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The agony of the anti-lockdown centrists The public figures we trusted have a embraced a disturbing new normal

Covid measures have been traumatic for everyone. Credit: Adam Berry/Getty

Covid measures have been traumatic for everyone. Credit: Adam Berry/Getty


December 10, 2021   7 mins

There is an agonising sense of bewilderment among the small tribe of educated, anti-lockdown centrists to which I belong. I use “centrists” broadly, to refer to those who lived in a circumspect peace with the existing order. We voted for the big political parties, without particularly liking them. We sent our children to normal schools, even if we worried they were over-tested and under-stimulated. We owned smartphones and bought from Amazon, but were not pining for driverless cars or VR headsets. We could hold a friendly conversation with those on the other side of the Brexit or Trump divides. We saw the necessity of big government, but weren’t in love with it. We thought the liberal, Western project was showing wear and tear, but remained optimists.

We now are well into the second year of Covid’s new and ever-evolving bio-politics. Its measures are intrusive, ineffective and/or nonsensical, and dehumanising. They have been traumatic for almost everyone. But there is an additional trauma for anti-lockdown centrists. The public voices whom we trusted, and the institutions to which we belonged or with whom we identified, have almost uniformly embraced this brave new Covid world. So we suddenly find ourselves in the strange company of libertarians, Marxists, and unaffiliated oddballs. And yet, to us, our anti-lockdown position still seems natural and sensible.

In the Covid response, scientists and science have gained an unprecedented social prominence and authority. We must, we are told, “follow the science”. The result has largely been a case of blind scientists leading equally blind governments and citizens into a ditch. I’d suggest that before deciding when and whether to follow science, we need to reflect on what science is and how it works. And 60 years ago, the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn addressed these questions in The Structures of Scientific Revolutions. It’s a useful — even a necessary one — for understanding the science and politics of Covid.

Kuhn argues in his classic work that the history of science is not a straight-line journey towards ever more scientific truth. Rather, the bulk of scientific activity consists of a continuous process of “normal science”, punctuated only rarely by the revolutions that Kuhn calls “paradigm shifts”. In normal science, scientists work within a given paradigm, a model of how their portion of the world works: their labour is to verify and refine this model. But the models of normal science can come under pressure, when they contradict new theories, or when fitting new data to them becomes increasingly unwieldy.

Scientific revolutions then happen when an old model is questioned, rejected and replaced with a new one. This is a gradual process: the old paradigm’s defenders will need to either die or convert before the new paradigm is fully accepted. Well-known examples include celestial mechanics, where Ptolemy’s geocentric universe yielded to Copernicus, Keppler and Newton; physics (Kuhn’s own discipline), where Aristotle’s laws were replaced by Newton’s, superseded in turn by relativity and quantum mechanics; and natural history, where the young earth on which God created each living species separately and purposively became the unfathomably ancient planet where species evolved from each other through the unguided randomness of natural selection.

Kuhn posits that shifts of this sort are not simply new truths revealed by the accumulation of experimental data. Rather, taken on its own, data is both infinite and incomprehensible. Scientists need models to make sense of data, to decide what to trust, and what to question. Observation, obviously, helps to form these models, but so do pure hypotheses. A paradigm is not accepted only once it is shown that it explains all the data. Rather, the paradigm is accepted early on, and then normal science filters the data through it. Everyday science does not involve a constant questioning of every element in a scientific field. In normal practice, scientists must base their research on unquestioned assumptions. Questioning is rather the exception, that can lead to a paradigm shift, after which normal science resumes under the new paradigm.

For instance, Darwin did not posit the paradigm shift of natural selection because he had seen examples of every extinct and living species in the chain of life. Rather he started from examples that made the paradigm seem plausible, and then endeavoured to fit the whole of the natural world to his assumptions. Because his paradigm won the day, subsequent generations of biologists then set about building on Darwin’s work, adding samples to the record of species, constructing speculative evolutionary histories to fill gaps, and above all factoring in the new data of genetics and molecular biology.

I believe a Kuhnian paradigm shift is now taking place in the scientific fields most relevant to Covid. In this respect, the scientists who have guided the bulk of the Covid response have set up a new paradigm, a new series of unquestionable truths. So, in epidemiology these truths are: lockdowns are an effective and a necessary measure to handle a pandemic, and masks work well against respiratory diseases. In virology and immunology we have: natural immunity is inferior to vaccine-acquired immunity, and injections that alleviate viral symptoms (at least in the short-term), but do not stop infection or transmission, are successful vaccines. Finally, in the field of public health: citizens and governments have the ability and therefore the responsibility to alter the course of a pandemic by the restructuring of daily life.

This paradigm shift is not complete. Some prominent scientists continue to adhere to older paradigms. For them, none of the above principles is a basis for normal science: rather, they are, at best, within the range of the questionable, at worst demonstrably false. The trouble is that dialogue between this old guard and the scientists of the new paradigm is largely impossible, because dialogue works best within a shared framework.

In Kuhn’s thesis, the two sides cannot simply reach agreement by impartial analysis of the same evidence. Evidence is far too complex to make sense on its own; scientific debate can generally only bear fruit within a shared paradigm of how to select and use evidence. Most evolutionary biologists have no interest in any interpretation of evidence that is purported to show direct divine intervention. Similarly, most leading covidologists have no interest, for instance, in studies that indicate that neither masks nor mask mandates affect the spread of Covid.

Since Kuhn published his book, talk of “paradigm shifts” has moved beyond the philosophy of science, and entered the everyday lexicon. This is doubtless because we perceive such shifts not only in the specialised domains of science, but in the framework of moral and social norms that affects us all. At least since the ancient Greek sophists, philosophers have observed that such norms vary from one society to another. But a characteristic of modernity has been a sequence of relatively rapid shifts in norms within a given society.

To pick an example where the old paradigm is truly dead and buried: for much of European history, it was largely held as self-evident that a certain excellence of character and ability came with being born of noble blood. This notion now seems ridiculous to us, and its late-born heir, scientific racism, is going the same way. For other norms, most notoriously those of sexual morality, the paradigm shift is far from complete. Each side appeals to a model of human nature, which it holds as self-evident, and which the other side rejects. Debate becomes a dialogue of the deaf, exactly because each side rejects the other’s paradigm.

Clearly the Covid paradigm shift is taking place not just in science, but in this wider world of moral and social norms. The field of public health necessarily takes us into that world: as its name implies, public health is inevitably a political matter. We are changing our society and our morality when we consider viral spread to be a moral failing, and prioritise its prevention over such basic needs as freedom of movement or physical contact.

It is first and foremost these moral and social changes that have horrified us anti-lockdown centrists. Most of us, probably, are not scientists, although many of us have done a great deal of scientific reading since March 2020. But our core position must be that the proposed new normal of indefinite intrusions on our freedom and our flourishing is unacceptable regardless of these policies’ effectiveness against Covid. In our paradigm, the old normative paradigm that we are bewildered to find is not shared by so many of our peers, social distancing in the long run threatens the death of society, to be replaced by a grotesque ballet of the masked and vaxxed, interacting only at the whim of governments and experts.

There is, however, one aspect of Kuhn’s thought that remains controversial among historians and philosophers of science. Kuhn’s model can be reconciled with the Enlightenment narrative of scientific progress, if we posit that a paradigm replaces its predecessor because it is more true: Einstein’s physics comes closer to describing reality than Newton’s; natural selection of random mutations is a truer explanation of the evolution of species than any teleological drive. But for Kuhn one paradigm replaced another not because it was more true, but only because it was, for a given scientific community, more fruitful and satisfactory, a “better instrument for discovering and solving puzzles”. Criteria for a successful new paradigm included improvements in “accuracy of prediction, simplicity, scope, and compatibility with other specialties”. But these did not amount to “a better representation of what nature is really like”1. The only linear scientific progress Kuhn then acknowledged was that within the normal science that elaborated a given paradigm.

Kuhn’s scepticism towards progress was certainly influenced by the impasse reached by his own discipline, physics. Relativity and quantum mechanics are both extremely powerful paradigms, but they cannot be reconciled: as far as we can tell, they can’t both be true. But hopefully such an impasse is not the last word in physics, let alone the ultimate destiny of all scientific and moral paradigms.

We anti-lockdown centrists are fully prepared to argue on both facts and principles, and we continue to hope that our paradigm will win out. We believe that the new scientific paradigm fails even on Kuhn’s own terms, because it provides no better model for understanding the phenomena. But, beyond that, we maintain that the old paradigms – both scientific and social – really are more true to the natural world and to human nature. So we hope that our communities can be convinced both that most anti-Covid measures have proved ineffective, and that their social price is far too high. Such arguments will not be easy, because dialogue between paradigms never is. The first step is for both sides to see that the debate is indeed between rival paradigms, and that, consequently, the future of both medical science and society are at stake.

FOOTNOTES
  1.  Quotes are from Kuhn’s postscript to the 1969 edition of his book, in which he defended himself against the charge of scientific relativism

Daniel Hadas is an academic and writer who specialises in early Christian and medieval Latin literature


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Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Daniel, I think you are giving a somewhat generous interpretation of the last two years. I don’t see it as having anything to do with science (apart from the impressive science used to create the different vaccines). Though science may need ethics as a balancing influence, the one thing it shouldn’t go near is moralising. And Covid has arrived just as society is being manoeuvred by moralisers. And these are not people who are extremely wise or intelligent, but the emotive ones who shout and scream the loudest. By framing people who disagree with them as amoral, bad, hateful, deniers, ****** (add pejoratives to taste), they can control decision making and even legal interpretations.
Consequently, herd immunity becomes “let the virus rip” or “you want to see people die”. Decision making becomes skewed by putting emotive stories against observed data. It leads to authoritarianism which some kinds of politician cannot resist. Hence the different approaches of Sturgeon (authoritarian) and Johnson (just about libertarian). It also encourages those whose instincts are “we know what is best for you” such as in NZ where, like Gandalf, they declare “You shall not smoke!”
If the scientists would stop abusing one another it would help bring some balance, but I fear we may have opened a Pandora’s box.

