Lockdown Sceptics prints a reply by Neil Ferguson to an article yesterday by Derek Winton criticising the Imperial College Modelling of the Coronavirus epidemic. 

In it Ferguson replies to the person who sent him the Winton article:

I presume you sent me this because you feel upset, angry, that no-one is listening, want to hurt me or change my mind. Or all of the above.

…and cites just one source in his defence:

The Conspiracy Theory Handbook, by Lewandowsky and Cook. 

Lewandowsky is fast establishing himself as the go-to expert on countering misinformation. He has has been all over minor media outlets lately publicising a survey on attitudes to vaccination which he carried out. It’s really up to us to point out just what kind of expert he is. 


  1. what a load of balls you print on this site.
    Do you coïncider that to be a proper reply to mr Ferguson?


  2. Geoff, thanks for this. I spotted it this morning, and was tempted to comment here, but was wary of opening up the acrimony around Covid and the response to it again. However, (not that I’ve ever been a Ferguson fan), he damned himself in my eyes irretrievably by seeking to justify his scaremongering based on wheeling out Lewandowsky and Cook to try to criticise those who dare to disagree with him.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. MARK
    My reading is that Ferguson is accusing Winton, (and the anonymous reader who sent him the Winton article) of the psychological defects common to conspiracy theorists, (paranoia, inability to reason, etc.) Also, explicitly, of “wanting to hurt me or change my mind.” That a scientist should find it hurtful that anyone would want to change his mind beggars belief.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. This is a major problem with academic work that basically legitimises disparaging anyone who is out-group (whether the group in question identifies with a presumed scientific consensus or not), as mad. It has obvious attractions to those who feel the need (subliminally or not) to legitimize their biases and demonise their critiquers. So it’ll spread. Same thing with Diethelm and Mckee, which you put up here at Cliscep years ago, and inspired me to detail its flawed methodology and underlying assumptions: https://judithcurry.com/2016/04/21/the-denialism-frame/ . Meanwhile, those producing such ‘academic’ justifications can surf to popularity.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I suppose we can consider ourselves fortunate that, over 20 years, Ferguson has changed his view from the need to incinerate everything within 10 miles of an infected case. Or was it 20 miles? His models are still crap and easily viewed as such by anyone who is not a politician or someone who has co-published with him, such as Whitty

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Geoff,

    From what I have seen of the Debunking Handbook, I would say that anyone who cites it immediately creates a credibility problem for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. John, unfortunately only on the eyes of small and discounted minorities. Policed orthodoxies can easily outbid reason, at least while their star rides high.


  8. Ferguson wrote:

    I and my colleagues and friends (John Edmunds, Jeremy Farrar, Marc Lipsitch, Christian Drosten, Patrick Vallance, Chris Whitty,…) get so many of these sort of emails that we barely notice anymore. Most get dumped into junk mail folders automatically nowadays.

    Of that magnificent seven, wherever the emails end up, I’m hoping very much that Ferguson is the only one who would dream of pointing to Dr Lew, Bristol’s conspiracist quackmeister in chief, in support of his position.

    I think Winton’s strongest point is the lack of seasonality in the model. A group being 700% out applying the Imperial model to Sweden in April 2020 (as best they knew how) doesn’t float my boat as much as some. That month, remember, there were also people saying things like this publicly about the Oxford vaccine:

    I had the first dose of the AstraZeneca a week ago. The whole operation, in a primary care unit in the beautiful Mendips, was highly impressive to this non-expert. We seem to have moved on as a country. See for example from the last 24 hours May Willis: 'I'm almost 111 and make the most of what I've got'. Not just “take the vaccine” when you’re offered but “I can’t see the point of always grumbling or moaning”. Amen to that.


  9. Why does Ferguson come in for such criticism regarding the Foot and Mouth outbreak? At the time he was part of a team lead by Roy Anderson, also I understand a modeller. I have not heard Anderson blamed.
    My recollection of the F&M outbreak was of occurrences appearing seemingly at random all over the country and having to find stay-at-home alternatives for our undergraduate final year dissertations because they couldn’t do fieldwork. The first must have meant that any form of modelling or prediction would have been exceedingly difficult.


