What the pandemic has taught us about science

The scientific method remains the best way to solve many problems, but bias, overconfidence and politics can sometimes lead scientists astray

It’s been awhile since I have been so struck by an article that I felt moved to immediately do a blog post.  Well, maybe because today is Saturday and it is one day after the landfall of Hurricane Delta, I actually have a half hour to do this.

Matt Ridley has published an article in the WSJ What the pandemic has taught us about science, that is highly relevant for climate change as well as for Covid-19.  It is excellent, I agree with and endorse every word of this.

The paper is behind paywall; Dan Hughes kindly sent me a topic of the text.  Here are extensive excerpts

<begin quote>

The Covid-19 pandemic has stretched the bond between the public and the scientific profession as never before. Scientists have been revealed to be neither omniscient demigods whose opinions automatically outweigh all political disagreement, nor unscrupulous fraudsters pursuing a political agenda under a cloak of impartiality. Somewhere between the two lies the truth: Science is a flawed and all too human affair, but it can generate timeless truths, and reliable practical guidance, in a way that other approaches cannot.

In a lecture at Cornell University in 1964, the physicist Richard Feynman defined the scientific method. First, you guess, he said, to a ripple of laughter. Then you compute the consequences of your guess. Then you compare those consequences with the evidence from observations or experiments. “If [your guess] disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make a difference how beautiful the guess is, how smart you are, who made the guess or what his name is…it’s wrong.”

So when people started falling ill last winter with a respiratory illness, some scientists guessed that a novel coronavirus was responsible. The evidence proved them right. Some guessed it had come from an animal sold in the Wuhan wildlife market. The evidence proved them wrong. Some guessed vaccines could be developed that would prevent infection. The jury is still out.

Seeing science as a game of guess-and-test clarifies what has been happening these past months. Science is not about pronouncing with certainty on the known facts of the world; it is about exploring the unknown by testing guesses, some of which prove wrong.

Bad practice can corrupt all stages of the process. Some scientists fall so in love with their guesses that they fail to test them against evidence. They just compute the consequences and stop there. Mathematical models are elaborate, formal guesses, and there has been a disturbing tendency in recent years to describe their output with words like data, result or outcome. They are nothing of the sort.

An epidemiological model developed last March at Imperial College London was treated by politicians as hard evidence that without lockdowns, the pandemic could kill 2.2 million Americans, 510,000 Britons and 96,000 Swedes. The Swedes tested the model against the real world and found it wanting: They decided to forgo a lockdown, and fewer than 6,000 have died there.

In general, science is much better at telling you about the past and the present than the future. As Philip Tetlock of the University of Pennsylvania and others have shown, forecasting economic, meteorological or epidemiological events more than a short time ahead continues to prove frustratingly hard, and experts are sometimes worse at it than amateurs, because they overemphasize their pet causal theories.

A second mistake is to gather flawed data. On May 22, the respected medical journals the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine published a study based on the medical records of 96,000 patients from 671 hospitals around the world that appeared to disprove the guess that the drug hydroxychloroquine could cure Covid-19. The study caused the World Health Organization to halt trials of the drug.

It then emerged, however, that the database came from Surgisphere, a small company with little track record, few employees and no independent scientific board. When challenged, Surgisphere failed to produce the raw data. The papers were retracted with abject apologies from the journals. Nor has hydroxychloroquine since been proven to work. Uncertainty about it persists.

A third problem is that data can be trustworthy but inadequate. Evidence-based medicine teaches doctors to fully trust only science based on the gold standard of randomized controlled trials. But there have been no randomized controlled trials on the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases (though one is now under way in Denmark). In the West, unlike in Asia, there were months of disagreement this year about the value of masks, culminating in the somewhat desperate argument of mask foes that people might behave too complacently when wearing them. The scientific consensus is that the evidence is good enough and the inconvenience small enough that we need not wait for absolute certainty before advising people to wear masks.

This is an inverted form of the so-called precautionary principle, which holds that uncertainty about possible hazards is a strong reason to limit or ban new technologies. But the principle cuts both ways. If a course of action is known to be safe and cheap and might help to prevent or cure diseases—like wearing a face mask or taking vitamin D supplements, in the case of Covid-19—then uncertainty is no excuse for not trying it.

A fourth mistake is to gather data that are compatible with your guess but to ignore data that contest it. This is known as confirmation bias. You should test the proposition that all swans are white by looking for black ones, not by finding more white ones. Yet scientists “believe” in their guesses, so they often accumulate evidence compatible with them but discount as aberrations evidence that would falsify them—saying, for example, that black swans in Australia don’t count.

Advocates of competing theories are apt to see the same data in different ways. Last January, Chinese scientists published a genome sequence known as RaTG13 from the virus most closely related to the one that causes Covid-19, isolated from a horseshoe bat in 2013. But there are questions surrounding the data. When the sequence was published, the researchers made no reference to the previous name given to the sample or to the outbreak of illness in 2012 that led to the investigation of the mine where the bat lived. It emerged only in July that the sample had been sequenced in 2017-2018 instead of post-Covid, as originally claimed.

These anomalies have led some scientists, including Dr. Li-Meng Yan, who recently left the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health and is a strong critic of the Chinese government, to claim that the bat virus genome sequence was fabricated to distract attention from the truth that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was actually manufactured from other viruses in a laboratory. These scientists continue to seek evidence, such as a lack of expected bacterial DNA in the supposedly fecal sample, that casts doubt on the official story.

By contrast, Dr. Kristian Andersen of Scripps Research in California has looked at the same confused announcements and stated that he does not “believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.” Having checked the raw data, he has “no concerns about the overall quality of [the genome of] RaTG13.”

As this example illustrates, one of the hardest questions a science commentator faces is when to take a heretic seriously. It’s tempting for established scientists to use arguments from authority to dismiss reasonable challenges, but not every maverick is a new Galileo.

Peer review is supposed to be the device that guides us away from unreliable heretics. Investigations show that peer review is often perfunctory rather than thorough; often exploited by chums to help each other; and frequently used by gatekeepers to exclude and extinguish legitimate minority scientific opinions in a field.

Herbert Ayres, an expert in operations research, summarized the problem well several decades ago: “As a referee of a paper that threatens to disrupt his life, [a professor] is in a conflict-of-interest position, pure and simple. Unless we’re convinced that he, we, and all our friends who referee have integrity in the upper fifth percentile of those who have so far qualified for sainthood, it is beyond naive to believe that censorship does not occur.” Rosalyn Yalow, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, was fond of displaying the letter she received in 1955 from the Journal of Clinical Investigation noting that the reviewers were “particularly emphatic in rejecting” her paper.

The health of science depends on tolerating, even encouraging, at least some disagreement. In practice, science is prevented from turning into religion not by asking scientists to challenge their own theories but by getting them to challenge each other, sometimes with gusto. Where science becomes political, as in climate change and Covid-19, this diversity of opinion is sometimes extinguished in the pursuit of a consensus to present to a politician or a press conference, and to deny the oxygen of publicity to cranks. This year has driven home as never before the message that there is no such thing as “the science”; there are different scientific views on how to suppress the virus.

Anthony Fauci, the chief scientific adviser in the U.S., was adamant in the spring that a lockdown was necessary and continues to defend the policy. His equivalent in Sweden, Anders Tegnell, by contrast, had insisted that his country would not impose a formal lockdown and would keep borders, schools, restaurants and fitness centers open while encouraging voluntary social distancing. At first, Dr. Tegnell’s experiment looked foolish as Sweden’s case load increased. Now, with cases low and the Swedish economy in much better health than other countries, he looks wise. Both are good scientists looking at similar evidence, but they came to different conclusions.

Prof. Ritchie argues that the way scientists are funded, published and promoted is corrupting: “Peer review is far from the guarantee of reliability it is cracked up to be, while the system of publication that’s supposed to be a crucial strength of science has become its Achilles heel.” He says that we have “ended up with a scientific system that doesn’t just overlook our human foibles but amplifies them.”

Organized science is indeed able to distill sufficient expertise out of debate in such a way as to solve practical problems. It does so imperfectly, and with wrong turns, but it still does so.

How should the public begin to make sense of the flurry of sometimes contradictory scientific views generated by the Covid-19 crisis? The only way to be absolutely sure that one scientific pronouncement is reliable and another is not is to examine the evidence yourself. Relying on the reputation of the scientist, or the reporter reporting it, is the way that many of us go, and is better than nothing, but it is not infallible. If in doubt, do your homework.

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267 responses to “What the pandemic has taught us about science

  1. Thank you for including, in effect, an Abstract.

    If you can’t be bothered to share what you know up front — that’s code for respect my time — I’m certainly not going to click on some mystery post.

    Which is why I delete … 2/3? … of your emails w/o reading them.

    I’m busy too you know.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • altepainter

      The full article by Matt Ridley is in today’s Wall Street Journal. I read the article earlier today. Very informative and the abstracted portion provided by Judith Curry is representative.

      Dr. Curry has published other articles by Matt Ridley and I find this article comparable with others I have read.

      The message: do your own homework is well worth taking.

    • thecliffclavenoffinance

      Alteredpainter
      Are you a scientist? I suspected you were from the great knowledge of science in your comment. I have great envy of scientists, but I would not buy a used car from one.

  2. Philippe Demonceau

    6,000 dead is a lot when compared to Denmark and Norway.

    • Philippe

      A very large part of that was because unlike Norway and Denmark, unfortunately did not protect their care homes nor those getting care in their own homes. As in the UK there are a large number of agency staff going from venue to venue inadvertently spreading the virus.

      Tonyb

      • >>>”A very large part of that was because unlike Norway and Denmark, unfortunately did not protect their care homes nor those getting care in their own homes.”

        Which should prove that the Swedish strategy was a great success.

    • How is the death growth rate now?

      • About the same as in Germany per capita – with far, far more deaths per capital accumulated so far. No different than Finland, Denmark, or Norway per capita, where there are far less deaths per capital accumulated so far.
        Less in countries like Taiwan and South Korea.

      • Robert Starkey

        Compare the same countries GDP 2nd quarter

      • Robert – care to provide the GDP data?

    • Also overlooking that Sweden is connected to mainland Europe by a bridge and has seen its ethnic minority community rise from 1% to 8% in 10 years, substantially increasing the at risk community in Sweden.
      Germany is now facing the same problem that much of Europe is facing, how to keep its economy going while keeping a lid on the virus. No other country was better prepared in terms of its economy, much lower debt ratio, less dependence on the service sector etc. So could pay more out.
      Put bluntly Sweden decided to take a hit on deaths early on in the pandemic, as a consequence has no lockdown that has to be eased to rerelease the virus back into the community

      • This is what governments do all the time: Time shift. The other Scandanavian Countries shifted the deaths into the future. Now they are left with the mess of their time shifts. And this goes to one of my truisms. Government never creates anything. They steal from one place and put that some place else. Fauci didn’t get rid of deaths. He shifted them. And it’s like our debt. Just keep paying the interest. Trust me. Some of these scientists, they’re bookies. You can live 5 more years, and I will collect from your children.

      • The things you continuously ignore:

        > Countries shifted the deaths into the future.

        1) We have improved therapeutics and standards of care – which means fewer deaths per infection. Even if they get the same number of infections per capita – which at current rates (and assuming that deaths in Sweden basically stop tomorrow) it would take years or even decades for them to reach the same level of infections per capita and they would need considerably more total infections per capita to reach the same level of total deaths per capita.

        And 2). If a vaccine is developed and distributed, it will NEVER reach that point.

        It’s fascinating that you just can’t integrate those concepts.

      • J:
        So you’re pointing out an exception to deferral, maybe. The deferral had costs. Maybe I should have said loan sharks. We see the costs of the deferrals. So you can have 5 more years, but we will collect from your children. And the collection of the cost has already happened. We can defer all kinds of deaths with enough money. But we don’t. The amount of money the government borrowed here. It’s astounding. The old people stole from the young people. Did anyone ask the young people? No. Did the old people ask for this? Some of them did. But not all of them.

    • For those who continue to criticize Sweden’s handling of COVID 19. Is it the contention then that lockdowns are what matters but not mask wearing? As I have stated repeatedly, none of the Scandinavian countries wear masks.

      “The Nordic countries as a group have taken a similar stance to face masks, with less than ten percent of inhabitants in Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland wearing them.”

      https://www.thelocal.se/20200730/face-masks-coronavirus-and-sweden-what-do-we-know-and-whos-said-what

      Of course, we could play a similar game with lockdowns. Some areas that locked down have had a rough time and some that didn’t lock down have had an easy time. This disease correlates strongly with the need to stay indoors. This makes sense if you accept that an important mode of transmission is airborne via aerosols. IMO there will continue to be a resurgence in the NH winter. This is also consistent with the surge in warm areas of the USA during the past summer.

    • The epidemic isn’t over yet in Norway and Denmark, but it just about is in Sweeden as deaths per day in Sweden ARE very low. Norway and Denmark will continue to have a higher death rate until a vaccine provides the immunity that the Sweeds got through community infection.

      And the Swedish economy is still largely intact. The US and the EU economies still may not survive the damage done to their economies having taken on many additional $Trillions of Govetnment Debt. Most “Blue States” in the US are now bankrupt (and getting worse as citizen taxpayers are fleeing those States looking for rationality and freedom.

      • Dude, did you even check the death rates in Norway and Denmark before you wrote that comment? Do you know how much higher the death rates in Denmark and Norway would have to be for them to reach the same per capita Covid deaths as Sweden? Do you knew whether Sweden’s economy is closer to getting back to normal than Norway’s or Denmark’s?

      • Obese people are the most vulnarable, obesity rates a lower in Scandinavia because of better diet and income.

      • >>>Norway and Denmark will continue to have a higher death rate until a vaccine provides the immunity that the Sweeds got through community infection. And the Swedish economy is still largely intact.

        Do you suffer from dyscalculia, not a single of these claims is true, on the contrary. These are the data for Sweden, Denmark and Norway:

        Deaths per million inhabitants, 583, 115 and 51, respectively.

        New deaths last 30 days; 50, 38 and 9, respectively

        New daily infected last week; 466, 386 and 157, respectively

      • I’ve read that there are a couple of factors that make Sweden’s death rate look worse than it really is:

        #1: “SWEDEN REPORTS THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO DIE WITH COVID-19, not OF COVID-19.

        “Even in a culturally and geographically similar country like NORWAY—CELEBRATED FOR ITS LOW DEATH RATE—THEY DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY. The Norwegians only count something as a COVID-19 death if a doctor concludes that someone was killed by the disease and decides to report it to the country’s public health authority.”
        https://reason.com/2020/04/17/in-sweden-will-voluntary-self-isolation-work-better-than-state-enforced-lockdowns-in-the-long-run/?utm_medium=email
        Jul 9, 2020. 12:19 AM
        ————-

        #2: Sweden’s death toll from flu in 2019 (before the pandemic) was much lower than that of its Nordic neighbors, providing more “dry tinder” (frail, vulnerable people who’d otherwise have died in the prior year) for Covid-19 in 2020. Supporting this, Nordic neighbor countries that had had MORE severe 2019 flu seasons had lower impacts from Covid-19 in 2020.

  3. The more we know, the more questions we have…

    • That’s a great characterization of a coronavirus science.

      In a couple of years we will know enough to call it science. Meanwhile, we get knowledge little by little, we develop vaccines little by little – we are attacking a fortress from many directions while mapping it. Even that is science, but not one that can guide us.

  4. Peer review is not a scientific process. It is a publishing method to sift out articles not thought worth publishing. The idea of publishing articles is to allow them to reach the wider scientific audience so that they can respond and take up anything thought worthwhile. Publishing an article does not provide any evidence that it is correct, as the hockey stick nonsense shows over and over.

    • Peer review is not a scientific process. It is a publishing method to sift out articles not thought conforming to a consensus.

      • Peer assessment is definitely a part of the scientific method. But the quality varies enormously. Originally, peer review consisted of whether the editor of the journal would publish the article, was the originality and quality of the work something he could vouch for? Later, this was expanded with editorial boards and specialists in the various fields of science who does the review and give their recommendments to the editorial staff.

        The method is far from perfect, but is the best we have so far. I find it striking that the publication of scientific journals is very profitable, while the journals themselves do not pay anything for all the work behind a scientific article.

  5. Brilliant post. Thank you very much. I saved it for future reference.

  6. One simple, unavoidable fact that is unalterably and undeniably true – CoV-19 is way more lethal to certain age groups than the seasonal flu. Trump kicked it so he’s apparently among 90% of those in his age group that also would kick it if they got it.

    That said, the CDC also says – “In recent years, for example, it’s estimated that between 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older, and between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in this age group.”

    • But you have to admit Trump is an outlier. He racked up at least a $300,000 medical bill not including the 1,000’s of other government employees from FDA/CDC/HHS/SS dedicated to his care 24/7/365 + access to experimental drugs and therapies.
      In 2020 COVID-19 was the 3rd leading cause of death in the US but by this time next year it should be in rapid decline. We will spend years telling ourselves stories of why is wasn’t our fault why we failed so badly.

      • The “Polyclonal Antibody” treatment Trump received appears to be (nearly) a cure in early clinical trials. They are Fully Human antibodies so will have no significant side effects (in normal blood or plasma transfusions you’d get many thousands of times per pint more human antibodies than the dose Trump got).

        Emergency Use Authorization should be given to these drugs for use in the “High Comorbidity” groups where the risk of dying far outweighs the low risks from taking the Antibodies..

        These Polyclonal – Monoclonal Antibody agents will stop thus epidemic…probably with fewer side effects than vaccines (though vaccines are still required for extended immunity).

      • This synthetic antibody treatment is totally cool. One step closer to modifying our DNA directly to improve the human condition.

    • “Trump kicked it so he’s apparently among 90% of those in his age group that also would kick it if they got it.”

      With an early diagnosis, the best medical help money can buy and the administering of medicines found since the first wave.

    • If I understand any of what I have been reading, Trump used lower cost treatments than the alarmist famous doctor is promoting. He gets better hospital accommodations than other people because he is the President of the United States and all of our Presidents receive that same best care.

      • “Trump used lower cost treatments than the alarmist famous doctor is promoting.”

        Except Remdesivir.

    • About lethality of Covid compared to flu: every year flu has a lethal peak despite the availabilty of a vaccine.

  7. Matthew R Marler

    Thank you for bringing this essay to our attention.

  8. Judith,
    I’m a fan of Climate, Etc but apparently you did not read “Sweden’s Gamble” in this week’s Science. Here’s a quote:

    “The country [Sweden] has seen roughly
    590 deaths per million—on par with 591 per
    million in the United States and 600 in Italy,
    but many times the 50 per million in Norway,
    108 in Denmark, and 113 in Germany.”

    Cheers, Larry Barden

    • Put your money on freedom. It’s a long term play.

    • Larry Barden wrote (in part), “The country [Sweden] has seen roughly
      590 deaths per million—on par with 591 per
      million in the United States and 600 in Italy … ”

      The death rate quoted for Sweden with no shutdown is indistinguishable from the death rate quoted for the United States with an economically disastrous shutdown. There is much still unknown.

