What is meant by that, exactly? Do the people who urge us to “trust the science” or “follow the science,” actually perform scientific experiments regarding the issues in question? In most cases, no.
Well, have they actually read the scientific papers that support the conclusions they are urging us to accept? Perhaps, in some cases. Usually no.
The reality is that what most people think of as “The Science” is a collection of soundbites and buzzwords distilled, via several layers of media and political spin, from scientific papers, which may be worthless or bogus, and official pronouncements by bodies such as the World Health Organization, which may be lying through their teeth.
Now, this is not to say that we should cynically reject every scientific finding that is communicated to us through the usual channels. You are certainly welcome to do so, but personally I tend to believe scientists when they are talking about matters within their areas of expertise (astronomy, say, or nuclear physics).
There is a major exception, though, and that is scientific issues that have been politicized or otherwise distorted by political, financial or social pressures. In these cases I think we have to carefully filter and apply critical reasoning to the assertions that are being made. This is especially the case when we are being asked to give up some amount of money or control over our lives in the name of those scientific assertions. And this is massively the case when those assertions are accompanied by the fastest rollup of wealth and power the world has ever seen. In that case, my skepticism about the pronouncements of official Science is going to be off the charts, and rightly so.
Our task of challenging the official scientific narrative is made easier when it turns out that many actual scientists—credible, accomplished scientists at major universities—powerfully reject the supposed “consensus” on the issue in question. Most people have never heard of it, but the Great Barrington Declaration, signed last October, destroys the idea that anything like a “consensus” exists about the necessity of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders to fight the microbe (you know which one). The statement was authored by three scientists at Harvard University, Oxford University and Stanford University Medical School, was co-signed by 44 experts, and has now collected signatures from 40,199 medical practitioners and 13,290 medical and public health scientists.
Read it yourself here or below:
The Great Barrington Declaration – As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.
Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.
Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.
As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.
The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.
Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.
Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.
On October 4, 2020, this declaration was authored and signed in Great Barrington, United States, by: