Anti-Virus

There’s a new site called Anti-Virus: The Covid-19 FAQ. It’s a little like Skeptical Science, with articles that respond to common arguments made by Covid Sceptics (what Skeptical Science would call Climate Myths). On a related note, I have been trying to help another group with a site called Simple Covid and we have been talking about doing something similar. Although we’ve (mostly others) have produced some infographics, we haven’t had time to write any myth-busting articles.

One thing I did find interesting about the Anti-Virus site was that they also list prominent Covid sceptics, including academics, journalists, and online sceptics. Such lists have been somewhat controversial in climate circles. Admittedly, this is partly to do with labelling, but the principle is clearly the same; create a list of people who have regularly promoted arguments that are wrong, and highlight what they’ve said and why they were wrong.

Although Skeptical Science has been remarkably successful, it’s not without its critics, partly because of a focus on consensus messaging and partly because of their climate misinformers page (now called misinformation by source). It would be interesting to know if some of these critics are also concerned about the tactics of the Anti-Virus site.

Personally, it seems to me that using consensus science to rebut common “skeptic” talking points is not only a reasonable thing to do, but can also be very effective. Skeptical science has actually numbered their responses to the Climate Myths, and we used this to rebut the recently released climate science (mis)information brief (which, amusingly, led to the re-assignment of two of the authors).

I also think that if people regularly promote arguments in public that are obviously wrong, then there’s nothing wrong with highlighting these errors and associating these people with others who also regularly promote such erroneous arguments. If those listed don’t like this, they could be more careful about what they say in public, could correct their past errors, or not really care if you still think your arguments are valid/defensible.

Anyway, I don’t really know where I’m going with this post, so will wrap up. I mostly just found it interesting that the Anti-Covid site is using a similar strategy to that used in the climate conext – debunking myths and naming and shaming prominent sceptics. I think it’s an interesting development.

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534 Responses to Anti-Virus

  1. brigittenerlich says:

    That was the first thing I thought when I saw the site and I wondered whether there would be a backlash….

  2. That was the first thing I thought when I saw the site and I wondered whether there would be a backlash….

    Nothing so far. Also, as I think has also been pointed out before, this kind of strategy is also not unique to climate. I think there are sites that highlight those who deny evolution, and AIDS.

  3. dikranmarsupial says:

    If there is a backlash to stating the facts and making reasoned arguments, then sadly it is a price that has to be paid. It is a common rhetorical ploy to raise the effort required to engage in the argument against you, by any means possible (and there are plenty) and I suspect any backlash will be an effort to avoid arguing the science.

    I had several discussions with Roger Pielke Jr on Twitter, many of which ended with him resorting to complaints about the Misinformers page at SkS and requests for me to change it. This was a rather transparent ploy to deflect the discussion, especially as he knew perfectly well (because I told him repeatedly) that I hadn’t contributed to it, that I had no power to change it and that I had already argued against it. I also pointed out that in his case, the list was pretty much empty.

    If someone doesn’t want to discuss the science (because they are not confident they are right), resorting to interminable “nature of the debate” debates is a more suitable battleground.

  4. dikranmarsupial says:

    Just to add: I think it is perfectly reasonable to index arguments by source, as it makes it easier to check the internal consistency of someone’s position. It also makes it easier to understand what someone’s position actually is. If you think your position is a good one, you ought to welcome that! ;o).

    The key point is to label the arguments as misinformation, rather than the source as misinformers. Someone may make arguments that are misinformation, and others that are reasonable/good/solid, and we should judge the arguments on their merits not the source.

  5. Joshua says:

    Do you know who is putting this together?

    I think it’s odd that they picked a blog post by Phillippe and a short response in a blog comment by Andrew as primary references on the look at the economic impact of interventions. Feels amateurish to me.

    And anyway, what is it about Phillippe that attracts that kind of attention? I don’t see how the quality of his blog post analyses merit the focus they get. I think it’s because he speaks French and that gives him a fancy air of… je ne sais quoi.

  6. Joshua,
    The two who set it up are highlight in this Guardian article.

    I think it’s odd that they picked a blog post by Phillippe and a short response in a blog comment by Andrew as primary references on the look at the economic impact of interventions. Feels amateurish to me.

    Not sure, I only noticed that they’d added those to the “Lockdowns cause more deaths” post to acknowledge that the Flaxman et al. study had been criticised.

    what is it about Phillippe that attracts that kind of attention?

    He’s confident?

  7. Joshua says:

    > He’s confident?

    Yeah. Willard thought that as well. It’s interesting.

    Meanwhile.

    Another potential reason for why the “let ‘er rip” approach is potentially a particularly virulent form of political advocacy. Add this problem to the probability of increase in likelihood of variants with the increase in infections, and the as yet unquantified problem of “long covid.”

    -snip-
    Almost a third of recovered Covid patients will end up back in hospital within five months and one in eight will die, alarming new figures have shown.

    Research by Leicester University and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found there is a devastating long-term toll on survivors of severe coronavirus, with many people developing heart problems, diabetes and chronic liver and kidney conditions.

    Out of 47,780 people who were discharged from hospital in the first wave, 29.4 per cent were readmitted to hospital within 140 days, and 12.3 per cent of the total died.

    The current cut-off point for recording Covid deaths is 28 days after a positive test, so it may mean thousands more people should be included in the coronavirus death statistics.
    -snip-

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/almost-third-recovered-covid-patients-180255388.html

  8. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Thanks for that link. Interesting.

    FWIW, I think that focusing on individuals is ineffective to the extent that the public gets distracted by the focus on individuals, and the inevitable back and forth. To the extent that individual identities becomes a focus among a group of highly activated Twitter users, I don’t think it matters much.

    As that article describes, it’s a interesting/open question (IMO) as to how much cross-over there is between the online/Twitter fanatics and the public at large. A US senator (Rand Paul) made specific reference to Nic’s low herd immunity flawed analysis, so there’s that…

  9. Joshua,
    Yes, I’m not sure how effective highlighting individuals actually is. However, my sense is that highlighting things that are true is almost always better than ignoring things that are true.

    I think Nic has various high-profile contacts. I think (although am not sure) that even the group who advice the government in the UK was made aware of his paper. I also think (again, not sure) that they were sufficiently aware to give it an appropriate amount of credibility.

  10. It will all make for some interesting Venn diagrams in future.

  11. Tom,
    I think a lot of the relevant Venn diagrams are circles.

  12. Keith McClary says:

    Wasn’t it the climate denialists who started making lists of “scientists”. The Great Barrington Declaration is playing the same game.

  13. Keith,
    I have come across some lists of scientists, but couldn’t find any now. Mostly, those on them find it funny.

  14. Willard says:

    Philippe also self-identifies as a Conservative, except when he does not:

    > So the answer is no, you haven’t read my post.

    Show me. Not only did I read your post, dear Philppe, but I read all your Top Posts, including those in French. And I also checked your last interactions over teh Tweeter. Those about immigration were quite fascinating.

    Which part of “a certain kind of conservative” you do not get?

    https://dailynous.com/2017/09/19/response-conservative-guest-post-philippe-lemoine

    Check for “September 20, 2017 at 7:53 pm ” to spot that comment.

    Unless labeling is harder than epidemiological modulz, I wouldn’t bet the farm on Phil’s audits.

  15. That debunking website is a great idea. Same thing was done for other forms of science denialism, such as vaccine denialism, young Earth creationism, HIV/AIDS denialism, and AGW denialism. It’s ridiculous for climate science contrarians to complain about it being done to them, just as it will be ridiculous if COVID-19 contrarians whine about this being done to them. If you don’t want your absurd claims noted and debunked, then don’t make those claims. Debunking nonsense does not infringe on ‘academic freedom’ or ‘freedom of speech’; in fact, debunking is an exercise of both of those freedoms. And if having your claims publicly noted and rebutted discourages you from speaking out, then that’s your fault for lacking sufficient courage, not the fault of the people rebutting your claims.

    And I’m not going to dignify those contrarians/denialists by calling then “skeptics”; they’re the farthest thing from legitimate, scientific skeptics.

    row 7:

  16. dikranmarsupial says:

    Roger’s cherry picking of the material hacked from the SkS forum shows his credentials as an “honest broker” are not the absolute best.

    I also like the idea of “The Academic Blacklist Climate Alarmists Don’t Want You To Know About” referring to a list published on a website, linked under “Resources” on the home page (hardly “Beware of the Leopard” territory ;o)

  17. January 25, 2021
    Commerce IG to Review Hirono-led Request to Investigate Climate Denialism Propaganda Pushed by Trump Appointees at NOAA
    https://www.hirono.senate.gov/news/press-releases/commerce-ig-to-review-hirono-led-request-to-investigate-climate-denialism-propaganda-pushed-by-trump-appointees-at-noaa

    “In their January 15 letter, the lawmakers requested that the IG move swiftly to preserve documents and communications and investigate two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) detailees to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Dr. Legates and Dr. Maue, before the conclusion of the former administration. These two detailees, who have connections to two right-wing think tanks with deep oil industry connections, The Heartland Institute and Cato Institute, published documents bearing the logo of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and claiming to be copyrighted OSTP research that downplayed and denied the existence and impact of climate change. The lawmakers cautioned that this alarming denialism, masquerading as verified, factual government information, came as the Trump Administration ended, and any potential wrongdoing, including the misuse of government logos, is prohibited and subject to fines and up to 5 years imprisonment, and should not be overlooked.”

  18. Steven Mosher says:

    tracing an argument to its source with citation os how we do scholarship. for example i cann say descartes arhument about clear and distinct ideas and willard knows exactly what i am talking about

  19. > dikranmarsupial: “The key point is to label the arguments as misinformation, rather than the source as misinformers”

    Yes, I agree. It was certainly an improvement to make that change to the SkS page, which I think happened as a result of our discussion that Ken mentions in his post? This follows the principle of labelling the behaviour, not the person. Thanks for listening to my argument a few years ago and acting on it 🙂

    Funnily enough, just the other day I cited the SkS page on “The 5 categories of scientific denialism” to someone on twitter who was defending a fairly prominent musician who I’d implored to stop discouraging people from taking the vaccine – it was a handy way of telling him (or rather, the more prominent guy I’d originally tweeted, if he noticed) which type of misleading argument he was employing, without falling into the trap of engaging with it.

  20. Steven Mosher says:

    Atomsk’s argument is wrong or Atomsk is a misinformer
    which is to be prefferred

  21. Steven,
    I guess there are lots that might be preferred, but that aren’t always achieved. My preference would be that people do their best to avoid spreading misinformation and to acknowledge their errors if they happen to do so. My preference is also that we keep discussions constructive and civil. I don’t always (often 🙂 ) get what I want.

  22. Richard,
    I think the discussion we had did influence SkS reframing their misinformers page. Good to hear that you’re using their resources.

  23. dikranmarsupial says:

    As I said to Roger though, I had no influence on it. Nobody listens to me – not even me! ;o)

  24. dikranmarsupial says:

    I think it depends on what it is you want to achieve. If you want to discuss/argue about the science, it is a mistake to give your interlocutor an opportunity to make a strategic retreat to the “nature of the debate” battlefield. This isn’t the only objective though, apparently.

    As you will know by now, I think the Golden rule is a good starting point for most ethical issues (but only a starting point) – if I ever “go emeritus”, then I would want people, especially my friends, to tell me that I was spreading misinformation, and calling me a misinformer would be fine, as it would be true and plausibly an effective approach to getting me to realise I had “gone emeritus”.

    Please feel free to bookmark this post, just in case I actually do “go emeritus” ;o)

  25. dikranmarsupial says:

    “My preference would be that people do their best to avoid spreading misinformation and to acknowledge their errors if they happen to do so.”

    Ironically, in most of the discussions I had on Twitter, the objection to being called a “misinformer” was that they didn’t spread misinformation, but when presented with specific examples of incorrect arguments that they had promulgated, they were completely unwilling to discuss them.

    Had they argued that calling people “misinformers” wasn’t constructive or limited opportunities for discussion, I would simply have agreed with them.

  26. izen says:

    I cannot see such a site having much influence on the people who demonstrate like this.

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/anti-vaxxers-and-right-wingers-shut-down-dodgers-stadium-vaccine-site

    I wonder how many get back in their vehicle afterwards, and put on a seat belt ?

  27. izen,
    I agree that it probably won’t have much effect on those who demonstrate like that. I think the main goal is to provide a resource for those who are looking to understand the arguments better.

  28. dikranmarsupial says:

    I think the aim of SkS is much the same. I don’t think anybody expects it to have any effect on e.g. the denizens of WUWT and ClimateEtc etc. It certainly hasn’t on the topic of whether the rise in atmospheric CO2 is natural or anthropogenic – WUWT are *still* promoting material suggesting it is natural.

  29. Willard says:

    For what it’s worth, the choice should be between

    [RB1] A is a misinformer

    and

    [RB2] A’s argument amounts to misinformation.

    if we wish to evaluate RB’s suggestion on its merit, and not accept it just because RB made it. The argument would need to be fine-tuned, as for now it sucks.

    RB’s argument rests on a dichotomy between what one says and who one is, which is wrongheaded when one’s reputation rests on what one says and vice versa.

    It introduces a collective false choice: Climateball players have different roles to play. Labeling norms evolve, and they change from one situation to the next.

    RB’s argument is also empirically false. Labeling people instead of behavior can be an effective way to modify behaviors and norms around them. (Societies without grim ripper strategies to shun defectors would fare worse.) In fact, sometimes all we got is mockery.

    RB’s argument also confuses validity with preference.

    RB’s argument has been refuted a thousand times. Contrarians rely on points refuted a thousand times. Don’t act like contrarians.

  30. Willard says:

    > RB’s argument has been refuted a thousand times. Contrarians rely on points refuted a thousand times. Don’t act like contrarians.

    To clarify, that’s a proof of concept. I don’t expect any ClimateBall player to act differently. Since I’m finally writing up my Strictures on Labeling, allow me to expand.

    Both names and descriptions can be annoying. If that weren’t the case, we would not have people who pretend that titles like The trouble with ‘Covid denialism’ constitute namecalling. That’s obviously false, as denialism is a fairly standard descriptor. There are many scientific papers on denialism.

    However, that only invalidates the claim, not the concern. It’s also obvious that when people read “denialism” they hear “denialist.” Which means that we already have an empirical refutation of idea that we should label behavior and not people. It’s too easy to label behavior the same way we label people:

    [L1] X is a denialist.

    [L2] X promote denialist talking points.

    According to the prescription “only label behavior,” L2 should be fine. Yet in my experience a Climateball player who [accept] either L1 or L2 would reject the other. That applies to anyone who would conflate the two and think that “the trouble with denialism” amounts to namecalling.

  31. verytallguy says:

    The Venn diagram point is interesting.

    Rather than just noting *that* there is an overlap of people espousing fringe ideas, can anything be said about *why* this is?

    And why do they have such traction with current political thought? Is mainstream politics engaging with such new, or has it always been there?

  32. willard, you are explaining rules to a game that nobody else is (nor should they be) playing. It reminds me of Mad Magazine’s 43 Man Squamish (https://www.trueorbetter.com/2018/04/43-man-squamish-innovation-in-athletics.html, https://www.madcoversite.com/quiz_olympics.html).

  33. dikranmarsupial says:

    Human nature? Some are contrary as a reflex action and cannot accept the mainstream position on any topic simply because it is the mainstream position. Likewise some are too trusting and always accept the mainstream position without question. Obviously some compromise between the two extremes is likely to be a “good thing”, but that requires slow rather than fast thinking and that needs time and energy (and motivation). Some do too much slow thinking and miss out on being a rounded human being. Nobody said it would be easy.

  34. Tom,
    I think Willard’s point is that labelling as a strategy may well be effective. In fact, there are probably plenty of examples where it is. Of course, it does depend on what one is trying to achieve. With Skeptical Science, there were some who seemed reluctant to use them as a resource because of the labelling. Changing it label the behaviour, rather than the person, probably helped without substantially changing the effectiveness of the available resources.

  35. ATTP, I agreed with Richard Betts when he made the same point years ago. I agree with you and willard now. Let comity reign unconfined. And I’m sure that Climateball’s intention, its goal is to categorize behavior, not people.

  36. Keith McClary says:

    ATTP, I’m talking about lists that “scientists” put themselves on:

    https://gbdeclaration.org/view-signatures/

    They can’t very well complain about being on lists.

  37. dikranmarsupial says:

    IMHO labelling is a bad strategy if you want to discuss science as it is an (perhaps not-so) implicit ad-hominem. So not only does it invite your interlocutor to evade discussing the science by starting a discussion of the “nature of the debate”, it is demonstrating an unscientific attitude to evidence and argument. All that should matter is the evidence and the consistency and consilience of the argument – the authority or track record of the source is irrelevant (even a stopped clock is right twice a day).

    The discussion on this has been going on for a long time at SkS and elsewhere (especially “denier”-v-“denial”-v-“denialist”). But at the end of the day whether it is effective depends on your aims. Avoiding calling people “deniers” suits my aims, but I suspect most of the complaints about is are hyperbole or rhetoric or both.

    (h/t VTG and Willard)

  38. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > I agree that it probably won’t have much effect on those who demonstrate like that. I think the main goal is to provide a resource for those who are looking to understand the arguments better.

    As parallels what we (or perhaps I?) see with climate change…I suspect that in the real world the number of people who are looking to understand the arguments better is marginal, and that will use the site in that fashion, is marginal. Seems to me that more likely, it will be a resource for those who are looking to find arguments to reinforce their already formulated opinions. Perhaps the most frequent use will be from people looking to bolster their arguments in a futile exchange with people who feel differently, where no one’s views will change. Again, the pattern of use will be, I would guess, overwhelmingly in direct association with political orientation.

    That isn’t a criticism. It is what it is. And I personally would like a good source to peruse so I can see that others agree with me and to potentially find arguments that can help me more to confirm that my opinions are correct when I futilely engage with people who disagree with me about COVID. : -)

    But I do think that people are kidding themselves if they think it will move the needle in any meaningful way (not saying that anyone in particular believes that).

    How many times have we been over this with climate change? How many persuadables are there? What is the best approach to persuading them?

    Oy.

  39. Where is the best place to find denial? In prison cells. Now, if we could only lock up the behavior and not the person. :/

  40. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Where is the best place to find denial?”

    I’d say in a mental hospital. Sometimes I think we have a duty of care *not* to argue with some people who are in denial as they may also be genuinely delusional. Sadly I suspect current attitudes towards truth and fake news etc is likely to increase the number of people ending up in that position, which I wouldn’t wish on *anybody*.

  41. Joshua says:

    Seems to me that just the approach of saying “X is misinformation” is kind of worthless. In part because person A is usually saying “X” – and thus the discussion becomes about person A.

    But even if that connection isn’t clear, most people are going to identify one way or the other with X. If you’re attempting to engage with someone who disagrees with you, and in particular about “X,” they will see “X is misinformation” as “You are an misinformer,” or “You have been suckered by misinformation.”

    It would seem that if anything would work, then “I see it differently than X, and Z is why” might be it. I must say, I have been using that technique for years now, and it has turned many minds over at Climate Etc.

    Oh. Wait.

  42. Joshua says:

    Apropos.

    The Science of Changing Someone’s Mind https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/31/opinion/change-someones-mind.html

  43. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua “logic bully.” – priceless! ;o)

  44. ATTP,

    Way OT but …

    IPCC baseline scenarios have over-projected CO2 emissions and economic growth
    https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abcdd2#:~:text=We%20find%20that%20the%20historical,in%20IEA's%20projections%20to%202040.
    Distorting the view of our climate future: The misuse and abuse of climate pathways and scenarios
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2214629620304655
    pay walled and currently not available via you know where but there is a working paper …
    Systemic Misuse of Scenarios in Climate Research and Assessment
    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3581777

    There is still a lot of back and forth wrt RCP 8.5 etceteras from mid-to-late 2020 and into 2021 (e. g. PNAS). Don’t know if you have been following the most recent papers or if this is worthy of a new post. Please try to ignore the authors and let us stick to what they have to say or if their arguments have any real value (other than just concerns) if anyone tries to go in that direction.

  45. Dikran,
    Didn’t Delingpole complain about being “intellectually raped” by Paul Nurse?

    EFS,
    I think the latter two are the same paper. I think the first is probably correct. It seems that the IPCC baseline scenarios did over-predict emissions. On the other hand, they were baseline scenarios at the time of development and we have enacted various policies since them. So, this is maybe not that much of a surprise (the baseline scenarios aren’t predicting what the actual emissions will be, but what they would be if we simply carried on as before). However, I think economic growth hasn’t been as strong as expected which has also had an impact.

    I think we probably should be updating baseline scenarios quite regularly, but this is more economics and energy modelling than physical climate science.

    The second paper just seems silly to me. This isn’t really a “research integrity” issue and I mostly think it best to ignore those who suggest it is. I do think that scientists should be careful about how the present the results of climate model runs, and some have been less careful than they should have been. That’s, IMO, far from a research integrity issue, though.

  46. Keith,

    ATTP, I’m talking about lists that “scientists” put themselves on:

    Sorry, I misunderstood what you saying. Yes, good point. This morning, I was added to a Twitter list of people who supported the GBR. Had to block the list owner to get off it.

  47. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    So what are your thoughts about that article, if applied to climate change and/or COVID?

  48. Willard says:

    > Climateball’s intention

    Climateball is just a game. Games don’t have intentions. Coincidentally, one trick to bypass RB’s desideratum is to speak of behavior as if it was a person. We call that trick personification, or prosopopoeia.

    Making things personal comes with the following trade-off.

    On the plus side, we get more eyeballs, as people like to see people. That’s the basis of my We Are Science. Journalists use that technique all the time. It sells. Most of us ain’t truth machines.

    On the downside, we make things personal. This creates problems even with the best intentions: it carries stereotypes, it can be used for othering, etc. More importantly, it begs to be countered by victim bullying. Many contrarians are masters in that technique. One of them inspired me a trick I called shirt-ripping:

    That vignette indicates why wolves should not bite the Barts of this world.

  49. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Hi Dr. Rice. I was in touch with you on email. I have a slew of burning questions about Covid. Unlike with climate science (where I can get answers to any burning questions within minutes, and there’s an entire IPCC report full of detailed evidence/data/graphs), I find it hard to get answers on Covid. Sigh. If only I could query Dr. Fauci (or someone like that) for hours on end, but that’s not possible. The epidemiologists and public-health officials are all super-busy during this crisis, understandably. The problem is that if you’re going to ask the public to sacrifice then you need to give them answers to all of the burning questions that exist. If my friend says that climate change isn’t real then I show him the the IPCC report. If he says he wants to drive a gas-guzzler then I show him the IPCC report. But what do I show/tell him regarding Covid when he says that he doesn’t think it’s a major threat or that he doesn’t think that lockdowns are justified? How strong is the consensus on various lockdown-related scientific claims among public-health officials? Among scientists? And in each cases (public-health officials and scientists) what exactly is that consensus based on? Common-sense? Data? What data? Which papers/charts/graphs…? Lots of questions!

  50. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Hi Dr. Rice. See here the Covid questions that a lot of lockdown-skeptical people have: https://www.reddit.com/r/postanything/comments/l588lu/any_covid_questions_post_some_questions_in_the/.

    Is there any hope for questions like these to be added to the CovidFAQ resource?

  51. Andrew,
    I did see your email. I’ll try to respond in the morning, but some are outside my area of expertise.

    I think it would be good to add more to the CovidFAQ site, but I don’t have any contacts there.

  52. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, do you agree that there needs to be a very beefed-up version of CovidFAQ that addresses the dozens of burning questions that lockdown-skeptics have, and that this resource needs to engage with the kinds of rebuttals/responses that lockdown-skeptics have to CovidFAQ?

    Lives are at stake. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but there are millions of lockdown-skeptical people who aren’t getting basic answers to basic questions, and the obvious/inevitable result of the silence (from the scientific/public-health community) is that these people are going to not obey various lockdown-measures. The silences (from the scientific/public-health communities) must necessarily cause compliance (with lockdown-measures) to decease. That means more infection. That means more death.

  53. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Your friend seems to assume that deaths and other harms are caused by interventions.

    There are many questions yiunkufrh as your friend as a way to drill down on his questions but there are two I would suggest you ask your friend as a place to start.

    1) How he’d recommend disaggregating deaths caused by interventions from deaths caused by the pandemic itself?

    2) What he would recommend policy-makers do if they (or he) don’t have a good answer for the first question.

  54. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP: “Didn’t Delingpole complain about being “intellectually raped” by Paul Nurse?”

    Yes, a Neymar’s Neymar, if ever there was one. I think Sir Paul was actually fairly gentle with him in pointing out the absurdity of his position regarding consensus. Sadly Delingpole doesn’t seemed to have learned anything from it.

  55. Andrew,

    Dr. Rice, do you agree that there needs to be a very beefed-up version of CovidFAQ that addresses the dozens of burning questions that lockdown-skeptics have, and that this resource needs to engage with the kinds of rebuttals/responses that lockdown-skeptics have to CovidFAQ?

    I certainly don’t disagree. However, a lot of these sites are volunteer-run, which means it’s not very well funded. Also, many of the experts who could write the rebuttals/responses are pretty busy at the moment. I don’t know how long it took SkS to get all their rebuttals written, but it was almost certainly years.

  56. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > Dr. Rice, do you agree that there needs to be a very beefed-up version of CovidFAQ that addresses the dozens of burning questions that lockdown-skeptics have, and that this resource needs to engage with the kinds of rebuttals/responses that lockdown-skeptics have to CovidFAQ?

    Two more questions:

    3) Do you think that your “skeptic” friends will ever be satisfied with answers that they get?

    4) Are you aware that your way of presenting your questions might strike some people as looking like concern trolling?

  57. Andrew,
    Glancing down the questions on the page you highlighted, I certainly agree that some kind of cost/benefit type analysis is worth doing. However, one problem is that if cases are rising exponentially, doubling every 3-4 days (as was the case in the UK in March), you don’t get a lot of time to make decisions. A delay of a week can lead to >10000 more deaths. So, not only do you not have a lot of time to do some kind of analysis that compares the impact of various intervention scenarios, you also don’t have a lot of time to try alternative interventions.

    It’s certainly possible that interventions short of a lockdown could have been effective, but if they’re not then the impact of delaying implementing more extreme interventions can be severe.

  58. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua “So what are your thoughts about that article, if applied to climate change and/or COVID?”

    Personally, I think it is important to be straightforward and honest in the way you discuss things. I am not keen on messaging or tuning my arguments or approach for maximum “effectiveness”. It seems to me mildly disrespectful not to simply discuss the science openly and to state that an argument is wrong if that is what it is. I know I would find that sort of approach pretty offensive if someone tried it with me (but perhaps I need to re-read the article).

    I don’t think there is a means of communicating contentious subjects that will be “effective” with everybody, so I think it is best just to take the approach that suits you best (provided it is honest).

    However for both climate and COVID-19 the thing that I want most is for policy to be determined by something other than bullshit, rather than for a particular bit of policy. Especially for COVID where it is less easy to see what the best policy is (for instance I was O.K. with not wearing a face covering when the WHO said not to, and I am happy to wear one now that the assessment has changed – without thinking that the WHO were wrong – decision making under uncertainty is difficult).

  59. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    Thx.

  60. dikranmarsupial says:

    I should just add, I thought “Logic bully” was priceless because of the irony with which it encapsulates being in denial. It is more or less and admission that they can’t accept arguments with which they can’t find fault, the discomfort of being in that position, and the natural reaction to think of it as unfair. It happens to us all to some extent (in my case it is dinosaurs having feathers).

  61. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, these 5 questions are at the top of my list because they come from a close relative of mine. I want to assign special priority to these particular questions.

    1. Why is there little to no correlation between lockdowns and death rates for given areas? Could it be that the collective health of an area is more of a factor in how it’s affected by the virus than government policy?

    2. How do you justify lockdowns when you’re intentionally driving up unemployment, exacerbating inequality, creating more mental health issues, delaying non-elective surgeries that could lead to even more deaths, and increasing drug overdoses? At what point does the collateral damage outweigh lockdown provisions over a virus with a 99.6% survival rate?

    3. Given that many countries have had some form of lockdown for 10 months, and no country has effectively reduced cases to zero (even New Zealand has had cases pop up again), at what point do you just admit the virus is here to stay and let people live their lives?

    4. Why are Croatia, Iowa and South Dakota numbers all decreasing despite no lockdowns the past 4 months?

    5. Why should we trust public health officials when they have consistently broken the rules that they have tried to impose on the general population?

  62. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    [Playing the ref. -W]

  63. Andrew,
    Some of those are questions I can’t really answer. I don’t know that 1 is true. As far as I’m aware, there is a correlation between locking down and cases, and deaths, then starting to reduce.

    2 isn’t really a question I can answer. I’m no fan of lockdowns. They clearly do a lot of damage. The alternative, though, to imposing stringent interventions is completely overwhelming healthcare and many people dying.

    3. As I understand it, New Zealand has been able to largely re-open their economy. Some cases may have popped up again, but they been able to contain them. Many public health experts argue that the ideal is to have a test, trace isolate system that allows things to go on almost as normal, but that isolates those who test positive and their contacts.

    4. I don’t know.

    5. It certainly annoys me when those who are advising governments don’t then follow the rules they’ve suggested. However, these people are certainly a minority. I don’t think you should be judging an large group on the basis of the behaviour of a minority, but it’s up to you as to what judgement you make.

  64. Ben McMillan says:

    I have to say, anyone who doesn’t envy the situation in New Zealand or Australia at the moment is probably beyond any convincing.

    I could be sitting on a beach right now, or going out and having a beer on a terrace with some friends later in the day, but instead I’m in lockdown number 3, in a country that is sitting almost at the top of the league table in terms of deaths per capita.

    Some of my friends who work in a hospital have been transferred from their normal rotations to help fill in at the expanded intensive treatment unit, so I’m well aware that personally I’m not having that hard a time.

    One worrying thing is that Manaus in Brazil is now experiencing a severe second wave, despite evidence that the majority of the population were infected the first time through. It isn’t clear exactly what is happening but ‘just let everyone get it and then it will be over’ is a very dubious proposition.

  65. dikranmarsupial says:

    “2. How do you justify lockdowns when you’re intentionally driving up unemployment,”

    What are the X and Y such that X excess COVID deaths are outweighed by Y jobs saved?

    ” 99.6% survival rate”

    There are about 67 Million people in the U.K. 0.4% of 67 Million people is 268,000 deaths. There have been over 100,000 COVID related deaths in the U.K. already.

    Somebody has to make that judgement, and I’m glad it’s not me.

  66. dikranmarsupial says:

    “3. Given that many countries have had some form of lockdown for 10 months, and no country has effectively reduced cases to zero ”

    The purpose of the lockdown (at least in the UK) is not to eradicate COVID, AIUI, the idea is to keep hospital admissions to a level where the NHS isn’t overwhelmed. If that happens, the survival rate won’t be 99.6% anymore.

  67. Steven Mosher says:

    It is a common rhetorical ploy to raise the effort required to engage in the argument against you, by any means possible (and there are plenty) and I suspect any backlash

    Do labels arguments that defeat him as rhetoric.
    People objected to the rhetorical ploy of labeling them as misinformed rather than dissecting the arguments as disinformation. Reasonable people agreed with this argument.you call it rhetoric which is your rhetorical ploy to dismiss an uncomfortable truth

  68. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM I have no idea what you are trying to say. Given your behaviour last time we had a discussion, I have no interest in another.

  69. dikranmarsupial says:

    But for the record:

    (i) I am not in favour of labelling individuals, and have avoided terms like “denier” for many years.
    (ii) The SkS list is an index to articles that discuss the arguments by the sources involved. Thus it does dissect the arguments, it’s entire purpose is to make those dissections easy to find.
    (iii) I argued against the labelling.

    If you think there is a truth that I might find uncomfortable, then state it.