  10. Alan: I’m sure I saw Roy Anderson getting some of the blame afterwards. The chaos at the start of any such ‘crisis’ is a key point. (And one doesn’t even know what is and isn’t a crisis.) Christopher Essex said he didn’t envy the Covid modellers, having to work at such breakneck speed, at this GWPF webinar in May:

    That’s from the most devastating critic of climate modelling, in the form of GCMs, of the last 20 years. And more, in that Essex was working on the things in the 1980s, if I remember rightly. He’s had time to think it through.

    While I’m in video mode, on the day Boris is expected to give us the path to the relaxation of UK lockdown, in open defiance of his role as a fascist, here’s what Richard Lindzen was saying exactly nine years ago at the House of Commons:

    “Of all the people I’ve met on both sides of this debate, none but he has displayed the exceptional, intuitive, affectionate, profound knowledge of how the atmosphere behaves, and how it is likely to behave as we influence it,” Christopher Monckton says at the start. It took decades for such intuition to build up, based on the detailed and frequently surprising data. And it was a great talk.

    None of us were in the same boat with Covid in Mar-Apr 2020.


  11. Richard’s back. What does he do? Immediately puts the boot into me. On a bloody mission I think. I repeat: they are never going to shove that shit into my veins (or muscle). Bully for you if you are coerced into having an experimental vaccine which you don’t need. I have a fully functioning natural immune system which is almost certainly superior for protecting against coronaviruses of all kinds – including the dreaded Rona.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh, and, Richard is wrong about intuition – it doesn’t take decades to build up. It comes to you instantly, in a flash, out of the blue. That’s why it’s called intuition – as opposed to rational, logical, analytical, deliberative thinking based on decades of accumulated knowledge and facts.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Lockdown sceptics has two articles today, reproducing Winton’s reply to Ferguson, some comments from readers, and correspondence between Ferguson and the person (female, apparently, which F presumably knew when he sent his “you’re trying to hurt me” reply) who first sent the Winton article to Ferguson. The first one is here.
    I’m glad I didn’t comment, since there were already 500+ comments, which are on the whole day’s batch of posts, so anything I said about Lew & Cook would have been lost in the crowd. Though there are some objections to accusations of being called a conspiracy theorist, no-one comments on the handbook itself.

    So I think I’ll leave this odd connection on its slow burning fuse…


  14. I can’t for the bloody life of me work out what my views on vaccination have to do with the subject of this post. If I was going to comment, I would have much rather preferred to have commented on-topic, out of respect for the author. It’s just getting bloody silly now. Sorry Geoff, rant over.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. The original commenter responding once again to Ferguson’s reply to her literally chews him up and spits him out:

    “I might not be an epidemiologist but it’s fairly obvious to me that your model (and that of Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris) is out by several orders of magnitude and the fact that you resort to calling people who disagree with it “conspiracy theorists” only serves to illustrate how far down the rabbit hole you have fallen.”

    I think it highly significant that Ferguson cites Lew in response to being criticised. It suggests to me at the very least that the mindset of charlatans like Ferguson and Lewandowsky are extremely similar. They believe that any criticism of their (or their chosen ‘experts on saving the world from deadly disease or deadly climate change’) work merits instant dismissal as ‘conspiracist ideation’. But more than that, it suggests to me that there are lines of communication open between prominent advocates of lockdowns and those at the vanguard of climate alarmism. I could be wrong, but his bizarre clutching at Lewandowsky in order to defend himself suggests that this is indeed the case. In the later exchange of emails he only digs deeper into the lockdown causation fallacy and the ‘second wave’ myth in order to justify his crap modelling. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s considering a relaunch of his career in climate modelling!

    Liked by 4 people

  16. JAIME

    “…it suggests to me that there are lines of communication open between prominent advocates of lockdowns and those at the vanguard of climate alarmism. I could be wrong, but his bizarre clutching at Lewandowsky in order to defend himself suggests that this is indeed the case…”

    ..or it could be he meets the climate bods in meetings of Modellers Anonymous.

