by Peter Franklin
Friday, 30
April 2021
Response
11:52

Don’t place science on a pedestal

It is a human activity that is subject to human frailties
by Peter Franklin
Let the cranks speak. Credit: Getty

When I read Tom Chivers’ post about Young Earth creationism I groaned inwardly. Not because I objected to what he’d written — it’s very good — but because it contained the news that the likely next leader of the DUP is a creationist.

Great, I thought, that’s all we need. If this man is elected then the self-appointed science vigilantes are going to go ape. 

Science vigilantism overlaps with the ‘fake news’ panic. It imagines that the citadel of reason is under attack on all sides by the reactionary forces of darkness. More recently this siege mentality has been extended to envelop the ‘expert class’ in general.

This Manichaean worldview of a society divided between rationality and irrationality is, of course, an aspect of the culture war as imported from the US. However, it’s America that shows that while the world is full of people who believe peculiar things, this needn’t stop scientists from getting on with their work. In no other western country does Christian fundamentalism have a greater influence, and yet no other country scoops more Nobel prizes. I’m not suggesting that these two facts are causally related — just that the former does not prevent the latter.

Of course, if we can tolerate the presence of Young Earth creationists or alternative medicine advocates in the public square, then we should we also tolerate the science vigilantes? If the very mention of homeopathy makes someone hop up-and-down with undiluted rage then can’t we put up with their eccentricity too?

Yes, of course, we should. 

But where there is cause for concern is when science vigilantism has a chilling effect on necessary debate — for instance, when social media companies censor content that conflicts with the official scientific position (however defined). 

The danger here is that mistakes made by the scientific establishment can have much more damaging consequences than crankery does. Covid policy is case in point.

Examples include the delaying of UK lockdown on official scientific advice; or the failure to close borders early enough; or the World Health Organisation’s early advice on masks; or the various failures of epidemiological modelling; or errors made in the treatment of Covid patients; or the misapplication of the precautionary principle in relation to vaccine risks. 

The list goes on and on — indeed the very origin of the pandemic may lie in a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong.

There’s no simple explanation for the fallibility of scientists and scientific bodies. In some cases we can point the finger at bureaucratic arrogance; in others, political interference is to blame; and then there’s the basic fact that our scientific understanding of any novel pathogen is inevitably a work in progress.

But whatever the explanation, it’s vital that we don’t place science on a pedestal. It is after all a human activity and thus subject to human frailties.

Putting the scientific establishment beyond challenge is too high a price for silencing the cranks.

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Alex Camm
Alex Camm
1 year ago

Examples include the delaying of UK lockdown on official scientific advice; or the failure to close borders early enough; or the World Health Organisation’s early advice on masks; or the various failures of epidemiological modelling; or errors made in the treatment of Covid patients; or the misapplication of the precautionary principle in relation to vaccine risks.
I am not sure if you accept all these assertions these as ‘true” but all have been challenged by reputable scientists. I think that demonstrates your point that proper debate has been stifled amongst scientists. Those that appear to be outside of the mainstream may sometimes be the ones who are correct.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Camm

Indeed masks demonstrate the Orwellian ‘new eternal truth’ BS really well. The switch to masks and what appears to be their complete failure is widely ignored, they pretend they’re really useful. In their current form they’re little better than virtue signalling.

Meanwhile actual sensible advice like paying good money to make symptomatic people legally isolate and actually protecting the vulnerable were ignored. The so called ‘deniers’ like Carl Henagan suggested paying older workers to stay at home, to protect them. But no, we have healthy 20 year olds sat at home with deliveries and over weight 65 year olds working in busy supermarkets.

It feels like 75% of the government response has been theatre and cover ups. The vaccination program is the single well executed science based part of it. Even then the government can’t stop lying, I’m in favour of encouraging vaccinating low risk groups (the young) to help establiish herd immunity, but Boris and co use fear and threats instead of a sense of common good.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
1 year ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

The government can not be trusted to do anything well in my opinion. I don’t agree that the younger groups of people should be vaccinated to save the old; even many old people say so. These experimental jabs are just that: experimental. Why risk young healthy people to something we have no idea of the outcome?

