No Science Was Used In The Production Of This News

Last summer, on my show, I interviewed a guy – an engineering professor – who had a side project, mathematically modeling the progress of the Covid pandemic.

His assertion – that somewhere between 5-10 times as many people had been infected as the testing showed – because “getting tested” was at best a self-selecting set of subjects (if, at that time, they could get tested at all) and most people were asymptomatic, or had limited symptoms.

The numbers were plausible – and the limited symptoms part resonated with me. I barely talked myself into getting an antibody test. My symptoms were fairly minimal – a fever for about a day, a nasty cough for a few more, basically the bronchitis I get every couple years. Were it not for a rash on the back of my hands, I might have just skipped the whole thing. The antibody test showed I’d had Covid, in late March or early April – consistent with the symptoms I did have.

Here’s the deal – the modeler and I considered it good news. With viruses, all other things being equal and acknowledging there’s a lot we still don’t know about Covid, recovering from an infection gets you, if not immunity, at least resistance, at least for some period of time. And even limited immunity and enhanced resistance is a huge thing; the common cold is largely shrugged off by most Westerners, but it was frequently lethal to natives when Westerners traveled to places where the people had never had exposure to it. The difference between a lethal pandemic and the sniffles was a few (or few dozen) generations of having had it and survived.

The modeler’s advice? Everyone who wasn’t under sixty and/or in relatively decent health should protect themselves accordingly until a vaccine came out; everyone else should “play spin the bottle, and power through the infection as fast as possible”.

Having “Survived” a mild case, I’ll recuse myself from the games.

And that particular modeler is not the only person to have found these results.

Shrieking Ninnies In Expensive Suits – which was why I was a little surprised not only to see this story from National Public Radio’s “health” beat reporters, about a study from Columbia that reached precisely the same factual concusion that Covid had infected 5-10 times as many people as we thought…

…and not just that they thought it was seriously ground-breaking news (emphasis added)…

The model has not been published or peer-reviewed yet, but lead researcher, Jeffrey Shaman, an infectious disease specialist at Columbia University, shared the data exclusively with NPR.

…when my lil’ ol’ talk show covered this exact same conclusion eight months ago…

…but the conclusion these “elite” “journalists” reached:

…[the model] gives a much more complete — and scary — picture of how much virus is circulating in our communities…The model’s conclusion: On any given day, the actual number of active cases — people who are newly infected or still infectious — is likely 10 times that day’s official number of reported cases.

So let’s recap: a model that is:

  • Unpublished
  • Not peer-reviewed
  • Reaches a statistical conclusion that is “news” only if one’s sense of credentialism has eaten whatever journalistic inquisitiveness one might have had

…is presented not only as “new” news, but as bad news.

Now, during my brief, not very successful career as a reporter, one thing I did do well was ask questions – which used to be a key qualifier for journalists.

And I have so many of them, reading both the study and the “elite” journos at NPR’s take on it.

  • Given that the number of deaths and serious hospitalizations are a reasonably known quantity, and their numbers has been broadly tracking with known infection rates, and we presume that this discrepancy is not brand new, doesn’t that mean the disease is on 10-20% as fatal as we thought?
  • Again assuming that the infection rates have always been ahead of testing, doesn’t that mean an order of magnitude more people have been infected, and (remember, we know the death rates) recovered, and thus are at least partly immune or resistant? Isn’t that good news (except of course for the number of immune people getting scarce vaccines, and also the fact that our government response seems to be discounting natural immunity entirely?)
  • Wny, in fact, does this story ignore the natural/herd immunity implications of numbers like this?

This sort of “reporting” is neither science nor, if my various bosses, teachers, editors and mentors were to be believed, journalism in any sense other than “providing PR for an authioritarian narrative”.