  70. Willard says:

    > there are millions of lockdown-skeptical people who aren’t getting basic answers to basic questions

    None of your questions were basic, Andrew. In fact, most of them were leading questions. Back in my days, lawyers knew when they were asking leading questions.

  71. dikranmarsupial says:

    As to whether raising the SkS list was a rhetorical ploy – I am not a mind reader, so I don’t *know* why people do any of the things they do. However if someone repeatedly raises the SkS list, which I had no part in writing, had no power to change and had argued against, and have had those things repeatedly explained, then there comes a point where it seems reasonable to form the opinion that it may be a rhetorical ploy to change the subject of the discussion.

  72. Willard says:

    Here’s the kind of resource that could save lives:

    Perhaps someone should email the NFL.

  73. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Why do I bother? [Mod: redacted]

    For your “friends.”

    > . Why is there little to no correlation between lockdowns and death rates for given areas?

    That is a combo of not true at all and arguing from an unrealistic standard. If you look recently there is a clear association between interventions and an extreme dive in the number of positive cases identified. Its a noisy correlation because the rate of testing can vary as can the age stratification of who gets tested. Nonetheless, there has bee a constant relationship in the US since August – about 1.4%-1.6% of cases reflect deaths some month later.

    > Could it be that the collective health of an area is more of a factor in how it’s affected by the virus than government policy?

    The collective health of an area, as well as myriad other variables, can affect outcomes from the pandemic, such as number of people per household, or mean age, or number of multi-generational families, population density and population distribution, or ability of people to access healthcare, etc. That doesn’t mean that interventions don’t reduce the rate of infections. There is no zero sum dynamic, but instead an interaction, between the use of interventions and factors such as baseline health in the causal mechanism of deaths due to COVID

    > 2. How do you justify lockdowns when you’re intentionally driving up unemployment, exacerbating inequality, creating more mental health issues, delaying non-elective surgeries that could lead to even more deaths, and increasing drug overdoses?

    So you know what unemployment would be with a raging pandemic and no interventions?. Let me give you a hint. No you don’t. It is specious to say that “lockdowns” are driving up unemployment. You state it as a fact, but you are conflation a correlation with causation. With no interventions jnolhkwnr could be worse, along with less unemployment benefits, people getting fired for not coming in to work because they’re convened about getting sick, more employees getting sick because employers see no need to add safety measures in the workplace, etc.

    The effects of income disparities are significant without interventions. The effects of the pandemic would be disparate in association with SES irrespective of interventions. Again, your assumptions are specious. You don’t know what the rate of mental health issues might be absent interventions. They might be worse. Same for postponed surgeries. How many elective surgeries are they performing in Manaus right about now? Look it up and get back to me.

    > At what point does the collateral damage outweigh lockdown provisions over a virus with a 99.6% survival rate?

    You haven’t proven thar interventions “cause” collateral damage. All of your questions thus far are based on a specious assumption about a counterfactual that you don’t actually know would exist absent interventions.

    > 3. Given that many countries have had some form of lockdown for 10 months, and no country has effectively reduced cases to zero (even New Zealand has had cases pop up again), at what point do you just admit the virus is here to stay and let people live their lives?

    This is an unrealistic standard. It’s is csrsjnky true that interventions aren’t perfect. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t better than the other options available.

    > 4. Why are Croatia, Iowa and South Dakota numbers all decreasing despite no lockdowns the past 4 months?

    The dynamics of any given locality can’t be generalized to other localities where there would be many dissimilar issue in play. The need for interventions, and the dynamics of the spread of the virus will vary based on any variety of factors. Why did the virus spread like wildfire twice inswden when they had limited government mandated interventions? And then reduce recently when government efforts to intervene were strengthened? If I were to use your logic, what’s going on in Sweden would lead to a conclusion that is the opposite of the one you’re pushing. South Dakota has among the highest per capita rate of infections in the entire country – despite many structural advantages, such as ridiculously low population density. As to why the rate of spread has slowed recently, certainly behavioral changes would be a factor among myriad other factors (including that a relatively high % of the population has natural immunity from antibodies). No one says that interventions are the only way possible to reduce the rate of infection. The argument, however, is thst when the rate of community spread is high, as a strategy to prevent against the highest level of risk intentions can be warranted to reduce the rate of spread.

    > 5. Why should we trust public health officials when they have consistently broken the rules that they have tried to impose on the general population?

    Government officials are fallible. The vast majority of them are probably abiding by public health mandates. Why would you selectively look at those who aren’t. And eek to generalize from those relative few? Do you not see that is a specious line of reasoning?

  74. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > . They clearly do a lot of damage.

    In all fairness, I should yell at you also for a casual counterfactual assumption about causality.

    How do you disaggregate the damage caused by the pandemic from the damage caused by the interventions at all, let alone do so clearly?

  75. Eli Rabett says:

    To wander into Willard territory as Harry Frankfurt put it “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction.”

  76. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Perhaps for your simple covid project:

  77. Joshua,

    In all fairness, I should yell at you also for a casual counterfactual assumption about causality.

    How do you disaggregate the damage caused by the pandemic from the damage caused by the interventions at all, let alone do so clearly?

    Fair enough. I didn’t mean that a lockdown does more damage overall than not having a lockdown. I was acknowledging that introducing interventions that one might describe as a lockdown clearly does have a negative impact on many businesses and, consequently, many people. I don’t think this is particularly controversial.

  78. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua,

    Lockdowns clearly do cause economic damage. For example it wasn’t the pandemic that has largely shut down the hospitality industry in the UK, it was the lockdowns. Similarly Universities have seen a vast increase in workloads and a reduction in income because of regulations that limit the number of people you can have in a room (in some cases zero) – which has caused large changes in teaching methods. There is also schools and childcare – if your children can’t go to school, then parent’s ability to work can be damaged. I don’t think these things need to be exactly quanitised and disaggregated to accept that lockdowns are economically damaging.

    Regarding the trade-off though, while I was in education, IIRC unemployment rates were almost twice what they are now for most of that time. I can imagine the sort of reception that some one would likely have received if they suggested it would be worth losing 1000,000 lives to bring unemployment down to 5%. The ethical distinction between that hypothetical and current suggestions that lockdowns are not worth the economic cost is not very clear to me.

  79. dikranmarsupial says:

    sorry, one to many zeros there, typo not hyperbole!

  80. Dikran,

    The ethical distinction between that hypothetical and current suggestions that lockdowns are not worth the economic cost is not very clear to me.

    I was thinking about this a bit more last night. As I think you highlighted, part of the reason for lockdown-like restrictions is to help the healthcare system cope. So, even if one could do some kind of cost benefit analysis that concluded that it was optimal to not lockdown, you can’t suddenly expand the healthcare system overnight (even if you could afford to do so). The knock on effects of a completely over-whelmed healthcare system would be pretty catastrophic (I think) not just on those who get Covid-19.

    Also, to limit the spread of the virus, you really need R 1 case will continue to grow. So, as I understand it, there are analyses suggesting that the only way we could get R < 1 in the UK after Christmas was to impose something that would be described as a lockdown.

    On top of that, there are also analyses that suggest that implementing strong interventions early helps to control the spread of the virus far more effectively than leaving things to the last minute (as we seem to have done in the UK). It also means the interventions are in place for less time. As far as I'm aware, those countries that have been able to relax things more are those who've done this.

  81. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP – yes, I think in the UK we have generally been late in applying restrictions. We have been unlucky in having been the site of one of the more virulent mutations, but perhaps if we had got the number of infections down earlier the chance of generating mutations would have been lower. It has generally been economic concerns that have been behind that.

    It is a bit like the trolley problem, and action has to be taken with costs (including deaths) for either option. In a way the trolley problem is easier as the costs on both branches are at least measured on the same scale (so at least a utilitarian approach is reasonably clear).

  82. Ben McMillan says:

    One of the interesting things about the various lockdowns and interventions has been watching universal-welfare type measures rolled out on an almost population-wide scale. Turns out not to be very hard.

    You could argue that mothballing a business and having your employees furloughed may actually be a better situation than trying to run an almost-entirely-empty hotel/restaurant.

    From my perspective, the UK unis were pretty similar under ‘lockdown’ to ‘non-lockdown’: of course, the couple of hours a week of in-person teaching dropped to zero but almost all the content had to go online anyway.

    A counterfactual where universities just went about their business as if there was no pandemic at all seems to be a bit of a stretch. Although they were obviously keen to talk about how things were going to be ‘as normal as possible’.

    The problem, as usual, is the pandemic, not the measures the government is taking in response.

  83. dikranmarsupial says:

    “From my perspective, the UK unis were pretty similar under ‘lockdown’ to ‘non-lockdown’: of course, the couple of hours a week of in-person teaching dropped to zero but almost all the content had to go online anyway. ”

    Mine was rather different. I was working 50-70 hour weeks from June to December to complete my teaching duties. Mostly due to having to produce ~6 hours of recorded lecture material a week (I think I may have over-done the quality on those somewhat – but at that point I didn’t really know what was required), but also having to re-write labs for three courses and having to redesign the assessment patterns for two of them. And that was before actually communicating with students.

  84. Ben,

    From my perspective, the UK unis were pretty similar under ‘lockdown’ to ‘non-lockdown’: of course, the couple of hours a week of in-person teaching dropped to zero but almost all the content had to go online anyway.

    Yes, this was pretty much my experience too. I was mostly teaching last semester, but the courses went about as well as they have before. The student feedback was similar. I had to do a lot more work to modify the courses to be taught mostly online (we did do some face-to-face). I met with my PhD students about as often as I would normally. Had group meetings about as often. It was clearly different, but I don’t think there was much difference in terms of what I got done.

    I should acknowledge, of course, that I have enough space in my house for an office, and my children are old enough that I’m not home schooling. I think it has been much harded on some, than on others.

  85. Ben McMillan says:

    DM: my point was that university teaching was obviously going to go mostly online or involve massively increased workload anyway this year, so blaming it on ‘regulations’ or ‘lockdown’ is a bit silly.

    Everyone is perfectly aware that university staff are working harder than usual!

  86. Dikran,
    How many hours of contact would you normally have in a week?

  87. Ben,
    Okay, you’re suggesting that university’s would have adopted changes irrespective of what the government imposed?

  88. dikranmarsupial says:

    Ben – regulations/lockdown affected the labs, which is why I had to rewrite the lab exercises. It is difficult to help debug someones code from 2m away (I can’t even read the screen at that distance).

    ATTP: It depends how you calculate it. I teach on three full-cohort modules in the Autumn semester (160-200 students each), so lecture time (4-6 hours a week) isn’t the major issue, it is more labs and communicating with students via email/discussion forums/in person (in the old days) and email/discussion forums/teams etc, now. The lab classes for each module this year ran from 9:30 to 7pm (with a few half hour breaks), because of distancing regulations reducing room occupancy, but they ended up being mostly on-line in the end. Naturally the labs have teaching assistants. I wasn’t in the labs as much as I would have liked this year because I was concentrating on getting the materials ready. I’m hoping I can spend more time in the labs next year, which will hopefully be back “in-person” again.

  89. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, even the most minimal regulations would imply either moving most content online or repeating the same lecture 4 times to let people space out.

    I think the complete absence of regulation or guidance from government is not a plausible counterfactual in the UK context.

    That said, the universities made a whole bunch of changes in excess of what was explicitly required by the government. They also did things on the basis that the regulations might get stricter at some point. For example, proactively moving all the exams online 9 months in advance.

    Probably they would have done something as well in a ‘let it rip’ scenario. A fair fraction of students wouldn’t turn up or would be stuck overseas, so going mostly online seems like it might well have happened anyway.

    Universities have various legal responsibilities to protect students, so even if there isn’t explicit guidance on specific issues, that doesn’t mean they would necessarily just sit on their hands (even though they would probably ignore the concerns of their teaching staff).

  90. dikranmarsupial says:

    Ben “They also did things on the basis that the regulations might get stricter at some point.”

    This is pretty much standard operating procedure for academia generally AFAICS – having to perform medium-term planning when it is very likely that the rules of the game will change substantially over that timespan happens a lot.

    Given that universities could have been a strong driver of the R number, I’m rather glad that they took the steps that they did.

  91. Ben McMillan says:

    Yeah, I’m glad they took those steps too.

    Actually, I think they might have taken even stronger steps, but they were given pretty explicit guidance to try to maintain in-person teaching where possible.

    Like with people being subsidised to breathe on each other in restaurants, the UK even tried to regulate for increased return to normality over what people were really comfortable with.

  92. dikranmarsupial says:

    Ben “Actually, I think they might have taken even stronger steps, but they were given pretty explicit guidance to try to maintain in-person teaching where possible.”

    Yes, I suspect there were also internal pressures for that as well.

    For any MUBI susbscribers, I think the short film Citadel covers it fairly well.

  93. Ben McMillan says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if UK unis would have ended up in the ‘blended learning’ scenario even without being pushed, for a mixture of reasons.

  94. dikranmarsupial says:

    Ben, yes, I mostly teach programming and pre-recording the “standard” lecture material is something I think will work better for most students, and plan to use them next year, however I’ll still be giving the live lectures – just using them differently, and the labs are the most important component in many ways, and I think they are far better in-person. I think though that there are many more students for whom on-line learning really doesn’t work than is the case for in-person learning (especially for students with SpLDs).

  95. Ben McMillan says:

    Oh, I meant ‘without being pushed’ as in ‘due to the pandemic but even without explicit government policy/guidance’. But, yeah, things were generally going towards blended learning even before covid.

    Teaching people to program when you can’t sit/stand next to them is annoying, and it is hard to duplicate the lab environment where they spend a lot of time talking to/learning from each other, and where everyone can ‘overhear’ your conversations.

  96. dikranmarsupial says:

    Yes, I had been meaning to record them for some time (but mostly for health reasons).

    I think the students use discord a lot, but I think on balance the WWW makes learning to program more difficult rather than less, because there is rather too much help available. There is a lot to be said for sitting in a lab working things out for yourself (with “helpfully unhelpful” teachers, who don’t simply solve the problem for you, for when you get stuck).

  97. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > I didn’t mean that a lockdown does more damage overall than not having a lockdown. I was acknowledging that introducing interventions that one might describe as a lockdown clearly does have a negative impact on many businesses and, consequently, many people. I don’t think this is particularly controversial.

    Maybe I haven’t found a way to get this across, or maybe I’m the only way who feels this way – but I don’t think you can say that introducing interventions have a negative impact.

    Imagine one country (country A) where no interventions were implemented and another where they were (country B). Say in 5 years we find that in in country B the pandemic ended more quickly because the interventions reduced the number of people who were infected. That would mean that in country B the economic impact on businesses and every one else were much less. Imagine in country A more people committed suicide over those 5 years because of family members dying. More avoided medical care because the pandemic was raging longer. More retail businesses shut down because they couldn’t sustain operating with basically all their overhead costs and no customers and employees getting sick. Imagine there were no government programs to provide loans for businesses, so again the impact on businesses was worse than in country B which provided such loans (because they implemented interventions). And on and on.

    In the end, in country B, actually interventions PREVENTED many harms that occurred in country A, even though at one year in people were saying that clearly interventions were causing harms.

    The point being that it is the pandemic that is causing outcomes. Interventions might help mitigate those harms and they might exacerbate them. We don’t know which at this point. But saying that the interventions are causing harms you are basically assuming a counterfactual – what would have happened had things been different.

    A good illustration is the Nordic countries. From what I have been able to see, despite implementing government mandated NPIs, Finland, Norway, and Denmark haven’t even temporarily had worse outcomes on measures such as suicides or businesses shut down than Sweden which has not. Of course it’s highly problematic to try to extrapolate from the Nordics to other countries (confounding variables abound), but IMO, long term is even more of an open book.

    I’m not suggesting that I know what the answer is. But I I think this is a matter of decision-making about risk in the face of high levels of uncertainty. So you go with hedging against the highest downside risk. Even determining that policies have the highest downside risk is unclear, but for me it is probably having a pandemic where there are not interventions to reduce the rate of infection. I think that’s true for a variety of reason – but the primary one for me is the level of stress that it puts upon hero healthcare workers who are making great sacrifice so that I can reduce my level of risk.

  98. Joshua says:

    In short – IMO the “lockdown deaths” rhetoric or even saying that interventions as “causing” harms is a very basic mistake of conflating correlation with causation. Yes, no doubt interventions are correlated with certain outcomes. You can’t just jump to causation.

    Saying that the impact of interventions exacerbates disparities is compounding the problem. The pandemic itself exacerbates disparities. For all we know, the disparity of impact would be even worse absent interventions. Polling shows that those communities that are suffering the worst impact from the pandemic are more supportive of more stringent interventions than on average (and that majorities do overall). So that’s why it ticks me off when I see concern trolls telling us how concerned that are about the impact of interventions on “the poors.” It’s one of the many direct parallels to the fight over climate change.

  99. Willard says:

    > I don’t think you can say that introducing interventions have a negative impact.

    Of course you can. Between the ever elusive causation and the omnipresent correlation there’s plain common sense. Lockdowns reduce economic activity. Unless we help the poor, they’ll suffer from it. The effect is obvious:

    No need to deal with any conterfactual to agree with that.

    Now, you *could* argue that no lockdowns would have led to *more* economic slowdowns, or that better (and less, perhaps) isolation policies would have reduced our economic toll. But again, why fall for this goose chase? Educated common sense should allow us to assume that isolation reduces the spread of an infection. Humans know that at least since they introduced quarantines in the 14th century.

    We all know where the main priors should be in our situation. Isolation saves lives, but it costs money. Those hit are our most vulnerable.

    The onus is on those who dispute these priors to come up with better than counterfactuals.

  100. Joshua,
    I think there is evidence to indicate that counties that took decisive action to limit the spread of the virus and that also implemented strategies for supporting people have suffered less than those countries that have delayed action, or taken little action. I think that can be true and that the direct impact of a lockdown can still be harmful (mental health, schooling, etc).

  101. dikranmarsupial says:

    “In short – IMO the “lockdown deaths” rhetoric or even saying that interventions as “causing” harms is a very basic mistake of conflating correlation with causation”

    No. If a pub has to close because of lockdown and is unable to trade, that isn’t correlation, the causality of the economic damage is clear.

  102. Dikran,
    Indeed. As you know, in the UK they have furlough schemes that essentially pay a company’s staff if they’re unable to work. I think it’s been a great help. However, there are still people who don’t qualify. I forget the details, but I think if changed jobs at the wrong time, you don’t qualify. There may be some who are self-employed who don’t qualify. So, the government has tried to help reduce the harm, but some have clearly still suffered.

    There’s a big debate in the UK about closing schools. Some think that there is a lot of transmission in schools and so they should be closed until this can be reduced, while others think the impact of closing schools is so severe that they should be open.

  103. Ben McMillan says:

    A lot of the problem is that people are talking at cross purposes, and with different counterfactuals in mind. Or talking about net costs/benefits of a lockdown, whereas others are takings a costs vs benefits viewpoint and there might be money on each side.

    For example, a lockdown where low-paid workers have access to a decent safety-net is a lot different to one where they are left to fend for themselves. And a non-lockdown where the low-paid are still travelling each day to work in confined conditions while the well-off work from home in their houses is pretty inequitable too.

    Are we just talking about the short-term costs of a lockdown compared to ad-hoc social distancing where all the restaurants are basically empty? Or versus a no-covid scenario? If it is a short-term cost to the government, maybe it doesn’t matter so much, because they have long-term pockets, but a short-term cost on the less-well-off is a different question.

  104. dikranmarsupial says:

    Correlation alone is not sufficient to assert causation. You also need a plausible mechanism, and evidence that the mechanism has been in operation. For “lockdown” deaths, in addition to (for example) a reduction in cancer survival rates, you need a plausible mechanism, for instance regulations that have the effect of limiting the number of patients that hospitals can treat on cancer wards/surgeries (social distancing etc. applies there, e.g. reduced space in waiting rooms, which limits the number of patients seen). This is an observable (speaking as someone that had several hospital visits last summer).

    I don’t think anyone is jumping to causation.

  105. Joshua says:

    > Lockdowns reduce economic activity.

    With the caveat that comparing across countries is problematic – interventions have not reduced economic activity in Finland as opposed to Sweden. Context matters. Even in the short term that’s hard to say. The uncertainty only grows when we think longer term.

    > I think that can be true and that the direct impact of a lockdown can still be harmful (mental health, schooling, etc).

    I’m not sure why that’s the direct impact of interventions as opposed to a direct impact of the pandemic itself. Again, what would have happened with schools if there had been no interventions? As it turns out, interventions to shut schools may well be a kind of special case because they might in the long run had a more negative return than other interventions (since spread in schools is probably less than what was anticipated) – but even still…people stopped sending children to school prior to interventions that shut them.

    If that had continued, what would have occurred? Many caregivers – say in intergenerational families – were deciding what to do with even less support than what eventually was provided. Grandparent caregivers had to decide whether to (1) send their child to school with an unknown but potentially very high level or risk to themselves or (2) stay home and take care of their grandchild and get fired from their job because they didn’t go into work – and not be able to collect unemployment insurance. With interventions a 3rd option occurred. Teachers, likewise were given an alternative to going to school and taking the risk or staying home and getting fired. Interventions allowed another option.

    This all reminds me of the Lomborg nonsense: “We’re hurting the poors because we’re mitigating climate change ”

    > and that also implemented strategies for supporting people.

    Yes, that’s the point, IMO. The impact of interventions is, to a large degree a measure of what countries are willing to do to mitigate the impact of the pandemic itself. It’s the quality and comprehensiveness of the interventions which matters most.

  106. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP indeed, those in political power at the moment have picked a very bad time to be in charge of things!

    I have a fair few friends that are musicians, it has been a very hard time for them, and I suspect not able to take advantage of the funding that has been made available.

  107. Joshua says:

    willard –

    > Of course you can.

    Well, indeed you can and surely many people do. I was most certainly wrong about that.

  108. Joshua says:

    So this is old, and problematic. Not a perfect analysis. But I think it’s useful for framing the discussion:

    -snip-
    Responses to the pandemic have often been framed in terms of striking a balance between protecting people’s health and protecting the economy. There is an assumption that countries face a trade-off between these two objectives. But is this assumption true?

    A preliminary way of answering this question is to look at how the health and economic impacts of the pandemic compare in different countries so far. Have countries with lower death rates seen larger downturns?

    Comparing the COVID-19 death rate with the latest GDP data, we in fact see the opposite: countries that have managed to protect their population’s health in the pandemic have generally also protected their economy too.
    -snip

    https://ourworldindata.org/covid-health-economy

  109. Joshua says:

    So the primary question for me is “Do interventions reduce the rate of infection.” It’s a messy analysis because so much depends on context: timing of interventions, pre-existing/precipitating conditions, level of social support, ease of people working from home, population density and distribution, # of people per household, % of intergenerational families, mean age (probably the most important), etc. There are many interaction effects and mediator and moderator variables.

    “Lockdown deaths” is effectively a distraction, IMO. It’s a debate about a second-order effect – that is a function of meany other mediators. For those reasons, the extent to which interventions “cause” harms is a complicated calculation, IMO – and I’m surprised by how some people are drawing conclusions.

  110. dikranmarsupial says:

    Plausible mechanism:

    “Since a national lockdown was introduced across the UK in March, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer screening has been suspended, routine diagnostic work deferred, and only urgent symptomatic cases prioritised for diagnostic intervention. In this study, we estimated the impact of delays in diagnosis on cancer survival outcomes in four major tumour types.

    Substantial increases in the number of avoidable cancer deaths in England are to be expected as a result of diagnostic delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. Urgent policy interventions are necessary, particularly the need to manage the backlog within routine diagnostic services to mitigate the expected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with cancer.” (source)

    Note I haven’t actually read the study yet. But this is not “jumping to causation”.

  111. dikranmarsupial says:

    I was a “urgent symptomatic cases prioritised for diagnostic intervention” BTW, fortunately a negative one.

  112. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    > “Since a national lockdown was introduced across the UK in March, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer screening has been suspended, routine diagnostic work deferred, and only urgent symptomatic cases prioritised for diagnostic intervention. In this study, we estimated the impact of delays in diagnosis on cancer survival outcomes in four major tumour types.

    My point is most definitely not that reducing cancer screening doesn’t have a negative impact. I’m saying we don’t know what would have happened to cancer screening absent interventions. The situation may well have been worse. I can pretty much guarantee there isn’t much cancer screening going on in Manaus, and there hasn’t been for quite a while.

  113. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    I don’t have a very good history of discussions with you. But i’ll go this far:

    > . But this is not “jumping to causation”.

    I’m not saying that it’s jumping to causation to say that a reduction in cancer screening has a negative impact on health. Of course I don’t think that’s the case.

  114. Joshua says:

    I will say, this discussion is interesting to me because generally I can usually predict where people (as a collective group if not individually) will fall out on an issue such as this based on their political orientation. It appears not to be the case here. I’m going to have to chew on that.

  115. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” I’m saying we don’t know what would have happened to cancer screening absent interventions. ”

    sorry, that is absurd. There is no reason to think that without the interventions that screening would not have continued as normal. This is so much like the “uncertainty monster” in climate science (which is actually little more than an Ewok in reality – we know more than enough about climate to be able to see that continuing to put CO2 into the anmosphere is not a good idea).

  116. dikranmarsupial says:

    Ironically, one of the more common climate skeptic reactions to explanations of how we know the rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic is to say “but how do you know it wouldn’t have risen naturally anyway)”. I think the same thing applies here.

  117. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I’m not saying that it’s jumping to causation to say that a reduction in cancer screening has a negative impact on health. Of course I don’t think that’s the case.”

    Do you disagree that a cessation of cancer screening is likely to result in excess cancer deaths?

  118. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    > There is no reason to think that without the interventions that screening would not have continued as normal.

    There was a significant reduction in cancer screening in Sweden during the pandemic. Imagine what would have happened in countries without the structural advantages in Sweden that would differentially limit the spread of the virus and support people to continue with healthcare as normal. Undoubtedly in Sweden the reduction in screenings was highest among those who are most likely to need cancer screenings: older people.

  119. Joshua,
    I feel like we’re talking a little at cross-purposes here (as Ben suggests). In the same way there are almost certainly associated with dealing with climate change but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t benefit overall from dealing with it, there are costs associated with lockdowns. This doesn’t mean that we’re ultimately better locking down, than not locking down.

    Of course, as you say, this is ultimately a consequence of there being a pandemic. I still, though, don’t see any real problem with acknowledging the potential costs of locking down while still recognising that it may still be the best strategy, given current circumstances.

  120. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    > I’m not saying that it’s jumping to causation to say that a reduction in cancer screening has a negative impact on health. Of course I don’t think that’s the case.

    >> Do you disagree that a cessation of cancer screening is likely to result in excess cancer deaths?

    This illustrates why I think further discussion would be pointless.

  121. The latter half of this discussion will be more meaningful in a couple of years, when we have excess mortality and mortality by cause for years preceding, during and following this run of the pandemic. It will be an opportunity for even more Venn diagrams and spirited discourse.

    My uninformed prognostication is that the large number of those who miss early treatment for various conditions due to our focus on the pandemic will be somewhat balanced by those dying of Covid before diagnosis.

    But demographers and other statisticians will spend a third of their careers on this, happily discussing cause, effect and extraneous factors that have intruded on natural and unnatural processes.

  122. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua, if cancer screening ceased because of lockdown, it doesn’t matter what might or might not have otherwise happened. Just as it doesn’t matter what CO2 levels may or may not have done in the absence of anthropgenic emissions, the reason for the rise that we have observed is the anthropogenic emissions. That was the cause.

    “lockdown deaths” isn’t just rhetoric. It is a fact that the lockdown will result in deaths (e.g. due to delays in diagnosing and treating cancer). It is a fact that the lockdown will cause economic damage (e.g. pubs not being able to open). The decision whether (and when) to impose a lockdown ought to be based on a rational trade-off between the costs and benefits for both courses of action. To do that, you do need to accept that there will be excess deaths and there will be economic damage for both courses of action. It is the trolley problem writ large.

  123. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > I still, though, don’t see any real problem with acknowledging the potential costs of locking down while still recognising that it may still be the best strategy, given current circumstances.

    Just to be clear, I fully acknowledge a *potential* for costs from interventions (which implies causality). I absolutely see no harm in acknowledging that.

    I also don’t disagree that there are costs *associated* with interventions. Children not going to school, people not getting screened for cancer, have significant negative impacts.

    My argument is with the assumption of causality. I suppose in some way this may be a matter of semantics – but I really don’t think it is merely that.

    > In the same way there are almost certainly associated with dealing with climate change

    Indeed, I’ve had a very similar argument many times about attributing “costs” to mitigation of ACO2. I object to the attribution of costs to mitigation, as it relies on an illusion that in the real world the impact of mitigating climate change can be divorced from the externalities of using fossil fuels even beyond the uncertainty of the impacts from rising temps – such as the geo-political impact of supporting autocrats in countries that produce fossil fuels.

  124. dikranmarsupial says:

    “This illustrates why I think further discussion would be pointless.”

    what that you won’t give a straight answer a relevant question? You object to “lockdown deaths“, so it is reasonable to ask whether you agree that there will be excess cancer deaths rather than merely “negative impacts”.

  125. Joshua,
    Are you suggesting that some of the impacts of lockdowns would have happened anyway even if we hadn’t formally locked down? If so, I agree. It seems likely that the healthcare systems would have been far more over-whelmed by Covid cases and other treatments would have been impacted. Similarly, other sectors may also have been impacted because of the pandemic even if we hadn’t formally locked down.

    I get that everything is related and drawing conclusions as to the impact of various scenarios is tricky. However, I still don’t really see an issue with acknowledging that formally closing the hospitality sector has negatively impacted the hospitality sector, even if they might have been negatively impacted had we not locked down. Similarly for other sectors.

  126. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    > The latter half of this discussion will be more meaningful in a couple of years, when we have excess mortality and mortality by cause for years preceding, during and following this run of the pandemic. It will be an opportunity for even more Venn diagrams and spirited discourse.

    I agree. I’m basically just saying that we don’t know yet how to attribute the outcomes from the pandemic and where that set overlaps with the impact of interventions. But either way, the discussion will always take place in the world of counterfactuals where uncertainty is relevant.

  127. Willard says:

    > I was most certainly wrong about that.

    You’re also wrong if you presume that what I said posits any tradeoff like the one that tries to undermine the analysis you just cited. What I said is not much stronger than slowing down the economy tends to slow down the economy, and reducing contact tends to reduce infections that propagate by contact. Adding provisos and caveats should not move these statements much. But the point I’m making with these assertions is strategic, or if you prefer methodological. No what if scenario is harmed in the making of it.

    As I see it, Andrew’s leading questions have two main functions. First, they frame the issue in a way that countering the questions promotes the frame. Second, they reverse the burden of proof. My point was related to that last function. Take his “at what point does the collateral damage outweigh lockdown provisions over a virus with a 99.6% survival rate.” Notice how the survival rate is emphasized by a precision that is mostly illusory, and how “collateral damage” is indefinite, so as to exploit the reader’s common sense. Notice how Andrew injects the very tradeoff underlined by your last citation.

    Instead of “unloading” the question by analyzing some woulda-shouldas, I’d rather expose the assumption about some abstract cutoff “point” that nobody has ever witnessed. Societies are not governed by God committees. That’s just preposterous. Those who need money should receive money. Problem solved.

    In a word, it’s important not to conflate an incontrovertible fact (there is collateral damage) with a dubious assumption (there is a trade-off between economy and deaths). If you conflate the two, you’ll get baited. A tendency to which you yourself admit anyway.

