“Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire.”

“We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people. And now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now is the time to speak clearly.”

Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.

I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.

So said Greta, at Davos, 3 months ago, even as another crisis was rapidly emerging, a new, real, more imminent crisis which would grip the world and force governments to act – largely, in retrospect, out of fear, not knowledge, not masses of data, not hope.

At first, UK scientists said don’t panic, then they said PANIC in big, bold capital letters. They got it wrong – twice. They got it wrong the first time because they didn’t know enough about the Wuhan Virus to casually float the idea of ‘herd immunity’. The now thoroughly discredited WHO was telling us that the fatality rate was 3.4% and R0 (the average number of people one person infects) was a lot higher than ‘flu, meaning that, if left unchecked, the disease would rip through communities and very rapidly overwhelm hospitals, meaning that the death rate would rise even higher. This appeared to be happening in Italy, though not in Germany, not in Japan, not in South Korea and not in a few other countries besides. It’s still not happening. The UK has been hard hit, even in lockdown, but it’s not happening here either. Nightingale is empty. But at the time, public fear, whipped up by the media, and amplified by ‘new’ modelling data, dictated that the government act to save lives and save the NHS.

They got it wrong the second time because they relied upon an epidemiological model (adapted from an old ‘flu model) which predicted 510,000 deaths from a virus which we knew virtually nothing about. Professor Neil Ferguson at Imperial College, London said ‘DO SOMETHING OR PEOPLE WILL DIE!’ So the government did something and people still died, not in their hundreds of thousands, but, it would seem, in numbers probably irrespective of a lockdown which was initiated too late in the day and was nowhere near strict enough to have a measurable effect on what is probably an exceptionally contagious virus. American IMHE modellers got it wrong a third time, predicting loads more deaths in the UK and the US, even in lockdown, than actually occurred.

Climate change modellers never get it wrong, simply because even when their models don’t agree with reality, this is either because the observations are wrong, or because they still ‘do a reasonable job’ of modelling past and present climate change (especially when inconvenient ‘blips’ are ironed out by retrospective adjustments to the data), but principally because the subject of their claimed modelling expertise lies many years off in the future – climate change to be expected in 2050 or 2100, when the real impacts will begin to be felt. Imperial’s and IMHE’s worst case scenarios look way off, just weeks after they were proposed and after governments acted on the modeller’s advice. Their assumptions are being rapidly challenged by new data and research. Nothing similar happens in climate change land. Their worst case scenario (RCP8.5), though comprehensively debunked, still lives on and is still being defended by Met Office scientists on the basis that ‘carbon feedbacks (however unlikely) cannot be ruled out’.

People are still scared by Covid-19; they’re scared of dying, naturally, not in many years’ time because of bad weather, but next week, due to some horrible illness which probably escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China. The government and the Medicine Men currently in control of control of government decision-making, use that fear to control us and to convince us of the legitimacy of their policy. Thus, mostly, we have obediently stayed at home, and acted responsibly whilst out, but that’s not enough for the police who’ve taken great pleasure in making up their own list of #CovidCrimes and harrassing and fining innocent members of the public guilty of committing mass murder by not staying at home. However, the data keeps rolling in and the research keeps piling up, even as we sit on the sofa and watch our economy go down the tubes and our civil liberties disappear in the haze of ‘the new normal’. Covid-19 is not the disease we thought it was 2 months ago and the unintended consequences of lockdown (given hardly a moment’s thought by epidemiologists and politicians singularly intent on saving lives and saving ‘our NHS’) look set to be even more severe than the consequences of the disease itself.

It’s all very odd, because a few months ago, adults at Davos nodded approvingly whilst Greta reprimanded them for giving her generation false hope, saying that she wanted everyone to panic and take action. Little Greta believed that such action based upon fear, based in turn upon the scary output of climate models, would save the world and restore the God given right of her generation to inherit a ‘habitable planet’. Today, we have adults panicked into taking action on Covid-19 who have destroyed the hopes and aspirations of the younger generation, wrecked their education and who are busy bequeathing to them an austere future where their parents are out of work and their prospects for their own futures look bleak. This is basically the same as #netzero or the Green New Deal of course, but a global depression won’t save the planet in the process. Hence why some climate fanatics are OK with lockdown and economic ruin as long as it morphs long term into Green austerity.

There are signs that now Boris is on the mend, things might start to change and the government may be reconsidering its obsessive lockdown strategy, but I’m not that hopeful as yet, having witnessed the Minister for Suicide Prevention, Nadine Dorries, state on Twitter that lockdown will continue until a vaccine is developed, Grant Shapps telling us not to book a summer holiday, Dominic Raab telling us that an ‘equally distributed’ vaccine is our only hope, No. 10 telling us to stay at home and bake a cake, and five government ‘tests’ for ending lockdown which can never be met.

Gove is said to be setting up a panel which will be examining the potential negative impacts of lockdown. In this respect, we read in the Telegraph today the following:

The exit strategy is very much on academic minds. For this part of the process, we should definitely not rely solely on the mathematical modellers, says Robert Dingwall, Professor of Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University, and an advisor to one of the SAGE sub committees.

“There is a space in the policy making that might be occupied by a combination of sociologists, political scientists and historians who have worked on previous pandemics…you could argue there is a gap in the system of expert advice for that kind of input.

“Modellers are smart people but they’re mathematicians primarily and that’s why you need to set their advice into a social and economic context. That’s why you need to have an understanding of the real world.

“Ferguson for example keeps talking about social distancing as a kind of all or nothing thing. Whereas if we’re going to talk about an exit strategy, there isn’t going to be a VE day where we declare it’s all over.”

One problem, he says, is that “the government have ramped up the level of fear to a point where it’s very hard for people to hear the messages about ‘this is the way out’.” He describes the lockdown on parks, for instance, as “cruel and unjust.”

“It’s a policy by people like me who live in houses with big gardens.

“If the politicians are trying to follow the science, and the science is only giving them a limited range of input, then it might be quite difficult for some of these everyday considerations to get taken more seriously.”

Prof Sullivan echoes some of those points: “I think the fear out there is extraordinary. Now, it’s our view that the fear is out of all proportion to the threat and the risk. There’s been a real perspective loss here.

“I keep saying to people we have as many if not more people dying of pneumonia and loads of other conditions. I think life has to start renormalizing again with sufficient care and attention to the vulnerable.”


Waiting for a mandatory Bill Gates funded vaccine to be developed before lifting lockdown is an insane and very sinister proposal. That Raab and Dorries would even mention it is extremely concerning. Meanwhile, in the real world (hopefully), perhaps herd immunity is about to make a comeback in the light of what we now know about this virus and its lethality (which looks to be somewhat more comparable to seasonal ‘flu than the Black Death).

Prof Sullivan says that, even after sorting out testing and the provision of adequate personal protection equipment, “I’m afraid it comes down to this problem of, are we going to wait for two years for a vaccine which may never happen?

“Of course not. The British economy and society will be finished by then. So, your only option here is about building up herd immunity.”

After all this, herd immunity?


  1. As I said, new data keeps rolling in:

    “Taking account of historical experience, trends in the data, increased number of infections in the population at largest, and potential impact of misclassification of deaths gives a presumed estimate for the COVID-19 IFR somewhere between 0.1% and 0.36%.*

    Data from COVID deaths in Gangelt, Germany, suggests an IFR of 0.37%. A random sample of 1,000 residents of Gangelt found that 14% were carrying antibodies (2% were detected cases), which led to the lowering of the IFR estimates

    *Demographic changes in the population could vary the IFR significantly. If younger populations are infected more the IFR will be lower. Comorbidities will have a significant impact to increase the IFR: the elderly and those with ≥ 3 comorbidities are at much higher risk.”

    Questions are beginning to be asked, the answers to which might seriously undermine the case for lockdowns:

    “It is now essential to understand whether individuals are dying with or from the disease. Understanding this issue is critical. If, for instance, 80% of those over 80 die with the disease then the CFR would be near 3% in this age group as opposed to 15%. Cause of death information from death certificates is often inaccurate and incomplete, particularly for conditions such as pneumonia. These factors would act to lower the IFR.

    Antibody testing will provide an accurate understanding of how many people have been infected so far, and permit a more accurate estimate of the IFR.

    We do not currently have a good understanding of What proportion are asymptomatic? ”


    Did we wreck our economy and trash our cherished freedoms and way of life to control a disease which is not much more lethal than seasonal ‘flu? Will our governments ever have the courage to admit this if it is true? Or will they stubbornly cling to the ‘new normal’, pretending that their policies have saved lives and will continue to do so?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. While it may turn out to be about as deadly as the flu, I think it looks like it was more contagious than the flu, leading to those deaths being packed into a shorter time period, with possibly greater overall fatalities simply by affecting many more people, so the argument of flattening the curve may still turn out to be reasonable. However, the question of how many people have already had it and didn’t even notice needs clearing up ASAP.


  3. DAVEJR,

    It’s quite likely that it is more contagious than the ‘flu, which does mean that it can spread much more quickly and infect the populace in a shorter period. This would result in a spike of hospital admissions which would overwhelm the NHS if the rate of contagion was not slowed. What seems likely however is that very early intervention to mitigate the spread would have been effective. Leaving it so late and not locking down really hard means that lockdown probably makes little difference. The horse has already bolted and the infection is already fairly widespread in the community. This appears to be what is happening. Sweden doesn’t look very different to the UK, despite not locking down. The NHS is now out of danger of being overwhelmed, so there appears to be little justification for continuing with the policy put in place if deaths continue to decline, especially as the death count itself is somewhat suspect. Hancock however is insisting that lockdown is working and that the disease will run riot if we start removing restrictions.


  4. Jaime: very good article. I’m typing on my iPhone here so anything can happen!

    Did we wreck our economy and trash our cherished freedoms and way of life to control a disease which is not much more lethal than seasonal ‘flu? Will our governments ever have the courage to admit this if it is true? Or will they stubbornly cling to the ‘new normal’, pretending that their policies have saved lives and will continue to do so?

    I think the last two questions are a false alternative. They’ll be chucked out by the voters or they’ll find some incredibly crafty way of escape which I can’t currently imagine. But fascism actually arriving this way I think is not going to be the result. When I have my nice Mac keyboard back I may say more.

    The quotes from Greta and the argument that there were two opposite mistakes made make for a lot to chew on. And especially the point about the difference in the modelling prediction timescales. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. DAVEJR:

    It’s not so much that the virus is more contagious than flu, it’s more that those who were more susceptible were not adequately protected. It has become obvious that hospitals and care homes have been reservoirs of infection in many western countries.


  6. My guess is that when the official daily death rates fall to a handful a day, people will start drifting back to what they were doing before the lockdown. Obviously those that have been furloughed will not go back to work until the government money runs out, or they get too bored.

    Given the general competence of HMG, we can look forward to the ending of the lockdown being as chaotic as it’s inception.


  7. Sweden will be the acid test. Thank heavens the government stuck to its guns and resisted the bullying attempts by alarmists to force it to lock down. At present, Sweden looks to be controlling the epidemic with its very moderate social distancing policy and UK ministers are keeping a close eye on how things continue to develop.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. People are going to be chewing over this episode for years. I am still, at this point, in support of the general approach which has been taken in my country (Australia), but critical of the detailed implementation. There has been overreach in interfering with the freedom to walk in parks, to go to the beach, to go for a drive in the country without getting out of your car. New Zealand has gone much harder in terms of the types of businesses which were closed, but with no appreciable improvement in results at this point.
    One possible reason for slowing the onset of epidemic, in addition to sparing the health warriors, would be to improve the general health of the population. Vitamin D is well researched as a means to improve resistance to viral infection and the immune response to it, but nobody outside of internet blogs has been promoting that. Today in Australia they are reopening some beaches for walking or swimming, but you can’t lie on one for half an hour and get your last top up of vit D before winter.
    That lockdown has worked here, is plain. Influenza symptoms are one sixth of their normal levels for this time of year, and that is with Covid going on at the same time with similar symptoms.


  9. Where the data is fuzzy, myth prevails, as in the plethora of ass-umptions re the coronavirus,..
    uncertain numerator, missing denominator, madness of crowds resulting.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. People are still scared by Covid-19

    People are scared by 5G. What foolish people are scared by is no basis for how a country is run.

    Community transmission in NZ is now zero. Yet there is a chicken little trying a petition to ensure that primary schools aren’t opened. Never mind that the chance of being run over is now significantly higher than catching CV19 here, let alone getting a bad case of it.


  11. Jamie and a number of those commenting use the word ‘contagious’. I don’t wish to be pedantic but isn’t ‘infectious’ the right word? My understanding is that while the virus can be spread via contact it is more likely to be spread through ‘coughs and sneezes’ which, as we all know, ‘spread diseases’. This is why there is a debate about masks.


  12. I think the reason Sweden’s ‘dangerous experiment’ is working is, notwithstanding the nature of the Wuhan virus itself, the obvious maturity and self discipline of the Swedish people. We’ve heard so much negative news about Sweden re. their immigration policies and no-go areas, their rape figures and their apparent insane reluctance to prosecute offenders that it’s hard to reconcile their commonsense approach to the Virus with that bad press.

    I don’t forget that the government initially tried advising us to adopt social distancing measures and I remeber the ridiculous scenes in parks and tourist destinations just prior to official lockdown. People simply ignored the advice and they didn’t seem scared then. They only became scared when the government and the idiotic media told them to be afraid, be very afraid, and put their cherished NHS in the firing line. Then it all went potty. Contrast this with the Swedes:

    “But the opinions of teacher Sofie Lejdström are more typical. “Locking people up could have catastrophic consequences for people’s mental health, and we’ve seen already that quarantines do not stop people dying,” she said.

    “We’ve been urged to avoid large gatherings and crowded public transport, and to maintain a safe distance when socialising. However, these remain “guidelines”. Rather than imposing authoritarian rules and stripping people of their freedoms, we are relying on people’s collective common sense.

    And it appears to be working. While the high streets are open, they are much quieter than usual, and the majority are following the social distancing recommendations. For most Swedes, this isn’t much of an imposition.”

    “People say we are putting the economy ahead of saving lives, but the economy is lives. A stronger economy means better healthcare for everyone for years to come. Generally, Swedes like to play the long game and right now we’re thinking about the state of play two, five or even 10 years from now. It’s not just about beating the virus, it’s about coming out of the crisis healthy. It’s easy to tally up deaths from the disease, but what about the impact a lockdown will have in terms of unemployment, homelessness, mental illness, and suicides?

    “I believe this policy will slow the spread of the virus and keep the hospitals from filling up all at once. But I don’t believe we can stop the virus. Controlled spreading to create herd immunity doesn’t sound bad to me. It sounds like the best option given there is no vaccine. I don’t believe that acting out of fear and spreading fear will ever lead to anything positive.”



  13. Kestrel27,

    In common usage, I wasn’t aware of any real distinction between contagious and infectious, both implying the transmission of an infection via direct or indirect contact. Perhaps there is a technical distinction in epidemiological circles though, I don’t really know. Anyway, we do have the Hollywood blockbuster movie ‘Contagion’, so contagious must be correct!


  14. Jaime,

    I find it difficult to engage in the COVID-19 debate because it is hard for me to disentangle what is good for the nation from what is good for me. I am no spring chicken and I have all three of the classic comorbidities, yet I am not sufficiently vulnerable to appear on the government’s radar and so must fend for myself. But I will say this:

    Causal inference is difficult at the best of times and nigh on impossible without a reliable structured causal model. No amount of mathematical jiggery-pokery will bail you out if the science is missing.

    The impacts are very specific to the individual so we are definitely not in this together.

    The epidemic appears to be providing the perfect example of the lunacy that one can fall foul of when the precautionary principle is applied mindlessly.

    The UK government would have been better off implementing the preparatory principle instead of trying to play catch-up all the time and trying to fob off its people with fatuous and evasive answers at press conferences.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. ‘Boris Johnson fears’. This is why I’m not hopeful that sanity will return to the UK any time soon. Our PM is scared by the prospect of a second peak, but a second peak is almost inevitable, lockdown or not. That’s how viral infections operate. There were at least two subsequent peaks in the Spanish ‘flu outbreak. By not significantly easing restrictions now, what this idiot government risks doing, is further unnecessarily damaging the economy (and causing more preventable immediate deaths from cancer, stress, heart disease, stroke etc. + knock-on fatalities) whilst potentially shifting a second peak into autum/winter, where it will probably be even more severe and put more pressure on the NHS. I despair.



  16. John, I can certainly understand that conflict. Early on in this epidemic, my self-preservation instincts kicked in because, having hereditary hypertension (despite being otherwise healthy) and being on blood pressure meds, I fell into one of the higher risk categories. With the scary figures coming out of China, I admit I became somewhat fearful. Subsequent research has demonstrated that there is a significant vascular element to this disease which tends to confirm that risk categorisation. But I’ve since almost completely dispensed with any personal concerns about my own safety when discussing the pros and cons of government Covid-19 policy. It’s wrong for the nation as a whole, I believe. That’s the only thing that is important right now.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Lubos Motl has a number of articles on this, and the latest one I found particularly useful.
    He points out that speed of infection spread (number of social interactions divided by length of time it takes to become contagious) is very different for different groups. First the very socially active get it (I’d guess the young) and only later the isolated older people. We’re not only locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, it’s probably the wrong stable. We’re not really fighting the virus at all, we’ve closed down the country to stop hospitals getting clogged up by a lot of old people all dying at once.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Given the government’s completely cluless exit strategy, I think Bill Bedford is correct. This lockdown will not be ended by government, but by the people. It will just run out of steam as people return to work and play, having assessed the personal risk of doing something vs. staying at home. The government will just have to follow the people and open schools and shops etc. to cater to demand. It will be chaotic, stuttering, irregular, but it’s probably the only way out of this mess now.


