Covid, lockdown and the retreat of scientific debate

Science is about rational disagreement, the questioning and testing of orthodoxy and the constant search for truth. With something like lockdown – an untested policy that affects millions – rigorous debate and the basics of verification/falsification are more important than ever. Academics backing lockdown (or any major theory) ought to welcome challenges, knowing – as scientists do – that robust challenge is the way to identify error, improve policy and save lives.



But with lockdown, science is in danger of being suppressed by politics. Lockdown moved instantly from untested theory to unchallengeable orthodoxy: where dissenters face personal attack. Understandable on social media perhaps, but it has now crept into the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in a recent article about the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD).


The GBD, which I wrote, together with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya at Stanford and Dr. Sunetra Gupta at Oxford, argues for focused protection. Rather than a blanket lockdown which inflicts so much harm on society, we wanted better protection of those most at risk – mindful that Covid typically poses only a mild risk to the young. For saying so, we are smeared as ‘the new merchants of doubt’ – as if scepticism and challenge is regarded by the BMJ as something to be condemned.


The BMJ article is full of errors that ought to have never found their way into any publication. Here are some examples:


  1. My colleagues and I are described as ‘critics of public health measures to curb Covid-19’. On the contrary, throughout the pandemic we have strongly advocated better public health measures to curb Covid-19 – specifically protection of high-risk older people, with many ‘clearly defined’ proposals. The failure to implement such measures, in our view, has led to many unnecessary Covid deaths.

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https://www.spectator.com.au/2021/10/covid-lockdown-and-the-retreat-of-scientific-debate/