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
1 year ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

I certainly don’t think younger people should be encouraged to have a jab for the wrong reasons. The current fear and threats coercion approach is disgusting.

Morally I’m very happy to encourage younger healthy adults to have the vaccination. The cost benefit health ratio to them is low (though exists), but the over all benefit from herd immunity is good for everyone. Whilst it’s completely immoral to force medicine on person A to help person B, it’s excellent morality by person A if they do it voluntarily.

I’m far more worried about a totalitarian state with ID cards and social credit Covid certification and the ‘new normal’ than I am about Big Pharma and vaccines.

Last edited 1 year ago by LUKE LOZE
Cynthia Neville
Cynthia Neville
1 year ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Wish I could uptick your . Excellent points well put.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

Just who is engaging in ‘science vigilantism’? Certainly not scientists, who hold a wide and eclectic mix of beliefs. John von Neumann, the smartest human ever to have existed, underwent a deathbed conversion to Catholicism on the basis of a ‘Pascal’s Wager’ type argument – not that it bought him peace. Einstein, Gödel, Penrose, many others held and hold views that are on the ‘belief’ side of agnostic. People like Saint Augustine from the past were clearly uber bright. Most scientists are fully tolerant of heterodox viewpoints. Personally, I’m completely irreligious but some of the smartest people I know are religious, sometimes deeply so. Apart from me shooting off a few jokes and barbs in the direction of religious belief, it is never an issue. The only people who I know engage in ‘science vigilantism’ are non-scientists with political and cultural bees in their bonnet, who highjack scientific arguments and data they don’t fully understand to aggressively push political stances – the Greta Thunberg types. There, I’ve said it. Is it the Tower of London for me now?

There is probably a god, many things are more easily explained if there is one than if there isn’t one – John von Neumann

Fennie Strange
Fennie Strange
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Oh Prashant Kotak, I rather hope you are marched off to the Tower: the subsequent outrage would lead to lots more people reading your excellent post than if it just stays quietly in the comments section of UnHerd.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Fennie Strange

Haha – I would be banking on the subsequent outrage you know, the rack and thumbscrews are still operational over there I believe!

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Fennie Strange

However if climate change ( as currently defined by scientists) proves not to exist & all the windmills, electric cars and all the other devices all developed by engineers and scientists prove not to be needed , who will give us a refund?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Climate change is Pseudo Science & Wrong see Science websites Climate4you.com & Not A lot of people know that..Arctic has been expanding since 2007 Antarctic ice since 2014…UK April is coldest since 1922 ..South west USA has coldest winter since 1800 ..these Are Not covered by ITV,ch4,ch5,BBC .Most Newspapers or radio…So You Know its wrong..

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

As a kid, in the 50s, we made a point of swimming in the River Mersey, (yes, it was filthy, but I’m still here!) before Easter every year. Either it was warmer then, or we kids were a different breed!

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Murray

Northerners have a completely bizzare attitude to the cold – they behave as though it doesn’t exist, and the further north you go the more pronounced it becomes. I noticed this when I was a postgrad in Manchester in the 80s.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Yes I wore summer clothes all the year round when I lived in Newcastle. I only realised how old I was getting a few years ago when a gorgeous girl ( looked like the young Charlotte Rampling) got on the bus wearing only a bikini and surrounded by men whose eyes were on ‘stalks’ I thought ‘She’ll be sorry she didn’t take a cardigan with her’

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Haha I somehow imagine a cardi was the last thing on her mind. Oh, to be young.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

I read a list somewhere of all the things that were going to end the world-starting about 50 years ago with aerosols destroying the ozone layer ( that will be all the hairspray my mother used in the 1960’s) and so on,and as each warning reached its time limit of twenty or thirty years it was quietly forgotten. However we now have billionaires who realize they can bi-pass democracy by forcing their vision on us all.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