    ***

    Andrew’s ploy also exemplifies what is called a copycat strategy. He has burning questions, the first of them being “a close relative” of his. Not the first time he portrays himself as a messenger:

    These question aren’t about the specifics of OHJ, but they inevitably come up for any layperson who’s trying to suss out, “Who is this Carrier person? How reliable is he? How seriously should I take him?”

    https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/16912#comment-30397

    Not only he won’t commit to anything by Just Asking Questions, but he won’t even own the fact that these are his questions!

    As a famous politician would say, c’mon.

  128. Joshua says:

    lol.

    Yes dikran, when I spoke of negative *health* impacts from a lack of cancer screening, deaths was included among those negative *health* impacts.

  129. dikranmarsupial says:

    So why not just give a straight answer to the question and make that clear? It would only have taken one word and would have created trust rather than division and bad feeling that you began with your sniping “I don’t have a very good history of discussions with you. …”?

  130. dikranmarsupial says:

    The reasoning is this:

    Lockdown has caused a suspension of screening (note this is suspension of the service, not a reduction in the number of patients seeking the service, but that is happening as well). The lack of screening will result in a reduction in cancer survival (see the Lancet article). Thus there will be “lockdown deaths” (unless we are miraculously lucky). This is not rhetoric, it is just a fact. A fact that needs to be considered in decisions about lockdowns.

    None of this is correlation based.

  131. Dikran,
    I think Joshua’s point (which he can clarify) is that not locking down could have had an ever greater negative effect on healthcare provision, so the lockdown deaths could have been non-lockdown deaths. I agree with this in general, but I still think (as I think you’re suggesting) that with a lockdown one can at least directly correlate a decision with an impact, even if a similarly harmful, or more harmful, impact could have occured had we not locked down.

  132. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Are you suggesting that some of the impacts of lockdowns would have happened anyway even if we hadn’t formally locked down?

    Yes, and actually that those same harms may have turned out to be far worse.

    > If so, I agree. It seems likely that the healthcare systems would have been far more over-whelmed by Covid cases and other treatments would have been impacted. Similarly, other sectors may also have been impacted because of the pandemic even if we hadn’t formally locked down.

    Yes.

    > I get that everything is related and drawing conclusions as to the impact of various scenarios is tricky. However, I still don’t really see an issue with acknowledging that formally closing the hospitality sector has negatively impacted the hospitality sector, even if they might have been negatively impacted had we not locked down. Similarly for other sectors.

    I’m starting to wonder if this isn’t largely a difference of semantics. Maybe I am being a bit autistic here.

    Sure there’s an impact. But when someone says that “lockdowns cause deaths” (for example) there seems to me to be a necessary counterfactual assumption that those deaths wouldn’t occur absent the interventions. Again, ala saying that mitigating ACO2 emissions causes children to starve in Africa. For example, the impact of interventions is largely a measure of what governments due to mitigate the effects. If people live in a country like Finland, where people can take paid leave from work or relatively easily switch to working from home – the interaction between interventions and unemployment or the harms from unemployment look completely different than in another country like the US. It isn’t the interventions in themselves that determines the dimension of the impact, but the context in which they take place. Sot that’s why I think it’s a distraction from factors that are actually much explanatory for the impact of the pandemic on our society. In places where people, including business owners, can get paid to stay home, we see more clearly that it’s the surrounding policies and societal infrastructure the “explain” the causal link between the pandemic and the outcomes, not the presence of a “lockdown.”

    My point is that there is an association between the magnitude of the spread of the virus and all manner of negative outcomes. So then the most pressing question for me is whether interventions limit spread, what a cluster and sensitivity analysis of the effect of interventions might look like, and where interventions might start to bring a negative return. Places like Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, North Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, and even China all show the importance of considering all these considerations in context.

  133. dikranmarsupial says:

    Yes, I agree with that as well, but those would be “no-lockdown deaths/damages” on the other side of the cost-benefit analysis. However that doesn’t mean that “lockdown deaths” is rhetoric or jumping to conclusions. The problem is very much balancing the “lockdown deaths” against the “no-lockdown deaths” (which seems to me the conventional framing of cost-benefit analyses) and choosing the approach that minimises excess deaths (if this were a one-property problem like the trolley problem).

    I think it is highly likely that the deaths and damages of the no-lockdown course of action would be much higher. Which is why I favour lockdown.

  134. dikranmarsupial says:

    “But when someone says that “lockdowns cause deaths” (for example) there seems to me to be a necessary counterfactual assumption that those deaths wouldn’t occur absent the interventions. ”

    I don’t think there is a counterfactual assumption. They generally wouldn’t be the same people that died. Saying that “lockdowns cause deaths” is in no way saying that there wouldn’t be more deaths if there was no lockdown, it is just a reminder that there will be excess deaths under both courses of action. We don’t need a reminder that there will be excess deaths if we do nothing to stop the spread of COVID.

  135. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    A question for you.

    Say there are two countries, identical in every way, one with a “lockdown” imposed (and businesses closed, and cancer screen canceled) and one without, and we find five years hence that fewer businesses closed and fewer cancer screenings were canceled, etc., long run in the country that imposed “lockdowns.”

    At that point would you look back and say that the “lockdowns” “caused” cancer deaths and fewer cancer screenings?

    I would not. I would say that the “lockdowns” PREVENTED deaths and ENHANCED cancer screening. And I don’t see how the passage of time would reverse the causality.

  136. Joshua,
    Sure, I agree with that. In fact, as I understand it, there is already evidence that countries that have acted early have had better outcomes than those that have not. So, my current understanding is that a lockdown with an effective exit strategy probably does lead to fewer deaths.

    Maybe my perspective is coming from the UK where the lockdowns seem to have been delayed and that some sectors of the economy are clearly being negatively impacted by the imposed lockdowns. If we had acted sooner and had more effective exit strategies, this may not have been the case. Sadly, we didn’t.

  137. dikranmarsupial says:

    I can see there are two ways in which you could perform a cost benefit-analysis to decide between two possible courses of action:

    Conventional approach:

    Work out the expected costs (C_X) and benefits (B_X) of course of action X.
    Work out the expected costs (C_Y) and benefits (B_Y) of course of action Y.
    Work out the expected net loss associated with each action (optimisation people are such pessimists)
    L_X = C_X – B_X
    L_Y = C_Y – B_Y
    Pick the approach that minimised the expected loss.

    Alternative approach:

    Work out the expected costs (C_X) and benefits (B_X) of course of action X.
    Work out the expected costs (C_Y) and benefits (B_Y) of course of action Y.
    Work out the net benefit of course X over course Y
    B = B_X – B_Y
    Work out the net cost of course X over course Y
    C = C_Y – C_Y
    Pick X if B > C.

    I think both formulations will give you the same answer (but it has been a long day). I think those who say “lockdown deaths” are likely to be following the conventional approach. Joshua *seems* to be doing something more like the second and maybe misinterpreting “lockdown deaths” by viewing it in that framework.

    I have to say, the “conventional” approach seems rather more straightforward and natural to me because you consider each course of action in isolation, which makes it easier to see the wood for the trees.

  138. To be fair to Joshua, there is merit to considering the alternative approach. Certainly, there is a narrative that lockdowns cause deaths, which is probably true if you’re only considering the lockdown in isolation. However, the reason we’re considering a lockdown is because we’re in a global pandemic. Given this, a lockdown may well cause fewer deaths, especially if it’s then associated with an effective exit strategy. There sre certainly some in the UK who have argued that one problem with the narrative is that it’s being presented as the economy versus interventions, rather than it being linked in a way that means that strong interventions are actually the best to way to protect the economy and our health.

  139. Willard says:

    > Sadly, we didn’t.

    So now the counterfactual changes. What if Andrew told you we should do nothing now that the genie is out of the bottle, to borrow from Alan’s op-ed?

    Sure, there will be some deaths. We all die. Ask Grandma Killer:

    But wait, there’s more! Some other lives saved too! What if they would be worth more? What if the money we save will help us triage the unfit and let survivors prosper?

    Et cetera.

    One does not simply beat concerns with trolleys:

  140. dikranmarsupial says:

    “To be fair to Joshua, there is merit to considering the alternative approach. ”

    Indeed that was my aim. I have put quite a lot of effort into trying to understand what Joshua was saying, and that was the best summary I could come up with of where I had reached.

    Perhaps Joshua wasn’t being fair by labelling “lockdown deaths” as rhetoric or jumping to conclusions (as saying that there will be lockdown deaths is before the point in the conventional approach where conclusions are drawn), when it is just adopting an equivalent (and more conventional) framework for the same decision making process.

  141. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP: “economy versus interventions, rather than it being linked in a way that means that strong interventions are actually the best to way to protect the economy and our health.”

    absolutely, if you really want to damage the economy, then an over-run NHS would be a situation that would only benefit hedge fund managers/investors, and possibly not even them!

    Unfortunately, just as with climate, society doesn’t seem able to manage trade-offs between immediate costs and deferred benefits (or reduced deferred costs).

  142. Dikran,

    Unfortunately, just as with climate, society doesn’t seem able to manage trade-offs between immediate costs and deferred benefits (or reduced deferred costs).

    Indeed, that similarity struck me too during this discussion.

  143. Willard says:

    One way to prevent people from dying of poverty is to give them money. One way to test the underlying counterfactual would be to give the vulnerable money. Some expressed reservations regarding the idea:

    But lockdowns, but lockdowns, Andrew or anybody else he represents might reply.

    I know. I know.

  144. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > Maybe my perspective is coming from the UK where the lockdowns seem to have been delayed and that some sectors of the economy are clearly being negatively impacted by the imposed lockdowns.

    Surely, part of my perspective is that the “lockdown deaths” rhetoric is in the US is predominantly pushed by the right here, to advance an argument that *it is certain* that interventions are differentially harmful, aligned with rhetoric that the whole pandemic is fake and being used as a tool to hurt Trump and to lay cover for a one-world government agenda. From what I’ve seen the same rightwing rhetoric is being pushed by the rightwing in the UK (Toby Young et al.).

    Of course those various arguments could be separable, but that’s part of the reason I’ve been surprised by this convo. Again, it strikes me as paralleling climate change where the argument on the right is that climate change interventions are being pushed in order to lay cover for pursuing a one-world agenda. I certainly do see that as separable from examining the costs and benefits of different ACO2 mitigation strategies – but as I mentioned above I don’t think the frame of assessing the cost of emissions mitigation can fairly be conducted without allowing for questioning counterfactuals about what might happen, differentially, without and without interventions. Saying that “Wind energy is costly” makes no sense to me if you aren’t evaluating externalities into the future, such as future deaths from particulates.

    Of course I don’t doubt the general frame that there are trade-offs at many levels.

  145. Joshua,
    I think there is some of the same rhetoric in the UK. I think it’s hard for me to not acknowledge that the UK lockdowns have clearly negatively impacted a large number of people, even if it might have been possible to follow a different lockdown strategy that would have had a much smaller negative impact.

  146. dikranmarsupial says:

    FWIW I think that is reading more into the argument than is actually there. I think it is more “concern” that the deaths caused by lockdown are being overlooked and that the economic costs are not being correctly weighted against the benefits of reducing COVID deaths. I don’t think anybody is really saying that lockdowns will cause more deaths than it prevents (unless there are clear examples of that I haven’t seen).

  147. Dikran,
    Yes, that’s a fair point. I think there are some who certainly phrase it as if lockdowns cause more deaths than they prevent, but I agree that quite a lot of it is that the economic impact is not being properly weighted against the benefits of reducing Covid deaths.

  148. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    I don’t see anyone overlooking the impact of unemployment, canceled cancer screenings, children not being in schools, etc. That’s part of the reason for my reaction. I don’t see anyone overlooking any of that.

    The closest I’ve seen is w/r/t people perhaps overlooking the complications of differential effect with closing schools. But I see that as understandable because there was so little solid evidence to go on early on, particularly w/r/t transmission in schools.

    Another aspect that shaped my take is that it is the very people, to a large degree, that (imo) have for decades prevented the very systems that would mitigate the impact of interventions, that are now claiming that they’re against interventions because they’re the ones who are actually concerned about the poor (and that the “lockdown” crowd are just virtue-signaling elitist hypocrites.

    There is a common perception here that the real working people are angry about “lockdowns” and that the elitists don’t care about their impact on the real working people (’cause they can just work from home no problem). In reality polling shows a different picture.

    Early on, our friend David Young told me that the differential impact of the pandemic in association with SES and race/ethnicity was “irrelevant” only to later come back and tell me he was *concerned* (like our friend Andrew) about the differential impact of “lockdowns” on poor people.

  149. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > , but I agree that quite a lot of it is that the economic impact is not being properly weighted against the benefits of reducing Covid deaths.

    Where do you see evidence of that?

  150. Joshua,
    I don’t mean that it is being overlooked, but that those who are critical of lockdowns are claiming/concerned that it is. I don’t have formal evidence of that, though.

  151. Joshua says:

    BTW – an interesting framing that I’m seeing more recently is a kind of a middle ground approach under the umbrella of “harm reduction.”

    I’m used to the term being used with an approach to addiction mitigation (I.e., giving clean needles or even narcotics to people with addiction so as to mitigate the harmful externalities under the understanding that you’re not likely going to be able to eliminate the addiction).

    The idea here being to stress what you’re going for – an explicit focus on the potential tradeoffs. But there to I’m confused when people promoting that approach use language such as “lockdown deaths” and other framing that assumes a differential causality for negative outcomes.

  152. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > , but that those who are critical of lockdowns are claiming/concerned that it is

    Well sure. Just as there is *concern* among “skeptics” for “the poors.”

    To be clear, I’m not saying that they aren’t legitimately concerned. Just that their *concerns* should be interrogated for logical coherence.

  153. Joshua says:

    To elaborate a bit – using “harm reduction” in addiction, you are explicitly considering that providing needles differntially causes less harm in the end.

    Extending the frame to COVID, focusing on “lockdown deaths,” to me, would be like focusing on the potential that providing needles makes using narcotics easier.

  154. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP yes, that was exactly the distinction I was making. I’ve not seen anyone saying that lockdowns cause more deaths than it prevents as a serious reasoned argument, rather than as exasperated hyperbole, but I’ve stopped looking at Twitter so I may have missed some ;o)

  155. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua “ interrogated for logical coherence.”

    The claim that lockdowns cause excess deaths is perfectly coherent when viewed in the conventional formulation of cost-benefit analysis that I set out earlier in the thread. So perhaps that is what was meant?

  156. dikranmarsupial says:

    From the FAQ:

    2) **The degradation and closure of NHS services has been because of Covid, not lockdowns**. Lockdowns involve restrictions on shopping, eating out, travel, and business – but not healthcare. Where NHS Trusts have tragically had to [stop](https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(20)30388-0/fulltext) treating people for conditions like cancer and heart disease, and paused elective surgeries, it’s been because Covid cases have been so high that they’ve had to divert resources (like beds and medical staff) to treating those patients, and because the risk of those patients catching Covid in hospitals was too high. Health services have been suspended not because of lockdown, but because of the Covid pandemic. And in the absence of lockdowns, there would have been more Covid cases, undermining non-Covid care even further.

    So some of the thing I wrote earlier are most probably incorrect, or at least missing the point. It is certainly true that hospitals *are* operating under restrictions (at least the one that treated me) and that lockdowns are likely to reduce the number of patients seeking help (including me for a fair while). So “lockdown deaths” are still a thing, but the numbers are lower than I thought, assuming as I do that the FAQ is correct.

  157. Steven Mosher says:

    I wanna see lockdown on a death certificate

  158. dikranmarsupial says:

    I is for “impossible expectations”

  159. Steven Mosher says:

    his case, the list was pretty much empty.

    If someone doesn’t want to discuss the science (because they are not confident they are right), resorting to interminable “nature of the debate” debates is a more suitable battleground.

    It strikes me that the consensus argument is the perfect ex0mple of people talking about the nature of the debate. It’s your word against 97% of experts.

  160. dikranmarsupial says:

    That is rubbish. Climate skeptics have long argued that there is no scientific consensus on climate change (c.f. Luntz memo, multiple petitions of people with science degrees etc.). This was known to be a successful strategy from the tobacco-cancer link saga. If skeptics didn’t make that argument, I doubt much of the research on consensus would have happened (it is a statement of the bleedin’ obvious if you actually look at the literature.

    But yes, a bit of humility is good in science. If you think you have overturned a century of science, then the odds are that you are wrong and vanishingly unlikely that you are a Galileo. However, as I said, in science the source is irrelevant and if your arguments are right and the evidence is on your side, you will eventually overturn a century of science. Laconic “if”.

  161. dikranmarsupial says:

    As Sir Paul Nurse pointed out to James Delingpole in an episode of the science documentary series (which I believe you know of), that ATTP alluded to earlier, if you had cancer, it would be reasonable to seek the consensus view on you treatment, rather than adopt the advice of some individual doctor that thought the consensus was wrong. Sure, there have been occasions where the consensus has been wrong, but not many. The vast majority of cases, your best bet is to follow mainstream medical opinion. If you don’t have the expertise to understand the medical evidence for yourself, it is rational to listen to someone who does, and even better, multiple experts. We do this in our daily lives all the time, e.g. when getting the car fixed, or your house rewired or, or or.

    It is a pity the episode is no longer on iPlayer.

  162. dikranmarsupial says:

    In case of an uncertainty, skeptics claiming that there is no scientific consensus isn’t a “nature of the debate” issue either. It is a perfectly reasonable form of argument (given that balance of expert opinion is a rational input to the decision making process). The only problem with it is that it isn’t actually true.

  163. dikranmarsupial says:

    The Nurse-Dellingpole interview is here: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xp20pc

    If you disagree with the relevance of expert consenus in decision making, then give your response to Nurse’s analogy (starting at about 2:20). If it is to try and change the subject, as Delingpole did, it is a tacit admission that you know expert consensus is relevant in other areas and at best you need some reason as to why it is relevant in medicine but not for climate change.

  164. dikranmarsupial says:

    Ironically Delingpole provides a good example of deflecting onto the “nature of the debate” debate to avoid discussing a substantive issue.

  165. dikranmarsupial says:

    on the subject of problems with no objectively correct answer…

  166. dikranmarsupial says:

    Random musing on the meaning of consensus:

    People often have difficulties with conditional probabilities. For instance, P(C|S) might be the probability of observing a scientific consensus (event C) given that the science on which the consensus is based is solid (event S). This isn’t the same as p(S|C), and nobody claims it is (IIRC one of John Cook’s papers explicitly states that no science depends on the existence of a consensus), but they are related by Bayes’ rule:

    P(S|C) = P(C|S)P(S)/P(C)

    so whether P(C|S) tells you much about P(S|C) rather depends on your views about P(S) – the prior probability that the science is solid (i.e. before observing the existence of a consensus) and P(C) – the probability of observing a consensus. For P(S), we have a couple of centuries of scientific research and evidence collection. I don’t think there has been a serious (and successful) challenge to the basics for a very long time (Angstrom?). P(C) is rather more tricky, but we could write it as:

    P(C) = P(C|S)P(S) + P(C|~S)P(~S)

    where ~S is the event that the science isn’t solid. I’d argue that P(C|S) is much higher than P(C|~S). While science does sometimes form around science that isn’t actually correct, e.g. the ether or caloric theory, I’d argue it mostly happens because scientists agree that the evidence supporting the theory is solid (or at least it is the best explanation currently available). Also in this case P(S) >> P(~S), if that weren’t the case, there would be much better arguments supporting ~S than “the rise in CO2 is natural” or “the GHE violates the second law of thermodynamics” etc. So P(C) is dominated by P(C|S)P(S). In which case P(C|S) is approximately P(S|C) and the existence of a scientific consensus is a reason to suppose that the science is solid (although of course it doesn’t prove it).

    So the existence of a consensus is not completely uninformative in the debate about climate change in society, even if the direction of the causal arrow can only be from the solidness of the science to the existence of a consensus. It is however making some assumptions about the science and about the nature of scientific society that need to be mentioned/justified/examined.

    The main reason though that I think we need to talk about the existence of a consensus is simply to refute the misinformation promulgated that there is no scientfic consensus, simply because it is misinformation. It isn’t factually correct.

    Caveat lector: I have a splitting headache, and am just waiting for my apple pencil to recharge before getting back to my marking, so it is possible that I have made one or more errors in the above.

  167. dikranmarsupial says:

    I knew I’d make a mistake! “In which case P(C|S) is approximately P(S|C) and the existence of a scientific consensus is a reason to suppose that the science is solid (although of course it doesn’t prove it).” should be more like “In which case P(S|C) is approximately 1, but that is mostly because P(S) is approximately 1”. In other words, the important thing is really the strength of the evidence for S other than the existence of a consensus. Which is the important bit – it is about the science, not the scientists.

  168. dikranmarsupial says:

    Perhaps the Bayes factor is a better approach.

    P(S|C)/P(~S|C) = P(C|S)/P(C|~S) x P(S)/P(~S) = K x P(S)/P(~S)

    where K is the Baye’s factor and basically tells you how much observing a consensus modifies your rational belief about the relative likelihood of the science being solid and it being shaky. So the degree to which the existence of a consensus reinforces your belief in the solidity of the science depends on whether you think a consensus is more likely to form if the science is solid than if it is shaky. Which seems a reasonable proposition to me.

    It would only reinforce a belief that the science is shaky if you think that a consensus is more likely to form if you think that a consensus is more likely to form around shaky science than solid science. I’d need some persuading on that.

    Again, still have a headache and I do make mistakes in my reasoning, so caveat lector as usual. … checks pencil…

  169. Willard says:

    > [Contrarians] have long argued that there is no scientific consensus on climate change (c.f. Luntz memo, multiple petitions of people with science degrees etc.).

    Contrarians as a collective are not constrained by consistency. Some indeed question if in fact we have a consensus. Others question its size. Others question our measurement of it. Others question its authority. Others question its legitimacy. So that argument is invalid.

    If that’s not enough, contrarians can indeed argue the alternative. First, claim that a consensus does not exist. Next, that if it exists, we don’t know if it exists for real. Then, if we know it, there are uncertainties. And so on and so forth.

    John would benefit from dealing with contrarians more directly. It would have helped him realize that the Fake experts is an appeal to authority, that cherrypicking should be comprised in logical fallacies (either as a fallacy of relevance or a fallacy of inference), that impossible expectations begs the question, and that none of the items are techniques per se.

  170. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    > First, claim that a consensus does not exist. Next, that if it exists, we don’t know if it exists for real. Then, if we know it, there are uncertainties. And so on and so forth.

    My favorite flow goes like this: first spend a few Googleplexes of electrons arguing that a consensus has nothing to do with science. Then spend a few Googleplexes of elections arguing about the size of the consensus.

    Reminds me of a parallel pattern of: argue that peer review is worthless because nothing that isn’t aligned with the team can get through peer review, and then spend a Googleplex of hours sifting through peer reviewed material, and then spend a few Googleplexes of electrons posting blog articles about the relatively few peer reviewed articles that (on the surface at least) seem to not be entirely inconsistent with every aspect of the “skeptic” project.

  171. Willard says:

    > Reminds me of a parallel pattern of: argue that peer review is worthless because nothing that isn’t aligned with the team can get through peer review, and then spend a Googleplex of hours sifting through peer reviewed material

    I suppose contrarians who do so may defend themselves by saying that they are finding hidden gems in the papers, like the proverbial Easter eggs in games. But yeah, I would say that the two stances are redhibitory: implementing one defeats the other.

    Here’s a contrarian stance that is almost contradictory:

    It’d be hard for some contrarian C (sorry, specificity matters here) to claim both that CO2 is too insignificant to modify our climate and that CO2 is vital for life. And yet many contrarians do, including Gordon. The trick lies in eliding the argument behind the talking point. Or as I say later on in that exchange with Gordon – it’s not what is said that matters, but what is implied.

    But consider the case with one contrarian (let’s call him Vlad) to say “but trace gas!” and another one (let’s call him Pozzo) to say “but plant food!” That the two stances are mutually exclusive does not imply that their personal stance is. They can afford some friction between them because contrarians form a horde.

    Those who defend scientific orthodoxy have less liberty. They can disagree on the details, but they need to hold the main position together. There is no real or crisp dividing line, but the idea is clear enough to attune our expectations regarding how they defend or attack scientific claims.

    One can of course pretend to hold the mainstream position while raising concerns, like honest brokers usually do. That cover is blown out when we inspect the rhetorical strategies they use, like Andrew above. Arguing the alternative might be fine in courts, but on the ClimateBall field it should fool no one.

  172. Willard says:

    > It’d be hard for some contrarian C (sorry, specificity matters here) to claim both that CO2 is too insignificant to modify our climate and that CO2 is vital for life.

    I might as well clarify that it’s not impossible to argue for both. Take

    (C1) CO2 is too smol to impact the Earth’s atmosphere significantly.

    (C2) CO2 is essential to plant growth.

    (C3) Plants developed a mechanism to feed on CO2, whereas the atmosphere has no agency.

    Hence why I was speaking of an almost contradictory stance. Contrarians are a creative bunch. There must be other ways to patch the inconsistency between (C1) and (C2) than with (C3). That’s one of the reasons why I interact with them.

    Their challenge is to find a patch that does not look like special pleading too much. I suspect they can’t get away from that technique. (Indeed, John – special pleading is an argumentative technique.) One way is to do like Andrew did above: present yourself as the mere messenger of some unknown character, and when confronted for your lack of commitment, just reply: who me? Or even better, become the spokeperson for the layperson:

    I feel like there is a “blockade” against OHJ on /r/AcademicBiblical. Until the blockade is eliminated and the floodgates are opened, the layperson will have no idea where the truth lies within this whole controversy.

    https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/16912#comment-30692

    How the layperson ends up on a subreddit might always remain a mystery. The most recent one that made it to the MSM got shut down.

  173. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    > I suppose contrarians who do so may defend themselves by saying that they are finding hidden gems in the papers

    What I usually have seen is amazement at how much of a freak accident it is that a non-fraudulent paper might have managed to get through the “gatekeepers.”. And each time it happens they are equally amazed at the freak accident 😂

  174. izen says:

    It is 50/50 whether a Corona mutation makes it more, or less, infectious.
    The more infectious version will become the dominant form.

    It is 50/50 whether a Corona mutation makes it more, or less, deadly.
    If transmission is mainly during the initial few symptomless days then it is 50/50 which we end up with.

    Does anyone doubt that Australia, New Zealand and China are much better off both financially and socially than the UK, USA, or Brazil.

    https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/31/australia/western-australia-covid-lockdown-intl-hnk/index.html
    “Single Covid case in Western Australia leads to 5-day lockdown for 2 million ”

    Why did car seat belts get rapidly adopted and (almost) completely accepted, while masks are still an issue ?

  175. Willard says:

    > What I usually have seen is amazement at how much of a freak accident it is that a non-fraudulent paper might have managed to get through the “gatekeepers.

    Why not go big:

    In 2019, more than 440 scientific papers were published that cast doubt on the position that anthropogenic CO2 emissions function as the climate’s fundamental control knob…or that otherwise serve to question the efficacy of climate models or the related “consensus” positions commonly endorsed by policymakers and mainstream media sources.

    https://notrickszone.com/2020/01/30/over-440-scientific-papers-published-in-2019-support-a-skeptical-position-on-climate-alarm/

  176. Willard says:

    > Why did car seat belts get rapidly adopted and (almost) completely accepted, while masks are still an issue ?

    Seat belt denial was a thing for a while:

    Seatbelts aroused heated debate despite increasing scientific research in the 1940s and 1950s affirming their value in saving lives. Among the arguments put forth against seatbelts was that they could cause internal injuries; that they prevented easy escapes from cars submerged in water; and that devices frequently failed. All were disputed by researchers but opposition remained fierce

    Some opponents argued the decision to use a seatbelt should be personal rather than legal. A letter to the Appleton Post Crescent in 1964 stated, “As long as the life risked is his own, I believe the individual should decide whether or not the use of safety belts is wise.”

    Another letter in the Wisconsin State Journal in 1957 argued the value of seat belts had yet to be proved, especially in cases of keeping people from “being thrown out of the car.” Door latches, wrote Sam of Madison, “can accomplish this without preventing speedy escape from an auto going into a stream or catching fire, which are not infrequent events.” Some car owners cut the seat belts out of their cars.

    It wasn’t until the late 1950s that an engineer at Volvo devised the three-point seat belt most of us are familiar with today. This new model secured the chest and hips with a single belt. These seatbelts became mandatory in all new United States vehicles in 1968.

    https://www.wpr.org/surprisingly-controversial-history-seat-belts

  177. Joshua says:

    440 freak accidents in one year. More than average I tbink.

    Or, the 440 this year could be the final nail in the coffin or the stake through the heart of the AGW hoax (by my count, there have been 1,325 final nails in the coffin of, and 876 stakes through the heart of, the AGW hoax since 2007).

  178. Steven Mosher says:

    Seat belt skepticism was big in Michigan
    And Ralph Nader was the devil

  179. Steven Mosher says:

    Dk.what I am saying is when you face an argument you dont like you call it rhetoric. As if that were an argument.you too use the nature of debate debate tactic.

    Willard wrt labeling it depends who is labelled. See recent complaints about the Grammys using the urban label.

  180. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM that isn’t correct. Prof pielke used the sks list to avoid having to discuss whether one of his blog articles was misinformation. He was evading the argument. He knew I had not written the lIst, had no power to change the list and had argued against the labelling. So it is reasonable to take the view that it was rhetoricall evasion.

  181. dikranmarsupial says:

    Prof. Pielke was making the argument that he didn’t misinform. I replied with a specific example that he reused to discuss. It wasn’t me that was avoiding any argument is didn’t like.

  182. dikranmarsupial says:

    BTW pretty much everybody uses rhetoric to some extent in their arguments, but not all uses of rhetoric help to get to the truth of the matter. My avoidance of labels like denier is partly a rhetorical choice – it hinders my argument (as well as being divisive and polarising). I’d suggest rhetorical evasion is a less positive use.

  183. izen says:

    There were valid objections to a single waist belt but;
    “It wasn’t until the late 1950s that an engineer at Volvo devised the three-point seat belt most of us are familiar with today.”
    When the three point seat belt came in these objections became moot and my impression is that objections became the insignificant hobby-horse of a few.

    This may be a wrong reading of the process, there may have been persistent objections in some localities, and full acceptance in others.
    The same pattern as with masks.
    Possibly with similar socio-political reasons.

  184. dikranmarsupial says:

    Seatbelts *do* cause injuries (I skimmed a meta-analysis from the BMJ on this yesterday), the key point is they are generally much less severe injuries than you would have received from hitting the steering wheel/dashboard/windscreen. In a severe car crash, there are going to be injuries whether you are wearing a seat-belt or not, just as in a pandemic there are going to be deaths whether you have a lockdown or not, even thogh some death will result from the lockdown (e.g. because of reduced seeking of medical attention). The question is whether you have fewer/less serious injuries with a seatbelt or fewer deaths with a lockdown than without. The first of those is a bit of a no-brainer (there is plenty of evidence) the latter is less clear, but I am happy to follow the consensus of informed opinion that lockdown is better.

  185. dikranmarsupial says:

    BTW I am also not against “nature of the debate” debates – they can be very constructive and useful (e.g. changing the name of the SKS list), and sci-com is very important (I set out my personal view upthread in response to Joshua’s question). The only problem I have is when they are used to avoid a substantive argument about something else.

  186. izen says:

    @-dk
    “…the latter is less clear, but I am happy to follow the consensus of informed opinion that lockdown is better.”

    I would suggest that given the outcomes in China, Australia and New Zealand compared with Brazil, Sweden and S. Africa the benefits of a lockdown in the absence of strict track/trace/quarantine are obvious facts rather than ‘less clear … opinion’.

  187. dikranmarsupial says:

    izen, we haven’t had time to see how everything will play out to have facts (in my opinion). The UK has substantial (utterly self-inflicted) long term economic problems to begin with. Looking at it just from the perspectives of short/medium-term COVID – v- non-covid deaths, then yes, I think the case is fairly unequivocal, but factoring in economics is beyond my pay grade – I just don’t know enough about it to have a worthwhile opinion. Completely destroying the economy could have severe consequences for decades, including things like the NHS.

