Society

When ‘Science’ Becomes a Truncheon


I should like to make a personal confession that will probably disappoint some readers, and perhaps please others. I have now had both doses of AstraZenica. I’m not an ‘anti-vaxxer’, nor a conspiracy theorist. But I also have good, intelligent, well-informed and rational friends who strongly oppose the vaccine and I do not like to see them punished by the infliction of civil disabilities or verbal abuse.

Some Christians and other religious people have grave reservations about vaccines as this letter to the PM from the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox archbishops of Sydney clearly shows. Such qualms about abortion and the use foetal tissue in the vaccines’ development are perhaps not shared by most people, but they ought to be treated with respect in a civil society.

Whether to make use of research derived during WWII from experimentation on prisoners under conditions of terrible cruelty was once a grave moral question. To wish to avoid the use of vaccines that have been developed, even remotely, from aborted human ‘materials’ is a legitimate and understandable moral stance. Yet as one of our readers points out, it is virtually impossible to isolate oneself in this complex world from evil: if you pay taxes you support Medicare, and Medicare funds abortions.

I agree that COVID-19 has caused great suffering and many deaths.  That is beyond dispute. But for more than a year and a half we have been bombarded by many health ‘orders’ that claim a scientific basis yet are clearly motivated less by science than by ease of law-enforcement. In particular, some absurd strictures about the use of masks in public and private places have been given the force of law. I am not a scientist, but I know enough to affirm that science is never ‘settled’ and that those who claim it is are usually not scientists.  It is extremely hard for a non-scientist to extract reliable scientific information from the internet, but we must do our best to separate good science from false claims that pretend to a scientific basis but merely make it easier for governments to police the behaviour of their citizens.

It is also difficult to assemble reliable statistics. But as far as I am able to do so, I find I must strongly disagree that hard lockdowns are an effective or proportionate response to the pandemic.  To give one example:  the UK and Sweden have populations, respectively, of about 60 million and 10 million.  The UK reports 7.3 million COVID cases to date and 134,000 deaths.  The comparative figures for Sweden are 1.1 million cases and 14,000 deaths, about the number of cases you’d expect, but considerably below the UK death rate.

Of course, it can be argued that the Australian situation has been vastly less dire than Sweden’s because of the strong policies of the PM and state premiers. But our remote insularity is surely a huge factor too.  Regardless of what position we adopt on that, the fact remains that, within Europe, Sweden appears to have achieved a better outcome than the UK and most other nations by pursuing a policy of voluntary rather than enforced isolation.

I do not accept that we owe a debt of gratitude to governments that have imposed heavy, even crushing, social and economic burdens on their people.  Many have been broken financially, some have died because life-saving surgery was denied them due to the lockdowns.  Many more have died in enforced solitude.  It has been brutal. Governments have become accustomed to treating their infantilised citizens with a degree of mistrust that seriously compromises the principles and practices of democracy.

Finally, all statistics must be viewed in context.  About 150 people die in NSW, and 450 in the whole of Australia, every single day.  Many people struggle to process large numbers or to view them in context.  The mainstream media and many politicians feed their fear, which is out of all proportion to the seriousness of the threat.  Even in pandemic-stricken Europe COVID ranks well down on the list of major causes of death.

I won’t persuade everyone, of course.  I can only repeat the advice from Oliver Cromwell – ‘I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken’. There are people of good will on both sides of this debate: let’s at least try to give each other credit for some integrity and nous.

11 comments
  • Michael

    Science has become postmodern, proving the claim of the sociologist of science Bruno Latour—in the postmodern world, scientific facts are merely socially constructed statements that become “too costly” to overthrow. Science is now a power gambit that relies on enrolling “allies” in a process of “black boxing” claims. Facts are merely “black boxes” that become resistant to opening. Such resistance comes from the number and strength of other facts and allies—other scientists, businesspeople, the media, etc.—that the scientists can link to their own claims, making for black boxes that become too difficult to open. The strength of a fact is the result of the social network that is created in the process of staking a claim.

    “The science” is whatever the authorities claim is true, and all other scientific inquiry is banned in advance. Those engaged in open scientific inquiry and debate are ridiculed and dismissed a priori, and their reputations destroyed.

  • Lo

    Science remains studies undertaken with the scientific method. Pretending it is “settled”, or anything else, is in error and lack of understanding of what the rigour of the scientific method is.
    All of the talk and reference to “the science” is meaningless and suggests the referrers don’t really understand much about statistics or scientific methodology.

  • Peter Smith

    I used to ask people I know last year how many people (including sadly children) they thought died in Australia each year. No one knew. Some guessed a figure five to ten multiples below the 169,000 plus who died in 2019.
    “Many people struggle to process large numbers or to view them in context.” They do. But, sorry, I am no longer willing to excuse wilful ignorance, when our freedom is taken away because relatively few, in the scheme of things, eight-six year-old obese diabetic men and women die “tragically” with COVID.

  • Biggles

    Peter Smith et al. Go to http://www.cmnnews.org to get the opinions of well-credentialed medicos around the world. We have been and are being lied to about Covid. Ask yourself; am I on the side of the Covid hysterics, (WHO, ABC and Fairfax), or on the side of truth?

