Fear The Walking D(r)ead

Richard Feynman wrote “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” and nothing could demonstrate that point more readily than the public’s growing disaffection with the experts of the public health apparatus --  the WHO, the CDC, and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Their proscriptions (often conflicting) respecting the handling of Covid-19 were simply not “scientific.” They were, in fact, nothing more than guesses which did not work out. Not that that stopped them from silencing those whose experience, both medical and non-medical, contradicted their guesswork.

Ignoring cost-benefit analysis and utterly discounting the contradictory experience of thousands of medical doctors who were actually treating patients with the dreaded Covid, they’ve wreaked havoc and hardship throughout the world and doubtless contributed to many more deaths than necessary. Unfortunately, much of the media still insist that their actions were based on pure science, and many of our fellow citizens -- driven to neurosis by it all -- have been propagandized to thinking this is akin to the Black Death.

It’s hard to know where to even begin answering this.

What have I done?

Let’s start with masks -- virtue signalers and tyrants alike love them, since they broadcast submission and compliance to the world. Of course, the masked Karens of the world also enjoy hounding the noncompliant. In the beginning of the Covid spread here Dr. Fauci said masks weren’t needed. Later he said they were, and that his earlier statement was based on a fear there would be too few available to medical personnel. In fact, they are useless as presently designed and worn by the general public, as Dan Formosa explains:

A coronavirus virion (particle) is spherical, averaging around 125 nanometers in diameter. Compare that to bacteria’s 1,000-nm size. It’s a grape compared to a grapefruit. A surgical mask whose purpose is to block bacteria will do little to prevent passage of the smaller coronavirus particle. That’s why N95 masks, which block 95% of all airborne particles, are the gold standard in hospitals treating Covid-19 patients. They have a much more selective filter.

But even N95 masks are flawed. Before coronavirus, my team and I investigated whether N95 masks could be a viable alternative to standard surgical masks. Interviews with doctors and nurses at several hospitals at the time revealed that N95 masks were rarely used or supplied. The overwhelming majority of healthcare workers I spoke with had never worn one. They are more expensive than surgical masks, they’re harder to breathe in, and medical workers deemed them unnecessary for most procedures. (Keep in mind that masks protect in both directions. They protect the wearer from airborne particles or splash, and protect the patient from contamination by the surgical staff—the latter is especially important in procedures that require deep incisions.)

I have some, purchased when it was feared after 9/11 we would be hit with an anthrax attack and we were encouraged to get them. Everyone else I see wears masks virtually useless for the purpose of preventing viral infections. Recently released evidence from CDC bears this out. 

A Centers for Disease Control report released in September shows that masks and face coverings are not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, even for those people who consistently wear them. A study conducted in the United States in July found that when they compared 154 “case-patients,” who tested positive for COVID-19, to a control group of 160 participants from the same health care facility who were symptomatic but tested negative, over 70 percent of the case-patients were contaminated with the virus and fell ill despite “always” wearing a mask.

“In the 14 days before illness onset, 71% of case-patients and 74% of control participants reported always using cloth face coverings or other mask types when in public,” the report stated. In addition, over 14 percent of the case-patients said they “often” wore a face covering and were still infected with the virus. The study also demonstrates that under 4 percent of the case-patients became sick with the virus even though they “never” wore a mask or face covering.

With the mask requirements and much else Covid related, another Richard Feynman admonition comes to mind, "If you thought that science was certain -- well, that is just an error on your part."

We're sorry, too.

On to Lockdowns.

The most absurd move was to lock down states and countries in the belief that would stop the spread of Covid-19. 

President Trump never urged more than a temporary lockdown in order to manage scarce resources, such as ventilators, and protect health workers from an illness the experts warned would otherwise overwhelm existing health services. State governors and other countries, however, made these restrictions long term and only recently did the WHO advise against this -- long after irreparable economic was wreaked harm around the world.

WHO envoy Dr. David Nabarro said such restrictive measures should only be treated as a last resort, the British magazine the Spectator reported in a video interview. “We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Nabarro said. “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.” Nabarro said tight restrictions cause significant harm, particularly on the global economy. “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” he said.

Social Distancing.

Public health services are demanding we close non-essential businesses and keep six feet apart at all times. On what basis? None that I can see. Michael Thau cites some scientific studies that refute any basis for these commands, and maintain that there is no “solid basis for ANY social distancing measures.”

