I was wrong. We in the scientific community were wrong. And it cost lives.
I can see now that the scientific community from the CDC to the WHO to the FDA and their representatives, repeatedly overstated the evidence and misled the public about its own views and policies, including on natural vs. artificial immunity, school closures and disease transmission, aerosol spread, mask mandates, and vaccine effectiveness and safety, especially among the young. All of these were scientific mistakes at the time, not in hindsight. Amazingly, some of these obfuscations continue to the present day.
Published 20 December 2010
If peer review was a drug it would never be allowed onto the market,’ says Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of the Journal Of the American Medical Association and intellectual father of the international congresses of peer review that have been held every four years since 1989. Peer review would not get onto the market because we have no convincing evidence of its benefits but a lot of evidence of its flaws.
Yet, to my continuing surprise, almost no scientists know anything about the evidence on peer review. It is a process that is central to science – deciding which grant proposals will be funded, which papers will be published, who will be promoted, and who will receive a Nobel prize. We might thus expect that scientists, people who are trained to believe nothing until presented with evidence, would want to know all the evidence available on this important process. Yet not only do scientists know little about the evidence on peer review but most continue to believe in peer review, thinking it essential for the progress of science. Ironically, a faith based rather than an evidence based process lies at the heart of science.
Let’s begin with the evidence, and the mighty and revered World Health Organization (WHO). As the great Covid fear was getting into its stride, on March 31, 2020, the executive director of the WHO health emergencies programme, Mike Ryan, spoke on the issue.
He said at a briefing in Geneva: ‘There is no specific evidence to suggest the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly.’
In March 2020, some colleagues in Parliament, knowing I was interested in genetics and medicine, asked me if I thought Covid began with a lab leak. “No,” I replied confidently. In this I relied on conversations with expert virologists and a paper that five of them published in Nature Medicine categorically ruling it out: “Our analyses clearly show that Sars-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposely manipulated virus.”
Today, I feel betrayed. Thanks to emails released under Freedom of Information this week, we now know that they did think a lab leak was possible, and the evidence that they then used to dismiss it was faulty.
Presented as an independent voice for “unbiased” scientific advice, iSAGE provided a channel for media spinmeisters, spies and psy-op specialists to influence Britain’s pandemic policy without accountability. Leaked internal emails show members fretting over its unethical methods.
All too often, study results were used by experts who dipped into the pandemic – who have now dipped out – to back up positions of certainty. Such dogma led to the breakdown of constructive discussion. Consequently, destructive policies went largely unchallenged.
So we have one more casualty of the Covid 19 pandemic: science. This is based on free, civilised discussion and recognition of the presence and role of uncertainty – the vital ingredients for its progress. Following “the science” was not a potent force for effective policymaking when so much of the “science” was flawed.
To help society mount a collective defence against pathogens, researchers say that leaders should enlist human-behaviour specialists to play a much bigger part in health policy. This has been the Achilles heel of governments during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Armand Balboni, an infectious-disease researcher and chief executive of pharmaceutical firm Appili Therapeutics in Halifax, Canada. “Social scientists, anthropologists and psychologists were not used nearly enough,” Balboni says.
When a handful of authors were caught reviewing their own papers, it exposed weaknesses in modern publishing systems. Editors are trying to plug the holes.
While 100 retractions over a short period of time may be eye-popping, it’s also not surprising, and is a reminder that PLOS ONE has invested in expanding its research integrity team in recent years. It began issuing more retractions around 2018 as its team worked through hundreds of reports from Elisabeth Bik about papers with duplicated images, at least some of which are clearly linked to paper mills.
The present coronavirus crisis caused a major worldwide disruption which has not been experienced for decades. The lockdown-based crisis management was implemented by nearly all the countries, and studies confirming lockdown effectiveness can be found alongside the studies questioning it. In this work, we performed a narrative review of the works studying the above effectiveness, as well as the historic experience of previous pandemics and risk-benefit analysis based on the connection of health and wealth. Our aim was to learn lessons and analyze ways to improve the management of similar events in the future. The comparative analysis of different countries showed that the assumption of lockdowns’ effectiveness cannot be supported by evidence—neither regarding the present COVID-19 pandemic, nor regarding the 1918–1920 Spanish Flu and other less-severe pandemics in the past. The price tag of lockdowns in terms of public health is high: by using the known connection between health and wealth, we estimate that lockdowns may claim 20 times more life years than they save. It is suggested therefore that a thorough cost-benefit analysis should be performed before imposing any lockdown for either COVID-19 or any future pandemic.