26 thoughts on “No Science Was Used In The Production Of This News

  1. Silly Merg. Lockdown™ foreveah! It is a crisis that keeps on giving. Science (as opposed to science™) be damned.

  2. You are completely 100% correct, Merg, but Trump is gone, so the truth can now seep out, bit by bit.

  3. Funny that Merck, a fairly good sized pharmaceutical maker, dropped their pursuit of a vaccine for the Chinese flu, because their studies concluded that one would be better protected by getting the virus and recovering from it.

  4. Regarding “powering through”, my admittedly not peer reviewed thought is that if mutations of the virus are cumulative with the # of people infected in series, then we ought to power through if we cannot kill it with social distancing and quarantines. If we “dribble” through it with low rates of infection, we are going to end up having long strings of infection that are theoretically more likely to mutate to something for which we cannot vaccinate/etc..

    I remember joking last summer that we ought to send kids to “Camp Covid” for two weeks and get the young done with it, followed by the middle aged and up….and then pretty soon, we’ve got the disease licked without letting it mutate to some new and nasty form.

    Lots of assumptions there, to be sure, but worth a thought.

  5. When you get into irreproducible experiments, you aren’t doing science anymore, you are doing statistical modeling. That is why epidemiology is more of a soft science than a hard science. You are modeling human behavior, not discrete physical objects.
    This is similar to the science behind global warming.
    Politicians and journalists want absolute statements from soft scientists, not statements hedged ’round with qualifiers, so what they report is absolute statements.

  6. Look up the actual science behind the vaccine and spike proteins – the cure is worse than the disease. IMO.

  7. Segments of my industry are embracing the tenets of Nobel-winning economist Daniel Kahneman’s explanation of human decision-making behavior. In his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, he illustrates how humans have two decision-making systems in their brains: System 1 is for fast, instinctive, and emotional (what to have for lunch, situational awareness, etc.), and System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. We assume that humans, being rational beings, use System 2 a lot, especially when making complex, long-term decisions. Assuming System 2 thinking means we believe if we just give people the right information, they will make the logical choice.

    Reality is that humans are about 80% System 1, even for those “big” decisions. System 1 is what tells you to go ahead and get that double-cheeseburger because you’re hungry and you’ve earned it, even though your System 2 brain has already promised to eat sensibly. (The financial services industry is looking at how they motivate potential consumers by appealing to System 1 thinking instead of System 2 as has been the traditional approach).

    Using my System 1.5 brain, I extrapolate that most people are happy to accept “science” put out by others because it makes them feel like smart System 2 thinkers when what they are really doing is the essence of System 1 thinking: “I am both gratified and satisfied with a fast and easy answer that makes me seem smart.” Yes, that’s “soft science” – but look at the abundant evidence of the last year (politically and epidemiologically) and “change my mind.”

  8. jpa, I’ve just been looking into the info available for the spike proteins used in all of the bat flu vaccines. Lots of explanations on how they induce an auto immune response, but I haven’t found anything insidious.

    Can you give us a little more detail?

    I am aware of Merck’s decision to pull out, and their reasoning behind it. I think it speaks for itself. I never get vaccinated for seasonal flu, and although I realize the bat flu vaccine doesn’t use killed virus like most seasonal flu vaccines, hence no danger of it inducing a genuine case, I still won’t be getting juiced.

  9. I don’t doubt you, boss (or you either, Doctor), but if I want to tell someone about that Merck decision, I’m gonna need a link. Is it easy to find? Or do you happen to have one handy?

  10. Hope real doc can chime in as well. The way I and my SO (a doc who is also a biochemist) understand it, in very simple terms, vaccine is an mRNA which makes your cells produce spike proteins (Pfizer 17 varieties, others as low as 1 and J&J only 50% of creating ANY). But NONE of these are wuhan flu specific. They are Corona-type – read common cold and some (not all) of its variants.

    When a T-cell sees this spike (among many, many others) that it had never seen before, it has to make a decision – attack or not. If it attacks, it may label other neighboring proteins as bad, or good, as well. T-cell remembers this decision and next time it sees a Wuhan flu virus, it will repeat that action. But it will also attack, or not, the others if it ever encounters them as well. See the problem yet?