Judy Simpson
Judy Simpson
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

And don’t forget, “I don’t believe in vaccine mandates” immediately makes you an “anti-vaxxer” even if you’re fully vaccinated.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

One of the problems with lockdown is that it is not very scientific in the sense that there have been no real replicable blind tests with control groups to determine what measures work and what are mere placebos at best.
Of course the particular virus is both fairly novel and evolving so it is not easy to organise such research. However, many of the measures stipulated were manifestly unscientific. There was never any evidence that not going outside for more than an hour had any positive effect, nor that travelling more than a stipulated distance from your home.I do not believe either measure saved a single life.
In contrast it became clear early on that the virus was transmitted by speaking and particularly shouting. The logical conclusion would have been to encourage people to remain silent when in confined spaces except when clearly necessary. This policy has never been proposed or tested.
Nor did it help that the various “scientific” predictions proved wide of the mark. The scientific method includes a willingness to exercise scepticism regarding new theories that have not been thoroughly tested. Sceptics among the scientific advisors and politicians seemed in short supply compared with a significant portion of the public.Nor were any calculations made regarding the side effects of lockdown. Again thoroughly unscientific.
The problem throughout seem to have been a failure to follow the science or to proceed scientifically and statistically.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Actually there have been control groups for lockdowns – in Europe Sweden showed that lockdowns were no more effective than good public health guidance. And in the USA there were several examples of adjacent states that took different approaches to masks and lockdowns with no obvious winners.
The fact no mainstream media has chosen to ‘investigate’ this is just another example of how mainstream media has failed us.
Science has become corrupted by money & politics – world leading journals like Nature and the Lancet have had to withdraw articles that subsequently proved to be untrue – you can’t even trust the bodies charged with maintaining truth and honesty in science.
Any one up for a debate on Climate Change and the hegemony of scientific views there?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

I had in mind early official research by the WHO, Universities or Health services rather than relying on the MSM who are bound to be superficial and biased towards what will sell or what will please their editor or proprietor.
The utter shallowness of most of the MSM have been thoroughly exposed during this covid period. I hardly know anyone who was not had a lower opinion of the MSM than they had prior to the outbreak and that was never very high.

Alexei A
Alexei A
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The WHO?? To whom Bill Gates is the largest donor? Depending on the area researched, this may not be any more reliable than some of the MSM’s output.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

Not just Sweden, either. There are several pairs of US states, similar in geography, population and all sorts of other things, which only differ in their levels of lockdown. Perfectly designed for comparison, but nobody (apart from us cranks) has ever done this.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
2 years ago

Quite so. Even a cursory examination of the available data makes the argument.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago

In my quiet corner of the US, there are no lockdown measures and very few cases of COVID. It’s only the crazy people who continue to wear masks.

Art C
Art C
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I am in a quiet corner of France right now, and have just returned from a bar/restaurant in a small town where not one of the 25-30 people present had a mask on (as is legally required here). Nor did the 2 people behind the bar and a waitress. No-one even made a pretence of entering the establishment with a mask as is often done in larger towns & cities. Nor was Macron’s “Pas Sanitaire” requested on entry. All wonderfully normal. I shall come here more frequently.

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

Yes, in the UK we even had the Opposition (sorry I mean independent) SAGE which appeared to have been created to automatically oppose anything that the Government did.

Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

I agreed with you up to the last point. Climate change is real and the world needs to act. Whatever your own view on climate change, it is also foolish of you to throw in an off-topic digression that you know will be highly controversial. Let’s keep the discussion focused on lockdowns and the extraordinary lack of scientific evidence for them

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Johnson

Changing the subject is common on here, I agree it is better to address one issue at a time.

The comparison with climate change is that there in both cases a central ‘fear’ narrative which is ruthlessly driven, constantly highlighting extreme outcomes (which are in the event shown not be substantiated), and which is very intolerant of dissent, however reasonably argued. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I must say this mass group think and indoctrination in what are supposed to be ‘free’ societies does seem very suspicious. We do know that inculcating fear and pandemic is an extremely useful method of social control.

I agree that climate change is real, but your own view that ‘we need to act’ also begs the question ‘how, and at what cost?’ And the costs ARE enormous. We
use hydrocarbons not because evil fossil fuel companies force us to, but because they are cheap, abundant, storable and portable. There is no alternative energy source as good on all these measures.

This is why for all the hype and despite now 26(!) international climate conferences, carbon emissions have only grown. The developing world is largely paying lip service to Net Zero. I think they are correct to do so. They have many bigger issues to deal with, including getting their populations out of poverty. See Bjorn Lomborg’s arguments on the subject.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

As Mallen Baker always points out on his excellent ‘Dangerously Reasonable’ evidence-based video channel, there is always a problem when scientists act as activists, which is what many have been doing on a rather large scale rather than giving us the best understanding with all the caveats. A very similar situation applies to climate change.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“We anti-lockdown centrists are fully prepared to argue on both facts and principles,”

No you are not – not if you think this has anything to do with science and health. No scientific paradigms have been changed – the Science is same old science it was in 2019.

This is 100% Political, Sociopath government using a good disaster to introduce Totalitarianism and economic destruction.

This is Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941, all over again – but it is our own Gov bombing the fleet.

Have you any clue what has been done to the global economy in 18 months? Watch some Youtubes on the covid economy – this series is both entertaining and instructive. https://www.youtube.com/c/Wealthion/videos give it a try, they are worth it – try the last 3 with Henrich – go back further and get a bigger picture…

No, you centrists are just sheep, you have swallowed the turnip they fed you and think this mess is just that they are confused – but it is that they are out to destroy the old world – and that means you and all you know. The Global Elites just made $30,000,000,000,000 of the pandemic – look it all up. Us normal folk are having all our savings and pensions plundered by inflation with zero interest, the asset prices have inflated so high they are a bubble, and when they pop all normal people are broke. Once the full depression begins expect martial law – you sheep have all been trained up for it.

This is nothing to do with science, or health.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I agree that centrists, or people who remained centrists are a large part of the problem. They are completely blind and illogical.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
2 years ago

F

Last edited 2 years ago by Albireo Double
James B
James B
2 years ago

As opposed to criminally insane

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Yes, it is much better to be in your own tiny bubble of true believers!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Is that not where you are?

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

The moment anyone calls everyone else “sheep”, that person reveals themself as a complete nincompoop.

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

Unnecessarily aggressive choice of word maybe, but regrettably the image of a mass of people being herded towards an unpleasant future is all too accurate.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

Boris declares “Build Back Better” the mantra of the leader of Davros Klaus Schwab the one who says you will own nothing but be happy. Biden quotes the same thing. Aren’t these concepts the real enemies of democracies and freedom of speech? Add to that Big Pharma and Big Tech who have reaped big rewards through the pandemic, courtesy of Bill Gates another member of Davros and you have a picture of what we should resist, if we can, although there are many levels in the battle.

Last edited 2 years ago by Tony Conrad
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

So a rather silly slogan proves a conspiracy? Apart from anything else people copy one another unconsciously all the time in our daily lives, and political leaders certainly do. I wonder who this conspiracy now includes; certainly it seems Johnson, but what about Trump? Victor Orban? Nahendra Modi?

This huge expansion of state power is ALL about national governments, with the partial exception of the EU and the federal states in the US, Germany, Australia and Canada. So: China, Italy, France, the US, the UK, India, South Africa etc. Which in other contexts many people on here would be lauding eg regarding Brexit!

These governments have indeed, with some notable exceptions such as Sweden (weren’t they sent the memo from Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab or someone?) did rather behave like panicked ‘sheep’ themselves.

However, remember, restrictions were very popular – we are in a small minority on this site – right from the beginning, and well before the polarised and one-sided narrative being propagated, was in place.

You only had to broadcast those scenes from Northern Italy, just a classic media story causing a public and political reaction. A bit like that dead boy asylum seeker on the beach a few years ago. It may have been out of context, not examining the huge other social, economic and health costs, etc, but it is an explicable reaction.

Of course Big Pharma made a lot of money, it was asked to produce vaccines at short notice. Oxford AstroZeneca did so at cost price, they probably won’t be doing that again after being attacked by various leaders including Macron. Half the people who posit a world conspiracy involving Big Pharma, and object to its vaccines, also incoherently advocate for one or another of its products, which are considered to be wonder drugs against covid (eg Ivermectin)!

People get obsessed by pompous and portentous labels. I just can’t see why anyone takes seriously Klaus Schwab and his talking shop called the ‘World Economic Forum’. China does indeed have a lot of (sinister) power, the WEF does not.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

Mr Galeti Tavas, or whatever his most recent pseudonym is, seems to make a virtue of being in his tiny bubble of true believers and casting anyone else outside.

There is the rather obvious contradiction of claiming a monolithic world conspiracy which , at the same time, you can ‘look up’, and is explained by videos widely available on YouTube!

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

It seems like a very polite way of describing people who are behaving in a sheep-like way, ie. unquestioningly following the one in front.

