Public Hysteria vs. Scientific Thinking

Gilad Atzmon • March 27, 2020

The Corona crisis has exposed our political and media establishments as dysfunctional and possibly dangerous. If the West was, until recently, associated with scientific, analytical, rational and methodical thinking, then not much is left of that Athenian reasoning. Like houses of cards, most of our Western democracies have succumbed to populist decision making that is, by its nature, deeply unscientific.

When I enrolled in university 35 years ago, scepticism and critical thinking were regarded as precious Western values. This approach has been discarded: skeptics are reduced into public enemies. They are scorned by the media and often smeared by their professional colleagues.

No one, I guess, doubts that the world is facing a hazardous health crisis, yet so many questions regarding the nature of this crisis, its origin, the virus at its centre and possible solutions are brushed aside in a manner reminiscent of historical clerical witch hunts rather than treated with the kind of reasoning that should be ingrained in us by Western Liberal traditions.

So far, only a few brave medical scholars and experts have dared to question the general trend. Off Guardian produced a good summary of the arguments advanced by some of the scientists who are unimpressed by the current official narrative and the strategies applied by our so-called elected politicians:

German specialist in microbiology, Dr Sucharit Bhakdi confirms that the Corona death rate is not a new phenomenon. “We are afraid that 1 million infections with the new virus will lead to 30 deaths per day over the next 100 days. But we do not realise that 20, 30, 40 or 100 patients positive for normal coronaviruses are already dying every day.”

German physician Dr Wolfgang Wodarg is not convinced that Corona is as dangerous as we have been told. He maintains that we should be asking questions like, “How did you find out this virus was dangerous?”, “How was it before?”, “Didn’t we have the same thing last year?”, “Is it even something new?”

Dr John Ioannidis is a Professor of Medicine, of Health Research and Policy and of Biomedical Data Science, at Stanford University School of Medicine. Ioannidis posits that the cause of the current panic may have something to do with the new diagnosis of Covid 19 rather than with the general symptoms of the virus which aren’t new to us. “If we had not known about a new virus out there, and had not checked individuals with PCR tests, the number of total deaths due to “influenza-like illness” would not seem unusual this year. At most, we might have casually noted that flu this season seems to be a bit worse than average.”

The Israeli doctor, Yoram Lass, a public health specialist, informs us that “Italy is known for its enormous morbidity in respiratory problems, more than three times any other European country…”

To this minority group of scientifically thinking medical experts we should add Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee, a Pulitzer prize winning author, who wrote a spectacular extended article for the New Yorker yesterday.

Mukherjee offers a different perspective on Covid 19 and its dangers. He explains that the impact of viruses is often influenced by the dosage of the virus a patient is subjected to. Mukherjee writes “three questions deserve particular attention, because their answers could change the way we isolate, treat, and manage patients. First, what can we learn about the “dose-response curve” for the initial infection—that is, can we quantify the increase in the risk of infection as people are exposed to higher doses of the virus? Second, is there a relationship between that initial “dose” of virus and the severity of the disease—that is, does more exposure result in graver illness? And, third, are there quantitative measures of how the virus behaves in infected patients (e.g., the peak of your body’s viral load, the patterns of its rise and fall) that predict the severity of their illness and how infectious they are to others?”

Mukherjee notes that in the current crisis, “most epidemiologists, given the paucity of data, have been forced to model the spread of the new coronavirus as if it were a binary phenomenon: individuals are either exposed or unexposed, infected or uninfected, symptomatic patients or asymptomatic carriers.” Mukherjee argues that viruses’ effects aren’t necessarily an on/off phenomenon. For instance, he compares Covid 19 to HIV. “People with a high set point [virus dose] tended to progress more rapidly to aids; people with a low set point frequently proved to be “slow progressors.” The viral load—a continuum, not a binary value—helped predict the nature, course, and transmissibility of the disease.” In many viral infection cases the more virus you shed, the more likely you are to infect others.”

The Russian immunologist Ilya Metchnikoff, working in the early nineteen-hundreds, described the phenomenon as “the struggle”—or Kampf, in German editions of his work. Metchnikoff imagined an ongoing battle between microbe and immunity. The Kampf was a matter of ground gained or lost. What was the total “force” of the microbial presence? What host factors—genetics, prior exposure, baseline immune competence—were limiting the microbial invasion? And then: was the initial equilibrium tipped toward the virus, or toward the host?

Mukherjee points out that in “a 2004 study of the coronavirus that causes sars, a cousin of the one that causes covid 19, a team from Hong Kong found that a higher initial load of virus—measured in the nasopharynx, the cavity in the deep part of your throat above your palate—was correlated with a more severe respiratory illness.”

This helps to explain the greater risks faced by front line health care personnel who are exposed to high dosages of Covid 19 on a daily basis and it also helps to explain why the hospital may be the most dangerous place to be. Those who have already developed symptoms who then enter emergency medical centres may well be exposed to even more serious or even fatal outcomes from the high dose of Covid19 and the many other diseases they can be exposed to.