We have cases where the viruses traveled across oceans, infecting people in Antarctica while they were in their 17th week of isolation; and those aboard an Argentinian naval ship “after 35 days at sea which had been preceded by 14 days of isolation for everyone on board.” This make-believe perimeter was set at the same time most U.S. jurisdictions kept only megastores open which to my (and Thau's) mind only increased the possibility of viral transmission. In smaller neighborhood shops it would seem there would be fewer opportunities to come in contact with the virus.

And then to seal our belief that the CDC social distancing dictates were partisan-inspired bunk, they simply abandoned them for mass social protests. No social distancing there!

Not the Black Death.

Why are so little of these conflicting reports making it to public attention? Thau reminds us that Harvey Risch, a professor epidemiology at Yale University with a distinguished career in the field, has accused Dr. Fauci of lying about the effectiveness of hydroxychlorquine and influencing the suppression of its use because he, and others in the public health bureaucracy, are “in bed with other forces that are causing them to make decisions that are not based on the science and are killing Americans.”

I know you remember President Trump early on suggesting that this drug , long used safely to treat other ailments like Lupus, might be effective in combating Covid. Maybe you even remember the claim by Dr. Fauci that it was proven ineffective. Actually, it wasn't established to be so at all. Physicians (hundreds in the U.S. and thousands worldwide) were using it successfully when administered along with zinc and azithromycin. The public was led astray by Dr. Fauci who appeared to rely on trials where the HCL was not administered within the 5-7 days after symptoms first appeared (the effective window) or where it was administered alone without the rest of the drugs necessary for the cocktail.

Interesting that the media ignores not only the work of Dr. Risch and the hundreds of doctors with extensive hands-on experience, but also Nobel Prize-winning biophysicist Michael Levitt. These people describe Fauci’s lockdown advice as a “mass casualty incident.”  There is now a large-scale pushback on Fauci’s policies known as The Great Barrington Declaration. It was authored and signed earlier this month by Dr. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard; Dr. Sunetra Gupta, Oxford epidemiologist and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford Medical school. More than 13,000 medical professionals have also signed it, along with more than 176,000 members of the public by mid-September -- and the number keeps growing. They call for an end of the lockdowns; removing quarantines from all but the sick; isolation only of the vulnerable and allowing the young and healthy to proceed with caution.

Does the quackery at the top and the suppression of empirical evidence remind you of the global warming/climate change saga? It does me.

It all makes sense now.

Meanwhile, publications like the Washington Post have started to take a sick pleasure in highlighting the Covid neuroses which they themselves have inspired with their coverage.

Because the demographics of those terrorized by the virus and fearful of re-opening the country and returning to normal would appear at first glance to be the very same people who watch CNN, MSNBC and read the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times.

There are, however, signs that this Fauci-engendered nightmare may soon be over. New York Times science reporter, Donald G. McNeil Jr., reports that treatments are improving every day, and vaccine development is moving along much faster than was previously expected, both helped along by the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. Moreover, economists are predicting a rapid recovery.

The press will have to find something else to keep the populace in a state of full-blown hysteria when that happens. In the meantime it is probably a good idea for healthy people to do some common sense stuff, such as avoiding crowds, washing your hands more frequently, and taking dietary supplements (especially zinc and Vitamins C and D). But don't pay attention to Dr. Fauci. Listen to the president instead, specifically the phrase which drove so many leftists insane: "Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life."

And for heaven's sake, calm down.

Time to Take a Breather on Climate Politics

Not so long ago, we were all getting ready to freeze. In 1971, the Global Ecology network forecast the “continued rapid cooling of the earth; in 1975 The New York Times brooded that the earth “may be headed for another ice age,” as did Newsweek; in the March 1, 1975 issue of Science News, we were informed that “the approach of a full-blown 10,000-year ice age [was] a real possibility,” and in the July 1975 issue of National Wildlife, C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organization warned that “the cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed.”

A few years later, we are all in danger of frying to a crisp. Over the past decades, as we know to our cost, a consensus has developed that the world is warming as a result of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming). There is, apparently, no room for doubt.

The trouble is that the “science” involved has been commandeered by an army of political pulpiteers whose underlying purposes are distressingly suspect. Some of the movement’s advocates, to put it bluntly, are more concerned with saving their careers than saving the planet; others are building new careers at the expense of public credulity, the perks and salaries being just too good to give up. I imagine that a great number of them are dealing from the bottom of the deck. 

