Article 11

No.10 Is Hiding Behind Sage Pseudo-Science.

I was much encouraged by an article in The Daily Telegraph of 21/5/20 under the above title, in which Sherelle Jacobs became the first journalist in my experience to refer to ‘the science’ as pseudoscience. She began her article by stating that ‘Downing Street’s use of Covid pseudo-science to justify lockdown could be the greatest scandal of our time’; that ‘granted, the initial decision to shut down the country was taken in a gormless panic of bug-ridden modelling and media hysteria’; but that ‘since then, the Government’s strategy has become more sinister’.  She went on to claim that ‘there’s almost a whiff of superstition about No. 10’s secretive “evidence-based” approach to lifting lockdown’ that ‘Ministers are peddling an esoteric assortment of “precautionary” measures, from a scientifically baseless two-metre rule to a pointless 14-day holiday quarantine;’. that ‘they are obscure and enigmatic on risks and trade-offs’ and that ‘in the daily press-conferences they continue to bewitch an already hyper-paranoid public with lurid graphs and charts which propagate bogus science’. A very thorough criticism, indeed. Furthermore, she states that ‘No. 10 has failed to publish the full advice of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage)’ which ‘has apparently been so influential in its decision-making’; that ‘it is worth taking in the full weight of this particular point’; that ‘we are trapped under virtual house arrest; that ‘judging by the spiralling care-homes tragedy, this may not even have been effective at preventing deaths; that ‘we are trapped in a lockdown which may yet trigger thousands of non-Covid tragedies and wreck millions of lives for decades to come’; and that ‘the Government  refuses to publish in its entirety the “scientific advice” which informed this seismic decision, while failing to share with us the up-to-date recommendations which supposedly justify the lockdown’.

She goes on to state that ‘it gets murkier still, as the goalposts slide from “flattening the curve” to “driving down the R number, the Government has yet to share with us whether our basic national goal is suppression or management of the virus’. Then again, she suggests that ‘this secrecy may be a hint of what is really going on’; that ‘perhaps No. 10 is reluctant to publish Sage documents because these might expose a scandalous truth’; which is that, ‘in the absence of reliable uncontested science, it has pursued a political strategy, selectively exploiting ‘scientific’ advice and using Sage as a smokescreen’; that after all, it doesn’t take a genius to realise the political logic of the Government’s move to ditch herd immunity and ‘its extreme caution over lifting lockdown, as a care-home inquiry looms’ while the public fixates on a second wave.’  Again, she claims that ‘it doesn’t take an “expert” to twig that the “science” being peddled by No. 10 is guff’; that ‘its move to traveller  quarantine makes no sense at this point in the pandemic, given the UK no longer has a lower infection rate than many EU countries’; that the two-metre rule is a rule of thumb unsubstantiated by “scientific evidence” – unlike the one-metre rule used in other countries that is at least informed by studies in clinical settings’; that ‘it is further discredited by the lack of agreement over the extent to which Covid is airborne’; that ‘despite the fact that “driving down the R number is now at the forefront of the nation’s collective mission, No. 10 still won’t tell us which R number Sage is providing’.  ‘Is it the basic R number which tells us how many people a Covid-positive person infects’ or simply the number of contacts; that ‘if the former, it assumes everyone is susceptible to the disease, no contact being immune’; and that if the latter, ‘from where exactly is Sage getting this data?’

Again, she states that ‘we know even less about Sage’s deliberations on the likelihood of a second wave’; that ‘this is a vital question, not least because Covid-19 seems very different from the pandemic viruses which inform second wave theories’; that, ‘in particular, Corona virus, in the fashion of a seasonal outbreak, has disproportionately affected the elderly; and that ‘pandemic viruses from Spanish flu to swine flu over the last hundred years have tended to disproportionately affect younger people’; and that ‘this is why Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine supports the theory that corona virus is a late seasonal effect on the back of a mild seasonal influenza-like illness’. Thus she asks ‘whether or not Sage has considered this possibility’.  She concludes that ‘No. 10’s ruse of “following the science” slowly unravels with each day’ and asks ‘when the gig is up, can it shift to a more honest and nuanced position after brainwashing the public so effectively with its one-sided account of this pandemic’. I can only respond to the foregoing by saying that such mishandling can only be rectified in this and in all other policy areas, by the replacement belief-only policy-making with knowledge-only alternatives as advocated by my third book and by this website; and that Sherelle Jacobs has unconsciously done more to encourage the public to effect this replacement than any other media commentator thus far.

31/5/20       

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