The Science Is Settled

In 2005, epidemiologist and physician John Ioannidis published the controversial and famous paper, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False in PLOS Medicine. He showed there were sound reasons to be skeptical of most published research, especially those results that rely on statistical analysis to draw conclusions about the relationship between two phenomena. Familiar examples:
• How effective is a drug?
• Does a substance in the environment increase the incidence of cancer?
• What is health effect of a food?
As he suggests, the science in most of these cases is far from settled.

By 2014, Ioannidis’s fame had grown to pop-science level. He was invited to do one of the Talks at Google, where he was given a fawning introduction by the earnest and callow member of the “People Operations Team.” He can do no wrong.

The Google talk is a nice introduction to the replication crisis. Starting at 7:30, he goes over some of the results in nutritional epidemiology. Of fifty randomly selected foods, almost all showed both increased and decreased cancer risk, often by remarkably large amounts. Eating one serving of potatoes per day could double your cancer risk, or decrease it by half. The relative risk (RR)* values for various foods spanned the range from 0.1 to 10 in his survey of fifty foods. He claims that the best studies find RR values almost indistinguishable from 1.0 (e.g., 0.998). While such a tiny effect is important for a large population as a whole, it is meaningless for any individual.

Flash forward to the year 2020. Ioannidis published an article in Stat in mid-March questioning the data quality for the WuFlu and the measures being taken in response. He noted that we didn’t really know the denominator in calculating the fatality rate for WuFlu.

The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable. Given the limited testing to date, some deaths and probably the vast majority of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 are being missed. We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300.

This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from Covid-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4% rate from the World Health Organization, cause horror — and are meaningless.

Based on limited information available in March, Ioannidis conjectured that the fatality rate would be far lower, 0.125% with a large confidence interval based on “extremely thin data.” For this, he was vilified as a COVID denier or COVID minimizer. The evidence is mounting for his hypothesis based on results of antibody testing at various locations across the US, including work by his group at Stanford. The infection fatality rate in the latter work was estimated to be 0.17%, not far from his original conjecture. He summarizes his results and addresses some objections in this short video from two weeks ago.

Most of you have probably already heard of the work on antibody tests, which imply higher infection rates and consequently lower fatality rates. The point of this post is not to rehash that tired topic. The unifying theme is that Ioannidis follows where the data lead him. Conclusions are subject to revision based on new information, which is precisely what is not happening in the response to the WuFlu. Policies are still based on the information available in March.

The science is never settled — except possibly in this case.


*Relative risk (RR) of 2 means double the risk of the disease; RR of 0.5 means half the risk.

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Author: drlorentz

photon whisperer & quantum mechanic

20 thoughts on “The Science Is Settled”

  1. From the second video, New York did all the wrong things to lower the risks. Hospitals and nursing homes were breeding grounds. Japanese were told to stay away from hospitals unless very sick and our numbers have been different.

    What most people don’t understand the difference between absolute risk and relative risk. If your absolute risk is very small it does matter of your relative risk has been increased by 50%, but if you are selling newspapers you can scare people with a headline, “50% increase in risk due to …” .

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  2. All Wuhan virus epidemiology modeling has proven to be flat out crap – by a factor of ten or more.  Even then…given a Federal bounty paid for each Wuhan virus death, Potemkin New York and the Soviet of California blasted death stats skyward by stuffing undesirable populations (Inner Cities, illegals, homeless, nursing homes, “other genders”…) with carriers.  Observation says, “wear a mask” against infectious aerosols, and don’t lick your fingers.  Though the semi-synthetic Wuhan virus  bioweapon is immensely transmissable, infection lethality is overall that of a bad flu season.

    When does the world go after China for loosing a weapon of mass destruction upon the world?

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  3. Robert A. McReynolds:
    So science is as much an act of faith as religion? 🙂

    Scientism is a religion. It’s amazing how people put their faith in their white lab coat messiahs. Too many people are just not curious or skeptical at all. Remember during the Obamacare passage, Obama would have press conferences with a bunch of people in white lab coats. It was pure propaganda to give the law more gravitas and people bought it.  “oh he’s wearing a white lab coat so of course they know what they are talking about” WHAT!!!??? It was a prop, they just passed white lab coats out to whoever was in the audience.

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  4. Mate De:

    Robert A. McReynolds:
    So science is as much an act of faith as religion? 🙂

    Scientism is a religion. It’s amazing how people put their faith in their white lab coat messiahs. Too many people are just not curious or skeptical at all. Remember during the Obamacare passage, Obama would have press conferences with a bunch of people in white lab coats. It was pure propaganda to give the law more gravitas and people bought it.  “oh he’s wearing a white lab coat so of course they know what they are talking about” WHAT!!!??? It was a prop, they just passed white lab coats out to whoever was in the audience.