      • Speed – while true, the US didn’t have a pure shutdown or lockdown strategy. We had a hodge-podge. Also, we are a lot more diverse ethnically and financially.

        If you look at total per-capita death rates around the world, Sweden and the US look pretty bad. If you look at the per-capita rdeath ates per day, the US looks far worse than Sweden. If you look at the cases-per-day-per-capita, the US, Sweden and Finland all show the same rate of increase, but on a percentage of cases basis, Sweden is worst (highest Rt for the recent trend).

        My conclusion is: we can’t yet draw a conclusion about the impact of different NPI’s from this data.

      • Meso,

        I think you have stated that you are in a high risk group. My employer is buying some air purifiers with HEPA filtration and UVC sterilization for use in some of our indoor work areas. For what it is worth, if I considered myself in a high risk group I would have one of these in my home. The ones my employer is buying are from Enviroklenz and list for about 800 dollars, but there are others available.

  9. “At first, Dr. Tegnell’s experiment looked foolish as Sweden’s case load increased. Now, with cases low and the Swedish economy in much better health than other countries, he looks wise.”

    Really? Swedish deaths; 583 pr. million inhabitants, the 12th highest in the world, Denmark and Norway, both with moderate measures, 115 and 51, respectively. New daily cases last week, Sweden 466, Denmark 386, Norway 157. Deaths last month, 50, 38 and 9 respectively. And the Swedish economy is doing better?

    https://www.nettavisen.no/okonomi/stjernesmell-for-svenskenes-okonomi/3424001342.html

    “When the Swedes in March chose another path than almost all other European countries in the face of the coronavirus, the goal was not least to avoid the economic blow that a full shutdown would bring. Now the first figures for the Swedish economy in the second quarter, ie the months of April, May and June. They show that this strategy has far from proved as successful as the authorities in the country would probably have wished. In Sweden, gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 8.6 per cent in the second quarter, compared with the first quarter, according to preliminary figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB).”

    And another extremely serious consequence of the Swedish strategy:

    “Exhaustion, post-traumatic stress disorder and covid-19. After seven tough months with coronary heart disease, medical staff are alerting that they are exhausted. Over 4,700 have been injured at work. Hundreds are resigning. The number of cases is still higher than normal,” Expressen’s survey shows. “Tough. People are tired, worn out. Many have not had a real holiday. I’m worried about a second wave,” says Jens Odsvall, assistant nurse at Södersjukhuset. ”

    https://www.expressen.se/nyheter/larmet-fran-varden-vi-orkar-inte-mer-/

    As Ridley put it: “If in doubt, do your homework.” But he’s not even in doubt.

    • Not “coronary heart disease” but coronadidease.

    • Lincoln Wolverton

      The problem with comparisons of deaths per population is that, while the population is stable, the percentage of the population exposed varies considerably. Virtually the entire population of Sweden has been exposed, I would assert, whereas countries with stricter lockdowns have a lower percentage of population exposed. When those latter countries open up from lockdowns, their deaths per population will increase; meanwhile, Sweden’s deaths per population will probably barely increase.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        The calculation of effects like death based on country borders is unscientific. Calculations should be done on regions within borders set by connectivity of spread, like so-called virus clusters. For example, in Australia, we have 6 States, all mostly free of virus cases except Victoria, which has a high count of some 90% of the national cases. In Victoria, new boundaries for cases have already been devised to separate rural areas (few cases) from Melbourne city (most cases). Within Melbourne city there are tens of council areas, some of which are low-case and only a few high-case.
        It is hard to interpret the statistics unless a prior breakdown is applied to create meaningful boundaries. Geoff S

  10. Wearing a face mask? Where I live on the south coast of England is a tourist resort and we get people coming here from all over the country.

    I have observed our tourists at some length as they go from shop to coffee house to pub to tourist attraction, or just out walking and eating an ice cream.

    I accept that surgeons wearing masks in ultra hygienic conditions in order to prevent germ infection during one hour of surgery works very well.

    However, my observation is that the vast majority of people who wear masks to prevent a virus contagion do so very badly. Constant fiddling, pulling the mask down and up, touching surfaces and the face, pulling the mask down below the chin for hours then pulling it up again.

    Masks are not changed every hour as recommended for disposables, nor washed after every outing as suggested for reusable masks.

    People think masks give them immunity and often neglect social distancing and hand washing.

    In places where masks are not part of the tradition infection rates have soared as they have become compulsory, just as with lockdowns, where is the evidence that masks, as worn by ordinary people, actually work?

    Tonyb

    • tony –

      > where is the evidence that masks, as worn by ordinary people, actually work?

      Real-world evidence in a matter like this is extremely difficult to collect and analyze. So many complicating factors: So many potential confounding variables. You need longitudinal data to really know. You need controls which are obviously difficult to have in interventions that could result in lives lost.

      But FWIW, here’s some that is at least useful information. I’d suggest more informative than anecdotal observations by one individual who clearly has an indentity-investment in drawing conclusions. (Although anecdotal evidence collected in such a manner does have some value).

      https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2020/08/20/facemasks-in-germany/

      But yeah, decision making about risk in a context of high uncertainty, and with potentially huge damage function outcomes over long time horizons, is tough.

  11. My irony meter, which already extends way past 11, just went off the scale…I read this:

    > Now, with cases low and the Swedish economy in much better health than other countries,

    after reading this:

    > A fourth mistake is to gather data that are compatible with your guess but to ignore data that contest it.

    Truly remarkable.

    • Time to recalibrate. 100 is the new 11.

    • Matthew R Marler

      Joshua: My irony meter, which already extends way past 11, just went off the scale…I read this:

      Now, with cases low and the Swedish economy in much better health than other countries,

      You have data to contradict that?

      • Lol. Apparently you missed my point.

      • Robert Starkey

        Joshua post something from Sept 1st to show how the Swedish economy is doing today compared to other countries. Typical. He attaches poor misleading data to justify his points.

      • >>Typical. He attaches poor misleading data to justify his points.
        In my world, 40 day old macroeconomic data is as up to date as possible, but since you seem to have merup to date data why not show them.

      • >>Typical. He attaches poor misleading data to justify his points.

        In my world, 40 day old macroeconomic data is as up to date as one gets it, but since you seem to have merup to date data why not show them.

      • “misleading data” equals “data I don’t like.”

        Perhaps there are hyperlinks in the original article that I can’t see here, but data from September are certainly more relevant than no data. I note that you also handwaved away data analysis re: the economic health in Maine in comparison to other states that was more current — and then ducked responding when I provided you with easily found material after you said you couldn’t evaluate that analysis because you didn’t know the metrics.

        But please feel free to provide data on the economy in Sweden now, in comparison to the data on the other Nordic countries, or countries such as South Korea or Taiwan that have clearly taken less of an economic hit

        I await.

        In the meantime, I think that people like Matt should be more careful to not cherry-pick results that advance their policy advocacy – none the least as they write about the importance of NOT cherry-picking when advancing advocacy for particular policy options.

      • Robert Starkey

        The data is from Aug. And prior. Not current.

        You want to compare the US with Sweden? The US GDP went down by 35% in the 2nd quarter.

      • Matthew R Marler

        Joshua: Lol. Apparently you missed my point.

        “Irony” is not a point. There is no good reason, in this case, to weight early data more than recent data.

      • Joshua,

        No matter how many times you post that link it is still nonsense. It doesn’t even support the point you think you are making. One of the worst economic impacts, Tunisia, had virtually no impact from COVID 19. There are similar methodological issues with other countries, as I have pointed out before.

      • Doug –

        > No matter how many times you post that link it is still nonsense. It doesn’t even support the point you think you are making.

        What’s funny about that comment is that you just made it obvious you don’t know what point I’m making by posting that link.

        What do you think my point is?

      • Give it a shot (explaining what my point is) and then I’ll explain why you’re wrong (or acknowledge that you got it right).

      • Good point Joshua, I will change my comment to point out that it doesn’t support the point the authors of the post thinks it makes. I leave it to you to explain why you posted it if it wasn’t the authors’ point you were trying to make.

      • Doug –

        What point do they think they’re making but you in your infinite wisdom realize they failed to make?

      • Joshua: Joshua: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-health-economy

        thank you. Providing evidence is usually your last resort, but thank you. The evidence pertinent to the question will be Q3 data, which we can look forward to.

    • A point to bear in mind. Sweden’s population is double that of Norway and Finland. It’s capital Stockholm is the London or New York of Scandinavia. With a population of 2.4 million( 25% of tSwedens population and with a large ethnic minority population unusual in Scandinavia). Sweden doesn’t have a large oil fund like Norway, to finance it.

      • Here are all the stats for corona virus for Scandinavia.

        https://www.statista.com/topics/6123/coronavirus-covid-19-in-the-nordics/

        Around 50% of all deaths were in care homes in Sweden and they had a disproportionate number of migrant deaths . They have a much larger migrant population than the other scandinavian countries.

        They can not be directly compared to other countries in their region

        Tonyb

      • Sweden has a population of 10 million and the other Scandinavian countries some 5 million. Sweden has a much larger elderly population over 70 than these other countries and therefore a much greater potential for deaths.
        Tonyb

      • >>It’s capital Stockholm is the London or New York of Scandinavia.

        Utterly BS, Stockholm has 949 761 inhabitants, Copenhagen has 1,295,686 and Oslo has 693 491. And you missed the main point, Sweden and Norway have a population density of 22.9 inhabitants / km and 13.93 inhabitants / square kilometer, respectively, while Denmark has 135.76 inhabitants / square kilometer.

        But no one in Sandinavia, including the Finns, travels to Stockholm to have a good party. Trust me, I have no idea how many times I have been to Copenhagen. But I’ve been to Stockholm once, and it was a funeral

      • Tonyb: >>”Sweden has a population of 10 million and the other Scandinavian countries some 5 million. Sweden has a much larger elderly population over 70 than these other countries and therefore a much greater potential for deaths.”

        Realy, I live in one of these Scandinavian countries and this is completely news to me, but since you the have data I have to believe you, but pleace, show me your data.

      • Rune

        With a population double that of the other Scandinavian countries and a similar age profile, it has around twice the number of elderly people than one of the other countries that has only half the population.

        The elderly are more likely to die of the virus, especially as around half of the Swedish deaths were in care homes for the elderly.

        https://www.statista.com/statistics/525637/sweden-elderly-share-of-the-total-population-by-age-group/

        Why should that be a surprise?

        Tonyb

      • >>Sweden has a population of 10 million and the other Scandinavian countries some 5 million. Sweden has a much larger elderly population over 70 than these other countries and therefore a much greater potential for deaths.

        ‘If your logic were to hold water, the Norwegian average population must be about nine years old.

      • Rune

        What?? If Sweden has a population of 10 million and an elderly population of 20% it would have some 2 million elecerly people. The other Scandinavian countries wth half the population but same percentage of elderly would have An elderly population of 1 million each. Sweden is therefore more likely to have a greater number of deaths due to its larger elderly population

        I am not sure I understand your point

        Tonyb

      • Robert Starkey

        Tony
        Well done

      • I was referring to the Stockholm Metropolitan area, which has the population stated. I stand by the comparison. Norway doesn’t have a land bridge with Europe, much lsmaller ethnic minority community, had greater financial resources to finance a lock down

      • TonyB: “With a population double that of the other Scandinavian countries and a similar age profile, it has around twice the number of elderly people than one of the other countries that has only half the population.”

        OK, so tell me why Norway with half the populatien of Sweden and the same population composition soon has 6000 deaths while Norway has 275 deaths?

        As I have already tried to explain to you, your logic would suggest that the average life expectancy in Norway is 9 years.

      • Rune

        But I have made no such claim have I? Swedens higher number of deaths can partially be explained by the greater number of elderly and by the fact that they did not defend their care homes. But that their higher number of deaths is solely due to that aspect is not something I have tried to argue

        Tonyb

      • Tony –

        > But I have made no such claim have I? Swedens higher number of deaths can partially be explained by the greater number of elderly and by the fact that they did not defend their care homes.

        Sweden, cases per million =9,700.

        Shaf do you suppose the cases per million is in Norway, in Denmark, in Finland?

        How do you think their testing per capita compares to other Nordic countries?

        Do you think that less testing per capita yet more cases per capita might help explain why deaths there per capita are many times what they are in other Nordic countries?

      • TonyB, the three countries have about the same population composition, but Sweden has about twice as many inhabitants as Norway and Denmark. If x% of the elderly die and there are 1 million elderly in Denmark and Norway and 2 million in Sweden, then explain to me, so even a child can understand, why Norway has 275 deaths, while Sweden has 5894.

      • Rune

        Please reread my post at 6.59. Sweden has more old people who are more prone to death. A disproportionately high amount died in care homes and in care at home compared to the other Scandinavian countries. I have never said that was the whole reason for the disparity.

        tonyb

      • >>A disproportionately high amount died in care homes and in care at home compared to the other Scandinavian countries.

        That is the Swedish excuse, in Norway 238 of the 275 deaths are all over 70 years, 177 over 80 years and the vast majority in nursing homes or hospitals. In my hometown we had an outbreak in August as a result of the opening of the universities, after a month the infection crept into a retirement home, 3 new deaths. And this despite the fact that employees are now trained to protect themselves and the patients against Covid and are frequently tested.

        In Sweden, in the first several weeks, they did not have enough masks, test equipment or protective gear for the employees, and let the nurses take public transport to and from work, and this at the same time as everyone knew there was a big outbreak going on.

        After some months, it could have been prudent to run the Swedish startegie. Now the equipment and routines are in place, and there are also effective medicines that work on large groups of Covid patients. In Norway, we are now seeing an increase in the number of cases of infection and this has been going on for a few weeks, but we only have 24 hospitalized and only 4 of them in intensive care.

      • Rune

        I am concerned about care homes. I was concerned to see that our area, which has a very small number of cases, had suddenly experienced a spike in cases of over 100%

        On looking at it that was entirely due to 12 new cases in a care home which has 24 hour emergency care. So the people there are very vulnerable. More needs to be done to protect residents and the workers who go from one home to another

        Tonyb

      • Can Rune or Joshua explain Belgium? France? The UK? Those would be the places that locked down tightly and had terrible death tolls.

        By the way, you all know that Denmark was “locked down” for a month, right? The country locked down in March at the same time as the US (my schools and office closed at the end of the day on March 13 in the US) and reopened in April.
        https://www.ft.com/content/ca2f127e-698a-4274-917f-cbe2231a08d7

        But… masks!
        Nope:
        https://www.thelocal.dk/20200729/face-masks-still-not-necessary-in-denmark-health-agency-director

        Now watch “team science!” handwave

      • jeffnsails850,

        The UK “lockdown” was imposed on 23rd March. As you would expect, deaths peaked 14th April.

        Denmark “Lockdown” on 13th March. Deaths peaked slightly earlier, again, as you would expect, and much lower.

        In Sweden, measures started to be imposed 11th March, but not so strict. As you would expect, the deaths peak whilst broader than UK was not so high.

        Conclusion: the UK late lockdown at a time when the doubling time was ~3.5 days led to the biggest deaths spike of the three The Sweden laxer, but earlier measures led to a broader but lower peak.

        Denmark, with an early hard lockdown suffered far less deaths than either.

        Whilst cautious of oversimplifying, the conclusion seems pretty clear: locking down hard and early reduces initial death tolls. This is essentially universal worldwide btw, but these three countries offer a nice exemplar. It’s too early to say if the laxer Swedish approach is better in principle, but to date it seems to have been more deadly than harder measures elsewhere, even before taking into account whether or not the high level of compliance would be achieved elsewhere.

        On masks, who knows what your point is. Masks are only a part of wider measures to reduce transmission, and how much difference they make seems hard to deconvolute from everything else going on. Most experts seem to think they’re worthwhile, but beyond that, hard to say in any quantitative way.

      • Comparative death rates from here

        https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data-explorer?zoomToSelection=true&time=2020-03-06..latest&country=GBR~SWE~DNK&region=World&deathsMetric=true&interval=smoothed&perCapita=true&smoothing=7&pickerMetric=location&pickerSort=asc

      • VTG, that “to date” is a key qualifier. What would be a scientific process by which an unexposed population – in region where people travel – can escape the spread of a highly contagious virus?
        There is a process for exposed populations escaping, but not unexposed.

        This is also a comparison that is obviously used selectively. If we’re talking about the low death toll in Texas vs New York, Joshua will tell you the Texans are about to be killed by the governor who is irresponsibly reopening. If we’re talking about Denmark, then of course nobody will ever die there even though all the bars were re-opened in April and nobody is wearing a mask. The virus being activated somehow by reduced taxation.

        Why is the official count of cases and death toll so much lower in Denmark than Sweden? When we stop injecting politics it will be interesting to find out but, to date, the best answer is because the official counts are wrong at one of the two places or both and there is, of course, plenty of evidence of that.

      • I’d like to address this specifically as well:

        “The UK “lockdown” was imposed on 23rd March. As you would expect, deaths peaked 14th April.

        Denmark “Lockdown” on 13th March. Deaths peaked slightly earlier, again, as you would expect, and much lower.

        In Sweden, measures started to be imposed 11th March, but not so strict. As you would expect, the deaths peak whilst broader than UK was not so high.

        Conclusion: the UK late lockdown at a time when the doubling time was ~3.5 days led to the biggest deaths spike of the three The Sweden laxer, but earlier measures led to a broader but lower peak.”

        Belgium officially locked down March 18- five days before the UK and five days after Denmark – and was the worst in all of the world in terms of death toll.
        “Measures started to be imposed” (closures, cancellations of meetings etc) in Brussels as early as March 4.
        And then, of course, we have the question of the definition of lockdown.
        In my state, Virginia, the governor’s official lockdown order came March 30 The reality was that order came 17 days after the state had already locked down. We were notified at the end of the day Friday, March 13, that our kids would not go to school the following Monday and I would not return to my office. The kids have not been back to school since that day and I have not been back to the office.
        So, when was lockdown?
        It depends – if you have a desire to say Virginia locked down “late” you are free to use March 30. If you want to praise the virtuous Virginians for “measures started to be imposed” you can use March 13.

      • Rune, tonyb, verytallguy, and jeffnsails850, that was a pretty good exchange.

        As with comparisons among New York, Georgia, Florida, Texas and California, I am not seeing a lot of clarity emerging from these cross-geographic comparisons.

      • Jeff

        “Why is the official count of cases and death toll so much lower in Denmark than Sweden? When we stop injecting politics it will be interesting to find out but, to date, the best answer is because the official counts are wrong at one of the two places or both and there is, of course, plenty of evidence of that.”

        Sorry, but this is clearly wrong. All the evidence (deaths, cases, hospitalisations, rate of change of these) points to a hugely lower death toll in Denmark to date. It’s very clearly not about counting. Basic epidemiology on the other hand (time of restrictions being imposed, level of distancing achieved) seems to give a very clear and simple explanation.

        What nobody can say yet is what the “best” response would be, it’s far too early, depends on the progress of vaccines and treatments, and surely varies per locality anyway.

        But what can be said, with very great certainty, is that the approach in Denmark has been perhaps an order of magnitude better in terms of deaths avoided to date.

        [on your separate Belgium point, Belgium does have a very different approach to attributing deaths than anywhere else. Very similar arguments apply to France and Belgium as to UK. But I will stick to UK/Swe/Denmark so as not to get into too much detail as to obscure the main points]

      • matthew

        “As with comparisons among New York, Georgia, Florida, Texas and California, I am not seeing a lot of clarity emerging from these cross-geographic comparisons.”

        I guess it depends what you mean by clarity. I see

        1) Social distancing is the only effective tool we have to suppress the virus, and if paired with a highly effective test, track and trace programme high levels of suppression or even near total elimination is possible (South Korea, Taiwan, NZ; we will see how Finland, Germany do with the 2nd wave after doing very well first time around).

        2) If the virus is allowed to get out of control, very high death rates will follow very quickly.

        3) Localities which suppress the virus effectively tend to suffer least economic damage as well as the least deaths.

        4) There is no evidence of herd immunity anywhere in the Western world suppressing the virus, even where 1st wave infections were at their highest (London, Madrid, now NYC seeing 2nd waves).

        Sure, it’s complicated and there are confounding factors, but there are some pretty clear messages coming through. And one big unknown which we should be planning for a way through – as strategy to date has become “hold on for a vaccine”.

        How many deaths and how much more societal disruption and damage will we see if the hope of an early vaccine is not fulfilled?

      • VTG
        “Sorry, but this is clearly wrong. All the evidence (deaths, cases, hospitalisations, rate of change of these) points to a hugely lower death toll in Denmark to date.”

        I certainly could be wrong, but I note that you post that in the same comment where you concede a massive variation in how deaths are counted. And I’d point to the New York Times article of July 30 that shows all of the EU dramatically undercounting deaths based on an analysis they did of excess mortality.
        I think both of us are wrong, the question is to what degree. I don’t know the percent in variation due to difference in case and death counts and – once again – there’s no scientific explanation why a highly contagious virus would hop/skip over Denmark just because it locked down – like Belgium – for a month.
        So lockdown date ain’t it either.
        The Wall Street Journal today has another story on Covid- noting that with the advent of the “second wave” in Europe the one thing they aren’t going to do again is lockdown.
        Evidently Europe doesn’t think lockdown date was the answer.
        I don’t care where you fall on the question of herd immunity, but it seems self evident that any nation that had very limited exposure to the virus in the first wave is more likely to be in for a tough ride with the second.
        Trace? I have a neighbor whose daughter dates a football player at one of the big universities. 25 team members and coaches tested positive for the virus last month. None of them knew they had it. None of them would have known they had it without the strict testing requirements of NCAA football. Which means the rest of the school’s 30,000 students probably have it at the same rate but nobody knows and, officially, that isn’t true. So those who want to poiticize can say the official stats show the spread is much less in the English Department than the football team, though everyone knows that’s bunk.
        You can’t trace that a statewide or nationwide scale unless you test every one every day and expect that people who won’t even get sick from the virus will happily submit to that ordeal and pay for it (whether via taxes or out of pocket). What you can do is tell people to keep their distance from granny, even in Denmark where you’re much more likely to have this virus than anyone official is saying.

      • Jeff,

        Sure there are differences in reporting, but between Denmark and Sweden there’s an order of magnitude. Literally nobody credible believes anything other than there is a massive difference.

        You don’t seem to be able to accept simple facts. Alas, this is a theme on this site.

        Then you finalé with this:

        “even in Denmark where you’re much more likely to have this virus than anyone official is saying.”

        Conspiracy theories may or may not impress denizens here, but outside of a bubble like this, you’ll just not get listened to.

        I think we’re done.

  12. I submitted a post, but it seems to have disappeared, I’m making another attempt.

    These are the data for Sweden, Denmark and Norway:
    Deaths per million inhabitants, 583, 115 and 51, respectively.
    New deaths last 30 days; 50, 38 and 9, respectively
    New daily infected last week; 466, 386 and 157, respectively

    And the economy: “When the Swedes in March chose a different path than almost all other European countries in the face of the coronavirus, the goal was not least to avoid the economic blow that a full shutdown would bring. Now it is the first figures for the Swedish economy In the second quarter, ie the months of April, May and June, they show that this strategy has far from proved as successful as the authorities in the country would probably have wished. In Sweden, gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 8.6 per cent in the second quarter, compared with the first quarter, preliminary figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB) show.

    https://www.nettavisen.no/okonomi/stjernesmell-for-svenskenes-okonomi/3424001342.html

    And another extremely serious consequence of the Swedish strategy:

    “Exhaustion, post-traumatic stress disorder and covid-19. After seven tough months with coviddisease, medical staff are alerting that they are exhausted. Over 4,700 have been injured at work. Hundreds are resigning. The number of cases is still higher than normal,” Expressen’s survey shows. “Tough. People are tired, worn out. Many have not had a real holiday. I’m worried about a second wave,” says Jens Odsvall, assistant nurse at Södersjukhuset. ”

    https://www.expressen.se/nyheter/larmet-fran-varden-vi-orkar-inte-mer-/

  13. Sabine Schnittger

    I think this is a great post, and an excellent, throughtful essay by Matt Ridley.
    I am dismayed at some of the responses, which seem to want to get into the rights and wrongs of Covid policy. I don’t think that’s the point of the essay – the point is that there is no absolute scientific truth, certainly at this stage of the epidemic, and that this part of the rough road to getting to some kind of consensus (if that is possible).

  14. Thank you for sharing this article. The bottom line is right on the mark: “Do your own research!” However, most people, including scientists, have never been taught the principles of causation, which include the fact that every time you ask why you always find at least two causes: One action cause and one or more conditional causes. As you continue to ask why, this sequence explodes into an infinite set of causes. Because most human thinking just follows the action causes, they miss the reality of what is actually happening. Science is about finding the unknown causes at the point of ignorance, where you don’t know the next set of causes. And because Reality is so complicated, it is not knowable and the best we can do is create a common reality, where ALL players (experts or not) get to provide their perceptions of evidenced-based causal relationships. Because so few people understand these fundamental principles of causation, we continue to just fumble along. So sad!

    • Do you really claim that the universities of the world do not teach the principles of causation? Or that a particular development can have several causes, and that the whole point of good science is to quantify the weight of the various causes.

      I thought this was completely elementary. On the other hand I notice that the skeptical side of the climate debate makes completely unreasonable demands for evidence to accept the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and warming. This despite the fact that the assumption is based on 200 years of physical theory, and taht what’ s happening now was predicted already 50 years ago. Einstein had it much easier, when Eddington presented the measurement after the total solar eclipse on May 29, 1919, Einstein became a pop star since his theory was considered “proven.” But for all we know, it was not the mass of the sun but something completely different that made the radiation from the star behind the sun to change direction. But in a hundred years no one has presented a better theory, just as in two hundred years no one has presented a better theory that explains that we probably have the fastest warming of the globe in many thousands of years.

      • Robert Starkey

        Science shows CO2 can warm the planet. It can’t define what the long term rate of warming will be in the actual earth system.

        There is great scientific debate regarding what the rate of warming will be associated additional CO2. There is even greater debate regarding at what will happen (positively and negatively) to the various regions of the globe’s climate at various rates of warming.

      • No, they don’t! If you can show me a single university textbook that lists the four principles of causation I would really appreciate it. Yes, they teach the “Notion” of causation, that A caused B and B caused C, etc. but that’s totally incorrect. Reality is not linear, but an infinite set of interconnected causes, far too complicated for humankind to understand; hence, why we do see it. Good science needs to follow all the causes and understands that every conclusion is a conditional one because the purpose of those who follow is to prove your conclusion wrong.

      • >>>There is great scientific debate regarding what the rate of warming will be associated additional CO2. There is even greater debate regarding at what will happen (positively and negatively) to the various regions of the globe’s climate at various rates of warming.

        There we have no disagreement and personally I think we will fix this but that there is no reason to wait to address the issues. In any case, it is only an advantage to get out of the fossil fuel age as soon as possible, it’s so primitive. It will require effort and innovation, it is just a pity that the West and especially the United States, are dragging their feet so that we risk having to buy the technology from China, it should have been the other way around. But a lot of positive things are already happening, Tesla is one of them, when you compare Tesla’s technology with a traditional internal combustion engine, you just have to ask yourself why we did not do this 30 years ago.

      • joe - the non climate scientist

        Rune’s comment – ” But in a hundred years no one has presented a better theory, just as in two hundred years no one has presented a better theory that explains that we probably have the fastest warming of the globe in many thousands of years.”

        The resolution of the data/proxies is way to low to ascertain the validity of your statement with any level of confidence.

        The prior thread is more appropriate for your comment “How we fool ourselves”.

      • >>>>The resolution of the data/proxies is way to low to ascertain the validity of your statement with any level of confidence.

        Well, the proxy data is starting to get pretty extensive so we can at least say something with some degree of certainty for the last two thousand years. Science at this level is about probabilities, and it’s 21 years since MBH99 and PAGES2K have a much larger data base to build on:

        https://europepmc.org/article/med/31372180

        And I am not familiar with scientific articles or other quality material that refutes these conclusions. What is the basis of your bombastic statement? You have so far only made a claim.

      • joe the non climate scientists -

        Rune ‘s comment – “Well, the proxy data is starting to get pretty extensive so we can at least say something with some degree of certainty for the last two thousand years. Science at this level is about probabilities, and it’s 21 years since MBH99 and PAGES2K have a much larger data base to build on:”

        Your original comment was that -“…that we probably have the fastest warming of the globe in many thousands of years.”

        This is a good start for ascertaining the quality of the reconstructions –
        https://climateaudit.org/?s=pages2k

        there seems to be a strong refusal of the guild to acknowledge the errors and limitations of the reconstructions after 20+ years .

      • Joe - the non climate scientist

        Rune –

        another good article pointing out the some of the problems in the pages 2k

        https://co2coalition.org/2020/05/03/global-mean-temperature-flattens-the-past/.

        in summary, both the resolution of the proxies and the various methodologies render any conclusion as to the rate of warming to be of limited insight.

      • Rune Valakar: On the other hand I notice that the skeptical side of the climate debate makes completely unreasonable demands for evidence to accept the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and warming.

        I think that is a false statement. Once you accept that extra CO2 in the atmosphere can cool the stratosphere and warm the troposphere, and that spatio-temporally averaged global mean temperature has warmed along with increased rainfall and increased CO2, many other claims are full of holes, such as how much warming is due to CO2, how much warming can be prevented, at what cost, and how damaging the increase has been (if any). There is an acceptable case for increased measurement of all aspects of climate, no case for ridding the economy of electrical power from natural gas — and in between those points, less and less of a case for more and more expensive “solutions”.

      • Blog posts on Climate Audit or CO2 Coalition are not a rebutal of the work of PAGES 2K.

      • >>> no case for ridding the economy of electrical power from natural gas ….

        We need natural gas in an intermediate phase as renewables hardly can replace carbon-based energy, this unless a revolution in storage technology should appear, anyway I do not want the world covered with wind turbines and solar panels. What is needed is a massive coordinated Western R & D in nuclear power, something the coal and the oil lobby have has messed up, with the consequence that we risk buying this from the Chinese.

      • joe - the non climate scientist

        Rune’s comment in response to my comment re climate audit, Steve McIntyre
        “Rune Valaker | October 13, 2020 at 1:04 pm |
        Blog posts on Climate Audit or CO2 Coalition are not a rebutal of the work of PAGES 2K.

        My prior comment remains an appropriate response –

        This is a good start for ascertaining the quality of the reconstructions –””
        https://climateaudit.org/?s=pages2k

        there seems to be a strong refusal of the guild to acknowledge the errors and limitations of the reconstructions after 20+ years .

  15. Steve McIntyre (remember ClimateAudit?) has an interesting take on US Covid-19 data …

    “increasingly clear that US aggregate COVID statistics are, in statistical terms. a mixture of three main waves in different regions, not uniform nationally. First in NY-NJ, then southern states, now northern interior. Each region has distinctive gamma-type curve; avg is MIXTURE”

  16. Thanks for the free excerpts. The more homework I do, the more confused I get.

    I don’t know anyone in my circle of friends and family who have become infected and question the number of fatalities. 
    Researchers say anywhere from 25 percent to 80 percent of people with COVID-19 are unaware they have the virus. 
    https://www.healthline.com/health-news/50-percent-of-people-with-covid19-not-aware-have-virus

    I fear most the economic and social impact of lockdowns. Wear a mask in enclosed places, social distance, wash your hands often, and stay home if you’re sick…fairly simple rules.

    IMO, most important is to get back to work, school, and most of whatever you did before this started.

    Lastly, finger pointing is for politicians.

    • joe - - the non epidemiologist

      “IMO, most important is to get back to work, school, and most of whatever you did before this started.”
      You comment encompasses the economic costs-

      Approaching it only from a human development standpoint.
      An individual needs to reach certain milestones, otherwise their development becomes stunted.
      From learning to crwal
      learning to walk
      learning to read
      learning arithmetic,
      reaching puberty

      failure to reach these milestones within a normal time in the growing up results in long term setbacks in developing needed skills.

      The same is true of developing the human immune system.

      intentionally retarding the development of the human immune system by trying to hide from the virus will have long term negative consequences on the human race.

  17. Matthew R Marler

    One of the question for which we do not have a reliable answer: Which cross-country comparisons are informative for US policy?

  18. Anecdotal: 13% more deaths in NY over Texas from Covid-19, but NY has 19.5 million population compared to Texas’ 30 million population, so Texas per capita death toll is much lower. Texas keeps more of its economy open than NY. New York is the second slowest state to recover COVID lost jobs. Cuomo is more concerned about making COVID numbers look better, even if the economy be damned, politics trumps all. https://www.governing.com/work/New-York-Second-Slowest-State-to-Recover-COVID-Lost-Jobs.html

  19. Judith, why is my comment being moderated and held? It’s the same one I made on twitter.

  20. Here it is: Ridley extolls Sweden’s response to the pandemic, “They decided to forgo a lockdown, and fewer than 6,000 have died there,” but that’s 57.9 deaths per 100k population, 14th worst among world countries: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality

    Very deceptive.

  21. As far as I am concerned – doing your homework requires 10,000 hours of background sufficient to critically compare, contrast and synthesise published science. Feynman may have taken himself refreshingly lightly – but his guess was an educated one.

    “When social control, change or conformance agents subject science to a state of being their lap-dog, serving specific agendas, such agents err in regard to the philosophical basis of science, skepticism. They are not bad scientists, rather bad philosophers, seeking a socialized goal. They are social skeptics.” https://theethicalskeptic.com/2015/04/22/the-deontologically-accurate-basis-of-the-term-social-skepticism/

  22. Ridley’s article is obviously ridiculous and ideologically-motivated, similar to his other commentary on climate science. So it’s unsurprising that Judith Curry treats his article as being brilliant. For example, Ridley writes:

    “An epidemiological model developed last March at Imperial College London was treated by politicians as hard evidence that without lockdowns, the pandemic could kill 2.2 million Americans, 510,000 Britons and 96,000 Swedes. The Swedes tested the model against the real world and found it wanting: They decided to forgo a lockdown, and fewer than 6,000 have died there.”
    https://archive.is/j2Ert#selection-2231.0-2231.367

    That’s deceptive. Ferguson et al.’s Imperial College paper did not project 96,000 COVID-19 deaths for Sweden. It doesn’t even mention Sweden, with the paper’s focus being primarily on Great Britain and the USA (“GB” and “US”, respectively):

    “In the (unlikely) absence of any control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behaviour, we would expect a peak in mortality (daily deaths) to occur after approximately 3 months (Figure 1A). In such scenarios, given an estimated R0 of 2.4, we predict 81% of the GB and US populations would be infected over the course of the epidemic.
    […]
    In total, in an unmitigated epidemic, we would predict approximately 510,000 deaths in GB and 2.2 million in the US, not accounting for the potential negative effects of health systems being overwhelmed on mortality.”

    Click to access 2020-03-16-COVID19-Report-9.pdf

    Moreover, the projected COVID-19 deaths of “2.2 million Americans [and] 510,000 Britons” was for an unmitigated pandemic with no additional public health interventions and no changes in behavior; i.e. under the baseline conditions of R0, as per above. In contrast to that unmitigated scenario, Sweden experienced a mitigated outbreak with public health interventions and behavior changes; i.e. Sweden continued under non-baseline conditions of Rt, not R0. Sweden’s modifications included a large reduction in mobility (ex: more people working from home), closing high schools, closing down large gatherings, etc.:

    https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa864/5866094
    https://www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se/the-public-health-agency-of-sweden/communicable-disease-control/covid-19/
    page 29: https://static-content.springer.com/esm/art%3A10.1038%2Fs41586-020-2405-7/MediaObjects/41586_2020_2405_MOESM1_ESM.pdf

    Click to access 2020.05.27.20114272v1.full.pdf


    http://archive.is/yo5Ac

    Click to access 2004.09087.pdf


    http://archive.is/rk1dQ#selection-3637.0-3893.22
    http://archive.is/OJupR#selection-1387.0-1513.5
    http://archive.is/NvRhX#selection-4538.1-4538.2

    So Ridley offered a deceptive, apples-to-oranges comparison. No, it’s not an honest mistake on Ridley’s part, since right-wing contrarians like him have been repeatedly corrected on this distortion for months, yet they keep peddling it anyway since it suits their preferred narrative.

    In addition to their unmitigated scenario, Ferguson et al. had a mitigated scenario involving a lockdown. That scenario “under-estimated” the number of COVID-19 deaths that actually occurred in Great Britain’s observed lockdown:

    “I think he means that Ferguson et al assumed a doubling time of 5 days at a time when a fit to available data would have shown it to be less than 3 days. This meant that they may have under-estimated R0, which in turn may explain why the current UK deaths exceed Ferguson’s forecasts for the lockdown scenario.”
    https://archive.is/8B7ZI#selection-595.0-619.21

    That’s not surprising, since Ferguson et al. either under-estimated R or got it about right; i.e. SARS-CoV-2 is more contagious than, or about as contagious as, Ferguson et al. thought. Ken Rice and James Annan pointed out this under-estimation of R before, as have others:

    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.18.20135004v1
    https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/10/15/5162/htm [see section 6.1]

    Moreover, Ferguson et al. under-estimated the infection fatality rate [IFR], which represents the proportion of SARS-CoV-2 infected people that die of COVID-19:

    Ferguson et al.:
    “[…] when applied to the [Great Britain] population result in an IFR of 0.9% […]”

    Click to access 2020-03-16-COVID19-Report-9.pdf

    Observed seroprevalence-based IFR, including taking age-stratification into account:
    England, 1.4%: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.23.20160895v6 [supplementary table S2(a) of: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.12.20173690v2.supplementary-material ]
    UK / England, 0.8% – 1%: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(20)30135-3 [ https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1201971220321809 ]

    That makes it even more laughable that right-wing ideologues like Ridley continue to pretend that Ferguson et al. exaggerated the risk of COVID-19. If anything, Ferguson et al. under-estimated the risk, though they were in the right ballpark by showing COVID-19 was way more dangerous than the seasonal flu, with its lower R0 and IFR of <0.1%.