  • pgang

    Peter, I agree. I have sisters who have barely used the internet until now, and even they have managed to find the information they are looking for, because they have known from the beginning that what is happening is wrong. The excuses have an expiry date.
    There is also no nuance when it comes to examining the statistics, as you say. There is no context and no rationale behind any of it.
    A sentence like this summarises the lack of nuance. ‘ COVID-19 has caused great suffering’. Well, yes – it’s an illness, that’s what they do. Suffering itself is endemic to life. But is COVID-19 causing suffering of unbearable, unnecessary or unprecedented proportions – that is the question. Clearly, when examined in the light of the nature of the illness in comparison with others, and when the statistics are read in their context, it has not, and was never going to.

  • Daffy

    I happened to watch an interview with Dr Thomas Sowell this morning on the Internet. It was from 1995 or so. He was asked about ‘solutions’ to social problems. He wisely replied “there are no solutions, there are only trade-offs” In my consulting in corporate risk, this is a point that I have to drive home. You cannot ‘solve’ a market or system problem. You can change what you can change, but that will incur costs and open other risks. It’s all a trade-off. Life is full of trade-offs.

    Our feckless governments, being played by media panics and ignorant fearful populace have opted for media ‘good looks’ to shore up the electorate for the next crack at the polls.

    At the same time children and young people are pointlessly sequestered, exposed to government imposed, egregious in some cases, mental harm, have their education impaired, their HSCs imperilled and their general social development derailed.

    Why worry about the PROC, we’ve enough enemies in parliaments around the nation.

  • STJOHNOFGRAFTON

    Not a truncheon but a wet Mullet (Mugil cephalus) The jabbed and the unjabbed risk the same outcome: Both can contract and spread the virus. If the jab was a real vaccine, outcomes would be different because the jabbed would have immunity.

  • rosross

    It is good to see another voice of reason. The Covid madness has been fuelled by an approach of, ‘never let facts get in the way of propaganda,’ and a total betrayal of principles which underpin our civilized world.

  • rosross

    It is all too easy to dismiss the public for finding their information through online resources. However, what is forgotten or ignored is that ordinary people can access science and medical data in ways never before possible and one does not need much intelligence to read and process that information and to reach sensible conclusions.

    Mr Google, Facebook, YouTube et all, take us to some of the greatests medical and scientific minds in the world and allows us to access data from the top science and medical research organisations on the planet.

    I do not need to be a doctor or a scientist to read how these genetic treatments called vaccines are made to know that they are highly experimental, poorly studied and carry unknown and potentially ghastly long-term risks as well as short-term risks which are now known.

    I also do not need to be a doctor or scientist and it is probably better that I am not, to read dozens of books and even more papers and resources, on the history of science, the history of medicine, the history of vaccination, to reach conclusions which would make me cautious about science as a system of enquiry, allopathic medicine as a resource for health, and vaccination as a medical treatment in terms of efficacy, necessity and risks.

    It is because we can search for any sort of information that we have the ability to know more than people once did. In fact, on Covid issues and particularly in regard to vaccines in general and the Jabs in particular, a well-read patient is going to know far more than their GP who has trouble keeping up with the overload of basic research most of the time.

    There is no need in this age and no excuse for ignorance. That is why it is all so different and why more people question the Gods of science and medicine. And rightly so. Good science and safe medicine can only result from more questions and even greater doubt.

  • pmprociv

    Regardless of the scientific uncertainties, and the info and mis-info on the internet, how individuals view this issue essentially boils down to personal worldviews, philosophies, and acceptance of risk. There’s no denying, however, that mindless media-reporting, and political scaremongering, have whipped up unjustified mass hysteria in our community, which now over-rides everything else (and even wins votes at elections).
    Death among the elderly is often brought on by terminal pneumonia, infection of the lungs in a weakened, susceptible organism, which drops blood oxygen levels so low that the rest of the body (including the brain) just fades away. It’s a painless way to go, and was (until recently) often spoken of as the “old man’s friend”. For a demented patient wasting away in a nursing home, death from pneumonia is one of the kindest ways to die, and would come as a blessing for that patient, as well as their family and caring staff, at least in “the old days”. And it freed up a precious bed for a new inmate, for whom there’s a very long waiting list. COVID is just another form of pneumonia in the elderly.
    Nowadays, given all the frenzy, death rates in elderly care have plummeted, so waiting lists have grown. Sure, occasional young people also die from COVID, but I’m not sure their risks are any higher than from the “usual” flu outbreaks. Shit sure does happen, but we can’t spend our entire lives hiding from it. Anyone who is particularly worried is perfectly free to protect him/herself by remaining home and wearing a mask. And even getting vaccinated (as I and my wife have done, with AZ). It’s a bit rich when such irrational fear is allowed to destroy entire communities, and the lives of innocent people who are at no risk of damage from COVID. Whatever happened to the “ANZAC Spirit”?

  • DENNIS BOOTHBY

    ‘Science’ was being politicised even when I was at Uni in the late sixties/early seventies. At that time it especially concerned the topic of human nutrition. Animal [saturated] fats were supposedly ‘bad’ for us. There have been numerous studies done [before and after then] which have proven that animal fats are essential, especially for the young, but none have received even a fraction of the attention that the bogus claims received.
    Whenever I hear/see the claim that ‘we should follow THE science’ I know that I am being lied to or that the claimants are trying to deceive me.

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