The main reason we no longer hear much about the destruction of the ozone layer is, I believe, that people decided to do something to solve the problem. Therefore atmospheric ozone in now increasing rather than decreasing. Some problems may evaporate, or solve themselves – but not all of them.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

But a fair few of the ‘if you don’t stop doing this the world will end’ things were only enacted by the western world-what happened to the other 3/4 of the world then? Yes its still there doing all the things-using coal power etc forbidden to us.Its also noticable that scientific warnings have an answer to help cure the problem-wind power, electric cars etc that greatly financially reward certain sectors who are often then quite generous towards these scientists.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Companies will always finance scientists whose results they like. The fossil fuels industry seem to be financing climate sceptics, too. And the fossil fuel industry started out much richer and bigger. And scientists falling in love with their theories is a perennial problem. For all that, if the data are there science has eventually delivered, historically. And a lot of the basic physics behind climate change is beyond doubt (in a way that, admittedly, is less true of the detailed modelling). If mainstream scientists keep coming up with results saying that climate change is real, the most likely explanation is that it is indeed real.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

We are indeed fortunate in our scientists-where would we be without Professor Ferguson?

opop anax
opop anax
1 year ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

The current orthodoxy – on which we are staking our economic future in obedience to shadowy global billionaires, both established and new to the caste – is most certainly unproven, and largely unexamined. The silencing of rigorous debate would support your view.

Cynthia Neville
Cynthia Neville
1 year ago
Reply to  Fennie Strange

Yup.

Mark H
Mark H
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

That reminded me of Knuth’s “Things a computer scientist rarely talks about”.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark H

Had completely forgotten about that. Just been glancing through those essays, they are high quality, well worth a revisit.

opop anax
opop anax
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Greta, Al Gore, Michael whatever his name is (actually there are two bandwagon Michaels at least), and so on, into the realm of the stars.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

There is science and there is scientism. They are not the same things. The former is honest inquiry, the latter is more like religion.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

There are lies, da mn lies, and Statistics.

Neil Wilson
Neil Wilson
1 year ago

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts – Feynman

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
1 year ago
Reply to  Neil Wilson

Richard Feynman subsequently expanded and explained this aphorism “science – a.k.a. research – is in the making, belongs to the (unknown, yet to be discovered) future, while expertise is based on the past, with in-built obsolescence”.

and he describes judgement in science as the skill to “pass on the accumulated wisdom, plus the wisdom that it might not be wisdom… to teach both to accept and reject the past with a kind of balance that takes considerable skill … I think we live in an unscientific age in which almost all the buffeting of communications and television-words, books, and so on-are unscientific. As a result, there is a considerable amount of intellectual tyranny in the name of science. … Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers of the preceding generation.”

In other words all knoweldge is provisional.
Science is fundamentally subversive because when being conducted properly it is always asking questions. Societies that make room for science have an edge. They build and deploy better technology. They have the intellectual capacity to adapt more quickly to change e.g repurposing a cancer “vaccine” for use against a new virus.

Mark H
Mark H
1 year ago

Absolutely! The problem comes when the value of scientific discoveries is explained to laymen – all too often it’s presented as absolute truth rather than an improved approximation to the truth.
But it’s that quest for a better model that keeps scientists hungry.
NB for purposes of this post I’m defining science as the physical sciences, life sciences, and maths. i.e. the disciplines where the scientific method is practiced plus those crazy mathematicians who provide the tools without which scientific results could not be expressed.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark H

Mark–
Science is often presented as the absolute truth for two reasons; 1) most scientists are pretty stupid, really don’t know how to do science, and actually think they are discovering “the truth”; and 2) possessing “the truth” means possessing power, as religious leaders learned eons ago.
In the modern academic world, power means money and space. It is not by chance that most universities have entire, modern, shiny, well-staffed buildings devoted to the individual Sciences, while all of the Humanites are often squeezed together in an old, decrepit building with a single secretary for all departments. And then, you can compare the salaries of the Humanities faculty and the Science faculty.
There are real benefits in having people believe you alone can give them “the truth”. Career-oriented, young, budding scientists learn this by example.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ernest DuBrul
Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
1 year ago
Reply to  Neil Wilson