    I follow Lew’s progress, and though he gets a lot of mentions on odd blogs dealing with fake news etc. he hardly ever makes it into the mainstream media, though I’ve seen a few references in African newspapers. There were a couple of quotes recently in the Spectator and the New Statesman, but a recent survey he did on acceptance of the vaccine was ignored outside Bristol as far as I can see. The MSM seems to have had its dose of Lew and been inoculated. The press herd seems to have developed a certain immunity to conspiracy theorist accusations. Let’s see if the Ferguson variant proves more contagious.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Geoff, Jaime,

    I trust neither of you had the misfortune to catch The One Show tonight. It was all about explaining why people believe in conspiracy theories. Apparently, says the expert on Zoom, people believe in conspiracy theories because they can’t cope with the complexities and nuances of the real world.

    Presumably, that is why there are people who believe the conspiracy theory that people who question climate change orthodoxy are all conspiracy theorists. The truth is obviously too complex and nuanced for them.

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Geoff: “The MSM seems to have had its dose of Lew and been inoculated.”

    I doubt it. When covid fades, climate catastrophe will likely claim centre stage again, with most of the old crew still in starring roles I suspect. And social psychologists with avid beliefs are capable of generating new [meme] ‘variants of concern’ too.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. @John – you watch the “One Show” !!!

    having said that I still watch first 10mts of country file just to see how city folk (mostly) view the countryside & how climate is changing everything – OMG


  20. What is it with Countryfile? The presenters have the opportunity to speak with people who have worked the land for many decades. It is they that can authoritively speak of the “devastating rain storms of the 1950s, the cold of 1974 when the barley crop failed and the snowfall of 1983 during lambing season. They know firsthand about extreme weather, that it always has been with us. My wife’s extended family includes many farmers and we used to joke that they always complained that the weather kept them in penury. It wasn’t true, working the dark soils of the Fens, they were as rich as Croesus. So why are most Countryfile items embellished with THE PRESENTERS spouting off about increasing extreme weather events or climate change? Well we know why, don’t we?

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I have to confess, I have not watched a single BBC program in 10 years, excepting ‘Climate Change by Numbers’ and ‘Climate: Change the Facts’ for research purposes. I think maybe Ben Fogle had just started presenting when I finally switched off. That’s an entire decade of BBC and other channel’s brainwashing years lost. Gone forever. Ten years of living in the countryside, seeing directly how the land is farmed and managed, watching the impact of the seasons and the weather, but not being informed by Towniefile. I am bereft.


  22. Jaime (22 Feb 21 at 1:30 pm):

    I thought the connection would be obvious. Lewandowsky uses bogus stats to proclaim that climate sceptics are conspiracists. But some climate sceptics did become conspiracists about vaccines, as the tweet I quoted clearly shows. The certainty that the Oxford/AstraZeneca was ‘shit’ was badly wrong and came from a worldview that we were having to cope with a fascist government, which recent events show that we weren’t. That false certainty in April last year amounted to paranoia and led to drastically bad scientific and societal judgment. That’s relevant to our shared disdain for Lewandowsky – not actually falling into paranoia. That is shooting ourselves in exactly the foot he wants.


  23. Richard,

    The subject of this post was Ferguson, under intense pressure to defend his faulty modelling, clutching at straws by launching a counter ad hominem attack by referring to Lew and Cook’s Conspiracy Theory Handbook. After a notable absence, your first comment involves using a tweet harvested from my Twitter feed 10 months ago to ‘prove’ that climate sceptics can indeed be anti-science conspiracy theorists. It targets me specifically for my views on the Covid vaccines and their alleged necessity. You furthermore take the opportunity to announce that – presumably not being a vaccine conspiracy theorist – you have had your first AZ jab in the ‘beautiful Mendips’. That is weird and it’s obsessive quite frankly. Have you got a searchable database of all my tweets? I would not be surprised.

    This thread was not about me and it was not about so called ‘anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists’. However, as you have taken the opportunity once again to indulge your concerns that I am bringing the good name of climate scepticism into disrepute, I refer to the government’s own reporting of adverse reactions to the AZ Oxford vaccine. You allege that my “certainty that the Oxford/AstraZeneca was ‘shit’ was badly wrong”.