  19. I have some sympathy with the government, and indeed most of the governments ensnared in this thing. They aren’t really dictating what happens, the scientists they are giving the reigns to, are doing this. But there are different scientists with different views, which also are changing; in short as John points out, the science is immature. But if the government said to itself ‘the science is immature’, we’ll take it on advice only but steer a much more pragmatic course, they’d probably face immensely more public outrage than they’re already facing. In short, the public (albeit stirred up by journalists / pundits) are determining their own fates. The government is in a no-win situation, but the least-worst option for them is “we’re following the science”, because that’s less assailable by a ravenous public. Nor do they or anyone else truly know the outcomes of any option; all are challengeable (and ‘bad’ is certainly possible as the overflow of the system in Italy showed). But if they didn’t survive the “you’re killing us” imagery and moral broadsides that a more pragmatic approach would inevitable produce, they wouldn’t be around to actually have any options anyhow. As evidenced by the fact that reactions within most of the impacted countries are not that dissimilar, I think the government, most governments, aren’t prime movers here; they seem almost to be passive components. This doesn’t mean we’d be better off having ignored science altogether, after all it’s working towards cures and practical assistance / anti-body tests etc. But if the science-policy interface (albeit wrong-footed from the beginning by the WHO), merely takes without question public worship of the authority of science and subjugates to this all else, then indeed we might be better off without that. To fix this not primarily a governmental problem, it’s a problem of convincing publics that science does not have religious authority and is very diverse especially for immature areas, and made by actual people with human flaws.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Jamie at 8.07.
    UK dictionaries support my view on ‘contagious’ while US dictionaries agree with you, which would of course explain Hollywood blockbuster usage. Incidentally(!), I enjoyed and largely agree with your post; assuming Nadine Dorries really said that the lockdown should continue until a vaccine was available, some eighteen months at least I believe, she must be away with the fairies. And that’s leaving aside the point that this view would come better from a Minister for the Promotion of Suicide.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Kestrel27,

    Here is that Nadine Dorries tweet. She tried to claim that people misinterpreted her, but you really cannot misinterpret what she said:

    Geoff, that Times article reminds me of a line in a Willie Nelson song which I’ve taken the liberty of amending slightly:

    “Freedom’s just another word for no privacy left to lose”.

    Oldbrew, I suspect there will be a great deal of research on the origins of the Wuhan virus and very many attempts to challenge the most obvious source of the virus as being Wuhan. Whilst keeping an open mind and remaining sceptical of course, we must be aware that the pressure from the Chinese Communist Party brought to bear upon the West in order to avoid responsibility for this pandemic will be immense and they will use every means at their considerable disposal to challenge the Wuhan origin narrative.


  22. Geoff: The Lubos post I also found helpful, up to a point. For me he’s really saying KISS – keep it simple stupid. (For a string theorist that has much to be said for it.) We should simply graph cases and deaths and they peak when they peak. I’m not so sure about the government bolting the wrong stable door. What software model do you have to back up that opinion of yours? (It’s a joke, kind of. I think software models *are* reasonable tools to take a look at such issues. The great difference from the climate case, as Jaime says, is that you get feedback so quickly that you’ve got it absolutely wrong.)

    Sticking to the software theme this is really interesting to me: how bad habits in web development have led to almost unusable emergency websites about Covid-19. A West Coast Googler questioning the values of some areas of OSS (open-source software) and honouring a Brit who’s been at the heart of some of best stuff for the UK GDS (Government Digital Service).

    This is hardly unexpected news for me. The React ecosystem (it’s a metaphor, don’t be alarmed!) is wildly over-complicated. But it’s also just one example of how the virus is stress-testing so many disparate areas of human endeavour and finding them lacking. And throwing up some real heroes too. That unsettling process is good. Apart from the needless deaths and perhaps a 1930s-style depression. We’ll have to see.


  23. This is the most revealing and perhaps the most damning graph I have seen throughout this whole thing. NHS England has compiled a graph of deaths in hospitals according to the actual date of death. It peaks at April 8th, just over two weeks after lockdown began. This implies that the spread of the disease had already peaked just before lockdown began and that the number of deaths during lockdown bears absolutely no relation whatsoever to the decision to lock people up in their homes. The disease would have spread the way it has done regardless. Of course, it might be argued that locking down just after the infection peak ensured that, after a brief slowdown, infections did not continue to rise higher still, but the data from Sweden tends to argue against this interpretation. Either way, deaths peaked 12 days ago, the NHS is full of empty beds and it’s now time to start easing lockdown restrictions.


  24. “Coronavirus in Scotland: Fears raised over fall in cancer case referrals”


    “Scotland’s interim chief medical officer has voiced fears that people with cancer symptoms are not coming forward due to the coronavirus crisis.

    Dr Gregor Smith said there had been a 72% reduction in urgent suspected cancer referrals by doctors.

    He said GPs had reported far fewer people than usual coming forward with “symptoms and signs” of cancer.

    He urged anyone with new or persistent symptoms to “seek advice in the way you would have done before Covid-19″.

    The number of people seeking help at accident and emergency departments in Scotland’s hospitals is also down 54% compared to the weekly average over the last three years.”

    These are some of the lock-down side effects. I have no idea whether lock-down is doing more harm than good, but I’m concerned at the rather simplistic narrative adopted by Government and much of the MSM. My inclination is to start easing the lock-down, while maintaining social distancing, but that’s just my gut feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Actually, if deaths peaked on April 8th, at a rough estimate, the infection rate must have peaked a whole month earlier – 31 days (around March 6th):

    Median time from hospital admission to death = 18 days
    Mean time from first symptoms to development of severe symptoms = 7-10 days
    Incubation period = 5 days.

    This means lockdown happened about 17 days after the peak of infections occurred!


  26. D.Mail: According to Dr Forster, up until January 17, nearly all of the coronavirus variants found in Wuhan were type B.

    The researchers found that in Guangdong, a province about 500 miles from Wuhan, seven of the 11 samples found in patients were type A.
    – – –
    Possible that developing immunity to one type doesn’t work for the other types?


  27. Professor Hanaghan, at Oxford University says 21 days, but he’s calculating that on the average time it takes to fall seriously ill and die, which does not give you a measure of when the actual infection rate was greatest in the population. But it’s not good news for the government, any way you look at it. They closed the stable door after the horse had bolted.

    “Professor Heneghan, who also works as a GP, told MailOnline: ‘The peak of deaths occurred on April 8, and if you understand that then you work backwards to find the peak of infections. That would be 21 days before then, right before the point of lockdown.’

    He refers to a delay in the time it takes for an infected person to fall seriously ill and die – three weeks on average.”



  28. It’s good news for the country though Jaime. If it turns out to be true. (And I know we can all say it could have been better again if the government had had the great benefit of hindsight. They didn’t know on 23rd March what we think we know now. The voters will have a chance to give their verdict in December 2024. By that time you know what: we’ll know even more than we do now. And people should have learned much about the way we should think about, and question, climate risk and proposed actions to deal with it. I’m sure we’ll come back to that.)

    The ONS Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional comes out again tomorrow. It showed a really big uptick for the week ending 3rd April:

    That could easily be Covid victims in other places than hospitals, plus cancer sufferers

    and other important groups not treated as they would normally have been. And some of that could of course have been people not wanting to go to hospitals because of the risk of catching Covid-19. The government is not to blame for that. Or is it, for scaremongering? Or is that more the fault of the media? Or the medical establishment?

    Apportioning blame will need a good few years. Boris’s 80 seat majority will presumably allow that. But I think we should also wait till tomorrow.


  29. Richard,

    I think the ONS figures are going to show a big spike in deaths in early April and that will probably come down fast afterwards, but we must remember that lockdown is now almost certainly causing deaths in vulnerable groups too.

    It’s only good news for the country if the government now has the balls to admit that it got it wrong and radically ease lockdown measures now, not in May or even later. They’ll have to accept the left wing media will fall upon them like a mad pack of animals and just tough it out for the good of the country. Hancock should fall on his sword. He’s the one ultimately in charge whilst Boris is still convalescing and let’s not forget, only a week or so ago he was threatening to ban all outdoor activity if we didn’t behave. The MSM will want blood, that’s for sure, and he will have to go.


  30. The latest international comparisons from John Hopkins suggest that France, Spain, Italy, and the UK, with roughly similar populations, are all converging towards a similar number of total deaths, despite having different starting dates, different lockdown policies, different health systems, and different viruses. Germany is the big exception. Never having been at risk of running out of emergency beds, they never had to introduce panic measures. Also, there really are cultural differences. I’ve been to a German folk festival, and even when they’re having fun, they keep two metres apart. No wonder their birth rate is so low.

    Remember when Iran was the big disaster about to happen? 5 thousand deaths, less than Belgium. And Africa? With average age of death worldwide stable at around 80, maybe there aren’t enough old people in Africa to attract the bloke with the scythe and hourglass.

    They don’t care about our health or our economy or the future of our children. There’s only one thing our pusillanimous leaders fear, and that’s a headline: “Bodies piling up in corridors.”

    Liked by 1 person

  31. There are phrases there that I cannot conceive going together Jaime:

    “probably” … “almost certainly” … “the government [having] the balls to admit that it got it wrong”

    Not on a probably or an almost certainly they won’t. The ONS numbers may take 2-3 weeks before they come down, or more. I don’t know. Some vulnerable groups may indeed be dying more than they would have but perhaps some of those rightly being isolated are dying less. Again, I don’t know.

    After the next three weeks of lockdown Boris will be fully back in the driving seat I assume. Realistically that’s where things might change. Hancock is said by Tim Shipman to have clashed with Gove earlier on in the process. I don’t know what that was about or what view Boris took. How key is “test, track and trace” now going to be, supported by the new app? I can see some potential weaknesses in the stated aims and designs under Hancock there. I don’t know the end result of that effort either. Will the graphs all head south without need for any of that? I don’t know. You may detect a theme here.

    To be clear, I’d welcome the relaxation of lockdown any time from now. But I think again that 2024 will be when we all make the key judgment calls, well after the event.


  32. Geoff:

    They don’t care about our health or our economy or the future of our children. There’s only one thing our pusillanimous leaders fear, and that’s a headline: “Bodies piling up in corridors.”

    Perhaps two men did care.

    But that’s gallows humour. They copped out. Pusillanimity is in fact better than that. To really care, to keep earnestly studying all the data and then persuading your more narcissistic colleagues to do the right thing … I think of Kipling and CS Lewis’s The Abolition of Man at this point. Why would anyone bother? Men without chests never will. We can only hope, just a little.


  33. Inevitable. Climate crisis scammers are now eyeing up negative oil prices in the hope of crushing the fossil fuel industry permanently so they can transition to their dystopian Green New Deal.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Nobody seemed to producing graphs of the sort that I wanted to see, so for several weeks i have been doing my own. Early on we were told that becoming symptomatic took an average of five days, so I have simply been looking at growth of cases relative to 5 days ago and also 10 days ago. Five days I took to be a rough proxy for effective r.
    Recently with more aggressive contact tracing this relationship has broken down as new cases are obviously being found well before symptoms appear and this no doubt differs between the testing regimes in different countries.
    Anyway, if my approach has any merit, then eff r in UK became <1 on April 2, in Australia March 28.

    A few days ago our glorious media suddenly discovered “the growth rate” of today’s cases versus yesterday’s. One explainer even explained that “this is called r0”. It seems a ludicrous metric to me, since in one day an infected person has not had time to complete infecting others, or time for the new infections to be tested.


  35. LOL. Oil, achieving the green dream of “too cheap to meter” and Occasional Cortex thinks that will spur a transition to renewable energy?


  36. Germany seems to be touted by our TV MSM as getting it right.

    but I seem to recall that they report deaths from Covid-19 different from the UK so giving a lower number.

    Can’t find a link for this, anybody else heard/read this & if so is it true?


  37. Another veteran climate sceptic expressing well what I feel.


  38. Meanwhile, the WHO is trying to whip up fear by telling the world that there’s no evidence for widespread immunity to Covid-19 and that the ‘worst is to come’. What to believe? Data or fear? It almost seems to me that the WHO wants to keep us all locked up inside our homes.


    What I find slightly disappointing is that Pielke Jr shared that Graun article. Not that he shared it, that he did so without comment, perhaps implying that he endorsed the WHO’s findings uncritically. I do know he’s very anti-Trump so that may be colouring his views, but he’s a fine scientist with a razor-like intellect too.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Jaime,

    I’m with Kestrel on the subject of contagion versus infection. But, there again, I’ve always been a pedant. My favourite bugbear is the term ‘risk mitigation’. It is generally accepted that risk is a function of impact and likelihood; therefore, one can reduce risk by reducing one or both. The dictionary defines the reduction of impact as ‘mitigation’. Consequently, if one chooses to reduce risk by reducing impact, one can refer to one’s actions as ‘risk mitigation’, otherwise ‘risk reduction’ will have to do. Virtually no-one respects this important distinction.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. John,

    “It is generally accepted that risk is a function of impact and likelihood; therefore, one can reduce risk by reducing one or both. The dictionary defines the reduction of impact as ‘mitigation’. Consequently, if one chooses to reduce risk by reducing impact, one can refer to one’s actions as ‘risk mitigation’, otherwise ‘risk reduction’ will have to do.”

    Ah, the wonderful English language; it will tie you up in knots forever with its twists and turns, its fluidity and its interpretability. By seeking to explain an important distinction between ‘mitigation’ and ‘reduction’ one is forced to employ both descriptors in such manner that reduction and mitigation are seen as equivalent! [The dictionary describes the reduction of impact as ‘mitigation‘.]

    But my head is still full of Orwellian nightmares on this bright, breezy, cold day in April.


  41. “..one is forced to employ both descriptors in such manner that reduction and mitigation are seen as equivalent!”

    Not quite. All mitigation is reduction but not all reduction is mitigation. But, as you suggest, there may be better ways to wile away lockdown than to worry about the niceties of the English language. Unfortunately, our neighbours are in the process of installing an industrial scale trampoline in their back garden, so I fear relaxing in my garden is going to be out of the question from hereon!


  42. I’ve been to a German folk festival, and even when they’re having fun, they keep two metres apart. – Geoff C.

    Dosen’t sound like a Bavarian folk festival 😎


  43. The very same site that Alex Russell was finding fault with for its profligate use of un-minified JavaScript Steve Mc praised yesterday. But that was for the backend, not the frontend, code, and above all its open-source transparency:

    FE’s quip also reminds me that when Imperial College’s influential modelling maestro Neil Ferguson suddenly rewrote his code the other day he used R, not Python, as some were expecting. Again, open source on GitHub so everyone can examine it. That cannot be a bad trend.


  44. Re: infectious vs contagious debate. Disease transmission is a two step process and it seems to me that both these processes are separately represented by contagious and infectious.

    The ease with which a disease passes from person to person would be how contagious it is.
    The likelihood of a particle penetrating the bodies defenses to cause disease would be how infectious it is.


  45. John,

    Oh no, not the trampoline! As if lockdown wasn’t bad enough without having to put up with several hours a day of bouncing, screaming kids bobbing up and down, looking over the fence whilst you’re trying to relax in the garden. Looks like you’ll have to heighten the fence to 20 feet. My sympathies.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Richard,

    Re. ONS statistics. I was expecting more: 20-22k. A more modest 18k is the figure for week ending 10 April, the week during which Covid deaths peaked. This means that it is 2000 higher than the flu related excess deaths in 2015. So, it’s quite bad, but nowhere near catastrophic and these Covid related excess deaths have almost certainly not been moderated by lockdown, which happened too late on March 23rd. I now expect them to start declining in the week to April 17th. Media commentators and lockdown loving Twitterers are, as usual, exaggerating the significance of the ONS figures out of all proportion to justify us being kept imprisoned in our homes.

    Liked by 2 people

  47. I don’t think the coronavirus would dare.


  48. Looking at the ONS chart again, there was a massive jump in excess deaths in the week to April 3rd – over 5000. This has slowed considerably to 1700 in the following week, to April 10th. What this probably means is that the rate of infection was already decelerating rapidly when it peaked in early March. There is a natural brake on this disease which may or may not be related to herd immunity, but which is operating across the globe, largely irrespective of lockdown measures. Perhaps, as Professor Heneghan suggests, it is the simple expediency of the advice to wash one’s hands, but I suspect something else is at play. Professor Isaac Ben-Israel’s analysis suggests that the spread of Covid-19 declines to almost zero after 70 days, regardless of the country. If true, this seems quite extraordinary. How can such behaviour be explained in epidemiological terms? I really don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Jaime: You probably saw this (or something like it) but the Guardian yesterday gave their breakdown of the Cabinet re the lockdown: Cabinet split as experts warn: don’t ease Covid lockdown too soon and Who are the doves and hawks of UK's Covid-19 lockdown policy?

    According to them, of the senior people, Gove is closest to your position, with Boris and Hancock in the other corner. But we know from both his stance on CAGW and Brexit that Boris can shift his position pretty rapidly. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  50. I think nobody can get their heads round this problem without internalising the zeroth law of life:

    All multicellular organisms die eventually.

    OK I just invented that, and I am not sure how to characterise slime moulds. Also, to a single celled organism, maybe dividing is analogous to death, rather as salmon make a final journey, spawn, and die.

    Based on that law, and ignoring those quibbles, there is no value in saving people from death – because that is impossible – but it may be possible to give them extra time on earth that they can in some way enjoy.

    My guess would be that a survey of care home residents and those in similar medical condition (has this ever been done?) would reveal a proportion A who still valued their lives, a proportion B who were actually looking forward to death, and a proportion C=1-A-B who wouldn’t even understand the question.

    It would be fascinating to know whether we need to flatten the curve by flattening the economy to help only people in category A.

    Thinking about those in category B, well supposed we asked them to make a living will, and then gave them palliative care if they turned out to need it.

    That would leave category C – I guess I’d leave the question as to what to do with them to a committee of the House of Lords, or whatever, but I don’t think we should wreck the economy with all the suffering that will involve to try to save this group!

    As it is, we are killing untold people with stress-induced heart attacks and strokes, untreated cancers, suicides of people who see their private businesses fold etc.