”Science is Never settled;; as expressed by global Warmists..or st.Greta

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago

Scientism is generally an outlook held by the second rate scientists. The serious guys aren’t bothered by what other people believe. Perhaps a good way of looking at this would be to revive a word from the vocabulary of the medieval Catholic “Schoolmen” philosophers — “universal”. A universal (noun) was any thing which has no existence except as an aspect of another thing. The classic example is colour. Many things are red, but you cannot go into a shop and buy a pound of red because it does not exist except in things that ARE red.
Science is a universal. It does not exist except in people who practice science and as such, it is subject to the flaws of those people. “Science” doesn’t tell you anything, scientists do. There is no demi-god called science striding the earth and making completely objective and dispassionate discoveries. That is a myth as pernicious as any the followers of scientism accuse religious believers of peddling.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

I disagree with most of this article. I especially disagree with this bit
<< for instance, when social media companies censor content that conflicts with the official scientific position (however defined). >>
I may be wrong but where I have seen that happen is where the conflict is with “the scientific consensus”. This may of may not be real science but more frequently is dogma where a number of people have been bullied into supporting it and then the cause is taken up by the media.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Social media acts as a Super Panel which OKs, or Forbids, research. Try to conduct a scientific study on differences between peoples, like can you imagine some great University trying to do a ‘Bell Curve’ type study? Yet Critical Theory is mandatory in most top universities!

The MSM is now Judge, Jury, and Executioner on every facet of our civilization today. Science is now their Bi* ch.

Just look yesterday at the senile Biden, in the virtually empty, HUGE, Congress building, with every one distanced, masked, AND Vaccinated, him in 2, and telling all afterwards that ‘The Science’ says wearing a mask is still necessary, and that it is one’s ‘Patriotic Duty’ to wear one, even if vaccinated and distanced from other vaccinated people!
‘The Science’ means ‘the political agenda’ in reality.

Kenneth Crook
Kenneth Crook
1 year ago

Science moves forward by challenging itself. Every present scientific “truth” is a best approximation of the truth based on the available evidence. Not sure what you’re getting so worked up about. Unless you’re talking about how some people (not usually scientists) misuse science to claim absolute, unchallengeable truth?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

Scientific outputs were treated with due scepticism until quite recently. Then the activists took over the asylum and insisted the science of climate change was settled. And that mindset led directly to the “follow the science” credo that insisted all political judgement must be removed from decisions on how to respond to Covid.

Liz Jones
Liz Jones
1 year ago

Most dangerous two words in the world at present? Settled science.

Peter LR
Peter LR
1 year ago
Reply to  Liz Jones

Or even, The Science!

Michael Hanson
Michael Hanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter LR

My favourite is three words, The Science Says . . .

Don Gaughan
Don Gaughan
1 year ago

While the evidence that our public education system ,including university science faculties , are being commandeered by a single intolerant left progressive ideology and being used to promote their political agenda, the objectivity of science has clearly been deviated to serve The Party dogma.
The west needs to liberate our once open , secular and respected academic sector from the left woke progressive tyranny.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Don Gaughan

Are you saying ‘Critical Race Theory’ is not good science? As almost every top university has the science of it being taught – often it is even mandatory.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago

‘The Science’ is being used to browbeat people into taking COVID vaccines, which is also starting to be argued from a moral platform. It will only be a matter of weeks before the media starts sneering at those who question whether they should take a vaccine or not.
I don’t know why, but I have a bad feeling about the vaccines as well as the implications of being bullied by the establishment into taking them and having to document my vaccine status. I wonder if this new form of coercion will end up with a two-tiered society where one set of people can move freely and another are forced to produce paperwork in order to do anything.

David Hartlin
David Hartlin
1 year ago

An ignorant person can screw things up, to surpass the screw ups of ignorance requires an education.