    “The report has collated data inputted up to the 14th February 2021 via the MHRA Yellow Card Scheme and shows that the Oxford jab has now overtaken the Pfizer jab for reported adverse effects, even though there have been more doses of the Pfizer jab administered.

    As of the 14th February there have been 8.3 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine administered with the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine over 1 million doses administered behind with just 6.9 million doses administered.

    But the Oxford Jab has received 33,427 Yellow Card reports whilst the Pfizer Jab has received 26,823. And in the week since the 3rd UK Gov./MHRA report was released which included data inputted up to the 7th February there has been an increase of 2,616 Yellow Card reports for the Pfizer vaccine and a whopping 10,999 reports for the Oxford vaccine, but each report can include several different adverse reactions to the jabs.

    In the first released report, which included reports of adverse reactions to the Covid vaccines up to the 24th January 2021, the Government confirmed a rate of 1 in every 333 people suffering from an adverse reaction to the Covid vaccines. Sadly this rate has now increased to 1 in every 200 people suffering from an adverse reaction to either the Pfizer or Oxford Jab.

    At the current rate if every man, woman and child was to receive just a single dose of a Covid vaccine, as is the authorities plan, there could be a total of 335,000 people suffering a serious adverse reaction. The worrying thing about this is that the rate has increased over time and still may increase further.”


    These are the reported adverse reactions and deaths, soon after the jab. They exclude any possible long term effects, they are mostly after only the first jab and they exclude reported alleged ‘Covid deaths’ in care homes and the community soon after receiving the Covid jab. See my report here:


    Doesn’t sound to me like I was “badly wrong” 10 months ago. Sounds like I was intuitively correct. I was also intuitively correct about the descent of this government into fascism, though you bizarrely continue to deny it, in the face of mounting and overwhelming evidence.


  24. Do you think Richard and Jaime that you could fashion a new article and thread devoted to the continuing spat between yourselves? This would allow the remainder of Cliscep to cover other matters without being distracted. Thank you for your consideration.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I think your question should be directed at Richard, not me, Alan. I have no axe to grind, I’m not a willing participant in this ‘spat’ but I will defend myself when provoked. The provocation almost exclusively comes from Richard. I’m sorry if you’re ‘distracted’ by this, but it’s telling that you only came to be ‘distracted’ when I responded comprehensively to being challenged by Richard, not when Richard challenged me.


  26. Jaime. I am not taking sides in your spat/argument/heated discussion/call it what you like. Nor am I attempting to restrict you responding to the seemingly deliberate prodding you are suffering from Richard, I am just suggesting, as mildly as I can, that such prods and responses be done elsewhere within Cliscep, focussing your efforts, and leaving swaths of space free to to discuss such mundane topics like climate. Thank you in advance.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Alan, such prodding has no place on Cliscep. It’s bullying quite frankly and I’m sick of it. I would suggest very strongly that if Richard wishes to continue to challenge me personally, he does it elsewhere. My own blog is open to commenters and there’s lots of material there for Richard to indulge his belief that I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist’ and lapsed sceptic.


  28. An Oxford scholar – she has a DPhil, no less – thinks that Apple might be filling covid vaccines with a discontinued calendar-like feature that it used in some of its smartwatches. This is to allow vaccines to talk to each other and spy on anyone who is injected with them – and not just spy on their pasts, but on their futures too.

    Here is Dr Naomi Wolf, author, scholar and feminist leader, defending herself from accusations that she’s bonkers:


    Don’t wait too long to watch it. The Putin-pandering, 5G-promoting, ISIS-denigrating, Scottish referendum-nudging, let’s-use-ebola-to-start-a-coup fascists at Facebook have already taken the video down once. No doubt more censorship will follow. As Dr Wolf herself says:

    Please watch quickly, download and share. This is the video about a new technology that must not be named..we’ll call it ‘Voldemort’… that was pulled from Twitter and YouTube and Vimeo.

    I don’t know why she forgot to mention Facebook.

    Or do I? It’s possible that Facebook aimed a Directed Energy Weapon at Dr Wolf and this forced her to blame her troubles on Facebook’s rivals.

    Likely? No.