    I am a retired 70 year old with one risk factor, high blood pressure, and definitely not in category B, but if they stopped ventilating the 70+ group to safe the youngsters from ruination, I’d go along with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  51. OLD BREW 21 Apr 8.53am

    Doesn’t sound like a Bavarian folk festival

    In my limited experience of Munich Bierkeller the tables are very wide; and though you’re squashed together on a bench, every so often a neighbour will slide off under the table, giving you more elbow room. If they can get it together to slide off evens one side and odds the other, they should be able to maintain the correct distance. And those dirndle skirts make the Mädchen rather unapproachable. (I’m talking about a century ago.)


  52. Jaime, allow me to return to this from the early morning:

    What I find slightly disappointing is that Pielke Jr shared that Graun article. Not that he shared it, that he did so without comment, perhaps implying that he endorsed the WHO’s findings uncritically. I do know he’s very anti-Trump so that may be colouring his views, but he’s a fine scientist with a razor-like intellect too.

    Add in this comment on the weekend from someone who’d just read my “Missing Facts” post for seasoning:

    Now Lomborg would definitely not call himself a sceptic. I think Lindzen accepts the term nowadays but he had quite a hilarious objection to it in earlier days: it showed too much respect to the viewpoint we were opposing to dignify our stance as sceptical of it. It didn’t hang together enough to deserve that! Curry and Ridley would also not normally use the term of themselves. Ridley definitely calls himself a lukewarmer as his first choice. And Pielke I’d put squarely in the Lomborg camp as a determined non-sceptic.

    Yet I’m sure that Philip Ball would have included Pielke is his list of ‘same old sceptics’ if I’d cited Roger in my piece. And this is my kicker: sceptics must look like headless chickens on Covid-19 to Philip Ball. There is a vast range of conflicting and contradictory opinion as we all struggle with incomplete, emerging data. For just one example, I’ve seen Steve Mc (who I don’t remember calling himself a sceptic either) respond robustly to Roger on one occasion after he trenchantly criticised one member of Trump’s team for something or other.

    We’re not in government but we are grouped together by people who think we’re doing harm like Philip Ball. (But in a politer way than some, I have to say.) The men and women in government also disagree with each other about what it’s best to do. But they also collectively carry the can for getting everything absolutely right, judged by critics with the benefit of hindsight, who have no conscience about savaging them in the middle of the crisis. Because thousands of lives are at stake. The same old same old excuse as we sceptics have endured in our own demonisation over the years. Except this time the lives in the balance are for real.

    Razor-like intellect is never enough. This situation tests all of us. As John said earlier, we have very different individual interests and needs and it’s hard to unpick those from the common good. I don’t think leaders are necessarily much good. Pontius Pilate persuaded me of that a while back. But until things are much clearer, after the event, I try to stay focused on the best path out of the mess.


  53. as usual from another CS post, found this link – https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/vast-machine
    “A Vast Machine
    Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming
    By Paul N. Edwards
    “In A Vast Machine Paul Edwards has news for these skeptics: without models, there are no data. Today, no collection of signals or observations—even from satellites, which can “see” the whole planet with a single instrument—becomes global in time and space without passing through a series of data models. Everything we know about the world’s climate we know through models”


  54. In the Telegraph today:

    “To say this cannot be sustained much longer without wrecking our way of life is a statement of the obvious, and yet many seem prepared to do just that if it means some people will not die today of coronavirus, even if others will die tomorrow of cancers or heart ailments because they are not being properly treated.”

    “Figures from the ONS yesterday showed that, in the week to April 10, there were 18,500 deaths in the UK which is 7,000 more than average because of Covid-19 but about the same as in the first week of January 2000, a bad flu year.”

    On Geoff’s new post, he airs Thacker’s whacky view that Fred Singer was evil incarnate, no less than the Beast itself. Evil is a beast and it’s a very strange one. Who’d have thought a government would be OK with killing people in their thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) to signal their good intent to extend by a few years the lives of thousands? Who’d have thought that the World Health Organisation would heartily endorse this view, knowing the socio-economic and psychological carnage it would cause? They even enlisted Sponge-Bob Square Pants to thank children for staying at home and ruining their educational prospects and their mental health in the process. Then there’s the NHS break-dance, twerking, Maori cultural appropriation videos on TikTok. What’s that about? People are dying because hospitals are virtually empty and not overwhelmed with all the coronavirus patients which models projected would fall seriously ill. I can only offer one explanation: a ritualized form of taking the piss out of a public imprisoned in their homes in order to save ‘our NHS and its heroic staff working on the front line from this deadly virus’ so they in turn can keep us safe. Can anyone else suggest something more benign? Please do, because my radical interpretation implies something much more malign, bordering on evil, and I’m not at all comfortable with it. I’m also not comfortable with Greens using this lockdown as an opportunity to claim that something like it should be extended indefinitely into the future in order to meet net zero targets and save the planet from an imaginary thermageddon glimpsed only in the eye of computer models. That seems pretty evil to me, at least the idea, if not the people suggesting it.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. Jaime: ‘I can only offer one explanation: a ritualized form of taking the piss out of a public imprisoned in their homes…’

    You are too logical. Which I mean as a kind of complement and certainly not as an insult. But to refer back to my above, publics are largely determining their own fates, and publics do not act ‘logically’, albeit there are guidelines for how they may behave. Another difficulty with logic as applied within our normal expectations, is that it seeks very specific cause that hence is often identified with a particular player, in this case ‘the government’ being the most obvious. But once again per above, pretty similar things are happening in most impacted countries across governments of very different stripes, and leader cadres of very different characters. The trick to understanding (which doesn’t mean that I understand this particular situation), is that the outcomes are usually an emergent property of the whole system (so not attributable to any one component), yet the mass of the public themselves are by far the biggest component and so very likely the biggest driver. Another clue is here…

    “I’m also not comfortable with Greens using this lockdown as an opportunity to claim that something like it should be extended indefinitely into the future in order to meet net zero targets and save the planet from an imaginary thermageddon glimpsed only in the eye of computer models.”

    As noted in the different world of only a few weeks ago somewhere on these threads, Covid is highly unlikely to squish catastrophic climate culture (CCC), such cultures are adept at coming back from damage at all timescales from days to millennia, and can even pivot to take advantage of apparently adverse (for the culture) circumstances. Somewhat more sophisticated attempts to do this are already creeping into the narratives. That CCC can potentially find alliance and support in the covid fears, and is actively seeking same, is a clue about what is in charge, which is to say people’s emotive reactions, and not their logic, or the logic of governments, or even the logic of the different scientists and science approaches the governments are pursuing, which merely wrap public fear choices in the authority of science. This doesn’t mean that it’s all bad by any means, it’s how humanity has always got through, in fact, in the face of the unknowable. The twerking etc is all part of the team-spirit that overrides all logical considerations to ensure as many people as possible are pulling in the same direction. We can’t know whether it is still true or not in our modern era (until centuries hence with hindsight), but practically any not suicidal common direction, as long as well supported enough, (and beneath the advertised ‘certainty’, it always evolves), has in terms of group survival always beaten objective logical argument as the *main* arbiter about what we should do, which is why behaviours are so attuned to this mode.

    Caveat: As Geoff will likely point out if he comes along, this is all very well in the general sense, but it doesn’t tell us at all what *exactly* is happening, and how each action can be traced back to its part in the emergent system. No it doesn’t, we aren’t clever enough for that, which is why we still need political analysis and all the rest on top. But that analysis should be based on above principles and avoid stuff like “who’s fault is it?” I don’t think any of this is benign or malign; it just ‘is’.


  56. Thanks for the reply Andy. Your theory that dancing nurses is an emergent property of a highly complex system is an interesting one, but it just shifts the logic up a few levels and begs the question: how does it emerge as a function of the behavioural human input, i.e. existence of a pandemic, public opinion, empty hospitals, hero-worship of NHS staff etc.? It is such a bizarre and unexpected emergent property that I want to have at least some idea of how it could possibly arise. Climate scientists have a pretty good idea of how climate sensitivity emerges from their complex models. Saying that we’re not clever enough to grasp what drives such behaviour is not good enough. Stuff happens; weird stuff, strange stuff, utterly bizarre, seemingly inexplicable stuff, but there’s always someone out there clever enough to at least have a reasonable stab at an explanation or form a coherent theory as to why it happens. Also, it’s not just that this odd behaviour has emerged, it is being sustained by NHS workers even in the face of quite stringent public criticism, so any theory which seeks to explain it must account for that additional quite bizarre occurrence also. My very unsophisticated and not very clever explanation is that it is a malign, ritualised form of taking the piss, but that’s not very satisfactory.

    Liked by 2 people

  57. Of course, then we have the dancing, park-life, trolley-snooping, drone-spotting plod to explain too. But we already knew of their general contempt for the public before this, so that should be easier to fathom. The fall from grace of professional doctors and nurses is a rather more perplexing situation.


  58. “…how does it emerge as a function of the behavioural human input, i.e. existence of a pandemic, public opinion, empty hospitals, hero-worship of NHS staff etc.? It is such a bizarre and unexpected emergent property that I want to have at least some idea of how it could possibly arise.”

    Well there’s a ton of literature on cultural behaviours from which it could likely be weaned, given the length of study probably more than on climate-science, and I’m very far indeed from any kind of expertise. Nor would it be found in a book or paper the specific case of NHS twerking or whatever. But idealising orgs or individuals (including hero-worship) and virtue-signalling for same by whatever means is currently in vogue, is common behaviour that is to do with group solidarity (in which also, previous group boundaries are temporarily suppressed while the problem lasts, such that everyone is singing off the same hymn-sheet for the duration). This sometimes makes for interesting bed-fellows. And the plod example is very common too, think of what happens in wars. Minor officials (and sometimes new officials created to purpose) gain massively inflated powers, and once again part of the nature of those powers isn’t to ensure execution of what is necessary (although there’s a loose alignment), it’s to ensure absolute and unswerving group obedience such that when and if the time comes, the group will act as one in the absolute crisis. The blackout wardens became pretty hated for excess fervour, but are put to shame by the gas testers, who mounted random tear-gas raids way too fervently in order to test public readyness, and as the war progressed and the risk of gas lessened, nevertheless still forced children into tear-gas chambers where they’d deliberately pull aside the masks of the children to ‘teach them’ via fear, or make them run through a gas room with no mask on at all, etc. Society puts up with these abuses of power while the emergency lasts, because, from an evolutionary stand-point it poises us for maximum survival advantage. As noted above, I doubt anyone has a clue whether this is still the case. But it occurs when we face unknowable threats of probably emergency proportions, so at the beginning at least, this fits the bill. And once latched in, the behaviours are unlikely to change until we ‘instinctively’ and not logically, feel the danger has passed. P.S. there was a huge dancing boom in the second world war ‘that helped the British people express who they were as a nation, and to define how and why they were fighting’.

    Liked by 1 person

  59. Thanks for the comprehensive response Andy. So, I’m guessing, the behaviour of the police at least will rapidly start to moderate once the ‘danger level’ as instinctively perceived by the country as a whole, dials down. In that respect, the non-alarmist news keeps coming in and it has to filter through to the populace soon, surely. Toby Young’s excellent LockdownSceptics blog is proving to be an invaluable source of information. I found this particularly inetersting:

    “A reader has forwarded a link to an interesting blog post by someone called Phil Nuttridge. He now works as a masseur and nutritionist but his previous career was in science and he has a masters degree in statistics. His motivation for blogging about coronavirus is, in part, to alleviate the stress caused by the hysterical coverage in the mainstream media. In this post he creates a series of graphs, based on information about six different countries obtained from Our World in Data, that seem to show infections peak between 31 and 33 days after cases first start appearing. This is true of all six countries, regardless of their varying population densities, testing rates, case levels and mortality rates and – crucially – in spite of the severity of the lockdowns they’ve imposed and when they imposed them in the lifecycle of the epidemic. You can read it here or watch it on YouTube here. Phil’s analysis complements that of Professor Isaac Ben-Israel, who maintains that infections rise and fall in each country according to the same timeline, irrespective of local conditions.

    Wilfried Reilly, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Kentucky State University, has come to a similar conclusion in Spiked. He’s analysed data from Worldometer’s Coronavirus Project (a great source of data, btw) to compare the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in US states that have adopted lockdowns or ‘shelter in place’ orders with those that have pursued a social-distancing strategy without a formal lockdown. He’s also performed the same exercise for different countries. He ran a regression analysis, controlling for all the factors that could account for discrepancies between different places: population, population density, median income, median age, diversity (measured as the percentage of minorities in a population), etc. The result? Lockdowns are no more effective when it comes to suppressing infections and deaths than well-done social-distancing measures. You can read the article here. (And if you’re interested, you can listen to a podcast in which I interviewed Professor Reilly for Quillette last month here.)”


    Again, there seems to be this very well defined and predictable life cycle of infections from Covid-19 regardless of demographics and irrespective of whether lockdowns were put in place and, if instigated, when they were put in place. Isn’t that weird? How does the epidemiological nature of a virus explain this?

    Liked by 2 people

  60. Jaime:

    Isn’t that weird? How does the epidemiological nature of a virus explain this?

    You’ve asked this twice now so I’ve come on to give you the answer.

    Er, must have dropped the answer on the way to the computer.

    There’s an analogy here with how nobody knows how the atmosphere works, in detail, for example when mankind emits a lot of CO2 – but by no means limited to that tiny and inconsequential puzzle. To nail down accurate predictive numbers for the resultant carbon cycle and then ECS and TCR … takes shitloads of time and measurements, excuse the expression.

    With the virus this very strange folding of its hand after 33 days (if that is the key number), irrespective of lockdowns, is all we would need to know. Forgive me for not using the plain indicative mood there. I support lifting the lockdown. There, I did use it.


  61. “which probably escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China”

    Should read:

    “which probably escaped from a bat in Wuhan, China”

    There, fixed.


  62. Jaime: “So, I’m guessing, the behaviour of the police at least will rapidly start to moderate once the ‘danger level’ as instinctively perceived by the country as a whole, dials down.”

    Yes. Or at least that’s the read of such theory as I’ve absorbed over the years and think is the most plausible – caveat – from a wide field with many layers and insufficiently integrated domains of study.

    Liked by 1 person

  63. Jaime, the wet market in Wuhan, where salesmen stack live bats in cages on top of pangolins in cages and people then eating those pangolins poorly cooked, is already a Darwinean open-air lab.
    Hanlon’s razor: don’t attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.


  64. Hans wrote: “Jaime, the wet market in Wuhan, where salesmen stack live bats in cages on top of pangolins in cages and people then eating those pangolins poorly cooked, is already a Darwinean open-air lab.”

    It also makes a convenient cover story for the authorities to pass the blame onto an ignorant populace. These are two competing theories and I would say that there isn’t good evidence for either, and that China would like it to stay that way, but it is indeed a huge coincidence that the only BL4 lab in China is in Wuhan, not far from the market. These kinds of regimes are notorious for their lack of care as corruption trickles down the ladder.

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  65. I’m going to attempt to answer Jaime’s question about why the virus is so well-behaved (in terms of consistency in all sorts of social contexts – the sign of a gentleman) at a couple of levels of generality below Andy’s (adding that I wouldn’t attempt it if I hadn’t absorbed a portion of Andy’s wisdom – I hope.)

    In two words – Human Behaviour – and to make it less banal I’ll add – which is chaotic at the individual levels but predictable in principle at higher levels, but probably never practically predictable because the data required would overload any attempt at analysis, and who knows what data is relevant anyway?

    You and I and everybody here relies on serious information circulating among maybe 5% of the population, supplemented by other sources used by 0.1% of the population. But the virus is not interested in us, but in the other 95% (mostly.) The 95% don’t stop and think, they hear about it on TV and start washing their hands. They see the first images of people tubed up and start doing what they’re told and registering their approval of government action (whatever it is) in opinion polls. They read about the first cases in their town in the local paper and start wearing a mask to the shops, and then hear about the first case in their street from neighbours and don’t go out at all. It’s easy to imagine a process like that being repeated in very varied social circumstances in different countries, and stopping the virus in its tracks at similar points in its evolution. It’s far too complicated to describe in detail, but it can be treated at a level more concrete than Andy’s by means of examples. In this way of thinking, dancing nurses cease to be an ontological problem, and find their rightful place in the Great Chain of Being alongside trolley-snooping plods and cocksure epidemiologists (who are just glorified market researchers who only get a client once every few decades, thankfully.)

    (Andy is a secret Hindu, by the way.)

    My book for getting through these times by the way, if I had it handy, is Orwell’s four volume collected journalism during the war. A rather dull novelist, with one heroic act (fighting in Spain at the age of 40+) and one genius idea, Orwell was forced by the war to drop his idea of an armed revolutionary struggle and observe people in crisis as very few English people have done. His observations were often unpopular, but often pertinent, since they were made in pubs and shops where few intellectuals went. He’d be commenting here if he could.

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  66. The government is tightening up lockdown legislation and fully intends to keep this lockdown in place all over summer into Sept/Oct, at which point it will argue that measures will have to stay in place to avoid an autumn/winter peak which would coincide with flu deaths and overwhelm the NHS. I’m not sure there will even be a UK left at the end of all this. Complete socio-economic meltdown if this really is their intention. Not even Orwell couldn’t have dreamed up such a nightmare.

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  67. Geoff: Plausible, imo. Happens in nature all the time. When some trees and plants are subject to an onslaught of munchers, they release chemical signals that change the behaviour of the rest of their species nearby, or even third party species, to limit the damage and force the munchers to move on. The signals can even be modulated per the type of threat. For instance may signal trees to temporarily make their leaves bitter, which the munchers don’t like. Or some plants can even summon predators who eat the munchers. That lovely cut-grass smell is such a distress signal. I think for us you’re saying that signal is seeing folks tubed-up on TV and such, causing our own significant voluntary change in behaviour even before it’s reinforced by decree.

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  68. I also thought it was plausible. But the comment about Orwell as a journalist, more than a novelist, really experiencing the extreme and reporting it honestly, and commenting here (if only) excited me even more.