David Slade
David Slade
1 year ago

Overall, can’t disagree with the thrust of the article – science should not be turned into dogma.

It is a shame the author goes on to confuse ‘science’ with ‘cultural affectations imported from communist China’

He may like to read Toby Greene’s ‘the Covid Consensus’ which not only documents the humanitarian catastrophes this bastardisation of science has left in its wake (which are legion and shameful), but expertly reveals that even it’s advocates knew it would make the virus worse (by enabling a more severe second wave when the virus rebounds against an unlocked population rendered unhealthy through initial lockdown – or, a soft attack surface, as I would say).

Otherwise, spot on.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
1 year ago

In a previous discussion I attempted to distinguish various uses of the word “science”. I found four:
1. A body of knowledge about the way the world works
2. An intellectual process that allows one to derive more knowledge of type 1,
3. The social and economic system that currently supports people attempting to derive knowledge and disseminate it in accordance with 2.
4. The opinions on various subjects of people within 3 who have some knowledge of type 1 and experience of type 2.
Type 4 is what I believe “the science” often refers to. It is also what SAGE and other groups are doing.
If you ask a scientist “can you get something for nothing” the answer is extremely likely to be “no”, because that’s a question within science-1, and the the laws of thermodynamics are a sufficiently settled part of science-1 that they are unlikely to be seriously wrong. If you ask a scientist “will a vaccine-resistant strain emerge this year” that’s science-4. The science-1 statement is along the lines of “this virus does mutate, at a certain rate, and we know that other virus species have mutated, at certain rates, to become resistant to natural or vaccine-conferred immunity”. So science-1 says it can happen, but whether it will or not is science-4: an opinion, or, more politely, a risk assessment.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
1 year ago

But whatever the explanation, it’s vital that we don’t place science on a pedestal. It is after all a human activity and thus subject to human frailties.
Yes, but the whole point of science, right from the time of Francis Bacon, is that it recognises that and takes that as the basis in which to proceed (unlike other modes of enquiry). As the old saw goes, “Science progresses one funeral at a time”. The whole point of it is to recognise our fallibility and to introduce mechanisms for organic correction, even though individual scientists (and scientific bureaucracies may be wrong) – indeed in situations such as a new virus with little evidence we would EXPECT them to be wrong as a) we lack evidence to say one way or another, only probabilistically b) you yourself are the easiest person to fool, no matter how smart you are due to cognitive biases. But it has to be backed with data and evidence. No one should put science or scientists on a pedastal. They should put data and evidence on a pedestal.
It doesn’t mean that there can’t be a scientific consensus. Do we need a debate on whether gravity exists or is just a computer simulation? I’d rather get on with building bridges using civil engineering models that assume it does. Still that consensus can (and is) challenged by extraordinary evidence commensurate with the extraordinality of the claims being made. Einstein’s theory of gravity was a revolution, but was undergirded by the remarkable evidence of the speed of light being consistent regardless of the direction of any putative medium which suggested Maxwell’s laws were indeed giving a constant.

Paul Hayes
Paul Hayes
1 year ago

Of course, if we can tolerate the presence of Young Earth creationists or alternative medicine advocates in the public square, then we should we also tolerate the science vigilantes?

That question demands examination of their consequences. YEC belief is, at least to first order, harmless to the rest of us. Alt. med. belief and advocacy much less so.
Don’t place science on a pedestal but please do try to understand what it is and why it should be respected before complaining about the admittedly sometimes annoying “science vigilantes”.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

There’s no simple explanation for the fallibility of scientists and scientific bodies.