Thus William Gray, professor emeritus of the Atmosphere Department of Colorado State University, laments that “fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong. But they also know that they’d never get any grants if they spoke out.” Consequently, they must insist that “the science is settled”—an unscientific statement if ever there was one.

Gray received unlikely support from culture-hero James Lovelock who, in his various books on the apotheosis of Gaia, had been an ardent proponent of the Global Warming conjecture. In a late interview, Lovelock more or less reversed course, claiming that the science is far from settled and that “our university and government scientists might fear an admission of a mistake would lead to a loss of funding.”

In adding his réclame to the debunking of climate conformity, Lovelock -- who's now 100 years old -- showed both honesty and courage, rare attributes for climate commentators. If so-called climate skeptics need nerves of steel to oppose the reigning ideology, it takes even more courage for a “Warmist” to buck the trend. Lovelock, who in The Revenge of Gaia prophesied the charring of the planet, now confides he had been “extrapolating too far.” Despite predictably hedging his bets and deferring catastrophe into the indefinite future, he avers that “we don’t know what the climate is doing” and disparages his previous work, as well as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers, as “alarmist.” 

Financial Post journalist Peter Foster believes that progress toward a more sensible accord on climate may be occurring: “alarmist science, grand schemes of UN-coordinated global governance, carbon taxes, and government promoted ‘technologies of the future’—are crumbling.” 

But is that really the case? Our professional elites seems not to be aware—or interested—as they continue to promote a failed ideology. National governments and ambitious politicians are still beating the climate drum, whether Justin Trudeau in Canada or Gavin Newsom in California, leading their people down the road to economic perdition.

Thankfully, authentic scientists, men of courage and integrity, have no intention of surrendering to the climate commissars of the day. Their persistence in disseminating truth may eventually pay off. Perhaps people may gradually become aware that the so-called greening of the earth is actually leading to the blackening of the earth.

Where good intentions go to die.

The toxic waste flowing from Green renewables, unreported in the mainstream media, is off the charts. Writing in Forbes, Michael Shellenberger, author of Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, cites reputable figures showing that by 2016 there were 250,000 metric tonnes of solar panel waste to deal with, producing carcinogens washed into the soil by rainwater.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), he continues, “projected that this amount could reach 78 million metric tonnes by 2050.” In addition, costs are unsustainable. Today, “recycling costs more than the economic value of the materials recovered, which is why most solar panels end up in landfills.”

Additionally, burning e-waste materials, which include plastic components, produces fumes that are teratogenic. Wind farms create their own waste issues regarding the disposal of uncrushable, 100-to-300 feet long, used wind turbine blades, “a waste problem,” writes Christina Stella at NPR, “that runs counter to what the industry is held up to be.”

Perhaps people are also beginning to twig to the fact that, as P.F. Whalen writes in American Thinker, “the climate change cult’s agenda, is less about climate change and more about Socialism; maneuvering for the redistribution of wealth and increased government control over our lives, while disguised as well-intentioned activists striving for cleaner air.”

There’s nothing like the threat of an imminent apocalypse to advance a suspect agenda.

The scientific consensus today, as Foster believes, may be slowly shifting away from the catastrophism of the climate gurus, despite official and partisan resistance. True, the shift has been tentative. Carbon-driven global warming was an easy sell, but it will be a hard buyback—too many professional reputations are on the line.

Nonetheless, the evidence is growing to suggest, variously, that the human contribution to global warming is far less than originally assumed, that there may be no global warming, and that in any event a meteorological calamity is highly unlikely. As far back as 2008, two-thirds of the scientists attending the 33rd International Geological Congress were “hostile to, even dismissive of, the U.N.’s IPCC report” on catastrophic climate. 

In addition, a coalition of 49 former NASA scientists and seven Apollo astronauts, including the deputy director of the space shuttle program, has accused the bureaucracy of both NASA and the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), with which NASA is affiliated, of diddling with the facts. They write: “We believe that [their] claims that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data. With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled.” 

And a little child shall mislead them.

If Lovelock is right and we don’t know what the climate is doing, then it is surely time for a moratorium on oracular pronouncements foretelling climate doom and vaticinal prescriptions for drastic and irreversible action.

The sickly obsession with "green energy" has to be put out to pasture. It behooves us to proceed gingerly and with humility when engaging in practices that can alter and even destroy livelihoods, that can profoundly affect the industrial and economic infrastructures on which prosperity depends, and that may meddle harmfully with natural processes. Scientists are neither soothsayers nor sorcerer’s apprentices no matter how many degrees and laurels they have acquired.