    Back to Andy and Geoff’s mootings (boring but necessary). From a lady from BritainThinks on Newsnight (watched later than billed): on a poll on the weekend 63% of Brits said they wouldn’t leave home, out of fear, even if the government officially eased the lockdown. There again 49% fear the government doesn’t have an exit strategy. So that’s 12% at least that are part of the problem of which they are a’feared.

    Liked by 2 people

    Yes, I think that’s what I’m saying. Except that my examples may be false, or irrelevant, but that a thousand other examples might illustrate the same hunch. Ebola killed 50% of those infected, COP21 or whatever it’s called only 0.5%. Yet this far less infectious plague is spreading further and killing more. Of course, inhabitants of remote African villages don’t move around like citizens of Milan or London; but they seem to have moved around even less than you’d expect. We’re surely at least as sensitive as plants.

    First cases in France were from:
    – a British tourist who flew in from the East to his chalet in the Alps, where he infected only other British tourists, then flew on to his second home in Majorca
    – an evangelical church meeting with worshippers from all over the French-speaking world
    – near a military airbase where French nationals were flown in from Wuhan. The refugees from Wuhan were successfully isolated in a holiday camp in the South of France. What happened at the airbase is a military secret and will never be known.

    Just to illustrate that the early spread of the virus is atypic. Only afterwards do mysterious but in principle explicable social causal factors kick in, because no longer dependent on individual circumstances (there are no longer any globetrotting Brits, religious meetings, or military secrets, only general social behaviour.) We can be modelled, mathematically, provided we all behave as predicted, which in our case here in France, means only going out once a day, less than a kilometre from home, bearing a signed declaration that we’re out for one and only one of four predefined reasons.

    Tomorrow we’re planning to go to an out of town oriental supermarket to stock up on tandoori paste and Bovril. If we get stopped I’ll know this blog is being monitored. Not sure if that would be a good sign or not. Plants are everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  70. @DAVEJR 22 Apr 20 at 6:30 pm
    In climate I have never believed the conspiracies, I also don’t believe an evil setup in the current pandemic outbreak, just plain stupidity, chinese cover up and WHO nepotism.


  71. Making the conscious decision NOT to believe in conspiracies, not believing that individuals and governments are capable of evil intent is the equivalent of atheism. I’m agnostic personally. You also don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that Covid-19 came from a lab. Simple incompetence will do. In fact, it’s even eminently possible that one of the lab workers sold some lab animals to market traders to make a quick Chinese buck on the side.


  72. Hans wrote: “In climate I have never believed the conspiracies, I also don’t believe an evil setup in the current pandemic outbreak, just plain stupidity, chinese cover up and WHO nepotism.”

    No-one here claimed it was done on purpose AFAIAA. The lab outbreak hypothesis requires no evil intent, only flaunting proper procedure leading to its release and a desire for the authorities not to show incompetence and responsibility. Both of these elements are readily available in authoritarian countries like China. Chernobyl is a notable example.


  73. I’m up and down like a yoyo at the moment, deeply depressed and distressed about the state of the nation we live in one day, almost euphoric the next. Today’s a good day. I’ve been out, and so have lots of other people and the news is that the British are returning to work and play in defiance of the lockdown – and barring bringing the military onto the streets, they will not be put back in their boxes. It’s also St George’s Day. Have we decided to slay the dragon rather than wait for the headless chickens to slay the economy? I hope so.

    Then there’s this, from Roger Pielke, Jr., back on Twitter and back on form. Might soon be time to get back to bashing climate alarmists.


  74. This guy sees good news and bad news.


  75. Of course a “0.8%” fatality rate ignores the elephant in the room. This is an average and is wildly different for various demographics. Clearly, there is a subsection of the population that is in great danger, and there are others who are almost bulletproof. These risks need to be properly aired and then a realistic lockdown strategy devised centered primarily around those who are most at risk.

    Liked by 1 person

  76. On whether to be a conspiracist, or never to be one, I follow Edmund Burke: “There is no safety for honest men, but by believing all possible evil of evil men, and by acting with promptitude, decision, and steadiness on that belief.”

    (Burke didn’t have the benefit of Google Books but we do.)

    Liked by 1 person

  77. Here is a leading Swedish epidemiologist, the man who employed Anders Tegnell 20 years ago and who is now an adviser to the WHO (who don’t appear to be listening to him). He says that lockdowns are mostly ineffective, that there is virtually no science behind closing borders, closing schools and social distancing, that the Imperial model was basically rubbish and hugely overstated deaths, that a ‘tsunami of a usually mild disease is sweeping Europe’ and whatever we do to try and ‘fight it’, most countries will end up the same, regardless of policies put in place. Obviously, some will be saner and less poor than others.



  78. So far, the evidence points to an IFR of 0.1-0.4%. If correct, it means that Covid-19, across the population, is no more dangerous than the seasonal ‘flu. It does not mean of course that certain people are not at very high risk. But you can’t just say to people over 65 or over 70 that they are to be banned from leaving their homes or seeing relatives for a year. It’s just not feasible. More sensible measures, voluntary measures, have to be introduced to try and shield these most vulnerable from infection whilst still maintaining their quality of life and mental and physical well-being.

    Liked by 4 people

  79. @DAVEJR of course a lab outbreak is plausible, but is that the likely pathway when all natural ingredients for a pandemic are already present in China: mixing of wild animal species on wet markets in a high density population.


  80. You’re making an assumption that the ingredients were there, Hans. I don’t believe we have any proper evidence they were. I’ve seen it claimed that it was highly unlikely. So, both hypothesis are about at least as credible as each other IMO.


  81. @ Jaime quarter past five

    When I looked at Our World in Data yesterday, Sweden had the highest daily death rate in Europe (18 per million I think, with the UK scoring quite highly on 12). On PM there were Swedish voices speaking against the no-lockdown policy.


  82. @GEOFF. 22 Apr 20 at 7:33 pm

    There is a simpler explanation: if it spreads like ‘flu, and kills like ‘flu, it’s probably just another respiratory tract viral infection.


    That’s not a conspiracy theory. This is a conspiracy theory.
    US intelligence warning about a virus attack in Wuhan, in November, based on intelligence reports about a bacterial pneumonic infection in Inner Mongolia?

    “Wet market” is a dead giveaway. Like “grassy knoll,” “hanging chads,” and “Novichok” it’s an invasive mutant expression that latches on to willing receptors in the media and blocks rational thought.


  84. It’s over. Lockdown is just crumbling under its own superfluous weight. All the government can do now is try to give some direction. The first thing they need to do is start re-opening schools in least affected areas. Sweden is fine. They didn’t nuke civil liberties or the economy.



  85. I wonder if the government will return to showing us graphs indicating levels of travel activity in their briefings. It wouldn’t do to show the lockdown slipping, would it? I was in town today and it looked just like a normal busy Saturday, but with more queuing.

    Meanwhile, my surgery has resorted to examination by email. Either that or you can diagnose yourself by answering a multiple choice menu that takes you to an appropriate advisory site on the internet (provided that you already know the technical terms for what you have got and it is on the government’s list of approved ailments!)

    Liked by 1 person

  86. Hi John
    glad to hear your out & about again.

    on the lockdown front & it’s effect –

    was due to go to a wedding tomorrow (IOM) – cancelled – not sure if they can get any money back?
    am due to go to a wedding in September (UK) – on hold – not sure if they can get any money back!!!
    am due to go to a holiday to Cyprus in September – on hold – not sure if we can get any money back!!!

    Feel so sorry for everyone in these dire times, but some more than others in different ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  87. In response to the Dominic Cummings SAGE controversy, a No 10 spokesperson had this to say:

    “Public confidence in the media has collapsed during this emergency partly because of ludicrous stories such as this.”

    Wow! The Donald couldn’t have said it any better. No collapse in the public’s confidence regarding the government’s handling then? No collapse regarding the whole quasi-religiosity of “following the science”? No collapse in confidence regarding the cult of Dominic Cummings? No collapse in confidence regarding the government’s assessment that human dignity is non-essential? Just the media then.

    Much as I think the media has a patchy record during this crisis, there are times when I do believe it is the only thing standing between us and a bunch of lame-witted, duplicitous wannabe totalitarians.


  88. This might justify the ‘ludicrous’.

    And it seems from polls that public confidence in the media has collapsed

    Liked by 1 person

  89. Richard,

    Yeh, that was a little bit too strong from me, and I certainly wouldn’t wish to maintain that the Cummings article was anything other than ludicrous. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that the concern regarding Cummings dates back to the time of his professed support for the herding immunity strategy, upon which the government backtracked rather unconvincingly. Since then there have been several other occasions when strategy that is supposedly just following the science has had more than a hint of political expedience about it. Under the circumstances, I think continued suspicion towards Cummings is understandable, no matter where one presupposes him to fit into the decision-making machinery. The government may be doing the best they can in difficult circumstances, but I still think it would be unwise to accept what they say at face value, and I become very nervous when they choose to refer to a collapse in public confidence, directed at the media, when it is the same media that we rely upon to keep them honest (that is, in the absence of an effective political opposition).

    Liked by 1 person

  90. One thing about the strategy for releasing lockdown is troubling me. If, as suggested, the release is to be synchronised across all areas, those urban areas with high levels of poverty and deprivation will suffer disproportionately. The decision regarding timing will be a balance between economic and health concerns, but this calculation will be very different for different areas. For some deprived areas with little at risk economically, but with high susceptibility to covid-19, the health risks will remain the more important, and so an early release optimised to suit better off areas may be highly damaging.


  91. Andy,

    I generally agree with the author of your attached article but would add that taking account of both frequentist and Bayesian techniques will not do anything to solve the problem of misleading correlations, since both are geared to evaluate association only.

    Yes, this is another plug for my Brief Primer on Causation. I make no apologies

    Liked by 2 people

  92. John, plug away 🙂 I have not benefited from your primer as much as I might; not familiar territory for me and I found it hard going. I probably should become more familiar though. I really need to get around to going through it much more carefully, and digesting properly.


  93. The Guardian’s fuss about Cummings attending SAGE meetings is just part of their long running hate campaign, involving their humorous writers as well as political journalists. (Two articles I read described him as smelly.) It’s a bit bewildering, given that his background (left-leaning, labour-voting university educated, middle class northerner) makes him an archetypical Guardian reader.

    If you tried to describe what characterises him in a neutral fashion, based on his blog and known opinions, what can you say about him other than he seems obsessed with people who are highly intelligent and hard-working? So what kind of person would hate him, based on that? Can Guardian journalists really be so lazy and stupid as not to see the answer?

    Liked by 2 people

  94. Andy,

    It is a difficult subject to explain clearly, but I tried my best. I gained my understanding by reading Judea Pearl’s ‘Book of Why’. He explains it all very well. However, even the wiki article on SCMs provides a good summary.

    Liked by 2 people

  95. Geoff: I found the reference to Oliver Stone highly amusing here. But that isn’t because, like our good friend Canman, I’ve entirely bought the single bullet theory for the death of JFK. This stuff is complicated but to my mind Carole C richly deserved this:

    Data science is very new and without official accreditation. There’s another crossover here with 97% of the most mediocre climate scientists that can be found (or imagined) being challenged by first-class physicists like Freeman Dyson, Will Happer and Nobel laureate Ivar Giaever.


  96. I should have mentioned our own Michael Kelly there (speaking as a half-Kiwi). Though none of this is to say that Jaime was wrong in the original post that two mistakes may have been made by the government, in sequence. Incomplete data, dear boy, incomplete data, as Harold Macmillan might have said.


  97. John Ashmore in a thoughtful, and mercifully short piece today for CapX:

    There is, of course, legitimate debate about who should attend which meetings, and how people’s presence might influence others’ contributions. The more interesting issue, though, is the notion that scientific advice can or should be neatly cleaved off from politics, as though one is on a pedestal that can only be sullied by the interference of the other.

    That idea rests on pitting a clear, precise scientific view against the grubby trade-offs inherent in political decision-making, with the SAGE committee simply presenting politicians with a neat solution which can then be swiftly enacted. You hear echoes of the same sentiment, incidentally, in climate activists imploring political leaders to listen to ‘the science’, as though there were a Lower Carbon Dioxide Emissions button simply waiting to be pushed.

    Grownup coronavirus reflection reaching out to green revisionists like Michael Moore in the last sentence there?


  98. One can reverse my argument regarding how the poor will be affected by a premature release of lockdown if one sees the lockdown as disproportionately more damaging to them than the virus. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the impact analysis will vary according to area and I am pretty confident that the decision will be taken by the affluent to protect the well-being of the affluent. Or am I being too cynical?


  99. Well, here’s one for the conspiracy theorists, shared by Roger Pielke Jr. no less:

    “The classified report, titled “China: Origins of COVID-19 Outbreak Remain Unknown,” ruled out that the disease was genetically engineered or released intentionally as a biological weapon.

    “We have no credible evidence to indicate SARS-CoV-2 was released intentionally or was created as a biological weapon,” the report found. “It is very unlikely that researchers or the Chinese government would intentionally release such a dangerous virus, especially within China, without possessing a known and effective vaccine.” Every scientist interviewed by Newsweek for this story also rejected categorically the notion that the virus was intentionally released.”

    Fair enough. The Chinks weren’t trying to destroy the world by releasing a deadly virus, the vaccine for which only they possessed. But that does not mean that they weren’t working on deadly viruses and that SARS-CoV-2 did not escape from the lab unintentionally.

    “By March, the wild-virus theory was still the most likely explanation of the origin of SARS-CoV-2–but it was starting to look a little ragged around the edges. For one thing, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, not far from the animal markets in downtown Wuhan, houses the world’s largest collection of coronaviruses from wild bats, including at least one virus that bears a resemblance to SARS-CoV-2. What’s more, Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists have for the past five years been engaged in so-called “gain of function” (GOF) research, which is designed to enhance certain properties of viruses for the purpose of anticipating future pandemics. Gain-of-function techniques have been used to turn viruses into human pathogens capable of causing a global pandemic.

    This is no nefarious secret program in an underground military bunker. The Wuhan lab received funding to do this work in part from a ten-year, $200 million international program called PREDICT, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and other countries. Similar work, funded in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has been carried out in dozens of labs throughout the world. Some of this research involves taking deadly viruses and enhancing their ability to spread quickly through a population—research that took place over the objections of hundreds of scientists, who have warned for years of the program’s potential to cause a pandemic.

    In the years since the SARS outbreak, many instances of mishaps involving the accidental release of pathogens have taken place in labs throughout the world. Hundreds of breaches have occurred in the U.S., including a 2014 release of anthrax from a U.S. government lab that exposed 84 people. The SARS virus escaped from a Beijing lab in 2004, causing four infections and one death. An accidental release is not complicated and doesn’t require malicious intent. All it takes is for a lab worker to get sick, go home for the night, and unwittingly spread the virus to others.”

    Who needs conspiracy theories right, when the facts speak very disturbingly for themselves?

    What I can’t understand is how modifying a virus in such a way that it will spread more quickly through a population is NOT genetically engineering it. Or am I missing something? They were recklessly ‘modifying’ viruses to make them more dangerous and one of the bastards escaped – and now the global economy is a smoking ruin, civil liberties and our way of life are being trashed by incompetent busy-body Western governments and their enforcement agencies, seemingly relishing their new role as instigators of fascist dictatorial lockdowns, all because the Commie Chinks thought it would be jolly good fun to play with pandemic fire without making sure they had plenty of extinguishers to hand in case something went seriously wrong – and because our idiot governments actually funded them to do that! I’m coming out of lockdown in May, whatever our revered leader Boris Johns-On says or doesn’t say. My health and sanity are too precious to me to be worth sacrificing in order that a clueless government and a failed epidemiologist at Imperial can look like they did the right thing.


  100. John wrote: “I am pretty confident that the decision will be taken by the affluent to protect the well-being of the affluent. Or am I being too cynical?”

    Maybe. I think the affluent will make the decision that they believe benefits all, because they do not understand how the negatives impact others, or consider them the lesser evil. The media directly, or indirectly, largely support this stance because they are part of those least affected, and scary stories are good for business. I suspect when the virus starts to run down, they will hypocritically turn to these people for their stories of suffering and pretend they were always on their side. Is that too cynical?


  101. Chinks, Nips, Yanks, Aussies, Limeys, Poms etc. I’m afraid I will use any damn ‘racist’ colloquial terminology used to denote persons of a particular nationality as I see fit. If I’d called them slitty-eyed yellow-skins, you might have a point, but otherwise you do not. Political correctness is not my forte, especially in these very challenging times.


  102. JAIME
    If you won’t take the racist language down because it’s unnecessary, how about because it’s counter-productive? The day one of your excellent articles gets wide exposure, and someone powerful feels threatened by an ace argument, they can just say: “JJ is racist. Ignore her.”

    I once did a post on a Chinese review of Montford’s hockeystick book. I couldn’t read it, but I could see that Montford and McIntyre were getting good, positive coverage in a Chinese scientific review, which seemed worth reporting on. Suppose I did that here and we started getting hits from China. (We get a fair number from Russia, India…) Uh oh.

    Anyway, it’s offensive. It hurts feelings, including mine.


  103. Geoff, I’m afraid you really don’t understand me. I would rather risk being eternally damned (and even risk alienating myself from people I consider natural allies on this very site) than compromise my principles by being forced to to remove ‘racist’ language (which it is not) merely because it offends some people. I’m not racist, never have been, never will be, but if I choose to use politically incorrect language, then I will do so, regardless of the consequences. Chinky/Chink was never overtly ‘racist’ until liberal progressives decided to make it so. As pointed out, it falls into exactly the same colloquial language category as Yank or Aussie, or Pommie. I could also quote ‘Taffs’ or ‘Taffies’, or Paddies. The list goes on. For some reason, liberal progressives decided that those words used to colloquially describe some races were OK, whilst other words (like Pakis, meaning Pakistanis) were beyond the pale and therefore ‘racist’. Nobody really cares if you say ‘Aussies’ or ‘Pommies’ or ‘Yanks’, but say Chinks or Pakis and suddenly everyone is hugely offended, because they are ‘protected’ groups. So anyway, I have zero concern for my own reputation but if my ‘offensive’ language reflects badly on this site and disturbs regulars then perhaps I should stop commenting and watch some old Jim Davidson videos instead.