    Possible? Probably not.

    But, like Dr Wolf, by mentioning such things I am just being a good journalist/scholar/blog-commenter.


    Next week: Jack Klaff, an actor and ‘highly-experienced professor’ – he’s been a professor at Princeton University four times, for example. Although his academic interests totally recompass quantum physics, Professor Klaff is still working on his PhD, which will be called ‘Power and Exclusion’ and is about how an actor with cranky views about science has been denied the power he thinks is due to him – or is it? You’ll have to wait and see.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Speaking from a personal perspective, I’ve come across far more pro-vax whackos than anti-vax whackos. Here’s one who actually claims to be an expert in infectious diseases and microbiology at University College Hospital:


  30. Ferguson came back several times in the days following this post.
    At https://lockdownsceptics.org/2021/02/24/ he replies to Derek Winton:

    I am not going to engage in responding to loaded and scientifically irrelevant questions… All models are simplified representations of reality and different scientists interpret data differently and make different assumptions – which is why the UK government never relies on a [sic] one alone… I’m afraid the “motivated reasoning” indulged in on Lockdown Sceptics means that you are never going to compete with those (such as 99% of the scientific community) who dispassionately examine the data…  If you want to actually persuade people, do some real research and publish it in scientific journals… Pure rhetoric, cherry-picking “evidence” and ad hominem attacks are never going to succeed.

    This is exactly – word for word – the argument we’ve been hearing used against climate sceptics for over a decade. It’s the argument of a totalitarian, an inquisitor, an Orwellian control freak, or maybe just some poor ignorant bastard who hasn’t a clue about science. It’s frightening, and it’s a good reason for us to continue our uphill struggle, I think.

    Liked by 4 people

  31. Geoff,

    That’s the exact same argument used by atmospheric scientist Paul Williams when he accused his critics of being haters and demanded that they do their own research and publish critques of his work via the peer-reviewed literature. They are both arrogant, conceited twats who believe that they themselves are superhumanly immune to motivated reasoning, but the general public are not. I am really, really beginning to dislike ‘experts’.


    Liked by 1 person

  32. When the quality of the Ferguson code first became a matter for pubic debate, the British Computer Society waded in with a press statement that said:

    “Given the seriousness of this issue and the significant consequences of not using relevant best practice and specialists, BCS will approach experts across the sector to discuss how to professionalise software development practice in scientific research, including the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, the Alan Turing Institute, the Safety Critical Systems Club, the British Insurance Association, Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, Cabinet Office, NHSX, UKRI, and Public Health England.”

    Presumably, Ferguson thought that the BCS was just out to hurt him. Presumably, he now thinks that the BCS and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, the Alan Turing Institute, the Safety Critical Systems Club, the British Insurance Association, Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, Cabinet Office, NHSX, UKRI, and Public Health England should stick their ‘motivated reasoning’ where the sun don’t shine.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Geoff:

    This is exactly – word for word – the argument we’ve been hearing used against climate sceptics for over a decade.

    My one-line rejoinder is that public health never became anything like as corrupted as climate science and policy. So the similarity, as you perceive it, can be deeply misleading.

    The vaccine situation is going to turn out to be the biggest and clearest indicator of this gigantic difference between the two areas. But note I’ve put that in the future. I’ll come back to the subject after 21st June, or whenever the UK restrictions are fully lifted. At which point the government is proved non-fascist. In my definition.

    Alan’s fears of a spat with one person (which is a false frame, as it’s more than one person with whom I deeply disagree, including John and yourself) can at least be deferred till then.

    I will put up some positive links on the ‘Good News’ thread in a moment. Well, I see them as positive. It all depends on your definitions:

    That includes the use of ‘intuition’ by Monckton about Lindzen. In The Emperor’s New Mind Roger Penrose uses exactly the same term to indicate the genius of Einstein. His intuition about how the real world really functioned – expressed in its fullness in general relativity – was indeed amazing. And was of course confirmed by experiment, starting with Eddington on the island of Príncipe. So I don’t think I was ‘wrong’ in using this term. Anything like.

    I haven’t read all the comments on this thread. As I say, I’ll come back to the subject.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.