Sunday, May 24, 2020

Science Based

Coronavirus: U-M experts discuss | University of Michigan News

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.(Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte)

- Is the lockdown really science based?
- As opposed to politics or fear based?
- Yes.
- A science based policy would be one that, for example, is in response to the evidence presented by climate change scientists? Because there is near complete agreement among them?
- Yes.
- When scientists present different views of evidence, what do we call those views?
- Theories.
- So there will be some cases where we respond to scientific knowledge, confirmed theories, when there is near universal agreement, and those cases when we respond to unconfirmed theories. When would we respond to unconfirmed theories?
- When, as now, we are faced with an epidemic of unknown characteristics.
- And the theory presents a worst case scenario.
- Because the consequences feared are so bad.
- Then we move out the realm of physical, or mostly physical, science and come to social science.
- Why?
- Because we have to determine whether the policy based on the theory that presents the worst case scenario itself is science based.
- You're asking if the lockdown policy itself is science based, whether there is good evidence it will do what is expected of it by its proponents. But the evidence for social theories is nothing like as good as for the physical world. Is that your argument?
- We have in fact a good example of a social policy that can generate near complete agreement as to its result: so-called austerity or free market policies, now tested in dozens and dozens of countries.
- Complete disconfirming results!
- That's right. So what do we say about the lockdown policy of keeping people enclosed in their residences by law? Can we say this is a social science based policy?
- How can we when it's never been done before?*
- What about common sense? What does that tell us about lockdown?
- That locking the sick in with the healthy is sure to produce more infection. If people are safely to stay at home a strong effort would have to be made to identify those who are sick and isolate them.
- To summarize and apply: The characteristics of the COVID-19 epidemic are contested by experts with equally impressive credentials. The impetus behind lockdown therefore is based not on agreed upon knowledge but contested theory.** The lockdown policy itself goes against common sense - according to an Oxford University epidemiologist it reproduces the congested conditions of the devastating 19th century outbreaks - and is without any evidence to support a theory of its efficacy.
- And we don't need science to tell us the immense economic, social, and political damage done by implementing this not science based policy.*** Would it be going too far to observe that we're following in the footsteps of the defunct Soviet Union, in which 'objective' was whatever was the policy of the government, supposedly determined by science, 'subjective' was the interests of individuals, unscientific, consequently unimportant?

Further Reading:
The Epidemic: Accounting For Death

The Swedish Approach
COVID-19 In The UK
* Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke: During the Spanish flu epidemic of the early 20th century some American cities made attempts at lockdown in the sense of attempting to keep the epidemic out of the city (rather than the sense of keeping the population inside their residences) and imposing restrictions on public gatherings.
** See: Oxford professor Sunetra Gupta: The Epidemic Is On Its Way Out
*** From the comments section of the UK YouTube site UnHerd: '"We can't be sure," "I don't have the answers," "It might be because," "We don't know." If you are going to put the Gov. in a position of being put under intense pressure to close the NHS to all but basic care, close the whole economy, put millions of people out of work, destroy millions of businesses and careers in both the UK and the poorer countries that supply us goods, criminalize those who can't pay their bills as they have no income, cause certain collateral deaths, directly cause increase in domestic abuse, legally enforce the lockdown of the healthy people and removal of their liberty, cause a massive UK debt increase which will affect funding of the NHS and healthcare in a huge negative impact, then you better have a damned good reason and some irrefutable evidence like a nuclear fallout situation. Not just, "We think." In the USA, creating or being complicit with creating false alarm and panic in a population is a criminal offence.'