    So, in an ideal world, if T-cell is conditioned to fight corona-type virus, we just found the cure for common cold! IF it works. But it does not. How do we know that? Because some people who were vaccinated contracted wuhan flu. In other words, the vaccine is a placebo at best and screwing up your autoimmune system at worst. It did not work from SARS-1, to think it works here is the stuff of science fiction. But if you BELIEVE™ it works, all the power to you. But is it worth the risk of screwing up your autoimmune system? Especially since mortality rate from wuhan flu is near 0?

  11. South Africa just suspended the distribution of Astra Zeneca’s vaccine, because the deemed it not as effective as Pfizer’s.

  12. Hope real doc can chime in as well.

    Check your privilege, bigot. Respect the title

  13. It’s true, I am a real doctor, although retired. I had first injection of Phase 3 clinical trial Novavax 2 weeks ago. Pretty sure I got the real deal because my shoulder hurt like a mother the next few days. So far no other ill effects. Unlike the mRNA vaccines, Novavax genetically engineers proteins that are pretend virus particles that look like coronavirus to human B cells and T cells. What I like is the vaccine is very temperature stable, regular refrigerator stable, although it does take two injections. Time will tell if it produces a better response than The Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson products.
    As far as the NPR swill Mitch wrote about, it’s amazing how one’s own confirmation bias predicts the response to the idea of there being more infections than are clinically detected. For me, I like the idea, because more people get immune, which I find to be a best case. We cannot suppress Covid. It’s here, we can try to protect the vulnerable but people will die. That’s not going all laissez-faire, it’s being real. For the NPR/Biden/Kool Aid drinkers, who falsely believe Covid can be suppressed, I say: only in a truly Stalinist world could that happen, and the economic/social catastrophe would be far worse than what our leaders have inflicted thus far.
    Just reviewed some of the 1957 Asian flu pandemic, which I survived as a kid. Death estimates are just that: estimates. Between one and four million people died. The world population then was 2.9 billion. If Asian flu and Covid had identical mortality, take the low estimate (1.1 million deaths) and multiply it times the population increase by 2020 (factor of 2.7) meaning we should expect 2.95 million Covid deaths worldwide. Remember, that’s the low estimate. So far, Worldmeter says 2.3 million are dead from Covid. I don’t see much difference despite all the masking and lockdowns. CDC and others are now throwing another statistic to scare us: excess deaths. I can’t find that stat in the data on the Asian flu, so I can’t compare. Certainly there are excess deaths. However, the crude mortality numbers paint an accurate picture. It’s bad, not Zombie Apocalypse bad.
    My prediction for the rest of 2021 is that government has now found another way to control its subjects and we will have more lockdowns, masking, school closures until we throw the rascals out. I don’t mean armed conflict, Karen, OK?

  14. If I am not mistaken, the excess deaths also include deaths caused by the lockdown (greater drug & alcohol use &suicides). These deaths, too, are being blamed on covid. So they may frighten more politicians into declaring lockdowns and individuals to further isolate themselves, which will increase deaths due to drug and alcohol use & suicide.

  15. Yes, MO. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy and by golly, we gonna keep moving the goalposts to make sure the science™ fits the narrative.

  16. Jesse Kelly has a comment (especially watch the video):

    The System killed people for political power. Remember that. Not China. Not Yemen. The people in charge of OUR cultural institutions drowned people in their own lung fluid in order to win an election.

    Wake up and realize what you’re up against.

  17. doc, very interesting! one of my concerns though is this:

    SARS-CoV-2 recombinant (r) spike (S) protein nanoparticle vaccine (SARS-CoV-2 rS) is constructed from the full-length, wild-type SARS-CoV-2 S glycoprotein (GP) based on the GenBank gene sequence MN908947, nucleotides 21563-25384 from the 2019 SARS-CoV-2 genome.

    This was supplied by the Chinese if I recall correctly. I am very suspicious of anyone relying on this. Hopefully Novavax did their homework.

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