    This illustrates the problem with Judith Curry, Nic Lewis, and so many other right-wing, ideologically-motivated, non-expert contrarians: they don't bother to fact-check nor to evaluate on the basis of science/evidence, but instead just applaud whatever debunked, non-expert narrative uses buzzwords they like. And Ridley clearly knows how to appeal to their confirmation bias, as he peddles ludicrous falsehoods on COVID-19, climate science, etc.

    There are other misleading and/or deceptive claims in Ridley's article. But I'm not going to slog through all of them now. It's not like most of those who buy Ridley's claims are honestly interested in evidence anyway; most of them just want cover for the ideologically-comforting narrative he provides them.

    • I generally agree with your science, but your ranting about “right-wing” ideologues is off base. For one thing, I’m right wing and yet I disagree with most COVID skeptics.

      Also: “This illustrates the problem with Judith Curry, Nic Lewis, and so many other right-wing, ideologically-motivated, non-expert contrarians”

      Judith Curry *is* an expert – former chair of the Atmospheric Sciences Department at Georgia Tech, and a climatologist.

      While I think that being on the right, and thus more freedom oriented than those on the left these days can lead one into a bias against COVID19 mitigations, your attack here suggests more emotion than logic.

      Please – stick to the science. And, given the ranting, I’d expect your sources to be cherry picked. Still, they’re useful.

      • meso –

        > but your ranting about “right-wing” ideologues is off base. For one thing, I’m right wing and yet I disagree with most COVID skeptics.

        That would make you not a right-wing ideologue.

      • Robert Starkey

        Meso

        What is a covid sceptic per you

      • Meso,

        It is possible to believe that COVID 19 is an existential threat and also believe that the government in the USA has no constitutional authority to order lockdowns, etc. I do not believe COVID 19 is an existential threat, but even if I did the rule of law and Constitutional principles still apply. History is clear that it is during periods of claimed national emergency that we need these principles the most.

      • Robert Starkey

        Meso
        I don’t mean the question as a shot. There is a wide range of potential covid responses at an individual and governmental level.

        You employed covid skeptic. In the spirit of Judith, what does that mean about the questioner?

    • No, the ICL work was wrong in practically every respect. If even the disaster zone surrounding Ferguson isn’t bad science in your eyes I wonder what could ever be. Your response – attacking anyone who expects basic scientific standards as “ideological” – is exactly the problem with our society and why science hardly seems to improve over time.

      First, Sweden. Ferguson’s paper applied the model he had described in a paper some years earlier to the UK and predicted huge death rates if no lockdown. Another team implemented what was supposedly that same model and applied it to Sweden, it proceeded to predict huge death rates as well if there was no lockdown. Which didn’t come even close to being true.

      This is no surprise because Prof Ferguson later said that the basic conclusion of huge death rates was very simple and literally “any model” would have predicted the same thing.

      Theoretically scientific models are described by papers, so what the Swedish team did is perfectly legitimate and it’s fair to say that the output would be the output of “ICL’s model”. But a major problem with ICL’s work is that when studied carefully their paper turned out to be vague, and when they released the source code of their implementation of it, it was not only implementing a rather different model with many other features, but it was also filled with severe data corruption bugs and had over 400 parameters. That is far too many parameters for a model to have. The bugs meant the model produced different answers every time you ran it (even with fixed seeds) and the differences were larger than the UK death rate. Even so, someone took their code and adjusted its parameters for the Swedish population. They couldn’t get it to predict fewer than 90,000 deaths no matter what they tried.

      Given that in Ferguson’s words “any” model would have predicted disaster for Sweden and no disaster occurred, Sweden falsifies not only the ICL model but literally all epidemic models, because Ferguson’s point appeared to be sound – there didn’t appear to be any published models that were even slightly close to predicting reality.

      Epidemiology has been totally destroyed by what happened with no-lockdown countries like Sweden, Belarus, South Dakota and others. That’s why there’s now this blizzard of denial from people who are ideologically committed to ideas like “scientific consensus”, and why they’re so desperate to shift the narrative to “but Finland had fewer deaths” (so far). Who cares? The absolute numbers are tiny everywhere so what matters is whether the predictions that drove lockdowns were correct, and now we know the answer. There was scientific consensus. Then there were no mass deaths. The consensus was wrong. The “scientists” who came up with these predictions have gone into denial and aren’t updating their models in response to their invalidation. Science isn’t working.

    • Atomsk’s Sanakan: So Ridley offered a deceptive, apples-to-oranges comparison. No, it’s not an honest mistake on Ridley’s part, since right-wing contrarians like him have been repeatedly corrected on this distortion for months, yet they keep peddling it anyway since it suits their preferred narrative.

      thank you for your post. I have been looking forward to another of your posts.

      But surely you understand that COVID-19 epidemiology is not comparable in any way to apples and oranges. cf Foundations of Measurement, I by Krantz, Luce, Suppes and Tversky.

  23. “…science is prevented from turning into religion not by asking scientists to challenge their own theories but by getting them to challenge each other, sometimes with gusto…”

    Yeah. And a sign that it’s turned, or at least is turning, into a religion, is a heavily policed consensus.

  24. What pandemic?!

  25. Researchers surprised: 20% of Chicagoans in blood-test study came up positive for coronavirus antibodies
    https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-coronavirus-antibody-testing-chicago-rate-northwestern-20201009-jxzpyewzlrcgnny2fyflupqdcq-story.html
    Reminded me what daily case reports are telling us?
    https://maps.cookcountyil.gov/medexamcovid19/
    Look at the above deaths curve. I don’t do functions. Still I watch Sean Carroll explain QM. On the 10 video so far. Cook County. It’s over. They have population of about 5 million, same as MN. I feel small. Compared to MN they got their butt kicked in deaths. They are a major node. My point is 20% and the not Gompertz function because of mathy stuff. Why am I wrong when I bring up someone we read said a number not too far from 20%.

    • The funnier surprise is those frozen samples from October/November/December of 2019, that are also giving a “positive” chemical reaction final result for “RNA SARS-CoV-2”!

  26. Welcome back Atomsk’s. I thought the virus had taken you out. We can now unite the country and end this virus. And finally restore all the credibility science has lost.

  27. Horatio S. Wildman

    Thanks for posting. I mostly agree, but have a different opinion of models. Mathematical models are not guesses. They are what if tools. A mathematical model makes assumptions (call them guesses) and asks the question if these things are true what is the mathematical conclusion. The op ed states that the Sabine, van Esland, O’Hare model was treated as evidence that without lockdowns x number of people would die. No, it wasn’t treated that way and it didn’t make that claim. In fact it said nothing about government ordered lockdowns. A lockdown is not a mathematical parameter. What was modeled was such things as the degree of home isolation after infection, the degree of quarantine by exposed family of the infected, the degree of social distancing, etc. . A mathematically correct model can only be wrong if the assumptions are wrong. Were the assumptions wrong? Maybe not. As pointed out later in the op ed, people in Sweden were encouraged to self protect without government mandate. They may have satisfied parameters in the model by practicing more social distancing than normal. Whatever Sweden has been doing has not been as successful as Norway. Sweden has had 11.5 times as many deaths per million as Norway.

  28. “bias, overconfidence and politics can sometimes lead scientists astray”

    Climate science too;

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/10/11/antarctica-ice-melt-sea-level-rise-2020/

  29. Deep sigh: “The only way to be absolutely sure that one scientific pronouncement is reliable and another is not is to examine the evidence yourself.”

    Is this author kidding? At some point one has to make the decision about who to trust. Comparing two administrations: Dutch and the US. I trust the representatives of the respective CDC (RIVM). i do not know if they are right.
    But do the research myself?

    Things are getting worse in the Netherlands and it was humbling for our PM to admit that at the moment the stats are worse than the US. We were doing pretty good without the face masks except on public transport. But people got complacent. The news stopped showing that histogram. ” Out of sight, out of mind” . This is human behavior. Dare I say “social science”.

    This article is just an excuse for the lucky not to do anything.

    • Examining the evidence is not an easy matter but we might be able to establish that we are not being given the evidence. In climate science melting ice is often quoted as the evidence. Prince William and Kate were doing exactly that in a TV programme last week. Melting ice is just evidence of warming, perhaps just locally. It does not provide any clue as what is causing the warming. This simple example shows how easily people are made to believe in nonsense and get a celebrity to promote it and it soon becomes fact.

      When people make statements they are not providing evidence This is true of social distancing and mask wearing. The evidence to support the policies being forced on us is not being given by politicians and we should refuse to have this forced on us. I have seen no evidence to support either and what is available is mixed.

  30. Sweden is in no way a model to follow. 14th highest death rate per million in the world. Ten times the death rate per million than Norway, Finland and Denmark who all locked down. There is considerable debate within Sweden about their policy. They also have started their second wave.

    https://www.healthing.ca/opinion/munk-debate-did-sweden-get-its-coronavirus-strategy-right/wcm/559d650a-237c-4b14-a033-a59f565b8c33

    • Norway and Denemark had no lock down. The schools were closed, and this was contrary to the advice from FHI (the national health authority), but first the municipalities started to do it locally and then national guidelines were asked for, so it was politically decided that they should close. In retrospect, the government has acknowledged that it was one of the mistakes made in the beginning. Otherwise, most were open, cinemas, fitness center, theaters, organized sports and pubs were closed. But restaurants and cafes were open with requirements for distance between tables, etc. Now most things are normalized, but in the event of local outbreaks, local measures are implemented.

    • They started their second wave of what?

    • What’s the problem with Sweden deaths being around 6,000?!

      My country has had for the last 11 years around 6,000 deaths of pneumonia alone and NO ONE CARES!

      And, FUN FACT, we have the same population number. Sweden ~10.343.403, Portugal 10.187.579!

      So, stop watching TV, go out, enjoy Life, while you have it! Be careful of Cars…

      Those types of reaction are just MSM induced trauma and fear…

  31. ITOTAL U.S. DEATHS [ALL CAUSES]:
    2017 Total Deaths US: 2,813,503 (234,000/month)
    https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db328.htm

    2018 Total Deaths US: 2,839,205 (237,000/month)
    https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db355.htm

    2019 Total Deaths US: 2,855,000 (238,000/month)
    https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/provisional-tables.htm

    2020 Total Deaths US (jan – week 9/26): 2,130,000 (236,000/month)
    https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Weekly-Counts-of-Deaths-by-State-and-Select-Causes/muzy-jte6

    2,130,000 + (236,000/month x 3) [Oct, Nov, Dec] = 2,838,000 [assumption based on monthly avg]
    2020: 2,838,000 [3-month assumption insert]
    2019: 2,855,000
    2018: 2,839,000
    2017: 2,814,000

    So, where are all the 2020 covid deaths (210,000 plus) hiding?

    • The difference may be the number of hospitalized. Do you know the staggering number of people who are killed by medical malpractice every year? It was noted that Trump has had an extreme aversion to hospitals long before this COVID-19 infection. Lots of people have this aversion for good reason.

      “According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year from medical errors and negligence. This makes medical malpractice the third-leading cause of death in the United States.”

      • but, if I understand your point, the hospitalization should compensate for the covid deaths? Covid hospitalization was supposedly haphazard and should have caused an increase, but it is not there. Sounds like the 6000 plus deaths without comorbidity, as per recent CDC update, is the real number and disappears statistically in the projected overall deaths.

      • I was probably wrong to phrase it that way. Most of those deaths don’t actually happen in the hospital but in other settings. (assisted livings centers, hospice etc.)

        RE: CDC
        Are you prepared to gamble your health and possibly your life on CDC information now? Recent polling has both the FDA and CDC at record low levels of trust, especially republicans.

        We may be in something like a “Behavioral Sink” syndrome supercharged by social media connecting billions of humans brains guided by self re-enforcing algorithms. It’s hard to have Truth when you don’t have Trust.

    • The approximate 23,300 per month due with COVID-19, over 9 months, are hiding in the monthly averages. That’s about 10 % of the monthly averages for all deaths.

      Check by 2-month chunks, maybe 1-month is better?

    • Death rates are seasonal. We need to compare the entire year to previous years with flu season approaching.

      • it’s going to be interesting to do that- cardiologists and neurologists are reporting that there was basically a three month period at least with massive numbers of unreported and untreated strokes and heart attacks. Many of those were treatable and either have or will end in death.
        Plus suicides are spiking thanks to the media and state required fear, isolation and bankruptcy.

  32. Pingback: What the pandemic has taught us about science |

  33. jacksmith, re. trust in CDC: did we lose it since 2017, every year since, or only in 2020? I trust polling less than the CDC. Clearly discernible numbers are hard to challenge.

    • “Clearly discernible numbers are hard to challenge.”
      Tell me how would you verify the CDC information? The last Inspector General at the CDC was fired by Trump on May 2nd because they pointed out the internal problems the CDC had in ramping up the response to the pandemic. The CDC has made numerous changes in the last 9 months on how it collects, analyzes and selectively releases information. Sort of like the old accountant joke;
      Boss: What’s 2+2=
      Accountant: What do you want it to be?
      (Am I right? Ragnaar, I’m looking at you dude).

      • 2 + 2 = 4. But the IRS often sees things differently. Anyone can learn the basics to do accounting, that is bookkeeping, in high school and make a good living. I stick with death counts. The least bleeped up thing there is. What I should do is adjust them by age like actuaries do. In the real world, of money. But that involves more explantions and wanders off some. The CDS’s problem is, it doesn’t deal in money. The final word. The thing that makes us great. We can do anything with unlimited money. I will build a bridge to the Moon. End Joe Biden’s 45 years of systematic racism and Hunter’s self esteem problem and stupidty. But at alas like gravity, we have to obey money. Again, the Biden family does. And he’s going to lead the free world.
        Trump played this wrong. He for once backed off. And he’ll lose the election because of that. He should have fired everyone to start with and followed Sweden. He was trapped into thinking the Federal government should and could solve this. He lost to the virus. He did not lose the DNC as they are hapless and Biden belongs in a nursing home.
        The CDC is worthless. They should just stick to counting things. They can handle some small problems, but not ones like this.
        All this proves the libertarians were right. And are still right. Except for that one guy on the weekly Reason.com podcast who melted down about Trump last Monday. He expected Trump to save him. Like some H.S. girl who had her prom ruined.

      • I think a proper pandemic accounting should include deaths + reduced lifespans and (temporary?) lower birthrates. That should help balance the cost/benefit analysis.
        Speaking of accounting, if you are a retail landlord that has to swallow that unilateral CDC suspension of rent payments. It sure smells like socialism right now. I’m sure Biden, who has fought tirelessly to strip bankruptcy protection from Americans since the early 90s, will make it all good. His 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) hit the books just in time to condemn millions to financial ruin when the Great Recession hit. He maybe senile now but he was a force of nature back then. Too bad, so sad.

        Lets switch to MMT. I like how it treats historical tax deductions and adjustments to taxable incomes. There was always something fishy about not adding the adjustment back into the person/company net worth so the tax could be recaptured when the estate/corporation is dissolved.

  34. This is a very timely piece as many scientists are learning from earlier failures on managing the pandemic. As infection rates rise again, there is a wider appetite to protect those at risk and “manage the herd” (something we used to call a risk-based approach). Politicians though are very slow to admit failure leaving us vulnerable to, well, more failure.
    One lesson that needs to be learnt is the value of the field of history of science. Many of these failures had been learnt before.

  35. Since late August it has been a rare day when the Covid death rate in Sweden has been more than one or two. This to me is the most relevant data point.

    https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus/country/sweden?country=~SWE

  36. Here’s an extract from an interesting new article:

    This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic
    It’s not R.
    Zeynep Tufekci September 30, 2020 The Atlantic
    https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/09/k-overlooked-variable-driving-pandemic/616548/?utm_source=atl&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share
    {quote:]
    There’s something strange about this coronavirus pandemic. Even after months of extensive research by the global scientific community, many questions remain open.

    After nine months of collecting epidemiological data, we know that this is an overdispersed pathogen, meaning that it tends to spread in clusters, but this knowledge has not yet fully entered our way of thinking about the pandemic—or our preventive practices.

    There are COVID-19 incidents in which a single person likely infected 80 percent or more of the people in the room in just a few hours. But, at other times, COVID-19 can be surprisingly much less contagious. Overdispersion and super-spreading of this virus are found in research across the globe. A growing number of studies estimate that a majority of infected people may not infect a single other person. A recent paper found that in Hong Kong, which had extensive testing and contact tracing, about 19 percent of cases were responsible for 80 percent of transmission, while 69 percent of cases did not infect another person. This finding is not rare: Multiple studies from the beginning have suggested that as few as 10 to 20 percent of infected people may be responsible for as much as 80 to 90 percent of transmission, and that many people barely transmit it.

    This highly skewed, imbalanced distribution means that an early run of bad luck with a few super-spreading events, or clusters, can produce dramatically different outcomes even for otherwise similar countries.

    This kind of behavior, alternating between being super infectious and fairly noninfectious, is exactly what k captures, and what focusing solely on R hides. Samuel Scarpino, an assistant professor of epidemiology and complex systems at Northeastern, told me that this has been a huge challenge, especially for health authorities in Western societies, where the pandemic playbook was geared toward the flu—and not without reason, because pandemic flu is a genuine threat. However, influenza does not have the same level of clustering behavior.

    We can think of disease patterns as leaning deterministic or stochastic: In the former, an outbreak’s distribution is more linear and predictable; in the latter, randomness plays a much larger role and predictions are hard, if not impossible, to make. In deterministic trajectories, we expect what happened yesterday to give us a good sense of what to expect tomorrow. Stochastic phenomena, however, don’t operate like that—the same inputs don’t always produce the same outputs, and things can tip over quickly from one state to the other.
    [continues]

  37. It’s a really awkward “pandemic”… On the 5th of October the dudes from the WHO declared that the IFR for COVID-19 is 0,1%.

    Since the number of actual deaths directly connected to the alleged infection by RNA “SARS-CoV-2” are smaller than the official figures, seems that even that IFR of 0,1% is a gross overestimate!

  38. “In general, science is much better at telling you about the past and the present than the future.“

    Climate scientists have no super powers of prescience, any more than other scientists and experts. They are human and are prone to linear thinking, extrapolation, symmetry, order and elegance, just like everyone else. Black Swan events, discontinuities and unknown unknowns cannot be legislated away, despite our attempts and belief that we can control our destiny.

    Experts are notorious for not seeing the future and making wrong predictions and being let down by their models. During the Arab Spring, Zbigniew Brezinski, a well known International Policy expert, said on National TV that Egypt’s Mubarak would never leave. Literally, the next morning he was gone. The mathematical wizards at Long Term Capital had the perfect financial model, until it collapsed around them. Warren Buffet has lost billions on investments that went south and didn’t get into Amazon 20 years ago or Google 15 years ago. Pros were selling Apple in 1999 when its market cap was $10 Billion and weren’t able to see its $2 Trillion market cap of today.