At a time in history like this people should be doing serious research and asking lots of questions such as:

– how dangerous is the virus really?
– what am I seeing with my own eyes and how does that compare with what the politicians and media are tell me?
– what do real scientists and doctors say, ie. not the paid shills on TV?
– why are many highly qualified scientists and doctors (Nobel prize winners, inventor of mRNA vaccines, etc) being censored?
– why are doctors and nurses being threatened with losing their jobs if they disagree, even in the slightest, with the given narrative?
– what is actually in the vaccine and why are they being so secretive about it?
– has the vaccines been thoroughly tested?
– have mRNA vaccines ever been tested on animals and if so what happened?
– why are they so desperate to discredit long-standing medicines or supplements and allow people to die rather than at least give them a try?
– why are they so strangely desperate to inject absolutely everyone in the world with an experimental vaccine even though people who are vaccinated can still transmit and the efficacy is so poor?
– why are people encouraged to wear masks when so much science says they offer no benefits and actually damage the health in the long term?

This is just a handful of the hundreds of questions that good, intelligent, sensible people should be asking and proactively researching.

But most people are not.

They are just gettng their information from the TV or newspaper (both of whom get billions a year from pharma advertising so have in-built biases) and just accept it as gospel truth.

So, as much as I agree it is a derisory term, referring to the unthinking and unquestioning masses as ‘sheep’ seems to be quite apt.

Last edited 2 years ago by Paul Smithson
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

But most of the questioners are being shut down by Big Tech. Truth is out there but when it contradicts the narrative the cancellers spring into action. There is big Gates money behind this.

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Sheep, wolves, or sheepdogs most of humanity is bad a rational risk assessment.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

100% in agreement with what you state. I’ve been listening to Drs. David Martin and Peter McCullough and it’s difficult to reject or dismiss a lot of what they’re saying. Dr. Martin’s discoveries and beliefs are bordering on conspiracy theory on a huge scale but where the pieces identified fit a grand puzzle. The only part which maybe differs from Galetis viewpoint is the implicit involvement of national governments in terms of the overall goals, at least those apart from the US. They’re maybe just stupid, incompetent and lack the backbone and resolve to stand up to the pressure from Big Pharma’s proxies and the possible deep state and $$$ driving the agenda. It’s extremely worrying that I’m beginning to sound like a believer in conspiracies but the last 20 months and the totally unbelievable response to the pandemic of a relatively mild pathogen has led me to compare what’s happening to the most extreme Hollywood thriller epic.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

As Sherlock Holmes said “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

We are simply not living as free people anymore.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

get a boat-works for me – all the stupid stuff happens on land !

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

It might be apt, if you knew that the people you disparage are “unthinking and unquestioning”. But you don’t do you? And that is why it is wrong to treat them as if you do know.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

He may be many things judging by his input to these comments threads, but nincommpoop? Not even close.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

“The moment anyone calls everyone else “sheep”, that person reveals themself”

That sounds like the sort of thing a sheep would say…

But…. I have been watchging some International Law experts talking about the Nurnmurg Trials and resulting International law, specifically from the Mengele (Angle of Death) experiments where injections were used for ‘Medical’ reserch. As you may guess, doing that since 1945 has been illegal….

If things do get back to normal my guess is a great many law charges will be made….

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

OK, OK. Let’s be polite and civil.
We’ll call them Lessor Haired Sheep.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

it has been semi-scientifically proven that people are biologically determined to be compliant and to follow the most dashing er sheep

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Lockdown has been an appalling and enormously damaging overreaction to an albeit serious global health issue. However, comments like yours drown out the cogent and above all sound criticism of government lockdown policy. It’s easier for the BBC to portray anti-lockdown protesters as cranks if they are in fact cranks.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

I absolutely agree. Yes the mega rich have been ‘creaming it’ during lockdowns, but that’s more a case of being opportunistic than anything. The notion that all the world’s governments, (most of whom can’t fill the potholes in the roads), could conspire together to plan a pandemic without one leak, is so absurd that a 5yr old would laugh at it.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Indeed. Anyone who thinks this is national governments conspiring is being very naive and has a poor understanding of international finance. This goes far higher than national governments.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Yeah it goes into the level of mega rich globalists who are managing to rule behind the scenes apart from governments. Stick with them and your shares in vaccines will do very well.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Do wealthy corporations and financiers have a lot of influence? Yes, of course, that almost a truism. But politically, there IS nothing ‘higher’ than national governments. Ask Mr Jack Ma. And even in the polarised US, there is a chance of major measures being taken against Big Tech, whether we’ll thought through or not may be another matter. Standard Oil WAS broken up by government fiat, albeit that was a long time ago.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

A pandemic no, but this type of response yes.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Excellent point!

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

666 first time buyers used the stamp duty holiday.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I wonder if the author feels a sense of being used as a tool all along. We used to call it a “useful idiot”.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Why do you always rant? You seem only intent on demonising anyone who doesn’t sign up to your extreme (ok, my view) theses 100%. Not much chance there then of successfully resisting this huge government overreach.

Seonaid Maclennan
Seonaid Maclennan
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Frighteningly so true !

Last edited 2 years ago by Seonaid Maclennan
Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago

Anyone who said “I’m following the science” in the last 2 years was just trying to comfort themselves. With a few notable exceptions scientists advised politicians (as best they could) on different scenarios & the politicians then decided what to do.

There’s no doubt though, that prevailing narratives emerge & continue to dominate.

I stopped commenting on Covid issues a long time ago, as it was clear that most people were frightened & their reactions bore that out.

What I’ve observed though, is that a lot of people have the faintest idea of how to assess risk.

This time last year I almost got written off on a frosty country road by a woman driving an Audi. The road was like glass & was crawling in a 4×4. She was coming at me doing about 50mph, alone with a mask on.
Thankfully she missed me but ended up in a huge spin & backwards bogged in a muddy verge.

Sadly because of contesting narratives, some people have left themselves very open to serious illness from Covid.

This is particularly true of obesity. Prior to Covid, much was said & written about the UK being the most obese nation in Europe.

It’s been obvious from the start of Covid that outcomes for anyone who’s obese aren’t good.

Yet the narrative of ‘get your jab’ has left most of them thinking they’re ok.

Of course anyone who dares mention this will be accused of fat shaming, because you can apparently, be ‘fat & healthy’

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Relevant comment about risk assessment, but I suspect the majority have not been required to think about risks other than the obvious cases of not swimming in the sea during a storm or trying to cross a busy motorway on foot. I’m on the opposite end of the scale having worked with infosecurity for the last 30 years where risk assessment and controlled paranoia are vital. Living in Sweden and having the freedom to use my own risk assessment thanks to the public health authority’s sensible recommendations based approach, it’s been no problem in staying safe and continuing to live life with moderate inconvenience. Outdoors no risk, shops+distancing generally very low risk, so lockdowns totally unnecessary. Restrictions needed for venues, restaurants, transport, etc. but masks (other than FFP3 in crowded conditions) are a total waste of time and health hazard since probably less than 0.01% of the general public use single-use masks(< FFP3/N95) properly. Same with droplet/aerosol spreading: breathe, speak, shout, cough, sneeze just increases the risk and when droplets dry out through contact with the air you have aerosols. When there’s community spreading in many countries, travel restrictions and tests achieve nothing. I have the advantage of having produced a pandemic management plan for a bank’s IT dept. around the time of the H5N1 influensa scare in 2003-7 but that had an infection mortality rate of 53% and thankfully was not easily transmissable.
My point is that if the public health authorities and govt. had drummed simplified risk analysis on a balanced evidence based foundation into the general public and businesses, then lockdowns and idiotic and irrational measures could have been avoided. If I can do it, why can’t those with supposed better competence do it when they have access to the necessary relevant information and evidence.

Last edited 2 years ago by stephen archer
Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Superb observations Stephen. I spoke to a senior consultant in the airlines industry who had been paid to put together a similar risk analydis back in Q2 of 2020. He was shocked at what he found, which was that the risks were massively less than what the govts of the world were putting out. He couldn’t understand such differences as maths is maths and so anyone doing calculations correctly should arrive at a similar conclusion with a relatively small standard deviation.

It does make one wonder what is going on.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

It is strange isn’t it the way they persist with the narrative? No wonder people come out with conspiracy theories.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

What did he use as the basis for his calculations in Q2 2020 ? given that at that time, there was next to no data on transmission, secondary attack rate, superspreader dynamics, required ventilation etc.

Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

The importance of risk assessment has become increasingly apparent to me in recent months and I have now reached the point where I think this should be the new buzzword for the coming year. Some examples:
I do not ski, because in my estimation, the risk of injury far outweighs any pleasure I might derive from hurtling down a mountainside at high speed. Obviously, many people disagree and every winter, hospitals fill up with people who have injured themselves on the slopes. Should they be denied medical treatment or sent to the back of the queue for taking a risk that many others deemed too great? And if not, why are there now calls for the unvaccinated to be denied treatment or excluded from society altogether (as in Austria) on the grounds that their estimation of the relative risks – contracting Covid versus a novel vaccine – was different from ours? Surely this is a discussion worth having, especially as it would force us to engage with the unvaccinated not as cranks but simply as people whose personal tipping point is only slightly different from our own?
The role of risk assessment at election time has also been sorely underestimated, I believe. Had I been eligible to vote in the last US election, for example, I would have voted for Trump – not because of what I think of him as a person, but because to me, he posed a lesser risk than Biden with all the woke baggage that he brought with him. Same in the UK. As utterly useless as the current government is, I still regard the alternative as an even riskier punt and more likely to do lasting harm in the long run.
So thank you for raising this matter, Stephen Archer, and I agree with you completely that risk analysis is something that should now be widely taught and discussed. 

