Market Thinking

making sense of the narrative

The consensus being challenged..

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Having highlighted the role of Professor Neil Ferguson and the team of catastrophists at Imperial College in the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease response (Oxford versus Imperial) it was interesting to see the article in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday pointing out how much he and his team have already been criticised in the past and adding the role of their forecasting in model in driving the BSE panic. As previously noted, science should propose and politicians dispose. In both previous examples, however, politicians hid behind the false certainty of ‘the science’ afraid of being blamed for every death and turning a blind eye to the opportunity costs of the scientists’ imposed policy. Millions of healthy animals were slaughtered unnecessarily during the FMD ‘crisis’, costing billions, while the projections of 150,000 deaths from BSE crippled the UK beef industry and destroyed exports for years.

The Imperial Covid-19 death projections of 510,000 on a do nothing scenario and 250,000 ‘extra’ unless a full lockdown have already been quietly reduced to 20,000 and now 5,600 (which isn’t much more than an averagely bad flue season). And yet in the same way the BSE death total of less than 200 deaths was quietly swept under the carpet, the catastrophists are insisting that they were right. Presumably in the same way Goldman Sach’s risk managers were right ahead of the Lehman collapse?

As a small aside, the Imperial College school of public health also published a rightly criticised and improbably precise estimate of the the public health costs of a no deal Brexit this time last year. Apparently 4110 more people would die from heart attacks and 8290 from strokes over the next decade because a no deal Brexit would mean we would not import any fruit and vegetables. Seriously. As (sadly) with both Project Fear and indeed the Green lobby, many scientists arrive with an agenda and we would do well to treat precise forecasts with a far greater degree of scepticism, rather than the combination of confirmation bias and fear that we currently do.

If we had not known about a new virus out there , and had not checked individuals with PCE tests, the number of deaths due to ‘influenza like illness’ would not seem unusual this year

John Ioanidis Professor Medial Health and Research Stamford University

Meanwhile, if we start looking beyond the ‘official’ scientists we find some very interesting articles being published by highly qualified experts such as John Ioannidis at Stanford, quoted above and linked below. In particular the point about the nexus between science, probability and policy and the importance of reliable data.

And he is far from a lone voice, for those interested, here are a series of quotes from almost two dozen eminent medical experts in a similar vein

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2 Replies to “The consensus being challenged..”

  • That raises the question though, if China hadn’t lockdown when it did, which was late, would we have seen a much larger number of cases than we currently are?
    Secondly if the media hadn’t been as sensationalist as it is being would people have been worried as they are and would governments have reacted as they have? The Oxford study suggest that because everyone is unique some deal better with new virus’s than others. The old are always susceptible and usually the very young but it seems so far the young are exempt which is strange?
    Lastly whilst care for those infected is paramount, in order to get a real understanding we need enough test kits to do comprehensive testing in order to really understand the virus. That should mean we know who should be quarantined/ treated and the rest of the population could get on with life as normal.

  • What’s worrying me is that scientists can’t seem to agree at all: there’s a list of scientists questioning the panic and a list who think we don’t do enough, there’s a list who recommend using malaria medication and a list that says it’s dangerous, and so on and so on…
    If even scientists can’t agree, the only conclusion is we’ve got no idea….

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