  188. Joshua says:

    Because I know we have some fans of irony here

  189. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, just a few crucial points regarding climate-communication regarding Covid.

    1: I have anti-lockdown people in my family (including some very close relatives of mine). They have a slew of burning questions about lockdowns. My guess is that there are good answers to their questions. Here are some of the kinds of questions that they have: https://www.reddit.com/r/postanything/comments/l588lu/any_covid_questions_post_some_questions_in_the/.

    2: Since this pandemic started over a year ago (!!!) I have been trying to find answers to their questions, and I have failed. I am still empty-handed, after over a year of searching.

    3: Given that my relatives are being asked to sacrifice (not being able to go to the gym, etc., etc.) you think that my relatives deserve answers to their questions?

    4: If you were to ask my relatives to pollute less and then they asked for evidence that global warming is real (and is a danger), then you could give them material within minutes to answer all of their climate-related questions, right?

    5: How is it ethical for me to tell them to follow lockdown measures if I can’t find anything to answer their basic questions on this?

    6: Aren’t an extremely large number of people dying because the basic questions (that my relatives, for example, have) are not being answered by sites like CovidFaq?

    7: CovidFaq does an excellent job, but it only tackles an extremely narrow sample of questions, wouldn’t you agree?

    8: I’m getting to the point where I might give up my investigation because we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel regarding this pandemic, so by the time that I get answers for my relatives I think that we will be on the way towards being done with this whole pandemic anyway. My investigation was a failure.

    9: Note that I’ve invested hours and hours and hours into my investigation. Can you imagine how much more hopeless someone is who has made no serious effort (and has no relatives who have made the serious effort) to investigate this?

  190. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    My previous comment should say “regarding SCIENCE-communication regarding Covid”. Just a typo. I apologize.

  191. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    One more typo. That should say: “Given that my relatives are being asked to sacrifice (not being able to go to the gym, etc., etc.) DO you think that my relatives deserve answers to their questions?

  192. Joshua says:

    Seatbelts is an intersting parallel.

    Would I say that seatbelts “cause” injuries even if it’s clear that there is net benefit to wearing seat belts? Maybe. Am I being inconsistent? Maybe.

    But seatbelts, I would imagine, for the most part cause a different set of injuries than the type of injuries you get in accidents where people aren’t wearing seatbelts.

    I suppose that interventions may be associated with some harms that you wouldn’t see absent interventions. I’m not sure what they’d be, but I’d guess there are some. But I’d say it’s likely, absent interventions we’d see many of the very same harms (such as unemployment, medical procedures canceled, etc.) occur, only on a larger scale, with less focus on mitigation (such as extended or other financial relief) along with quite a few extremely harmful outcomes that we wouldn’t see happening with interventions.

    Highly speculative of course – and much by way of outcomes and their severity (or even signal if benefit vs. cost) would would necessarily be moderated by precipitating conditions, timing of the interventions, level of compliance, degree to which people change their behaviors similarly both in the presence of and without interventions, locality specific variables (luge mean age, # of people per household) etc.

  193. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > … have been trying to find answers to their questions, and I have failed

    How would you know if you’ve found “answers” to your “relatives'” questions?

  194. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Just take a look at the list of questions that I linked to. I have zero to show them. I’m not saying that any old answer on Reddit from a non-expert would suffice, but I do know for certain that having nothing to show them means that I have failed so far.

  195. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua the deaths/hardships caused by lockdown are different deaths/hardships to those caused by Covid in the absence of lockdown (e.g. someone dying of cancer due to not seeking tests versus someone else dying directly from Covid).

    Not inconsistent, just two ways of looking at the same trade-off where different trade-offs seem more natural in the two cases? They both give the same conclusion, but confusing if we are thinking about it in different frameworks?

  196. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew I have a strange sense of deja-vu. Is that the same Reddit list you posted near the start of the thread. If so you have been given some of the answers and feedback.

  197. dikranmarsupial says:

    But I’ll have a go

    “ 4: If you were to ask my relatives to pollute less and then they asked for evidence that global warming is real (and is a danger), then you could give them material within minutes to answer all of their climate-related questions, right?”

    There is plenty of evidence that Covid is real. There is plenty of evidence on how these sorts of respiratory viruses spread. If you have flu, you don’t go to work and spread it to your colleagues. It is something we all ought to know about already, we just aren’t used to putting it into practice on such a large scale. If people stay apart, transmission will be greatly reduced. Most of this ought to be just common sense.

  198. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    I take this topic (of Covid lockdown-measures) very seriously. Use climate-science as a good comparison: when people tell me that they don’t believe in global warming, consider how high-quality and serious and detailed an expert response that I could get for them; I’m looking for something serious to show my relatives too, although of course I understand that epidemiologists are busy and that this is not climate science and that there’s no IPCC for lockdown-related stuff…I understand all that.

    99% of the questions have not been responded to. The answers that I did see are nowhere near the level of seriousness that would be required to convince my deeply anti-lockdown relatives to start sacrificing in a serious way for the sake of society.

    Consider the IPCC. Consider this site: skepticalscience.com. This lockdown-related stuff is serious. I take this seriously. And my relatives are extremely fervent in their beliefs, so they need serious answers, but even if they weren’t then I would still want to get them serious answers regardless.

    Responding in this thread wouldn’t be the best idea; this thread is not the appropriate place to respond. My hope is to get the attention (somehow) of the people who run CovidFaq.

    Note that I raised 9 points/questions that were all ignored. I would be interested to see what you guys think about those 9 points/questions. For example, is it unfair/unreasonable for me to ask my relatives to sacrifice (regarding lockdown-measures) when I have no detailed/serious/expert answers to show them to their questions?

  199. Andrew,
    I do sympathise, but I don’t really know what more I can say. I’ll have another look at the questions, but I’ve probably provided the best answers I can provide. They may well not be good enough, but I don’t think I can do much better.

  200. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, is there anybody that you know who may in turn know someone at CovidFaq? I think that the best bet is to aim to get CovidFaq to take these questions on one-by-one.

  201. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Note that I raised 9 points/questions that were all ignored.”

    no, I answered one of them (and only five of them invited answers).

  202. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, you are a prominent/excellent/well-connected scientist. Is there not someone you can direct me to who might be able to reach the CovidFaq people?

  203. Andrew,
    I believe that it is run by Stuart Ritchie, who also runs this site, which does have a contact form. The CovidFAQ site also has an email link at the bottom of the main page.

  204. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikranmarsupial, I’m looking for serious engagement from scientists with relevant expertise. I actually have encountered the “this is just common sense” view from a lot of people, and there may be merit to that view. Some people regarding anti-lockdown sentiments as comparable to “Flat Earth” nuttery. I personally don’t regard it that way, but regardless of how you regard these sentiments the issue is that these people (including my relatives) need help. Telling them that it’s “common sense” (however true that may be) does not move the needle.

  205. dikranmarsupial says:

    Supplementary material: Googling for “how does COVID spread” brings this WHO report as the first hit for me.

    How does COVID-19 spread? The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (generated through coughing and sneezing). Individuals can also be infected from and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and touching their face (e.g., eyes, nose, mouth). The COVID-19 virus may survive on surfaces for several hours, but simple disinfectants can kill it.

    If we have a lockdown, then that limits my contact with other peoples “respiratory droplets” and it also means I will be minimising my contact with surfaces that have been in contact with infected people. That is all the information you need to know that lockdown will reduce the spread of COVID.

  206. Andrew,

    Dr. Rice, you are a prominent/excellent/well-connected scientist. Is there not someone you can direct me to who might be able to reach the CovidFaq people?

    I think I’m a lot less prominent/well-connected than you might realise 🙂

  207. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” Some people regarding anti-lockdown sentiments as comparable to “Flat Earth” nuttery.”

    Not me. If you read my posts above you will see that I have some uncertainty about the economics. I’m afraid that we do need to use our ability to use reason to interpret evidence, at least to filter out the “obvious” issues so that we can focus on the difficult questions where the expert’s time and energy is worth expending.

  208. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Telling them that it’s “common sense” (however true that may be) does not move the needle.”

    No, unfortunately some people are not reachable by reasoned arguments or evidence. If we take the climate change question as a comparable situation, I think you will find that reasoned arguments and evidence provided by real experts does not “move the needle” either.

  209. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I seem to hold you in much higher regard than you hold yourself, which is humorous. Anyway, I’m curious about the whole “John Snow memo” that you signed. There are two questions that I have.

    1: You’re one of the signatories on that memo, so does that not mean/suggest/imply that you might have some connections to the various other signatories, many of whom are good bets to be able to engage with the anti-lockdown questions that I have?

    2: What is the ethics of getting experts who don’t have relevant expertise to sign something? You’re obviously a brilliant/excellent scientist, but you’re not an epidemiologist. The reason that I ask is because I raised my eyebrows at the fact that the anti-lockdown “GBD” memo had a Professor of Finance on its list of signatories (who cares what a finance-expert has to say on the matter?) and because I’ve always frowned on the silliness of how climate-denial letters get signed by physicists or biologists or whatever…people who are not climate-scientists and whose opinions are therefore irrelevant to the matter.

  210. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikranmarsupial, my point was simply that SAYING “it’s common sense” without SHOWING them the relevant arguments/evidence is not going to be helpful.

  211. dikranmarsupial says:

    “people who are not climate-scientists and whose opinions are therefore irrelevant to the matter.”

    I think you will find that in most sciences, the scientists involved will have a wide variety of backgrounds. Physics and biology are very relevant to climate science (as are maths, chemistry, statistics, computer science…).

  212. dikranmarsupial says:

    “dikranmarsupial, my point was simply that SAYING “it’s common sense” without SHOWING them the relevant arguments/evidence is not going to be helpful.”

    I have. Do you agree that it is well known that respiratory viruses spread through contact with “respiratory droplets” released when we cough or sneeze (or shout) and by contact with surfaces touched by infected people?

  213. Andrew,

    You’re one of the signatories on that memo, so does that not mean/suggest/imply that you might have some connections to the various other signatories, many of whom are good bets to be able to engage with the anti-lockdown questions that I have?

    I am in contact with some, but not all. They’re all scholars so are as easy to contact as I am.

    What is the ethics of getting experts who don’t have relevant expertise to sign something?

    I was involved in testing the Imperial College epidemological model and was author of paper published in the British Medical Journal that presented the results of our tests. As a result of that, I then made more contacts with epidemiologists and public health experts. The main reason I signed the John Snow Memo was because they did ask for people to help with drafting it and because those leading it were clearly relevant experts.

  214. Willard says:

    > I’m looking for something serious to show my relatives too

    In practice, personal connection works best:

    All Americans are affected by rising political polarization, whether because of a gridlocked Congress or antagonistic holiday dinners. People believe that facts are essential for earning the respect of political adversaries, but our research shows that this belief is wrong. We find that sharing personal experiences about a political issue—especially experiences involving harm—help to foster respect via increased perceptions of rationality. This research provides a straightforward pathway for increasing moral understanding and decreasing political intolerance. These findings also raise questions about how science and society should understand the nature of truth in the era of “fake news.” In moral and political disagreements, everyday people treat subjective experiences as truer than objective facts.

    https://www.pnas.org/content/118/6/e2008389118

    The result should be obvious to any Climateball player: why should one believe someone one distrusts? I know only two answers to this question.

    The first is to know enough on the topic at hand that I can check for myself if the source I distrust is faithful. After a few double checking exercises, if all goes well I might start to trust it more. Wannabe dictators and contrarian megaphones try to undermine that process. Communicators try to bridge that gap.

    The second is to know enough on that person that I start to care about what that source believes. I’m trying to understand both a person I care about while trying to understand the topic. That does not mean I’m taking everything that source tells me for granted. That means I’m predisposed to let that person walk me through their own understanding.

    The first path requires independence. The enquirer can form their beliefs on their own. That requires a lot of background knowledge, enough to know about the topic without having to rely on the source to be inspected. The second path requires connectedness. The enquirer needs to invest in a relationship.

    The first path goes from light to love. The second path goes from love to light. In any case we need Love and Light.

    The model might look overly simplistic. Yet every day Climateball players around the Internetz fail it. Me included: I showed impatience with Gordon, the contrarian with who said “but plant food” and “but trace gas.” In the following exchange, it justified his refusal to listen or care. Not that I minded much: I didn’t owe Gordon anything and it’s obvious that he learned his talking points by rote. Still, I failed to make him work on my “but life” Bingo square. That’s on me.

    All in all, trust seems to matter quite a bit:

  215. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > I have zero to show them.

    There is plenty of information out there, put out by domain experts, related to each and every one of your questions.

  216. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice (and anyone else who’s reading feel free to answer as well of course!):

    1: It’s true that climate science pulls from a million different areas (geology, glaciology, biology, math, atmospheric physics, etc., etc., etc.). Am I wrong to think that only the climate-scientists are relevant, though, because they have the FULL picture?

    2: Consider Freeman Dyson (maybe a misleading thing to bring up, but whatever I’m going to seize upon it regardless). He was a physicist weighing on on climate science. Physics is relevant in some sense (infrared radiation and how it gets trapped by carbon-gases in that atmosphere), but this guy hadn’t a clue about climate-science and he was a climate denier who did a lot of harm. The public ought to have said: “Why should I care about your views, Dr. Dyson, given that you’re not a climate-scientist?” It’s a bit like a molecular biologist weighing in on heart-surgery or something; just because molecular biology is “relevant’ doesn’t mean that it’s at the right “scale” (or whatever) to be genuinely relevant.

    3: I actually agree with dikranmarsupial’s point that there’s a common-sense element to lockdown-measures. One epidemiologist on Reddit told me once that you don’t need data to know that lockdowns work because it’s all “Epidemiology 101” stuff related to the number of “transmission-events” and so on, so you don’t need data to know that it works. If that’s what CovidFaq ends up saying in their response then so be it. It’s not necessarily a bad response, but I’d like to see it in its best form from the most relevant experts. If that’s what they’re going to go with, then OK.

    4: I heard from an excellent source that here’s no evidence that masks work in the sense that there’s no randomized trial to demonstrate that masks worse. Masks are recommended because there’s supposedly no potential downside and a big potential upside so it’s “precautionary-principle 101 stuff”. Note, however, that some of the anti-lockdown questions that I raised were questioning whether masks maybe DO have a downside (e.g., consider heavy-laborers who can’t breathe as well with masks on), so that needs to be addressed.

    5: What do you think about Stuart Ritchie’s book “Science Fictions”? It looks fascinating!

    6: Dr. Rice, can you email me and put me in touch with Ritchie if that’s at all possible? I would be eternally indebted to you. It seems like Ritchie is the person I need to reach if at all possible! 🙂

    7: Dr. Rice, when you sign something then isn’t the whole point that you’re endorsing its content on the basis of your relevant expertise? You said this: “The main reason I signed the John Snow Memo was because they did ask for people to help with drafting it and because those leading it were clearly relevant experts.” I thought that signing X meant to say: “I know this topic well and this memo is solid based on my relevant expertise.”

    8: I have no idea what Willard is trying to communicate, but there is a subset of anti-lockdown (and a subset of climate-deniers) who are actually rational people who are actually open to evidence, but they’re trapped in some kind of bubble. In the case of the climate-deniers, they just need to be de-bubbled. In the case of anti-lockdown people, I don’t even really blame them because the information doesn’t exist, it seems (I’m trying to get CovidFaq to get radically expanded so that the information WILL actually exist). But the point is that there’s a subset of rational people who just need to be shown the evidence and then they’ll change their position. Others are beyond rationality.

  217. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > The answers that I did see are nowhere near the level of seriousness that would be required to convince my deeply anti-lockdown relatives to start sacrificing in a serious way for the sake of society.

    This is an entirely unrealistic standard. It’s like saying you haven’t seen information what would convince Anthony Watts that he was wrong all along and the IPCC is right.

    The scienxe says that “information” will not “convene [your] deeply anti-lockdiwn relatives” that they are wrong w/r/t the answers to any of your questions.

    Just tell your “relatives” that you love them and change the subject.

  218. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    *I heard from an excellent source that here’s no evidence that masks work in the sense that there’s no randomized trial to demonstrate that masks WORK.

  219. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > but there is a subset of anti-lockdown (and a subset of climate-deniers) who are actually rational people who are actually open to evidence.

    I am deeply skeptical of that. What evidence do you have that will convince me that it is true?

  220. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua, see my 8th point in my comment at 4:49PM.

  221. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > *I heard from an excellent source that here’s no evidence that masks work in the sense that there’s no randomized trial to demonstrate that masks WORK.

    It’s simply not true that there’s no evidence from randomized trials to show that masks might reduce transmission (work is too vague a term to be of any use).

    If you’re looking for evidence that proves they prevent all possible transmission, because that’s what’s needed to convince someone to wear a mask, you’re wasting your time.

  222. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > In the case of the climate-deniers, they just need to be de-bubbled.

    You are making an assumption that flies in the face of the science about how to convince people who are deeply skeptical of something, particularly when a political overlay is involved.

  223. Joshua says:

    Andrew

    > . In the case of anti-lockdown people, I don’t even really blame them because the information doesn’t exist,

    The logic of that statement is fascinating – because basically it means that you think that noone who thinks that interventions might be effective, even to some degree, has based their belief on scientific evidence.

    That’s why your *concerns* seem extremely suspect.

  224. Andrew,
    1. I think climate science is so diverse that even climate scientists don’t have the full picture.
    2. People often listen to scientists even when the scientist is talking outside their area of expertise. This isn’t always a good thing.
    4. I believe there are trials of mask use for flu that do illustrate that they reduce the aerosol transmission of the virus. My understanding, though, is that masks mostly help to reduce the chances of the mask wearing transmitting to others, rather than directly helping the mask wearer.
    5. I haven’t looked at Stuart Ritchie’s book.
    6. I don’t know Stuart Ritchie, so I suspect you have as much success as I would. His contact details are public.
    7. I signed it because I agreed with it, what it said was consistent with my understanding of the topic (having spend time working on the models directly and having spent quite a lot of time reviewing papers on the RAMP forum – of which I’m a moderator and admin) and because parts that I wasn’t as familiar with were written by those who were experts and were supported by references that I could check. I don’t regard myself as a domain expert, but I do think I have enough expertise to check claims and to assess if others are presenting views that are consistent with the evidence. I also don’t think it said anything particularly controversial.
    8. It can take some time to work out what Willard is getting at (normally worth the effort) but I think the main point is that information alone is unlikely to be sufficient to convince people to accept a position that they’re pre-disposed to reject. You also probably need that information to come from people they trust.

  225. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua:

    1: There’s no evidence that masks work. See here: https://youtu.be/SLJ-vJG278s?t=1167. That’s Prof. David Fisman, who also signed the John Snow memo alongside Dr. Rice. He’s an absolutely impeccable source and you can look up his credentials.

    2: I know my family-members. They may well be outliers, but they’re not immune to evidence/argument. What “science” tells us how many climate-deniers (or anti-lockdown people) are unreached by evidence/argument?

    3: Do you know skepticalscience.com? Are you telling me that that site is not useful because climate-deniers are beyond the reach of evidence/argument, or…?

  226. Andrew,
    Yes, I know Skeptical Science. Even those associated with Skeptical Science would probably accept that information alone is insufficient. That doesn’t mean that the information isn’t important or that some people won’t be convinced by better information, but I think it is well accepted amongst social scientists that effective communication requires more than simply information (you could look up “deficit model thinking”).

  227. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > 1: There’s no evidence that masks work.

    “Work” is too vague a term to be of any use. There’s plenty of evidence that masks may help to reduce transmission. I’ve already made this arguments and you didn’t respond to them. That suggests you aren’t here in good faith.

  228. Willard says:

    > I have no idea what Willard is trying to communicate

    1. Feigning ignorance has a short shelf life, Andrew.

    2. Either you play the messenger and you play teacher. You can’t switch from one to the next. If you know nothing about COVID, you can’t teach anything to your relatives. Sit that one out.

    3. “But Freeman” echoes a known Climateball move. It belongs to the “But My Guru” Bingo square:

    https://climateball.net/but-my-guru/

    4. You could pretend all you want that Freeman is not your guru, say by invoking relatives who are climate contrarians, you still should own that it is indeed you who are appealing to him right now.

    5. You’re invoking him for the wrong reasons: that Freeman is a physicist is independent from the fact that he’s saying stuff. Expertise does not reduce to honorifics.

    6. You are still JAQing off. Allow me to illustrate.

    7. You say “I heard from an excellent source that here’s no evidence that masks work” – what source?

    8. You say “in the sense that there’s no randomized trial” – do you presume that something only works if there’s a randomized trial?

    9. What would you reply to my close acquaintance who believes that randomized trials would not prove much, for they would not be real-life experiments?

    10. Why have you omitted the fact that randomized trials are controlled?

    11. Need I go on? I just received a DM from a friend who told me I should.

    12. Instead of going in a roundabout way with Freeman Dyson, why not simply ask: on what grounds should the public trust experts?

    13. Better yet: why should the public trust Stuart?

    14. Even better: why would you need to contact Stuart if you don’t trust him?

    15. In a nutshell, who died and made you King of what the Public should think?

    16. Please bear in mind that your refusal to answer these questions can put millions of lives at stake.

    Many thanks!

  229. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > That doesn’t mean that the information isn’t important or that some people won’t be convinced by better information,

    Andrew is putatively looking for information sufficient to convince WUWT denizens. Such information doesn’t exist.

  230. dikranmarsupial says:

    “*I heard from an excellent source that here’s no evidence that masks work in the sense that there’s no randomized trial to demonstrate that masks WORK.”

    what is your excellent source? Citation required.

    How would one perform a randomised trial in a manner that would pass ethics committee? You can’t have a placebo mask, that isn’t going to work, and it would be highly unethical to send someone into a place where they were known to be at significant risk of catching COVID without PPE.

  231. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > 2: […] What “science” tells us how many climate-deniers (or anti-lockdown people) are unreached by evidence/argument?

    If you look, you will see plenty of evidence. Try googling “information deficit model.”

  232. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew If you genuinely want answers to your questions, the best way to get them is to post them one at a time (preferably having thought about the best order first) so each can be discussed in turn. Sometimes when people ask lots of questions at once, it is a Gish Gallop intended to make it difficult to have a productive dialog, sometimes it is just over-eagerness. Few people can hold a rational discussion of more than a handful of questions at the same time. I know I can’t.

  233. dikranmarsupial says:

    “3: Do you know skepticalscience.com? Are you telling me that that site is not useful because climate-deniers are beyond the reach of evidence/argument, or…?”

    climate deniers (your term, not mine) are not the target audience for skepticalscience.com, the target audience is people who want to see whether the claims of “climate skeptics” are valid. It’s for people who are genuinely skeptical (i.e. questioning, but receptive to the answers when given).

  234. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice,

    1: I feel like the particular family-members I’m trying to reach are unusually rational anti-lockdown people. Could be it the case that (say) 10% of anti-lockdown people are rational, and that my relatives happen to fall into that 10% subset?

    2: Is there any science that estimates how big the % of (e.g.) climate-deniers are that just has an “information deficit”? It could be 1% or 10% or 20% or 25%…?

    3: Is my understanding correct that you need to give people information from TRUSTED sources and that you need to make something less politically threatening (e.g., if they work in the hydrocarbon industry and they know that they’re going to have a “just transition” that guarantees they won’t be harmed by the transition to green energy, then once they’re no longer worried about that then they’ll become open to the science because the issue was never the science but instead concern about whether they were going to be harmed financially by a transition to green energy).

  235. dikranmarsupial says:

    “1: There’s no evidence that masks work. See here: https://youtu.be/SLJ-vJG278s?t=1167. That’s Prof. David Fisman, who also signed the John Snow memo alongside Dr. Rice. He’s an absolutely impeccable source and you can look up his credentials. ”

    Before anyone else responds to Andrew again, I suggest clicking on the link and seeing what Prof. Fisman actually said “I’ve been mystified at the reluctance in many parts of Canada to impose mask orders because it doesn’t seem to hurt and what evidence we have is that they may help very much” (about 20:46). [any transcription errors mine].

  236. Willard says:

    > Is my understanding correct that you need to give people information from TRUSTED sources and that you need to make something less politically threatening

    1. For your “particular family-members,” Andrew, it is you who are the source.

    2. The fact that you picked that source for them is what matters.

    3. If you fail to give them a source you trust, you will lose the trust of your “particular family-members.”

    4. If you lose the trust of your “particular family-members,” you might as well provide them with truth machines that it won’t work.

    5. So you better not handwave to sources you distrust.

    6. When you make an intervention with someone in denial, it’s all about how you love them.

    7. To repeat, what you say comes second, what matters is that you tell them.

    8. If you don’t trust Stuart’s, why don’t you try to find another source you would trust?

    9. If you think that you follow a quest that can save lives, why are you here Just Asking Questions?

    10. Who do you think you are kidding, right now?

  237. dikranmarsupial says:

    At least I have the source for the randomised trial thing I think Prof. Fisman was making the point that we can’t hold out for randomised trials for mask-no mask (the reasons seem pretty obvious to me and I gave them earlier).

  238. Andrew,

    1. Of course.

    2. Well, in my experience, the fraction of those who vocally dispute either the existence of AGW, or its significance, and that could be reached through simply providing more information is very close to 0.

    3. I think that’s part of it. Also, if someone doesn’t identify with the source of the information, they’re less likely to trust what they’re being told.

  239. dikranmarsupial says:

    Perhaps I can stop wearing a seat-belt until there is a randomized trial to see if they work? ;o)

  240. Joshua says:

    > until there is a randomized trial to see if they work.

    Assuming by “work” you mean prevent any injury or death under any circumstances.

  241. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    I repeat: There is no evidence that masks work. There’s a path-dependence issue. See here: https://youtu.be/SLJ-vJG278s?t=1167. Listen to his entire answer to the question; don’t cherry-pick some quote from what he’s saying but instead listen to his entire answer. I’m not going to transcribe his answer, but he states it clear as day that (a) there’s no evidence and (b) we have to act without evidence because of the precautionary principle. Please don’t listen to how people in this thread are cherry-picking; listen to his FULL answer for yourself. Listen until he stops talking and the other guy starts talking.

  242. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” “I’ve been mystified at the reluctance in many parts of Canada to impose mask orders because it doesn’t seem to hurt and what evidence we have is that they may help very much

    Your own source.

  243. Here’s an entire article suggesting that we do have evidence that masks work.

  244. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > I repeat: There is no evidence that masks work

    Depending on what you mean by “work” that is simply not true.

    There is evidence that they may help reduce transmission – RCT evidence as well as observational.

    Please define what you mean by “work?”

  245. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    [Mod: Sorry, but if you want people to not make accusations against you, you should do the same yourself. And, yes, I have moderated/deleted comments from others on this thread.]

  246. dikranmarsupial says:

    I agree, that is just what I suggested “Before anyone else responds to Andrew again, I suggest clicking on the link and seeing what Prof. Fisman actually said “

  247. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > I repeat: There is no evidence that masks work

    Depending on what you mean by “work” that is simply not true.

    There is evidence that they may help reduce transmission – RCT evidence as well as observational.

    Please define what you mean by “work?”

  248. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Just listen to what Prof. Fisman said. It’s as clear as day. I have nothing to add to Fisman’s words.

  249. dikranmarsupial says:

    Prof Fisman does say there is no randomised trial. That is not the same as there being no evidence. He did say that analysing the data is difficult, but that isn’t the same as there being no evidence either. I’m happy to be corrected.

  250. Willard says:

    > Just listen to what Prof. Fisman said

    Around 19:00, David endorses (a mild version of) the precautionary principle. He cites the Nailer Commission in support of it. Here is the report:

    https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/reports-publications/learning-sars-renewal-public-health-canada.html

    Around 19:30, David acknowledges that masks seem to work. He concedes that there may be a path dependence. Unless he truly believes that path dependence could work without masks, his concern has little practical use.

    Around 20:00, David says that he strongly support masking from a common sense point of view:

    Now, ask yourself:

    Q1. If masks make sense, why not support them?

    Q2. How can one convince a contrarian that rejects plain common sense?

    Q3. Who is Andrew kidding here?

  251. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    My claim, which was clearly and unambiguously stated, is that there’s no evidence to support the use of masks.

    Prof. Fisman says EXTREMELY clearly that masks are a GREAT example of…? Of what? Anyone who took a listen knows the answer. I will type it up just in case people are unable to listen for some reason:

    “Sometimes we actually have to be able to say you know we’re going to act without evidence based on our best understanding of this system and I think masks is a great example of that.”

    Now I will repeat the quote with a couple words capitalized for emphasis:

    “Sometimes we actually have to be able to say you know we’re going to act WITHOUT EVIDENCE based on our best understanding of this system and I think masks is a great example of that.”

    QED.

    Defense rests.

    Case closed.

  252. Willard says:

    David for the KO:

  253. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > there’s no evidence to support the use of masks.

    That’s simply not true. There’s plenty of evidence to support the use of masks, RCT and observational.

    Since your mind is made up, no evidence woild convince you otherwise.

    Please Google “information deficit model.”

  254. Willard says:

    > My claim, which was clearly and unambiguously stated, is that there’s no evidence to support the use of masks.

    Your claim is mostly irrelevant, Andrew.

    What matters is what you’re trying to make it imply.

    And it’s obvious what you’re trying to make it imply.

    If these tricks work in a court room for you, more power to you.

    But this is Climateball.

    Welcome to Climateball!

  255. Paper in the Lancet from mid-January.

    The widespread reported use of face masks combined with physical distancing increases the odds of SARS-CoV-2 transmission control.

  256. Willard says:

    Perhaps, AT, but:

    Do we have any evidence that masks work for surgeons?

    Where’s our double blind experiment on that?

    Nor do we have double blinds for parachutes:

    Results We were unable to identify any randomised controlled trials of parachute intervention.

    Conclusion As with many interventions intended to prevent ill health, the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomised controlled trials. Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticised the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC300808/

    Uh?

    I see you don’t respond.

    That’s a big tell.

    I rest my case.

  257. Joshua says:

    That’s a keeper, Willard.

  258. dikranmarsupial says:

    Willard – thank you, I needed that! ;o)

  259. Willard says:

    I’ll make what I hope will be two last points.

    The first is that Andrew’s trick looks like a reverse motte-and-bailey. Instead of backpedaling, Andrew doubles down and goes a bridge too far:

    [B] I heard from an excellent source that here’s no evidence that masks work in the sense that there’s no randomized trial to demonstrate that masks worse.

    [M] My claim, which was clearly and unambiguously stated, is that there’s no evidence to support the use of masks.

    Notice how definitive the claim has become. It shifts from “no randomized trial” to “no evidence.” It shifts from “I heard from an excellent source” to “my claim was.” I admit that I might have helped Andrew for owning his claims at long last. Just Asking Questions needs to stop, and at some point we need a showdown of positions.

    Andrew’s trick looks quite clear and unambiguous to me.

    I’ll come back later for the second point.

  260. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Just to respond to what you guys are saying.

    1: I support masking. I find it ABSOLUTELY hilarious that you guys assume that I’m an anti-masker. The entire reason that I got in touch with Dr. Rice is to DEBUNK stuff that (I highly suspect) is a bunch of anti-lockdown nonsense. It is EXTREMELY common (and EXTREMELY exhausting) for people to assume that you’re only pretending to be a Debunker and that you’re in actuality SUPPORTIVE of the views you purport to be trying to debunk, to which I say: “Fine. I don’t care what you think. It’s not worth my time/energy to (somehow) prove your paranoia wrong. Believe it if you want. We both have better things to do than dwell on what my beliefs are about X/Y/Z.”