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Also – the skiiers were risk taking for fun (and I feel 100% should get their health care anyway)

Us non-vaxers refuse on Political Grounds. Surely, in a Democrat, Free, society with literally millions who have died in the past to give us these privileges/Rights, we should give some respect to the peaceful political protests.

It would be SO MUCH easier to just vax, but many of us will not because we believe in ‘Live Free Or Die’, and we do it for you too – so that the conversation on limits of government arbitrary power keep going, and thus freedom remains in debate rather than being squashed.

H D
H D
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Since we have a vaccine, most of us are able to protect ourselves without everyone having to be vaccinated. Which means that the idea of a vaccine mandate, aside from high risk employment situations, is an expression of an authoritarian safetyism that is an enemy of liberty.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  H D

Especially since herd immunity with current vaccines is no longer possible

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Having fun whilst there were ‘people dying’. They should be ashamed of themselves!

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

“literally millions who have died in the past to give us these privileges/Rights”

The ‘right’ for anti-vaxer’s to circulate freely within the society those millions died to keep safe holding a loaded ‘virus gun’ and firing at will? I don’t think so! This was the society which queued in their millions – willingly – to have polio jabs, both keeping ‘their society’ safe and eradicate polio. Anti-vaxers are a societal risk – and mostly responsible for the last resort of a lockdown. I also wonder how many elderly ex-servicemen/women who helped ‘save our society’ have been infected by anti-vax care workers in care homes or nurses in the NHS.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Thouht you might be interested.
“Mask wearing is one of the most effective public health measures for preventing covid-19, and is associated with a 53 per cent reduction in the incidence of the disease, according to a review of published research.
Stella Talic at Monash University in Australia and her colleagues carried out a meta-analysis using data from 72 studies to assess the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions – measures that don’t involve drugs – at containing the virus”
From the New Scientist web site:www.newscientist.com/article/2237475-covid-19-news-uk-will-see-large-wave-of-omicron-scientist-says/

Last edited 2 years ago by Linda Hutchinson
stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago

I honestly will say I’m not interested, I don’t believe it and I think I’ve read recently that that study was discredited for being just wrong. In any case, anything coming out of Aus/NZ is just a whole load of BS and that’s just my opinionated and biased judgement. Meta-analysis ? I could believe that could produce any kind of rubbish since there are no peer-reviwed studies on mask wearing related to the general public and the Danish study couldn’t find anyone willing to peer-review it. 72 studies when no relevant studies have been done??
Then regarding my very rough 0.01% estimate of those using single-use masks properly, you could probably add another couple of zeros after the dot, and that’s just based on my observations outside of Sweden, since there they have been educated by Tegnell who knows a lot more than Australian academics about evidence based measures. And I could go on about microns in droplets, aerosols, FFP3 mask mesh (smaller than virus particle, but even those only give 95% protection), FFP2 mesh (too large) and surgical/cloth masks (nowhere near small enough mesh). Then you have to look at how these meaningless masks are used by the majority of the population and it’s just like a crazy zombie circus.
And regarding your last link, when ”a scientist says”, that’s when I move on unless they have a responsible role in managing the pandemic according to established guidelines, which most countries’ experts have thrown out the window.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

So, what you’re saying is nothing is going to change your mind, in which case no debate is possibel or even worthwhile

As far as I’m aware the research has not been discredited, if you have differnt information please provide me with the link I would be interested.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago

No, I didn’t say that but it depends where the information is coming from. I’ve had the advantage of being fed sensible and evidence based facts, advice and measures from the Swedish epidemiologists who have been working with epidemics worldwide for the last 30 years. What did they do when they arrived in W Africa to help manage the Ebola epidemic? They procured bicycles! Why? To be able to contact the population and spread awareness and appropriate measures.
So, to the UK and other similar countries – the message and measures have been over the top, inappropriate, conflicting, sometimes nonsensical. Two lessons to be learned from Sweden : don’t model and publish graphs over projected infection spread intended for the general public since the only effect is in scaring the public sh**less and creating an environment of panic and loss of control. Second, if there is a group or committee (eg. SAGE) managing the pandemic then it should speak with one voice and not have individuals concerned spouting forth their own views or agenda, for whatever reason they feel motivated to do it.
I do read a lot and am open to be influenced and change my opinion but I’m reasonably intelligent and have worked with analysis for the last 30-40 years albiet in IT. I read the DT and Herald Scotland but believe very little of what is presented as facts. Unfortunately I have read and been influenced by Dr. David Martin and wished almost that I hadn’t.
I would add that some of the seemingly informed commenters in these threads I am willing to believe when their assertions seem reasonable and plausible but your quotation of 53% set me off. That’s also the IFR of H5N1 avian flu, as far as it lasted.

Last edited 2 years ago by stephen archer
rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago

I wear good fitting FFP2 masks, but I suspect that the type and use of masks by most people isn’t very effective.

I just posted this, but I’ll post it again, because it tries to discredit the that research
https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2021/nov/28/ivermectin-mask-wearing-quality-of-evidence-matters?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other&utm_source=pocket_mylist

Richard Goodall
Richard Goodall
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

The paper also said” it was difficult for our review to draw a one directional or causal conclusion ” due to the limitations of the research. Independant risk of bias assessments on the six papers chosen judged 4 to have a moderate risk of bias and the other 2 were assessed as having a high or critical risk of bias. I’m not arguing for or against the efficacy of masks but evidence -wise it’s not much.

David Slade
David Slade
2 years ago

All but six of those 72 were judged of a high enough standard I believe.

I would also say I’ve seen at least two meta analyses that said the opposite.

I also want to know what ground breaking study happened between March 2020 and June 2020 that settled years of ambiguity and disinclination to recommend masks to control influenza type viruses ( of which this is one), in favour of mandates.

Finally, New Scientist has sadly been going downhill for years, I use to enjoy it but now it’s more social commentary as it is science, such a shame.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  David Slade

I still read the New Scientist, but it’s bias, which was always there to some extent, has got more prominent in recent years. None-the-less, I think it still gives a good rundown of recent technological news and many articles are interesting just so long as it keeps away from ideas like religion and consciousness where its biases are really obvious.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

If it comforts you, wear your mask Linda.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

The problem is that masks mostly protect others, so whilst I’m wearing a mask to protect someone that unmasked person is a hazard to me, and especially to the very elderly or those immune-compromised.

What I don’t understand (and this is an honest question) why do people have a problem with wearing masks? They are only a minor inconvience, and even if the protection is small every little helps. I understand that there a few people for whom wearing masks can be a problem for medical reasons, but what is the problem otherwise? And I mean problem not an ideological stance.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
2 years ago

I think people have a problem with wearing a mask because we don’t like being told what to do.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Millions of mask wearing people have contracted Covid, many have been hospitalised and a lot have died. Time to drop the facade. This is an airborne disease and people wearing cloth masks and cheap surgical masks are simply not protected. Enough of the nonsense.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

This is interesting, could you, please, direct me to the study or data supporting this, thanks.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Not only do people often have no idea of risk assessment but the very idea of considering risk assessment is often depreciated..
To suggest measures to cut down on risk is considered an assault on their human rights. I have right to be fat (never mind the risk). I have a right to go out at night in a short skirt and become paralytically drunk ( never mind the risk). My rights trump common sense and risk assessment and anyone who points out the risks is hurting my feelings, and if I and anyone who draws attention to the risk belong to an organisation I can promptly sue my employer for my hurt feelings and be awarded ÂŁ10,000 for them by a tribunal of idiots. – see the recent award to DC Moth.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

People make risk assessments all the time – but they are usually ill-informed and, often, functionally stupid hence…………

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

So glad you were not harmed in the accident! Everyone I ask agrees that a growing percentage of drivers have become extremely reckless and are disregarding normal traffic laws. This is directly correlated with early 2020, Covid, lockdowns, and social unrest.
My guess is that we are all being made a bit (or more than a bit) mentally unbalanced by a combination of the fracturing of social norms/trust, and the oppression of Lockdowns.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

Good luck with the lockdown “centrism”.
In case you hadn’t noticed, right from the get-go last year anyone expressing doubts about lockdown was quickly categorised as right wing fundamentalist, which by the end of 2020 had morphed through hard/far/extreme right until it had become “white supremacist”.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

Or Nazi, racist and transphobic.

John Thorogood
John Thorogood
2 years ago

A very interesting article and discussion thread, well done all of you. Two points:
First, Paul Kingsnorth comes up with another fascinating view, the “Thesis” and AntiThesis”: https://paulkingsnorth.substack.com/p/the-vaccine-moment-part-two
Second, as one who by virtue of degree qualification and 20+ years of reading round the subject, I see an uncanny parallel here with the climate debate and wonder when or how the realisation will dawn that there is no climate emergency.

Guy Pigache
Guy Pigache
2 years ago
Reply to  John Thorogood

There may well be a climate emergency. However, if you seek grants to undertake research with the premise that there is no emergency then you will get no funding. It is a form of cancel culture. Surely we need funded ‘climate change deniers to undertake scientific research as well as those who see impending doom everywhere?

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
2 years ago
Reply to  Guy Pigache

On that basis we would still need internal combustion engine deniers being paid to research comparative fuel-efficiency with horses. At some point the paradigm does shift, and the academies stop hiring, without it being a malign conspiracy. Of course it can be a mistake – see e.g. string theory and its unholy dominance in foundational physics for 25 years. Let’s wait and see, while the side-effects of climate doom-theory allow us. Not all bad, IMO.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

The market decided in favour of ICEs pretty quickly. They’re not being given that opportunity with wind and solar, which is either subsidised or mandated everywhere, and in turn the support given to those two is stifling real innovation on viable energy alternatives to hydrocarbons, if indeed there are any other than nuclear.