  104. JAIME
    OK. I accept your argument. After my comment I remembered Billie Holiday’s recording of Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It” which begins:
    “Chinks do it, Japs do it
    Up in Lapland little Laps do it..”

    Other singers leave it out. Am I going to censure Coe Porter? Does he hurt my feelings? Certainly not. Is Jaime to be judged by harsher standards? No. These things are culturally determined, generationally also. I’ve adapted to the prevailing cultural sensitivity about race words, but not to the more recent sensitivity about gender pronouns. My immediate reaction is the same as JIT’s, but I agree with your general principle. I often use rude words that others wouldn’t. So take my comment as a statement of my personal preference, no more.

    Now let’s get back to more important things.

    Liked by 1 person

  105. Thanks Geoff. Perfect response. Back to business.

    We’ve changed so much as a society, wherepeople are triggered by the use of certain phrases deemed ‘inappropriate’.

    In 1979, Pink Floyd released ‘The Final Cut’. One of the tracks had the lyric: “If it wasn’t for the Nips being so good at building ships, the yards would still be open on the Clyde”.

    There would be uproar today. The Graun would be running an entire editorial on the re-emergence of the far right in the UK pop industry.

    Liked by 1 person

  106. OK, after this I’m gonna let it go & move on. But I have to say just this: there is no equivalence, at all, between “Chink” and “Aussie.” Australians refer to themselves as “Aussies.” Do Chinese people call themselves “Chinks”? No-one, as far as I know, has ever been fired for using the word “Aussie.” (They have for using the word “Chink.”) I would not expect any comment of mine using such a word to survive moderation, anywhere.

    Final point. “Chink” is the only word on the list that seems to refer to the physical appearance of the target group. That’s why it jumps off the screen.


  107. Jaime: “Back to business.”

    But what is business? I’d say it’s *persuading people* to change their thinking and thus their votes so that “climate hysteria … [is] replaced by sensible, rational, evidence-based policies for dealing with changes in the climate, or any other natural process which may or may not be caused by human activity.” (Geoff imagining a brighter future in Have We Won?)

    It’s persuading people. Remember that and other things can be adjusted without any loss of integrity or the freedom to shout them out in other settings.


  108. Asked by a reporter whether he had seen “anything that gives you a high degree of confidence” the institute was the origin of the virus, he responded: “Yes I have.”

    And asked a few minutes later what gave him such confidence, he said: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”

    Either the President of the United States is lying about the origin of a virus which has devastated the global economy or Covid-19 came from the lab in Wuhan and the Chinese either deliberately let it spread or they recklessly allowed it to spread by attempting to cover it up. Our own leaders are lying to us though (even though it’s costing lives), so it’s very difficult to know who to believe.



  109. @ Jaime

    The Beeb’s take on this was that Trump was contradicted by his security service. It was something along the lines of “Trump says virus came from Wuhan lab, but his security service has already contradicted him in saying the virus was not man-made.”

    The Beeb thus giving it the old ignoratio elenchi by disproving something Trumpy didn’t say.

    Now, why? Are they that dumb? The alternative explanation, that it was deliberate, seems too tin-foil hat for me.


  110. https://www.businessinsider.com/nih-lifts-ban-on-flu-mers-sars-virus-gain-of-function-research-2017-12?op=1

    “The NIH decided to stop funding these sorts of studies in 2014, after a couple of terrifying slip-ups with deadly diseases. In one case, the NIH discovered that vials of smallpox had just been sitting in a cold storage room of a Food and Drug Administration lab (there are only two labs in the world authorized to possess smallpox, one at the CDC in Atlanta and another in Russia). In another case, the CDC accidentally exposed more than 75 workers to anthrax.”


  111. No tin-foil hat needed. You need to be 100% on the ball 100% of the time to do this stuff and even the supposed best in the USA screw up. I don’t expect people in the CCP to be immune from making mistakes, quite the opposite. I believe the political regime makes short cuts, risk taking, and making a “bit on the side” more likely.


  112. Richard:

    >>>I’d say it’s *persuading people* to change their thinking and thus their votes so that “climate hysteria … [is] replaced by sensible, rational, evidence-based policies for dealing with changes in the climate, or any other natural process which may or may not be caused by human activity.”

    Well if merely ‘persuading’ national publics wasn’t a big enough challenge, there’s a more fundamental problem in that national publics are not climate literate, and rationality needs a minimum level of knowledge to operate. To date, national publics have either swallowed or rejected (or both, in different modes) to some degree or other the catastrophe narratives that over decades have largely drowned out other messages. These narratives being classic cultural / emotive in nature, then the corresponding attitudes of all national publics (whatever is the ratio of support / resistance within each), are likewise cultural in all cases (as my series at Climate Etc is working towards, part 2 out now). Meaning rationality is universally subverted and such bulk skepticism as occurs is innate / instinctive, so not rational either.

    This doesn’t mean that there’s no hope, actual hysteria tends to reveal to ordinary folks what might be happening. And ‘education’ can come in the most unexpected forms, e.g. Michael Moore’s film. But I think long before you get to the point of rational discussion about actual likelihoods and policies, it’s not so much people’s thinking that has to change, but their ‘unthinking’; i.e. the blatantly emotive has to be neutralised somehow. Because otherwise there isn’t any thinking worth the name – it is just bypassed. After that, what level of climate literacy is enough? And how do you deliver it? Taking all aspects into account, the climate issue is probably a much more wicked problem than the covid issue, yet there’s every opinion under the sun followed by significant folks even regarding the latter. I guess the good thing is that despite somewhat inflated emotions, a lot of that very diverse opinion and knowledge could reasonably be regarded as competing within the rough framework of a rational process. But this is very far from the case in the climate domain.


  113. ANDY WEST
    Richard was applying my extremely banal “appeal to reason” to a micro-problem that arose on this thread. For a more interesting micro-problem, see Ben’s post and the discussion at the Nottingham University site that gave rise to it. There are two researchers expressing opinions about us, so they can hardly refuse to listen to our expertise, so the problem of changing the minds of national publics doesn’t arise. It’s simply a matter of getting people who claim to be engaged to demonstrate their good faith by … engaging.

    Liked by 1 person

  114. JIT, DAVEJR, Andrew Neill tweeted this yesterday:

    I presume he was referring to the report I referenced above. I quote again:

    “The classified report, titled “China: Origins of COVID-19 Outbreak Remain Unknown,” ruled out that the disease was genetically engineered or released intentionally as a biological weapon.

    “We have no credible evidence to indicate SARS-CoV-2 was released intentionally or was created as a biological weapon,” the report found. “It is very unlikely that researchers or the Chinese government would intentionally release such a dangerous virus, especially within China, without possessing a known and effective vaccine.” Every scientist interviewed by Newsweek for this story also rejected categorically the notion that the virus was intentionally released.”

    What this does NOT say is that the virus was definitely not man-made; it rules out genetic engineering and rules out the possibility that the virus was released as a bio-weapon. It then goes on to say that the virus may have been modified by so called ‘gain of function’ techniques, implying that it could indeed have been man-made. To make matters more confusing, Dave’s link says this:

    “The NIH’s policy shift will allow researchers to take already dangerous viruses and genetically engineer them to be more contagious or deadly. That could mean taking a flu strain or a virus like MERS or SARS and modifying them so they spread more easily or become more fatal.

    These types of experiments are known as “gain of function” experiments, since they add new — and riskier — functions to diseases.”

    The author clearly states that gain of function modification IS genetic engineering. It’s hard to imagine how it could not be, to be honest. So we re left with the possibility that the virus was genetically engineered in the lab – making it more dangerous – and that it escaped. But journos are claiming US intelligence services have ruled out Covid-19 being man-made and therefore Orange Man stupid, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  115. Richard, Geoff, Andy, from my personal perspective, I don’t set out to persuade anyone who might read our blogs. I think that might be obvious now! As Andy says, climate change believers are probably largely immune to reasoned arguments anyway, so they would probably be reading our blog just to confirm what they already know – that we are unimpressive, non-expert deniers only worthy of investigation for the purpose of officially demonstrating that we are brain-dead, science denying conspiracy theorists. There is of course the genuine reader who might be looking to be convinced one way or the other by the arguments for and against catastrophic man-made climate change. I see my function as being to set out as clearly as possible the many arguments against the assumption that climate change is virtually all man-made and is and will be, very dangerous. I would hope that my audience might be persuaded by my writings – because that means the facts, the data, the research and ideas presented stand on their own merit, not because I intentionally set out to persuade anybody.

    Liked by 1 person

  116. Jaime:

    I don’t set out to persuade anyone who might read our blogs … I would hope that my audience might be persuaded by my writings

    I would find it hard to compartmentalise my mind this much. Nor would I wish to.

    When I talked, with other members of my family in England, with my brother, sister-in-law and niece in Hong Kong last year I was seeking to persuade them to leave the place forthwith. Calling the two (Cantonese and half-Cantonese) women Chinks would not I think have been consistent with that goal. (And I failed anyway. But it was a truly eye-opening conversation, from which I learned a great deal.)

    I’ve never called anyone a Chink in my life as it goes. My brother and sister-in-law, with their PhDs in linguistics, my brother’s being in sociolinguistics, might be amused at our discussion here for all I know. Not something I really want to try on them though.

    I hate those who take offence on behalf of others and that’s not what I’m doing here. (I don’t think it was what Jit was doing either, by the way.)

    I think you Jaime are interested in persuading people. I don’t buy the distinction you just tried to make. In other words, you didn’t persuade me.


  117. Geoff, Richard, I’ve read the Nottingham threads and been there to see the discussion already. It seemed to me that Richard was expanding back out to what is ‘business as usual’ in the climate domain generically. Whether I had Richard’s intent right or not, I think the issues with that business as usual still stand.

    I think the researchers are well motivated, but fall into the classic trap of value-orientation in one bubble as applied to looking into another. The very morals and terms of reference they operate with, are blind to the many assumptions being unconsciously used to inform judgements. Of course this is a problem for everyone in polarised domains, and particularly in the US for instance much of the cultural positioning on each (of the main 2) sides comes from Rep/Con v Dem/Lib tribes, and not specifically climate positions as such anyhow. However, I think as pointed out there, they don’t actually know what the consensus they support actually is, and for instance it certainly isn’t the cultural consensus on certain climate calamity that pervades public narrative, although that is likely biasing their perception of what it is. The planetary orbit thing is a classic – activism is not defined as communicating either, however well accepted one may be and the other not – hi activism is promoting something emotively not objectively, pressuring peers to conform (no pressure would be needed if the conclusions were obvious / replicatable), shutting down any questions (which if they’re wildly wrong could very simply be answered instead, not shut out), demonising any dissent (deniers, smear pages), promoting related policy and political solutions instead of just the science, valuing rhetoric victory over genuine exchange, and so on and so on but above all *enforcing* a consensus. While Sceptic blogs are not free of all such behaviour, for sure consensus they do not have; as Judith Curry points out they’re all over the map, which is a great sign that they’re not engaged in a heavy group-think exercise, which ultimately is the reason for all the other listed characteristics.


  118. Andy: “they don’t actually know what the consensus they support actually is, and for instance it certainly isn’t the cultural consensus on certain climate calamity that pervades public narrative …”

    That’s all very true. Which part of this strange nexus each of us sceptics wants to see change happen in can be wildly different too. But post-Covid (whenever that is) and with Planet of the Humans having become mass viewing, the idea of future persuasion has been strong with me. Because we have a new context we need to be alert to new possibilities.

    Liked by 1 person

  119. Richard, I wasn’t trying to persuade you of anything. I merely stated my personal perspective on why I write. You don’t have to believe it. I know it is my actual motive insofar as I trust the guidance of my inner senses. Also, I think bringing up the Chink business again in the context you have is not very helpful or particularly relevant. I’ve known a few Chinese people in my time too. I didn’t call them Chinks because they were likeable, friendly people and I would not have wanted to risk perhaps offending them. Known a few Americans too. I did not refer to them as Yanks for the same reason. But that is an entirely different situation to using the term Chinks colloquially in a written piece to refer to a nation of people in general. But there I go again, compartmentalizing my thought processes, so I guess you’re not persuaded.

    Oh, and just as an amusing aside, I was called ‘Chinky’ quite often as a kid. It didn’t really bother me that much. Sometimes, I took it as a compliment. But then I’m English, so I guess it doesn’t count, though it does illustrate that Chinky was a term in common use not so long ago.


  120. @Jit says:29 Apr 20 at 9:48 am
    Not to stir things further, but, almost everyone I know (am white uk) when asked what kind off carry out meal they fancy will include “Chinky (shorthand for Chinese meal” as an option.

    you say – “Final point. “Chink” is the only word on the list that seems to refer to the physical appearance of the target group. That’s why it jumps off the screen.”

    you’ve lost me on the physical appearance bit, I thought that was slanty eyed!!!


  121. Jaime: I was very much hoping that you weren’t going to go down the “I wasn’t trying to persuade you of anything” line. And it was your first sentence. So I live and learn.

    Your original post that gave rise to the criticism from Jit (28 Apr 20 at 1:23 pm) I read close to the time and was frustrated by. But I didn’t even notice the ‘Chinks’ and later the ‘Commie Chinks’. That I think is characteristic of my reading generally on the internet. (I don’t take offence – except at Denier. That’s also worth thinking about.) I simply translated to ‘Chinese’ internally and thought nothing of it. And once Geoff made his point to you, after Jit had called it racist, I thought there was little danger to Cliscep because we’d shown we didn’t all agree with the terminology, either because we thought it was racist or because we thought it was unwise, for the reasons Geoff gave. So that reputational problem was not worth worrying about.

    Back to your original comment though. I’d not been reading Twitter at all much and was very interested by the fact Pielke Jr had pointed to this Newsweek hypothesis about Wuhan. So belated and genuine thanks for that. You then were trying to think it through (at least that’s the way it read) and I became frustrated. Behind that though is my settled view that we are not going to know much about Covid origins during this ‘crisis phase’. (Where the crisis is either real, or imagined and then created by governments, or both.) Later we may or may not find out. I thought you’d brought out some important parallels and differences in the original post and you are obviously free to shoot the breeze at any point. I wouldn’t have called what Pielke seemed to be approving of, or at least interested in, a conspiracy theory either, by the way. But I was busy and flitting over stuff here and elsewhere.

    The reason for telling of the conversation I had last year (with the most interesting details necessarily elided) is that there was an element of attempted persuasion from my side. But I also of course listened and learned. Hopefully I used language that was sensitive throughout. In the climate debate we are up against some deeply malignant cultural behemoths that are determined to demonise and silence us. At the same time I think we’d be crazy not to want to persuade ordinary people, and thus policy makers, to give the extremists the heave-ho. And, as I said to Andy, I feel sure there are new opportunities and ways to persuade others given the very new context.


  122. Back to business.

    The second spike is over by the looks.

    “In April, 2020, the Northern Hemisphere experienced its 2nd largest 2-month drop in temperature in the 497-month satellite record.

    The Northern Hemisphere temperature anomaly fell from +0.96 deg. C to 0.43 deg. C from February to April, a 0.53 deg. C drop which is the 2nd largest 2-month drop in the 497-month satellite record. The largest 2-month drop was -0.69 deg. C from December 1987 to February 1988.”

    Australia is recording record cold temperatures for April and now May. Parts of the US are still exceptionally cold. So what’s going on? Human CO2 emissions have declined sharply but this is not reflected in the atmospheric CO2 record, therefore we can’t blame a sudden drop in GHG radiative forcing. Aerosol pollution levels across the NH have declined considerably and the Met Office lost no time in telling us that April 2020 in the UK would be the sunniest evah! You might expect therefore, according to the scientists’ theory of anthropogenic aerosol radiative forcing, that we would be seeing a bit of an uptick in temperatures in the NH, but it seems not. The exact opposite in fact.

    History is replete with ironies. Wouldn’t it be desperately ironic that, just as the world struggles to recover from global Covid economic meltdown and opportunist eco-fascist socialist politicians and activists jump on the bandwagon of demanding that the recovery be ‘Green and sustainable’, the world starts to cool dramatically and big winters (similar to the 1960s and 1970s) return to the NH? The future looks very bleak if this is the case. Talk about a perfect storm.


    Liked by 1 person

  123. Jaime:

    Human CO2 emissions have declined sharply but this is not reflected in the atmospheric CO2 record, therefore we can’t blame a sudden drop in GHG radiative forcing. Aerosol pollution levels across the NH have declined considerably and the Met Office lost no time in telling us that April 2020 in the UK would be the sunniest evah! You might expect therefore, according to the scientists’ theory of anthropogenic aerosol radiative forcing, that we would be seeing a bit of an uptick in temperatures in the NH, but it seems not. The exact opposite in fact.

    It’s early days but this is well worth pointing out.

    History is replete with ironies.

    Isn’t it just? Here’s another, fresh from Richard North:

    It is a seriously topsy-turvy world when Sir David King can offer himself as our public saviour, setting up a “rival panel of experts” to deal with the UK’s Covid-19 epidemic.

    King is worried about ministers [and] the prime minister continually saying “We’re following the science advice all the way” and complains that the government is hiding behind the scientists. He thinks it’s fair to say that scientists give advice but “it is governments who have to make political decisions”.

    I don’t entirely disagree with King on this, although this is the man who, more than most, has been evangelising on climate change, pushing successive governments to take action, having been the government’s Special Representative for Climate Change from September 2013 until March 2017. He is far from being the passive advisor, and has been active in seeking to frame policy.

    More to the point, this man was the chief scientific advisor to the UK Government – the post currently occupied by Patrick Vallance. Concurrently holding the post of head of the government office for science, from October 2000 to 31 December 2007, under Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown.