    How do you define scientism?

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  5. I read that funny book on the stock market and it covered how the price of the stock comes not from its intrinsic value but its popularity. In the realm of “scientific” beliefs I think that is also true. A popular idea must be true. “97% of scientist believe X. “ History is littered with ideas that were popular but detrimental. Eugenics and lobotomies come to mind. Covid-19 will probably be added to that list.

    Scientists are smart people. One thing they know is “which side their bread is buttered on”.

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  6. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

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  7. 10 Cents:

    Mate De:

    Robert A. McReynolds:
    So science is as much an act of faith as religion? 🙂

    Scientism is a religion. It’s amazing how people put their faith in their white lab coat messiahs. Too many people are just not curious or skeptical at all. Remember during the Obamacare passage, Obama would have press conferences with a bunch of people in white lab coats. It was pure propaganda to give the law more gravitas and people bought it.  “oh he’s wearing a white lab coat so of course they know what they are talking about” WHAT!!!??? It was a prop, they just passed white lab coats out to whoever was in the audience.

    How do you define scientism?

    I guess I would define it as the faith that the scientific method can prove almost anything. It is also the excessive faith in those who are perceived to be experts. Put not your faith in princes, even those with white lab coats.

    Even the term “the science is settled” is an statement of faith, because the science is never settled. Our knowledge is limited and you never know when something that we knew to be absolutely true could be proven to be false.

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  8. 10 Cents:
    How do you define scientism?

    I like Nassim Taleb’s definition. The belief that science looks like science.

    It covers the white lab coat scenario mentioned above and the modeling of COVD and climate.  Having the appearance of science but not the “reality” of science.  Transparency  and willingness or eagerness to debate as well as the humility to understand and acknowledge the limitations are just some examples of the “reality” of science.

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  9. Mate De:

    10 Cents:

    Mate De:

    Robert A. McReynolds:
    So science is as much an act of faith as religion? 🙂

    Scientism is a religion. It’s amazing how people put their faith in their white lab coat messiahs. Too many people are just not curious or skeptical at all. Remember during the Obamacare passage, Obama would have press conferences with a bunch of people in white lab coats. It was pure propaganda to give the law more gravitas and people bought it.  “oh he’s wearing a white lab coat so of course they know what they are talking about” WHAT!!!??? It was a prop, they just passed white lab coats out to whoever was in the audience.

    How do you define scientism?

    I guess I would define it as the faith that the scientific method can prove almost anything. It is also the excessive faith in those who are perceived to be experts. Put not your faith in princes, even those with white lab coats.

    Even the term “the science is settled” is an statement of faith, because the science is never settled. Our knowledge is limited and you never know when something that we knew to be absolutely true could be proven to be false.

    Many people, especially non-scientists, fail to distinguish science from scientism, probably because they don’t understand science. Hayek (Friedrich, not Salma), who probably coined the term scientism, explained:

    It is an approach which has come to be described as the “scientistic” attitude – an attitude which, as I defined it some thirty years ago, “is decidedly unscientific in the true sense of the word, since it involves a mechanical and uncritical application of habits of thought to fields different from those in which they have been formed.”

    He goes on to criticize economists, and implicitly all social scientists,  for doing just that: a cargo-cult-like going through the motions. People watching these guys in white lab coats going through the motions conclude that they must be doing science.

    Hayek notes that the public’s expectations leave them vulnerable to charlatans:

    The conflict between what in its present mood the public expects science to achieve in satisfaction of popular hopes and what is really in its power is a serious matter because, even if the true scientists should all recognize the limitations of what they can do in the field of human affairs, so long as the public expects more there will always be some who will pretend, and perhaps honestly believe, that they can do more to meet popular demands than is really in their power.

    This is on full display in the WuFlu panic, as it has been in some of the examples Ioannidis discussed in health and nutrition. The public wants guidance and there’s always going to be someone around to give it. “A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”

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  10. drlorentz:This is on full display in the WuFlu panic, as it has been in some of the examples Ioannidis discussed in health and nutrition. The public wants guidance and there’s always going to be someone around to give it. “A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”

    Also, one of the worst feminine traits is neuroticism which is has been put into hyperdrive in this pandemic. Obviously this is the premise for the Karen meme, but I see a bunch of men freaking out in an irrational ways as well. A friend of mine invited us over to her house this weekend. There were a few other people there and you would have thought it was a safe house from the Stasi. Since we were fellow travelers we vented about the insane reaction we have seen from friends, neighbors, etc….  I said it’s like being gay when it was illegal, in trying to figure out who is willing to break “quarantine” for a BBQ or something. People we thought would be reasonable during this time are hysterical. It’s really incredible how powerful the media really is to deceive people or get them whipped up into a frenzy.