Alexei A
Alexei A
2 years ago

Hydrogen. In Japan the number of hydrogen fuel cell cars is predicted to expand from 50 on the road today to (cumulatively): 40,000 in 2020. 200,000 in 2025. 800,000 in 2030

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  John Thorogood

I agree. People are being deceived on Global Warming and Covid. One cannot help asking what is behind it?

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago

Thank you. You speak for me. I prefer “pro-truth” to “anti-lockdown” though. Most of my centrist tribe have been deluded into an untruthful paradigm pushed by some unholy combination of the Chinese Communist Party, large tech and pharma corporations, a conceited, self-deluded, narcissistic “centrist” global political elite lacking in any humility, spirituality, or grounded moral centre but convinced of the rectitude and necessity of the response “for the greater good”. By that I mean Macron, Trudeau, Biden (or, more accurately perhaps, his handlers), Ardern, Starmer, Carney and the many acolytes and sycophants who surround them.

What seems to have happened is that the promises of centrism – perpetual steady economic growth, environmental sustainability, falling inequality, improved health outcomes and steadily increasing longevity for the majority of the population – have been disproved by reality. That’s largely because of the massively increased power of global corporations and the threat posed to our western “Republic” from the outside in the form of China (and to a lesser extent Russia). The former prevents, or at least very significantly frustrates, meaningful pragmatic government interventions to address inequalities and outcomes at the national level. They both mean that can’t liberate a domestic open economy if there a state-sponsored or giant corporate behemoth undercutting and distorting competitive market forces. New Labour, and whatever you want to call the politics of the Coalition that followed, ain’t going to work in the 2020s.

The game is therefore up: the centrist worldview does not match reality. Instead, a more radical (but at the same time, conservative) politics is needed at national level, to impose barriers to the free flow of capital, goods, services, and people; to protect the physical, cyber, and epistemological borders, and to re-establish a sense of national story and belonging. But this is totally inimical to the high-minded, naively optimistic centrists who have a laudable belief in global co-operation and a free flow of ideas and people; and it would come at some cost – global supply chains have indeed delivered a load consumer goodies that people don’t want to give up. So they go to the alternative, which is try and act at the global level to shape the world from the top down, to work with rather than against big tech, pharma, and agriculture and with rather than against the CCP in an effort to keep the goodies flowing and to keep everyone safe and happy. But this truly is a Faustian pact: the business model depends on the corrosion, and ultimately the removal, of individual human rights and the suppression of individual spirituality and religious belief. I suspect that deep down the elite centrist delusionists know this, which makes them go to ever lengthy extremes to prove to themselves that they are good people just trying to keep everyone safe (eg vaccine passports), and to either lash out in anger or pique at those who dare challenge them with the presentation of truthful factual analysis, or to wilfully and deliberate close their eyes and ears to them.

That then leaves those in the broader tribe – many of those proudly on the #labourdoorstep as well as those less committed politically but broadly aligned ideologically with a choice. Do they follow their leaders into an unreality, the less thinking done the better all round; or do they try to reconnect with their rational and spiritual selves? The former feels much safer; and the latter could find themselves with some very odd (and it some cases, odious) political bedfellows – and in come to know themselves better they might be confronted with some uncomfortable truths.

My sense is the challenge that we pro-truth centrists have is in convincing enough of our former tribe that there are limits to progress in an unfair and uncaring world; that we need to take back the right fringe the politics of family and patriotism, and to take back from the left fringe the politics of identity and meaning; that there need to be meaningful limits on the role of science and technology in our lives; and that means some really hard choices are going to have to be made as we put meaning before economic expediency. As a first step, that means untrusting the institutions that we have been brought up to trust the most, and to the let the light that is within each us shine on the truth and to show us the way. This will require true courage but it can be done. The truth will out, and it will and must prevail – the only question is how long it will take to do so.

Bella OConnell
Bella OConnell
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Of all the comments and articles written these words for me come closest to how I feel and believe the world is in its current state. Broadly agree with most of it. Not hugely keen on all that patriotism conjures up, but the rest really hits the mark IMO. Many thanks to this commentator for this detailed and articulate response.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Bella OConnell

Thank you. I am really touched by your comment and it is comforting to know others feel the same way. It is so, so hard to come to terms with all of this, especially when so many of those good people we know and respect just cannot seem to see the evil for what it is. I agree that patriotism can have a negative, nationalistic side; I guess what I am looking for is an established, communally shared story that people can share and believe in that encompasses all religions and belief systems, to rival technocratic progressive globalism and radical transhumanism. The concept of the tolerant and secular, inclusive and strong nation state – within which our various inherited religious traditions may be revived and thrive – is the best hope we have, as far as I can see.

Bella OConnell
Bella OConnell
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

There. Now your response completely resonates in its entirety. Thank you!

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Amen brother , where do i sign up ! Tho not sure the truth MUST prevail – might be a thousand year process…………

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

This is a very thought-provoking article. Here’s the part of the author’s argument I don’t quite understand (and that my be due to my lack of aptitude for this type of analysis):
The first step is for both sides to see that the debate is indeed between rival paradigms,”
Is that statement really true in the context of Kuhn’s theories which were directed to changes in scientific paradigms? It seems that one side of this debate is intent upon a form of social revolution; as the author notes, a new way of envisaging the rights and moral responsibilities of people within a society. They seem to want a form of safetyism where protection from harm supersedes all other considerations. I would go so far as to suggest they are motivated (perhaps, to some extent, subconsciously) by a desire to introduce a more fair society of a type so obviously lacking in recent decades when the gap between rich and poor has grown enormously. They finally have a chance to spend huge amounts of public money on social welfare projects, to tax the rich, to limit carbon emissions, etc, all in the name of making the future fairer and safer for humanity. This is a social paradigm shift.
Those who remain highly skeptical of the social restrictions imposed in the name of covid are acting largely as scientists (even if that’s not their training) and within an existing scientific paradigm. They hear the argument that masks prevent spread of covid and they ask to see the data or want experiments conducted to test the hypothesis. The same is true for the suggestion that lockdowns reduce covid deaths. They are asking their opponents to show how their arguments better explain the available data or, to quote from the article, to show how their proposals are “more fruitful and satisfactory, a ‘better instrument for discovering and solving puzzles’.
It is ultimately the scientific method against social engineering; the attempted paradigm shift is one of social mores and values that teaches us nothing (and perhaps undoes what we already know) about handling a public health emergency, and has nothing to do with providing a “better instrument for discovering and solving puzzles”.
That’s how I see it, anyway. I may have badly misunderstood Kuhn’s theories.

Last edited 2 years ago by J Bryant
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

A decorator having a long discussion on the differing artistic theories and merits of the First Class rooms and Halls of the Titanic…. days before the disaster.

Actually, no – this is not an accident which happens as the band is playing and people dining, this is ‘The Gathering Storm’

“Gathering StormFrom his backbench seat in Parliament, Churchill badgered, “Germany is arming- she is rapidly arming – and no one will stop her.” But Winston was seen as an alarmist distraction by the coalition government of Labour, Liberal and Conservative parties focused primarily on domestic issues.
The coalition partners agreed that economic problems engendered by the Great Depression were Britain’s greatest threat and disarmament was the way to peace. It was difficult for anyone to face the prospect of another war after one million British and Empire deaths in the Great War less than twenty years earlier.”

Last edited 2 years ago by Galeti Tavas
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

But those advocating safetyism cannot introduce a more fair society, because the measures they support are only benefitting the rich and not the poor and the gap between rich and poor has only increased in the last two years. I only see the gap increasing as more and more small businesses founder and we witness unsustainable government spending.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Watch this excellent international financier, and it is a fun video – tell how USA Printed $20 TRILLION for covid and…

$15 Trillion of it is in the pockets of the ultra Rich!!!!!!!!! Wile the lower 50% of the population are worse off.

Pretty clear for who and why this is happening.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taEx5qlABuk

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

But if you notice, they aren’t taxing the rich, or the corporations and shovelling the money into social welfare programs, as you would expect if committed to making the world a ‘fairer’ place, or at least one that sees income inequality as a bad thing, on principle.
Instead, they are persuing policies that hollow out the middle class and divide the world into the rich and the poor, and long may the gap between them increase. From their position at the top of the heap they weep crocodile tears and say that it is all about the terrible, terrible racism which nobody can do anything about, because nobody can change their race. And if you think, ah, well maybe I already have done something about it, by not being a racist, then we have a burgeoning new industry to inflict upon you, because just the claim that you are not racist is, in fact racist. Don’t you know that your race is the trap you cannot ever get out of?
And if you happen to be Black and dare say things like ‘White people yattering to each other about race isn’t doing my neighborhood any good. We need more jobs most of all, and more and better police, and more drug treatment programs, and concrete proposal x, y, and z’ you get told that there just isn’t any money for any of that. But in the meantime, we would like to apologise for our unconscious racism, which I am sure you will appreciate.