    2: I was sloppy when I said that there was no “evidence” for masking. That was a sloppy shorthand. It’s like when you say there’s no “evidence” for Jesus’s miracles. Well, TECHNICALLY, there is because there’s testimony from people and that’s a form of evidence, so you have to make sure that you’re not being sloppy. As any person in a courtroom will tell you, witness testimony is absolutely a form of evidence, so you can’t say that there’s “no evidence” of miracles.

    3: More importantly, the Prof. Fisman video is from September, so I guess that a lot of evidence has come out since then. Dr. Rice cites this from mid-January: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landig/article/PIIS2589-7500(20)30293-4/fulltext.

    4: Fisman’s entire point in that September video is that the “precautionary principle” tells us to act when we lack evidence and that masks are a “great example” of the need to act without evidence. That was his overarching point.

  261. “It’s like when you say there’s no “evidence” for Jesus’s miracles. Well, TECHNICALLY, there is because there’s testimony from people and that’s a form of evidence, so you have to make sure that you’re not being sloppy.”

    Actually, there are no direct 1st person accounts (nothing written down during their lifetime when you know who was alive, oral word-of-mouth histories only), otherwise known as hearsay.

  262. dikranmarsupial says:

    There is a century or more of clinical evidence that face masks restrict the spread of viral pathogens.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7309199/

    It isn’t exactly rocket science.

    Dentists wear facemasks as well, pandemic or no pandemic, even when they are just performing a routine check-up.

  263. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Yes, dikranmarsupial, masks do something. How much do they do? Do the benefits (how large are these? what data do we have on this?) outweigh the costs (how large are these? what data do we have on these?).

    Yes, there’s “evidence”, but I think that Fisman’s point made perfect sense.

    Now, a lot has changed since September when Fisman said that, and I so I need to read what Dr. Rice linked: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landig/article/PIIS2589-7500(20)30293-4/fulltext.

  264. dikranmarsupial says:

    Right, so you acknowledge there is evidence, Fisman says wearing a mask causes no harm. So what more do you need? Why is Fisman’s recommendation to use a mask, even just on the basis of the precautionary principle, not sufficient?

  265. dikranmarsupial says:

    As for costs, I bought a pack of reusable 6 face coverings for about £10, haven’t had any problems. I put the health and well being of friends and strangers that I meet well ahead of a one-time outlay of £10, even without a [completely impossible] randomised trial demonstrating their efficacy.

    Some might say covering up my face when out in public has other benefits. I am not willing to dismiss those arguments out-of-hand. A randomised trial of the health impacts of exposure to my face on the citizens of Norwich is probably within the bounds of medical ethics.

  266. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > 2: I was sloppy when I said that there was no “evidence” for masking.

    Thank you. That’s progress. Now we could go through all of your other questions in a similar process as they are all structured in the same way as your “There’s no evidence that masks work.”

    That you repeated multiple times. Even after being prompted to be more careful and precise.

    I said early on that your questions had a certain appearance. If I was wrong that you aren’t actually a…. er… stealth advocate… ok glad to hear it and I apologize.

    Go back and look at your list of questions and see how they could be rephrasesd so as to promote a productive discussion.

  267. Joshua says:

    Ask for masks

    > . How much do they do? Do the benefits (how large are these? what data do we have on this?) outweigh the costs (how large are these? what data do we have on these?)

    There’s evidence that they are effective at reducing transmission. From what I’ve seen it isn’t conclusive, nor can it specify exactly what the benefit is, especially given the variability on how they’re used, what they’re made of, where they’re used, and the rate of community spread in different communities.

    But given the nature of exponential spread, and that one person not transmitting the virus to one person among hundreds in a supermarket can translate into that one person not infecting his pod, and all the people in that pod not transmitting it to other pods, and the lack of likely downside to using them. If someone is demanding proof then you should redirect them to considering what they might be willing to do to help protect their loved ones and their community.

  268. Willard says:

    > I find it ABSOLUTELY hilarious that you guys assume that I’m an anti-masker.

    A quote to support that claim might be nice. Here’s evidence to the contrary:

    None of your questions were basic, Andrew. In fact, most of them were leading questions. Back in my days, lawyers knew when they were asking leading questions.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/anti-virus/#comment-187740

    That was three days ago. Asking leading questions can lead to Just Asking Questions, or JAQing off. Here’s why it’s relevant

    The [Guy Who Raises Concerns] is also found in the climate debate among people who show up saying that they themselves believe in global warming and also believe that human emissions of greenhouse gases are to blame, but do not understand certain things. And then, by and by, the classic objections of the denialist scene emerge one after another. It is difficult to ascertain the motives of others on the Internet because they have to be inferred indirectly. Thus, it can be difficult circumstances to separate a real skeptic who wants to deal with a few issues from the [Guy Who Raises Concerns]. A true skeptic will be satisfied with answers, a [Guy Who Raises Concerns] never. It can be irritating for the casual reader when an experienced person recognizes and attacks a [Guy Who Raises Concerns] after one or two comments, because in the opinion of the naive reader the [Guy Who Raises Concerns] had justified doubts that one should have dealt with politely. The polite answer, of course, ultimately wastes time that could be spent more productively and that thievery is a [Guy Who Raises Concerns] goal.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2010/02/betroffenheitstroll.html

    It’d be absurd to suppose that someone who’s raising concerns takes position against the established viewpoint. For why would he raise concerns in the first place? Lives are at stake. Andrew’s here to help save lives. We’re all on the same side, except perhaps for Grandma Killer.

  269. Willard says:

    While Andrew’s misrepresentation moves to another goalpost that might deserve due diligence, I’d rather close off with the second promised point, which I’m tempted to call arguing by denial. Arguing by denial, in a nutshell, works by asserting a negation. Take Andrew’s claims:

    [A1] I heard from an excellent source that [t]here’s no evidence that masks work in the sense that there’s no randomized trial to demonstrate that masks works.

    [A2] There’s no evidence that masks work.

    [A3] I repeat: There is no evidence that masks work. There’s a path-dependence issue.

    [A4] I’m not going to transcribe his answer, but he states it clear as day that (a) there’s no evidence and (b) we have to act without evidence because of the precautionary principle.

    [A5] My claim, which was clearly and unambiguously stated, is that there’s no evidence to support the use of masks.

    All these claims vary a bit. Their variations are interesting (A4a is false, see below) but I’d rather underline their common denominator: an assertion that something is not the case, i.e. that there is no evidence of such and such.

    I’m tempted to think that this is a key contrarian technique. It’s easy to say that there’s no evidence of AGW, that there’s no evidence that AGW will be bad (as if future evidence was a thing), or else.

    Basic incredulity that often shifts the burden of proof.

    ***

    Now, how could Andrew support such a claim? He could survey everything that has been done in the area. He could create an experiment that settles the issue once and for all. He could defer to authorities that do one or the other. In this instance, he defers to David, who seems to do a bit of both. But notice that David does not say we don’t have any evidence:

    What he says is that we’ll never have firm evidence in the form of a random control trial. (He does mention an RCT in healthcare, however.) He also says that to isolate the effects of masking on a population where policies and norms change is very difficult. None of what David says implies that there is no evidence simpliciter. What his message implies, however, is that it would be silly to expect that we meet one day what appears to be an impossible demand.

    At the very end, David fumbles the communication ball when he says (22:07) we have to act without evidence based on our best understanding. What he should mean by that (had he really studied the precautionary principle) is that we don’t have incontrovertible or direct evidence. If we had no evidence whatsoever, that would imply that our best understanding is evidence free. From precaution anything follows. That’d be silly.

    Furthermore, that’d be false, for we have all kinds of evidence regarding disease transmission since at least Simmelweis:

    Semmelweis studied the pathologist’s symptoms and realized the pathologist died from the same thing as the women he had autopsied. This was a revelation: Childbed fever wasn’t something only women in childbirth got sick from. It was something other people in the hospital could get sick from as well.

    But it still didn’t answer Semmelweis’ original question: “Why were more women dying from childbed fever in the doctors’ clinic than in the midwives’ clinic?”

    Duffin says the death of the pathologist offered him a clue.

    “The big difference between the doctors’ ward and the midwives’ ward is that the doctors were doing autopsies and the midwives weren’t,” she says.

    So Semmelweis hypothesized that there were cadaverous particles, little pieces of corpse, that students were getting on their hands from the cadavers they dissected. And when they delivered the babies, these particles would get inside the women who would develop the disease and die.

    If Semmelweis’ hypothesis was correct, getting rid of those cadaverous particles should cut down on the death rate from childbed fever.

    So he ordered his medical staff to start cleaning their hands and instruments not just with soap but with a chlorine solution. Chlorine, as we know today, is about the best disinfectant there is. Semmelweis didn’t know anything about germs. He chose the chlorine because he thought it would be the best way to get rid of any smell left behind by those little bits of corpse.

    And when he imposed this, the rate of childbed fever fell dramatically.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/01/12/375663920/the-doctor-who-championed-hand-washing-and-saved-women-s-lives

    Consider the three rules we’ve seen emerge: wash your hands, wear masks, keep your distance. All these rules are tried and true. We already have evidence they work. For a long time now, even before we knew anything about germs and viruses, in fact before we even had a modern concept of evidence.

    Anyway. I think it’s time to move away from the horse.

  270. Willard says:

    Ah, what the hell. One very last:

    A total of 19 randomised controlled trials were included in this study – 8 in community settings, 6 in healthcare settings and 5 as source control. Most of these randomised controlled trials used different interventions and outcome measures. In the community, masks appeared to be effective with and without hand hygiene, and both together are more protective. Randomised controlled trials in health care workers showed that respirators, if worn continually during a shift, were effective but not if worn intermittently. Medical masks were not effective, and cloth masks even less effective. When used by sick patients randomised controlled trials suggested protection of well contacts.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7191274/

    Vintage april 2020.

    This took me ten seconds. It’s the first hit for “effectiveness of masks virus transmission random control trial” in a search engine.

    We are getting played, folks.

  271. Joshua says:

    Who’s getting played?

  272. Willard says:

    *Checks the definition of _getting played_*.

    Good point.

  273. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    I just encourage you guys to listen to what Fisman said. He has a point. Human communication involves context and making actual point and so on. If you were to put Fisman’s full quote on a reading-comprehension test and ask students to paraphrase/summarize the point it would be very clear what point he was making.

    If there were randomized trials, and he was wrong, then write to him and explain why he was wrong. He’s no slouch in the field, so I’m surprised that he was wrong on this, if indeed he was.

    He mentioned the “path-dependence” issue, but if that’s not a problem for the stuff that you cite then he was presumably incorrect. How? I have no idea. But he should be informed of his error, especially if it’s something that you can find on google in 10 seconds or whatever.

    All of this weirdness (I apologize, but it really is weird) where people assume that I’m somehow supportive of certain beliefs…it’s just odd. It’s an internet thing, I get it. But, yeah. I don’t really know what to say. I have no interest in making a 10 minute YouTube video so that you guys can gauge from my facial expressions and tone of voice and eye contact that I do not hold these various beliefs. Without doing the video, you have no way to gauge how sincere I am when I tell you that you are bizarrely incorrect about my views. Why you should care about my views is beyond me, so I’ll drop it. We all have better things to do than worry about my views.

  274. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    I was definitely sloppy in my wording. I apologize for that. There is “evidence” of some sort for masking before you even look at the studies. I used the analogy of debates between atheists and Christians. Atheists will sloppily say that there’s no evidence for Jesus or whatever…it’s a shorthand. Of course there’s evidence: testimony is evidence, as any legally-savvy person who’s been in a courtroom knows. So it’s just sloppy wording. I apologize for being sloppy.

  275. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I’m going to contact Stuart Ritchie now. Fingers crossed! Hopefully I’m able to get in touch with him. I’m REALLY hoping that he responses.

    My ACTUAL views on lockdowns/masks/etc. are very much the same as yours, and very much the same as everyone’s in this forum. I’m just flabbergasted at how hard it is to get basic info, in striking contrast to the situation regarding how easy it is to go on google on debunk climate-denial.

  276. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    *how easy it is to go on google AND debunk climate-denial.

  277. Joshua says:

    Andrew ->

  278. Joshua says:

    Oops.

    Andrew –

    > All of this weirdness (I apologize, but it really is weird) where people assume that I’m somehow supportive of certain beliefs…it’s just odd.

    I don’t think it’s odd at all. It was very predictable. If you didn’t want people to get a certain impression, you could have adopted a different approach in your communication style. I told you early on that the way you were communicating promoted certain impression.

    You repeated your assertion of “no evidence.” You did so even when called on it. You finally acknowledged that problem, and then downolayws the significance and effectively offered an excuse. You don’t answer questions even as you pose many of them.

    That’s just one example. Each of your questions contained a similarly problematic approach. Go back and look and try to deconstruct the problem. Read what Willard posted that describes what a “concern tr*ll” looks like and then compare that what you communicated. The “I’m asking for a friend” is a classic “concern tr*ll” framing.

  279. Joshua says:

    He’s a good example. You keep saying this:

    >… how hard it is to get basic info.

    It’s not true. It’s not difficult at all to get basic info.

    Just like it isn’t true that there’s “no evidence” that masks work. Don’t keep repeating false statements if you want people to engage with you.

  280. Joshua says:

    Andrew –
    Compare and contrast:

    > I was definitely sloppy in my wording. I apologize for that.

    And

    >> That was a sloppy shorthand. It’s like when you say there’s no “evidence” for Jesus’s miracles. Well, TECHNICALLY, there is because there’s testimony from people and that’s a form of evidence, so you have to make sure that you’re not being sloppy.

    It wasn’t just a technicality. It was fundamentally wrong. Don’t say something was “definitely sloppy” and then offer a lame excuse that your being wrong was just a technicality

    >> My claim, which was clearly and unambiguously stated, is that there’s no evidence to support the use of masks.

    Your (repeated) claim was false.

    Own it.

  281. Steven Mosher says:

    dumb burning questions
    can you name at least 3 measures that you would consider as going too far in fighting Covid?

    this is one of the so callled burning questions.
    its both too easy and irrelevant like most skeptical challenges

  282. dikranmarsupial says:

    Burning witches. It didn’t help with the Black Death either (or the other forms of sexist/racist/religiously intolerant scapegoating that went on at the time).

    [“ha ha only joking” dumb burning answer not meant seriously, except as an example that people are often deeply irrational when faced with dificulties]

  283. dikranmarsupial says:

    Willard says: February 3, 2021 at 10:23 pm:


    This took me ten seconds. It’s the first hit for “effectiveness of masks virus transmission random control trial” in a search engine.

    Andrew J Van Wagner says: February 3, 2021 at 10:59 pm

    I’m just flabbergasted at how hard it is to get basic info, in striking contrast to the situation regarding how easy it is to go on google on debunk climate-denial.

    seem pretty similar then… Oddly enough, the WHO report that I found was the first hit on the obvious google query.

  284. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Hey guys. I just want to have a fresh start with you guys. Is that at at all possible?

    1: I have autism. I’m eccentric. I’m weird. I get it. But every time I investigate any topic (lockdowns, political topics, whatever) I get insane amounts of heat on the internet for being a concern-troll. I’m a left-wing person. I have a lot of right-wing family-members I engage in political discussions with. As a result, I’m often “asking for a friend” (I don’t usually specify that they’re a family-member because who cares and that’s too much information). Then inevitably people call me a concern-troll and put “friend” in quotes and say that I’m ventriloquizing an imaginary friend with my own beliefs/views/questions/whatever. What is the solution for me to ensure that I never face such accusations again? There must a neurotypical way to write letters that doesn’t raise people’s suspicions.

    2: Can I be perfectly frank? The world is burning around us. There are urgent crises everywhere we look. Are Andrew’s views on X/Y/Z in the top 10,000 list of humanity’s problems? Why do you guys (or anyone in the world) give a toothpick on a mountain whether I’m ventriloquizing an imaginary friend or just asking for a friend? Does Dr. Rice care? I highly doubt that the question “What are Andrew’s true beliefs?” has ever entered Dr. Rice’s mind. Busy/serious/moral people don’t waste time on such shameful trivialities as what some dude on an internet forum believes. It’s gross. It’s silly. It’s dumb. Internet culture is a cesspool.

    3: Who knows if I’m even a man? I could be a woman! I could be literally anyone because the internet is anonymous. Come on, guys. The world has a lot of crazy stuff happening, we all have better things to do than to dwell on this. Plus, even if we lived in a sustainable utopia then there STILL would no no good reason to care about such ridiculously irrelevant things.

  285. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I’m going to contact this Stuart Ritchie guy and try to get him to expand CovidFAQ. Stuart Ritchie is a solid expert, right?

    Someone in this thread asked “Better yet: why should the public trust Stuart?” and I don’t know the answer to that question, nor do I know why the person was asking it and whether it was a rhetorical question or an expression of genuine skepticism regarding Ritchie’s credentials.

  286. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Hey guys. I just want to have a fresh start with you guys. Is that at at all possible? ”

    It is always fine with me. However I do require that you give a constructive answer to my questions as a productive discussion is unlikely if that does not happen. Similarly, rather than raising multiple questions at once, ask them one at a time, leaving time for discussion to run its course before asking the next one.

    “1: I have autism.”

    Understood. I have familiarity with the issues that raises.

  287. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Now I’m genuinely scared that my autism is going to cause me to screw up my letter to Dr. Ritchie. Any advice from you guys on how I should write this letter? I don’t want him to think that I’m a “troll” or whatever like you guys did. Should I give a long explanation of my background and my views, instead of being terse and to-the-point in a way that leaves ambiguity as to my background/views?

  288. Andrew,
    I don’t think I’m the best person to give advice. I haven’t always succeeded in having constructive email exchanges about controversial topics. My only suggestion is that sometimes one has to accept an answer even if it doesn’t seem that it fully addresses the question. This is a complex topic, and sometimes there just aren’t easy answers to questions.

  289. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikranmarsupial, let me try to clear up the difficulties that we were having.

    1: If Fisman (he is a MAJOR PUBLIC VOICE on epidemiology in Canada) was wrong about the lack of evidence regarding masks, then shouldn’t Fisman be alerted to his error?

    2: Lack of evidence is ALWAYS going to be a shorthand. Of COURSE there’s SOME “evidence” for masks in the sense that we know that they block droplets. I get that. I meant something MORE than that, and I was being sloppy. Remember Fisman’s point: that masks are a “great example” of the need to act without evidence in accordance with the precautionary principle.

    3: If “randomized trial that eliminates Fisman’s point about path-dependence” is too high a standard of what constitutes “evidence”, then I apologize for having too high a standard. Fisman evidently doesn’t regard it as too high a standard, but maybe he was wrong to set the bar for “evidence” so high. I don’t know where the bar is normally set in a public-health context for matters like this.

  290. dikranmarsupial says:

    My email address is dikranmarsupial@gmail.com I’d be happy to provide feedback on a draft of the letter.

    My advice would be to avoid discussion of peoples motivations and stick to the technical/medical/scientific questions. The answers to those questions don’t depend on anybodies motivations and are much easier to answer properly if posed that way.

  291. Andrew,
    I would surprised if David Fisman doesn’t realise that there is evidence to support mask wearing. Either he had a very high bar for evidence, or he was just simplying things given the context of the discussion. As someone who has done some public communication of science, you do end up having to simply what you’re saying, either because of the audience, or because you simply don’t have the time to go into all the details.

  292. Andrew,
    You should maybe listen again to what David Fisman actually said. He did say that regions where mask wearing is common do better in terms of controlling the spread, but highlighted that it’s hard to disentangle if this is because they wear masks, or because these are also regions that have also complied with other interventions and have implemented them early. He then said that, because of this, it’s hard to determine the strength of the evidence that supports mask wearing. So, he didn’t say there’s no evidence, he was suggesting that there are confounding factors that make it challenging to really constrain the evidence.

  293. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, thanks. I’m not sure how to frame things regarding Ritchie. Should I explain my true feelings, namely that there’s an urgent need to bridge various gaps in communication regarding lockdowns and that people are presumably dying as a result of the scientific silence on this? Is that too accusatory/melodramatic to bring up?

  294. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr Rice, I have consistently made clear what Fisman’s point was about “path-dependence”. That’s the issue of disentangling that you’re talking about, correct?

  295. dikranmarsupial says:

    Fisman was using indirect language in a mildly humerous way, assuming his audience would understand why a randomized trial for mask-versus-no mask is never going to take place. It was however a rather subtle form of humour and easily missed (Willard’s journal paper about randomised trials of parachutes makes the same joke but in a far more obvious form – it is quite a funny paper).

    A randomised trial is impossible in this case for two reasons. In a normal randomised double-blind trial, the subjects can be given a placebo or the real drug, and neither they, nor the researchers know which the patient has been given. That won’t work in this case as both the patient and the researcher can see whether they are wearing a mask or not. We would then have to factor in behavioural differences because people will naturally behave differently if they know they have no protection than if they think they do.

    It would also require sending the volunteers into an environment with a possibly deadly pathogen without any protective equipment in the “no mask” case, and that would be unethical. Even if someone volunteered to accept that risk, I doubt the hospital ethics panel would allow it, given that 100 years of medical practice has demonstrated the value of masks already. A trial comparing two different forms of mask is fine, as we don’t know if there is a measurable difference between the two forms, so it is worth the risk of the experiment.

    Dr Fisman knows this, and he is assuming that his audience knows this as well, and is making the talk a bit more entertaining by making a little joke about it. A *very* small joke.

  296. dikranmarsupial says:

    “dikran, thanks. I’m not sure how to frame things regarding Ritchie.”

    I would just say that you need medical and scientific information in order to help advise others who are reluctant to take measures such as mask-wearing or lockdowns, and then just ask the questions. Most academics are quite happy to answer technical questions without a lot of background motivation.

  297. Andrew,

    Dr Rice, I have consistently made clear what Fisman’s point was about “path-dependence”. That’s the issue of disentangling that you’re talking about, correct?

    I’m not sure it is all about “path-dependence” (although maybe I misunderstand what this means). I think the point is more that when you’re trying to establish causility in an environmental where you can’t really run controlled experiments, it can be difficult to disentangle the actual causal factors (is it mask wearing, is it acting early, is it social distancing, is it a combination of everything and, if so, what are the individual effects, etc). People do try to analyse this using some kind of model fitting (Bayesian inference, for example) but this is still challenging.

  298. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, Fisman strikes me as an extremely serious/responsible/careful communicator. Making jokes about EVIDENCE FOR MASKS (!!!!!!!!!) in a public forum is just totally out of character for a serious/responsible/careful communicator.

    I don’t know the man, but I’m just sharing my skepticism.

  299. Where in the video does he make the “joke”?

  300. dikranmarsupial says:

    Perhaps “joke” is overstating it, the point is that he wasn’t seriously suggesting the need for a randomised mask-no-mask trial, and it was perhaps a subtle use of irony. I know from experience that this sort of subtle language use is difficult to pick up if you have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and I know that they are very frequently used in research talks, which otherwise tend to be rather dull.

    As I said, if you want answers to technical questions, avoid considering peoples motivations (especially negative motivations). They are irrelevant to the technical answer and only impede the discussion. I know it can be difficult not to think about peoples motivations, but it really is better if you try not to (or at least try to look for positive motivations, you will be right more often than wrong).

  301. Okay, I think I’ve found it. I don’t know if he was joking, but I do think he was suggesting something similar to what Dikran was suggesting. You can’t do a randomised control trial on mask wearing versus not mask wearing, partly because it would be obvious who would be in each group, and also because there is almost certainly (in most cases) no harm to wearing masks, so asking one group to put themselves at risk to test something that probably isn’t worth really testing doesn’t make much ethical sense. On the other hand, doing such a trial to compare masks if you really don’t know the difference between them, might be possible and may well make sense.

  302. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, isn’t Fisman totally clear that the problem (“path-dependence”) is that you don’t know if the correlation between masks and better outcomes is due to mask-wearing as opposed to being due to the fact that these people are evidently cautious people who are doing a variety of things to combat the spread of the virus? Careful people wear masks, so we don’t know if carefulness (in its various manifestations) is leading to the better results, or whether masks are.

    There’s no joke, AFAICT. And Fisman is a serious/responsible/careful communicator, so you wouldn’t expect jokes on such a gravely serious topic.

  303. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice (and everyone else on this forum), how important do you guys consider politeness/respectfulness/courteousness to be? I know a person who’s anti-lockdown. I’m going to be blunt/honest/frank: there’s no way that I can in good conscience recommend that he jump into this thread and engage with you guys because it’s just not a polite/respectful/courteous forum and I feel like there would be an avalanche of snark/sass/sarcasm if he jumped into this thread.

  304. Andrew,
    I wasn’t sure what you meant by path-dependence, but – yes – what you describe is indeed the problem (it’s hard to disentangle the effect of mask wearing when many other factors could also be having an effect). However, if you listen further, he does talk about examples where it does seem that masks are having an effect (introduced at different times in Germany, his own work in Canada) and that it is well known that masks limit the spread of droplets/aerosols. In these kind of circumstances it can be difficult to produce definitive evidence, but it does seem that the balance of evidence is that masks do help to limit the spread of the virus.

    FWIW, I don’t think that whether or not he was trying to be amusing is all that big a deal.

  305. Andrew,

    Dr. Rice (and everyone else on this forum), how important do you guys consider politeness/respectfulness/courteousness to be? I know a person who’s anti-lockdown. I’m going to be blunt/honest/frank: there’s no way that I can in good conscience recommend that he jump into this thread and engage with you guys because it’s just not a polite/respectful/courteous forum and I feel like there would be an avalanche of snark/sass/sarcasm if he jumped into this thread.

    A bit ironic, maybe?

    I really don’t know how to answer the above. If you think this forum isn’t polite/respectful/couteous then that’s a bit of a pity.

  306. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice,

    1: I’m also confused about what “path-dependence” has to do with the matter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Path_dependence.

    2: It seems to be a simple matter of a “third variable” (not sure the correct term) in which a third factor (carefulness?) is causing both mask-use to be high and infections/hospitalizations/deaths to be low.

    3: On this issue of masks, I will ask Ritchie to include a section on masks if he can.

  307. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew

    Dr. Rice, isn’t Fisman totally clear that the problem (“path-dependence”) is that you don’t know if the correlation between masks and better outcomes is due to mask-wearing as opposed to being due to the fact that these people are evidently cautious people who are doing a variety of things to combat the spread of the virus? Careful people wear masks, so we don’t know if carefulness (in its various manifestations) is leading to the better results, or whether masks are.

    It isn’t a matter of whether it is mask-wearing or behaviour. It isn’t a binary choice, both will be a factor, and even a randomised trial will not distinguish unambiguously between the two without actually monitoring the behaviour so that the statistical analysis can control for it.

    I note that you still have not answered my question that I stated was a pre-condition to my continued participation.

  308. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, do you not think that Willard (for example) would bury my friend’s inquiries under an avalanche of snark/sass/sarcasm if I got my friend to jump into this thread? Let me know if my concerns are unfounded. I know from experience that my friend doesn’t like it when people are “condescending” to him; i.e., when people aren’t polite/respectful/courteous and are instead snarky/sassy/sarcastic.

    Dr. Rice, would you agree that everyone familiar with (e.g.) climate denial (or any other issue of information deficit) knows that being “condescending” (or snarky/sassy/sarcastic) is the fastest way to make someone’s mind close down and to turn an open-minded person into a closed-minded one?

  309. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew “Dr. Rice (and everyone else on this forum), how important do you guys consider politeness/respectfulness/courteousness to be? ”

    you made some pretty unpleasant comments about me upthread (that I think have since been moderated), yet I am still willing to talk politely to you.

    As I said, my advice is to stop focusing on peoples motivations and stick to the scientific/medical content.

  310. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran,

    “Right, so you acknowledge there is evidence, Fisman says wearing a mask causes no harm. So what more do you need? Why is Fisman’s recommendation to use a mask, even just on the basis of the precautionary principle, not sufficient?”

    It’s absolutely 100% sufficient. I concur completely with Fisman. I’m enthusiastically pro-mask.

    As for legally imposed mandates, I don’t think that they’re LEGAL, so that’s a big issue. E.g., in the United States, Biden has mandated masks on federal property but he has no power to go beyond that. I don’t know what the individual states (as opposed to the feds) are legally able to do.

  311. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran,

    I don’t think that I disagree with a single belief that you (or anyone in this thread) holds. Yet look at the friction that occurred.

    Imagine that my friend comes on here, who actually IS a fervently anti-lockdown person…

  312. dikranmarsupial says:

    Good, so if Fismans recommendation on the grounds of the precautionary principle is 100% sufficient, why do we need a randomised trial?

  313. Andrew,
    I understand your concern about your friend, but maybe we can bring a halt to discussion about the tone of the comments. Technically, one of my moderation policies is that we don’t discuss moderation.

  314. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran,

    We don’t need a randomized trial. The question was not: “Should we push masks?” It was: “Is there EVIDENCE for masks?” Two totally separate questions, which was Fisman’s entire POINT. His entire POINT was: “Masks should be advocated, even though no evidence for masks.”

  315. Willard says:

    > His entire POINT was: “Masks should be advocated, even though no evidence for masks.”

    Come on, Andrew.

    You yourself admitted this was false.

    You’re just peddling crap.

    Cut it out.

  316. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Alright, let’s have a fresh start. I apologize for all of my previous conduct.

    dikran, I retract my accusation against you (which was moderated), and I apologize for being unfair/inaccurate/off-base in my accusation. I fully retract it. You’re right. I was getting frustrated because I thought that Fisman’s very simple point was being concealed via the process of careful cherry-picking of Fisman’s comment. I apologize for saying something totally off-based in my moment of frustration there. I now understand that Fisman’s comments were more nuanced/subtle than my rigid interpretation. I retract that, and I apologize.

    dikran, you’re 100% correct that I should stick 100% to content and stop worrying about people’s motivations.

    Willard, you’re right. I need to stop saying “no evidence’. It’s beyond sloppy, and it’s been pointed out to me (and even acknowledged by me) multiple times in this thread. I retract that, I apologize.

    Dr. Rice, I apologize for accusing you or anyone else of a counterproductive/bad tone. That was extremely hypocritical/rude/unfair of me.

  317. dikranmarsupial says:

    [Retracted comment. -W]

  318. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Is there anything else that merits retraction/apology from me? I assure you guys that I’m not deliberately misunderstanding/misrepresenting you guys. I genuinely have a mental problem. It’s not intentional.

  319. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew no problem. I’d still be happy to read a draft of the letter if it would help.

    mods: feel free to delete my previous post as the issue had been resolved while I was writing it.

  320. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, you’re right. I understand. I think that he just meant “evidence” in a very “high-bar for what constitutes evidence” way. That’s my bet as to what he meant.

    You’re right, though. I apologize for my error. I will be more careful.

  321. Andrew,
    It’s not a problem. Thanks.

  322. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Thanks.

    I appreciate the information/engagement from you guys.

    I hope that you guys accept my sincere retractions/apologies.

    If there’s anything else to be apologized for and retracted, then please let me know. :))

  323. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice (and others), can you give me feedback on my draft below?

    Dear Dr. Stuart Ritchie,

    I have tremendous admiration/respect for you, for your amazing work, for excellent new book (“Science Fictions”) that I just ordered, and for your amazing website CovidFAQ. Keep up the amazing work. Science-communication could not be a more important thing in today’s world.

    I myself am very “left-wing” (I guess that you could say, at least by US standards), but many of my family-members aren’t and so we often have heated (but very productive) discussions about global warming and things like that. I’ve noticed that on global warming there is an absolute wealth of information that’s available to the public, and I can get answers to my family-members’ questions within minutes. I even email with leading climate-scientists all the time, and they send me scientific papers and link me to the relevant parts of the IPCC report, and so on, It’s wonderful.

    On the matter of lockdowns, it’s much more challenging, and your CovidFAQ site is by far the best and most excellent and most useful resource that I’ve seen on lockdown-related issues. CovidFAQ is absolutely stellar in all respects.