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  11. Mate De:

    drlorentz:This is on full display in the WuFlu panic, as it has been in some of the examples Ioannidis discussed in health and nutrition. The public wants guidance and there’s always going to be someone around to give it. “A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”

    Also, one of the worst feminine traits is neuroticism which is has been put into hyperdrive in this pandemic. Obviously this is the premise for the Karen meme, but I see a bunch of men freaking out in an irrational ways as well. A friend of mine invited us over to her house this weekend. There were a few other people there and you would have thought it was a safe house from the Stasi. Since we were fellow travelers we vented about the insane reaction we have seen from friends, neighbors, etc….  I said it’s like being gay when it was illegal, in trying to figure out who is willing to break “quarantine” for a BBQ or something. People we thought would be reasonable during this time are hysterical. It’s really incredible how powerful the media really is to deceive people or get them whipped up into a frenzy.

    There are plenty of Karens with XY chromosomes. Blame it on environmental estrogen, blame it on Rio … whatever. Maybe life has been too safe, too easy, and too abundant for too long.

    BPS puts it in perspective.

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  12. drlorentz:
    Unfortunately, WordPress will not permit the video to be embedded.

    To be precise, it is not WordPress which prevents the video from being embedded.  WordPress uses the oEmbed protocol to embed URLs and has a white list to determine which sites are permitted to embed.  If the site isn’t on the white list, it is a simple matter to add it.  The problem with BitChute is that it doesn’t support oEmbed.  There’s probably little incentive for them to add it, since not being on the white list, the 99.9% of sites who wouldn’t add them to the white list wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it.

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  13. John Walker:
    To be precise, it is not WordPress which prevents the video from being embedded.

    I tried to embed the video using html in the TEXT mode.

    <iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″ style=”border: none;” src=”https://www.bitchute.com/embed/zrnysWP3qA5D/”></iframe>

    The weird thing is that it shows up in the VISUAL preview but fails when the comment is saved. That probably does not weird seem to you.

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  14. John Walker:
    WordPress uses the oEmbed protocol to embed URLs and has a white list to determine which sites are permitted to embed. The problem with BitChute is that it doesn’t support oEmbed.  There’s probably little incentive for them to add it, since not being on the white list, the 99.9% of sites who wouldn’t add them to the white list wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it.

    Is the whitelist maintained by oEmbed or by each individual WordPress site?

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  15. drlorentz:

    John Walker:
    To be precise, it is not WordPress which prevents the video from being embedded.

    I tried to embed the video using html in the TEXT mode.

    <iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″ style=”border: none;” src=”https://www.bitchute.com/embed/zrnysWP3qA5D/”></iframe>

    The weird thing is that it shows up in the VISUAL preview but fails when the comment is saved. That probably does not weird seem to you.

    What’s happening is that the <iframe …> is being stripped out by WordPress’s KSES security code, which tries to prevent embedding things which can wreck the site.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a restriction which can be relaxed without serious risk to the site.  While the BitChute embed is innocuous, allowing the embedding or arbitrary iframes opens the door to untold horrors which can occur as easily as a user pasting in something from another site.  The advantage of oEmbed is that you’re only embedding code from sites you’ve explicitly declared to be trusted, not anything a user happens to paste into a post or comment composition window.

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  16. drlorentz:
    Is the whitelist maintained by oEmbed or by each individual WordPress site?

    It is maintained by each individual site.  There is a default white list shipped with WordPress, but sites can add or delete items from it.  If a site supports oEmbed and it’s on the white list, the HTML is supplies will be embedded.  It is very easy to add sites to the white list but few WordPress administrators have even the knowledge to do that.  If BitChute supported oEmbed, it would be a one line fix to enable it, but since they don’t, we’re stuck.

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  17. John Walker:

    drlorentz:
    Is the whitelist maintained by oEmbed or by each individual WordPress site?

    It is maintained by each individual site.  There is a default white list shipped with WordPress, but sites can add or delete items from it.  If a site supports oEmbed and it’s on the white list, the HTML is supplies will be embedded.  It is very easy to add sites to the white list but few WordPress administrators have even the knowledge to do that.  If BitChute supported oEmbed, it would be a one line fix to enable it, but since they don’t, we’re stuck.

    The reason I asked is that the BitChute guys might be happy to put it on their to-do list if they thought it would improve their reach.

    The video I tried to embed is from a guy who also has YouTube channel. It turns out that he had uploaded it to BitChute first. Some creators upload certain content to BitChute exclusively because of YouTube’s censorship policies. It turns out he eventually did upload to YouTube so I fixed the comment.

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