While our understanding of viral transmission mechanisms leads to the assumption that lockdowns may be an effective pandemic management tool, this assumption cannot be supported by the evidence-based analysis of the present COVID-19 pandemic, as well as of the 1918–1920 H1N1 influenza type-A pandemic (the Spanish Flu) and numerous less-severe pandemics in the past. The price tag of lockdowns in terms of public health is high: we estimate that, even if somewhat effective in preventing death caused by infection, lockdowns may claim 20 times more life than they save. It is suggested therefore that a thorough cost-benefit analysis should be performed before imposing any lockdown in the future.
Oliver Stone is a filmmaker with 3 Oscar wins and 11 Oscar nominations. His films include Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, Scarface, JFK, Nixon, Alexander, W, Snowden, and documentaries where he has interviewed Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Vladimir Putin.
0:00 – Introduction
2:54 – Nuclear power
15:52 – Russia and US relations
21:07 – JFK and the Cold War
26:24 – Interviewing Putin
50:02 – Invasion of Ukraine
59:20 – Why Putin invaded Ukraine
1:13:44 – Propaganda
1:21:02 – Interviewing Putin in 2022
1:28:17 – Nuclear war
1:34:28 – Advice on interviewing
1:38:09 – Interviewing Hitler
1:41:30 – Putin interview language barrier
1:42:41 – Love
1:44:36 – Advice to young people
1:47:42 – Mortality
1:48:44 – Regrets
1:50:41 – Meaning of life
Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews (2017)
Revealing Ukraine (2019)
Ukraine on Fire (2016)
The Untold History of the United States (2012)
- Chapter 1: World War II
- Chapter 2: Roosevelt, Truman & Wallace
- Chapter 3: The Bomb
- Chapter 4: The Cold War: 1945-1950
- Chapter 5: The ’50s: Eisenhower, the Bomb & The Third World
- Chapter 6: JFK: To the Brink
- Chapter 7: Johnson, Nixon & Vietnam: Reversal of Fortune
- Chapter 8: Reagan, Gorbachev & Third World: Rise of the Right
- Chapter 9: Bush & Clinton: American Triumphalism – New World Order
- Chapter 10: Bush & Obama: Age of Terror
See the full episode playlist on Odysee.
Evidence based medicine has been corrupted by corporate interests, failed regulation, and commercialisation of academia, argue these authors
The advent of evidence based medicine was a paradigm shift intended to provide a solid scientific foundation for medicine. The validity of this new paradigm, however, depends on reliable data from clinical trials, most of which are conducted by the pharmaceutical industry and reported in the names of senior academics. The release into the public domain of previously confidential pharmaceutical industry documents has given the medical community valuable insight into the degree to which industry sponsored clinical trials are misrepresented. Until this problem is corrected, evidence based medicine will remain an illusion.
“Following the science” became a mainstay mantra of the pandemic, frequently trotted-out to justify unpalatable policy decisions such as banning hugging or denying fathers the right to attend the birth of a child.
Yet as Britain’s epidemic begins to fade away, it is becoming increasingly clear that many influential scientists were ignored, ridiculed and shunned for expressing moderate views that the virus could be managed in a way which would cause far less collateral damage.
Instead, a narrow scientific “groupthink” emerged, which sought to cast those questioning draconian policies as unethical, immoral and fringe. That smokescreen is finally starting to dissipate.
Two years into the pandemic, the experts are now the last to acknowledge the accuracy of their earlier predictions. This raises the question of why they changed course and sacrificed their own credibility in the process. Miller confines himself to the data, and if there’s a limitation to his book, it’s that he does not offer any compelling explanation of why the expert class threw itself a policy it once regarded as worse than useless.