On the contrary – there is a quite simple explanation for the “mistakes made by the scientific establishment” he lists. First, nobody is infallible, Second, we do not always know enough, and we are not much good at allowing for that uncertainty.
Science may be ‘always provisional’, but with enough data and enough time to think the conclusions can be extraordinarily reliable. Refusing solidly held conclusions require much more evidence than anti-scientists think. On the other hand, people on the science side tend to have strong opinions, even where the data do not yet support them. In the case of COVID, *all* conclusions were very uncertain at first, and many still are – which is why it was so easy to find scientists with all kinds of opposite viewpoints.
The way forward would be to stop talking about how much to believe in ‘science’, and try to evaluate how certain or uncertain various conclusions are. And for all sides to be less cocksure.
Just as an illustration, here is my take, on some points from this debate:

  • Human greenhouse gas emissions is warming the planet significantly. At the beginning people were pushing for action as a precaution, before the result was sure, but that fact is sufficiently settled by now that it would take major new data to overturn it. And yes, smoking does cause lung cancer.
  • We know enough about the rolled-out COVID vaccines by now to be pretty damn sure that they do help, and the benefits clearly outweigh the costs – just like measles vaccines. How much they help, and which subgroups might not benefit that much, is less clear.
  • Masks have not been proven to fail, but it is unclear how much they help. At worst they help a bit, like handwashing, at best they make a clear difference.
  • We do not understand COVID or social dynamics well enough to be sure of the best long-term strategy for managing the pandemic – beyond getting getting people vaccinated before they get the virus.
Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Hot damn ! and Bravo ! for nailing your colours to the mast.
All makes a lot of sense to me but hell … what do I know ?

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I’m not sure climate change and vaccines are such pressing issues. Either way, both issues involve massive government overreach into the way people govern their lives. I moved to the United States to get away from that and am dismayed to see this kind of thinking taking hold here. We need another Trump.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“And yes, smoking does cause lung cancer.”

Smoking possibly may cause lung cancer. It hasn’t caused it in me for instance, and I’ve smoked over 20 a day for over 50 years and smoked in total for 55 (since the age of 13). If lung cancer is killing me it’s taking rather a long time to do so (or even to show up). To be a ’cause’ something must have exactly the same effect in identical circumstances every time, say: “Up to now, being born causes 1 inevitable death to occur directly as a result, eventually”. But many have smoked without ever showing a hint of lung cancer (e.g. my grandfather, who died, according to his doctor, of ‘pure old age’ at 82). And many non-smokers have had lung cancer and died of it.
Leaving aside a bodily-integral cause (hormonal etc. let alone something ‘genetic’) people breathe in all kinds of airborne things apart from cigarette smoke in any normal day (e.g. town car and factory emissions pollution, far worse in Doll’s day. Were these ever taken into account by him? If not, why not? Also these days office-printer toner fumes and particulates (quite marked when changing cartridges), but also construction dust, fumes from womens’s perfume, mould spores, airborne pollen, fumes from wood- or coal-burning stoves etc. etc. etc.). To be able to say cigarette-smoking alone is or was responsible (which I neither admit or deny) one would have to eliminate all of those and other similar things first.

Then there’s the second question. Is it morally wrong to allow oneself to be killed by something one enjoys voluntarily? (e.g. climbing mountains, racing cars etc.) I can’t see exactly why. Of course if the State forces one to pay for one’s medical treatment to itself via a ‘National Health Service’, thus making any severe or chronic illness a large cost to the so-called ‘public purse’, it is claimed that it becomes a ‘moral duty’ to the State to stay healthy. But I wasn’t asked whether I wanted to sign up to this alleged moral duty. It was forced on me by other people, effectively before I was even born. That’s the trouble with ‘socialism’. It distorts true economic relationships and responsibility for self-damaging behaviours. Which hands a free pass to puritanical bigots, like A.S.H., whose income derives solely from campaigning to stop other people enjoying themselves, under the guise of ‘protecting the health of the nation’, a thing which doesn’t, and could not ever, exist.

Last edited 1 year ago by Arnold Grutt
Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
1 year ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

town car and factory emissions pollution, far worse in Doll’s day. Were these ever taken into account by him?