Meanwhile, civilization is in no danger of collapsing—at least, not from natural causes; the earth is not about to become an orbital cinder; hydrocarbons are not about to be exhausted; and there is time to reflect, plan, experiment and test a diversity of sustainable energy replacements. Nuclear power plants, for example, are not only increasingly secure but create 300 times less toxic waste per unit of energy than do solar panels. Working in proportionate tandem with oil-and-gas, a safe, plentiful and affordable energy source can supply the energy needs of the future while preserving the environment as well as the job economy. 

Precipitate action may benefit crony capitalists, corrupt politicians, academic imbeciles, Reset leftists and scientific sell-outs at the cost of planetary degradation and common suffering. The possibilities for creating fear and panic to further the schemes and purposes of Green profiteers are endless. “Some say the world will end in fire,/Some say in ice,” wrote Robert Frost. In the 1970s it was ice; now it’s fire.

A pandemic, a Biblical flood, erupting volcanoes, the separating of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates that may release the hell of Tartarus upon the planet, as James Rollins fantasizes in his Sigma Force thriller The Last Odyssey—all are equally plausible, which is to say, implausible scenarios. Perhaps it’s time to stop fetishizing cataclysmic theatrics, whether for lucre, reputation or political control. Moreover, the untutored enthusiasms of credulous multitudes need to be treated with unqualified skepticism as well.

In short, informed and honorable people know it’s time to take a breather on climate politics. Too little is known and computer models are notoriously unreliable, often reflecting their programmers’ biases or ineptness rather than the real world. This practice of presuming on results is called by those in the field “climate model tuning” or “parameter estimation targeting a chosen set of observations.”

According to the American Meteorological Society, “tuning methodologies may affect fundamental results of climate models, such as climate sensitivity.” There are, as the AMS goes on to admit, “consistency issues across the model and its components,” as well as “limitations of process studies metrics,” such as sampling issues, and also the fact that “the climate system itself is not observed with sufficient fidelity to fully constrain models.” The language is technical but the meaning in layman’s terms is clear: the results of current climate and environmentalism studies, given the “arcane aspect of model construction,” are untrustworthy and corrupted.

What is needed is not ad hoc adjustments to confirm a theory or ratify an antecedent conclusion, but, as the AMS advises, “a vigorous debate on model tuning and evaluation.” There is far too much uncertainty arising from the inductive procedures currently in play.

Michael Crichton was right when he urged in State of Fear that we need “more people working in the field, in the actual environment, and fewer people behind computer screens.” No matter how sophisticated the regressive correlations and projective parameters used in computer simulations may be, there can be no substitute for concrete empirical work. Ultimately, we should agree, at the very least, that a large amount of comprehensive research still needs to be done before the science is sufficiently stabilized to yield results that are not perennially contestable.

The old Latin maxim applies: In dubio non agitur: when in doubt, don’t act. Or at any rate, act circumspectly and with gradually accumulated knowledge rather than with the doctorings of desire, the existence of prior convictions, or a raft of maniacal assumptions.

The Case of the Unknown Dosage

This column is a second-hand mystery thriller on the lines of the Agatha Christie Poirot television series. It tells the story how a real-life scientific scandal that involved a Nobel Prize winner, great American and U.K. universities, the Manhattan Project, several expert U.S. government committees, and dirty work at the laboratory was exposed by an academic detective almost a hundred years after it was first committed. Maybe it’s a mystery that would be solved easily by Poirot or by anyone familiar with those civilized British murders which turn on how much arsenic was in the jam omelette. But no one knew there was a mystery to be solved. And even though billions of dollars may hang on their decision, the authorities have not yet agreed to re-open the case.

The Hercule Poirot in this case who’s seeking the truth, whatever the cost to distinguished reputations, is Edward J. Calabrese, Professor of Toxicology at the University of Massachusetts, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, at Amherst. As in the best thrillers, Professor Calabrese blundered into the scandal by accident when he attended a research conference that starred two different sets of elderly rats. He was struck by the difference in their appearance.

Some looked “remarkably healthy, showing a wonderfully shining coat of fur. They seemed to be in the prime of their adult life.” Others “looked unhealthy, very haggard, skinny, with very little fur, and that patchy and dull.”

