The Pandemic is Exposing the Limits of Science

Savage PODCAST Monday May 18: “It came out over the weekend that lockdown came from bad data. Science itself is now in trouble. Science will never be the same after this pandemic. More and more educated people are questioning what science itself has become. The divisions and contradictory results and conflicting advice provided to governments is causing growing confusion and disarray within science community AND general public. Fatally flawed models. Institutional science is hemorrhaging trust.”

And here’s what YAHOO FINANCE (May 24, 2020) has to say:

(Bloomberg Opinion) — The 2008 financial crisis led the public to discover the limits of economics. The Covid-19 pandemic risks having the same effect on scientists and medical doctors.

Since the start of the outbreak, citizens have struggled to get clear answers to some basic questions. Consider masks, for example: The World Health Organization said early on that there was no point in encouraging healthy people to use them, but now most doctors agree that widespread mask-wearing is a good idea. There was also confusion around lockdowns: In the U.K., scientists argued for weeks over the merits of closing businesses and keeping people at home — a quarrel that may have cost the country lives. And now that the outbreak is fading in Italy, there is growing debate between the country’s public health experts and doctors over whether the virus has lost strength or remains just as deadly.

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On the other hand, scientists and medical doctors have struggled to convey a unified message to the public. This does not mean they have failed in their duty. Far from it. Health-care professionals are the true heroes of this crisis, risking their lives to protect the rest of us. But on a range of issues — from containing the virus to prescribing effective treatments — we have seen some scientists and doctors jump to conclusions, only for others to give immediate rebuttals. (The contention over the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine is one example.) This seesawing has added to the sense of panic and confusion among ordinary citizens.

It is often said that economics is not a science, because one cannot make hard predictions. As the pandemic has shown, even the natural sciences struggle when faced with a new phenomenon. Research does not produce immediate answers. Scientists, doctors and public health experts should not be afraid to say clearly how much they do not yet know.

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