When deciding whom to listen to in the covid-19 era, we should respect those who respect uncertainty, and listen in particular to those who acknowledge conflicting evidence on even their most strongly held views. Commentators who are utterly consistent, and see whatever new data or situation emerge through the lens of their pre-existing views—be it “Let it rip” or “Zero covid now”—would fail this test.
The idea that government advisers can separate science and politics is bogus, says Melanie Smallman
…having spent seven years in frontline science advice, I find the persistence of the idea that scientific advice can be separated from politics surprising.
…because it was impossible to describe the science without revealing the policy advice. The questions being asked and the particular science being used were all shaped by the direction that policy was taking—and vice versa.
At a time of a global pandemic, bringing more—and more diverse—expertise to bear on the issue has to be welcome. But the danger is that, in pursuing some ideal of scientific independence, political issues get disguised as technical matters. This risks handing decisions to scientific experts rather than elected politicians, hiding both decisions and politicians from public scrutiny.