Nothing odd there, you might think, because the study of the rats was being conducted to determine the effects of exposing them to high doses of background radiation, sometimes sixty per cent higher than the background radiation they had experienced throughout their lives. But something odd was there because the healthy, shiny-coated rats were the ones who had been subjected to massive doses of radiation while the ailing, haggard, and dull creatures were the control group living protected lives. And that comparison contradicted the orthodoxy of public health and regulatory authorities holding that any dosage of radiation, however small, was bound to inflict health damage on living creatures.

A dose a day keeps the doctor away.

That belief in turn was confined neither to scientists nor to health professionals but had spread throughout society to promote strong risk-averse attitudes across the board but especially on the topic of radiation because, like cancer, radiation was a silent killer that murdered us without our noticing.

Most of us might have reacted to the rats therefore  as if it were an anomaly we hadn’t yet detected with some such thought as “well, that’s odd, wonder what caused it, probably something in the water.” But chance favors the prepared mind, as Louis Pasteur once said, and Calabrese, who had written several books on the topic, looked at the data and concluded that it was hard to deny that radiation had exerted a positive healthy influence on the rats. And for him that meant the conventional theory had to be re-examined.

The theory he was challenging is described by Calabrese as follows: any dose of chemical carcinogen or ionizing radiation, no matter how low, has the potential to cause cancer and shorten our lives. He traces the origins of this theory back to 1920 and to a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Professor Hermann Joseph Muller, who in 1926 demonstrated that high doses of radiation could cause gene mutations in the fruit fly. That made him famous and won him the Nobel Prize in 1946.

But it was a limited scientific advance, and as interest in combating cancer grew, he sought to expand its application to consider the impact of X-rays on the health of the patients. He asked research students to test whether the gene mutation response was proportional to the dose of radiation administered in other cases. They found that it was. But the radiation dose was extremely high in their experiments—"hundreds of thousands to millions of times greater than background radiation.”

Rather than test what was the effect of very low doses of radiation, however, Muller extrapolated backwards or downwards to estimate the impact of such doses. He called these results the Proportionality Rule. And this linear no-threshold model or LNT (i.e., implying that there’s no threshold below which radiation is harmless or even beneficial) became over time the orthodox view—and so the basis of “precautionary” principles that sought to eliminate any risk whatever from radiation even at the cost of eliminating fuels and technologies beneficial to human flourishing.

It took time for the LNT to establish itself, however, because the LNT was controversial within medical science and because Muller and his colleagues found it hard to replicate the results in other experiments without heavy massaging of the data. In some cases Muller went beyond massaging data to outright misrepresenting it. When Muller received the Nobel Prize for his original research in 1946, he used his acceptance speech to claim that the “threshold model” had been definitively superseded by the LNT. As Calabrese says darkly in his essay in Reassessing Radiation Safety (The Global Warming Policy Group, London): “In effect, Muller deliberately deceived his audience in an effort to manipulate them into accepting his ideological perspective.”

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That was a serious violation of the procedures and ethics of science. But it need not have been the end of the matter. There were many occasions after 1946 when the LNT theory was supposed to be reconsidered by different scientific authorities. Indeed, for more than half of his investigative essay, Calabrese is describing how on one occasion after another scientific authorities who ought to have discovered the errors underlying LNT failed to do so, from causes both shocking and comic. At one time Muller and a colleague successfully dismissed criticisms of their position because they knew the evidence against them was in research documents classified by the U.S. government and thus unavailable to reporters or the public.

From 1946 to the mid-nineties in Calabrese’s telling, the LNT becomes a plot device like Alfred Hitchcock’s McGuffin which, as it passes from hand to hand, escapes any number of threats of impending detection and discrediting until in 1995 an Oak Ridge genetics researcher in Tennessee discovers major irregularities in earlier researches that had apparently supported LNT. That leads to further investigations which themselves result in the conclusions that LNT was a mistake (even if its consequences remain to be buried), that those subjected to low-dose radiation did no worse than their control group, and that there was even a “hormetic” effect, i.e.,  low-dose radiation was beneficial, as with the rats which started Calabrese on his voyage of discovery.

It's a complicated story but also a gripping one that Calabrese tells well and clearly. My brief summary is not a substitute for the monograph which you can read above. But the LNT story is not over. Though the scientific basis of LNT has evaporated, its consequences in terms of policy and regulation are very much alive.

First, at a time when government policies everywhere are looking for alternatives to fossil fuels that are both effective and reasonably priced, nuclear power stations are still being blocked by massive and expensive regulations that reflect a false and vastly excessive estimate of the risks of radiation. Reassessing Radiation Safety is highly topical and an important intervention in the nuclear debate.

