The [Barrington] declaration publicly exposed a scientific disagreement that has been simmering for months. On one side are mainstream scientists who reluctantly see restrictions on freedom as the only way to keep a lid on the pandemic while we wait for vaccines; on the other, the libertarians who see the damage done to economies and individual lives as too high a price.
The mainstream media lapped up the disagreement narrative, but completely missed the fundamental problem with the declaration: its extremely dubious claims about herd immunity. This is central to the strategy, but the document badly fluffs the science.Graham Lawton, “It is bad science to say covid-19 infections will create herd immunity” at New Scientist
Maybe. But why believe New Scientist? Isn’t science now just politics under another name?
Our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon writes to say,
We wonder how Nature or Science can be so desperate as to throw away its reputation to politicize science. They gave away the farm when they said in effect “We support X because he TRUSTS in truth, evidence, science…” But “Trust in truth” is a very odd thing to say when one could just as well have said, “Find the truth”, or “Hold fast to the truth”, where truth is an unchangable fact rather than a malleable opinion or “personal”.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a judge address the jury by saying “trust in truth” or “trust in evidence”. We are assigning agency to “truth” rather than assigning existence to truth–we are making truth a person rather than an objective fact. So the religion of science, the deification of science, is more important than “seeking truth” or “finding evidence”
But more to the point of this article, the author claims that “herd immunity” requires 60-70% of the population be infected, which is a model-dependent number. Surely the author knows that, since he quotes R, the infectiousness of a disease, as the controlling factor. But we find R by inverting a model–we see how many people are infected, and use the model to back out R.
If, as at least one paper has suggested, we recognize that some people are more socially engaged than others, then the heterogeneity of the population means only the most sociable people need to be vaccinated. Once the “super-spreaders” are immune, the disease doesn’t spread very fast. So “herd immunity” is achieved at perhaps 15-20% of the population. Current anti-body tests are showing that Sweden is close to that number.
In other words, we have the data to improve our models and the Greater Barrington declaration suggests that we should, since the DATA from Sweden show that lockdowns are neither necessary nor even helpful. But this author suggests that the models are perfect, and therefore the data must be rejected in the name of science, of course.
He is displaying, even in his own scientific subfield, the same TRUST in science, that we disparaged in Nature. The disease of deification begun by Darwin is far more pervasive than anyone wants to admit. You might say that herd immunity hasn’t yet been reached.
Here’s the Declaration in many languages.