    Lapses in our predictive capabilities are evident when CEOs are chosen by a board and not long after leave because of sexual harassment allegations. We struggle to know those around us and what they are capable of doing and at times have little insight into our own future behavior.

    Our weakness in predicting the future is surpassed only by our own inability to recognize our own fallibilities

    • >>“In general, science is much better at telling you about the past and the present than the future.“

      This is just a silly statement. Everybody, the press, authors, historians, sociologists, economists, farmers and carpenters will of course be able to give a better account of what has been experienced as opposed to what will happen in the future. Possible exceptions may be lawyers and Donald Trump.

      This is just a smart ass statement in an attempt to downtalk climate research and climate models, and is as meaningful as “It’s better to be healthy and rich, than the sick and the poor.”

      • You missed my broader point that experts are not any more qualified to make predictions than anyone else. They are experts on the was and is but not the will be. But since you brought up climate science let’s look at the failed predictions of the past.

        Those didn’t work out.

      • Neither did these work out.

        Siberia Great Britain

        10 feet sea level rise in decades

        All big fails

      • One will always find gross errors by pointing out certain articles or certain researchers. But in the bigger picture, has the various IPCC reports and their various predictions shown such gross errors. Climate sensitivity is probably in the range 1.5 – 4.5, Arctic sea ice continues to decrease, and at a pace faster than the IPCC has predicted. But it is easy to find individual researchers who claim that it should happen even faster. Sea level are developing within the outer limits predicted by the IPCC, etc. The climate models are the major topic of dispute and were in a bad state for a while, not so much anymore:

        https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-how-well-have-climate-models-projected-global-warming

        The question is whether this is useful and can provide pointers to future developments and not at least whether one can learn from previous mispredictions to make the next ones better. If not, what is the alternative procedure?

      • “One will always find gross errors…”

        Gross errors can be forgiven if they’re acknowledged. Look again at Hansen’s forecast of 3-4 degrees in warming between 1986 and 2020. And then remember that all of climate science asserts that Hansen’s prediction was “spot on.” The influential television news show 60 Minutes asserted just over a week ago that his forecast was exactly right.
        How do you fix the math behind a “gross error” if you deny there was any error?

      • > How do you fix the math behind a “gross error” if you deny there was any error?

        Anyone who wants a test gets a test.

      • jeffnsails850, when it comes to Hansen I am not familiar with his predictions from 1986, what has been discussed lately is Hansen’s 1988 paper, and that was a reasonable spot on:

        https://moyhu.blogspot.com/2016/11/update-check-on-hansens-1988-projections.html

      • joe - the non climate scientist

        Rune’s comment – “The climate models are the major topic of dispute and were in a bad state for a while, not so much anymore:”

        https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-how-well-have-climate-models-projected-global-warming.

        A) A citation to an agenda driven organization – doesnt instill confidence in their objectivity.

        B) The earth has been on a general warming trend since the end of the little ice. A model predicting a continuing warming trend really isnt that impressive. I think I am on pretty solid ground predicting continued growth in the US stock market for the long term future.

        C) Judith curry has done a admirable job dissecting the flaws in Hansens model

      • Josh- I can get a test. You can’t? There are several places around me that do testing- some with same day results. I never needed a test and don’t now. You know we’re testing more per capita than Europe, right? I mean you’re into testing enough to be aware of this, correct?
        Even when I had to spend a day in the ER for an injury (spider bite believe it or not) and get blood work they told me they had plenty of capacity to test for covid and test for antibodies but had no interest in doing it. They said I could buy one if I really wanted it.

        Rune- the man was telling the media after his 1988 presentation that the FDR freeway in New York City would be underwater by now. Once again, it’s okay to make that error and figure out how to get better, but when you pretend the error never happened it’s reasonable to be concerned about the willingness to fix the problem.

      • “Arctic sea ice continues to decrease, and at a pace faster than the IPCC has predicted.”

        RV

        My reaction is, so what. The IPCC knows there have been warm periods in the Arctic, as recently as 100 years ago. When you mentioned the Arctic, I thought about the bookmarks that I’ve accumulated over the last 10 years on studies, graphs, articles, etc, regarding natural variability in the Arctic. I’d lost track of how many so I just counted them. There were about 420. And then I’m sure I have as many for each of the other topics of interest to skeptics, such as sea levels, Antarctica, previous warm periods, Little Ice Age, etc.

        The problem with the IPCC predictions is that they don’t prove anything, given the evidence for the Holocene Thermal Maximum, Minoan, Roman and Medieval Warm Periods, and the Little Ice Age being one of the coldest, if not the coldest periods, of the Holocene. We were getting warmer anyway, with or without the help of CO2. Sea levels have been rising and glaciers have been melting since 1850, fully 100 years before CO2 had a significant effect, according to the IPCC. it doesn’t take much effort to paddle a canoe downstream.

      • A) A citation to an agenda driven organization – doesnt instill confidence in their objectivity.

        https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019GL085378

        And how will you respond to this paper, what about …. agenda driven scientists ….

        B) The earth has been on a general warming trend since the end of the little ice. A model predicting a continuing warming trend really isnt that impressive.

        BS, how cold was it during LIA compared to during MWP? 2C colder? 3C?

        C) Judith curry has done a admirable job dissecting the flaws in Hansens model

        News to me, show me.

      • “My reaction is, so what. The IPCC knows there have been warm periods in the Arctic, as recently as 100 years ago.”

        If you by this mean that the Arctic sea ice was as low (extent or volume) 100 years ago, then it is an insane statement.

        We Norwegians have been conducting economic activity in the Arctic for many hundreds of years. It is over a hundred years ago since Nansen let Fram freeze into the polar ice to conduct scientific measurements and drifted across the Arctic Ocean for three years.

        If you do not even acknowledge that polar ice has declined far beyond its natural variations over the past 50 years, you should be nominated for the “Denier of the Year” award. And that prize consists of a cruise on Le Commandant-Charcot, which departs from Reykjavik next year and will reach the North Pole, a completely impossible journey 100 years ago.

        https://www.ponant.com/le-commandant-charcot

      • joe - the non climate scientist

        Rune – in response to your comment not being familiar with Judith Curry’s comments regarding hansen’s projection – there is a search button top right of this blog – several articles

        https://judithcurry.com/2018/07/03/the-hansen-forecasts-30-years-later/

      • Rune

        Apples and oranges. How can you compare specially designed modern ice breakers built with hardened materials to the ships of even 50 years ago? This is the prize you are offering ceresco kid

        https://www.polarcruises.com/arctic/ships/luxury-expedition-ships/le-commandant-charcot-arctic/north-pole-iceland

        Not a mile from my home is a church wth two plaques. One commemorates the first arctic scientist, Scoresby, who was sent by the royal society to investigate the melting arctic in 1818 . The second plaque is to an unfortunate man called pengelly who died on the titanic in 1912 as the arctic melted from around 1908 to 1940.

        Who can know during these substantial meltings if they could have reached the geographic north pole if they had sonar, radar, satellite and a special ice breaking ship with modern hardened materials?

        I doubt if the meltings in either of those eras were as great as the very recent low points,but they were probably around the levels we saw during The 90’s and part of the 2000’s, excluding those very recent low points

        Presumably the Norwegian economic activity you write of would have included the Vikings, who would surely not have wanted to be sailing round perpetually ice filled oceans with their fragile wooden ships?

        Tonyb

      • To say that post shows “Judith curry has done a admirable job dissecting the flaws in Hansens model” is laughable.

        Firstly, it’s not by Curry.

        Secondly, it’s a very poor analysis, nicely showed up by the admirable Nick Stokes throughout the comments, summarised here https://judithcurry.com/2018/07/03/the-hansen-forecasts-30-years-later/#comment-876140

      • That blog post is only really notable for showing the tolerance for hate speech here, as Curry allows accusations of anti semitism against Hansen to remain unmoderated.

        (When previously pointed out, comments mentioning this *are* moderated, so this may well not survive long)

        https://judithcurry.com/2018/07/03/the-hansen-forecasts-30-years-later/#comment-876233

      • Vtg

        I only had a quick look and couldn’t see the comments you reference but I don’t doubt you . That would be disturbing.

        I see we have lost a number of good commenters over the last couple of years including jch and Eli and hope they may return at some point

        Tonyb

      • RV

        Do you have evidence that today’s sea ice is below any time during the Holocene? The contention for the Arctic is not that AGW has no effect. Just like everywhere else, it’s that warmists want to ignore natural variability and attribute all climate change to CO2.

        This recent paper provides a good discussion about a region’s Arctic sea ice variability during the Holocene.

        https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/09/30/2008996117

        Other studies on regions Arctic sea ice variability during the Holocene

        Saini, et al 2020. Park, et al 2019. Zhang, 2015. Stein, et al, 2017. de Vernal, et al 2017. Farmer, et al 2011. Dyke, et al 1996. Jennings, et al 2002. Gazewski, 2015.

      • >>>Apples and oranges. How can you compare specially designed modern ice breakers built with hardened materials to the ships of even 50 years ago? This is the prize you are offering ceresco kid

        We had powerfull icebrakers 100 years ago as well, in fact a lot of them. And the largest icebrakers ever built are far more powerful than those built in the last decades. Currently, the Arktika class is the most powerful that has ever been built, and they were built 50 years ago. The Russians are working on a series of successors – Project 22220 – but they are not yet in service.

      • Rune

        I wrote

        ‘Who can know during these substantial meltings if they could have reached the geographic north pole if they had sonar, radar, satellite and a special ice breaking ship with modern hardened materials?’

        I don’t think you are seriously claiming that the icebreakers of 1818 or 1912 had the capabilities of a modern ice breaker to make its way through an ice strewn ocean, let alone Viking longboats?

        Tonyb

      • >>>>>Do you have evidence that today’s sea ice is below any time during the Holocene? The contention for the Arctic is not that AGW has no effect. Just like everywhere else, it’s that warmists want to ignore natural variability and attribute all climate change to CO2.

        I have never claimed that the polar ice during the Holocene has not been lower than in the last thousands of years. I am well acquainted with i.a. Stein’s research and the fact that there was less sea ice during the HTO than 50 years ago. During HTO there also where more insolation towards the Arctic then present.

      • Rune

        I won’t pretend to be an expert on icebreakers but surely those built up till the 1950’s were relatively small compared to those that followed?

        The ice breakers of the modern era could well have penetrated the ice to the north pole of the two previous eras I cite, the old style ones could not.

        I note this from wiki

        ‘In the 9th and 10th centuries, the Viking expansion reached the North Atlantic, and eventually Greenland and Svalbard in the Arctic. Vikings, however, operated their ships in the waters that were ice-free for most of the year, in the conditions of the Medieval Warm Period.’

        So there appear to be a number of periods where the arctic had less ice than today. It seems to have thickened up in the 1300’s as the LIA started to take hold and the Viking colony was lost and the bishop was no longer able to get to his former parish in Greenland.

        Can I recommend the book ‘Erebus’ by Michael palin which goes into huge detail as to how the ship was strengthened for its journey to the Antarctic and its Ill fated voyage to the arctic, following it’s earlier successs.

        Tonyb

      • Tony B, regarding icebrakers: The first surface ship to reach the pole was the Arktika and that was in 1977. In recent years, a number of much lighter vessels have reached the pole. This applies i.a. the German “Polarstern,” the American “USCGC Healy” and the Norwegian “Crown Prince Haakon.” What characterizes these cruises however, is that to reach the pole, icebreakers have not been necessary, they have in many cases reached the pole point at almost normal operating speed, while an icebreaker in heavy ice moves by a few knots. In recent years, not every year but some of them, one will reach the pole with an ice-reinforced vessel, which was unthinkable 50, 100 and 500 years ago. Why did Amundsen et al sacrifice their lifes to reach the pole with fragile planes, if they only could rent one of the many icebreakers then lay vacant in August – September 100 years ago?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yermak_(1898_icebreaker)
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindenburg_(icebreaker)
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_icebreaker_%C5%8Ctomari
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgiy_Sedov_(1908_icebreaker)
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Sankt_Erik

      • Tony B, regarding Artic ice; most follow NSIDC’s extent graph. Regarding the ability to navigate in the polar ice, ice thickness is a far more important criterion then extent. And here the development has been far more dramatic than extent, here we have good data, i.a. from now declassified US Navy sources that have been monitoring this since the fifties.

        http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/

  39. >>>>At first, Dr. Tegnell’s experiment looked foolish as Sweden’s case load increased. Now, with cases low and the Swedish economy in much better health than other countries, he looks wise.<<<<

    Sweden is not indicative: 1) it is a relatively small nation; 2) more than half of the population lives in areas with very low population density where the virus circulates less; 3) younger people almost always live alone; older people live alone; 4) in Swedish cities, people have slavishly and respectfully applied the few anti-COVID restrictions imposed by the government; 5) the health system does not support ALL people (for patients over 80 there is no intensive care if necessary, even over 65 years it is not possible to access intensive care in case of overload of the same); 6) in Sweden people die "for only" Covid and not "also" for Covid…

  40. A couple of left-field covid factoids
    1. Covid spike protein appears to be an effective painkiller against inflammation such as arthritis – queue a patent war:
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/10/10/study-covid-19-infection-briefly-alleviates-chronic-pain/
    2. The good old BCG vaccine (1921) against TB turns out to be cross-effective against covid19 also – being proposed as an interim vaccine for populations:
    https://www.bbc.com/news/health-54465733

  41. And what climate scientists have taught us about science

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/12/14/climateaction/

  42. What the pandemic has taught us about science?

    So far that it is largely the same gang that previously presents themself as climate specialists, who have now also become specialists in Epidemiology, without really having much expertise in any of the areas.

  43. I note a lot of commentators have been remarking on the increase in cases, and earlier some one pointed to an article suggesting that it appears that the virus varies in its contagiousness.

    It seems to me this is an artefact of testing. The RT-PCR test does NOT test for a viable virus, only evidence that the person has come in contact with the virus. It is detecting up to 2 genes on the RNA left over from a destroyed virus, and the test is very sensitive. But the RNA can seems to be able to remain on a person for weeks, even months. It does NOT mean the tests are detecting someone who could become ill from the virus, or that the person is infectious.

    This is likely the reason for the great disparity between new cases and new hospital admissions and following on from that, deaths.

    My own 2c on Sweden; there is an argument made that countries taking restrictive lockdown measures merely “deferred” deaths, and this is true. Sweden has most likely achieved some herd immunity, but unsuccessfully protected its most vulnerable. But I do not think the measures are necessarily “deferring” deaths, but “buying time”. In the time that has passed, medicine has caught up hugely with the virus, treatments and outcomes have markedly improved and continue to improve. So I think taking precautions to limit deaths and infections in the initial stages of the pandemic were prudent, it buys time to limit the damage.

    On the other hand, there are competing harms. Economic harm is perhaps the most obvious, but at least a third of UKs excess deaths during the height of the pandemic were non-covid. Then there are the deferred excess deaths from people not being able to receive or seeking medical care during that time that will die because of it later, and the very real hardship the lockdown has caused people, mentally, physically and economically. Lockdown is the nuclear option…it’s really really destructive and in my opinion a failure of government (and by extension modern epidemiology) to prepare us for something we had fair warning was going to happen.

    There is, in my opinion a strategy that could have prevented both deaths and the need to shut anything down; convalescent serum. I know it’s being used now, but right from the outset it out to have been the front line strategy. It’s a technique that is over a century old, is safe and reliable. The strategy has been deployed at various scales for over 100 years, most recently in the second wave of Ebola in Africa. It’s pathogen agnostic – so I don’t understand why it required clinical “trialling”…the worst that could have happened is that it didn’t work. You would use it to confer passive immunity to frontline health workers and the vulnerable, and then allow the virus to run through the population, building herd immunity, and recruiting donors.

    To my mind, in this day and age, this pandemic seems to me to have been eminently avoidable.

    • Agnostic

      WHO official asks governments not to use lockdowns

      https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/uk-who-envoy-urges-world-leaders-to-halt-lockdowns/

      Is he an outlier or is this now official advice? It was a silly policy that was counter productive and caused many of the woes described in your eloquent post.

      The number of deaths by covid in the UK of people who weren’t very elderly and very Ill numbered a few thousand. it was a hysterical over reaction fuelled by the hysteria and damage caused by house arrest

      Tonyb

      • Tony,

        I fear you haven’t been paying attention. The WHO have never been in favour of lockdowns, save for extreme circumstances and limited durations.

        Official WHO strategy advice, 14th April

        For countries that have introduced widespread physical
        distancing measures and population-level movement
        restrictions, there is an urgent need to plan for a phased
        transition away from such restrictions in a manner that
        will enable the sustainable suppression of transmission
        at a low-level whilst enabling the resumption of some
        parts of economic and social life, prioritized by carefully
        balancing socio-economic benefit and epidemiological
        risk.

        Click to access covid-strategy-update-14april2020.pdf

      • VTG

        Pleased to see you are keeping well. Your link doesn’t work but the WHO policy has been more nuanced than you suggest. It was necessary for countries to have a policy that enabled them to progressively come out of lockdown without cases surging

        Click to access WHO-2019-nCoV-Adjusting_PH_measures-2020.1-eng.pdf

        In this respect they advised Pakistan to reimpose a lockdown in June. So they tactility endorsed the lockdowns we saw in many countries and have actively encouraged them when circumstances appear to demand it as with Pakistan.

        Bearing in mind you confirm they WERE In favour in extreme circumstances and for limited durations as many countries did, I think you are arguing against yourself as surely that is an endorsement of lockdown?

        My main point was to highlight that an envoy specifically came out in the media a few days ago to advise countries that lockdowns are somewhat counterproductive

        Tonyb

      • And my main point was, of course, that this is not new, but entirely consistent with their very earliest advice to governments.

        I don’t know why the link doesn’t work for you, perhaps try this.

        https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/covid-19-strategy-update—14-april-2020

      • VTG

        Thanks

        You have the same problem as me in your first post at 10.30 in as much I intend to post just the link but often it is the entire graphic that appears.

        Tonyb

  44. Short term pain for long term gain OR Short term gain for long term pain – Sweden opted for the former and the rest of the west, the latter. We spend more resources, cripple more economy and socially isolate to our detriment; all in the name of “prevention”…. This might be a first in history where prevention was worse than the illness.

  45. I love the original post.

    I’ve been reading this blog for a long time, and find it fascinating – in many unexpected ways.

    I keep trying to write concise comments, but each comment draft ends up morphing to a book – because of the richness of the themes here.

    This thread helped me visualize an “executive summary” of some life-lessons learned and how thy might relate to reactions in this blog.

    I’m going to try the short version here.

    First – my background to help understand my biases.

    I was trained as a biologist decades ago and my first lab work was on extracting and measuring genetic material from different levels of the “phylogenetic tree” – tracking drugs that could get across the blood-brain barrier.