    It was during his tenure, therefore, that the successive administrations made their fatal errors on SARS. Ignoring WHO advice to set up pandemic response plans for this disease, they instead focussed most of their efforts on pandemic flu, a dangerous cul-de-sac.

    We also made some errors about climate during that tenure, if I remember correctly.

    Ah well.


  124. Richard North’s latest may mean he is moving closer to Peter Hitchens after all. Worth a careful read. It’s certainly helped me to distinguish between infectivity and virulence. The latter depending for many on the dose, or doses, of Covid-19 received.

    Should this be the case, then we need to be looking at the epidemiology of this disease in a somewhat different fashion. Arguably, transient contacts with viral carriers – and especially in environments where virial shed is rapidly dispersed – may be of little significance. Many of the social distancing rituals being proposed may be irrelevant.

    Multiple exposure may also have implications for the treatment of patients – suggesting that they should be housed in a contamination-free environment, with effective barrier nursing to prevent healthcare staff re-infecting their patients, or adding to the dose to which they are exposed.

    Either way, the characteristics of this disease suggest that the traditional flu model is less and less appropriate. It also calls into question Mr Hancock’s miracle app (Times paywall), where tracking down all contacts indiscriminately may be a complete waste of time and resource.

    Certainly, the concept of a multiple exposure infection is not new to epidemiology, and has been noted as a contributory factor in the aetiology of tuberculosis (in its respiratory form) and leprosy. Of more relevance, it has been associated with the spread of influenza in hospitals.

    If it is the clue to explaining the Covid-19 paradox, then we really do have some rethinking to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  125. Thanks for that Richard. Will read Richard North’s article soon. Ferguson’s much touted model predicting 510,000 deaths was based on an old ‘flu model, so if Covid-19 is radically different epidemiologically speaking, from ‘flu, then that immediately brings into question his modelling and the government’s absurd claim that lockdown may have averted hundreds of thousands of deaths. French clinicians hav also found evidence that Covid-19 may have been circulating in France in December, which also seriously brings into question the effectiveness of lockdown politcies.

    Liked by 1 person

  126. Yeah, I only saw that report about the French case in December since reading Richard. Through this guy most likely:

    Hopefully all this means many more of us have had the virus and not even noticed. We’ll see.


  127. A lot of people are pointing to this Twitter thread on multiple studies from contact tracing/community testing data on transmission dynamics.



  128. Ferguson’s model, the basis for lockdown in many countries, is coming in for a severe drubbing now the situation in Sweden is becoming clearer.

    “Sweden’s numbers are a standing rebuke to the Imperial College study that has done so much to influence UK policy. Researchers at the university predicted that Sweden’s approach would leave it with an R of above 3, leading to 40,000 coronavirus deaths by May 1. Sweden’s current death tally is just 2,769.”


    “Denmark’s much heavier lockdown helped push the R number as low as 0.6 in mid-April, only creeping back to 0.9 after it opened schools on April 15 – although the increase may have more to do with the weather and the effects of lockdown fatigue.

    Sweden, on the other hand, saw an early and sudden peak in mid-March, when the infection rate briefly spiked above 3, and then a steady slow decline through April, with the rate only falling consistently below one after April 19.

    This apparently small difference has had a big impact in terms of hospital admissions and death: Sweden’s cumulative coronavirus death rate, at 274 deaths per million inhabitants, is now triple that of Denmark.

    But as Sweden’s Public Health Institute has maintained from the start, coronavirus will be with us for much longer than the month or so a country can reasonably maintain a full lockdown.”

    Boris Johns-On, Han-cock and Fergus-On want to turn Britain into the PRC (People’s Republic of Covid) for the foreseeable future to ‘fight’ a disease which cannot be beaten, which is rather less dangerous than they have made it out to be. In doing so, they will destroy the economy, destroy our civil liberties and way of life and destroy actual lives – many, many of them. Non-Covid excess deaths are creeping up each week – they will go through the roof if lockdown goes on. This cannot be allowed to continue.

    Liked by 1 person

  129. Neil Ferguson quits government role after 'undermining' lockdown ends the day. A sting by the Telegraph huh?

    Ms Staats has told friends she does not believe their actions to be hypocritical because she considers the households to be one.

    According to a friend, Prof Ferguson has met her husband and they share an interest in data science. The 51-year-old epidemiologist is married with a son but it is understood that he and his wife live apart. He is said to have met Ms Staats through the online dating site OkCupid more than a year ago.

    Ms Staats, 38, grew up in Isny, south Germany, went to university in Berlin and came to London in 2003 to obtain a masters in Asian Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, where her husband works.

    She is a senior campaigner at Avaaz, a global online activist network which has been praised by Gordon Brown, Tom Watson, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, and Al Gore. She delivered a petition to Downing Street that called for an end fossil fuel subsidies to Downing Street during the coalition government and has campaigned against Brexit.

    In 2017, Ms Staats was pictured protesting outside Parliament next to puppets of Theresa May and Rupert Murdoch while holding a banner that read: “Stop Murdoch pulling the strings.”

    Prof Ferguson is a regular guest on the BBC Today programme. Ms Staats told friends she was at his home on the morning of March 30, when he appeared in the 7.50am slot.

    I’m sure there is much there that will warm the heart of the average Cliscep reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  130. Without being aware of the fate of Ferguson later in the evening, Matt Ridley made some interesting and for me convincing suggestions on why modellers like the Imperial Prof were incentivised to exaggerate the numbers of deaths in a pandemic situation that might lead to lockdown. That was on the GWPF’s virtual panel discussion Coronavirus, Climate Change and the Role of Science in Public Policy Confirmation via Zoom. It was fairly surreal watching the comments and seeing Richard Lindzen pop up saying that he thought moderator Harry Wilkinson had wrongly defined the term lukewarmer in introducing Matt!

    Anyone else attend/listen in? David Rose was being rude about Ridley’s beard in early comments and there were a fair few old names from Bishop Hill days. Here’s the video. Those messages probably won’t appear though.

    Liked by 1 person

  131. OMG, we’ve been locked down and imprisoned in our homes for weeks by a hypocritical lefty adulterous second-rate academic who breaks his own rules to screw around with a rich, metro-luvvie climate change fanatic/anti-fossilfuel lobbyist.

    Liked by 3 people

  132. Three gems from Twitter. There’s a LOT more where they came from.

    Liked by 1 person

  133. Jaime (8.37 am) harking back to Adamaeus, too many adjectives, just too many adjectives.


  134. RICHARD DRAKE 05 May 9.46pm

    According to a friend, Prof Ferguson has met her husband and they share an interest in data science.

    Why should I share my wife with you? You’d only want to…”

    Oh, never mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  135. “”It’s not just Neil Ferguson – scientists are being attacked for telling the truth
    Bob Ward
    The media vilification of the government adviser is about far more than social distancing
    • Bob Ward is policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics”


    “The newspaper frenzy over Prof Neil Ferguson’s love life is just the latest example of a scientist who has been targeted for confronting parts of Britain’s political-media complex with evidence that it finds too difficult to accept.

    There is no doubt that Ferguson, who sat on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) before his resignation, was wrong to ignore the government’s social distancing rules. He has admitted as much, even if he did believe that he was at low risk of spreading the Sars-Cov-2 virus because he had already recovered from Covid-19.

    But today’s lurid front-page headlines follow a campaign to discredit him by those ideologically opposed to government interventions, and who have used such tactics against scientists in other fields, particularly climate change….

    Many other scientists in the UK working on issues that have implications for government policy know what it is like to be vilified, both publicly and privately, for their findings. They are regularly attacked by many of the British media commentators who are currently joining the pile-on to Ferguson.

    It is time to put a stop to these media lynch mobs that risk driving Britain back into the Dark Ages. We must continue to base our decisions on the advice of experts such as Ferguson, and reject the irrational arguments of those who want political dogma to trump evidence.

    • Bob Ward is policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics”

    No irony intended, apparently.

    Liked by 2 people

  136. Geoff: You’re fast becoming the Frankie Howard of the Cliscep scene! I knew that shared love of data science and woman was begging for the right kind of send up last night. I also knew I wasn’t up to it.

    Mark: Astounding. Another night grasping for adequate words, even of supercilious contempt.

    I’ve not looked at Twitter much today but some of the responses to Dick Delingpole were pretty fine:

    Including this more serious interaction:

    However much we might feel contempt for Bob Ward’s cross-specialism commitment to a consensus that clearly doesn’t exist in either (but even more clearly right now with Covid) I’m by no means as certain as Mr Willk that we know those numbers and what precisely to do about it. The tentativeness of Richard North is where I am right now. And of Matt Ridley, more than the two other GWPF experts on Zoom last night.


  137. There seems to be a concerted effort, from a climerati concerned that after Covid-19 the public will no longer be interested in their prognostications of doom, to conflate Covid-19 and climate change in the public mind. More than that, to conflate climate scientists with epidemiologists and Covid-19 scientists (if there is such a breed as the latter). They now seek victim status, it seems. First Bob Ward in yesterday’s Guardian, now Richard Black, writing for the Politico website:

    “Political survival: Climate scientists’ lessons for their corona colleagues
    The epidemiologists and virologists helping governments are now thrust into the public eye — which also makes them targets.”


    “The late climatologist Stephen Schneider titled his memoirs “Science as a Contact Sport” — and for him and his colleagues, either side of the explosive 2009 U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, life was exactly that.

    Knocks on the door in the dead of night; security threats serious enough to mandate personal bodyguards at science conferences; postings on white supremacist websites pointing out researchers’ Jewish heritage.

    All this abuse for merely flagging up what their science showed to be true: that humankind’s greenhouse gas emissions were changing the face of the Earth in ways likely to be overwhelmingly negative and possibly catastrophic, and that a different way forward, free from untrammelled fossil fuel use, was feasible and desirable….

    …Life for climate scientists is rather different. The conclusions they produce matter outside the confines of academia. Businesses find in them threats or opportunities. Politicians consider the social and environmental implications of cutting emissions or not.

    Because scientific conclusions can move stock markets, public opinion and government policies, what might otherwise be a purely academic existence becomes a contact sport where “playing the man” rather than the ball is a fact of life.

    As with climate science for decades, so now with coronavirus, because the advice of epidemiologists and vaccine developers and public health specialists directly affects citizens’ opinions, businesses’ prospects and government policy.

    Most governments will hesitate, for a mixture of reasons running from good sense to PR sense, to be seen as “going against the science.” So scientists become figures to be shot at if their advice runs counter to your business interests or ideology — or even your desire to go for a drink in your local beer garden.

    If anything, scientists advising on COVID-19 face a tougher situation than those researching climate change. Everything is happening so much faster, against an enemy about which much remains unknown. Epidemiology is updated in near-real-time, even as governments attempt to adjust policy based on it and the infection data itself is revised and re-revised based on new facts…

    …One thing that COVID-19 scientists have in common with their climate-change peers is that neither body of experts is monolithic. Just as interpretations range between climate scientists as to the timescale on which impacts will escalate or the optimum way to decarbonize electricity generation, so coronavirus scientists differ in their forecasts of the likely spread of the pandemic and the best measures to restrain it….

    …Such is the divergence between scientists that David King, a former chief scientific adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, has set up an alternative group of experts to cast their own judgment on the available evidence and provide a fresh stream of interpretation and advice.

    This divergence means politicians, business chiefs and especially media commentators can latch on to whichever piece of science they prefer. Hence the near-deification in some quarters of Sweden’s coronavirus chief Anders Tegnell, whose advocacy of voluntary rather than compulsory social distancing appeals to many in both the wallet and the ideological cortex.

    And hence the defenestration of Imperial College London’s Neil Ferguson by newspapers whose comment pages speak to an abhorrence for lockdown policies. Newspapers happy to call a scientist whose advice probably saved many thousands of lives “the bonking boffin” and “Professor Lockdown.”..

    …Just as the great and the good are castigated for preaching climate abstinence at Davos after flying there in private jets, the personal behavior of the epidemiologists and virologists helping governments is now — rightly or wrongly — in the frame, with “hypocrisy” the greatest sin.

    Climate scientists have been at this a lot longer than their coronavirus peers. So what can the latter usefully glean from the formers’ experience?

    A couple of things stand out. One is that it took climate scientists years to realize that if they always highlighted areas in public where they disagreed or where the science was as yet uncertain, they would be eviscerated. Now, the disagreements are just as real and just as discussed, but most climate scientists have learned to emphasise that there is no disagreement on the central points: Climate change poses a serious, present-day and escalating risk, and that there are eminently feasible ways to reduce those risks by cutting carbon emissions.

    The second conclusion is that eventually, evidence wins out. The detractors of climate science no longer have currency anywhere it matters (outside the White House) because their claims, whether “climate change is all natural” or “reducing emissions is economic suicide,” have been clearly shown to be wrong.

    COVID-19 science, as Ferguson has just found out, may currently be a contact sport. But the experience of climate science suggests it is a sport that good scientists will eventually win.”

    This looks like the beginnings of a concerted campaign.

    Liked by 2 people

  138. @ Mark

    The second conclusion is that eventually, evidence wins out. The detractors of climate science no longer have currency anywhere it matters (outside the White House) because their claims, whether “climate change is all natural” or “reducing emissions is economic suicide,” have been clearly shown to be wrong.

    Evidence, if it were needed, that Black is not an honest broker. His argument here is lathered in fallacies (pick between 3 or more not necessarily mutually exclusive in that short excerpt). The most obvious is strawmannery, or else disproving a point that was never asserted, with his caricature of what a sceptic believes. Who alleges that climate change is all natural? No-one ever said *reducing* emissions was economic suicide, but that *Net Zero* emissions is.

    Gekk. *_*

    Liked by 2 people

  139. Mark. This agreeing with people is getting worrisome. But society’s behaviour towards those it eventually becomes disappointed in, affects all science not just those bits that have major impacts upon populations and societies. In highly technical groupings, someone who has previously taken a stand upon a topic, raises themselves above the crowd and is exposed to both praise and/or opprobrium and can get both. I certainly have. And not just scientists – anyone speculating about the future is at risk.
    What has Ferguson done? He has flouted a recommendation that he was instrumental in advocating, a recommendation that, when imposed has had tremendous impacts upon the entire country. So why did he do it? The answer is obvious, but also includes his evaluations of being found out (not a good sign of his abilities as a predictor) and of the risk of spreading the virus (which I would estimate with him as being particularly low).

    I have great sympathy for people like Ferguson. He would have done his best, both to be as accurate predictor as possible, employing all his knowledge and skills, standing up and prevailing in the places that matter, yet has human frailties. These are being used to drag him down by those adversely affected by his recommended policies. It’s how we act, and always have. Remember Troy.


  140. Alan, glad you’re back.

    “But society’s behaviour towards those it eventually becomes disappointed in, affects all science not just those bits that have major impacts upon populations and societies.”

    There’s reasonable evidence that science which stays below the radar of social attention, so to speak, escapes most affects. However, that science which has major or existential impacts on societies (or even is perceived to do so, whether true or not), and further due to this, does very much appear on the radar of social attention, is typically subject to major pummelling. Initially, from a wide range of not necessarily coordinated reactions based upon emotions, fears and anxieties being biggies. As time goes on, more systemically from culturally coordinated versions of same.

    “It’s how we act, and always have.”

    Indeed to date, yes. Science relating to evolution (e.g. versus creationism, e.g. via Eugenics), abortion, vaccines, climate-change, GMO, many other environmental topics (e.g. pesticides), eating meat, diets generally (fat, sugar), and many more, have all been overwhelmed at some point by emotional confusion, cultural sides, or both.

    Liked by 1 person

  141. Andy the point I was trying to make make is that throughout science, small as well as big, influential or not ( in fact within any area of intellectual difference), those who stand apart may face opposition. But naturally the more significant your reach, the greater your potential fall and the more vitriolic your opponents can be. I experienced this in a minor way in the oil industry when I might have supported a particular oil play that the regional exploration manager didn’t favour. But that manager had earned his position. You only opposed up to a certain level which you rapidly learned to judge. I learned more about human relationships in those boardrooms.

    Liked by 1 person

  142. Andy, yes, when the authority of science is used as a tool to steamroll what is otherwise a moral/ethical decision, it becomes contaminated by “emotional confusion” and “cultural sides”. Science tells us only what occurs when abortion, or vaccination, or fat ingestion, takes place, or what may occur if you use eugenics or produce CO2, It does nothing to inform us as to whether these are right or wrong actions to take, no matter how much people would prefer to pretend otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

  143. Do I have any sympathy for Professor Pants Down? Need you ask? Not a shred. He deserves every bit of criticism he gets. The government deserves worse, for relying upon his risible pandemic modelling.

    “Non-deterministic outputs. Due to bugs, the code can produce very different results given identical inputs. They routinely act as if this is unimportant.

    This problem makes the code unusable for scientific purposes, given that a key part of the scientific method is the ability to replicate results. Without replication, the findings might not be real at all – as the field of psychology has been finding out to its cost. Even if their original code was released, it’s apparent that the same numbers as in Report 9 might not come out of it.

    Imperial are trying to have their cake and eat it. Reports of random results are dismissed with responses like “that’s not a problem, just run it a lot of times and take the average”, but at the same time, they’re fixing such bugs when they find them. They know their code can’t withstand scrutiny, so they hid it until professionals had a chance to fix it, but the damage from over a decade of amateur hobby programming is so extensive that even Microsoft were unable to make it run right.

    Clearly, the documentation wants us to think that, given a starting seed, the model will always produce the same results.

    Investigation reveals the truth: the code produces critically different results, even for identical starting seeds and parameters.

    Imperial advised Edinburgh that the problem goes away if you run the model in single-threaded mode, like they do. This means they suggest using only a single CPU core rather than the many cores that any video game would successfully use. For a simulation of a country, using only a single CPU core is obviously a dire problem – as far from supercomputing as you can get. Nonetheless, that’s how Imperial use the code: they know it breaks when they try to run it faster.

    Conclusions. All papers based on this code should be retracted immediately. Imperial’s modelling efforts should be reset with a new team that isn’t under Professor Ferguson, and which has a commitment to replicable results with published code from day one.