    My proposal is to expand CovidFAQ to include many of the burning questions that people (like the lockdown-skeptics I interact with) keep asking. I feel that addressing all of these questions is crucial because they have many questions that are not engaged with anywhere, included on your excellent CovidFAQ site.

    Here is just a sample of the burning questions that lockdown-skeptics have: https://www.reddit.com/r/postanything/comments/l588lu/any_covid_questions_post_some_questions_in_the/. I created that Reddit post that I just linked. I surveyed a bunch of lockdown-skeptics on an internet forum and gathered together all of their questions into the bullet-point list.

    Lockdown-skeptics also have responses to CovidFAQ that seem to merit engagement. Let me know if you’re interested because I can direct you to these responses.

    The five questions below come from someone I know, so they’re the highest-priority questions in my view!

    There are some anti-lockdown people who are not reachable by argument/evidence, but there are also (in my humble experience, anyway) some who are surprisingly rational and are merely operating on an “information deficit”.

    I know that there is a philosophy that engagement is bad because it merely spreads disinformation, but I would argue that many people can be reached by engagement and so it’s extremely worthwhile. There are diminishing returns, of course, so you can’t go back and forth forever or else you will not be using your time/energy effectively.

    Thanks so much!

    Sincerely,
    AVW

    1. Why is there little to no correlation between lockdowns and death rates for given areas? Could it be that the collective health of an area is more of a factor in how it’s affected by the virus than government policy?

    2. How do you justify lockdowns when you’re intentionally driving up unemployment, exacerbating inequality, creating more mental health issues, delaying non-elective surgeries that could lead to even more deaths, and increasing drug overdoses? At what point does the collateral damage outweigh lockdown provisions over a virus with a 99.6% survival rate?

    3. Given that many countries have had some form of lockdown for 10 months, and no country has effectively reduced cases to zero (even New Zealand has had cases pop up again), at what point do you just admit the virus is here to stay and let people live their lives?

    4. Why are Croatia, Iowa and South Dakota numbers all decreasing despite no lockdowns the past 4 months?

    5. Why should we trust public health officials when they have consistently broken the rules that they have tried to impose on the general population?

  324. Andrew,
    If it was me (and it obviously isn’t) I would take out the first two paragraphs (the first one sounds like you’re trying to butter him up, and the second seems like you’re trying to convince him of your earnestness, which shouldn’t be necessary if you really are).

    Rather than proposing on expanding the CovidFAQ site, I would simply ask if there are plans to expand the site and point out that you’ve come across various question that you thing might be worth addressing.

    Also, I would argue that some of your questions make claims that may not be correct. Is 1 really true? 2. Why should Stuart Ritchie justify lockdowns, he didn’t impose them. You could reframe it as “How are lockdowns justified”. 3. This seems to be an impossible expectation argument. New Zealand may not have reduced to absolute zero, but they’ve got it pretty close, have been able to rapidly contain outbreaks, and are mostly back to almost normal. 4. I don’t know if Stuart Ritchie will be able to answer questions about specific US states. 5. This may be badly received, given that what you probably mean is that a tiny number of public health officials have broken the rules, rather than it become a common occurence amongst public health officials.

  325. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew, I would not use most of the background material that forms the body of the letter and focus on the questions at the end (I’d move those into the body of the letter). That is the important bit, so it needs to be in a prominant place in the letter where it will stand the least chance of being overlooked.

    Short letters are much better than long ones for most academics. They tend to be very busy, and don’t mind very direct requests for information where they can concentrate quickly on providing the answers.

    If you do put in a lot of personal background motivation, then make that the postscript.

    I wouldn’t bother with question 5 as it is not a scientific question, but one of human nature. We all fail to live up to even our own expectations (well done to anyone for whom that doesn’t apply), and we should be reasonably forgiving of other peoples failure to live up to their own good advice. What really matters is whether the advice is good advice.

    In the UK I don’t think it is true that public health officials have consistently broken the rules. I can vaguely recall of one such incident, but I seem to recall they resigned. I haven’t followed this particular aspect of it, but I don’t think there has been any such complaint against e.g. Chris Witty. Of course public health officials following their own advice is not news worthy, so generally you will only hear about those who don’t follow their advice, and that will result in a biased impression of the actual situation.

  326. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice and dikran,

    Thanks for the FANTASTIC input. This is VERY valuable to me. :))

    1: I know about the “buttering them up” thing, but sometimes it WORKS, so it’s tough to make the call. And it’s sincere; I really do love science-communicators for their excellent contributions, so it’s not insincere. It’s a tough call. I will remove that “buttering him up” part, though.

    2: I always feel a need to insist that I’m “left-wing” because people always think that I’m RIGHT-wing. Should I just say nothing on that front and hope that I’m not suspected of being right-wing? Or should I lie and say that I’m right-wing so that he doesn’t think that I’m tricking him (even though I AM left-wing)? I never know what to do. I feel like I’m in a witch-trial all the time (on the internet) and that I need to “confess” (falsely) to being a witch before I get drowned or something. It’s so tricky. 😦

    3: I will make sure not to “propose” anything and instead to just ask about any plans for expansion (and suggest questions to add).

    4: I will keep it short and move the questions into the body.

  327. dikranmarsupial says:

    I also agree with what ATTP says about the first two paragraphs, effusive praise often comes across as insincere, especially in the UK., which is culturally rather reserved about that sort of thing (even in the 21st century).

    Also the starting assumption will be that you are asking the questions in good-faith, so you don’t need to justify yourself from the start.

  328. Andrew,
    I wouldn’t worry about being seen as right-wing, versus left-wing. There’s less political polarisation in the UK than in the US, and most people won’t really care. Also left-wing in the US is probably right-wing in the UK (that’s a joke, in case that isn’t clear 🙂 ).

  329. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    What do you guys think about this second draft? :))

    Dear Dr. Stuart Ritchie,

    I hope that all is well.

    Scientists are extremely busy during this pandemic, so it can be challenging to get answers to lockdown-related questions. Your CovidFAQ site is by far the best and most excellent and most useful resource that I’ve seen on lockdown-related issues.

    Are there any plans to expand CovidFAQ to engage with responses to CovidFAQ from lockdown-skeptics and to answer the many as-yet-unanswered questions that lockdown-skeptics have?

    I feel that addressing all of these questions is crucial because they have many questions that are not engaged with anywhere, included on your excellent CovidFAQ site.

    Here is just a sample that I put together of the burning questions that lockdown-skeptics have: https://www.reddit.com/r/postanything/comments/l588lu/any_covid_questions_post_some_questions_in_the/.

    The main questions that I’m interest in seeing engagement with are: What can be made of heavily locked-down areas having bad numbers or un-locked-down areas having good numbers? How can lockdowns be justified when they seem to cause so much unemployment, inequality, mental-health issues, surgery-delays, deaths, and drug-overdoses? Don’t we have to accept that the virus cannot be eradicated? Is it true that Croatia, iowa, and South Dakota all have decreasing numbers despite having had no lockdowns in the past 4 months? What can be made of public-health officials (however small a minority of them) not following the very guidelines that they advocate for?

    Lockdown-skeptics also have responses to CovidFAQ that seem to merit engagement. Let me know if you’re interested because I can direct you to these responses.

    There are some anti-lockdown people who are not reachable by argument/evidence, but there are also (in my humble experience, anyway) some who are surprisingly rational and are merely operating on an “information deficit”.

    There are diminishing returns, of course, so you can’t engage with lockdown-skepticism forever or else you will not be using your time/energy effectively.

    Sincerely,
    AVW

  330. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    *Croatia, Iowa, and South Dakota

  331. Andrew,
    I think that looks fine.

  332. dikranmarsupial says:

    I’d leave the reddit link as a postscript at the end of the letter, saying that you have made a longer list of questions there (or at least mention it after the questions in the body of the letter).

    Bullet point the questions in the body of the letter, rather than having one long paragraph, which will make them stand out more clearly.

    Otherwise, that looks pretty good to me.

  333. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice (and others),

    1: Do you guys recommend that I send this to covidfaq.contact@gmail.com? Or to Stuart Ritchie?

    2: Dr. Rice, I agree with the point that it’s not cool to list “misinformers” (or whatever) and then go ad hominem on them, but you have no problem (as you seemed to indicate in your post at the top) with laying out people’s records of bad predictions/claims, right? You just don’t like the “ad hominem” nature of it, right?

    3: Dr. Rice, do you oppose “DeSmog Blog” for laying out the sins of “shills for fossil fuel”?

    4: Dr. Rice, what’s wrong with arguing from consensus, as long as it’s secondary to explaining WHY scientists are in such strong consensus on X/Y/Z? You need BOTH components, and as long as the consensus is only half of the equation (and as long as it’s SECONDARY, I guess?) then is there anything wrong with that?

  334. Andrew,

    1. I would send it to the covidfaq email address.

    2. Essentially, yes. I think it’s better to simply highlight what people have said and why they were wrong. However, if someone is continually wrong, then I have no real problem with highlighting that they are continually wrong.

    3. No, I don’t really have a problem with DeSmog blog.

    4. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with highlighting the strength of a consensus position. I do think, though, that it’s also important to present the evidence and explain why the consensus is strong.

  335. JCH says:

    4. Why are Croatia, Iowa and South Dakota numbers all decreasing despite no lockdowns the past 4 months?

    I grew up in the Dakotas. Ranching. Viral respiratory diseases in cattle sometimes ebb in January, and fire back up in mid to late February. So in December I actually predicted SARS-CoV-2 would do the same in January in the Dakotas. Lucky guess.

  336. Willard says:

    > You just don’t like the “ad hominem” nature of it, right?

    It’s perfectly fine to undermine appeals to authority.

  337. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice,

    1: Do we agree that consensus is only a problem if evidence isn’t shown alongside it?

    2: Isn’t DeSmog Blog the pinnacle of ad hominem?

    3: How exactly did CovidFaq go beyond what you said you’re OK with (i.e., pointing out and documenting and highlighting that someone has been “continually wrong”)?

  338. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > Are there any plans to expand CovidFAQ to engage with responses to CovidFAQ from lockdown-skeptics and to answer the many as-yet-unanswered questions that lockdown-skeptics have?

    Their many questions have been answered.

  339. Joshua says:

    > I feel that addressing all of these questions is crucial because they have many questions that are not engaged with anywhere,…

    That isn’t true.

  340. 1. I don’t think that evidence has to be shown alongside it, but we shouldn’t just rely on highlighting the strength of the consensus.

    2. Ad Hominem means that you dismiss what someone is saying simply because of why they are. DeSmog blog does highlight what people have said.

    3. I don’t think CovidFAQ did go beyond what I’m okay with.

    I need to meet (virtually) with one of my PhD students, so will be offline for a while.

  341. dikranmarsupial says:

    2. It is a fine distinction. An Ad-hominem (as I see it) is basically saying this theory is wrong because it is from a scientists that has published lots of incorrect theories in the past. That is a logical fallacy, because whether theory is right depends on the consistency of the arguments and the support from the evidence, the source is irrelevant. However, a scientists that makes lots of mistakes in the chain of reasoning will publish lots of theories that turn out to be false. So we should be skeptical of their theories, but we can’t dismiss them solely on the basis of their source, you have to go through and check the consistency of the argument and evaluate the evidence to know whether the theory is sound.

    This is why it is best to talk about the properties of the theories (or the actions of the scientist) rather than the qualities of the scientist themselves.

    However, that is for the experts. If we don’t have the expertise (or energy) to check the consistency of the argument or assess the evidence for ourselves, we have to trust someone else who can. And in that case, their track record is a valid means of deciding who to trust if you have to trust somebody. So there is value in things like DeSmog Blog for the general public, but it is of little importance within the scientific community.

    For me the same thing is true about consensus. It is a sensible basis for non-experts to decide how to act, but it doesn’t establish that the science is correct. In science it only takes one correct refutation to overturn the consensus – it isn’t a popularity contest (at least in the long run – scientists are human beings – just like the rest of us).

  342. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Let’s start with this:

    > The main questions that I’m interest in seeing engagement with are: What can be made of heavily locked-down areas having bad numbers or un-locked-down areas having good numbers?

    There is no simple answer to that question. There are many confounding variables that make comparing across areas extremely problematic. Many conditions that interact with the spread of COVID vary across context. You should avoid making simplistic comparisons as they can misleading of you haven’t controlled for all those conditions. You’re better off looking longitinally at individual areas over time in association with the implementation of interventions to get a sense of their efficacy. As just one example, look at the UK before and after the recent implementation of interventions in early January.

  343. Joshua says:

    I should say

    > I feel that addressing all of these questions is crucial because they have many questions that are not engaged with anywhere,…

    You mad feel that way, but it isn’t true that those questions are not engaged elsewhere.

  344. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua: Where are the Qs engaged with? I apologize for being genuinely unable to find serious/detailed/thorough expert answers to these questions.

  345. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Start with one question

  346. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    This is what I sent. Fingers crossed that it goes well:

    Dear Anti-Virus,

    Scientists are extremely busy during this pandemic, so it can be challenging to get answers to lockdown-related questions.
    Some anti-lockdown people are not reachable by argument/evidence, but some (in my humble experience) are surprisingly rational and are merely operating on an “information deficit”.
    Anti-Virus is by far the best and most excellent and most useful resource that I’ve seen on lockdown-related issues.

    Are there any plans to expand Anti-Virus to engage with responses to Anti-Virus from lockdown-skeptics and to answer the many as-yet-unanswered questions that lockdown-skeptics have?
    I feel that addressing all of these questions is crucial because they have many questions that are not engaged with anywhere, including on Anti-Virus.
    Here is just a sample that I put together of the burning questions that lockdown-skeptics have (more questions were added in the comment-section): https://www.reddit.com/r/postanything/comments/l588lu/any_covid_questions_post_some_questions_in_the/.

    The main questions that I’m interested in seeing engagement with are:
    What can be made of heavily locked-down areas having bad numbers or un-locked-down areas having good numbers?
    How can lockdowns be justified when they seem to cause so much unemployment, inequality, mental-health issues, surgery-delays, deaths, and drug-overdoses?
    Don’t we have to accept that the virus cannot be eradicated?
    Is it true that Croatia, Iowa, and South Dakota all have decreasing numbers despite having had no lockdowns in the past 4 months?
    What can be made of public-health officials (however small a minority of them) not following the very guidelines that they advocate for?

    Lockdown-skeptics also have responses to Anti-Virus that seem to merit engagement.
    Let me know if you’re interested because I can direct you to these responses.

    Sincerely,
    AVW

  347. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua: If you know good information on these questions then let me know. We can take them one-by-one, starting with the first. I would greatly appreciate any information that you have.

    What can be made of heavily locked-down areas having bad numbers or un-locked-down areas having good numbers?
    How can lockdowns be justified when they seem to cause so much unemployment, inequality, mental-health issues, surgery-delays, deaths, and drug-overdoses?
    Don’t we have to accept that the virus cannot be eradicated?
    Is it true that Croatia, Iowa, and South Dakota all have decreasing numbers despite having had no lockdowns in the past 4 months?
    What can be made of public-health officials (however small a minority of them) not following the very guidelines that they advocate for?

  348. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    You’d have to take them one by one. You didn’t do that even now.

    As for the first question, I gave you an answer. If you want authoritative and comprehensive answer, then you’d have to search the research literature. If you want a basic answer, then Google. I did a quick Google and the following popped up.

    https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/12/03/is-florida-doing-better-on-coronavirus-than-locked-down-states-politifact/

  349. Joshua says:

    So, your friends and family (I’ll leave out the quotes for now) may not accept that answer, but what about you? Do you still have a question as to why comparing areas with and without interventions is a problematic way to draw conclusions about the efficacy of interventions?

  350. Willard says:

    There’s a very simple rule of thumb to evaluate the felicity of any kind of argument whatsoever: Is it relevant? If it’s relevant to the matter at hand, it’s fine. If it isn’t, it’s not. It’s as simple as that.

    There are many types of ad hominem arguments: the tu quoque, guilt by association, ex concessis, etc. Getting a definitive typology does not matter much. What matters is what is being done with the kind of argument. Words and deeds, words and words, deeds and deeds can be opposed. If the opposition is relevant to the matter at hand, then the argument is fine.

    Suppose that, after being offered this simple model, relatives of mine keep asking me if ad homs are kosher, I’d start to suspect it’s a leading question that conceals the presupposition that ad homs are bad. I would not need to ask them why they think so, for the simple reason that I already explained why that’d be wrong. So I’d illustrate my model by looking at a specific example. Take this profile:

    https://www.desmogblog.com/richard-lindzen

    Where’s the ad hominem exactly? There should be an argument somewhere. For that’s what an ad hominem is.

    Then ask yourself, is it relevant? Depends. If that resource is cited to counter a claptrap like “but Dick is a MIT professor and he’s a contrarian,” then it’s perfectly fine. If it’s to counter something like “the Iris hypothesis may explain warming,” then it’s less fine.

    Life is just simpler when commenters refrain from arguing by question, really. Anyone who would dispute that claim from now on will be referred to this very page:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/anti-virus

  351. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Violating my own rule, I skipped ahead.

    A quick Google returned this article (among others) on Croatia.

    http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2021-01/09/c_139653038.htm

    I hope that helps you and your relatives.

  352. Joshua says:

    This is more recent:

    http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2021-01/29/c_139705348.htm

    Perhaps you should interrogate the source that misinformed you about Croatia?

  353. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    OK, let’s take the first question. “What can be made of heavily locked-down areas having bad numbers or un-locked-down areas having good numbers?”

    The claim here is that there are two types of challenges to the claim that lockdown-measures are effective. (Btw, “lockdown” is a super-vague term apparently, so you need look at each measure one-by-one.)

    The first challenge is that you find a place (like Iowa or South Dakota; forget Croatia for now since that’s so far away and who knows how good their data is) that has no lockdown-measures and good numbers relative to other places.

    The second challenge is that you find a place (like California or New York) that has tons of lockdown-measures and very poor numbers.

    Both of these challenges are supposed to be relevant to the claim that lockdowns are effective.

  354. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua: You’re claiming that Croatia has bad numbers, right? Or that it has not been light on lockdown-measures? Or both? Or…?

    Is this a solid source to establish that? http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2021-01/29/c_139705348.htm

  355. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Lol. So now Croatia should be eliminated.

    > The claim here is that there are two types of challenges to the claim that lockdown-measures are effective.

    What do you mean by “effective?”

  356. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    If you want to convince your friends and family, then you should model the correct process for integrating information.

    You were told numerous times that there is evidence that masks likely limit transmission of COVID. You continuously claimed that there wasn’t. Eventually, after numerous iterations, you acknowledged that you were being “sloppy.”. It took you way too long to integrate what you were being told, but it’s good modeling thsr you eventually acknowledged that you were incorrect about the state of the evidence.

    That’s progress. But the next step is for you to adopt thst process as a regular habit.

    You have repeated claims about Croatia. You were wrong. Just saying “now let’s forget about Croata” is not modeling a behavior that will benefit your friends and family.

    Instead, you should now interrogate how you were misinformed. That is the more valuable lesson here..

    Answering questions about the specifics won’t help you, and by extension your friends and family, if you continue to engage with the evidence in a problematic manner that just repeats the same errors that led you to be misinformed in the first place.

  357. One issue is that you need to define what one means by a lockdown. It hasn’t always been well-defined. Also, the goal of a lockdown is to reduce contact, because the virus spreads through contact, or people coming close enough to each other to spread the virus. Sweden was used as an example of a country that successfully limited spread without a lockdown. Apparently, however, even though there wasn’t a lockdown in Sweden, changes in behaviour produced a similar change in contacts in Sweden when compared to the UK (I realise I should back this up, but I can’t find my source at the moment). So, if you want to compare different regions, one really should be comparing what actually happened, not whether or not they implemented something that they referred to as a lockdown.

  358. Willard says:

    > Is this a solid source to establish that?

    See? That is why ad hominem arguments are often fine.

  359. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua: The justification for lockdowns, as I understand it, is as follows:
    –reduces deaths
    –reduces hospitalizations
    –“flattens the curve” so that the medical system doesn’t get overwhelmed

    Hence, we need to see those things happening wherever lockdowns are implemented and NOT happening wherever lockdowns are not implemented.

  360. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > Both of these challenges are supposed to be relevant to the claim that lockdowns are effective.

    This repeats the same problem. I told you how to approach the question of disparate outcomes in dissimilar localities. But you ignored that information (or at least didn’t respond on point). I gave you an article that deals with many of the relevant issues. But you didn’t respond on point. Instead you basically repeated thd same questions without integrating any of the information as to why they are problematic questions thst imbed a fallacious way of approaching the more general question.

    Now you say that your friends and family will integrate useful information if it shows they are incorrect. Yet you are repeatedly displaying the exact kinds of behaviors that explain why often, if not always, supplying more information will not change the views of people who are “deeply.”

    I think the first step in helping your friends and family is for you to reevaluate how you model integrating information into your analytical process.

  361. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > Hence, we need to see those things happening wherever lockdowns are implemented and NOT happening wherever lockdowns are not implemented.

    Thus displays a fundamental misunderstanding – particularly since you have noted the vagueness of the term “lockdown.”

    But let’s go back to Croatia. Why were you misinformed about Croatia?

  362. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, you’re exactly correct that compliance with lockdown-measures is the fact here. That can be voluntary or imposed. The successful region is Asia, and apparently (something to do with their voluntary collective culture, apparently) voluntary compliance with measures has led to their tremendous success.

    Regarding California, there are efforts to impose lockdowns but compliance is very poor, apparently. I don’t know if that means that people are breaking the law or just not following non-binding guidelines. The question (as illustrated strikingly by California) is: “Without these laws, would spread be EVEN WORSE!!!!! than it is in the bad-compliance status quo?”

    As I’m sure you guys know, California is the worst place in the US for the virus.

  363. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > Is this a solid source to establish that?

    Lol. What was your “solid source” that you used for your repeated claims about Croatia?

    Please, Andrew, up your game.

  364. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Hence, we need to see those things happening wherever lockdowns are implemented and NOT happening wherever lockdowns are not implemented.”

    No, it isn’t as simple as that. Lockdowns are not the only way of reducing transmission. We could give everybody a hazmat suit to wear whenever they went out of their home. You would then see a reduction in transmission even though there had been no lockdown.

    Similarly lockdown legislation doesn’t mean there will necessarily be a reduction in transmission for a variety of reasons. Firstly it might be a partial lockdown that isn’t sufficiently strict (we sort of had that in the UK with the regional “tier” system). Secondly the population might not observe the restrictions properly. Or a new more virulent mutation of the virus could emerge, which means that infections would still rise even with a lockdown in place (that sort of happened in the UK, although we were not in full lockdown at the time).

    Where there are multtple factors involved, it is not straightforward to determine the effectiveness of measures independently, there won’t be simple answers. If there were, we wouldn’t need the advice of experts, who have the skills to perform the required analsyses.

  365. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    I made this comment:

    Epidemiologists are understandably very busy right now. It must be an extremely busy/stressful/demanding time for epidemiologists. I understand that.
    Nevertheless, there is no good website that one can go to that lays out for the public the wealth of evidence that establishes the two strong consensuses that currently exist in epidemiology.
    The first strong consensus is that lockdowns are effective in reducing Covid hospitalizations/deaths.
    The second strong consensus is that lockdowns are good policy in that the benefits outweigh the costs.
    No such website exists. There needs to be public outreach or else people will think that these two strong consensuses are built on sand. With tremendous regret, I have to say that I can’t blame the people who think that these two strong consensuses are built on sand.
    If you’re going to ask someone to sacrifice for the greater good, you’d better show them the evidence when they ask for it.
    One paper here and there is not going to cut it.
    If you ask climate scientists for the evidence on which the global-warming consensus rests, they will point you to the IPCC reports. The IPCC reports contain a genuine tsunami of evidence, and there’s absolutely nothing comparable when it comes to epidemiology right now.
    So far literally the only thing that I’ve found that one could show to an anti-lockdown person is this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v341VNPgL50. It cites a couple solid scientific papers to the effect that lockdowns work, but those papers can’t possibly be what the consensus (on effectiveness) rests upon. It’s just a couple papers.
    Furthermore, the video does not even make a case that lockdowns are good policy (i.e., benefits > costs). The video just raises the question of whether the sacrifice is worthwhile.

    My friend responded:

    It’s probably appropriate for contemporary US, which has become a crazed country, probably spilling over some to Canada. Foreign Affairs just published an interesting comparison of the current reaction to the pandemic with the reaction a century ago to the 1918 pandemic. Then the US was still a sane country. There were rigorous controls enacted by states, enforced by law, backed by the Supreme Court following precedents going back to the founders, and there was public acquiescence on the standard assumption that we are a collectivity that has to act together in the common good. That still prevails in most of the world. That’s why total lockdown is accepted and the disease is controlled, even in countries very much like ours, Australia and New Zealand for example. While in the US, like where I live, death tolls are rising sharply, patients are dying in hospital corridors because there are no beds, and some people watch and say that the “liberals” are taking away their freedom to poison others.
    In today’s US an extreme form of ultra-right Ayn Randian “I’m for myself” mania has developed, along with anti-scientific extremism that has traditional roots in the deep fundamentalist religious tradition. So in strange off-the-spectrum places like the contemporary (but not earlier) US, what you suggest may be necessary.

  366. Joshua says:

    Now we move to California?

    Let’s stick to Croatia. What source did you use for your repeated false claims about Croatia?

    You say you have looked for answers, but you haven’t even done a simple Google search about Croatia – which was a country you mentioned numerous times in your questions.

  367. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua Andrew has said that he has autism. I think it is likely that the tone and style of his posts is perhaps giving a misleading impression of his intentions (and he might be having difficulty with the tone of ours).

  368. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew “As I’m sure you guys know, California is the worst place in the US for the virus.”

    The first hit on a Google search for “US states covid per capita” for me suggests that is a very long way from being correct. California is a very populous state, and so will have a larger number of cases than most states, but per-capita it looks about average.

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/1109004/coronavirus-covid19-cases-rate-us-americans-by-state/

  369. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    I don’t think that Andrew’s autism explains his fallacious reasoning processes.

    But even if it does, he has to confront the basic problems in his reasoning if he’s going to be able to make any progress towards being in a position to help his friends and family understand interventions better.

    If we just dance around that fundamental problem, we won’t be helping him to make progress.

  370. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua: Why do you think that the questions are coming from me? I’m happy for you to consider be radically pro-lockdown, for the sake of this thread. I have my epistemic reservations, pending my research, but just think of me as “Radically Pro-Lockdown Andrew” going forward so that you don’t get mixed up about my position on this.

    I asked my friend who actually DID write those questions for his source on Croatia. We’ll see what he says. I asked him to jump into this thread and engage.

    Dirkan: That’s an extremely fascinating graph. Thanks. Those are good per-capita figures. My impression was that California was absolutely catastrophic relative to the rest of the US. In LA County ambulances were told not to take Covid patients to this hospital (!!!!!!!!!!!!) if those patients looked like they weren’t likely to make it, which is bonkers.

  371. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    *I’m happy for you to consider me radically pro-lockdown

  372. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I don’t think that Andrew’s autism explains his fallacious reasoning processes.”

    It does affect communication though, so while the reasoning seems clear to you, you may not have communicated that clearly to him and he may not have clearly communicated his reasoning processes to you.

    Using nuanced phrases like “Please, Andrew, up your game.” is unlikely to help.

  373. Joshua says:

    If Andrew wants to make progress here, he needs to move on from making once false claim after the next, without engaging with rhe feedback that he’s being given about the false was of his claims.

    Just giving him more information about how false his claims are will get us nowhere.

    This is a perfect object lesson in the weakness of the information deficit model.

  374. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Notice for anyone in this thread who is confused about my position/ideology/viewpoint:

    See above in my letter to Anti-Virus where I wrote:

    >Some anti-lockdown people are not reachable by argument/evidence, but some (in my humble experience) are surprisingly rational and are merely operating on an “information deficit”.

    As the above quote makes clear, I am extremely NOT anti-lockdown. Consider me as pro-lockdown as you lack, for the purposes of this thread, although I am still in the middle of my research on this.

  375. dikranmarsupial says:

    “In LA County ambulances were told not to take Covid patients to this hospital (!!!!!!!!!!!!) if those patients looked like they weren’t likely to make it, which is bonkers.”

    That sounds like a sign that the healthcare system is overwhelmed and is very worrying indeed. It’s not “bonkers”, it may be a rational form of triage, in which case it is alarming. It is exactly the thing that lockdown (“flattening the curve”) is intended to prevent.

    However if you are going to make such claims, then please add a verifiable source (e.g. URL for a news article), rumours/misinformation spread very easily if sources are not given for checking.

  376. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    *Consider me as pro-lockdown as you like

  377. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    > Using nuanced phrases like “Please, Andrew, up your game.” is unlikely to help.

    You are assuming a good faith engagement whereas I am not. There have just been too many cases of false claims made, vsufe twrms used, etc., without any actual engagement on the issues but just a repeated process of making incorrect statements for me to accept an “innocent” explanation. I mean it’s possible, but it’s not something I can take at face value. A demonstration of good faith could go a long way.

    But sure, there’s no way that using a phrase like that will help. If I am using a phrase like that, there’s no reason to even bother to be involved at all. I’d imagine that telling someone to up their game never resulted even in anyone upping their game.

  378. dikranmarsupial says:

    Sadly, here is a fairly reliable source 😦

  379. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Why were you repeatedly making claims about Croatia that weren’t true, claims that were easily seen as not true with a simple Google search? You said you’ve been searching far and wide for answers that don’t exist as yet.

  380. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Look at this:

    A sustained surge of coronavirus infections has locked Southern California in crisis, overwhelming intensive care wards, ambulance services, funeral homes and local officials.

    Dozens of overcrowded hospitals have had to shut their emergency-room doors to ambulances for hours at a time. Medical wards are running dangerously low on a vital necessity: oxygen, and the portable canisters to supply it to patients. Los Angeles County has a coronavirus-related death every eight minutes, a grim toll accompanied in many neighborhoods by the soundtrack of shrieking sirens.

    “We’re having our New York moment,” said Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health, referring to the weeks in March and April when New York City was the epicenter of the virus.

    It took nearly 10 months for Los Angeles County to hit 400,000 cases, but little more than a month to add another 400,000, from Nov. 30 to Jan. 2. In the coming days, the county, the nation’s largest, will reach a level where one in 10 residents has tested positive for the virus.

  381. dikranmarsupial says:

    “You are assuming a good faith engagement whereas I am not.”

    No. If you notice I have changed the manner in which I am engaging with Andrew. This is partly because I do have a fair bit of personal experience with autism and questioned my conclusion that he wasn’t engaging in good faith when I reviewed his communication in that light. I seem to be having a more productive discussion with him now.

  382. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    If your friend gave you that information about Croatia, then you should ask him where he got that information and help him to conduct a simple Google source to check for the information he’s using.

    You won’t be able to address your friends’ and family’s “skepticism” about interventions if you don’t help them to assess when they’re being fed false information. Giving them correct information won’t solve the underlying problem.

  383. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew, again look at the per-capita figures. California is a big state, it will have a larger absolute number of cases.

    Whether hospitals are overwhelmed also depends on per-capita medical provision. From what I know of the American medical system, I am glad I am in the U.K. even though we are not doing very well with COVID either.

    I have to get back to my marking though.

  384. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    OK. “assuming” was the wrong word there. You aren’t just assuming it. But you are more convinced of his good faith than I am.

  385. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua: Did you read my letter to Anti-Virus? I know anti-lockdown people. I don’t know how this confusion arose. I’m basically Bernie Sanders and you think that I’m Donald Trump or something. I’m the polar opposite of everything that you have me pegged as.

    The Croatia stuff is not from me. I asked my friend, who wrote it, to jump into this thread. I’m trying to find the answer (for him), but I’m not the author of the question (and whatever error are contained within it).