    So what? I have a very clear sense of how messy it is to get clean data from thousands of freshly dead animals into scintillation counters – in a sterile, tightly controlled lab, funded with millions of dollars.

    So, I know that “climate science” is the wide-open wilderness when compared to tightly controlled lab science.

    And – I know that tightly controlled lab science has huge error rates – so things like creating vaccines are – at base – huge crap shoots.

    And – I know that magic cures for a global climate (like electric vehicles…that create huge e-waste) are often based on magical thinking, not science.

    From killing lab animals, my career morphed to global air pollution – and with a small team I ended up creating the financial models that still underpin the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations today.

    From that part of my career I know, first hand, that ALL the climate models ever created are mostly wrong – IF THEY ARE USED TO CREATE AND ASSERT A SINGLE-POINT FORECAST – like the temperature of the world.

    That’s all one needs to know in order to assess the IPCC assertions.

    Our CAFE auto pollution models skewed in many ways – but one – unintended result of the models came up in every model run.

    Chrysler was going to go bankrupt, no matter what mandates the Federal government created for emissions and fuel economy standards.

    I wrote that up – and ended in front of a Senate Committee on national TV with lots of powerful people yelling at me.

    My first powerful adult lesson was that these extremely powerful people had no idea what they were talking about.

    That is when my childhood really ended.

    Our emissions models were based on the actual factories, technologies, and human organizations of the global car companies.

    Not on some abstract input-output matrix.

    Our team had learned how the global demand-supply chains of the auto industry affected the environment, by VISITING hundreds of factories from raw material to vehicle-in-use by driver.

    If you told us CAFE regulations should be 40 mpg – we had massive time-shared simulations of actual factories that could tell you what the real world cost was, and even in which Congressional districts the UAW would lose jobs.

    This last item helped reinforce our discoveries that legislation was not based on abstract “scientific fact”. It was based on real SOCIAL AND COMMERCIAL VALUES that were mostly for the good…and intuitive….not model-based.

    The next several decades:

    This early experience launched my “ethnographic” career of helping to restructure failing social-industrial networks (bankruptcies) around the world.

    It led me to informal relationships with Japanese auto and electronics makers who were dominating global societies and economies.

    I learned how the user-assembled “Toyota Way” was far more robust than central command environmental point-forecasts that were always wrong…and that ALL command-and-control human organizations…like that of GM and Chrysler…always “failed” or “morphed” into historic debris.

    …just like all the “climate science” of the original Fuel Economy and Pollution work I had created years earlier.

    If you read the “scientific” justifications behind the CAFE models of the 1970s – you will find that ALL of the -scientific – point forecasts were wrong. So were the “single-variable villains” behind the regulations. First it was “sulphur.” Then nitrogen. Etc. Etc. Now it is “carbon”.

    My biggest lesson of this era was that almost all people are good. They all want goodness to happen.

    But when they start getting paid…by hierarchical organizations…they tended to seek single “solutions” that bring the organization MONEY.

    Then by accident I got the amazing chance to travel all over the world, carrying small bags of electronic devices – watching the Global Internet take over ALL of humanity from from richest to poorest…..as 7 BILLION cellphone “probes” were distributed to everyone on Earth.

    SO WHAT?

    A MODEST PROPOSAL:

    There is no such SINGLE “thing” as “Science”.

    The discussions above are evidence of this.

    What we call “science” is really an abstracted way of describing COMPLEX HUMAN ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIORS that are now global.

    This blog – and the social-political reactions to it….

    …prove that Climate Science is not a “thing”.

    It is a complex, global, messy, GLOBAL HUMAN ORGANIZATION – that behaves just like the massive global automotive supply-demand networks our teams modeled on massive time-sharing computers long ago.

    SO WHAT?

    I would continue my modest proposal by suggesting that all climate scientists, and climate regulators…

    …receive adult education in the deep sciences of Human Organizational Behavior.

    That way the “Scientists” and “Deniers” – like the Hatfields and McCoys – might think more clearly about COLLABORATING FOR THEIR KIDS…..

    ….NOT FIGHTING OVER ANCIENT FAMILY INSULTS.

    I would start this by reading several things – that relate to HOW HUMANS BEHAVE IN ORGANIZATIONS….

    …not whether my “scientific models” are better than yours.

    STARTING POINTS:

    “The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research”.
    https://jcs.biologists.org/content/121/11/1771

    2. Lawrence, P., and Lorsch, J., “Differentiation and Integration in Complex Organizations”
    Administrative Science Quarterly 12, (1967), 1-30.

    Inquiring minds – who dig into the messy sciences of human behavior in organizations – might be better equipped to track down and absorb the various inquiries stimulated by Judith Curry’s original post above.

    Best Regards.

  46. It seems to me, on a simple inspection, that the death rate in developed societies is roughly the same over time, simply differently phased. Sweden at 6,000 or the US at 200,000 equates quite well with the UK’s 42,000. Is there any difference in the developing World? N My guess is not, because we have no cure and people who are going to die, die. Mostly. The marginal mat y be saved in devloped counries.

    So most of the controls seem to me to be about determining when people susceptible to the virus die. Not whether. It will be our turns to find out eventually. A bad time not to have a will, in case.

    It appears self evident that the countries that take the hit quickly will suffer the least economic deprivation and loss of life from dragging out the related problems of lock downs, etc.

    Am I wrong? I am occasionally ;-)

    • Not sure about your logic, but you are wrong about one thing. There is a cure and has been since the beginning. The failure has been in our medical and scientific community. The cure which is found in most healthy humans is called Zinc and some kind of Zinc ionophore, like Quercetin, Vitamins C, D, and E, or pharmaceuticals like Hydroxychloroquine or Remdesivir – all Zinc Ionophores.
      From NIH published studies done in 2005 on SARS-Cov-1 they found that Chloroquine is a potent inhibitor of SARS Coronavirus infection and spread.
      Here is how the virus works on us:
      Once inside the nose or lungs, the coronavirus first tries to enter a human cell by using its own key, called an “S spike protein.” The door lock is inside a little pocket called an ACE-2 Receptor site, kind of like an entryway or portico on a house. After the virus inserts the key (makes a connection with the cell), it looks around to see if this is a friendly place or not by checking the acid levels in the portico. If it is pretty acidic (the normal state for most cell porticos), it rings the doorbell and waits for the cell to open the door. One natural defense mechanism for this intruder is called an ionophore, which is found in many of the plants we eat and ends up in our blood if we eat properly. Since ionophores are non-acidic (known as alkaline or base), they reduce the acidity in the portico and the virus proteins degrade and fall apart. If there are enough alkaline ionophores available in the human body, the virus is stopped at the front door. No infection, no symptoms!
      If there are not enough of these ionophore bodyguards to stop the virus from entering and it gets inside the cell, it looks for a nice cozy place to rest and snuggles up in some little compartments called Endosomes, Lysosomes and Golgi. Once safely inside these compartments, the virus begins to multiply. This is the beginning of Phase One of the illness and you begin to show symptoms. And just like most battles, the side with the most players usually wins. If you have enough ionophore bodyguards, natural or from a pill, they will also get inside these compartments, increase the pH and thus destroy the virus proteins just like they did in the portico. This helps explain why HCQ must be given within the first 7 days of symptom onset or taken as a prophylaxis.
      The surface of living cells are composed of a fat (lipid) layer which selectively allows different ions and organic molecules to cross over and get inside the cell for various cellular functions. Zinc in the body comes in the form of a metal ion, meaning it is an atom that has an electrical charge and is used by the cell to fight invaders like coronavirus. But, it needs a transporter to create a doorway to take it across the cell membrane so it can do its job. This is where the ionophores help again by taking the Zinc inside the cell. The Zinc stops the virus from replicating, so as a second line of defense the immune system destroys the virus inside the cell. If you are young and healthy, all these mechanism are found in a normal immune system and hence why young and healthy people don’t die from this virus. They may or may not get sick, but they don’t die unless they are unhealthy with some other serious medical conditions.

  47. I penned an earlier post that – based on the debates in this stream about CV19 – suggested that the main things learned from the global CV19 pandemic, and climate modeling, are that:

    All sciences have (at least) two strategic parts:

    1. The vast unknown that keeps forcing science to restructure itself based on perpetually incorrect forecasts.

    2. The fact that science is a FORM OF HUMAN ORGANIZATION and therefore is more accurately assessed using lessons from the organizational sciences or even the social forms of “business” or “commerce” (Because 90% of what is labelled and discussed as “environmental science” or “climate science” are – paid human hierarchical organizational forms.)

    The biggest lessons surrounding CV19 are about human behavior in organizations.

    How 7 billion humans, wired together on 7 billion mobile devices are changing their global social organization in response to a common fear.

    The lock downs and quarantines are first order “organizational science”.

    Hide. Don’t communicate in person. Listen to the centralized, powerful “experts” who will tell you when you can come out of hiding.

    The second dimension of CV19 science is the accelerated global human understanding of the genetic mental models we call the “virus”.

    It is one of those things that humans try to turn into a “thing”…a “germ”….a “villain” …so we can kill it.

    But it is none of those projected anthropomorphic forms.

    It is a bunch of self-organizing genomic debris that takes over other clusters of temporary “beings” and morphs them “from dust to dust” so to speak.

    So far, the largest single “scientific” lessons from the pandemic are about the sciences of human organization in groups – ranging from one’s family group….through one’s society…to the global dust-to-dust biomass that we humans call “humanity”.

    The discussion above consists mainly of assertions about which forms of human behavior are right or wrong….and how to measure them.

    This again means perhaps the largest lessons 7 billion humans are learning are about the organizational sciences – how we do, or could, or should organize for this or that purpose.

    We already tried the organizational science innovation of “dig trenches in Europe and kill other human enemies by the thousands.” That proved to be “bad” science.

    So then we used the Atomic sciences to incinerate two cities – and that worked for a few years, before that human organizational innovation reached a critical mass. Via unintended consequences.

    So here, and in my earlier post, I would suggest we all step back and not try to fit this anomic global pandemic into our past trenches of failed scientific forecasts….

    ….but study some of the material on management – on successful and failed human organizational experiments.

    To see if we can use the massive lesson we learned on NON LETHAL social change….

    …to make the world….and its climate a better place.

    See my recommended readings in previous post

  48. This may have been covered already (I don’t have time to read this entire thread right now) but Matt Ridley wrote on masks:

    “A third problem is that data can be trustworthy but inadequate. Evidence-based medicine teaches doctors to fully trust only science based on the gold standard of randomized controlled trials. But there have been no randomized controlled trials on the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases (though one is now under way in Denmark). ”

    To the best of my knowledge, this is not true. There have been RCTs on face masks. To quote one meta-analysis:

    “In our systematic review, we identified 10 RCTs that reported estimates of the effectiveness of face masks in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infections in the community from literature published during 1946–July 27, 2018. In pooled analysis, we found no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks (RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.51–1.20; I2 = 30%, p = 0.25) (Figure 2).”

    Here is a link to the quoted paper:

    https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/5/19-0994_article

  49. A superb article.
    If I may be permitted a minor cavil, the statement that the 1971 Stanford experiment has been debunked is not quite true. I suggest that it is a replication of the Milgram experiment that preceded it, and therefore has value when correctly interpreted.

  50. Pingback: Do Your Own Research? |

  51. Arguing about the accuracy of models presupposes that the physical mechanisms and patterns of decadal to millennial climate change are known.

    “While climate models exhibit various levels of decadal climate variability and some regional similarities to observations, none of the model simulations considered match the observed signal in terms of its magnitude, spatial patterns and their sequential time development. These results highlight a substantial degree of uncertainty in our interpretation of the observed climate change using current generation of climate models.”

    The relevant published article is at – https://www.nature.com/articles/s41612-018-0044-6

    “As our nonlinear world moves into uncharted territory, we should expect surprises. Some of these may take the form of natural hazards, the scale and nature of which are beyond our present comprehension. The sooner we depart from the present strategy, which overstates an ability to both extract useful information from and incrementally improve a class of models that are structurally ill suited to the challenge, the sooner we will be on the way to anticipating surprises, quantifying risks, and addressing the very real challenge that climate change poses for science. Unless we step up our game, something that begins with critical self-reflection, climate science risks failing to communicate and hence realize its relevance for societies grappling to respond to global warming.” https://www.pnas.org/content/116/49/24390

    For many of the chattering classes it is a failure to grasp the Jeffersonian adage on what we don’t know compared to what we do.

  52. Pingback: What the pandemic has taught us about science | Alternative News Network

  53. The existence of multidecadal oscillations and not least their amplitude is an active field of research where the traditional view, i.a. a significant AMO, does not appear to be strengthened.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6941994/

    Just be patient, nature has the answer.

    • Rather than vague notions of oscillations and noise – the undoubted variability of climate is better seen in the light of Harold Hurst’s analysis of Nile River flow undertaken in the first half of the last century.

      “… which suggests that nonlinear systems, such as the atmosphere, may exhibit regime-like structures that are, although fully deterministic, subject to abrupt and seemingly random change.” Slingo and Palmer 2011 – Uncertainty in weather and climate prediction

      It says that we are looking for triggers in a mathematically chaotic system.

      “Technically, an abrupt climate change occurs when the climate system is forced to cross some threshold, triggering a transition to a new state at a rate determined by the climate system itself and faster than the cause. Chaotic processes in the climate system may allow the cause of such an abrupt climate change to be undetectably small.” NAS 202 – Abrupt climate change: inevitable surprises

      An Arctic trigger may be solar variability modulating the polar annular mode that acts on circulation in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Low solar activity triggering a cool northern hemisphere.

      “Any reduction in global mean near-surface temperature due to a future decline in solar activity is likely to be a small fraction of projected anthropogenic warming. However, variability in ultraviolet solar irradiance is linked to modulation of the Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillations, suggesting the potential for larger regional surface climate effects.” https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8535

      The solar modulation of surface pressure in the southern polar region is more obvious.


      https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2014GL061421%4010.1002/%28ISSN%291944-8007.GRLeditorhghlts2014

    • The polar annular modes spin up north and south Pacific Ocean gyres facilitating more or less upwelling on the eastern margin. Itself feeding back into marine stratocumulous – which modultes global warming and cooling as more or less energy enters the ocean. That great heat store.

      “Marine stratocumulus cloud decks forming over dark, subtropical oceans are regarded as the reflectors of the atmosphere.1 The decks of low clouds 1000s of km in scale reflect back to space a significant portion of the direct solar radiation and therefore dramatically increase the local albedo of areas otherwise characterized by dark oceans below.2,3 This cloud system has been shown to have two stable states: open and closed cells. Closed cell cloud systems have high cloud fraction and are usually shallower, while open cells have low cloud fraction and form thicker clouds mostly over the convective cell walls and therefore have a smaller domain average albedo.4–6 Closed cells tend to be associated with the eastern part of the subtropical oceans, forming over cold water (upwelling areas) and within a low, stable atmospheric marine boundary layer (MBL), while open cells tend to form over warmer water with a deeper MBL. Nevertheless, both states can coexist for a wide range of environmental conditions.5,7” https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/1.4973593

      Variability occurs on interannual to millennial scales.

      “Over the last 1010 yr, the LD summer sea salt (LDSSS) record has exhibited two below-average (El Niño–like) epochs, 1000–1260 ad and 1920–2009 ad, and a longer above-average (La Niña–like) epoch from 1260 to 1860 ad. Spectral analysis shows the below-average epochs are associated with enhanced ENSO-like variability around 2–5 yr, while the above-average epoch is associated more with variability around 6–7 yr. The LDSSS record is also significantly correlated with annual rainfall in eastern mainland Australia. While the correlation displays decadal-scale variability similar to changes in the interdecadal Pacific oscillation (IPO), the LDSSS record suggests rainfall in the modern instrumental era (1910–2009 ad) is below the long-term average. In addition, recent rainfall declines in some regions of eastern and southeastern Australia appear to be mirrored by a downward trend in the LDSSS record, suggesting current rainfall regimes are unusual though not unknown over the last millennium.” https://journals.ametsoc.org/jcli/article/26/3/710/33481/A-Millennial-Proxy-Record-of-ENSO-and-Eastern

      “The global-mean temperature trends associated with GSW (Global Stadium Wave) are as large as 0.3 °C per 40 years, and so are capable of doubling, nullifying or even reversing the forced global warming trends on that timescale.” https://www.nature.com/articles/s41612-018-0044-6

      Ain’t nature grand.

  54. Pingback: Czego tzw. pandemia nauczyła nas o nauce |

  55. The pandemic reveals that fake science has been substituted for real science in public policy formulation. The fake science is often based on modeling. None of these models (COVID-19, GHGE, or GCM) have anything to do with the scientific method. They are called scientific models but aren’t. The modelers call themselves scientists but they’re not. In the case of Gavin Schmidt, and Neil Ferguson they’re mathematicians. In other cases, they’re often people with a scientific education ignoring the scientific method.

    • Oh my God, you’re really a hard-hitting science critic, anyone who predicts anything about the Covid pandemic uses a model, or do you think Nick Lewis or others who criticize the official strategy are reading the future in tea leaves.

    • Mark, You are absolutely right on the mark. Thanks for bringing some semblance of reality to the discussion. Speaking of reality, it requires any understanding of it (science) to follow the fundamental principles of causation, but most people and our trusted scientist have never been taught these principles. Here they are in four minutes:

      If the climate models were based on reality they would look like this:
      Global Temperature Change Caused By
      Water Vapor Changes
      Clouds Reflecting Heat
      Greenhouse Gases Absorb Heat
      Vegetation Absorbs CO2
      Sun Heats Atmosphere
      Sun Heats Earths Water
      Ice Reflects Light from Sun
      Ice Reflects Heat from Sun
      Greenhouse Gases Reflect Heat From Sun
      Clouds Absorb Heat From Sun
      More Plants Consume More CO2
      Deserts Reflect Light
      Deserts Reflect Heat
      Planet Earth Exists
      Vegetation Exists
      Oceans Exist
      Deserts Exist
      Ice/Snow Exists
      etc.

      When we ask why Water Vapor Changes we get:
      Clouds
      Many other Causes
      When we ask why clouds we get
      Oceans Temp. Changes
      Atmospheric Temp. Changes: See Fig. 3.3
      Atmospheric Pressure Changes
      Atmosphere Exists
      Oceans Exist
      Etc:
      As you can see from this simple example where I only show you the continuation of just a few causal relationship from the preceding set, imagine if we did this for all 18 initial causes of Global Temperature Change and asked why until we reached our point of ignorance. And given the huge causal representation of climate change this would represent coupled with probabilities of occurrence for each causal relationship; do you really think these “scientists” are capable of predicting future climate? The complexity is mind boggling and the belief you are doing science is very arrogant!

      I am not a climate scientist, but I worked with scientists and engineers for over 25 years teaching these simple principles and I can tell you that in every class I taught, these people were always blown away by the fact they never learned this in the many years of education they had. It is so sad, but it is at the core of our failed education system, which causes a failed scientific community. So sad.