    On a personal level, I’d go further and suggest that all academic epidemiology be defunded. This sort of work is best done by the insurance sector. Insurers employ modellers and data scientists, but also employ managers whose job is to decide whether a model is accurate enough for real world usage and professional software engineers to ensure model software is properly tested, understandable and so on. Academic efforts don’t have these people, and the results speak for themselves.”


    Ferguson and his team foisted this crap upon the world and proudly defended their model as saving many thousand lives even whilst it destroyed the world’s major economies and claimed lives. It will claim many more before the day is done. Suckered or complicit governments and politicians did the same. Meanwhile, Ferguson had so much faith in his social isolation model that he thought it entirely appropriate to get his end away with his married girlfriend during lockdown.


  144. Meanwhile, it seems Boris was lobotomized whilst he was in hospital and now prefers to smash the nation into little pieces against a brick wall composed of solid incompetence, interwoven with downright obstinacy:

    I’m starting to think he should be removed from office. Something is obviously very wrong. He’s approaching Diane Abbott levels of incompetency and poor arithmetic now, in that he can’t even add up one and one.


  145. How long does Johnson think he can keep the country shut down to prevent a second peak? And, when the country opens up again, what is going to prevent a second peak from happening? It only takes one person, and a whole bunch of asymptomatic carriers, to set it off again.

    If he’s coming to the end of the first phase of the conflict, what weapons does he believe he has to fight the second phase?


  146. Jaime,
    I started out my professional career as a computer programmer before ultimately becoming a software quality assurance manager for a software house. I fully recognise the authenticity of the scenario described in the lockdownsceptic audit of the Ferguson software. I have in my past suspended projects that have been found in that state. I would not have hesitated to do the same here.

    Liked by 2 people

  147. But Jaime where did Ferguson get his funding from? Bet some came from the Insurance Industry.
    Where do advances in predictive insurance modelling come from? Bet most comes from industry-sponsored academic research and not from businesses that are too busy doing business to engage in such speculative efforts.
    Who gave Ferguson his reputation? There must be an academic support network that supported Ferguson that pushed him ever upward until he became the government’s darling modeller. All keeping a low profile now?
    Ferguson’s reputation is being shredded, but is it established that his past predictions are any worse than our government might be able to obtain elsewhere?
    Sympathy costs very little.


  148. Alan, pleased you’re back with us.

    ‘Where did Ferguson get his funding from?’

    He set up the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial in 2008. It gets 10s of millions of dollars in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in addition probably to funding from the CDC, WHO, PHE, The Global Fund and Gavi. I haven’t looked into those last two. He’s the Big Cheese in disease modelling, funded by an international network of rather shady organisations, in my opinion. He’s Mr Lockdown, the scientist responsible for our current woes. He’s Professor Pants Down who couldn’t even observe his own social distancing rules, so eager was he to get his leg over with someone else’s wife. ‘Sympathy costs very little’ you say; so it’s hardly worth me donating any to such an unworthy cause.



  149. Alan, great to have you back, on form, and to resume our occasional differences of opinion! I agree with Jaime as regards Prof Ferguson. He appears to have a pretty poor track record, of over-estimating the scale of pandemics, which ought to have given Government officials and others some cause for caution when receiving his views. He ignored the rules he helped to panic the government into putting into place. The only extent to which I can agree with the Guardian article is that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Telegraph sat on the story until they were able to cause maximum embarrassment by its release – or, cynically, that they released it at around the time their friends in the Government were starting to think about relaxing the lock-down.

    I cannot remotely vouch for the following link, which was offered up by a regular at Bishop Hill Unthreaded, but if it’s even partly true, it’s quite a remarkable read:


    I’ve slowly come round to the view that the lock-down needs to be rapidly wound down, whilst still emphasising sensible measures for minimising exposure to and risk from the virus – social distancing, hygiene, etc. The lock-down was introduced, according to my fairly confident recollection, to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed at the tail-end of winter, when it was still dealing with the burdensome work-load of the usual winter ailments, and to give the authorities time to put extra capacity in place, in the form of the Nightingale Hospitals. Since then we’ve had weeks of glorious weather, and winter is well and truly over (despite the icy blast forecast for Sunday coming). The Nightingale Hospitals have by and large not really been needed. But in less than 6 months’ time the clocks will have gone back, it will be cold, dark, wet and miserable, and the NHS will again be faced with months of winter ailments ahead. IMO we need to get the second (and perhaps subsequent) waves out of the way before next winter, while hoping that they are less serious than the first, but in the knowledge that the capacity is now in place to deal with them. Absent a vaccine, we’re all probably going to catch the wretched virus anyway.

    One final sensible act would be to treat the Nightingale Hospitals like the old fever hospitals, and put Covid-19 cases in them, where they are available. That would free up ordinary hospitals to get on with treating people with other ailments, resuming cancelled operations, diagnosing currently undiagnosed illnesses, and resuming treatments. I fear for the number of people dying needlessly because of the lock-down in the here and now, never mind the long-term damage done to the nation’s health because of the long-lasting effects of the increased poverty that will result from the damage caused to the economy.


  150. Making the UK’s failures a party political issue is flawed, because the planning for entirely the *wrong epidemic* goes back to Blair, Brown and Cameron. So says Richard North and he’s convinced me.

    When we come to look back on this epidemic, therefore, what will be inexplicable to future generations is why the media were so intent on obsessing about the failure of the influenza planning, while failing to realise that, when it came to dealing with a disease of the nature of Covid-19, there was no plan at all.

    I wonder here whether it is that fact that so many different governments failed, from Blair to Brown, and then Cameron, means that a partisan media can’t turn this into party political issue – thus explaining its total lack of interest in the truth.

    Both Labour and the Tories have their fingers dirty on this, so real events don’t conform with the media narrative. Thus – as always – the facts have to be carefully selected to make them fit. But then, everyone, from the politicians to the modellers and the pundits, seems to be in the same game.

    North also mentions the searing critique of Ferguson’s source code by ‘Sue Denim’ and for me hits the nail on the head there too: “it is not so much the “number crunchers” who are the problem, but successive governments which give far too much credence to juju models and neglecting the basic principles of epidemiology”.

    Happily, though, governments giving “too much credence to juju models” has never happened with climate.


  151. The Sue Denim article linked by Jaime is Harry Readme all over again. History repeating, the first time as farce, the second as tragedy. Sue Denim’s conclusion, that modelling epidemics should be done by insurance companies, not academics, mirrors my conclusions on Lew-type social science surveys and market research: the private sector can be trusted, because they’re legally responsible. Academia stinks.

    The corruption of academia is taking us straight into Ayn Rand-land. Thank you Ferguson, Lewandowsky and co. for handing our intellectual heritage to the far right.


  152. Another fine excuse to disagree. As usual I feel outgunned and out-manoeuvred but in my mind my remnant burning hulk of an argument still remains just afloat. My objection to most of the mud being flung at Ferguson and his modelling is probably that it is excessive. Blame should spread much much further than Ferguson and his research group. Where did his funding come from? Any responsibility there? Criticism of his methodology is now rampant. Any responsibility within his research associates not for helping to keep himself on a truer path? And the biggie. Surely the civil service and government bare responsibility for adopting what every man and his dog now are criticizing about his product.
    My understanding, which I acknowledge is superficial, is that what he did, or rather what he encouraged or allowed to happen, is not unusual and is being used as some thing to attack him with. After the event criticism?

    If I fail to respond to criticism, please don’t assume I give in to your argumentation. I still find discussions extremely wearing, I started this one more than 5 hours ago, and it still isn’t as complete as I would have liked. Just you wait.


  153. If you feel my contributions are behind, that’s because they are taking hours to complete. I very much appreciate the opportunity still to contribute.

    Liked by 1 person

  154. “Blame should spread much much further than Ferguson and his research group”

    Indeed. The huge media and public clamour for isolating anything that moved, and the outrage directed at the UK government for not doing so when they appeared early on to be trying for a more balanced approach, is bound to influence the latter’s choice of the ‘best’ science on offer. And there is always going to be a Ferguson somewhere in the range of choices, it’s the nature of academia (it wouldn’t surprise me if there was an ‘anti-Ferguson’ within those choices too). Plus, given most governments of impacted countries around the world have done similar things, including lock-down of a couple of billion people in India most of whom can cope with this much less than in the affluent UK, then as I’ve noted before national publics are essentially forming their own destinies through anxiety, to which governments are largely passive actors. In this sense, I’d no more trust a huge public clamour for unlockdown than for lockdown; public clamours of any kind are not based on reason but emotion. It’s hard enough even for well-understood science to triumph in such circumstances, never mind disparate disciplines still having many uncertainties and facing a brand new viral foe.


  155. Alan, I don’t think the mud being flung at Ferguson is excessive, given the circumstances, but it is unfair that he appears to be taking most of the flak for what was essentially a government decision based on his ‘expert’ advice. The buck stops with Boris, ultimately. If he keeps this insane lockdown in place, he will literally have blood on his hands – more than he already has.

    “The lockdown will lead to 29 times more lives lost than the harm it seeks to prevent from Covid-19 in SA, according to a conservative estimate contained in a new model developed by local actuaries.

    The model, which will be made public today for debate, was developed by a consortium calling itself Panda (Pandemic ~ Data Analysis), which includes four actuaries, an economist and a doctor, while the work was checked by lawyers and mathematicians. The process was led by two fellows at the Actuarial Society of SA, Peter Castleden and Nick Hudson.”

    “Had the prospect that coronavirus could kill tens of millions of people been increasingly confirmed, lockdowns may have been justified. That possibility no longer exists. It now seems unlikely that more than a 1-million will die worldwide. The humanitarian crisis provoked by lockdown, however, is a matter of sheer certainty,” they say.

    “The actuaries then used the figures predicted by the National Treasury to model the impact on poverty. On Friday, the Treasury estimated that between 3-million and 7-million jobs will be lost due to the measures taken to combat the virus. The actuaries then work out that, conservatively, 10% of South Africans will become poorer, and as a result, will lose a few months of their lives.

    In the end, their model showed that the number of years lost owing to the economic contraction caused by lockdown lies between 14-million and 24-million. They say they erred on the side of caution: had they used a lower estimate of Covid-19 deaths and greater estimate of job losses, the result would be a figure far higher than the 29 times calculation they reached.”


    No similar modelling has been done (or made public) for the UK, but the figures are likely to be just as dire. You think people are angry now. Wait 6 months – when the worst depression in 300 years is getting going.


  156. I’m uneasy about the professional criticism of Ferguson, a bit like Alan.

    Geoff: “The Sue Denim article linked by Jaime is Harry Readme all over again.”

    I’ve been thinking about that too. I was one of those who felt that the heavy criticism of Harry Readme was wrong-headed in November and December 2009. There were much worse, provably bad things in the Climategate leak. This was a red herring. I think Steve McIntyre felt the same at the time.

    But that’s not to say that software that greatly influences government policy shouldn’t be checked and double checked. Harry Readme wasn’t that. Ferguson’s code was. That’s the rub. But it had been successful in predicting that Wuhan was going to be really bad, early on. That I assume is why it wasn’t double checked. And the time pressure. (All said from vague memory. I’ve been busy the last few days trying to get some software to work!)


  157. Some further thoughts on this:

    One thing to add is that the Bill Gates conspiracism that seems to be rampant in some quarters also serves to obscure the fact that Gates was one of the very few generalists sounding the warning about epidemiological risks prior to this year. He put some of his own money into this but it needed the attention of governments as well.


  158. I was bitterly disappointed in Steve Baker when he abandoned his principled opposition to the WA and voted for Boris’s WA, but I’m with him here:


  159. Somebody’s got to take the can for this:

    “Prof. Neil Ferguson’s group at Imperial have now published their pandemic modelling code, and it is even by those standards exceptionally abysmal. What is even more alarming is that the published code has supposedly been improved over a number of weeks to be less dire. So what it looked like back in March when Prof. Ferguson was predicting hundreds of thousands of deaths is anyone’s guess.”



  160. I don’t think the author was being sarcastic here:

    “But it must be fixed. There must be an expectation that when the results of a model are published, the tool used to produce them is too.”


  161. Jaime. Another relevant question regarding the modelling code is – was it substantially better or worse than any other being used at the time? Governments demand predictions. I suspect they used what was available and what they had paid for.
    I also wonder why, if the government was going to base policies upon Ferguson’s prediction, Ferguson’s model wasn’t subjected to expert evaluation, as is now has been? Was it time constraints? If so, was that Ferguson’s fault.
    I came to this subject blind, having spent two full weeks away from all news. As I learn more, my sympathies remain, my evaluation of the culpabilities of those around Ferguson have increased, but the probability of Ferguson’s overstretching his abilities grows ever larger, but involvement of his amorous activities should play no part in evaluating his academic worth.


  162. Alan,

    Ferguson knew his code was not up to scratch. Either that or he is a complete imbecile. He knew it could not even be checked by any competent expert in the form in which he used it to make his predictions. That’s why he resisted releasing the code. But he allowed it to be used by the government as the basis for lockdown, nonetheless. Now, he either advised the government of those severe limitations of his work, or he did not. The latter makes him much more culpable; the former means that the government knowingly locked down on the basis of very, very shoddy scientific modelling.

    Liked by 1 person

  163. Meanwhile, Boris just endlessly re-iterates a broken meme on social media in the hope of making everybody’s Bank Holiday weekend as miserable and fraught with uncertainty as he can. He’s completely lost it. Where we go from here is anybody’s guess. All I know is, Boris is unfit to govern and the rest of his cabinet probably are too.


  164. “Now, he either advised the government of those severe limitations of his work, or he did not.”

    We may never know, but I’m betting on ‘not’: “PM, cabinet, assembled experts, please avoid the calamity my model predicts. Thanks. BTW, the model is a crock.”

    Liked by 1 person

  165. So, Ferguson IS the anti-Christ after all. I knew it. 🙂

    Not to let a good crisis go to waste, the government is now advising people to ditch the car and cycle to work and is busy killing off the aviation industry by insanely insisting on 14 day quarantine for air passengers now, despite, at the height of Covid infections, allowing all and sundry to come into the country without being checked. #Netzero 2050 anyone? Or am I ideationally conspiricising?

    Liked by 1 person

  166. Jaime,

    being bad and being causal aren’t necessarily the same thing. Most nations have implemented lock-downs, and for those most impacted during the early stages of global spread, UK was if anything late to the lock-down party. This commonality tells us that Ferguson and his crock aren’t prime cause. The fears of national publics essentially selected this route, via their (media amplified) pressure on governments. The latter can say ‘we followed the science’, but in all nations the range of ‘science’ that *could* have been followed probably covered just about every option. However, the heavy pressure of outrage / emotion, favours certain options.

    Liked by 1 person

  167. Alan – fergusson, is an academic professional, well paid and stuffed full of grants.. is it the politicians fault that they believed high profile, lauded academics like him to be professional and competent.. I bet, he doesn’t even have the most very basic version control on his code.. (for the last two decades) the ability to have a version, of the code, archived (frozen) at the time of the paper/results as published… just one big massive continued hack.. I could manage this for my MSc thesis.. why not Imperial…. because coding is seen as not a highly structured discipline, and it is cool to hack around, an attitude from the 70s.

    design the model, design the spec.. pay people to code it professionally!

    Liked by 1 person

  168. Andy, this suggests that the government is driven by knee-jerk considerations of public approval or disapproval in the very short term. By plowing ahead regardless with lockdown, ignoring criticism, censoring SAGE reports, NOT following scientific advice contrary to their doctrine and completely ignoring contrary advice from social and economic modellers, they are piling up tinder dry fuel for a really huge public backlash inferno in the months to come. But they don’t seem to be at all fazed by that. Which seems odd.

    Liked by 1 person

  169. What Andy said. And this guy: ‘Finally, a virus got me.’ Scientist who fought Ebola and HIV reflects on facing death from COVID-19. And this guy:

    No easy answers.

    I did spot the importance of this data four days ago (sharing it on this thread)

    Richard North has now taken a detailed look and thinks it is key. But he doesn’t think the process from here is easy. Anger doesn’t crack the problem, which isn’t in our power anyway. Character building. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

  170. I think Ferguson, and the government, took the obvious path of least potential moral/political risk. The decision that’s least fraught with possible downsides (from their perspective). The theory states that lockdown must work. No contact, no transmission. Can anyone disagree that this is obvious? Media reports suggest it’s bad and that people are dropping like flies. So what could go wrong?

    The model was simply a confirmation of what Ferguson already knew was the correct decision to make, so its rigorousness was largely irrelevant to the policy position he must support. People were going to die and he did not want to push for any decision that might land those bodies on his doorstep.

    Liked by 2 people

  171. Jaime:

    “…this suggests that the government is driven by knee-jerk considerations of public approval or disapproval in the very short term.”

    Not ‘the government’. *Most* governments.

    “Which seems odd”

    This is not odd at all. That governments can react to the major emotive expressions of their populations is hardly unusual. Macron withdrew his new tax and made a large array of concessions to the yellow jackets, which effectively put him into deeply negative territory regarding his government’s original intentions. Little good it did him in this case, which suggests even this reaction wasn’t enough. Of course it depends on the kind of expression, and the kind of government. The more apolitical the expression (a reaction to viral onslaught is much less political than the yellow jacket thing, which in turn would be much less political than, say, an explicit right-wing mass protest to a left-wing government, or vice versa), the more chance a government will react, as it does not have a contrary political position to defend, and minimises risk by reacting. And the less authoritarian the regime, the more likely there will will be this kind of response. But viral concern is pretty apolitical, so even an authoritarian regime may not resist, yet even if they do this does not mean that rationality necessarily prevails instead.

    “…NOT following scientific advice contrary to their doctrine and completely ignoring contrary advice from social and economic modellers…”

    The point about reacting to their populations is that they don’t have a doctrine. As DaveJR notes above, they are essentially taking the only course that the public left open to them. And there was likely any science you like on offer. When the public showed them the road, and there is an available signpost, I doubt they looked at the others much.