Last edited 2 years ago by Laura Creighton
Gordon Welford
Gordon Welford
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The gap between rich and poor may have widened but the poor are incomparably better off in western societies particularly at least prior to Covid.Since then the poor have been hammered as happens always in economic crises

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

Yes, IT WAS very traumatic for many. I will give you one example that might just open your eyes- but I doubt it.
My wife is a retired health visitor, her colleagues who are still working in the NHS expressed concerns about child protection to her, because during lockdown they were told not carry out home visits … so we locked up thousands of vulnerable children , in living hells in many circumstances with no recourse to help or escape..
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/12/02/wicked-evil-father-step-mother-guilty-killing-arthur-labinjo/

Michael Sweeney
Michael Sweeney
2 years ago

I would argue that the author missed the BIG point. How is “science” funded?
Follow the money and along the way you will see many Big Pharma issues:

  1. The free vaccines are not free. If taxpayers had to pay for them, there would enormous scrutiny by Consumers;
  2. Pharma contributes to BOTH parties in US Congress almost perfectly equal to the majority they have (or not);
  3. Pharma’s advertising dollars hold way too much influence over media;
  4. Most “scientific research” is now funded by Pharma $$;
  5. Pharma literally has their own black box Vaxx Court – http://uscfc.uscourts.gov/vaccine-programoffice-special-masters;
  6. On the rare instance you see a Vaxx case in a REAL US Court, you get lazy Jurist like Scalia who never ruled outside his belief system:

The US Congress passed the “National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act” (NCVIA) in 1986, which was to “leave judgments about vaccine design to the FDA and the National Vaccine Program rather than juries,” ~ Justice Antonin Scalia wrote
No Vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death associated with the administration of a vaccine after October 1, 1988, if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings – Â§300aa–22( b)(1).

United States Supreme Court – No. 09–152. (Oct 12, 2010 — Feb 22, 2011)

Pretending this is a “mainly science” paradigm might be a start, but it is a very very small start.
I am now off to drink my celery juice and lead my Friends with Autism on a 5 mile hike today to build up our immunity systems… #VaccineSchedule

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago

The west is a massive medical trial for big pharma, UK government has waved through pretty much every available treatment to be tested on its nation of mostly willing guinea pigs!

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
2 years ago

Glad to see I’m not alone in this agony. As a highly educated person that has never voted for any extreme party, it is extremely frustrating and demoralising watching how all the mainstream parties and media hold (some times literally) the same position and spread the same misinformation. The only parties that oppose the current covid situation are parties with which I disagree in any other policy. I sometimes wonder if this is done by design to discredit and demoralise everyone.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

“The only parties that oppose the current covid situation are parties with which I disagree in any other policy. I sometimes wonder if this is done by design to discredit and demoralise everyone.”

Actually – the more Occam truth is that you just are wrong about policy. MAGA, WWG1WGA, ‘Don’t Tread On Me’, ……

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

@Galeti, probably true, everything needs to be questioned these days

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago

Here’s a economic research paper that examines the cost/benefits of lockdowns.
Covid-19 Lockdown Cost/Benefits: A Critical Assessment of the Literature
Professor Douglas W. Allen
Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13571516.2021.1976051
There are people trying to put facts before opinions and put perspective on what the consequences are from all the measures taken. I personally think this only scratches the surface.
Here’s a video made by Professor Allen where he explains everything. It’s very helpful.
https://www.sfu.ca/~allen/CovidFacts.mp4

Last edited 2 years ago by Raymond Inauen
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

Good link, thanks

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

You’re welcome! Do pass it on, Proffessor Allen would be very happy to hear his Assessment is being even looked at.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

Do you know him personally? If so, thank him for this.

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago

I’ll do that. I’m sure he will be glad to hear that!

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

Thanks. Useful reading.

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

You’re welcome. Do pass it on.

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

Here’s a video made by Professor Allen where he explains everything. It’s very helpful.
https://www.sfu.ca/~allen/CovidFacts.mp4

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

Paradigm shift? Not at all, the old model prevails: given the opportunity popular government will move towards tyranny. Plato’s Republic 375BC.

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago

Anti-lockdown centrists are part of that tiny minority of humanity that is capable, if they take pause and consider the facts, of rational risk assessment. Unfortunately, the vast majority of humanity, including the policy makers in every developed country other than Sweden, are not.
On my side of the pond, one of Trump’s really sensible moves — Operation Warp Speed (for which all of humanity should be grateful), the Abraham Accords, and actually noticing that China is a hostile power, even if tariffs were a dim way of responding, being the other three — was to appoint an expert on cost-benefit analysis in health care to his COVID advisory panel, for which he was pilloried in the press by the advocates of following The Scienceℱ. (A hat-tip to Glenn Greenwald for the rhetorical device of using the trademark symbol there.)

Last edited 2 years ago by David Yetter
Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago

How to create compliancy ladder
Step 1
– Wash your hands
Step 2
– Social distancing
Step 3
– Stay at home
Step 4
– Stop traveling
Step 5
– Lockdowns
Step 6
– Get a PCR test
Step 7
– Wear a mask
Step 8
– Get the jab
Step 9
– Show Vaccine Passport
Step 10
– Get the booster shot
Step 11
– Get another booster shot
Step 12
– Get a booster shot every 4 months
Just a few simple steps to losing your freedom.

Last edited 2 years ago by Raymond Inauen
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

You left out the big ones

1) pay the ones you make stay at home so they have money – but produce nothing.

2) Print Trillions of $$$$$$$$$$$$ out of air and helicopter it out to the people.

3) the resulting inflation of more money, less goods and services makes inflation explode.

4) QE to infinaty to massive inflate equities and real asets.

5) QE to keep interest ZERO so savings are eaten away bu inflation OR—-

6) People ‘Forced out on the Risk Curve’ because savings and bonds give no interest so all must invest in Tesla and Google stocks, doubling them, and when they DO crash wipe out half of the poor middle class life savings and pensions.

7) Make so much poverty by creating this recession/depression that all must go on welfare (basic income), and so more money printing, more inflation, more poverty, more welfare and printing – and all are Serfs – Owned by the Gov and the Super Elites – you own nothing, they own all

Keith Jefferson
Keith Jefferson
2 years ago

We need to understand that scientists are not perfect rational human beings – they are subject to cultural and political influences (and biases) just as everyone else is. We also need to understand that the oppressive ‘woke’ culture, which invites social opprobrium and censure if one speaks against the prevailing narrative, has infected the sphere of science just as it infected the arts and humanities a few years ago. Note that I used the words ‘culture’ and ‘narrative’ and not ‘paradigm’, because I think this is about culture and not science. And the people controlling the cultural narrative, despite their cries of ‘follow the science’ seem to me to be ignorant of science.
I have never tended towards conspiracy theories because, having worked with various Government departments, I do not believe that the Government and their civil service have the combined wit to pull off a grand conspiracy. National Governments know this and know that they could not contain leaks if they attempted it. But I can believe that Governments and big business will try to exploit situations (including a pandemic) to their advantage given the opportunity.
What if the situation is much worse and the adoption of increasingly authoritarian measures to control covid is a purely cultural phenomenon? Then there is no need for a grand conspiracy theory and questions about the science are a diversion when the questions should be about the culture.  
It seems to me that we are entering an age of unreason, not unlike the medieval witch trials. We haven’t reached the stage of burning anyone yet, but there is increasing demonisation and oppression of lockdown sceptics and antivaxers, with prohibitions on employment, selective lockdowns based on vaccine status and proposed mandatory vaccinations. This is driven by culture, not science, and pontificating on paradigm shifts in the sciences is not going to help. I wish I had an answer.  

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

I think both Kuhn and the author are whistling past the graveyard here. There’s a much older way of looking at this than either of them have perceived. The medieval Catholic philosophers — the so-called “schoolmen” — developed a vocabulary to describe various elements of their worldview. Within their sphere, the word “universal” was a noun. It described something which has no existence except as an aspect or facet of something else. Thus, colour is a universal. Many things are red, for example, but “red” as a substance simply does not exist.
Science is a universal by this measure. We speak of “following the science” as though science itself existed and walked the Earth like some kind of tangible demigod. But it only exists in the practices and protocols of people in white coats who are known as “scientists”. Kuhn’s thesis brushes alongside the schoolmen, but it give too much credit to the power of science as a rational thing. It cannot be rational if it doesn’t exist, and those entities in which it is found — scientists — are no less prone to bias, ego and the taking of oneself as the standard of good than the rest of us.
I suspect the author has taken his copy of Kuhn off the high shelf and blown the dust off it in an attempt to justify the hideous collapse of scientific method which we are struggling through now, and is hoping — like those people who rub the toe of the David Hume statue in Edinburgh for luck — that “something will turn up”.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

A case in point is the science of evolution that has not been proved and yet they call it science.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Yer wot ?

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

Mass hysteria created by the press for clicks, spurred on by politicians anxious to show they are ‘doing something’ has created a mess. Of course lockdowns are the first level for containment but largely useless once the hazard has escaped. Certainly the scientists understand that fact; it’s been around a long time. The politicians don’t much care because it gives them a chance to do things otherwise not acceptable. The public at large accepted the temporary restriction but became somewhat concerned when the politicians refused to change course. All said that vaccines would end our misery, except they didn’t. The public health officials placed all their cards on leaky vaccines but can’t admit error, so they double down. We let this happen because of unbridled fear, but many are now beginning to come out of the fog of fear. Who knows if the resultant mistrust will be resolved.

knx5kykfsb
knx5kykfsb
2 years ago

Thank you – I was beginning to think I was alone!

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago

For some reason I bridle at the word centrist, but Daniel’s description entirely resonates, and helpfully explains my strange sense of becoming a stranger in a strange land. It takes a medievalist to explain our current predicament!
As others have said in this thread, we aren’t really talking about science here, but about different faiths. Daniel writes: ‘In normal science, scientists work within a given paradigm, a model of how their portion of the world works: their labour is to verify and refine this model’. Assuming that he’s right, in what way does this paradigm differ from St Augustine’s Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam (I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but rather, I believe in order that I may understand)?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

As we know from every heinous political action through history, the word ‘Centrist’ just means the ones who go along with it, but talk about it more.

