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What Scientific Consensus?

Summary:
Over at Marginal Revolution this morning, Tyler Cowen writes: For instance, some scientists have told me that at some point, if the virus is widespread enough, there is no choice but to let it burn its way through the population (not saying we are there yet, probably not according to the consensus of experts I am seeing). I went to his link to see how many experts it took to establish a consensus. Are you ready for the number? It was one. That one is Tom Inglesby, Director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. If all you have is one expert, you can’t conclude that there’s a consensus. Moreover, since the whole point of Tyler’s post, which is titled “The Speed Premium in an exponentially growing pandemic world,”

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Over at Marginal Revolution this morning, Tyler Cowen writes:

For instance, some scientists have told me that at some point, if the virus is widespread enough, there is no choice but to let it burn its way through the population (not saying we are there yet, probably not according to the consensus of experts I am seeing).

I went to his link to see how many experts it took to establish a consensus. Are you ready for the number? It was one. That one is Tom Inglesby, Director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

If all you have is one expert, you can’t conclude that there’s a consensus.

Moreover, since the whole point of Tyler’s post, which is titled “The Speed Premium in an exponentially growing pandemic world,” is that things are changing very fast, how could there be a consensus?

In fact, there’s not. Read “The Coronavirus mass panic is not justified,” by Professor Peter C. Gotzsche, March 24, to see a different view from that of Dr. Inglesby.

Here are two key paragraphs from that article, although the whole article is key:

The WHO has estimated that seasonal influenza may result in 290,000 to 650,000 deaths each year due to respiratory causes alone. We don’t know how reliable this estimate is, or how reliable estimates of Coronavirus deaths are, but so far, 4 months into the pandemic, the estimate is around 17,000 deaths. Why then the extreme panic, with non-evidence-based draconian measures in many countries restricting seriously people’s lives?

People tell me it is because the Coronavirus is much more contagious than the influenza virus but every time I have asked for the evidence, there was silence. The transmission rate seems to be very similar to the seasonal flu. I base this on Ioannidis information about the cruise ship where people have a high risk of getting infected because they crowd in bars, at buffets and when they dance, and on the information in Ginn’s paper. Furthermore, Ginn writes that out of the thousands of flights since November 2019, only a handful of airport and airline staff have tested positive.

HT2 Less Antman.

David Henderson
David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).

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