    I do intend to “up my game”. Upthread I have demonstrated a willingness to apologize, correct myself, and retract my errors.

    I know that there’s a lot of “bad faith” online, but don’t assume that I’m part of the silly/immature/dumb internet cesspool. Or if you do want to assume that, then just ignore me because you shouldn’t participate in silly/immature/dumb internet games.

  386. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Your politics are irrelevant. What’s relevant are the analytical patterns you have displayed, repeatedly. Even your personal views aren’t relevant.

    You said you’ve been looking widely for information and answers to your questions, and that you couldn’t find the answers.

    Your repeated statements make it clear that your search hasn’t been extensive or you aren’t processing information well.

    Let’s go back to this:

    There is no simple answer to that question. There are many confounding variables that make comparing across areas extremely problematic. Many conditions that interact with the spread of COVID vary across context. You should avoid making simplistic comparisons as they can misleading of you haven’t controlled for all those conditions. You’re better off looking longitinally at individual areas over time in association with the implementation of interventions to get a sense of their efficacy. As just one example, look at the UK before and after the recent implementation of interventions in early January.

    Are you having some difficulty processing that information?

  387. dikranmarsupial says:

    “OK. “assuming” was the wrong word there. You aren’t just assuming it. But you are more convinced of his good faith than I am.”

    I am not convinced. It is just the communication patterns are consistent with both autism and bad faith. The “golden rule” or Hanlon’s razor suggests I go with the former. There is also the false-positive false negative costs to consider. If Andrew is arguing in bad faith, the worst that can happen is that I waste some of my time talking to him. Meh. SOP for discussions on blogs. I might even get some useful information from the discussion (thanks Willard!). If Andrew is autistic and I assume bad faith and use language that is likely to trigger, then I would be behaving very hostile towards someone with a disability by exposing (and unintentionally exploiting) their communication issues, when they are actually trying to discuss stuff in good faith. Decidedly “non-meh” in my view.

  388. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua: I understand what you’re saying. I apologize for being slow to process this info.

    Let me clarify something. There must be some (1) common-sense basis or (2) Epidemiology-101 theoretical basis or (3) data-based basis for why scientists and public-health experts advocate lockdowns.

    I ASSUME (maybe incorrectly) that public-health experts (the “Dr. Fauci” people of the world) have substantial consensus that lockdowns work.

    I ASSUME (maybe incorrectly) that if the public-health experts have decent consensus then the scientists do too.

    It must be (1) or (2) or (3), then.

    I’ve heard (1) from a lot of people. I heard (2) from an epidemiologist. And as for (3), that’s what you’re addressing here:

    >There is no simple answer to that question. There are many confounding variables that make comparing across areas extremely problematic. Many conditions that interact with the spread of COVID vary across context. You should avoid making simplistic comparisons as they can misleading of you haven’t controlled for all those conditions. You’re better off looking longitinally at individual areas over time in association with the implementation of interventions to get a sense of their efficacy. As just one example, look at the UK before and after the recent implementation of interventions in early January.

    Yes, there are confounding variables. But if (3) exists, then there must be papers that establish (3), just like there are papers that show you that global warming is happening. Where are those papers? Those papers will (obviously) deal with the issue of confounding variables.

  389. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Look at each visual graphic (each “figure”) in this paper: https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/to-save-the-economy-save-people-first.

    This thing is that I don’t think that the scientific/public-health consensus is based on what I just linked…

  390. Andrew,
    I think the issue is that the clear consensus is that viruses spread by contact, or by being close to each other. So, if you want to reduce the spread of a virus, one way is to reduce contacts. One way you characterise the spread of a virus is through the R0 number (the Basic reproduction number). This is essentially how many people, on average, will one person infect. If this number is bigger than 1, then the infection will initially grow exponentially (i.e., the number of infected will double every n days, where n is some number). In the case of coronavirus in the UK, the R0 number was around 3 (i.e., on average every infected person infected 3 other people) and the doubling timescale in mid-March was around 3 days.

    A few things one can conclude from the above. An R0 of 3 is reasonably large. If you want to get to a stage where the number of infections starts dropping (well before reaching the herd immunity threshold, at least) you need to reduce contacts quite substantially. Secondly, given a doubling time of 3 days, you need to do this quickly – the number of cases are doubling every 3 days. In other words, within 30 days there have been 10 doublings – if you start with 1000 cases, within 30 days you have just over 1 Million cases.

    So, you need to introduce relatively stringent interventions to bring the effective R number below 1 and you need these to work quite quickly. There are estimates (and I ran some of these simulations) that delaying this by a week in the UK in early March cost >10000 deaths. Of course, you could try to achieve this without introducing interventions that might be regarded as a lockdown, but if R doesn’t come below 1, the infection keeps growing exponentially and you will eventually far overwhelm the healthcare system.

    Given this, there are arguments that the best thing is to introduce strong interventions early on so that you can bring the spread of the infection under control quickly, reducing the number of people who get infected, and reducing the number of deaths. Of course, if you do this, you then need to think about what to do once you’ve achieved this, because simply then relaxing everything will just mean that it will all start again.

    What public health experts argue is that you need an effective test, trace, and isolate programme. You test people regularly, you find those who are positive, you trace their contacts, and they go into isolation, ideally while being properly supported. This is clearly challenging, and expensive, but there are strong arguments for why this is still better than alternatives that lead to subsequent waves of the infection and further country-wide lockdowns.

  391. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    From the paper that I just linked:

    A careful analysis of data comparing differing national responses leads to clear delineation of what works, and what does not. This paper demonstrates not only that lockdowns do work but indicates what other measures can slow and even suppress the coronavirus, and why. Our study closes with specific recommendations that promise to work better than blanket lockdowns and what nations, states, and even citizens should do to effectively address the pandemic right now.

  392. Andrew,

    This thing is that I don’t think that the scientific/public-health consensus is based on what I just linked…

    This is what the public health experts that I interact with in the UK are saying. It’s not the protect us from the virus *or* protect the economy, it’s both. Those countries that have introduced strong interventions early on and have developed effective exit strategies, have had fewer deaths and stronger economic growth. This may well not be what has been done in the UK, but it is certainly what many prominent public health experts are arguing.

  393. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, what do you think about each figure in this paper? https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/to-save-the-economy-save-people-first

  394. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP “What public health experts argue is that you need an effective test, trace, and isolate programme. ”

    I’m a bit out of date on this one, do we have a satisfactory test and trace system in the UK yet (i.e. that would allow a reasonable exit strategy from the lockdown prior to mass vaccination)?

  395. Dikran,
    No, I don’t think we do. Also, you really do need the cases to come down before such a system can actually work (i.e., you need to be finding the relatively small number of positive cases, and then them and their contacts should isolate, while being supported).

  396. Andrew,
    I’m not an expert, but I don’t see any issues with those figures (they mostly seem to be plotting publicly available data) and my understanding is that many public health experts agree with what is being presented in that article.

  397. dikranmarsupial says:

    Thanks ATTP – I don’t actually have a mobile device (which I gather is required until you contract COVID yourself), so I hadn’t been paying much attention. The words “pi$$”, “up” and “brewery” come to mind… 😦

  398. dikranmarsupial says:

    [uncharacteristic optimism]
    At least the UK seems to be doing rather better on the vaccine front
    [/uncharacteristic optimism]

  399. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > Let me clarify something. There must be some (1) common-sense basis or (2) Epidemiology-101 theoretical basis or (3) data-based basis for why scientists and public-health experts advocate lockdowns.

    As you, yourself, have alluded to there’s no way to evaluate that statement given the vagueness of your use of the term “lockdown.” Advocate is also fairly useless here.

    The basic logic of interventions is to reduce contacts and thus reduce spread of the virus (thus reducing hospitalizatons, ICU admissions, and deaths and all the associated economic and other impacts resulting from increased spread).

    From what I’ve seen, there’s a fairly wide spectrum of views among public health experts as to which interventions are efficacious to varying degrees under various circumstances.

    If you don’t address your questions with the appropriate attention to those variations, then there’s no way to give you a useful answer.

    For example:

    > I ASSUME (maybe incorrectly) that public-health experts (the “Dr. Fauci” people of the world) have substantial consensus that lockdowns work.

    There is no way to give a meaningful response to that comment as it is so vague and unspecific. What do you mean by “lockdowns?” what do you mean by “work.” Under what circumstances? .

    You have been asked these questions repeatedly. You have repeatedly failed to answer.

    Fauci, for one,has many times spoken to the specifics. The CDC does in it’s recommendations. A modicum of research would make that apparent

    Im your statements and questions you have repeatedly embedded the kinds of useless generalities and fals claims that are used by “skeptics” to avoid meaningful engagement. Again, I point you to the weaknesses of the information deficit model.

  400. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Your sources for information on Croatia make it only that much more apparent the problems of you using the caufe term of “lockdown” with no specificity.

    The articles I linked to you made it aooafwn that Croatia in fact enacted a number of interventions, some of them ongoing – and which largely coincided with the drop in cases. Looks like Croatia is actually the kind of place that I recommend you lol at longitudinally in association with the implementation of interventions.

    You will notice that the public health officials in Croatia aren’t saying “lockdowns work” in some vague manner. They have said that certain interventions will be implemented and lifted in conjunction with trends of spread in the disease.

  401. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua: There are some typos in your comment. Can you fix them? Great comment, but I need to know what you meant to type.

  402. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > Yes, there are confounding variables. But if (3) exists, then there must be papers that establish (3),

    (3) relates to the basics of epidemiology and the science of hos to assess the efficacy of interventions. The followkng article might be useful (first hit on first Google) in particular because it discusses something I think is a very useful Fram for understanding how epidemiologists approach assessing causality, the Bradford Hill Criteria:

    https://www.cgdev.org/blog/how-should-we-evaluate-lockdowns-disentangling-effectiveness-context-and-politics

  403. Joshua says:

    … vague term of “lockdown.”

    ….apparent that Croatia in fact enacted…

    … recommend you look at….

  404. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    That article abiir Florida I linked above points to some of the difficulties of comparing across localities.

    Here was the first hit on a other Google that addresses some of the relevant issues related to assessing the economic impact of interventions.

    https://www.economicsobservatory.com/why-it-hard-compare-economic-costs-lockdown-across-countries

  405. dikranmarsupial says:

    Ben, Matt Hancock describing someone’s behaviour on a video as “pathetic” has a certain irony ;o)

  406. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Keep in mind, I disagee with much of what was written in that Center for Global Development article, but I do think that it does outline some of the important considerations rather well – as to why cross-country comparisons are problematic (even if they amusingly then basically ignore some of those very same problematic aspects).

  407. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Lots of great questions are being raised here about all of the complications of this, but note how we don’t have to debate the complications of climate change because the thorny aspects of climate science are all addressed in the IPCC report.

    Has any organization in the world released any report (obviously MUCH briefer/shorter/smaller than the IPCC; don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying that it should be on the level of the IPCC) that explains to the concerned/skeptical anti-lockdown public (millions and millions and millions of people worldwide): “This is the scientific basis for why scientists and public-health experts are asking you to sacrifice.”

  408. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    And anything you have questions about regarding the IPCC report, you can get exquisite/excellent/detailed answers on if you just email the relevant leading experts.

  409. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    1: If you were to ask Dr. Fauci (or any other public-health expert) for the scientific basis of all of this, what would he say? What papers would he cite?

    2: If you were to ask leading epidemiologists (and virologists, etc.) for the scientific basis of all of this, what would they say? What papers would they cite?

  410. Willard says:

    Andrew,

    Here’s the deal. No more new questions until the ones already on the table are settled.

    Thanks.

  411. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    I just saw someone pointing to Ireland as a good country to look to get a sense of the efficacy of interventions. You might ask your “skeptical” friends and family what they think explains the trend in Ireland if interventions have no effect.

  412. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, shouldn’t actuarial science be highly relevant to the whole business of looking at Covid death-rates, and comparing Covid death-rates between different countries, etc., etc., etc.?

    There’s “probabilistic risk-analysis”, and it seems highly relevant.

    Even though there are many “confounding factors” when you compare different countries (with different healthcare-systems, obesity-rates, etc., etc.), you would think that actuarial science would be highly useful/relevant to all this.

    Insurance companies are international and they have to compare things across national borders, don’t they?

    I don’t know how much experts in actuarial science have weigh in regarding Covid death-rates, and regarding lockdown-measures, and regarding everything that we’ve been talking about.

  413. Andrew,
    Statistics is certainly relevant, and many of the studies I’ve seen have indeed by doing statistical analyses. I’m not sure if actuarial science is specifically relevant as that is more about assessing future risk, than trying to understand what is currently happening.

  414. Joshua says:

    FWIW –

    Michael MIna, who knows a lot about this stuff, effectively says that it’s complicated (see Twitter below). But note, he is on record as saying that “lockdowns” reduce infections and he said he thought they would be necessary in the US depending on circumstances – even though in general principle he also believes that rapid Antigen testing on a massive scale would basically obviate the need fo rlockdowns:

    https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/coronavirus-covid-19-press-conference-with-michael-mina-11-13-20/

  415. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice: As a signatory of the John Snow memo, do you have any ability (above what I have, or others have) to reach the Anti-Virus people?

  416. Andrew,
    No, not really. I don’t know any of them, and when I mentioned the anti-virus site to those I do know, they didn’t know the people either.

  417. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice: If epidemiologists (and other relevant experts) wanted to, they could drum up millions of dollars for a fantastic potholer54-style YouTube channel to debunk anything incorrect in the various anti-lockdown claims floating around out there, right?

    Why don’t they do this? (Or invest a few million dollars into “Anti-Virus”? Or both?)

    The logical conclusions is that they don’t think it would be worthwhile, but I wonder why.

  418. Andrew,
    I think you misunderstand how funding works. Getting funding for things like informational videos is somewhat more difficult than getting funding for doing research.

  419. dikranmarsupial says:

    and getting grants for doing research is far from easy! If you don’t *need* research assistants or facilities, it is questionable whether it is worth the time to write the grants, rather than simply doing the research yourself. ;o)

    However, it google suggests that medical professionals (and the WHO) are using YouTube channels to spread information

    Click to access bmj.m1563.full.pdf

    Here is a video ostensibly from a chemist, debunking COVID conspiracy theories (I haven’t watched it, so it may be nonsense, the point is that if you look, it appears that qualified professionals are using YouTube to debunk stuff, just like climate change).

  420. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, I see that there are some YouTube videos, but my questions were:

    If epidemiologists (and other relevant experts) wanted to, they could drum up millions of dollars for a fantastic potholer54-style YouTube channel to debunk anything incorrect in the various anti-lockdown claims floating around out there, right?

    Why don’t they do this? (Or invest a few million dollars into “Anti-Virus”? Or both?)

  421. dikranmarsupial says:

    The epidemiologists are likely to be busy providing the required input to the political decision making process. That is a more urgent use of their time and energy.

    As ATTP said, there is little funding easily available for public communication of science issues. Experts like prof Chris witty are already making plenty of media appearances explaining the issues to the public. The information is available.

  422. dikranmarsupial says:

    By the way, your own example of potholer54 (who I agree does a fantastic job) with climate change myth debunking, demonstrates that you don’t need leading experts to do the debunking. Most myths are misunderstandings of fairly basic science. I’ve done a bit of debunking as well, and one of the reasons I did so was that I don’t want the climatologists wasting their time on it, when I can find the flaws in the climate myths myself; I’d rather they used their valuable time working on the science.

    This is also true with myths like mask-wearing and lockdowns don’t stop transmission of COVID. Of course lockdowns reduce the transmission of viral pathogens that are spread by respiratory droplets. If you don’t come into contact with other people’s respiratory droplets (either directly or via contaminated surfaces) you won’t catch COVID. It is essentially as simple as that.

  423. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I’ve still gotten no response from Anti-Virus. Fingers crossed, though.

  424. Willard says:

    If all else fails, Andrew, you can always try the Naviseal response:

    I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target.

    https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/navy-seal-copypasta

    Depending on your style, you can add or modify that response. I would advise that you keep “gorilla warfare,” for it’s the key to the copypasta. A more formal illustration of the strategy you seem to be implementing could be:

    http://www.csc.villanova.edu/~japaridz/CL/3.html#copycat

    Copycat can allow you to win against very strong players:

  425. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    [Tone policing. -W]

  426. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, do you know any person who knows any OTHER person who (that OTHER person) can get my message to Anti-Virus? :))

  427. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, my understanding is that the figures in this gold-standard paper (https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/to-save-the-economy-save-people-first) are the empirical basis for lockdowns, and yet I doubt that the “Dr. Fauci” people of that world (or the epidemiologists of the world) even know about that paper and those figures.

    Is that weird?

  428. Andrew,
    As I think I mentioned yesterday, the people I interact with in the UK are well aware of the arguments presented in that article.

    Also, I’m not aware of any of my contacts who have contacts with those who run the anti-virus site.

  429. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, Are they familiar with that paper and its figures, though? Or are they familiar with different papers (with different papers) that make such a similar case that this paper I linked is totally redundant?

    Dr. Rice, I’m trying to get my friend to jump into this comment-section, and I told him this and I wonder if it makes sense to you:

    I would advocate (you tell me if this makes sense) the “Look in the mirror” principle. Let’s say you present something on a forum and 100 people all tear it to shreds (show that all the facts are wrong and that all the logic is wrong), and they’re total dicks about it. I think that they should look in the mirror and become more nice/polite/respectful in their tone, but I also think that you should look in the mirror and say: “Maybe my view was badly wrong and I should think about that and not only focus on the tone but also on the intellectual substance of why these people are roasting me.”

  430. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    *Or are they familiar with different papers (with different FIGURES) that make such a similar case that this paper I linked is totally redundant?

  431. Andrew,
    I’m really not sure whether they’re familiar with that specific paper, but here – for example – Christina Pagel pointing out on BBC news that it’s not economy vs health, but economy *and* health.

  432. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, Is it true that in China they literally don’t EVEN HAVE TO WEAR MASKS ANYMORE and they are literally BACK TO NORMAL? If so, that is INSANE…

  433. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, look at THIS QUOTE HERE:

    “A year ago when Wuhan shut down, it offered the world a forewarning about the dangers of the virus. Now, it heralds a post-pandemic world where the relief at unmasked faces, joyous get-togethers and daily commutes conceals the emotional aftershocks.”

  434. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I want to thank you for being so polite throughout this thread despite my rude tone. I appreciate your patience and politeness with me, even though I’m often not the easiest person to interact with. I apologize for my conduct throughout this thread, which often degraded the atmosphere of respect/politeness on this thread. Going forward, I will make an effort to police my own tone for the sake of the atmosphere of this thread.

    Thanks for all your excellent help so far.

  435. Andrew,
    It’s not a problem.

  436. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I wrote the below to my friend (a scientist), and I wonder if you could answer.

    One scientist said this:

    My priorities are exactly the same [as the politicians’]. We’re not having an open economy now. We’re not working. We are locked down in this cycle that seems to have been going on for months and months and month. The countries that acted really early and decisively—closed their borders, locked down, got transmission down to zero in their communities—they’re now open. In New Zealand, they had a normal New Year, a normal Christmas. They had 12, 15 people around the dinner-table. Their economies are growing. We don’t have that.
    You get both the economy and the mental-health benefits being able to see your family, being able to see your friends, and no Covid, if you do it that way. We’ve seen it now. We’ve had a year of this experience. We can see which countries have done it, and they all have pretty much exactly the same policies to do it. We just haven’t followed it in Europe.

    You quoted this in your talk on Jan. 25th:

    “the relief at unmasked faces, joyous get-togethers and daily commutes”

    That quote about China is shocking to me.

    What are all the countries worldwide that have that amazing situation (as described in the quote about China) now?

  437. Andrew,
    I’m not sure what you’re actually asking. Can you clarify?

  438. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    It seems utterly surreal to me that New Zealand and China are literally “back to normal”.

    1: Can you really just start French-kissing people on the streets? No masks? 12, 15 people around the dinner-table? Giant parties where nobody wears a mask and people are kissing and everything?

    2: How many countries are in this situation?

    3: How many Canadians/Americans/Europeans know how badly their governments have screwed them?

    4: Is the media adequately informing us that there are literally countries (which ones, apart from China and New Zealand and Vietnam?) where things are literally “back to normal”?

    5: Is “back to normal” too strong? Again, can you literally kiss people and throw big parties where everyone is kissing?

  439. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    My friend said this in response to my questions:

    No. I’ve never heard of big parties where everyone is kissing. Sounds mad. But China and the others have moved substantially towards what they were pre-Covid. The economy is growing and the quotes I gave come from highly credible sources.

  440. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    I asked these Qs to him:

    1: What % “back to normal” are they? Like, 75%? Or…?

    2: You can have a party, right?

    3: You still can’t kiss strangers, right? To me, kissing is the litmus-test for when you’re 100% back to normal.

    4: The countries that are most striking are China, NZ, Vietnam, and…?

  441. Andrew,
    I tend to avoid kissing strangers even under normal circumstances 🙂 My understanding, though, is the New Zealand (for example) is fairly close to being back to normal. I couldn’t quantify it, though.

  442. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I recall that New Year’s celebrations in NZ were posted on Twitter. It’s kind of surreal for a locked-down country like the UK/US to see these videos on social media and be like: “Why aren’t they locked down? Why are we getting such a raw deal here?”

  443. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I want to return to the issue of the John Snow memo. I think that you’re brilliant/important/prominent, but I don’t see the rationale for why your name is on that petition. What rationale would you give for the fact that your name is on there? Shouldn’t that petition be for public-health experts and virologists and epidemiologists?

    You might say that math/physics/statistical people have a huge role to play in this.

    After all, that paper from INET that I’ve linked multiple times upthread is supposed to be the most relevant paper to the issue of lockdowns, and yet it’s written by people who do statistics/economics, so go figure…

  444. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I’m not a weirdo who French-kisses strangers all the time. My point is that French-kissing strangers is a litmus-test for when things are literally 100% back to normal and there is literally zero fear of transmission. If you’re willing to French-kiss a stranger, then you evidently have ZERO fear of transmission.

    The stuff that I quoted upthread (e.g., in China, “the relief at unmasked faces, joyous get-togethers and daily commutes”) is pretty fascinating. Not sure how to quantify how far “back to normal” they are, but “unmasked faces” is pretty striking to me.

  445. Andrew,
    I really don’t get the point of you asking me about the John Snow memorandum again. I’ve answered your question a couple of times already. If those answers aren’t good enough for you, then I just can’t do any better.

  446. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, Thanks. Sorry for bugging you about it again. I’m trying to get my mind around the ethics/logic/rationale of these scientific documents that get signed by various experts. I hope that my questions didn’t come across as too annoying/accusatory, and thanks for addressing them the first time around.

  447. Andrew,
    Ethically, it’s published in the Lancet so we all had to – as we did – sign documents declaring any conflicts of interest/etc. One could argue that having helped to draft it, it might be unethical to then not sign it. The logic/rationale is to provide a document that aimed to set out the current consensus and to present a set of arguments for how we might move forward, given this understanding. As far as I can tell, what we presented in the John Snow Memorandum has pretty much stood the test of time, unfortunately.

  448. Actually, I need to correct something. I was getting a bit confused about Lancet letters. I was a signatory of the John Snow Memorandum, but not an author of the version published in the Lancet. It was a later letter to the Lancet that I helped to author. The Lancet site seems to be down at the moment, so I can’t provide a link.

  449. Just to clarify for Andrew’s benefit, I signed the John Snow Memorandum, but wasn’t one of the authors of the Lancet version (I also wasn’t the only physicist amongst the early signatories). I was, however, an author of this Lancet letter (and, again, not the only physicist).

  450. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I understand all that, but are you expert enough on the relevant material to be able to sign it? If it were a letter about astrophysics then there’d be no question that you know enough to sign, but actually now that I think about it it’s not like EVERY person in your field of astrophysics is expert on EVERY topic in astrophysics…

    If you already answered this adequately then I apologize.

  451. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > , but are you expert enough on the relevant material to be able to sign it?

    What metric would you use to determine when someone is expert enough on the relevant material to advocate for related policy?

    Who do you think who should conduct an evaluation? Perhaps a Committee for the Review of Expertise and Excellence in the Purpose of Standardization? (CREEPS)?

  452. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew, if someone has been contributing to research on a topic, they are likely to be expert enough to sign letters. The basis on which calls for action are made requires a wide range of research skills. For instance, where data is involved, you need people with expertise in statistical inference as well as medical experts. People gain statistical expertise outside statistics and computational skills outside computer science (I am an Electronic Engineer by training, but my research is in computational statistics – i.e. machine learning). So if you are going to judge whether someone is expert enough to sign a letter, you ought to at least look at their work, not just their qualifications.

    Prof. Rice is well qualified IMHO.

  453. Andrew,
    I don’t really know how to answer your question. i don’t often sign such things, but when I do, the two main criteria are “do I agree with it” and “is it consistent with the current best evidence”. The John Snow Memorandum, in my view, satisfied both.

  454. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, my point is that in order to be able to KNOW that X is “consistent with the current best evidence” then you need to have enough expertise to be able to be a good judge of that. You need to be “down in the weeds”. Are you “down in the weeds” on what the lockdown-relevant literature says on X/Y/Z?

    Do you not agree with me that it’s weird to see biologists/physicists signing climate letters? Their work is “relevant”, but you really want climate-modelers (like Gavin Schmidt) and climate scientists (like Richard Alley) to sign that stuff. Just my own view. I could be wrong.

    Dr. Rice, you are one of the world’s foremost experts on accretion discs, so if anyone wrote a letter on that topic then you would be so “down in the weeds” that you would be one of the best people in the entire world to sign anything on that topic, but the issue is that as one gets less and less “down in the weeds” then it becomes more and more questionable as to whether that person’s opinion carries any weight (any more than your barber’s does).

    There was a thing where a bunch of meteorologists signed something saying that global warming wasn’t happening, but meteorologists are pretty faces who tell you if it’s going to rain tomorrow, not climate scientists!

  455. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew “You need to be “down in the weeds”. ”

    https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m3588

  456. dikranmarsupial says:

    “There was a thing where a bunch of meteorologists signed something saying that global warming wasn’t happening,”

    The problem with that is not with meterorologists saying it. The problem is that what they were saying was not “consistent with the current best evidence” (as ATTP put it).

    Ad-hominems are not very helpful. Prof Rice has published research with “down in the weeds” level analysis. The contents of the letter are “consistent with the current best evidence”. Prof Rice was well qualified to be a signatory.

  457. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran,

    1: Dr. Rice is unquestionably extremely intelligent/competent/impeccable as a scholar (that’s not in doubt)

    2: Dr. Rice is evidently “down in the weeds” on this matter https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m3588

    3: I don’t know if Dr. Rice is “down on the weeds” on the matters that the John Snow memo opines on, though.

    4: I’m not at all attacking Dr. Rice or the John Snow memo or anything; I’m openly asking where the line ought to be drawn as to what form of expertise is relevant to X/Y/Z letter (e.g., I think that we can all agree that the opinion of meteorologists on climate science is absolutely zero)

  458. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    [Moar questions. – W]

  459. dikranmarsupial says:

    “4: I’m not at all attacking Dr. Rice or the John Snow memo or anything; I’m openly asking where the line ought to be drawn as to what form of expertise is relevant to X/Y/Z letter (e.g., I think that we can all agree that the opinion of meteorologists on climate science is absolutely zero)”

    No I don’t agree that the opinion of meteorologists on climate science is absolutely zero. The two field share a very great deal of basic physics. Climate models and weather prediction models are essentially the same thing (but used in slightly different ways.

    You can draw your own personal line where you like, but if someone has worked on a particular topic, then I think it is reasonably to conclude that their opinion is worth listening to.

    It is actually very health for scientists from other fields to make contributions, they often bring fresh ideas and new ways of solving problems.

  460. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew, so what points were made in favour of lockdowns in that debate?

  461. Willard says:

    Speaking of lines:

    The line-drawing fallacy is a fallacy of vagueness, having the form “Since there is no precise line that can be drawnd between A and not-A, there is no real difference between A and not-A.” Example: “Since no one can say where the line should be drawn between legitimate uses of force and excessive uses of force, then no one can honestly claim that any use of force is excessive.”

    https://bookdown.org/rlridenour/ct-text/informal-fallacies.html

    It has been immortalized by the Best Tweeter of All Time:

    I’m not attacking anyone here, I’m just questioning where we should draw the line on what constitutes a constructive exchange.

  462. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, I have zero problem with Dr. Rice being an astrophysicist. Credentials are irrelevant. Expertise is what’s relevant. Dr. Rice has written that paper on school-closings that you cited, but what else? School-closings is not remotely central to what the John Snow memo is about. It’s probably a fantastic paper and Dr. Rice is undoubtedly an impeccable/leading/excellent scientist, but it’s simply not central to the issues at hand. A letter about school-closings would be a different matter, but the John Snow memo was not about school-closings.

    dikran, I only paid attention to David Dowdy regarding that debate, and the notes that I pasted summarize David Dowdy’s points. This is David Dowdy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Dowdy. He was the only one in that debate who seemed reasonable. One of the guys in that debate was an anti-lockdown person who comes across to me as super-sketchy, so I just took notes on Dowdy. That’s not to say that I have any religious conviction that the anti-lockdown guy is incorrect, but I’m just being honest that I couldn’t drum up the interest to take notes on his side of the argument.

    Willard, I don’t know what problem you have with my point that I’m trying to figure out how we can be honest/serious/reasonable about (and have integrity about) the issue of the relevance of different kinds of expertise. Somewhere between meteorologists signing climate letters (which I think is absurd) and Dr. Rice signing an accretion-disc letter (which everyone agrees would make 100% sense), there is a gray area where we need to make judgment-calls about what kind of expertise is relevant. I’m openly asking where we draw the line. Or maybe we can’t draw one. I’m interested in whether Dr. Rice knows enough to have signed the John Snow memo; we can ask that question even if nothing general can be said on the issue of relevance.

  463. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Note: If any of those meteorologists actually knew anything about climate science, then it’s OK for them to have signed a climate letter. I just think that zero of them had any relevant expertise.

  464. Willard says:

    > Credentials are irrelevant. Expertise is what’s relevant. Dr. Rice has written that paper on school-closings that you cited, but what else?’s probably a fantastic paper and Dr. Rice is undoubtedly an impeccable/leading/e

    How many papers would you need, Andrew?

    Why are you still special pleading?

    Do you realize that when I’m asking you to stop arguing by questions, it’s because it’s really annoying?

    I mean, for a whole WEEK now?

    Do you know that “but expertise” is a known Climateball move?

    Have you ever read Judy’s?

    For instance, these ones:

    https://judithcurry.com/?s=expertise

    Can you at the very least concede that you’re still refusing to answer one single question?

    Do you understand that by mirroring your playstyle I want to underline how toxic it can be?

  465. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Willard: Asking questions is healthy. It’s how you learn and grow. You’re under no obligation to be interested in the questions that I’m asking. I’m sorry that you find my questions annoying, but you can just not respond and then the problem will be solved. 🙂

  466. Willard says:

    You still don’t get it, Andrew. JAQing off is boring. It’s older than the Internet.

    Moreover, it’s oftentimes lazy. It’s obvious you really have no interest in scratching your own itch. You’re simply using a silly copycat strategy.

    Have you considered how invulnerable it makes you? You’re not taking any position. You’re Just Asking Questions between two sides you watch fight.

    And what’s the actual question about? The host’s expertise.

    So please, pretty please, Andrew, lose the smileys.

    They don’t become you.

    ***

    At the very least, and I mean it:

    Don’t you see that questioning expertise is ad hominem?

    Do you really need me to remind you what was your earlier stance on ad hominem?

    Fancy a shadowboxer who would keep insisting that he’s not shadowboxing because his shadow does. In our case, the shadow would be all those for whom you spoke so far in this thread.

