

John Stone
John Stone
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Yes, they are completely infantile.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Depends what set of primers you use for the PCR test. These are derived from whatever current virus you are looking for, so the test is specifically designed to spot a specific virus.

The Lighthouse labs use a PCR test that has 3 primers derived from 3 different bits of the Sars Cov 2 genome – Orf1a/1b (open reading frame), N (nucleocapsid) and S (spike). All 3 have to be picked up by a test at a certain cycle threshold for the test to be deemed “positive”.

This is how they spotted the new variant – they were seeing tests from certain areas that were showing positive for Orf 1a/1b and N but negative for S (the spike protein for those tests had mutated enough in those people for the primer to no longer be able to recognise it).

Lauritsen was talking specifically about HIV, not any other virus. What he actually said was :
“PCR is intended to identify substances qualitatively, but by its very nature is unsuited for estimating numbers.”

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Hope you are right as its not nice to think of health professionals doing organised dishonesty – though perfecetly understandable if politicians do it. However its not what the late Kary Mullis says here https://www.bitchute.com/vi

thomas Schinkel
thomas Schinkel
3 years ago

Excellent piece. I very much like Freddie’s calm, reasoning demeanor. Not afraid to discuss difficult and controversial topics, but always respectful. Bravo!.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

There is nothing wrong with skepticism which should be ENCOURAGED and not “punished” but authorities or the media.
But I do have a problem with people that refuse to say ” I was wrong”…Sweden and its policy is the perfect example. If the policy was a success the SWED GOV would have not changed track over and over again.
Johan Giesecke is another great example. Last year he kept predicting (including the Unherd Interview) in the Swedish Media that by early summer large segments of the population would have developed herd immunity – but he kept changing his range numbers. When the tests were done it was revealed that a tiny tiny minority of people have developed immunity.
When asked by Expressen (a Swedish Tabloid) how did he come up with his numbers Giesecke responded “let’s drop this”.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Why should the sceptics admit they’re wrong when faced with an establishment that responds to it’s own errors by ‘doubling down”?

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Not clear what the criterion of having immunity is. It seems that more patients fight off Covid-19 with T cells than actually form Antibodies. If this is true (cautious step here!) then it would be possible to have the herd immunity without having the evidence of it. But that would still leave Giesecke in rather an awkward position. I suspect that his hunch is right but his evidence is lacking, and he knows how much trouble sceptics get into when they advance positive assertions. As for proportioning beliefs to the evidence, I am not sure how that squares with Hume’s critique of induction …

craigmackellar72
craigmackellar72
3 years ago

I think its one thing to be a sceptic in the literal and scientific definition of the word, constantly testing and retesting theories. but the concern are those non Scientifics who use the word sceptic, at best, without understanding its meaning , or at worst using others understanding to spread distrust and push a particular agenda.

So I don’t have an issue with the Sunetra gupta’s of this world as long as they are open to being held accountable at a later stage and are open to testing and retesting and adjusting their thoeries according to the facts as they unfold. But I do have a problem with the Toby Youngs and lawrence Fox’s of this world who use this scientific and objective Scepticism to amplify and give credibility to their own unscientific agenda.

Thats concerning to me and why its important, particularly in this age where all sorts of ‘information’ is available at the touch of a phone, where the wider public are taught the importance of critical thinking, starting with the fundamentals of What a persons credentials are and why they are positing a theory before even taking a look and spreading on that theory.

Too many people search for things that fit their own gut and give voice to dangerous actors.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Toby Young is an idiot – why would anyone listen to him about epidemics is beyond me…

craigmackellar72
craigmackellar72
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

..Agreed. but they do .. and we need to understand why they do, to be able to stop them doing it.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

You can not.
People have always believed and always will believe in conspiracies. Technology has made it much easier for the nutters to share their idiotic ideas.

craigmackellar72
craigmackellar72
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Well respectfully I disagree. yes its easier than ever to be a conspiracy theorist and to get your warped view out into the wider world. but to reduce the amount of people who subscribe to this approach, just like all the bad ‘isms’ out there in the world, we have to understand and be open about their attraction to then beat them.

Calling someone an idiot or tin foil hat wearer (while satisfying in the moment I agree) just drives a wedge even deeper. whats more effective is engaging people in discussions and persisting to ask them why ….

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

He is, but no more or less than any of the hundreds of other idiot media pundits: James Obrien, Owen Jones, Melanie Philips, Will Hutton, Richard Littlejohn

And yet there is a constant campaign to silence only one subset of the idiots. I wonder why that is?

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Could it be that we’re in the middle of a pandemic which one set of idiots are telling us not to take seriously?

David Slade
David Slade
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Absolutely no one is telling you not to take it seriously, no one ever has told you that – no one ever will.