Yes. See Doll’s paper “Atmospheric pollution and lung cancer” in Environ. Health Perspect. vol.22 (1978)

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

By the available evidence smoking does cause lung cancer. That means that if x thousand people start smoking, significantly more of them will die of lung cancer than if they had not started smoking. Smoking is not the only thing that causes lung cancer, and it does not cause it in every case. But then, getting shot is not the only thing that kills you either, nor will it kill in every case. People still accept that if you want to stay alive you had better avoid getting shot.

As for the second point, you want to keep smoking and think it is nobody else’s business. No quarrel with that. You are free to decide over your own life; no need to distort the facts to get there.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“And yes, smoking does cause lung cancer.” Does it? Most people who smoked for fifty years and more never get lung cancer. I guess your kind of beliefs are what put covid on all the coroner reports. Maybe you meant increases the chance of.

“We know enough about the rolled-out COVID vaccines by now to be pretty damn sure that they do help, and the benefits clearly outweigh the costs” Maybe, but not 100%. Depends what all you include in the costs – was lockdown one of the costs? But likely true, but not da mn sure.

“Masks have not been proven to fail, but it is unclear how much they help. At worst they help a bit, like handwashing, at best they make a clear difference.” At worse they cause great fear and distress, lead to social anxiety and mental problems by causing young and old to avoid human contact, teaches them to think of other people as a danger and diseased, wile having no impact.

“We do not understand COVID or social dynamics well enough to be sure of the best long-term strategy for managing the pandemic –” WE DO KNOW LOCKDOWN IS NOT THE WAY. The coming financial Armageddon will show that clearly. The loss of a year of school, will show that. The health problems of shutting the NHS, the social problems, the job loss, the possible destruction of inner cities.

All you speak is pure MSM agenda, not science.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I am trying to stick to how far the scientific evidence will take us – maybe we can agree on that. I have a lot of strong opinions too. On current evidence I’d say the purely medical effects of smoking, vaccines, and masks are pretty much in the ranges I gave. Fear, distress, social anxiety, financial armageddon and destruction of the inner cities we understand much less well, and they are in the future. We also do not understand well what it will do to social anxiety, schooling, or the NHS if we avoid the lockdowns and let the pandemic run its course. Personallly I favour a zero-COVID strategy on balance, but I would be the first to admit that the costs would be high either way, and that we do not have the evidence to be all that sure what the trade-offs are. That makes it a political, not a scientific decision. Would you consider admitting that however strongly you believe lockdown is the wrong choice, it is no more than a judgement call? We do not have the evidence to know for certain.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

No, I would say lockdown is a wrong call as I am rabidly pro freedom and see State Lockdown as a huge violation of all my rights and freedoms.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Fair enough – you are against on principle. But then it does not matter what the costs and benefits are. You might as well accept the developing scientific consensus and just say that even if lockdown saves numerous lives without destroying the economy you still think it is the wrong choice.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

If masks work, by trapping infected particles behind the mask of the infected but asymptomatic person, then, logically that person will re-breathe in exhaled covid virus — in the jargon ‘they will be exposed to increased viral load’. In the training I got, decades ago, about the proper use of hospital issue isolation suits, there was heavy emphasis that you weren’t to wear them longer than 4 hours at a time, and a had to clean them in such and such a way, and I forget what else, but the bottom line was that even with all of this we could expect to get sicker with upper respiratory infections than we would if we weren’t wearing the gear, because of increased viral load.
Which was, of course, ok with us. Better that healthy health care workers get sicker when they get sick than we transmit disease to the immunocompromised people we were treating.
Does covid work the same way? I don’t think this is known, but health care workers do indeed seem to be getting sicker than the population at large. If covid works the same way, then it might be better if the people at greatest risk for serious covid didn’t wear masks — we will put up with more potential spread to not get more potential serious sickness. This is the sort of thing that could, and I would say *should* be determined empirically.
We have got to become better at doing public policy than proof by ‘I am a smart person and this sounds like a good idea to me’ and ‘this is what my friends believe, so I will believe it too’.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

Well, once you are already infected you cannot catch the virus. So are you saying that people get more sick because the mask makes it harder to get rid of the virus to the surroundings – and that this has a bigger effect than the fact that the virus emitted to the surroundings could then infect someone else who has not got it already? Sounds unlikely to me – at least in the general case. Sure, in the long term we would want to get as much evidence as we can (though it seems to be pretty difficult). But in the short term, do we not have to act on the probabilities we have right now?

