Science May Be Real, But Where Can You Find It?
"Science is real" and "Follow the science!" have been heard often lately, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The problem is, scientists are fallible and do not always agree and sometimes contradict each other.
This past summer, John Tierney, New York Times contributing science columnist, wrote an article for City Journal called "The Panic Pandemic." He pulled no punches:
Instead of keeping calm and carrying on, the American elite flouted the norms of governance, journalism, academic freedom—and, worst of all, science. They misled the public about the origins of the virus and the true risk that it posed. Ignoring their own carefully prepared plans for a pandemic, they claimed unprecedented powers to impose untested strategies, with terrible collateral damage. As evidence of their mistakes mounted, they stifled debate by vilifying dissenters, censoring criticism, and suppressing scientific research.
Tierney's article is well worth reading. It cites an essay that John Ioannidis, a highly regarded epidemiologist at Stanford, published in March 2020, "A Fiasco in the Making? As the Coronavirus Pandemic Takes Hold, We Are Making Decisions Without Reliable Data."
While a short-term lockdown made sense, [Ioannidis] argued, an extended lockdown could prove worse than the disease, and scientists needed to do more intensive testing to determine the risk. The article offered common-sense advice from one of the world's most frequently cited authorities on the credibility of medical research, but it provoked a furious backlash on Twitter from scientists and journalists.
In April 2020, Ioannidis and fellow researchers reported a fatality rate among Covid-infected inhabitants in their local county of 0.2 percent, "considerably lower than the assumptions of public-health officials and computer modelers." Ioannides and his team were smeared by journalists and other scientists. Stanford subjected them to a two-month "fact-finding inquiry." A message was being sent: "Don't question the lockdown narrative." They were not alone.
Stefan Baral, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins with 350 publications to his name, submitted a critique of lockdowns to more than ten journals and finally gave up—the "first time in my career that I could not get a piece placed anywhere," he said.
Martin Kulldorff, a Harvard epidemiologist and leading expert in infectious diseases, could not find a journal that would publish his article that argued, "Since Covid-19 operates in a highly age specific manner, mandated counter measures must also be age specific." He ended up posting his article on LinkedIn.
In October 2020 Kulldorff joined Sunetra Gupta (Oxford) and Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford) to issue the Great Barrington Declaration, which has been signed by 14,981 medical and public health scientists and 44,167 medical practitioners. It declared that lockdown policies were having "devastating effects on short and long-term public health." It was ignored by many governments and suppressed by Google and Facebook.
My point in citing Tierney's article is not to debate lockdowns, but to point out the suppression and attempted monopolization of discourse and information by powerful officials and big media.
C. S. Lewis, Oxford scholar, argued in 1943 that, given modern man's determination to conquer nature, a class of "Conditioners" will arise to regulate the lives of the rest of us. Today's Conditioners claim to "follow the Science," implying that they have special knowledge and expertise. But when challenged, the Conditioners suppress information. That's not science, but the behavior of a ruling class committed only to staying in power, playing a strict lockstep game of "Follow the Leaders" and not "Follow the Science."
The practice of allowing evidence to be sought, published, and debated is embraced in Salvo. We do not fear facts or evade evidence. We welcome Real Science, wherever it can be found.James M. Kushiner
is the executive editor of Salvo and Touchstone magazines.Get Salvo in your inbox! This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #59, Winter 2021 Copyright © 2023 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo59/lockstep-lockdown