They have pointed out that it is neither reasonable nor useful to completely rearrange human existence around the avoidance of one particular threat without doing a proper cost/benefits analysis.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  David Slade

….which here in the U.K. we are still waiting to see. If indeed it exists or was ever properly commissioned.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

That is not true. They are taking it very seriously indeed – the economic harm, the attack by government on our civil liberties as well as the virus.

David Slade
David Slade
3 years ago

What is Toby Young and Lawrence Fox’s unscientific agenda? I am still unclear on this, the accusations that they have one sound themselves like conspiracy theories. I’m unfamiliar with their history but I understand that a certain political class find them automatically unpalatable; meaning the knee jerk way they are dismissed has to be at least considered equally illegitimate.

I have to say, in my experience, the forums on which lockdown sceptics discuss things tend to demonstrate more openness with the use of data, a greater openness to exploring other points of view and higher general understanding of science amongst the users, which is validated to a greater or lesser extent by the expert opinion they reference.

What you seem to argue for is an acceptance of propositions based on the credentials of those making the argument, without questioning the consistency (why did they never recommend these actions before), the wisdom (have they considered the impact of their recommendations on the greater good – something for which credentials and expertise is too narrow to be the final arbiter of) or entertaining the possibility that they themselves are subject to group think and compromise.

This is surely antithetical to the process of critical thinking – this is unquestioning acceptance and submission.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago

Google’s algorithms are the ultimate arbitrators of truth. Twitter the ultimate disseminators of it. Dorsey says so.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago

A good philosopher, let alone a great one like Hume, would spot what we refer to as equivocation over the use of the term “sceptic” here. Hume’s definition is caution. As he writes in Of Miracles in the Enquiry, “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence”.

The people who have gained fame (and sometimes Patreon contributions) from being known as “Lockdown sceptics” are not wise by Hume’s standard. Whether it is the diet guru who predicted herd immunity in July, the journalist who can’t do division, or the retired pharma exec who speculated that there might be no more elections, the so-called “sceptics” have gone far beyond the evidence.

In the case of the actual career scientists who have got things wildly wrong, like Gupta, it was obvious when she gave the interview that she was wrong, as many people here commented beneath the interview at the time. Has she published any admission of this? If not, why believe that she is wise, by Hume’s standard? The evidence for that belief would seem to be lacking, no matter how kind and caring she is.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Nobody has the monopoly on wisdom of course, but if you apply Hume’s cited standard universally, which you pointedly seem to be reluctant to do there, then you seem to be suggesting that anything and everything that emanates from ‘the other side’ and that ‘funnily enough’ apparently backs up your position is, by implication, unequivocal and purely evidenced based. Ergo your belief is sound.

You might be under the illusion that you’re proportioning your beliefs to the evidence, but what you’re doing is what so many others do, cherry picking your evidence and using it to confirm your own established position which is, I suspect, not exactly what Hume had in mind to be honest.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

if you apply Hume’s cited standard universally, which you pointedly seem to be reluctant to do there, then you seem to be suggesting that anything and everything that emanates from ‘the other side’ and that ‘funnily enough’ apparently backs up your position is, by implication, unequivocal and purely evidenced based.

A bit too general to respond to. Since I don’t mention what my established position is, I’m not sure how you’d know all this about me. What’s your evidence?

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

That you do not give the same treatment to the lockdownphillics as you give to the deniers. But wait and see, I think all wile be wrong, but the deniers less so, once the post covid accounting is drawn up.

David Slade
David Slade
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

The deaths from despair and neglect across the world because of lockdown are plain for all to see and the lack of evidence or precedent for the measure that caused them is also clear (the former can be disputed – but a case for lockdowns as being effective in the virus trajectory has yet to be made).

Dr Gupta had the ethics and wisdom to point this out and suggest that a virus lethal to people with easily identifiable characteristics could be mitigated against in a less deadly way – and, indeed, in previous times would have been.

Making some condescending point about her numbers being slightly off misses the point in a way which has been a truly tragic aspect of the lockdown advocates mentality.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  David Slade

Lockdowns are terrible. Unfortunately, failure to use the time afforded by them to organise means you doom the country to repeated cycles of them until an effective treatment arrives. In this, I agree with Devi Sridhar.

Making some condescending point about her numbers being slightly off misses the point in a way which has been a truly tragic aspect of the lockdown advocates mentality.

She is an epidemiologist. Getting the numbers right matters. Do you regard criticism of Ferguson “some condescending point about [his] numbers being slightly off”? (Assuming you think they’re off, in which case, I’d ask to see your evidence).