It is not difficult to see why mask mandates proved irresistible to politicians. Masks are the perfect form of hygiene theatre, conveying an intuitive sense of safety regardless of demonstrable efficacy at scale. They also offload responsibility for controlling the pandemic to ordinary people. The overcrowding of ICUs can be blamed on the bad behavior of “anti-maskers”, rather than on the allocation of resources by governments and hospital CEOs. When cases and deaths spike, it is the fault of the citizenry, not the leadership.
The scientific and medical establishment’s uncritical support of masks and other dubious policies is just the latest manifestation of its lack of independence from political imperatives. After several years of finding themselves at the receiving end of rhetorical assaults from rising Right-wing populists, the experts seized on the pandemic as an opportunity to reassert their own status and authority — and that of the liberal-technocratic politicians with whom they are largely aligned.
Most academics since January 2020 have lined up obediently behind even the most improbable self-deceptions of the covid leaders. Chillingly, they’ve acted out a rough reprise of the performance of their professional forebears in 1930s Germany, when a large fraction of German scientists supported the irrationality of the Nazis.
At the start of the current madness in many Western countries, thousands of academics signed petitions (like this one) that effectively begged their democratically elected governments and their supporting bureaucracies to transform themselves into cadres of despotic thugs.
Through what means was this to be achieved? By using the machinery of state itself to force unproven social and medical experiments onto entire populations, and in so doing running roughshod over constitutional liberties and internationally recognised human rights.
Bizarrely, academics applauded as covid leaders around the world ignored the accumulated public health knowledge of decades and even tampered with the well-researched blueprints that had been prepared for just such an event. Most academics fell hopelessly in love with the illusion that expert-led totalitarianism was the answer to this new threat, and that preservation of freedoms had no meaningful benefit. They were, in short, smitten by the lure of fascism.
Ivor Cummins gives an excellent talk on the history of COVID-19 to Irish Nurses and Mother’s Group.
“There are some scientists who have absolutely loved being media stars for the first time and they don’t want to stop. We don’t hear as much from the paediatricians, disease physicians, academic virologists and the immunologists who really know about these things.” (says Professor Allyson Pollock.)
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said many prominent Covid voices have never written papers on infectious diseases. “It’s like me deciding, ‘I did a course on health and economics a year ago: maybe I should set up a group advising the chancellor on how to manage the tax system.’”
Everything the government has got right on Covid-19 in the past 12 months has happened when it ignored ‘the science’. If the modellers hadn’t made such fools of themselves in the summer and autumn of 2021 they might have been taken more seriously by the government in the winter. As it was, their incompetence had seeded enough doubt in Johnson’s mind for him to resist going beyond ‘Plan B’ despite almost every ‘scenario’ modelled telling him that hospitalisations and deaths from the virus would exceed anything England had ever seen before.
One of the checks and balances on rampant bad scientific research is to continuously assess how new ideas fit into the framework of the bigger picture. A new piece of information may seem perfectly reasonable and well-documented, but the domino effect of its implications gives you another way to test its validity. When multiple lines of seemingly rock-solid evidence contradict one another, that’s a good sign that something is wrong, even if you don’t yet know why. Whenever a thread seems out of place, it’s time to pull on that thread until you can figure out what exactly is going on.
…”Trusting the science” is not (and never has been) about trusting results or trusting experts. Trusting the scientists is what got us into this mess. For science to function properly, we must NOT trust the scientists. Instead, we must trust in the messy self-correcting process that allows truth to boil to the surface even if every participant in that process is flawed.
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of the Experts”
— Richard P. Feynman
Science is the relentless competition between measurable pieces of evidence, the ruthless gauntlet of debate, the willingness to question even the most “obvious” of assumptions, and the humbleness to test and retest any and all assumptions against hard evidence, most especially when those assumptions are our own.
The analysis identified 72 studies that might potentially have provided evidence on the effectiveness of masks, social distancing and hand washing. Of those, just six (not eight, 30 or 72) were sufficiently relevant — and of sufficient quality — that they could provide any useful information on mask efficacy. And how reliable were the six? Four were assessed to have a moderate risk of bias, and two to have a serious or critical risk.