Delingpole: ‘Trust the Experts on Coronavirus’. Sure. Which Experts?

Dr Otto von Niemann, played by English actor Lionel Atwill (1885 - 1946), conducts an experiment, in a scene from 'The Vampire Bat', directed by Frank R. Strayer, 1933. (Photo by Warner Bros./Archive Photos/Getty Images)
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Britain could suffer more than 60,000 coronavirus death by July, warns the Daily Mail.

But there’s a massive tell in the first sentence of the report: “…leading scientists say.”

And there’s an even bigger warning in the second paragraph:

“Modelling by researchers at the University of Washington predicted 151,680 people would succumb to the virus across the continent.”

Well maybe they will, maybe they won’t. No offence to the University of Washington but when I read the phrase “modelling by researchers” I know we are operating in the realms of purest fantasy.

That’s because I’m a climate sceptic and I’ve seen it all before.

The fact that computer models are unreliable — often based on the junkiest of junk data inputs; programmed with the shonkiest and most politically motivated algorithms, put together by people you wouldn’t trust to run a bath let alone dictate government policy — is the single most important thing you need to know about the entire global warming/climate change scam. This was the basis of the 2009 Climategate scandal: that the scientists were pushing a radical, disruptive, economically damaging agenda without any solid supporting evidence.

Everyone on the climate sceptical side of the argument knows this: the models are deeply suspect; the people behind them third rate; the scientific establishment pushing them arrogant,  intellectually and morally corrupt, driven by politics, money and power not by honest science.

That’s why climate sceptics like myself have often been much quicker to understand what the rest of the world is only slowly starting to grasp: that our governments’ response to coronavirus has been a wild overreaction; that the cure is in danger of causing much, much more damage than the disease itself.

Typical of this problem is Dr Anthony Fauci, the medic largely informing President Trump’s lockdown policy.

Fauci often likes to say in the frequent interviews he gives that he wants to ‘overreact’ to the crisis.

For example, he told ‘Meet the Press’ last month:

“I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.”

This may sound forthright, proactive but hints at a toxic abuse of power and a misguided approach to policy.

If you’re ‘overly’ aggressive, that means you are being unnecessarily aggressive.

If you’re ‘overreacting’ then, by definition, you are making the wrong reaction.

The correct reaction — again, by definition — is one that is neither under, nor over, but just right.

So what is the correct policy response to the global coronavirus pandemic? The answer depends, of course, on which experts you ask. And therein lies the problem. If so many serious, respected, credentialed figures are coming up with such wildly different judgements and policy prescriptions we should all be very worried.

What if the experts our governments are relying on to give them policy advice are the wrong experts?

If what I’ve seen in my years observing the climate science establishment is anything to go by, I’d say the experts currently dictating your life and my life probably are the wrong experts.

Take Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London — arguably the single most influential person in the world right now: it was on the basis of his doomsday report that both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Trump were frightened, against their liberty-leaning instincts, into instituting the lockdowns which are killing jobs, businesses and the economy.

Ferguson’s predictions of mass deaths — 500,000 in Britain alone — would be huge if they came true.

But it has since emerged that Ferguson has a track record of getting things spectacularly wrong. For example, his recommended response to the UK’s 2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic is now widely recognised as having led to the needless slaughter of millions of animals. (What’s the word for such an unnecessarily zealous response? Oh yes. ‘Overreaction’)

His modelling has been described by critics as ‘not fit for purpose.’ Worse — a breach of the most basic scientific etiquette — he has been reluctant to share the code which he used to model his doomsday conclusions.

According to Benny Peiser and Andrew Montford of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

Several researchers have apparently asked to see Imperial’s calculations, but Prof. Neil Ferguson, the man leading the team, has said that the computer code is 13 years old and thousands of lines of it “undocumented,” making it hard for anyone to work with, let alone take it apart to identify potential errors. He has promised that it will be published in a week or so, but in the meantime reasonable people might wonder whether something made with 13-year-old, undocumented computer code should be used to justify shutting down the economy. Meanwhile, the authors of the Oxford model have promised that their code will be published “as soon as possible.”

Are we really sure that this is the ‘expert’ on whose advice we ought to be basing the future of the U.S. and the UK economies?

And even supposing for a moment that Ferguson’s modelling isn’t bunk, we still have another major problem: Ferguson is a scientist with a very particular set of priorities and areas of understanding which may have only passing relevance to broader public policy.

One of the stupid things you often hear people say these days is: “We should trust the epidemiologists. We should trust the virologists.”

Oh, sure. But which epidemiologists and which virologists?

What about Professor Dr Sucharit Bhakdi — an infectious medicine specialist and one of the most highly cited medical research scientists in German, formerly head of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. Should we trust him?

If so then we are currently moving in the completely wrong direction with our lockdown policies which he has described as “grotesque, absurd, and very dangerous.”

In the unlikely event we can make up our minds which epidemiologists and virologists and other science experts to back, another problem arises: single objective function bias.

I recently discussed this with Professor Don Siegel, of the public policy department at Arizona State University. (You can listen to the podcast here, here or here).

Prof Siegel describes the coronavirus lockdown policy as ‘the grandest social experiment in history’ which has been ‘designed by public health officials’ in which we are all ‘unwilling subjects.’ This social experiment has been conducted without consent or proper ethical oversight — and all on the say-so of public health officials like Dr Fauci whose judgements are skewed by his ‘single objective function’ bias.

That is, he thinks like a scientist whose sole concern is to reduce coronavirus deaths to the barest minimum. What he does not consider, because it’s not his job, are the broader effects on the economy.

The history of science is littered with examples of vested interests, intransigent or dishonest Establishment shills (such as Stalin’s pet liar Trofim Lysenko), false assumptions, Appeals to Authority, and whopping errors. This is in the nature of science: an ongoing process of trial and error, conducted by flawed human beings who have got to eat and pay the rent.

That’s why, usually, few governments have ever been so stupid as to entrust vital policy decisions to such people. That way madness lies.

Yet madness, currently, seems to have been the course most of the world’s great economies have adopted.

Trust the experts, the politicians tell us.

But we don’t know these experts. We have no idea whether or not we can trust them or their models. And we certainly never voted for any of them — nor, unfortunately, do we have the ability to boot them out of office when they fail us.

That’s why we should all be concerned, very concerned about what’s being done to our countries in the name of dispassionate ‘expert’ advice.

President Trump’s first instincts — as they so often are — were right. ‘We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,’ he said.

Amen, Mr President. So, sooner rather than later, please can we have our countries back?

James Delingpole is the host of the Delingpod podcast. (Details at


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