      I am not optimistic about it ever changing either, because these principles have been known by mankind for over 2000 years, but the human’s inability to deal with the complexity of reality causes it to do stupid stuff like create “Models” for COVID and Climate instead of defining all the causal relationships.

  56. What the pandemic has taught us about “skeptics.”

    At what point, if more RCTs show HCQ has no efficacy in treating Covid, do “skeptics” decide that they were wrong about HCQ? Would there ever be such a point?

    I don’t know that the evidence is conclusive yet, but certainly I have to start wondering if “skeptics” (as a group) need to beef up their skepticism a bit?

    > In a clinical trial testing whether a daily regimen of hydroxychloroquine could protect those most likely to be exposed to COVID-19, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found there was no difference in infection rates among health care workers who took the drug versus those taking a placebo. While the researchers observed a lack of effect associated with hydroxychloroquine, infection levels were low among the participants, which the researchers believe points to the effectiveness of other prevention measures in the health system: social distancing, use of personal protective equipment, and proper hand hygiene. The study was published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine.

    https://scitechdaily.com/new-research-finds-hydroxychloroquine-no-more-effective-than-placebo-in-preventing-covid-19/

    Or will they just reject the notion that observational or retrospective studies are not as good as RCTs?

    I look forward to finding out. It’s a no lose situation. Either a drug is proven to prove effective for preventing/treating Covid, or “skeptics” lean some humility.

    Heh. Like that would ever happen!

    • Geoff Sherrington

      Joshua,
      Please drop your concept of sceptics as a group. It is not a group. There are many different levels of experience, relevance, training, success, etc among sceptics. It is not uncommon for me (for example) to call a “sceptic” to task for pushing a line that has demonstrated deficiencies. It is even possible that there is more of this correction within sceptic circles than within establishment, though as I said, you should not lump people into such groups.
      The most usual form of my scepticism comprises a re-examination of a published work or less formal article, to see if the conclusions are tight or loose, even to debunk it as likely of poor quality science when one or more of the fundamental logic points is violated with damage.
      There is a big problem that can be shown with the topic of climate sensitivity. In terms that are too simple here, the inability to narrow the range of estimates of ECS is so fundamentally a failure of the whole GHG as control know hypothesis that most papers that depend on it must be failed and should be retracted.
      When one of the most important fundamental pillars of an idea cannot be refined to a useful degree, many related subsets of study are also to be regarded as suspect.
      I am not sceptical of anthropogenic global warming ideas because of my politics, experience, wishful thinking, core beliefs – I am sceptical of poor quality science and climate change is awash with it. Almost every paper I have re-studied ends up with a fail, some big time, some not picking.
      But you can’t focus mainly on GHG unless or until you can quantify the effect to a useful degree of certainty in factors like ECS. Geoff S

      • Goeff –

        > Please drop your concept of sceptics as a group. It is not a group.

        Fair enough. I often take “skeptics” to task for equating online climate commentariat change fanatics with climate change “skeptics” more generally and I should have been more specific. I will re-word.

        > At what point, if more RCTs show HCQ has no efficacy in treating Covid, doea the online fanatic “skeptic” climate change commentariat decide that they were wrong about HCQ? Would there ever be such a point?

        Now of course, there are some examples of that group being appropriately skeptical about HCQ (in other words waiting until high quality evidence was assbkes before drawing conclusions) but for the most part there was a warm brace of conspiracy theories that HCQ was being attacked in an attempt to kill tens of thousands of people for the purpose of damaging Trump’s electoral prospects.

        But the that “skeptics” are less of a “group” than their counterparts in the climate wars is a good example of people fooling themselves to confirm identity-related biases.

        The climate war is largely a political proxy battle, and the attributes of the warriors are not likely disributed disproportionately across the battle lines. The are the attributes of most political warriors.

        The attributes of the warriors are largely determined by underlying attributes of human psychology and cognition. That’s what makes Judith’s whole enterprise of selectively culling “fallacies” from one side to toss them as grenades against the other is fundamentally unscientific and unskeptical at its very roots. And that’s why it’s amusing that irony is lost in the contributors to her endeavor.

      • Kribaez & Joshua,
        In November 2010 another NIH study: Zn2+ Inhibits Coronavirus and Arterivirus RNA Polymerase Activity https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2973827/ provides more evidence of these causal relationships, and states: “In this study we demonstrate that the combination of Zn2+ and Pyrithione (PT) at low concentrations (2 µM Zn2+ and 2 µM PT) inhibits the replication of SARS-coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and equine arteritis virus (EAV) in cell culture.” Pyrithione is also an ionophore, like HCQ that facilitates Zinc’s entry into cells and efficiently impairs the replication of RNA viruses, like the newly mutated COVID-19 coronavirus.

        For more evidence of the efficacy of HCQ and Zinc, let’s check out a report from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons; https://aapsonline.org/hcq-90-percent-chance/ where they say Hydroxychloroquine has about 90 Percent Chance of Helping COVID-19 Patients. This report said: “that the total number of reported COVID-19 patients treated with Hydroxychloroquine and Zinc was 2,333. Of these, 2,137 or 91.6% improved clinically. Of the 63 deaths, 52 were severely ill before getting the virus and should not be counted as COVID deaths.” When you remove the 52 people who were nearly dead from other causes, that’s an efficacy of 99.5%!

        Also, Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a board-certified family practitioner from New York, had a 100% success rate https://techstartups.com/2020/03/28/dr-vladimir-zelenko-now-treated-699-coronavirus-patients-100-success-using-hydroxychloroquine-sulfate-zinc-z-pak-update/ when he treated 699 coronavirus patients with Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate, Zinc and Z-Pak (aka Zithromax).

        On May, 27, 2020, Dr. Harvey Risch, a renowned Epidemiologist, published a paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology https://academic.oup.com/aje/advance-article/doi/10.1093/aje/kwaa093/5847586 which among other things said: “Hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin has been used as standard-of-care in more than 300,000 older adults with multi-comorbidities, with estimated proportion diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmias attributable to the medications 47/100,000 users, of which estimated mortality is < 20%, 9/100,000 users, compared to the 10,000 Americans now dying each week. These medications need to be widely available and promoted immediately for physicians to prescribe.” He also recognizes the importance of Zinc in treating COVID-19 and says there is not a single study showing that HCQ, Zinc, and Z-Pak does not work. Furthermore, he said that in his entire career as an MD and researcher since 1976, he has never seen stronger evidence for a curative therapeutic.

        In fact, thousands of doctors from around the world https://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2020/04/06/here-are-five-doctors-whose-patients-have-seen-recovery-with-hydroxy-chloroquine-n2566409 say HCQ and Zinc works very well to stop COVID-19. In Sub-Saharan Africa where HCQ is available as an over-the-counter drug commonly taken to fight Malaria, the deaths from COVID-19 are almost non-existent. For example, India has 1.3 billion people and only 1 in 24,000 have died. Mozambique has 30 million people and only 35 COVID deaths so far, Zambia has 17 million people and only 312 COVID deaths, Angola has 33 million people and only 132 COVID deaths. And an accidental experiment happened in Switzerland in late May 2020, when they banned the use of HCQ. The death rate immediately shot up to four times what it had been. Two weeks later they rescinded the ban and the death rate fell back to its previous low numbers.

        There are now 53 studies https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2020/08/04/an_effective_covid_treatment_the_media_continues_to_besmirch_143875.html that show positive results of hydroxychloroquine in COVID infections. There are 14 global studies that show neutral or negative results — and 10 of them were of patients in very late stages of COVID-19, where no antiviral drug can be expected to have much effect. The other four have been discredited as fake science.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        Joshua writes “> At what point, if more RCTs show HCQ has no efficacy in treating Covid, doea the online fanatic “skeptic” climate change commentariat decide that they were wrong about HCQ? Would there ever be such a point?”
        Josh, wrong question. The proper question should be “Why are so many people avoiding an assessment of the several past trials about the utility of HQC?”

    • Joshua,
      At the core of your failed argument is this fact: the JAMA article and the man-caused climate reports all fail to follow the fundamental principles of causation. In the JAMA report, these brilliant scientists failed to understand the basic operational properties of the immune system, which also reveals how poorly the peer review system works. I am not even an epidemiologist, but I can read and I have read dozens of NIH papers that say you need Zinc along with an ionophore like HCQ or just eating a healthy diet to fight the virus. The JAMA report showed a negligible difference between people who took HCQ and the placebo and then concluded it didn’t work, but they didn’t mention the ages of their participants, which I would bet were mostly if not all younger than 55. One of the critical causes this JAMA paper leaves out is why people under 40 and those in their study don’t get COVID-19 is because they have adequate amounts of Zinc and ionophores. The ionophores, like HCQ is only the first line of defense, so they had tested for blood serum Zinc in those who got sick, they probably would have found a deficiency. So, if they had followed all the causal relationships involved with a system or function, they would have seen that, but they didn’t because they have never been taught the principles of causation. Hence why I am very skeptical of all scientists. I know they don’t know what they are doing because I thought thousands of them or over 25 years and the education system has failed them. It’s not their fault.

      Since you are looking forward to finding out the truth from a more recent formal study, here is the one to follow:
      https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04370782

      • Let’s meet back here to discuss that study when the results are in – and any other RCT as well.

        One of the interesting aspects of the HCQ situation is how “skeptics” are all over any retroactive or observational study that suggest HCQ is efficacious whether zinc or vitamin D or particular antibiotics are used or not, but when an RCT that comes out shows it isn’t effective they argue that the RCT was useless because it didn’t use a particular (always changing) protocol.

      • Here’s an example (with RCTs, a actually). Would you hold these results to the same protocol standards before being inclined to consider the results viable?

        https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-lets-all-be-honest-about-hydroxychloroquine-20201013-5j5q4i23qvfuzos4jh7ztc3usa-story.html

      • Dean L.,
        The study you reference is an RCT for comparison of the effects of Azithromycin vs Doxycycline. Both arms receive HCQ/Zinc. It is not an RCT for HCQ/Zinc vs other standard care. Any attempt to draw inferences about HCQ/Zinc efficacy in early treatment using data from this study would therefore be considered a retrospective analysis, not an RCT.
        I am unable to find any credible planned RCT for early treatment using HCQ/Zinc anywhere. If anyone knows of such a trial, I would appreciate a pointer.

    • HCQ is actually an interesting story-
      Donald Trump said on television that it “looked promising” which caused the usual suspects to melt into a puddle of TDS, drop every norm or standard of journalism and science, and attempt to “discover” he was wrong. This culminated in a published “study” poo-pooing HCQ that was so utterly dishonest it had to be instantly retracted.
      One day we’ll actually find out if HCQ “works,” but it won’t be until after the election because “Science/Media PAC”

      It’s also a forrest-for-the-trees situation- Trump sought treatments to minimize the death rate of highly contagious disease. The other party sought to limit the spread of a highly contagious disease via permanent total economic lock-downs.
      Both were wrong, the former is proving out to be the smarter approach as death rates drop and we are learning that even obsessive mask wearing combined with unsustainable lock-downs don’t prevent the spread of a highly contagious virus. Plus they’re having a hard time finding people who care that we identify people who have no idea now, and never would, that they are sick.

      FYI Josh, the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that EU daily case counts are higher than those in the US even when you control for population. Looks like you’ll need to rewrite your narrative again.

  57. Thanks.
    Next year we will read about how much the average US life span decreased because of the pandemic. It’s the little things that add up over time.
    Forbes (10/13/2020)
    “Back in March, when first entering lockdown to prevent the novel coronavirus’ spread, headline, after headline, after headline forecast a massive baby boom in about nine months.

    It’s only recently become evident how flawed that prediction was.

    Far from surging, fertility in the United States – which recently hit a 35-year low – is actually dropping like a stone as we continue to hunker down.

    The Brookings Institution has estimated that the U.S. birth rate will decline by another 7-10% next year, which amounts to about 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births. And a Guttmacher Institute survey found that 34% of women said they wanted to get pregnant later or wanted fewer children because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

  58. I am loath to say that Joshua is right – the irony would be too great. Come to think of it – most of the commentary is unhinged. Take Sherrington – for instance – whose critiques of climate studies unfailingly rely on the assertion that data is imprecise. He demolishes global warming one imprecise dataset at a time. Conditional causality is a new one. The world exists – therefore getting mugged on the street has many causes? Blah. And before he says I simply don’t understand the profundity – it’s more the case that I don’t give a damn.

    Science at its most creative is a process of synthesis. Combining disparate empirical facts into a coherent worldview. And you know what they say – truth is beauty and beauty truth. It is always subject to review and correction.

    “Lorenz was able to show that even for a simple set of nonlinear equations (1.1), the evolution of the solution could be changed by minute perturbations to the initial conditions, in other words, beyond a certain forecast lead time, there is no longer a single, deterministic solution and hence all forecasts must be treated as probabilistic. The fractionally dimensioned space occupied by the trajectories of the solutions of these nonlinear equations became known as the Lorenz attractor (figure 1), which suggests that nonlinear systems, such as the atmosphere, may exhibit regime-like structures that are, although fully deterministic, subject to abrupt and seemingly random change.” https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsta.2011.0161

    Sherrington has neither the imagination or humility for n-dimensional state space.

    • Geoff Sherrington

      Robert,
      Please accept my apologies for causing you pain by hitting a raw nerve. I had no prior warning that your scientific effort was so enthusiastically directed toward stopping people from learning that accuracy in science is important.
      “Accuracy” is under assail. Even the programmers behind the aoto-correct here are inaccurate. They do not know how to use even a three-letter word “its”. Their approach is to remove my correct use, insert their own wrong use and not listen to more accurate people. Is this the right approach?

      Do you think that theauto-correct people should censor cerescokid when he uses “bidensniffen”, which I find to be a wonderfully expressive new fun word. Or, do you think it best if you do not comment? Cheers Geoff S

      • I was teasing you for demolishing global warming one assertion of dodgy data at a time. We all like data that is weights and measures precise. In engineering we are taught to be wary of faux precision. Data is commonly hard to come by at all. In hydrology and biogeochemical cycling it is as rare as hens’ teeth – although there are modern tools that give us insight into aquifers, precipitation, water vapor, ocean heat, wind, cloud etc. At the other end of the scale is paleodata – described by the NAS as trying to understand a mechanism you have never seen from scratchy 78 rpm recordings. One I mention often is Harold Hurst’s remarkable analysis of 1000 years of Nile River levels – which revealed fractal patterns in the data. Then there is the Andrey Kolmogorov contribution to Hurst-Kolmogorov stochastic dynamics in studies of turbulence. Both fluid flow problems in a fractal continuum from micro eddies to planetary waves. Excited yet?

        Quite remarkable – just as we pin it down in reductionist science a new world emerges that inhabits an n-dimensional state space.

        After decades of technical and creative writing – I think I can almost manage punctuation. Although I no longer have the patience to write for an audience. I write for fun in the way I want to on ideas that are only graspable if you are there or almost so anyway. Biden sniffing I will leave to you.

  59. This is unqualified good news:

    -snip-
    The federal government said Tuesday it was investing close to half a billion dollars in a cartridge-based on-the-spot coronavirus test that it said would help “dramatically” expand its supply of tests by next spring.

    Cue Health’s quick polymerase chain reaction or PCR test takes about 20 minutes to find the genetic material of the coronavirus – the so-called gold standard of testing. Being able to deploy it for point-of-care use should speed up testing – something that has held up control of the spread of the virus across the US.

    https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-10-13-20-intltl/index.html

    • The genius of Trump knows no bounds.

      • So Trump gets credit for this (it’s good but should be massively bigger), yet has no responsibilty for months of failures in the testing?

        Herd mentality, indeed.

      • Great Leaders inspire greatness by others.

        Laura has identified need for another investigation.

        https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EkMjBFRWAAANaX8?format=jpg&name=large

      • Impugning the patriotism of those you disagree with never gets old with your crowd, does it kid?

        Unfortunately, it seems to be becoming an increasingly popular brand of demagoguery on the left as well.

      • J

        Don’t take things so seriously. That is a weakness of those on the left. They take themselves and everything too seriously.

        I was a member of the left once. Young and amorous and engaged in bidensniffen. Then I woke up from my long personal nightmare.

      • Joshua

        From what I read Biden seems to be pulling well ahead of trump? I can’t see how trump can win unless there is some extraordinary development.

        Don seems to have disappeared on the campaign trail as it would be interesting to hear his partisan perspective.

        Tonyb

      • kid –

        > Don’t take things so seriously. That is a weakness of those on the left. They take themselves and everything too seriously.

        Another example of a self-serving tendency of people to fool themselves into seeing their own group’s superiority. Show me any evidence that “the left” takes themselves any more seriously than “the right.”

        > I was a member of the left once.

        You keep mentioning this as if it’s somehow important.

        Or that I care. I suggest you get over yourself.

      • Tony

        That link indicates another perspective. If Trump is within 3-4% of Biden in the national polls on November 3, he is a lock

    • Very good news. From a standing start to a deliverable game changing technology in record breaking time. I can only hope it is deployed in a intelligent and compassionate manor.

  60. ” … should speed up testing – something that has held up control of the spread of the virus across the US.”

    Testing, in and of itself, does not assist with “control” of the spread.

    The USA is conducting about a million tests every day. What do you consider the optimum number of daily tests to be?

  61. Pingback: What the pandemic has taught us about science | Climate Etc. | Coldstreams Business and Tech

  62. Peer review is a silly ritual which is worshipped by a public that has been deceived by scientists who exploit it for personal gain.

    • Stan Brown, you are right on the money and here is some supporting evidence:
      In the book: The Downfall of Higher Education by John Ellis he tells us to quit believing that the scientific community has not been taken over by the radical left, like the Humanities have been for 30 years. They have, and here is a bit of what he has to say: A study published in 2018 by the National Association of Scholars spells out the truth: The Irreproducibility Crisis in Modern Science. https://www.nas.org/reports/the-irreproducibility-crisis-of-modern-science/full-report where they summarizes as follows: “Many supposedly scientific results cannot be reproduced reliably in subsequent investigations, and offer no trustworthy insight into the way the world works. In 2005 Dr. John Ioannidis argued, shockingly and persuasively, “that most published research findings in his own field of medicine were false.”

      Another guy, Richard Smith, wanted to test the theory and sent out a short research paper to three hundred peer reviewers with eight serious mistakes in it. The result from the peer reviewers was that no one found more than five, the median was two, and 20% of the reviewers didn’t find a single error.

      This is what I found when doing peer reviews on HCQ and Covid-19: most of what is published today in scientific journals is rubbish and the peer review process is a total joke!