Alan Smillie
Alan Smillie
2 years ago

Fantastic article, 100% express what I think!

How can we like-minded people organise to fight against the Covid madness? I went to one demo but it was mostly Piers Corbin-type extremists. There must be a better way


Guy Pigache
Guy Pigache
2 years ago

Excellent. I met Kuhns book at university. It profoundly changed my view of my topic. I too have considered its relevance to Covid measures. However, thank you to Daniel for making the relevance more explicit.

Just wearing a mask, just working from home, just not seeing your father before he dies in a home. Surely not so much to expect when it is saving lives? But where does it go from here? Safety at any cost is not an economic or social model for which we have good data.

Jerry Smith
Jerry Smith
2 years ago

This great piece brought to mind the majoritarian scientific denunciation of the Great Barrington Declaration, in the name of John Snow who was, in his day, an utter maverick. The delicious irony was utterly lost on the poor fools.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
2 years ago

Daniel, I’m a left-leaning libertarian centrist and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said here. Plus everyone ought to keep in mind that Neil Ferguson, the very man whose gravely erroneous math models(never mind the married one that visited his gloomy chateau) have proliferated lockdowns beyond China & Italy, has ZERO degree in epidemiology, virology, evolutionary biology OR public health policy. Nor he has ANY field experience in the latter 3, and his record in the 1st field has been spectacularly unreliable. This man might have faked a resignation, but he’s still constantly consulted by this inept BoJo’s government and MSM and has his arse saved the storerooms at SAGE(which in itself is like a near-stage 3 cancer tumor to this great nation we live in, just like the ones at 10 Downing Street & Westminister), and was blatantly favored over dissenting epidemiologists who actually have far better credentials than him(partially thanks to Smugface Farrar bullying the latter along with lab leak hypothesis advocates), making them UK’s loss and Sweden’s gain. While the left libertarian in me pulls me back from having Neil Ferguson censored(as I’m anti-censorship), I would urge everyone to stop taking Neil Ferguson or anyone at SAGE seriously from now on, and loudly demand that SAGE be disbanded and its mad scientists kicked out, they’re far too incompetent to be giving out their ill-counsel in the 1st place!!

Last edited 2 years ago by Josh Woods
Vasiliki Farmaki
Vasiliki Farmaki
2 years ago

I am sharing the link for the following petition, again and again and again… Please sign if you feel it is time to rise our voices and stop all evil plans A, B,C… Z..veta,omega..
They will never stop!.. Once the English and Greek alphabets come to an end .. we will yet be at an ever worse position than anything in the entire human history.. Corona is mega Violence, that no professional has been courageous enough addressing the audiovisual, health, corporal, mental etc, etc.. abuse coming upon us from journalists, experts, politicians… Bullies, thieves, deceivers, traitors .. never.. never stop.. Unless We stop them..
What is happening is an evil ritual reversing the human nature, culture, civilisation, history…
Do they aim to bring space-time to a stand still?
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/592632

Last edited 2 years ago by Vasiliki Farmaki
Kathryn Dwyer
Kathryn Dwyer
2 years ago

Can’t have too much of this sort of calm, measured but heartfelt analysis. I just hope it reaches a wider public than UnHerd readers.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
2 years ago

“Most evolutionary biologists have no interest in any interpretation of evidence that is purported to show direct divine intervention. Similarly, most leading covidologists have no interest, for instance, in studies that indicate that neither masks nor mask mandates affect the spread of Covid.”
There is no “Similarly” here. All science is based on the fundamental idea of consistent physical laws that always behave the the same way in the “same” conditions. QM may have banished the old deterministic worldview but with QM outcomes are still statistically predictable. Allowing for divine intervention is antithetical to science itself.
A person claiming to be an expert on covid but refusing to consider recently produced papers questioning the effectiveness of masks and mask mandates in certain conditions is NOT a scientist at all. A better label would be theologian.

Richard Goodall
Richard Goodall
2 years ago

“Facts and principles” have suffered a slow and deliberate strangulation over the past two years in particular.

Jonathan Patrick
Jonathan Patrick
2 years ago

Thanks for the article. Maybe Unherd should have you interview Tom Chivers. It would make for a great example of the desire of Unherd to bridget the divides and foster free and open debate.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Chivers is a masking vaxer, he and this guy would have a conversation headed no where.

Alyona Song
Alyona Song
2 years ago

The measures against covid are “intrusive, ineffective and/or nonsensical, and dehumanising.” Thanks for putting it so succinctly. Societies are broken, separated, divided, and butt-headed against each other. We, the centrist have got to continue exercise civil disobedience.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago

So interesting!

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

…physics (Kuhn’s own discipline), where Aristotle’s laws were replaced by Newton’s, superseded in turn by relativity and quantum mechanics;… 
I would say not superseded but subsumed. Newtonian Mechanics was subsumed into General Relativity as a special case. General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics cannot, at the moment, be reconciled and will, in turn, perhaps be subsumed into a more general framework or model of which they will be special cases.
James Lindsay, before being a mathematician, was a physicist. In this podcast at 97.26 minutes or 1.37.26, he outlines what actually happens in a shift according to Kuhn. This is the best (clearly explained) account from a person who actually worked as a scientist in physics. The podcast is, IMO, a goldmine of information about postmodernism, marxism, neo marxism and critical theory and lastly, critical social justice (woke) ideology.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sUkmBX8jUE
One other point, including geocentrism and heliocentism is rather unfair in that modern science, as an evolving method for examining reality began, according to Lindsay, with Copernicus. The actual paradigm shift is described here, where it is split between two paragraphs;
But the models of normal science can come under pressure, when they contradict new theories, or when fitting new data to them becomes increasingly unwieldy.
Scientific revolutions [a paradigm shift] then happen when an old model is questioned, rejected and replaced with a new one. 
The old model as a method of interpreting data is either changed for, or subsumed into, a method/model that accounts for all the data the old model couldn’t account for.

Last edited 2 years ago by michael stanwick
Jonathan Gibbs
Jonathan Gibbs
2 years ago

I was going to say that paradigms are not rejected unless the new paradigm better fits the evidence.
Saying that the new paradigm is that lockdowns, masks et al work, when the old paradigm said they didn’t, will be judged by evidence. It’s not looking good for the new paradigm.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Gibbs

Essentially, yes. Generally speaking, data, errors or incoherences keep building up until some bright spark comes along with a new way of accounting for/understanding/talking about those errors or data that cannot be accounted for by the current paradigm.
IMO, evidence is data that has been interpreted through its coherence with the established theories/models within the current paradigm. So a paradigm can be recognised by its ability at systematising or thinking or talking about disparate theories/models. If data cannot cohere or poorly coheres with various theories within a paradigm and that keeps piling up, then a new way of comprehending or talking about that data such that its incoherence resolves, would be a paradigm shift. It doesn’t necessarily invalidate a previous paradigm rather than subsumes it.
At least that is my understanding. I haven’t dealt with this stuff in a long time so I am a bit rusty.
As far as covid is concerned, the paradigm might be the way we understand/talk about or model how the virus behaves in the real world – that is, the epidemiology paradigm. Within that are various theories such as host, environment and agent. Since in some ways it is a novel virus in its interactions with other organisms we will be learning from those novel interactions – we will be learning on the hop so-to-speak. Hence we will be learning from our errors.
But taking the incoming data and talking about it incorrectly, may not be due to the paradigm as such, but to extraneous factors such as political motivations for example.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago

I don’t see much conflict anymore between intelligent design and natural selection.  Now that we are sequencing DNA we know that the genetic possibilities are not infinite and they are not random.  Applying a field of mathematics called combinatorics to DNA sequences, gives us a very, very large but finite number of genetic combinations that are mathematically possible. Of those, there are likely a lot smaller but still very large number of combinations that are biologically viable. At this point, if you want to consider the biologically viable genetic combinations intelligently designed I don’t think the science is changed at all.  The natural selection of Darwin chooses which of the biologically viable designs survive and which don’t. There’s no scientific conflict between intelligent design and survival of the fittest, but there is also no evolution driven by random events. The laws of genetics were all baked in the cake before the natural selection began with the original set of biologically viable designs.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
2 years ago

Reproduction, metabolism (energy conversion) and adaptation to environment, these three were certainly baked into life, but there were no biologically viable designs included: let it rip … the outcomes were indeed random.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Even if every possible combination of DNA was viable biologically, which ain’t true, it’s still a finite number, not infinite possibilities. Random selection within a finite set of possible choices still leaves the possible choices as a very large number of intelligent designs. I’m terribly sorry if this breaks your rice bowl.

I have an MS in Statistics. What’s your background?

Jonathan Gibbs
Jonathan Gibbs
2 years ago

You’re still left with proposing some sort of sky fairy, which ever way you look at it.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Gibbs

All I’m suggesting is that a belief in G_d is not incompatible with a belief in science, including Darwinism. In general, I think the scientist’s job is to figure out how G_d set things up.
What caused the order in the universe in your opinion? The tooth fairy? Or maybe it just happened that way, accidentally? Why?
I guess your insecurity is triggered if your aggressive atheism is attacked in any way, even obliquely? Sorry to have intruded on your faith that any faith is unjustified. I guess I’m more tolerant than that.
There’s an effort in the US to impose religious qualifications for office, which is unconstitutional. People say that those who don’t believe in Darwin, are unqualified for office. I argue otherwise, based on combinatorics. If that offends you, deal with it!