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Getting sick is not a thing that goes on-and-off like a lightbulb. It’s not a matter of 2 binary states. How sick you are going to be is not pre-determined before you ever get sick. When people get sick, how badly sick they get varies, a lot. In other viral infections, we know that breathing in more virus after you are already infected is a very significant factor in making you sicker. Is covid the same way? As far as I know, nobody has published anything which even looked at this matter, which is troubling because we sure have enough sick health care workers, who have known shifts for known amounts of time in known to be airtight suits — we really ought to know by now if they are getting sicker because of increased viral load, or not.

Last edited 1 year ago by Laura Creighton
Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Hmmm :
Greenhouse gases. The world is getting warmer we don’t need thermometers, nature gives us a clue with glaciers, ice sheets and wildlife drifting polewards. History, greenhouse theory, stratosphere cooling(!) all indicate trapped heat and thus Co2. Isotope measurements of Carbon then point to increased fossil carbon. BUT The story doesn’t stop there. The next step, totally ignored, is the carbon absorbtion by the Earth which took a dramatic turn in the 70’s. Looks like soils are the problem and we humans have poisoned the soil so they no longer absorb carbon like they used to. So electric cars are a distraction from the main cause : chemicals sprayed on soils….hmmmm.
Vaccines got rolled out mid winter and didn’t peak until we started heading for spring which is entirely in line with normal seasonal falls of respiratory disease. How come non vaccinated countries follow this same curve, How come the unvaccinated under 60’s had plummeting cases before they were vaccinated. No, sorry, vaccines have not proved themselves as this coming Autumn will show and why the politicians are backtracking massively by suggesting masks and distancing until end of 2022!
“Masks have not proven to fail” oh please come on when do we ever prove a negative. That is not how things are done. By the same token standing on one leg for 10 minutes every day proves it stops you getting covid because : It has not been proven to fail. You prove something by comparing against a control group. Here, comes Cult Covid again with their defense against doing this (actual tweet) “It would be unethical to have a group put in danger so we cannot do a non mask test”. What they fail to appreciate is decades of mask research pre 2020 and all the comparisons between countries and US states (North V South Dakota for example). Then there is the TOTAL LACK of inflection points of curves of infection where masks were introduced. Conclusion : Mask are ineffective. (That will get me censored on youtube,twitter and facebook! which is why very few read the science that describe mask ineffectiveness).
Finally, the WHO , again pre “politicised 2020 healthcare” had published a document on how to handle pandemics. It went into great detail about what to do and what not to do. It was based on decades of research and real world examples of disease outbreak. It was totally ignored when Covid came along. Now for the very annoying bit : we are now coming to the conclusion about what strategy we should have taken, guess what its in that fricking document!
You could not make this up.

vince porter
vince porter
1 year ago

How do we know that the opinion we are trying to suppress is the wrong opinion; and, even if it were the wrong opinion, suppressing it would be an evil still. May not be JSM’s exact assertion, but, somewhat close.

John Waldsax
John Waldsax
1 year ago

No one is suggesting “silencing the cranks”; scientists confident of their peer-reviewed data should be happy to see frivolous fictional counter views published so that their selfish serendipity can be ridiculed and exposed. Scientists who speculate, armed only with a nuclear grade spreadsheet are of course worthy targets of criticism when exposed. The press however are usually too lazy to dissect the unrealistic assumptions underlying forecasting models even if they were capable of understanding them. The ethics of the selfish or stupid super-spreader are an easy target but the dangers our world standard scientists have been warning us of are real; but for them we would be an insular India, smoking under the funeral pyres off Europe.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
1 year ago
Reply to  John Waldsax

There are some cranks who should be silenced. First in line should be the ones who deny that biological sex is real.