Covid and the Death of the Scientific Method

by John A Fairclough B.M. B.S. B Med Sci FRCS FFSEM

While Matt Hancock was running around in nursery, I managed a polio epidemic, had malaria, treated leprosy and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in cannibals (Mad Cow) – also abandoned my pregnant wife for safety in a convent in Papua New Guinea to rescue a voluntary worker, had a career in medicine of over five decades, published widely, including on infection ritual, the wearing of masks, and once appeared in the Times Top 10 surgeons.

I was married to a Welsh geography teacher who survived eclampsia, cerebral oedema in ITU and fractured jaw, breast cancer and ectopic pregnancy.

I lectured Internationally on the Myth of Surgical Ritual (including the nonsense of cloth masks). The above photo is a slide from the lecture.

We are now the grannies and grandads whom Matt Hancock patronised by asking the younger generation to save. We can’t apparently assess our own risk.

The absence of scientists in the political masters and some media correspondents has rendered them incapable of interrogating the validity of data suggested by some scientists. It may be a surprise to many that epidemiologists are mainly mathematicians not medics and that most scientists on SAGE are not practising clinicians who wear masks as surgeons do as part of their practice.

We now have a new Health Secretary but still the lamentable voices of SAGE, the BMA and a host of individuals who appear incapable of distinguishing scientific data from opinion.

The latest entreaty from the BMA made by Chaand Nagpaul, a GP who is registered at the aptly named “Honeypot Medical Centre Surgery” apparently supported by Chris Whitty, is that “face masks may be needed after July 19th amid fears over ‘alarming’ rise in Covid cases”.

I have fought over the five decades of my career to ensure that treatment is based not only on the science but on the relevance to the individual. Hence as a clinician I discuss management and we discuss risks including doing nothing. It is mandated that we indicate the scientific basis on which our decisions are made. When we now observe masks being given a magical property and the vaccination of children as part of the programme, we are hurtling headlong into a completely new moral and ethical paradigm. We do not know what happens to an individual who has had a COVID-19 vaccine in the long term. We do, however, know the generalised risk of mortality and the essential safety of COVID-19 in the younger generation but yet are demanding vaccination in the young. Any demand to vaccinate the under 16s is fraught with a legal challenge as the ‘best interest’ test will not be passed; sadly there is an absence of practising clinicians being listened to.

Covid has now been inculcated into the very essence of life such that society now believes that to question non-adherence to manufactured ‘rules’ or question their relevance is akin to blasphemy.

Today we attended an open-air restaurant. If we sat and had a coffee, we did not need masks, but as we walk between the tables we would all suddenly have to put masks on. (I sat next to a man on chemotherapy for terminal prostate cancer at lunch.)

The manner in which society has accepted this kind of gobbledegook from politicians, SAGE, SPI-B, public health directors and epidemiologists is frightening. It is perhaps because journalists do not understand science. Science is not pure or constant and medicine is littered with failed good ideas from aspirin in children, to gynaecological mesh, thalidomide, etc. Furthermore, academics and departments are developed from funding related to publications they produce.

When Neil Ferguson et al. in 2002 generated their fear of mad cow disease (I had already seen it in the cannibals in Papua New Guinea), they essentially panicked society in the U.K. and required a mass slaughter of cattle to treat an unknown risk which they overestimated (parallels with Covid?). What is not generally known is the immense knock-on costs this caused, e.g. in orthopaedic surgery where we were told to use disposable instruments with new protocols adding time and expense. The newspapers, TV and radio were filled with gloomy prediction of Armageddon in years to come and panic raged. When a vegetarian developed CJD there was not a sensible scientific view that this occurrence should question the assumption that CJD was related to eating meat. Scientific gymnastics were employed, not to explain that perhaps the cause (a prion) was elsewhere in the environment but that his mother had worked in an abattoir, which was ludicrous. Why? Because vast sums were given to departments to support jobs and projects and if it had been shown that the disease was not an existential threat, then research would be less important. Recognise the similarity now with the supporters of continuation of the Covid regulations? Once it is over, all the media hungry scientists, public health doctors, etc. will return to their previous anonymity and struggle to get funds unless they can continue with the fear, i.e., they are motivated to continue.

The ability to dissent from the consensus view of society is equated with either a charge of ignorance or selfishness and with becoming a social pariah.

The dystopian nature of how society has become was demonstrated in a poll by IPSOS.

The questions do not ask about knowledge of dangers, etc.

If you provide the public with essentially one-sided data, you will get the response you choose. It is horrific that the Government would feel emboldened by a public poll to start vaccinating children.

The question the poll did not ask is: If there is any possibility however remote that your child will die or be seriously ill after vaccination, would you support its use?

When Tim Spector tweeted that children may need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, we have little hope, because there is no discussion of potential harm vs. benefit for them and it is another voice in the gobbledegook science that is so prevalent today.

Perhaps the biggest casualty of the pandemic has been the death of the scientific method. The acquisition of knowledge that has characterised the development of science requires applying rigorous scepticism about what is observed, as preformed opinion or assumptions can distort how one interprets the data. The process involves making hypotheses and testing these by conducting experiments or studies. In human disease experiments, unless you have a controlled experimental population exposed to a measurable intervention which can be compared with a matched experimental group who have no intervention, then data is always subject to marked error.

The papers published on the virus have encompassed the very best of science with the development of understanding of the genomic sequence of SARS COV-2 and vaccine development, but have also been redolent with observational studies most of which in normal time would never be published.

The silly ‘rules’ of mask wearing and social distancing have now been brought to a new sense of ridicule with the inability to sing in church or at a wedding, while we are ‘permitted’ to go to large alcohol-fuelled football matches.

The present Government has made society believe that it is more important not to die than to have the ability to live. Sadly, we will all die, but they have shown that they can stop us living.

I, along with my wife, will no longer wear a mask. Not because we are intending to be criminals but because the masking policy is based on the distorted paranoid views of a few media voices.

John A. Fairclough is Hon. Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon University Hospital of Wales and Professor Emeritus at Cardiff Metropolitan University

June 2024
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