The nature of pandemic response evidence

John Raven questions a news report.

I am glad there is a question mark at the end of the title of a news piece in the April issue called ‘A “perilous and politicised” pandemic response?’. The article reports on a letter signed by 3000+ scientists and medics expressing concern about the end to England’s isolation rules. My position is that the stance taken by those who wrote the letter is seriously unethical. Douglas Allen concludes in the International Journal of the Economics of Business from an extensive review of the international literature that something of the order of 150 life-years have been lost for each life-year saved by the lockdown measures. 

The stance also reflects pervasive acceptance of widespread abuse of science, logic and authority. The model of ‘science’ deployed in the studies cited in the letter is a form of reductionist science in which it is considered legitimate to ignore most of the effects of the manipulated variable. To be considered acceptable as a guide to policy, researchers must, at the very least, make a serious attempt to evaluate all the intended and unintended, desired and undesirable, short and long term, personal and social consequences of the proposed intervention. Thus, the nature of the ‘evidence’ required to answer the questions that lie behind the position adopted by those who signed the letter needs to be much more comprehensive (that is to say, more grounded in systemic science) than they seem to think. 

John Raven

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