    “…they are piling up tinder dry fuel for a really huge public backlash inferno in the months to come. But they don’t seem to be at all fazed by that.”

    Well having avoided one huge public backlash by locking down, and even got (net) kudos so far, they’re probably still relieved and happy. Notwithstanding they see economic problems ahead, there is nothing approaching the same kind of public clamour for unlockness at this stage. It may possibly come, it may not. if it does, they’ll likely react in a similar manner, which hence won’t be any more rational than the first time.


  172. We presuppose, of course, that the government’s purpose is to save lives, hence ‘stay at home – protect the NHS – save lives’. But I think that the real goal is best represented by ‘stay at home – delay death – protect the NHS’. It’s not about reducing the area under the curve, it’s about minimizing the height. And why is that important? Because the government could not survive footage of people dying on the the floor of a hospital corridor. What they intend doing when the death toll reaches five figures is anyone’s guess. I think they are gambling on the UK not being alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  173. If the public so overwhelmingly support lockdown, why are they out in their thousands in parks and open spaces today, openly flaunting social distancing rules? If they’re so scared of catching the virus, why are they sitting with each other, enjoying picnics? Critical mass is being reached quite quickly beneath the radar of the so-called opinion polls. A critical mass which overwhelmingly rejects government intervention in our personal lives and traditional cherished freedoms. Government is fast becoming irrelevant. The people will decide – regardless of whatever half-baked, excruciatingly slow and painful ‘exit strategy’ Boris announces tomorrow. Lockdown will end quickly within the next few weeks, a month at most.


  174. ANDY WEST

    This commonality tells us that Ferguson and his crock aren’t prime cause. The fears of national publics essentially selected this route…

    …unless other countries all had their Fergusons, convincing governments with the same kind of evidence. Except that other countries’ experts remain invisible because they didn’t have a popular press ready to exploit a story about a bonking boffin.

    The last time scientists got a bad press was Climategate, and the fact that they were thoroughly vindicated by numerous independent enquiries no doubt encouraged busy politicians to assume that any criticism of top boffins must be the work of malcontents and ne’er-do-wells.

    The press run with the story they’ve got, and crowd emotions latch on to whatever comes to hand. In France it happened to be a scientist who looks like an elderly heavy metal fan who happened to have fought and won a battle with the head of the French national medical research centre INSERM who happens to be married to the health minister who resigned just as the virus crisis arrived to fight and lose the election to be Mayor of Paris. Big story about the rise of an outsider. In the UK – big story about the fall of an insider.

    While I totally accept your general thesis that mass emotions are motivated similarly in different countries, I don’t think this makes individual events or differing circumstances irrelevant. On the contrary I think it makes them all the more interesting.


  175. “If the public so overwhelmingly support lockdown, why are they out in their thousands in parks and open spaces today, openly flaunting social distancing rules?”

    Because publics are neither homogeneous or constant in their emotive responses.

    “Critical mass is being reached quite quickly beneath the radar of the so-called opinion polls.”

    Maybe, maybe not. Time will tell.

    “The people will decide…”

    That’s my point. They did regarding the lock-down; maybe they will regarding the unlock too.


  176. “…unless other countries all had their Fergusons, convincing governments with the same kind of evidence.”

    That’s partly my point. A range of Fegusons right through to anti-Fergusons are likely available in all the countries, which allows the governments to pick whatever science road-sign they are pushed into.

    “Except that other countries’ experts remain invisible because they didn’t have a popular press ready to exploit a story about a bonking boffin.”

    That’s pretty unlikely. They’ll be visible is some countries and not others; there’s a reasonably free press in most Western nations.

    “In France it happened to be a scientist who looks like an elderly heavy metal fan who happened to have fought and won a battle with…”

    So indeed visible in this country too.

    “While I totally accept your general thesis that mass emotions are motivated similarly in different countries, I don’t think this makes individual events or differing circumstances irrelevant. On the contrary I think it makes them all the more interesting”

    Well I can’t disagree with that 🙂


  177. The article from the Critic linked by Jaime https://thecritic.co.uk/a-series-of-tubes/
    doesn’t give details about what’s wrong with Fergie’s code, but it does raise some very interesting general points:

    …back when I was a PhD student. Lewis, Bate, and Price(2015) was essentially revoked by an erratum (Lewis, Bate, Price 2017a), where a bug which had lurked in our magnetohydrodynamics code since about 2005 fatally compromised the results. And those of at least seven other papers. But in the academic world, I could still list the 2015 paper (and scurrilously omit the erratum) on my CV… Worse, the 2015 paper still had “impact”, that all important academic metric. Indeed, people still sometimes cite it now, even with an erratum. Which also makes you wonder how often people read the papers they cite.

    And there was I thinking Lew et al were uniquely miserable specimens.

    But the bit I liked best was this:

    I have squinted and stared at this code for a day now and I am still none the wiser what is going on in many parts. Egyptian hieroglyphics may well be easier to interpret. Latin scribal abbreviations certainly are. But this begs the question: just why are academic codes… so invariably dreadful?

    1) Quibble: It doesn’t “beg the question,” it raises it. Let’s get the English language right before we get on to the Fortran.

    2) Serendipital truth: The people who first tackled (and solved) this problem were precisely the experts in hieroglyphics and Latin scribal abbreviations. Unsung heroes of our civilisation, mostly German 19th century classical scholars, they established the rules for publishing results, e.g. the establishment of the best versions of classical texts existing in mangled mediaeval copies (no doubt the botanists and geologists were doing something similar at the same time, but it’s the classical ones I know about.) You publish everything you know, if necessary with footnotes and appendices which overwhelm the basic material. You leave out nothing, and you take decades over it if needs be.

    But of course, they had nothing to say about what might happen in the future. A top French TV journalist said the other day: “We expect experts to tell us what’s going to happen..” I longed for the epidemiologist being interviewed to pull out a chicken, slit it open and throw its entrails on the table.

    Liked by 3 people

  178. Also seen in the park today.

    The beauty is that it doesn’t really matter what triggered this tweet and response.

    Liked by 1 person

  179. I’m not the only one who suspects that the Tories are now milking this self-made crisis to go radically Green.


  180. Boris will attempt to shatter the UK into tiny pieces upon the altar of the precautionary principle tomorrow. My guess is he will fail and will succeed only in shattering into tiny pieces any residual trust in politicians or government. It may take a while, but it’s going to get very ugly. People are just not going to accept the Tory government’s intricate and complex set of rules for how we should all be living our lives in the face of an ill-defined but evidentially far more benign threat than we’ve been led to believe. They are just going to say “f**k you, enough is enough” and get on with their lives as best they can with an incompetent, irremovable government making life as difficult as possible in the meantime.

    Liked by 1 person

  181. Increasing walking and the use of bicycles (and perhaps e-scooters) strikes me as very sensible. That’s totally justified by the existence of the virus without vaccine and the dangers of using public transport. It’s got nothing to do with other parts of the green agenda.

    It’s all about tradeoffs, which we as climate sceptics should understand better than anybody. The immediate turning of such a sensible idea into the final realisation of Orwell’s 1984 seems utterly chilldish to me.


  182. Jaime: “it’s going to get very ugly”.

    I would say it *may* get ugly, if people start to believe the dystopian crap they’re being fed from some quarters, on top of the genuine challenges and hardships they currently face. Then, yes, thousands may die from societal breakdown, acting together with the virus. That’s best avoided.


  183. Cars are safer than public transport re Covid. And bikes no better than cars. Walking is potentially worse than cars, if town streets are crowded. If not, then also no better than cars. While there may be a greater proportion of people regularly working from home after all this, for those who do travel bikes and walking have no Covid benefit. This is CAGW culture leveraging heightened fears to *its* benefit.

    21st MARCH:
    Jaime: “…and the ‘climate crisis’ may have breathed its last. We can but hope.”
    Andy: “Indeed we can hope. But cultures, having once gotten big which this one certainly has, are extremely robust to the kind of damage that even heavy interludes of reality can enforce. While it would be fantastic if the cultural spell was broken, in a couple of years it could well be back up to strength. And typically in the longer term cultures will even find ways to bend reality interludes to their advantage (albeit I can’t see how that would happen right now).”

    Only 7 weeks later, I think we are already seeing various ways in which CAGW is attempting to bend the covid issue to its advantage. Ways that could actually work, despite one must hope they don’t.


  184. Richard: yes bikes better than public transport, but few areas where these are the real choices. Distance is too great, and even worse for walking. I commuted about ten miles, would still be a 2hr walk or nearly 1hr bike ride by the time I’d togged up, plus risked a very dangerous main road and arrived super sweaty. Even in central London bikes are not a great choice in the cold and rain or very chill winter.


  185. P.S. and even if bus services dramatically improved (there was like 1 a day), pick-up through the villages means back to almost an hour again; who wants a 2 hr commute everyday when they can have a 14 min each way instead (my average time). And this commute is tiny compared to many who worked there.


  186. I grant you Shapps’ plan to encourage cycling and walking is a good idea, but £2 billion? What for? A free bike and/or trainers for every fit adult? Herd insanity among the populace is being met by economic insanity among our leaders. There are no budgetary limits, and no limits to possible encroachments on our freedom. Green activists are simply the most agile and opportunist exploiters of this surrealist situation.

    Can we have a new open thread to discuss this fast evolving insanity?

    Liked by 1 person

  187. Andy: I didn’t mention cars, as you can see. Safety-wise they’re the best when you’re in them (and not car-sharing) but congestion and parking issues could end up with people having less safe interactions with the likes of traffic wardens and those prone to road rage! There again, I haven’t modelled it. And we’re only talking increasing the numbers, not taking everyone’s motor to the crusher’s yard, with Monbiot in the control box. Or are we?

    Geoff: Didn’t know about the £2 billion. I’m still busy with code, code refactoring, code testing and code documentation, all to make the stuff more *readable*. That’s been a key theme of my 40 years in software. I’ve always approved of Google’s readability reviews for that reason. Steve Baker hits that nail on the head with his tweet. But I’ve always also hated pontificators at a distance on such matters. It was the combination of Ferguson and the code only he could understand that was the key ingredient, good or bad. I don’t have time to spell out more, just that I join Alan in the uneasy camp on that matter. This is a time when scapegoats are in even more demand than e-scooters.


  188. Andy, it’s pretty obvious to me, and to you, that this has little to do with practical measures to address the supposed threat of Covid, everything to do with opportunistically advancing the mitigation of the imaginary ‘climate crisis’. As per Geoff’s suggestion, we should start a new thread on this latest insanity, because it looks to me like the Covid agenda is fast morphing back into the Green agenda.

    This was Shapps just after lockdown was imposed:

    Mr Shapps said the shift in emphasis away from driving – where possible – could improve people’s health, create better places to live and travel in, and also promote clean economic growth.

    He said: “We are perfectly placed to seize the economic opportunities that being in the vanguard of this change presents. The faster we act, the greater the benefits.

    “Twenty-twenty will be the year we set out the policies and plans needed to tackle transport emissions. This document marks the start of this process.”

    “Right now all our energies are on tackling the coronavirus but when we come out the other side we have an equally serious emergency because emissions from transport have to be tackled if we are serious about turning around the future of the planet for coming generations.”

    “It’s great if the first choice is to be public transport and active transport – but that does mean the government has to change radically investment.”


    Could it be more obvious? Utterly cynical and contemptuous in the extreme of this government and its pathetic, Green-eyed transport secretary to pretend that the bikes initiative has anything whatsoever to do with Covid-19. Yes, sure, it may stop a few metro-luvvies who live within a couple of miles of their place of work using public transport this summer but for the vast majority, it’s a pointless virtue-signalling exercise. A car is a basic necessity for millions. This government lives in a bubble.


  189. Anyone else want to get a post going on this? I’m currently a fugitive from Covid justice but might be home later seeing as how the weather’s changed for the better.


  190. Might I ask once again the ‘directors’ of the estimable site to consider instituting an ‘open’ thread? This would easily have accommodated the desired new topic thread.
    I promise not to bug on this topic in the future.


  191. Some support here for Alan K’s view that it’s wrong to single out Ferguson:

    “UK scientists hit back at attempts to discredit scientific basis for lockdown
    Letter seeks to dispel view that Prof Neil Ferguson was single architect of lockdown idea”


    Or is it just the usual case of alarmist scientists circling the wagons to defend one of their own against attacks from pesky non-believers? I just don’t know.

    Meanwhile, I again find myself agreeing with Jaime regarding the public ending lock-down of their own volition. I think Boris will start, slowly, to relax it, because the Government wants to be seen to be in charge, not to be seen to be responding to the public mood.

    As for cycling, it’s not so safe for the non-cyclists. Even though the roads here are quiet (though steadily getting busier again) many cyclists have decided it’s their right to ride on the pavements. The 2-meter rule is impossible to obey with such selfish morons out and about!


  192. Richard: “And we’re only talking increasing the numbers, not taking everyone’s motor to the crusher’s yard, with Monbiot in the control box. Or are we?”

    Well I guess that’s the rub, in that indeed this is likely just one step to the crusher in the minds of many, with EVs being another step. And even for this step as Jaime points out, especially when public transport is an issue due to Covid, a car is the only practical alternative for the great majority who don’t both live and work within the same metropolitan area. So an anti-car agenda is exactly what you don’t want, but pro-bike AND pro-car at the same time. Unless of course, very much larger life-style changes are being pursued, such as pressuring everyone to live within cycling distance of their work (except for a selected car-owning elite of course, and we might suspect we know who these will be).

    Jaime: “Andy, it’s pretty obvious to me, and to you, that this has little to do with practical measures to address the supposed threat of Covid, everything to do with opportunistically advancing the mitigation of the imaginary ‘climate crisis’.”

    For sure. But many commented in the early days of Covid, only a couple of months back, that this would likely finish the catastrophic climate agenda. Whereas I figured no culture that strong would simply roll over and die even from a stiff reality-check like Covid. Rather, it would start to evolve ways around the issue, and even attempt to take advantage of it. So my point was only that this has proved to be the case, and we are already seeing such evolution in the ‘green recovery’ tactic. Re our government being bubbelised, well yes, and political pressure against the climate agenda can only be applied per nation, albeit that’s hard in the UK because no party actually opposes it. But once more I highlight the generic too, i.e. that the catastrophic climate culture is taking this ‘green recovery’ tack in various countries, and the UK government is far from alone in heeding it. This doesn’t change much in practical terms, but it emphasises that this is a much bigger problem than assumed incompetence in any single government.


  193. Where we are now. Nature is publishing articles like this:

    “Simulating the pandemic: What COVID forecasters can learn from climate models”.

    Yes, seriously.

    “Epidemiologists predicting the spread of COVID-19 should adopt climate-modelling methods to make forecasts more reliable, say computer scientists who have spent months auditing one of the most influential models of the pandemic.

    In a study that was uploaded to the preprint platform Research Square on 6 November1, researchers commissioned by London’s Royal Society used a powerful supercomputer to re-examine CovidSim, a model developed by a group at Imperial College London. In March, that simulation helped convince British and US politicians to introduce lockdowns to prevent projected deaths, but it has since been scrutinized by researchers who doubt the reliability of its results.

    Coveney is reluctant to criticize the Imperial group, led by epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, which he says did the best job possible under the circumstances. And the model correctly showed that “doing nothing at all would have disastrous consequences”, he says. But he argues that epidemiologists should stress-test their simulations by running ‘ensemble’ models, in which thousands of versions of the model are run with a range of assumptions and inputs, to provide a spread of scenarios with different probabilities.

    His team found 940 parameters in the CovidSim code, but whittled these down to the 19 that most affected the output. And up to two-thirds of the differences in the model’s results could be put down to changes in just three key variables: the length of the latent period during which an infected person has no symptoms and can’t pass the virus on; the effectiveness of social distancing; and how long after getting infected a person goes into isolation.

    The study suggests that small variations in these parameters could have an outsized, non-linear impact on the model’s output.”

    This doesn’t sound to me like climate models (solving a boundary value problem); it sounds more like weather models (solving an initial value problem), where the output depends critically on the input – the ‘butterfly effect’.

    But Nature, in its wisdom, does not think that weather models are sexy enough and certainly not great for predicting catastrophes, so the climate model comparison gets more attention. Even though Tim Palmer pioneered the ensemble method for weather models, he still can’t resist referring to climate models, which are very different:

    “Bayesian tools are an improvement,” says Tim Palmer, a climate physicist at the University of Oxford, UK, who pioneered the use of ensemble modelling in weather forecasting. “But only ensemble modelling techniques that are run on the most powerful computers will deliver the most reliable pandemic projections,” he says. Such techniques transformed the reliability of climate models, he adds, helped by the coordination of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    “We need something like the IPCC for these pandemic models. We need some kind of international facilities where these models can be developed properly,” Palmer says. “It has been rushed because of the urgency of the situation. But to take this forward, we need some kind of international organization that can work on synthesizing epidemiological models from around the world.”

    Oh God, just what we need right now: CMIP1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. – the United Nations Covid Modelling Intercomparison Project, informing the next urgent report of the IPCC – Intergovermental Panel on Covid Catastrophism.


    Liked by 1 person

  194. OMG. It’s worse than we thought.

    “No10’s scientific advisers relied on dubious data from Wikipedia to help steer Britain through the spring’s coronavirus crisis and wrongly predicted the peak of the first wave by two months, an explosive new documentary has claimed.

    Members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) admitted early virus modelling was based on unverified figures from the online encyclopedia, which can be edited and managed by members of the public.

    One prominent Oxford University scientist told MailOnline using Wikipedia to guide Britain through the crisis was ‘absolutely unacceptable’, describing it as a ‘damning reflection of our lack of preparedness’.

    Professor Ian Hall, deputy chair of the SAGE subgroup SPI-M, said: ‘The public may be surprised that we were using Wikipedia to get data very early on in the pandemic, but that was really the only data that was publicly available that we could access.’ ”


    I wonder if climate modellers get their data from Wiki too?

    Liked by 2 people

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