I was just preparing my early morning cuppa when I spotted a roll of papers pushed into my letter box. I pulled the documents out and then washed my hands. (Coronavirus can survive for up to 24 hours on porous surfaces.) One glance at the covering letter and I knew this was a diatribe promoting fake science.
“Once you’ve absorbed this material on the #coronahoax we shall expect wiser words from you Bodders!”
Included were a series of papers declaring that the Covid-19 outbreak is a hoax. Try telling that to people who are sick or have lost loved ones. The last thing we need is fake science during the biggest health emergency of our lives. The world’s scientists need to be our guide. Not fake science peddlers. Or even politicians. We must rely on the world’s best scientists.
Fake science is out there. Most of it is inconsequential nonsense. Distracting. Entertaining even. But we need scientific realism now. The person who posted this through my door is an intellectual coward. No name given on the covering note. Out and about despite Covid-19 restrictions. Happy to peddle fake science at a time of national emergency. We don’t need idiots like this in a time of crisis.
I have been told a couple of times that Covid-19 is a Chinese biological weapon. China has no interest in its own economy or the survival of its people, the argument goes. Providing the West is damaged it is worth the self-inflicted wounds. Some say it is a CIA weapon. These arguments do not stack up.
I have also been asked about 5G transmitters around Ludlow. These are known to cause coronavirus, it is said. No. That is not the case.
The papers pushed through my door are not scientific papers. They are ill thought out blogs and diatribes. Populist and anti-scientific in content. I comment on a couple of the points but will not provide links to fake science during an international emergency.
The papers lie about the fatality rate. Less than 0.1% of cold or flu one blogger states. Really? Estimates vary because we don’t know how many people worldwide are symptomless and how many people with symptoms will die. And there is a significant lack of testing in many countries, including the UK. But one of the best scientific estimates is the case fatality rate is around 0.99%, compared to 0.1% for seasonal flu. That is ten times more not ten times less.
There is concern about the control measures put in place “will never go away”. That is a genuine concern and that is why MPs of all parties insisted that emergency legislation will be reviewed after six months.
We live in a world that loves conspiracy theories. An article by Daniel Jolly and Pia Lamberty explains why we are more interested in nonsense than the scientific consensus.
One of the blogger’s articles pushed through my door says: “I knew instantly that Covid-2020 [sic] was a hoax. Why? Because I don’t watch news. That’s how I stay somewhat informed.” Another article is headed: “Pssst – there is no virus. Don’t tell anyone. They get really angry.” The rest of the rubbish goes on the same way.
People peddling this nonsense live in a world outside of science. They live outside a world of caring about the most significant health emergency of our lifetimes. They are only concerned with promoting themselves and the nonsense they write.
There is an emerging scientific consensus on Covid-19. But this is a novel virus. There is no certainty in science at the best of times. The process of science is to publish under peer review and then have your work and arguments challenged. We haven’t had a lot of time for the full scientific process as Covid-19 has invaded the globe. But I am struck by the convergence of scientific argument and the emergence of a scientific consensus over the last three months. We should listen to that consensus.
Fake science is dangerous. Vaccination rates for MMR plummeted after the now disgraced Dr Andrew Wakefield made claims that the MMR vaccine caused leaks in the gut that went through the bloodstream to the brain. Mumps has soared since. He is still peddling nonsense about measles.
Once fake science gets spread is can be as impossible to eradicate as the diseases and health conditions we are fighting. Fake science is dangerous and we should show it the door. I hope never to receive nonsense like this again.