    Isn’t it amazing? You can come here and asks all kind of questions, expect room service, and still question Ken’s expertise.

    That’s the opposite of what I would call honorable, Andrew.

    And don’t come back with “I have autism.” First, it’s not something one has. Second, why should it get you special treatment?

    Language is a social art.

  467. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    What metric would you use to determine when someone is expert enough on the relevant material to advocate for related policy?

    Who do you think who should conduct an evaluation?

  468. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew “Dr. Rice has written that paper on school-closings that you cited, but what else? School-closings is not remotely central to what the John Snow memo is about.”

    You are wrong. Schools are an obvious focus of opportunities for transmission of COVID. If schools are still open, it isn’t a full lockdown.

    Saying “One of the guys in that debate was an anti-lockdown person who comes across to me as super-sketchy,” is inconsistent with saying “Credentials are irrelevant. Expertise is what’s relevant.”. No further ad-hominems please.

    “That’s not to say that I have any religious conviction that the anti-lockdown guy is incorrect, but I’m just being honest that I couldn’t drum up the interest to take notes on his side of the argument. ”

    If you want to take a useful part in making sure misinformation does not spread, you need to be able to take a balanced view yourself. You are not doing that, by your own admission.

  469. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Note: If any of those meteorologists actually knew anything about climate science, then it’s OK for them to have signed a climate letter. I just think that zero of them had any relevant expertise.”

    Sorry, you are wrong. Meteorology is the closest discipline to climatology in science. They *all* have relevant experience.

  470. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Second, why should it get you special treatment?

    Language is a social art.”

    because people with autism have social communication difficulties, generally caused by a theory of mind deficit, for them language is likely social artless. Sadly this is indistinguishable from trolling sometimes. I don’t know which it is in this case, however I do know from experience that autistic people really struggle in society because ironically neutrotypical people are unable to find the empathy to take their deficits into account and modify their own language use to help bridge the gap.

  471. Andrew,
    I think this is now qualifying as Ad Hominem. It would be one thing if you were criticising me for signing something that turned out to be wrong, but it seems that your only comment relates to who I am. Since I can’t turn back time, and I can’t provide any better answers than I already have, maybe we can stop this line of questioning. FWIW, I think everyone who signed the memorandum was verified in some way, and the criteria were scientist, medic, researcher, modeller, healthcare or public health professional.

  472. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Willard, I’m sorry that you don’t like “just asking questions”, but my solution is that if you’re not interested in the questions then nobody will compel you to respond to the questions. You can turn to something else. Problem solved.

    Joshua, nobody should conduct an evaluation. I’m talking about what makes sense and what’s ethical and what’s rational. I’m not proposing rules/legislation/laws about what should be permitted.

    dikran, sorry for saying why I didn’t take notes on the anti-lockdown guy. I should not have shared my irrelevant personal impression of him. The point is that I only took notes on Dowdy, and I apologize for not taking notes on the others. If someone else is interested then they can take notes on the full debate (adding my Dowdy notes).

    dikran, I do have a “balanced view” in that I’m open to argument/evidence but I have limited time/energy so investing hours of time to take notes on some guys views (aren’t his views already expressed in the Great Barrington Declaration anyway?) seems like a bad use of my time/energy. I’d rather get in touch with Anti-Virus and get them to address the burning questions that lockdown-skeptics have.

    Dr. Rice, do meteorologists tend to know about climate science? I apologize if I’m wrong. My understanding is that they don’t.

    Dr. Rice, it has precisely zero to do with who you are (or your credentials) and everything to do with what I keep saying: whether the signatory’s expertise is relevant.

  473. Andrew,
    There is an overlap between meteorology and climate science. You wouldn’t describe meteorologists as climate scientists, but you also wouldn’t claim that meteorologists know nothing about climate science.

    Dr. Rice, it has precisely zero to do with who you are (or your credentials) and everything to do with what I keep saying: whether the signatory’s expertise is relevant.

    You can certainly decide that you’re going to ignore a letter/memorandum because *you* think the signatories don’t have relevant expertise. You could – as you’ve done – ask some of them questions about their expertise. However, once they’ve given you their answers, asking them again seems rather pointless. At the end of the day, the decision as to how much attention to pay to the letter/memorandum is yours, and yours alone.

  474. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew “Dr. Rice, do meteorologists tend to know about climate science? ”

    climate is the long term statistical properties of weather. Climatologists and meteorologists are very similar in the areas of science they need to know.

    dikran, I do have a “balanced view” in that I’m open to argument/evidence but I have limited time/energy so investing hours of time to take notes on some guys views (aren’t his views already expressed in the Great Barrington Declaration anyway?) seems like a bad use of my time/energy. I’d rather get in touch with Anti-Virus and get them to address the burning questions that lockdown-skeptics have.

    We also have limited time and energy. We have things we want to do rather than discuss large numbers of questions that you have. You need to do some work as well to answer those questions for yourself, for example by paying attention to both sides of a debate and seeing if some of the issues were resolved by the debate and don’t need to be raised here.

    dikran, sorry for saying why I didn’t take notes on the anti-lockdown guy. I should not have shared my irrelevant personal impression of him.

    I disagree. I think being honest and open about such things is good. It isn’t irrelevant, it just highlights a problem that you need to resolve. Personal impressions are irrelevant, the important things are their arguments and the support they get from the evidence. If you are letting personal impressions get in the way of that, you need to make an effort to learn not to do that.

  475. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice and dikran, exactly how much climate science do meteorologists tend to know? My understanding is that they tend to not be experts on climate science. I don’t mean to say that they know NOTHING about it, but that’s wildly irrelevant to my question. There are vast numbers of field that have SOME overlap with climate science, but I don’t know whether the people in these fields tend to have a good enough grasp on climate science to have relevant expertise. Same thing with the John Snow memo: even a virologist who knows a lot about virology might not have the relevant expertise to address the question of lockdowns. Strangely enough, the INET paper linked upthread is arguably the most relevant paper on the topic, and AFAIK it’s written by economists/statisticians (people with zero expertise in virology/epidemiology).

    Dr. Rice, I wouldn’t ignore the John Snow memo. I’m not attacking you, or the memo, or anyone. I like the memo. I respect/admire you and your work. There is no hostility, and since I’ve expressed none I don’t think I should have to prove myself innocent of hostility. This is like a witch who has to somehow prove she’s not a witch (how would she go about doing that, exactly, do you propose?).

    Everyone in this thread: There seems to be a tendency for me to ask genuine open-ended questions about what is ethical/rational when it comes to experts signing X/Y/Z and putting their name behind a letter based on what is presumed to be relevant expertise, and then people read into my question some kind of “argument” or “motivation”. I chalk this up to internet culture where there is no such thing as an innocent/open/curious question from a curious person. If internet culture makes people extremely cynical about innocent/open/curious questions, there’s nothing that I can do to combat that paranoia (unless I make you a long YouTube video that you can use to judge me based on my tone and facial expressions and so on, but that would be laborious). Even lie-detectors can’t scientifically prove that someone is asking innocent/open/curious questions, so it’s a hopeless task to try to prove it.

    dikran, I’m trying to reach Anti-Virus so that they can tackle the questions (from lockdown-skeptics) in a way that will “hit a million birds with one stone” by giving public answers that millions of lockdown-skeptics can all read on the Anti-Virus site.

  476. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Dr. Rice and dikran, exactly how much climate science do meteorologists tend to know? My understanding is that they tend to not be experts on climate science. ”

    Both are studying the behaviour of the atmosphere (including the influences of the ocean and land masses). Meteorologists are generally interested in short term behaviour, climatologists are generally interested in the long term behaviour. However AFAICS the physics governing the atmosphere is the same for them both.

    You are putting far too much attention on job titles, which are not always a good indicator of expertise. I teach computer science, but I have published papers on many other topics, such as climatology, air pollution and paleontology – modern science involves lots of interdisciplinary collaboration, and nobody is that interested in job titles. What matters is the argument and the support of the evidence. I have said this enough times now to have made my position clear, so I will not respond to further questions relating to expertise.

  477. Andrew,
    I don’t know how to compare meteorologists and climate scientists. At my university, meteorology degrees are in the School of Geosciences, and involve studying physics, mathematics, earth sciences, and things like atmospheric dynamics. As far as I can tell, this is very similar to the kind of material you might study if you wanted to do climate science. There isn’t actually – AFAIA – a degree in climate science; climate scientists tend to be people with physics/mathematics/statistics/geosciences backgrounds, rather than people with specific undergraduate degrees.

    A key difference is that meteorologists tend to look at current weather, whereas climate scientists are considering our climate (average of the weather, if you like) both now, in the past, and in the future. They’re essentially different career paths, although meteorologists will probably have the background to understand the basics of climate science.

  478. dikranmarsupial says:

    “There seems to be a tendency for me to ask genuine open-ended questions about what is ethical/rational when it comes to experts signing X/Y/Z and putting their name behind a letter based on what is presumed to be relevant expertise, and then people read into my question some kind of “argument” or “motivation”.

    If you want to avoid people from reading motivation into your questions, then one thing you could do is to ask one question at a time and allow sufficient time for the answers to be discussed in depth before moving onto the next.

    I have pointed this out before, but a common technique in motivated discussion is to use what is known as a Gish Gallop, which is a long list of questions or points, where it is impractical for an opponent to adequately address them all. So if you ask lots of questions at the same time, it is indistinguishable from a Gish Gallop intended to stifle genuine debate. You are right, we can’t tell your motivation, we only get hints by what you write.

  479. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, why is it relevant if “the physics governing the atmosphere is the same for them both”? I will tell you people who are FANTASTIC people to sign a letter about global warming: Richard Alley and Gavin Schmidt. Or ANYONE who has mastery over paleoclimate (!!!) would be a FANTASTIC person to sign something.

    Dr. Rice, doesn’t relevant expertise (regarding the climate crisis) have to do with paleoclimate, CO2’s historical role in Earth’s climate, understanding of current patterns regarding the climate and how we can rule out non-anthropogenic causes, some understanding of what this anthropogenic warming will actually MEAN for civilization, etc., etc.? I understand that in throwing out these ideas I’m probably being way too strict. My criteria might narrow down the list of relevant experts to a very short list. I would imagine that a glaciologist would be a fantastic person to sign something on climate.

    Anyway, I don’t want to bother you guys too much. You guys are busy. You’ve been extremely generous. This thread is over 500 comments now. Thank you so much for your generous responses to my questions, whether or not you consider the questions to be genuine/open/curious ones.

    My main goal in this thread was just to get in touch with “Anti-Virus”. My hope was to get them to expand their FAQ to include the questions (including the questions from my anti-lockdown relatives).

    I still haven’t gotten word back from Anti-Virus, but my fingers are crossed.

    Dr. Rice, does it make sense for me to contact Stuart Ritchie if Anti-Virus doesn’t respond?

  480. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP “There isn’t actually – AFAIA – a degree in climate science; climate scientists tend to be people with physics/mathematics/statistics/geosciences backgrounds, rather than people with specific undergraduate degrees. ”

    Indeed, for example, Gavin Schmidt (who Andrew mentioned earlier) is a mathematician. He has a BA (Hons) in Maths from Oxford and a PhD, in Applied Maths from UCL. The thesis was on “The calculation, scattering and stability of topographic Rossby waves”. I suspect Rossby waves a highly relevant to both meterology and climatology.

  481. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew “I will tell you people who are FANTASTIC people to sign a letter about global warming: Richard Alley and Gavin Schmidt. Or ANYONE who has mastery over paleoclimate (!!!) would be a FANTASTIC person to sign something. ”

    As I said, I will not respond further on the topic of expertise. It is clear that you do not accept my answers, but those answers will not change simply because you repeat the questions.

  482. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Just a note on expertise. I’ve noticed that Bill Nye is constantly trotted out in the media to talk about global warming. How much does he actually know about the topic?

    I guess that expertise (not credentials) is all that matters, so if Nye has an engineering degree then who cares, but my sense is that Nye doesn’t actually know much about global warming, so it makes me cringe when the media uses him as a global-warming “expert” because it seems like a massive disservice to the public. I’ve seen people “get the better of Nye” on cable news before and it makes the science of the climate crises seem weak when really it isn’t. A genuine expert would make mincemeat out of any goofball on cable news, but Nye often fails to do that.

  483. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, I don’t think that Schmidt’s thesis has anything at all to do with climate. I think that Schmidt said that he knew ZERO about climate prior to going to NASA and stumbling into this stuff. He was just a math guy before NASA.

  484. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    As Dr. Rice knows because he’s a leading expert on the matter of scientific consensus regarding climate change, one way to measure the value of someone’s opinion is to ask how “highly-cited” they are as a researcher.

  485. dikranmarsupial says:

    Sorry, I have had enough about expertise, especially if it ignores the point that being made, which is that climatologists generally don’t have a specialist qualification in climatology.

    BTW “I think that Schmidt said…” is not evidence. Provide a verifiable reference so that your arguments can be checked.

  486. Andrew,
    I wouldn’t really agree with that. I think we put too much emphasis on trying to define *leading* researchers. Clearly someone’s publications, and citations, are an indicator, but there are certainly some in the climate space who are well published, well cited (often highlighting this) but who are not reliable sources of information about climate science. Similarly, a recent PhD graduate working in their first postdoctoral position may have a relatively small number of papers and citations, but will essentially have just spent years doing very detailed work. They may well be an excellent source of information about climate science.

  487. dikranmarsupial says:

    I fully agree with what ATTP just wrote. If it is a really good PhD student, they may be more of an expert on their particular topic than their supervisor by the time they finish ;o)

  488. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, isn’t it important to define the “highly-cited” people, though, otherwise anyone with a PhD will count? Isn’t it true that it’s 100% consensus among “highly-cited” climate people, and that the deniers are able to pick up a couple PhDs but never are able to get a “highly-cited” person on board with their nonsense?

    dikran, I retract the comment on Schmidt. You could be right. Sorry for saying that. I apologize. I was just going based on my (probably faulty) memory of something he said. I completely retract that. I sincerely apologize.

    This is really good news, in my opinion: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nasa-names-its-first-climate-advisor/.

  489. If it is a really good PhD student, they may be more of an expert on their particular topic than their supervisor by the time they finish ;o)

    Almost always true in my case 😉

  490. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, I think that I was wrong and that Schmidt might well consider his thesis to be climate-relevant. It was PRIOR to his thesis that he was divorced from anything climate-related:

    https://skepticalscience.com/interview-gavin-schmidt.html

    CB: So what inspired you to take the route that you did through climate science? And who or what continues to inspire you now?

    GS: I started off as a mathematician and the only thing I cared about was doing interesting math problems. And that kind of led to Oxford, where I did a maths degree, and I didn’t really know what to do with that afterwards, so I kind of bummed around for a while. Then when I came back from that I was looking for more of a challenge, and I just went to the maths department at University College London and said: “Oh, maybe I could do a PhD?”, and they said: “Woah! No, you can’t just come in here, walk in and expect to do a PhD – there’s a process, there’s applications – it’s all been decided months ago!” So, I was like: “Oh, I’m terribly sorry.” And then they said: “Well, you might want to go and talk to that guy over there.” So, I went to talk to that guy over there, and it turns out he’d just had something funded and he was looking for graduate students and he said, basically: “Oh, when can you start?!” So, I said, “Oh, in a couple of weeks.” So, I just walked into that. And he turned out to be working on problems associated with ocean circulation, and as I got into more applied mathematics – problems that have a real-world connection – what I found was that people were more interested. You could talk about these things and you could actually do things that people cared about. And as I’ve gone from theoretical oceanography to simple models of the climate and now to much more complex models of the climate, what I find is that I’m able to answer and explore questions that more and more people care about. And so that’s really what drives me. Instead of just imagining a spherical cow and making some great theory about that, can you make things as realistic as possible? And, actually, have a real connection to the phenomena and the patterns of change you see in the real world?

  491. Andrew,
    I think you’re confusing the sample with the individual. At an individual level, I don’t think that someone’s citations are necessarily a good indicator of their expertise. Early career researchers may have more than enough relevant expertise despite not yet having a lot of citations. Similarly, someone with a lot of citations may well not be a reliable source of information.

    However, if you are trying to present a sample of people who support some scientific position and can’t find a single highly-cited person in that sample, then that probably tells you something about the typical scientific credibility of the people in that sample. Similarly, if you have a sample of people who support a position who appear to have relevant expertise, a range of scientific credentials (from highly cited to less well cited) that may provide some indication that the position is reasonable. You do need to use some judgement.

    The key thing about the consensus studies in climate science is not that the individuals are highly cited, or that the papers are highly cited, it’s that the sample includes nearly everyone who has relevant expertise (or nearly every paper that takes a position).

  492. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Isn’t it true that it’s 100% consensus among “highly-cited” climate people, and that the deniers are able to pick up a couple PhDs but never are able to get a “highly-cited” person on board with their nonsense? ”

    No, it isn’t true. Highly cited climate skeptics do exist, and it is easy to perform a google search to find them (the search “well cited climate skeptics” gives this as the first hit for me).

    A PhD is basically an apprenticeship in research – it teaches you the skills you need to be able to do research. You don’t need an apprenticeship in cabinetmaking to be able to make fine pieces of furniture. Likewise you don’t need a PhD to do high quality work. Like furniture making, what matters is the quality of your work. In science, citations are a noise and lagging measure of quality. Sometime brilliant work goes unnoticed and uncited for decades, sometimes a paper sums up the “zeitgeist” of the field and ends up cited well beyond it’s intrinsic merit.

    But at the end of the day, what matters is whether the argument is internally consistent, consilient with existing knowledge and is well supported by the available evidence.

  493. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Almost always true in my case ”

    sign of a good supervisor ;o)

  494. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, the problem is that people aren’t able to assess the quality of science in the way that they’re able to assess the quality of furniture, so there’s a need to rely on consensus (and “highly-cited” consensus) because nobody has the expertise to assess quality.

  495. Andrew,
    But there is a difference between realising that a large fraction of relevant experts agree about some scientific position, and one highly-cited researcher promoting a particular scientific position. The latter doesn’t necessarily mean that the highly-cited researcher is promoting a consensus position.

  496. dikranmarsupial says:

    dikran, the problem is that people aren’t able to assess the quality of science in the way that they’re able to assess the quality of furniture, so there’s a need to rely on consensus (and “highly-cited” consensus) because nobody has the expertise to assess quality.

    An easier approach is to listen to organisations of scientists, such as the IPCC, NOAA, the Met Office or The Royal Society for climate change, or the WHO, CDC or NHS for COVID. As ATTP suggests it is much easier to gauge the reliability of organisations than individuals.

    But at the end of the day, you don’t need consensus opinion to know that lockdowns and masks reduce the transmission of respiratory viruses. The science isn’t complicated and a bit of common sense really is all that is sufficient. Just like judging furniture.

  497. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, it’s disturbing to me (given how non-expert the public is) that you can’t AT LEAST say (1) here’s a strong general consensus, (2) here’s a highly-cited consensus that’s even STRONGER, and (3) here’s the evidence behind that consensus.

    If you can’t do that, due to the problems that you guys are pointing out, then I fear for the future because the public will never go out and get a PhD on this.

    This might be a good logic that the public can use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd6cvqZlmj4.

    It might well be the case that there’s no substitute for just evaluating the evidence, but the amount of effort involved in sorting through all of the evidence…I’m not even sure if many “highly-cited researchers” have sifted through all of the relevant evidence. Maybe nobody has.

  498. Andrew,
    I don’t quite get what you’re disturbed about.

  499. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, I agree that there’s a common-sense foundation for various Covid measures (like masking and locking down various things), but that doesn’t tell us (1) HOW much benefit these measures bring and (2) how much that benefit compares to the COSTS.

    Regarding AGW (anthropogenic global warming), just taking for granted the bedrock facts that CO2 traps heat and that the heating is BAD tells you NOTHING about how much benefit we get from going carbon-neutral and how much it will COST to go carbon-neutral.

    Regarding both Covid and AGW, the basic bedrock facts don’t move the needle toward any cost-benefit analysis of whether X/Y/Z action is worthwhile. You need the MAGNITUDES. Maybe AGW will only kill 10 people and do a billion dollars of damage…you can’t know whether that’s the case or not from just knowing that AGW is real/harmful.

  500. dikranmarsupial says:

    Dr. Rice, it’s disturbing to me (given how non-expert the public is) that you can’t AT LEAST say (1) here’s a strong general consensus, (2) here’s a highly-cited consensus that’s even STRONGER, and (3) here’s the evidence behind that consensus.

    There is a strong general consensus on some issues, for instance that mask-wearing reduces the transmission of respiratory viruses. Nobody really doubts that, it is why doctors, nurses and dentists have worn masks for over a century.

    There is less of a consensus that masks directly protect the wearer of the mask from infection by other people. But that is not necessary for wearing a mask to be a very good idea. Your mask protects me from infection, my mask protects you. If we all wear a mask, we are all protected. However this requires us to be willing to do something for other people.

    The same is true of lockdowns. It is obvious that they reduce transmission of COVID to varying degrees (depending on how rigorous the lockdown actually is). I think there is a strong consensus on that. There is less of a consensus on whether that is good for economic considerations or worse.

    The public don’t need consensus statements of very obvious facts, and even if they did, the advice from the WHO/CDC/NHS ought to be more than sufficient.

  501. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    #3

    What metric would you use to determine when someone is expert enough on the relevant material to advocate for related policy?

  502. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, I’m disturbed because the public (and maybe even leading EXPERTS) cannot possibly have a mastery of all the evidence in a way that would supplant the need to rely on expert consensus. Without being able to invoke consensus (and highly-cited consensus) the public will be totally unable to get to the bottom of this. Like I said, even the leading experts might not be immersed-enough in the info to be able to sift through it all, so there’s zero hope for the non-expert.

  503. dikranmarsupial says:

    dikran, I agree that there’s a common-sense foundation for various Covid measures (like masking and locking down various things), but that doesn’t tell us (1) HOW much benefit these measures bring and (2) how much that benefit compares to the COSTS.

    Specifically what are the costs of wearing a mask?

  504. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, this

    “Dr. Rice, it’s disturbing to me (given how non-expert the public is) that you can’t AT LEAST say (1) here’s a strong general consensus, (2) here’s a highly-cited consensus that’s even STRONGER, and (3) here’s the evidence behind that consensus.”

    refers to AGW, not Covid.

    Any time in this thread I’ve ever mentioned the word “highly-cited”, I’m talking 100% about AGW, not any other topic.

    My understanding (maybe incorrect) is that the consensus on AGW goes up to 100% once you survey the “highly-cited” climate-experts.

    Dr. Rice, am I correct that the consensus goes up to 100% once you specify “highly-cited”?

    https://skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-advanced.htm

  505. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    [But consensus. – W]

  506. Andrew,
    Okay, here’s an issue to consider. Scientific consensus is useful if we’re trying to determine our best understanding of something. Are humans causing global warming? Do lockdowns reduce virus transmissions? We can present consensus positions on these. What we can’t do (and probably shouldn’t) is try to present consensus positions on what we (society) should do. Any decision based on a consensus will require an element of judgement that no scientific evidence can really) provide. Sometimes it might seem obvious, but it still requires a judgement and we should (IMO) of clearly that a scientific consensus alone can determine the answer.

  507. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    dikran, I don’t know what the costs of masking are. But this is one of the questions that I want Anti-Virus to add to their site:

    . https://www.reddit.com/r/postanything/comments/l588lu/any_covid_questions_post_some_questions_in_the/

    [Moar questions. – W]

  508. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Joshua asked:

    “What metric would you use to determine when someone is expert enough on the relevant material to advocate for related policy?”

    I have no idea.

    Dr. Rice, how would you tackle that question?

  509. Andrew,
    I don’t think there is a metric one can use. I think anyone can advocate for policy. In fact, we should be careful of thinking that there is some kind of metric that gives an individual more of a right to advocate than others.

  510. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew “refers to AGW, not Covid. ”

    “Consensus” doesn’t mean 100% agreement, it just means there is a “general agreement”, i.e. most agree, but there may be a minority with a dissenting view.

    There is no scientific topic in which there is 100% unanimous agreement amongst all leading scientists.

    We don’t need 100% agreement. If someone had cancer and 99 doctors suggested a particular course of treatment, would it be rational reject it because one doctor said it was ineffective?

  511. dikranmarsupial says:

    “dikran, I don’t know what the costs of masking are.”

    Yet you raised it as an objection. If you raise it as an objection, the onus is on you to support your argument, not place that burden on me.

    The costs of mask wearing are negligible. You can even recycle them from old clothes. Some people can’t wear masks, and have a medical exemption.

    So even if wearing a mask only helps prevent a few deaths, if the costs to us are negligible, we should wear them.

    What is your objection to that reasoning?

  512. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > I have no idea

    Lol.

    So after all of that, you have no basis on which to judge whether Dr. Rice should have signed that letter?

  513. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, you’re correct that saying “lockdown measures A/B/C will prevent X deaths and Y hospitalizations and Z hospitals from overflowing” does not tell you whether A/B/C should be done. The epidemiology gives you one side of the ledger, and economics (and other stuff) gives you the “costs” side, and then the best-qualified person to weigh the two sides against each other is probably a moral philosopher who literally studies morality for a living (like Shelly Kagan): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelly_Kagan.

    Note that upthread I continually say that the most relevant paper on this that I know of is the INET paper that is written by economists/statisticians who have ZERO knowledge of virology/epidemiology.

    As my friend wrote to me on this:

    Epidemiology is a bit outside my expertise. My impression is that, when acting as a scientist, epidemiologists are most likely to give the sort of statement “If you adopt this policy, you will get these results, with this much uncertainty”. Some epidemiologists may have jobs that involve making policy recommendations, and may then make recommendations, but I don’t see being an epidemiologist as providing special insight on policies. (Nor do I see being a climate scientist as giving me special knowledge of what policies to make—I’m in favor of the “If you take these policies, you will get these outcomes” approach.) As your discussion points out, much of the decision-making must be based on values. (One approach to the policies, although surely not the only one, might involve answering questions such as “Can or should a monetary value be placed on a death, to allow calculation of economic benefits/losses of COVID to compare to economic disruption incurred in avoiding deaths?” and, if so “Is the death of an old person more valuable/equally valuable/less valuable than the death of a young person?” There isn’t much science in such answers, but they may have a huge influence on policy decisions.)

  514. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice, you said this:

    “I don’t think there is a metric one can use. I think anyone can advocate for policy. In fact, we should be careful of thinking that there is some kind of metric that gives an individual more of a right to advocate than others.”

    Could I sign the John Snow memo then? Surely this leads to a “reductio ad absurdum” where anyone (even random laypeople like me) can sign anything with as much authority as relevant experts have…

  515. Joshua says:

    All of a sudden I’m getting emails notifying me of responding comments at this site (and another WordPress blog). A quick search and I’m not sure how to turn that off.

    Anyone have an idea?

  516. Joshua says:

    Hmmm. I may have done it. Weird that something changed in my settings all of a sudden.

  517. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Note that the costs of Covid include all of the non-Covid patients who are harmed extremely severely when the medical system becomes strained and therefore cannot treat them properly regarding their non-Covid problems.

  518. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > Could I sign the John Snow memo then? Surely this leads to a “reductio ad absurdum” where anyone (even random laypeople like me) can sign anything with as much authority as relevant experts have…

    At what point does someone’s signature become absurd?

  519. dikranmarsupial says:

    Andrew, Prof. Rice has already addressed this point, he wrote:

    FWIW, I think everyone who signed the memorandum was verified in some way, and the criteria were scientist, medic, researcher, modeller, healthcare or public health professional.

    Anybody can write a letter to any journal they like and get anyone they like to sign it (you can’t sign someone else’s open letter without their pemission). Whether that letter is taken seriously depends on many factors, but I would hope that the main criterion were the content of the letter and the list of signatories would be a very minor issue.

  520. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    [Just Asking a Question. -W]

  521. Andrew,
    Good grief, back to the John Snow Memorandum again? As I’ve already pointed out, the signatories were verified and were scientists, medics, researchers, modellers, healthcare or public health professionals. If you’re one of those you could have signed it.

    Also, there is nothing stopping you from setting up your own memorandum and collecting signatures. My point is that there shouldn’t really be rules about who should be *allowed* to do this. There may, however, be reasons why some such letters are seen as having more credibility than others. That judgement should, however, be made by those who read the letter, not by those who sign it.

    You do realise that there were > 4000 people who signed the John Snow memorandum. Quite why you continue to focus on me is really a bit bizarre. If it influences your judgement of the letter, that’s fine – it’s your choice. I’m really not interested in continuing to justify it.

  522. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice,

    >If you’re one of those you could have signed it.

    I get it. Was that correct/ethical/rational? Answering this question might shed light on what we’re investigating, namely what constitutes “relevant” expertise.

    >My point is that there shouldn’t really be rules about who should be *allowed* to do this.

    Of course. I’ve never heard anyone propose banning non-experts from signing letters. The issue is what’s correct/ethical/rational.

    >There may, however, be reasons why some such letters are seen as having more credibility than others.

    Which ones? Previously you said that there’s “no metric”. We’re trying to discover what these reasons are and establish some principles that can be justified.

    >You do realise that there were > 4000 people who signed the John Snow memorandum.

    I didn’t actually know that. This is what I see:

    [Long list of names on can read on the website. – W]

    >Quite why you continue to focus on me is really a bit bizarre. If it influences your judgement of the letter, that’s fine – it’s your choice. I’m really not interested in continuing to justify it.

    I’m focusing on you because you’re in this thread and you’re accessible. No special reason/obsession other than that.

    It doesn’t impact the letter, I AGREE with the letter fully, I have respect/admiration for you, and I cannot fathom why people continually think that I’m somehow anti-lockdown or anti-John-Snow-memo or anti-anything. I’ve been very clear about my positions on all this upthread.

    My only objections to the letter might be the ones that Dowdy raised upthread (see my notes), but those are very minor criticisms.

  523. Andrew,

    Answering this question might shed light on what we’re investigating, namely what constitutes “relevant” expertise.

    *We’re* not investigating this. You are, for reasons I really don’t understand.

    Top of the John Snow Memorandum page is a link to signatories, and it goes up to 4200.

  524. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    If you care about the expertise of the signatories, then it’s up to you to do the research. The determination of whether their expertise meets your standards cannot be made by anyone else other than you. If you feel that your standard wasn’t met, then it’s up to you to figure out what thst means to you.

    You’re asking other people to assume responsibility for what you should be doing. That’s why you’re not getting satisfactory answers to your questions. No one else can answer them for you.

  525. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    Dr. Rice,

    1: I’m very interested in every question that I’ve raised throughout this thread. It’s just intellectual curiosity. I might write an article for the media if I ever get anywhere with my research on Covid stuff, but other than that it’s purely idle curiosity that nags at me.

    2: I’ll stop bugging you guys now, since it’s been a long thread with lots of questions from me and lots of very generous answers from you guys. I appreciate your help, and everyone else’s help too.

    3: I hope that Anti-Virus gets back to me. If they don’t, I will try Stuart Ritchie.

    Thanks so much for your amazing help, everyone! 🙂

  526. Willard says:

    > because people with autism have social communication difficulties

    Aspies have not the same language deficit than autists in general. Jerry Seinfeld is one. Dan Akroyd another. Probly Tim Burton too. Here’s Rick Glassman:

    http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episode-1196-rick-glassman

    I deal with autists every day. They’re very different from how we usually portray them, and they’re not beyond baiting. On the contrary. Many are philosophers. Some even suggests a “philosophical temperament.” As far as I am concerned, Andrew has been playing Columbo all along.

    Autism might provide an explanation but is never an excuse.

    I suggest we end this exchange here.

  527. Andrew J Van Wagner says:

    [You don’t get to define the ground rules, Andrew. In fact, you don’t even get to appeal to them. That’d be one meaning of “playing the ref.” – W]

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