David Mackie

How Will the Fiction be Sustained?

by David Mackie Wedded as it now is to the idea of the vaccine as the ‘solution’ to the coronavirus crisis, the Government will continue to exert all the pressure that it can on the population, through the media and other channels, to downplay any public concerns about the reliability or the safety of the vaccine(s). We already know the form that this pressure will, for the most part, take: it will consist largely of the kind of pro-vaccine propaganda masquerading either as news stories or as ‘myth-busting’ public information broadcasts that we are already seeing.Mere pro-vaccine propaganda, however, will clearly not suffice on its own: not if the numbers of ‘Covid cases’ reported and ‘COVID-19 deaths’ fail to decline in line with public expectations. Yet it must be obvious to sceptics of my kind that, if testing continues at current or increased levels, there is no reason at all to think that the numbers of positive tests or COVID-19-related deaths will decline. If testing is as unreliable as we believe it is, persuaded as we are by the scientific analyses by Dr Clare Craig, Dr Mike Yeadon, and others, then continued mass testing of the asymptomatic must inevitably continue to produce thousands upon thousands of positive tests and deaths attributed to COVID-19. As Mike Yeadon has said, if the...

The Case For Exams

by David Mackie The prospects for A-levels, GCSEs, and their Scottish equivalents in 2021 are uncertain. The Government has, to date, insisted that summer GCSEs and A-levels will take place in England, subject to a three-week deferral of the start of the timetable and some minor adjustments to the content of some syllabuses. In Northern Ireland, the plan at present is for A-level, AS, and GCSE exams to start one week later in 2021, but schools have been told to keep evidence of pupils’ progress in case it is needed as part of ‘contingency arrangements’. There will be some changes to examinable course content in some subjects, mainly at GCSE level. In Scotland, Education Secretary John Swinney announced on October 7th that National 5 exams would be cancelled in Scotland in 2021, to be replaced with teacher assessments and coursework, but that Higher and Advanced Higher exams would go ahead, with a delay of two weeks to the usual timetable. As for Wales, it was reported on October 29th that the independent review panel set up by the Welsh Government had recommended that all exams in 2021 should be cancelled; the Welsh regulator Qualifications Wales had recommended that GCSE exams be scrapped, but that some A-level papers be scheduled. Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams is to announce a decision on...

Might Most Positive Tests be Wrong?

by David Mackie A lot of people are bad with numbers, and especially so in the area of probability. Earlier this year (with accidental prescience), in the school where I work, as part of our off-curriculum 'mind-broadening' provision for sixth-formers, a few of my colleagues and I presented students with a puzzle involving imperfect methods of testing for rare conditions. Such puzzles can yield startling results – ones which even bright students are often reluctant to accept.  For example, if the incidence of a disease in the population is 0.1% and the test has a false positive rate of 5%, the probability that a randomly-selected individual testing positive actually has the disease is approximately one in fifty: about 2%, or a probability of 0.02. Though this is easy to demonstrate, it is remarkable how resistant many perfectly intelligent people are to the conclusion, even when shown the proof. "But the test is 95% reliable", they protest. "How can it be that a person with a positive test has anything less than a 95% chance of having the disease?" That kind of response merits attention. It does so because it is an example of  an important failure to understand relevant data (and/or the terminology used to describe those data); and it is a failure that renders people blind (or, worse, resistant) to legitimate concerns...

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December 2022
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