Secondly, the story of Muller and LNT illustrates the danger of treating human scientists as the god, Science. Borrowing a remark of Chesterton another topic, we might say about Calabrese’s story: “We believe in science as much as we ever did, but—Oh--there was happy time when we believed in scientists.” Scientists themselves should welcome their liberation from divinity.

Thirdly, since the LNT was a rehearsal for the precautionary principle which, inter alia, is a device for stopping the kind of innovation that we need for purposes as various as climate policy and cancer research, we should cast a beady eye on how that logic looks in the light of Calabrese’s careful account.

But let the last word go to Lord Lilley, a Cambridge-educated scientist and a member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, who returns to the main point in his introduction:

Professor Calabrese has shown that a great many things that are damaging in large quantities may – in small doses, below a certain threshold – do no harm or even be beneficial. It seems that very small doses of potentially damaging substances can stimulate the repair and protection mechanisms that our bodies have evolved to help us survive.

You can have 'too much of a good thing.' But can you have 'too little of a bad thing?'

The sooner we find out, the better.

Les Miserables

In George Bernard Shaw’s Play, Misalliance, a young socialist bursts into a upper-class weekend party  waving a gun, and after a good deal of Shavian talk he’s persuaded to postpone revolution for a square meal in the kitchen by the kindly matriarch of the household. Before he is diverted, however, he challenges a retired colonial governor to say how he would deal with the New Socialist Man of the future, like himself, who rejects all the conventional rules of the political game. The governor explains matter-of-factly that he would tip off an ambitious policeman that he was a bit of a troublemaker who should be watched and then wait patiently for the policeman to provoke him into a fight and an arrest.

“Why, that’s disgraceful,” responds the anarchist indignantly. The governor replies that in the game of anarchism the police can always beat the anarchist.

Almost invariably, that is true. Revolutions are the exception, and even they conform to the governor’s cynical insight when they succeed, because the police reappear soon after the new order is established, are given greater powers by the new post-anarchist authorities, and arrest the few remaining anarchists. See the history of the early Soviet Union passim.

What we’re at present witnessing is the spread of anarchism in the United States and, less violently so far, in the United Kingdom: mobs rushing around, pulling down statues, attacking people they believe to be “racists” (maybe because they’re wearing a baseball cap), demanding conformity to their  revolutionary slogans, and visibly flouting the authority of governments and local authority. The pulling down of statues—historically known as iconoclasm—is a traditional accompaniment to religious or political revolution that symbolizes the defenestration of one set of rulers and their replacement by a new set.

The role of the police in these events is especially significant. As the guardians of order, supposedly politically impartial, they are expected to restrain and suppress riots and destruction of lives and property. Against these disorders they seem pulled in three different directions Those in Seattle have been instructed by local authorities that are politically sympathetic to the rioters to allow them to establish “no-go” areas outside the law; those in Atlanta may be resigning or simply looking the other way when crimes are committed because they feel the local authorities are making them scapegoats for incidents of law enforcement that went wrong; and those in London seem to have decided on their own initiatives that policing by consent means the consent of the rioters and have accordingly tried to appease them. In all these cases the citizens can no longer rely with confidence on the normal assumption that the police will protect them and their property. Anarchy reigns.

At some point if the anarchy does not lead to an actual revolution, it will either fizzle out or be stopped by police or military force. The 1968 manifestations in Paris were stopped when the Army made it plain it would intervene if necessary, the bourgeois supporters of de Gaulle mounted their own massive manifestations in Paris, and the Gaullists won a landslide in the subsequent elections.

But the spirit of anarchy cannot be confined in a box marked public order. It seeps out into all aspects of our lives—I’ve mentioned iconoclasm as its symbolic representation in the arts. Jihadists have destroyed “pagan idols,” i.e., Buddhist images, in Asia. Feminists in recent years have been imitating the Victorians in putting bras on Greek statues and stockings on piano legs in official settings. And the removal of statues of national heroes such as George Washington, as well as leading abolitionists, on the grounds of “slavery,” shows that the real motive force of this particular anarchistic drive is to replace the United States, founded circa 1776, with a new American state.

