How Blind Faith In Scientific Expertise Wrecked The Economy

How Blind Faith In Scientific Expertise Wrecked The Economy

One British scientist, a severely flawed model, and a thousand braying imbeciles on social media ordering everyone to ‘have faith in science’ led to the next economic crisis.
Sumantra Maitra
By

Greta Thunberg, of all people, was asked to opine about coronavirus for a CNN panel in the latest episode of our bizarre purgatory. Everyone can imagine what she said: “People are starting to realize that we are actually depending on science and that we need to listen to scientists and experts.”

This is the perfect representation of the Twitter take artist: totally out of her element, with banal and worthless takes, but still trying to be provocative and relevant. In the late 1930s she would have reminded us there’s a global scientific consensus that intelligence can be measured by skull shape and different parts of brains have different emotional locators.

The phrase “settled science” is a classic oxymoron. There can never be science that is settled, and science cannot or should not be the only determinant of policy, especially on things related to the economic direction of the planet.

This is important due to two observable phenomena. One, this pandemic has highlighted how much of our public and social media are full of mindless drones. Two, it has highlighted just how much of our scientific consensus is flawed, and still worshipped as if it consists of matters of faith instead of evidence.

Consider the first one. One of the most important noticeable recent phenomena has been the mushrooming of take artists. They are not scientists, or qualified in matters of economics, history, strategy, or policy. They are random individuals whose sole purpose is to remind us that we should have faith in “science and data.”

Obviously, they don’t understand having “faith” in science is in itself a fallacy of scientism. Scientism is a faith in the idea that all social problems have only one answer, through the process of science. It is a fallacy because scientists are humans and have their own biases, as well as flawed methodologies, which is why science is constantly scrutinized and measured alongside historical and economic questions.

Scientism elevates science to the point of a religion, thereby defeating the whole purpose of scientific inquiry. Nevertheless, these prophets of scientism run all over the internet, telling us that nothing else matters, because “SCIENCE!”

Now, in normal times, that would not have been a serious issue, and these groups of people would be ignored as curious imbeciles trying to find an audience. Unfortunately, in the middle of a pandemic, it turned deadly. These people had faith in predictions that turned out to be flawed.

I am of course talking about our fornicating nerd, the British scientist Neil Ferguson, whose model has been the bedrock of the Anglo-American lockdown. It is his Imperial College modelling that predicted a genocidal amount of deaths and a severe crisis unless a total lockdown was implemented, even when rival models, like one from Oxford University, predicted otherwise.

Now, it is understandable why politicians panic. Not one wants to be blamed for inaction, especially in the early days when Italians’ socialized health care was collapsing with coronavirus patients. The model predicted more than half a million deaths in the United Kingdom only if no lockdown was initiated. Criticism of that model was censored.

Yet as it turns out, the model was severely flawed. The model’s software was 13 years old, with a program that predicted at random. Adding on to the fact is that new records are coming out of this particular scientist of a history of failed predictions.

“In 2001 the Imperial College team’s modelling led to the culling of 6 million livestock and was criticised by epidemiological experts as severely flawed. In various years in the early 2000s Ferguson predicted up to 136,000 deaths from mad cow disease, 200 million from bird flu and 65,000 from swine flu. The final death toll in each case was in the hundreds,” note biologist Matt Ridley and Member of Parliament David Davis. “In this case, when a Swedish team applied the modified model that Imperial put into the public domain to Sweden’s strategy, it predicted 40,000 deaths by May 1 – 15 times too high.”

So, there we have it. A flawed code by someone who clearly prefers to flatten some curves, a history of monstrously wrong predictions, a loss of nerve by politicians, and a gaggle of cultist Septa Unellas shaming everyone for not following herd mindset and groupthink to doom.

One can only hope that this pandemic permanently damages the prevalent “scientism” and the talking point that we should just let “SCIENCE AND DATA!” dictate all policy, ignoring history and economics. Science is one of several important inputs when crafting policy, but it does not tell you what the policy should be.

Science can tell you how to save lives, but not why they should or shouldn’t be saved, or at what other costs. A knowledge of history and a sense of economics can. And there are always trade-offs in policy.

Shutdowns aren’t sustainable. Unless one wishes to permanently close down society, a level of herd immunity is needed. Consider that there might not be a vaccine anytime, and no matter how much one continues to “trace-and-test,” there’s always a chance of infection. In South Korea, for example, a light lockdown release resulted in 70 percent of visitors infected in one nightclub. Most are minor and manageable, but this highlighted that infections will happen whether we want it or not.

A virus has to infect around 60-70 percent of the physically fit population for herd immunity to be achieved. It will be either soon, or in three to five years if we stay panicked and closed. More people would eventually die of job losses, suicide, and despair. A significant delay to reopen will cost more lives: “Because of its virulence, widespread and the many asymptomatic cases it causes, Covid-19 cannot be contained in the long run, and so all countries will eventually reach herd immunity. To think otherwise is naive and dangerous.”

A repeated cycle of relaxation-tightening for years would likely produce the same number of deaths in the end as shielded herd immunity would produce now, whilst producing many extra deaths from other causes as well as damaging social welfare. Upper-middle-class hysteria led to this class-war situation. If the threat of radical social upheavals and anarchy due to joblessness does not keep a person up at night, he shouldn’t call himself a conservative.

Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK, and a senior contributor to The Federalist. His research is in great power-politics and neorealism. You can find him on Twitter @MrMaitra.

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