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

I would welcome a look at Ferguson’s base data and to see if i can replicate his models. As i commented elsewhere on this thread all mathematical models are wrong but some are more useful than others. Ferguson would probably be happy to admit to another scientist the assumptions he had to use created his results, but he can’t very well say that in public. That is the problem with scientist as shaman. You are only as good as your last weather forecast. If your prayers to the Rain God are ignored you are toast.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

The Imperial model is on Github (mrc-ide/covid-sim). I’ve read blog posts of people modellers from other fields who’ve built and played with it, which I found interesting. As usual, no links on here, but Google for Clive Best’s Imperial College simulation code for COVID-19 and “”¦and Then There’s Physics” blog’s article The Imperial College code.

Clive Best describes what the model’s doing and points out that the model’s predictions for the first lockdown were reasonably accurate.

The original Imperial paper often credited with causing the first lockdown contains references to the team’s earlier work (the model was originally written to model other epidemics, flu I think) which may also document what it’s doing.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Thanks for that – i had a quick look at th model code and will dig in later. I confirm it runs on our blade server at work, i hope it does on my i7 56gb ram at home! I am still unsettled by the overall issue of source data in terms of R:0 ratio and CFRs as they have to be got from somewhere, so the model is still highly at risk from the garbage in garbage out problem even if the maths are correct in the model itself, which it appears they are.

Adam Lehto
Adam Lehto
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Seems like ancient history now, but when the WHO cried ‘pandemic’ last March, the new virus was explicitly compared with the flu in its official announcement. One point of comparison was lethality. The 3.4% figure given for SARS2 was not labelled as an IFR, but it *was* directly compared to the standard flu IFR endorsed by the WHO, the oft-cited 0.1%. There can be little doubt that the 3.4% figure was *interpreted* at the time by the public as an IFR, and who (WHO) knows? this may even have been the intention. At any rate, would it not be true to say that Gupta, interviewed later in March and suggesting a 0.1% IFR, was a *lot* more accurate than the WHO? And this may be even more the case if we distinguish between the cumulative IFR (which includes the ‘first hit’ of the virus on populations) and the endemic IFR (we’re obviously heading there with SARS2).

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  David Slade

I bet Dr Gupta & colleagues are not phased by keyboard warriors. I know some of the back story to hers and Ferguson’s careers in the poisonous playpen of academe and lets just say she’s outplayed him so far.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

I would still trust Dr Gupta’s judgment than yours as to what is right.

What has become apparent with all this is that some people care more about being right, and shouting at everyone else that they are right, than any number of deaths, or amount of economic damage. And they are so physchologically invested in being right they can discount all the evidence in the world that they are actually dead wrong.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

No – an appeal to authority is the enemy of all knowledge, science, ethics, logic etc. Judgement is not reserved for the few. I am 98% behind the GBD and Gupta & co, not because of their status but because of their work. Note not 100% because like you and i no one can be right all the time.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

and Dr Karol Sikora,professor carl Heneghan..

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

maybe skeptics have gone beyond the evidence but all those does is put them on equal footing with the oh-so-self-assured experts.

Mike H
Mike H
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

I suppose you’re only really making a point about a handful of famous sceptics rather than everyone, but the point about a few people predicting no second wave in June is rather blunted by three problems:

1. There are huge numbers of “sceptics” by now. Vast majority of them didn’t make any such prediction, or even said the opposite, e.g. Ivor Cummins pointed out in one of his recent videos that he projected Spain would have a winter increase in mortality.

2. The second wave has some curious characteristics like not really causing a second wave of excess deaths, at least not in the UK. The Telegraph has a good article on this today looking at the data. If you define “second wave” as a second wave of cases then it certainly exists but must be exaggerated by the large increase in testing. If it’s defined as a second wave of overall deaths then it gets a lot murkier because, well, mortality undulates normally, so can we really say it’s a second wave of a pandemic if mortality always comes in waves and currently looks pretty normal for a British winter?

3. None of the models being used by epidemiologists for COVID predict seasonal second waves either. They either all predict a single wave, or second/third waves caused by suppressing the first via lockdowns, but none predict summer disappearance and winter re-appearance. They can’t because they measure time as “days since start of simulation”, rather than an absolute date in the year.

In fairness to your post, you don’t claim lockdown-loving people are Hume-style wise either. But the vast majority of people pointing out errors in the strategy have engaged in Hume-style scepticism, and that includes people like Gupta, Toby Young etc. That’s why of the thousands of things they’ve collectively said, it requires dropping nearly all of them to focus on a single thing to try and discredit them. What of all the other things they’ve said that turned out to be correct? Like the overall thrust of the argument – that lockdowns are wildly disproportionate and damaging relative to both the strength of the evidence (at the start) and the now known impact of the disease?