More important than iconoclasm, however, is antinomianism which is the rejection of all laws, customs, and informal rules in all fields of human behaviour including, significantly, science, law, and morality. Their removal gives the anarchist a thrill of liberation when first antinomianism breaks forth. But since it’s in the nature of man that, as Burke said, he must have rules to govern him, and if they don’t come from within in the form of customs and practices, they will come from without in the form of politically-imposed new “truths” on the arts and sciences.

Seattle, 2020

It’s a two-stage process: first, we liberate ourselves from the old laws that confine our imaginations to what science and experience tell us is true and practicable; second, we replace them with rules that reflect the wishes and interests of the powerful—who are not always politicians and ministers but sometimes in periods of decaying political authority, the mob or its allies. The political mob made its first appearance in Paris during the French revolution, but it has come and gone many times since then, and it’s presently most powerful in Seattle and Portland.

Taken together these two stages produce the replacement of professional rules and ethics by political values and authority in all fields. It can be a slow process, especially in science, and it begins modestly, but the final stages often have seasoned professionals accepting new rules they would once have denounced or regarded as simply too absurd to bother denouncing. The old professional rules of American journalism that you followed the truth where it led by examining fairly the claims of all sides in a dispute have collapsed entirely—and that collapse began long before Donald Trump was elected President. It has reached its apogee in the recent decision of the New York Times to publish the deceptive and false 1619 Project not as one account of many historical accounts of the birth of America but as the sole acceptable truth (though it comes to us less from history than from critical race theory which is constructed so as to negate any criticism of its own criteria.) Its principal author has just welcomed the spreading anarchy as a vindication of the Times project, which is now to be taught in American high schools.

Examine now this sinister drift from the rules of scientific truth to the imperatives of political anti-science which we might call the Lysenko Imperative, or “What the Party says is Science is Science”:

  1. There is a replication crisis in science. For the last decade it has become an open or grumbling scandal that a very high number of scientific experiments cannot be replicated, which means that the original findings are invalid. Since a great number of findings are not tested for replication in this way, that implies much more uncertainty about scientific findings than we tend to assume. Replications are far lower in psychology (50 per cent) especially social psychology (25 per cent), and in medicine than in other fields. In the last few days, for instance, a study by Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford found that they could not replicate the results in 13 of the 15 studies purporting to support the two-metre distancing rule in SARs and Covid-19 cases and concluded that “poor quality research is being used to justify a policy with enormous consequences for us all.”
  2. Much of the writing on both pollution and global warming emphasizes that these problems constitute a crisis or an emergency requiring urgent action to reduce carbon emissions and other “pollutants.” Time and again the dates for which catastrophe was confidently predicted have passed without grave occurrences. No apologies have been offered, and no signs given that the forecasters were reconsidering the theories on which their forecasts were based. Like the replication crisis, the prediction crisis is a scientific scandal unless it is seriously addressed. The latest warning of this erosion of scientific standard comes from Professor Ole Humlum, who looks at the empirical observations of climate science (as distinct from computer modelling) and finds that in most respects, including some surprising ones, things are getting better. He points out  that new data on rising ocean temperatures raise interesting questions about the source of the heat. “We can detect a great deal of heat rising from the bottom of the oceans. This obviously cannot be anything to do with human activity. So although people say the oceans are warming, in reality there is still much to learn.” But that will depend on the willingness of scientists committed to the conventional view of global warming as something driven by human activity to question or moderate their outlook in the light of this disturbingly optimistic evidence.
  3. Where will these trends end up? As is already the case with the social sciences, the future of science could be its transformation into the political hopes of activist groups within the profession committed to views that reject traditional scientific rules as obstructions to their visions. "Feminist science" and "transgender science" both confront traditional biology as a hostile “essentialism” and treat those who disagree more as political enemies than as fellow-scientists. A more radical critique is mounted by those who want to decolonize "white science" (i.e., science)  by granting at least equal scientific authority to indigeneous religious world views. A journey around this set of ideas—or “new ways of knowing”-- is conducted by Lenny Pier Ramos in the current Quillette. It is a journey into the past and into pre-modern mind-set. “ I pushed this point and asked Dr. Tajmel [a leading proponent of this decolonization] if her project did not, ultimately, amount to the reintroduction of religion in science. She responded, without missing a beat, that science itself was a form of a religion."

Mr. Ramos reflects that given these trends it seems only a matter of time before Science and Nature get on board with that idea. It sounds alarmist but absurd. Yet we would once have thought the same of the "1619 Project" and the New York Times. And that's before the arrival of, first, the mob, and then the new policeman.