  63. The lessons I would take from Covid19 in 2020:

    1. Look very very carefully at how statistics are defined. If you wish to compare data from diffferenet countries, make sure the basis for defining data values are identical, not wildly differing (the Covid19 death figures being wildly different in definition from country to country).
    2. Look very, very carefully at how you define a ‘case’ of Covid19. Some places define it by a positive PCR test, others define it based on hospital admission with defined clinical symptoms. The two are ridiculously different.
    3. Do not take on trust that PCR test kits are fit for purpose: in a functioning Public Health Sphere, there should be rigorous third-party testing of PCR primers using multiple negative controls to ensure that cross-reactivity to non-SARS-CoV2 sequences does not occur. Most Western figures for ‘infections’ are pretty worthless as the PCR test kits are not fit for purpose.
    4. Check the antecedents of so called ‘experts’ for conflicts of interest, historical funding sources etc etc. If you suddenly find that all the ‘experts’ are acolytes of William Gates III, then you might like to ask the opinions of an equal number who are not…..
    5. Never, ever, ever take on trust a unanimous, immediate declaration of truth following an unexpected event. Learn from 9/11, learn from the lies about Iraq war, learn from the Swine Flu nonsense, learn from the Zika Virus nonsense. Assume, until proven otherwise, that insider trading scams are part of what is going on….
    6. Identify people capable of holding the ‘expert medical professionals’ to account. The politicians cannot do it, the media will not do it, but someone HAS to do it…..
    7. Never take one disease in isolation and put the rest of life on hold: stopping all other medical treatments is an absolute breach of the Hippocratic Oath and it says much about highly paid medical consultants that they would sell their patients down the river to appease corrupt politicians and billionaires.

  64. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

    When you average the United States out, in the daily deaths chart, you see the natural spread. I suppose the second peak is the impact of the restrictions fading over time. Which is pretty much a sure thing. We are not prisoners in our own country.

    At about 750 deaths a day, an annual rate of about 275,000 deaths, this thing is over. The distribution is not that far off from reality. But we will to some extent, drag it along. Not let go of it. The pandemic is dying. But people will deny that it is.

    Grimly, the Biden needs this not to die. He needs more experts bleeping us up some more. He needs victims to get elected. There is nothing new under the Sun.

    • In my opinion most western cultures are in late stage Behavioral Sink syndrome. Social media is the newest disease vector. While we can accuse China of censoring their citizens and restricting their access to the global web a sociologist would point out the actual goal is social harmony and control.

      Look at China’s economic performance. Exports booming, low unemployment, POSITIVE interest rates. Another good indicator to look at is average lifespan.
      China Life Expectancy 1950-2020. http://www.macrotrends.net. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
      U.S. Life Expectancy 1950-2020. http://www.macrotrends.net. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
      As I referred to above:
      https://judithcurry.com/2020/10/10/what-the-pandemic-has-taught-us-about-science/#comment-929041

      If we don’t reverse this Behavioral Sink mass psychosis China will control humanity’s destiny. That might be the best outcome even if we have to redefine our concepts of what freedom, liberty and justice mean in a world dominated by reality changing technologies like AI, genetic engineering and quantum computing.

      • I think China’s problem is this: They are not free. What makes us great is our freedoms. When the hierarchy is too steep and rigid, it collapses. Their hierarchy imposes. It plans. We’ve seen it before. We aren’t great beause we had good planning. We’ve had terrible planning and allowed grifters.

      • This short list of what American’s think is wrong with our system of government came from a recent Onion satire. (Notice the entire rant is one sentence.)

        “The nation’s democratic ideals were hopelessly compromised, and determined that in the meantime, the Electoral College, U.S. Senate, unelected Supreme Court, increased power concentrated in the presidency, lack of universal suffrage, frequent executive overrides of decisions that had majority support of the American populace, the manipulation of voting boundaries on the federal, state, and local levels, a strict two-party system that used legislative means to effectively prevent additional parties from gaining traction, widespread voter suppression, corporate control of the media, massive lobbying sector, outsourcing of public services to profit-driven private firms, concentration of power among a few wealthy individuals, complex legal labyrinths designed to prevent regular people from exercising their basic rights, deregulation that led to widespread health, environmental, and economic hardship, unfettered campaign donations, effective legal immunity on the basis of status, wealth, or membership in a state police force, legal and economic obstacles to free assembly and free speech, poor education in both critical thinking and democratic ideas, unelected local councils and boards with significant influence over the distribution of public resources without fair notice or inclusion of the general populace, and the repeated efforts by the United States to undermine democracy in foreign countries at the expense of undermining its own democratic processes at home didn’t currently exist.”

        Despite our tribal animosities to each other there are lots of areas of agreement. The problems arise when one side thinks they have the *only* solution.

        I wish we could copy Estonia.
        https://singularityhub.com/2020/10/15/estonia-is-a-digital-republic-what-that-means-and-why-it-may-be-everyones-future/

  65. Still fascinated with the range of comments here.

    Would like to suggest that the very form of the discussion is a “model” of “science” – and is data on what – modern day – “science” really is.

    In essence the flow of discussion here reveals how modern “science” works, and what science is learning from the global biological and organizational reaction CV19.

    1. The “sciences” being discussed here are largely – PAID – formal human organizations. (Not some abstract concepts). The debates about models, of all kinds, are largely among “peer”-certified, card-carrying employees of organizations that are recognized by governments as legal arbiters of “science”. (Universities, government agencies, etc).

    2. Therefore the “sciences” are – by formal definition – “industries”. The for-money “license” grantors – who peer-certify others are paid employees of large, monetized, chartered organizations (universities, govt licensing agencies). Even the “charitable” organizations like the UN are hierarchical, money-compensated organizations.

    3. The first lessons CV19 teaches are that:

    A. No industry in history has ever been stable. All human industries have always broken down, and have been forced to re-form.

    The fact that the “Global Industry of Health Sciences” completely missed forecasting the CV19 epidemic is evidence of this constant reality.

    So science lesson number one is that science is a paid industry, and like all paid industries, its forecasts are about 80% wrong all the time (as organizational learning improves)…and like all industries it periodically collapses with what some call the “butterfly effect”…where a tiny event in some remote part of the world changes/collapses large systems and human institutions. (Telephone, Los Alamos atomic bomb, cracking human genome, etc) .

    So the global peer-reviewed “health science” industry, and its many local paid “branches” have been completely disrupted by CV19 – shifting TRILLIONS of dollars of money around the world – and will likely remain disrupted by the CV19 genomic innovation – just like the telegraph/telephone industries were almost eliminated by the mobile packet-switched personal device business, and internet “packet switched”, user-controlled protocols- that replaced the massive central-government mandated “circuit-switched” communications assets of the world.

    This pattern is also reflected in the ever-learning, ever-collapsing “industry” of pollution control.

    The almost instant collapse of global pollution – caused by the tiny strands of DNA in CV19 in humans – will likely emerge as a much better – user-led – environmental solution – than anything the Global Climate Science Industry has suggested.

    The Science Industry learns more from mistakes than it wants to admit.

    Notice that “science” once praised the new petrol-fired automobile as a massive, global, environmental savior – because it would remove 20-foot high piles of horse manure from the world’s polluted cities.

    Now the petrol auto is a villain – but any EV is a – scientifically-certified- savior – despite its containing 1,000 lbs of e-waste. There is no industry for recycling this e-waste yet – but it represents a huge new for-profit industry – pushed by the centrally-organized “industry” of “environmental science”.

    The biggest lesson learned so far via CV19 global disruption – is that “science” is an industry like any other – and it is following the EXACT patterns of industrial organization that happened in the past because, try as they might, human experts simply cannot predict the future.

    If you want to see an interesting metaphor of this “science” process, read John Barth’s novel “The Floating Opera”. Man want to understand exactly why his father committed suicide. (This is like “exactly how did humans pollute the world?”) . He dives deep into research collecting peach baskets fulled with notes/data. Then when he sees he has filled dozens of baskets with notes, and still does not understand his father’s motives….he collapses the baskets to one and throws away the irrelevant notes. This happens over and over…until one day his quest for “absolute scientific proof” – has him sticking his head in the oven and turning on the gas seeking to understand exactly what his dad was experiencing as he left the world.

    The will-to-live suddenly jolts the character back to life, and he realizes that chasing infinite, exquisite, detail will NEVER “solve” the cosmic challenges that make up “human-ness”.

    Same for the Industry of Science. It keeps “studying itself to death”- literally – with massive industries that keep collapsing like peach baskets filled with data.

    And then the industry starts all over again starting with what they learned at the edge of their knowledge…often via catastrophe like World Wars or CV19.

    B. In any industry collapse, it is always….repeat always….the “unskilled”…”uncertified”….sometimes “ignorant”….people on the front lines of the collapse who re-organize the replacement industries….via unfettered local innovation in the face of the forces who tore down the central command.

    In the global auto industry, the worker-centered “Toyota Way” completely replaced the “expert” Alfred Sloan, General Motors top-down…”expert” led central-command auto industry…with bottom-up user-assembled Just-in-Time production techniques – that change every day as worker teams innovate locally.

    The global telecoms are dead. Replaced by 7 billion user-controlled mobile devices. This innovation was facilitated by Google – who built highly flexible server farms based on thousands of small PC’s, not big hard-wired “mainframes”.

    So it is with the CV19 pandemic.

    CV19 viral “debris” collapsed the human industries of science – in weeks.

    Paid scientists and peer-certified experts all over the world can debate the – constantly error filled – “expert” – processes for global pandemic control….and their always partly-wrong “expert” forecasts of CV19 spread and effects…

    ….but the battle against CV19 comes down to mask-wearing behavior, social interaction, and local beliefs of 7 billion citizens…

    ….who do not consult the latest “science” when they get stoned and go to the beach.

    Or when they risk travel to attend their kid’s wedding.

    Or when follow century-old religions. Etc.

    The IPCC – the CDC – the WHO – and any form of “industrial science” is largely irrelevant to 7 billion humans just trying to get through the day right now.

    The “cure” for CV19 rests on the vast array of things beyond the re-structuring Industry of Science.

    C. One bet. When Watson/Crick/Franklin made their double-helix DNA discovery (really only a small model of a much larger process) – they opened the new “Global Genomic Management” industry – just like Sloan and Ford opened the global automotive industry.

    Step back and see the basis of this new industry.

    Tiny bits of genetic code float around a global biomass.

    The best biological sciences have stopped thinking about humans as discrete objects – but as temporary homes for genetic bits that move around freely in the soup of atoms, molecules, and such – that make up “life” on, under, and above Earth.

    There are – legitimate, certified – scientists who argue: If you believe in the Carbon Cycle, then you also will know you are very likely to have in your body actual carbon atoms that were once in Elvis Presley.

    Not like the ones he held. But actual ones in his body that may have moved though the biomass into your body with what you eat and breathe.

    (Check the science behind this bizarre metaphor.)

    Think about this.

    This may seem an absurd way to illustrate “science” – but it is true – and one of the ways

    (This may help some understand better what Climate Science is up against when it wants to control or tax “carbon”.)

    This is EXACTLY the kind of global challenge that the Industry of Science faces in trying to “cure” the C19 pandemic

    The global Industry of Science is collapsing around CV19 – and finds it cannot make its “customers” behave as the experts would wish….

    ….because “Science” is just one of the many human “Industries” that have risen, thrived, failed, and re-formed for millennia.

    IMHO this is the largest thing we are learning – perhaps subconsciously and subliminally – from CV19

    Be safe and happy.

  66. Today’s tax filing deadline thoughts:

    I told of when my prof in college said the phrase: An elegant solution.

    Then I described Sweden’s death cumulative deaths and deaths distribution as elegant curves which is out their in some respects, but a part of life.

    I know what I’ve been trying to say. Least energy path. A particle passing through a gravity well and at least temporarily escaping it. It takes the least energy path.

    The virus is taking the least energy path, and that’s what we’re trying to see. Physics applies everywhere all the time. Maybe not in the center of a blackhole though. Still trying to solve that one.

  67. Hidden immune weakness found in 14% of gravely ill COVID-19 patients

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/09/hidden-immune-weakness-found-14-gravely-ill-covid-19-patients

    “They reveal that in a significant minority of patients with serious COVID-19, the interferon response has been crippled by genetic flaws or by rogue antibodies that attack interferon itself.”

  68. Judith: I thought Matt Ridley’s WSJ article was pretty far off base. Take this passage for example:

    “An epidemiological model developed last March at Imperial College London was treated by politicians as hard evidence that without lockdowns, the pandemic could kill 2.2 million Americans, 510,000 Britons and 96,000 Swedes. The Swedes tested the model against the real world and found it wanting: They decided to forgo a lockdown, and fewer than 6,000 have died there.”

    What model was that? Was it published? You can’t experimentally test a model that says the “pandemic COULD kill 96,000 Swedes”. A model that predicts a range of possible death tolls can be tested. If the model predicted 5,000 to 96,000 Swedish deaths, then the model was right. If the model predicted 50,000-100,000 deaths WITH SOME CLEARLY STATED CAVEATS, the model still could have been correct. It seems to me that politicians have widely publicized a worst-case scenario so that they can blame epidemiologists for the unpopular actions they needed to take. If the politicians and their advisors had any brains, they decided to take those unpopular actions because of predictions that hospitals could be overflowing with cases WITHIN A FEW WEEKS, and not because of some projected final total death toll at year in the future.

    We have seen overflowing hospitals in Wuhan, Northern Italy, New York City, and Texas (at least one south Texas hospital triaged patients least likely to survive) and severe stress elsewhere. We would have seen the same thing in Stockholm, but the Swedes refused to admit anyone over 80 or who was clinically obese. Their nursing homes don’t administer oxygen to sick residents. In March and April, Sweden’s ability to test for COVID was extremely limited, so we don’t know how many died of COVID without ever being recorded as “confirmed deaths”, especially outside of hospitals. Suspiciously, the Swedes didn’t begin to disclose the number of tests they ran until mid-July. If you look at Swedish confirmed positive cases in March, you’ll see a PLATEAU in the number of new cases for 10 days in the middle of that month’s exponential growth in cases that is likely due to limitations in testing. Until some skeptic digs deeply into the Swedish data (including excess deaths), quantitative measures of Sweden’s “success” reported by the government should be considered preliminary.

    Science magazine and several others have published articles questioning the “success” of Sweden’s policies. However there is no doubt Sweden has fared far worse than the most logical comparison countries, Norway and Finland.

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/10/it-s-been-so-so-surreal-critics-sweden-s-lax-pandemic-policies-face-fierce-backlash
    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2771841
    https://time.com/5899432/sweden-coronovirus-disaster/

    I initially blindly accepted claims of Sweden’s “success” without appropriate skepticism. The fundamental reality is that we have a disease that is transmitted by contacts between people. Nevertheless we are being told that measures to reduce the number of contacts between people and make those contacts safer “don’t work”. Such extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to back it up, but Matt Ridley’s libertarian biases have caused him (and me) and others to not provide an appropriate degree of scrutiny.

    For example, clinical trials show N-95 masks provide professionals extraordinary protection in dangerous environments. It’s therefore up to those who believe they don’t work in community settings to provide COMPELLING evidence they don’t work. Sure, past studies show compliance is a big problem – but that doesn’t mean you tell those motivated enough to wear them that they don’t work, nor fail to encourage others to wear them (as Tegnell did). A sensible scientific starting position is that masks, work but that the following factors limit their effectiveness for those who wear them: 1) Leakage around edges. 2) Significant aerosol gets through (but droplets are believed to be more important). 3) Viruses on the outside get transmitted to wearer by hand. 4) People wearing masks engage in risky activity because they over-estimate the safety they provide. As soon as you list these factors, remedial measures become obvious: 1) Snugger designs. 2) Better filtration materials. 3 and 4) Better education.

    Then Ridley claims that “The Swedes tested the model against the real world and found it wanting”. ABSOLUTELY WRONG. The Swedes shut down their upper schools and universities. They banned large gatherings. Data from cell phones and credit cards showed that the Swedes VOLUNTARY spent less time in public places to the same extent as other European countries that did lock down (and their economy suffered just as much as other European countries. According to a Dr. Fauci talk I heard, the same data shows Europeans dramatically reduced their time in public places in April and May, but the US lockdown resulting in a much smaller reduction. The problem with modeling pandemics is that people’s behavior changes because of fear and because of changes in public health policy. Parameters representing these changes in pandemic models are highly uncertain The consequences of this uncertainty should have been conveyed to policymakers. It isn’t the epidemiologist’s fault that politicians – who spend a lifetime selling certainty about their programs to the public – are poorly prepared to deal with uncertainty.

    Finally (and with apologies to Nic), according to the above article in Science magazine, Tegnell is no longer claiming that herd immunity is an important factor so far in Sweden’s pandemic. The reported 60% seroprevalence in Manaus is suggests that inhomogeneity in susceptibility and transmissibility may not be large enough to dramatically reduce the threshold for herd immunity. The extraordinary claim that herd immunity is responsible for Sweden’s “success” needs to be backed by extraordinary evidence.

    IMO, Matt Ridley hasn’t applied the same level of scrutiny and skepticism to epidemiology that he has to climate change. At the moment, I don’t think epidemiology has been corrupted by politics to the same extent that climate science has. In general, science is a superior way of getting at the truth than politics, law, religion or personal bias – so I want to see exceptional evidence proving that this isn’t the case with COVID.

    • If scientists want to get involved in advising politicians and then cover their backsides by giving such a wide range of outcomes as to be virtually useless to determine what policy to pursue. Would you crash your economy by 20%, put 9 million jobs at risk to save 5000 deaths, unlikely, to save 500,000 probably, The first models in the U.K. said half a million would die without a lock down, a quarter million with it. It was on that basis we crushed the U.K. economy. Yet the scientists believe they shouldn’t be held responsible for that advice

  69. One thing about the nordic countries that seems to be overlooked: they are not homogenous; not geographically, not culturally (in spite of similarities), not economicaly, and specially not politically.

    As far as Sweden goes health care is no state or municipality business the – independant – regions having a monopoly on hiring physicians. This means that the municipalities running (or delegating) old age care have no legal right to organise in-house medical monitoring, let alone treatment.

    In the Stockholm region the elderly were denied access to hospital, and even proper diagnostic and medication, as a recent article by Macej Zaremba in the daily Dagens Nyheter made clear.
    In blunt terms: care home personnal was cynically ordered to leave residents to die, for no valid reason. No wonder so many treatable oldies passed away.

    Zaremba makes it a criminal local order, issued by an incompetent local bureaucrat.
    I am not so sure, as Professor Peronne among others, in France, also accused the French authorities of neglecting their duties (“on n’a pas soigné les gens”), and it seems that the Stockholm order was just passed down. (More investigation needed.)

    Also, the EU strangely forbade practitionners to use known prophylactic medication that might have been helpfull. French doctors (and vidows) have gone to the courts on that count.
    Over most of Europe – but not in Finland – emergency response organisations and stocks were slaughtered after the fall of the Berlin wall.

    In Sweden old age care was in a nightmare state in some regions (i.e Stockholm’s) even before the virus came along, so whatever Anders Tegnell might have proposed for the general population would have made no difference for oldies trapped in quarantained no-care homes until october first.

  70. Pingback: What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Science | US Issues

  71. Pandemic behavior warps our perception of time.

    “The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of our lives, and that includes our sense of time. Depending on the month, week, day, or even hour, time either drags on forever, or is gone in the blink of an eye.”
    https://tinyurl.com/y28jr5oj

    I suspect there are a number of Asian countries that experienced this differently and their return to normal was much quicker.

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