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
2 years ago

Platygaeanists, geocentrists and ‘intelligent design’ believers are OK, but should never be debated with or ever allowed to hold any kind of responsible public office. Keep your head down and stick to statistics – it seems that was all you were taught at Uni.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Ain’t John Locke’s Treatise on Religious Tolerance taught at uni in the UK anymore , Gordon? Ain’t the US Constitution taught in government classes at uni in the UK anymore? Don’t science degrees in the UK include any history requirements, like the 30 Years War, for example, or the English Civil War? Should we go back to the law in Ireland prior to 1778, where only believers in Darwin, oops I mean Church of England, could hold office, vote or own land? How about only Darwinists, oops I mean Protestants, could own firearms, or a good horse in Ireland prior to 1778? Did you ever wonder why so many Scots Irish Americans supported the American Revolution?

Even dumb rednecks like me are smart enough to figure out that religious tolerance is good for society as a whole, based on history and philosophy. The alternative leads to suicide bombers. As it happens, I was a Darwinist until DNA came along. Then it didn’t fit. Do you adjust your views as science advances, or nail them to the mast to prop up your intellectual superiority?

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
2 years ago

Orkney crofter.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Wrong. Montana redneck. And you’re a bigoted woke London toff.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
2 years ago

Eh? … you seem a bit confused about how this comments section works. Let me explain … if you want to know which reply is to which posting, the clue is in the subtle varying lengths of the LH margin. That might be a bit complex for you so the easiest alternative is to click on the underlined ‘reply to NAME’.
For example, if you go to my reply ‘Orkney crofter’ and click on “Douglas Proudfoot” immediately above ‘Orkney crofter’ it will take you to the relevant posting at the top of the page … which included your question, “What’s your background” to which I replied ‘Orkney crofter’. Hope that helps.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

You’re not forthcoming about your scientific education. Does that mean you ain’t got none? Possibly an MS in Social Work and Gender Studies?

Lyn N
Lyn N
2 years ago

So we suddenly find ourselves in the strange company of libertarians, Marxists, and unaffiliated oddballs.” Oh, I feel that one. Pre-2016 ignorance seems such a long time ago.
It seems there are people who can endlessly suspend disbelief in order to fit in with whatever the chosen paradigm is and those that have a limit. We clearly have a limit on how far we can push our suspension of disbelief and, let’s face it, some of us had to be pushed quite far to say ‘no, this isn’t right’ and then turn and wonder how the hell we ended up here….and if the scientific models for Covid have been so consistently wrong, how can we trust others? What on Earth is going on?
There is another book worth considering in this – James Burnham’s 1941 book The Managerial Revolution which seems to have inspired Orwell’s 1984, Trump’s “deep state” animosity, the connection Gove built with voters after his previous attack on experts and the scientism we seem to be witnessing at the moment. I haven’t had time to read it yet, but there has to be something in a book that can feed into all of those things. It’s here if someone has more time that I do at the moment: https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.46583/page/n7/mode/1up

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

This is a good article questioning the pandemic response from someone of a ‘moderate’ political position. We need more people to do this!

I think Kuhn is now generally considered to have greatly overstated his case. The new paradigms explained the evidence better than the old ones. Of course scientists are only human and may be emotionally and through groupthink over attached to old models and therefore initially somewhat hostile to new ideas. But that isn’t what should happen, and unlike almost all other areas of human ideas, there is a strong check on these tendencies, which is reality itself and the data that supports this.

All scientific models are approximations and open to revision, but the old ones are still pretty good in limited circumstances eg. Newtonian mechanics was good enough to get to the Moon, they didn’t need to Einstein’s relativity corrections.

None of this applies to the massive over reaction to COVID by governments. The best science does NOT support this in many ways, the most obvious being that countries and states not imposing radical lockdown have had no worse rates of excess deaths and hospitalisation than those that do, including Sweden and Florida.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Alexei A
Alexei A
2 years ago

Why do you keep returning to make the same old complaints?

Stewart B
Stewart B
2 years ago

There is an agonising sense of bewilderment among the small tribe of educated, anti-lockdown centrists to which I belong.

Hardly small. I would say it is the majority of people. It’s only the vocal portion of the tribe that is small. For now.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

I hugely enjoyed reading this, but this sentence I am not quite sure about:

“Relativity and quantum mechanics are both extremely powerful paradigms, but they cannot be reconciled: as far as we can tell, they can’t both be true.”

They have not, so far, been reconciled, but I am fairly sure that they are not contradictory. It would not have been possible, for instance, to get so excited about string theory’s hypothetical capacity to unify the two models if this was the case.

The rest of the article is very interesting, and touches upon some ideas debated at length by David Deutsch, who argues that the expansion of the body of self-consistent knowlege possessed by humans is powered principally by the value of theories as explanations, instead of predictive models, inductive reasoning, collections of empirical observations or other ways of categorising the output of scientific endeavour. This way of looking at things does encapsulate Kuhn’s idea that a theory could be useful to scientists and scientific institutions for reasons other than the sincere search for truth, yes, but the point about this is that no paradigm can survive being based upon falsehood for long because scientists are not the ones who ultimately decide what is useful and what is not.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago

For most a more simplistic state of affairs. People said ‘What’s the government going to do about it?’ having appointed them with a big majority only months before. The government had two choices. Be seen to do something or rue the consequences (unknown) or not do enough and risk vilification. They got both ends of the stick and now the marginal vote, which puts governments in power, has lost confidence in them. Not just here, I might add.

Marcus Corbett
Marcus Corbett
2 years ago

I do not think there is a paradigm shift in the scientific world re covid. There is data which is being ignored for some reason. The fundamental concepts are shared between tbe disagreeing parties.
To think 2+2=5 is not a paradigm shift, it is to think incorrectly.
The only tenet the pro lockdowners felt they could be sure of was the slowing of the infection and death rate. This assumption with Omicron is proving to be false.
The numbers supercede any attempt to cling to a theory.

Last edited 2 years ago by Marcus Corbett
Harry Child
Harry Child
2 years ago

Really 5.2 million world wide deaths from Covid 19 ( many with other underlying medical conditions) are insignificant enough for politicians to take no notice and avoid any action. I suggest you live in the real world where those who have to take decisions are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. From bitter experience many of these decision are the least worst of many even worse alternatives.

David Simpson
David Simpson
2 years ago
Reply to  Harry Child

To me, all the evidence suggests that doing literally nothing (about Covid-19) would have produced the least worst outcomes

Harry Child
Harry Child
2 years ago
Reply to  David Simpson

You obviously have never been a politician or faced the continual onslaught of the media or the social twitter armchair warriors etc..

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Harry Child

*ahem* Florida’s Ron DeSantis.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Harry Child

Deary me… it is always a most worrying sign for a country when a member of the electorate has sympathy for politicians the poor did-dums!

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Harry Child

I suppose then that nobody had the courage to do the right thing because of the media and armchair warriors. That is just surrender in my book.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Harry Child

There are politicians who have made tough decisions and ditched masks, lockdowns, vaccine passports and vaccine mandates. They have done this based on scientific evidence and not because it was the ‘least worse of even worse alternatives’.

Johanna Edmond
Johanna Edmond
2 years ago

The communication may have been very poorly done by some, or even many, but the science hasn’t actually changed. It’s a respiratory airborne virus and it always was, and ignoring it won’t change that. What I don’t understand is how the British public just accepts 100-1000 deaths per day but won’t mandate masks, vaccines, ventilation and working from home. Whatever it might seem from outside, Australia is largely Covid free except for Sydney and Melbourne. We didn’t get there by accident. We had popular leaders prepared to spend political capital to get there. I’m not saying it’s easy, but going back to the office and the commute with 1000 cases a day would be hideous.

The UK is 2.5x our population but has done much worse with Covid, and the dominance of anti-lockdown rhetoric is why. Here, they’re the fringe. Are there centrist anti-lockdown people? I am not convinced there are. If you align with the libertarians and the anti-health, anti-expert group, how can we tell you’re different?

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  Johanna Edmond

Lots of question-begging statements here.
‘the British public just accepts 100-1000 deaths per day’. We’re averaging about 120 deaths a day; these are deaths that take place within 28 days of a positive test (deaths with, not necessarily from covid). The average age of death (from or with) is 81 for men and 85 for women. Death is a fact of life, not something you choose to accept or not accept.
‘but won’t mandate masks, vaccines, ventilation and working from home’. Sadly the vast majority accept and support these mandates, and yet the rates are still high, as you observe. How come? As you say, it’s a respiratory airborne virus, and it stands to reason that transmission should be more rapid and widespread in a densely populated country such as the UK. Australia by contrast is a sparsely populated land mass a long way from anywhere, so it’s no surprise that there’s little or no covid except in the cities you mention. There are parts of the UK which have similarly escaped. Your so-called ‘popular leaders’ have no more control over it in the long run than any other kind of leader. They could take a lesson in humility from King Canute.
‘The UK is 2.5x our population but has done much worse with Covid, and the dominance of anti-lockdown rhetoric is why’. Not so – see above.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Johanna Edmond

It’s far too early for Australia to say that they’ve done better than elsewhere.
UK has not averaged above 200 deaths a day since March (and they have an older population and test many more people far more frequently than Australia does).
Crucially, they have not isolated their country.
Not that it would have been possible with the country relying on millions of international truck movements per year, compared to Australia – none.

Last edited 2 years ago by Brendan O'Leary