This realisation adds to our understanding of the current tragedy in Northern Italy and Spain. It may even be that, as a general rule, the less you trust your public health system, the better your chances to survive Corona and other viruses. In Britain, for instance, the Government advised people who develop symptoms to self isolate and not to contact the NHS unless the respiratory situation seems to get out of control.

At a time of crisis and particularly at a time of a crisis of such magnitude, an open scientific debate of the Athenian Agora nature that includes the exchanges with qualified skeptics and critics provide the only light at the end of the tunnel. (Republished from Gilad Atzmon by permission of author or representative)


hetro says:March 27, 2020 at 4:52 pm GMT • 100 Words

Additionally, what bothers me is the blanket generalizing and attached hysteria all over the media, even those normally skeptical and to the left who are buying into the problem. Existence of the disease = automatic assumption we’re going to have millions dead in the next two months. In the US today there have been approximately 300 new deaths since yesterday. Of these who were they, what age groups, what pre-existing conditions–what are the specifics? Who is most in danger? Why? What differentiates those who have it but have survived and experienced it as a mild flu-like illness? How many of this type with a mild experience are there? How many died from some other form of flu, as with last year’s version? And, what programs are being implemented using the disease as a pretext; how are we being played (again)?

Gilad Atzmon says: • WebsiteMarch 27, 2020 at 5:57 pm GMT@hetro

The panic and hysteria are reasonable considering the information inflicted on us, yet, what is left out of our Western ethos of rationality and scientific thinking?..not a lot! This indeed bothers me …

Gilad Atzmon says: • WebsiteMarch 27, 2020 at 8:13 pm GMT • 100 Words@hetro

Basically, the Covid 19 tests are binary, you are either a carrier or not. Mukhurjee’s point is that viral infection is most commonly a subject to quantity/velocity. The level of viral dose would define your state of illness.. So instead of a binary realm we are actually talking about a continuum. You can be exposed to covid 19 and be mildly affected, yet a high dose can knock you down. This suggests that our front line medical workers are in serious danger at the moment but the same also applies to everyone who visits hospital currently.

Kratoklastes says:March 27, 2020 at 7:15 pm GMT • 500 Words@obwandiyag

common sense dictates that one should take all the precautions one can

This depends critically on the premise you carry around regarding public officials – specifically, whether anything they say can be trusted.

Anyone who has paid the smallest amount of attention to public officials over the last century or so, will have noticed that they
• are often wrong;
• make declarative pronouncements before solid data is available;
• employ ‘safe hands’ to perform analyses designed to support their argument.

So what they say ought not be trusted at face value. For most mouth-breathers, their brain is like a whiteboard rather than a palimpsest; past government failures somehow fail to leave any trace impression on people’s minds. The default is ‘trust’: the proles simply don’t learn.

Also… if government pronouncements were wrong ‘randomly’, then we would expect at least some poor decisions that were social-welfare enhancing; that increased liberty by accident; that improved outcomes just by chance.

However that’s not what we see: when they’re wrong, it’s invariably in a direction that is bad for humanity; directly hostile to individual rights; and deleterious to the stated desired outcomes. When they are wrong, people die in large numbers.

Some examples:

Prohibition (of alcohol);
Prohibition II (of recreational drugs – excluding alcohol and tobacco);
Fluoridation (notionally to prevent caries in children – which it doesn’t do[1]);
Dietary advice (the ‘Food Pyramid’ derived from the 1977 Dietary Guidelines);
Various wars (on Poverty; Drugs[1]; Terrrrism);
Medicalising mental illness (psychotropic cocktails for children);
Various bits of clinical advice (e.g., ‘asymptomatic males over 50 should take a daily statin‘);
‘Three Strikes’ laws;
TARP and other bailouts (and financial management generally).

At one stage I had identified a list of 50 major policies whose claimed objective was some alleged matter of urgent public concern, where the outcomes were all in the same direction: bad for the proles, good for those who live at the proles’ expense. It’s somewhere in my notes; I should dig it out and update it.

If a government official (including Anthony “AIDS will kill large numbers of heterosexuals” Fauci) starts bleating that we’re all going to die unless we do exactly as we’re told, historical data indicates that it’s most likely to be bullshit.

And worse: the side effects of the proposed ‘fix’ will be at least an order of magnitude worse than the problem. (e.g.: if economic activity falls by 10% this quarter, there is a good chance that suicides will spike by 3 or 4 percent: another 2000 people – average age and health – will die, which amounts to the same loss of quality-adjusted years as 160,000 covid19 victims)

[1] The claimed reduction in dental caries in kids under 7, is a side-effect of endocrine disruption caused by fluoride: this makes kids’ teeth erupt 8-16 months later, which givens them less time to decay by the time the kid is 7.

Meanwhile, for adults who drink the same water, fluoride ‘crowds out’ iodine in the thyroid – leading to under-production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which are essential for metabolism regulation. Given that industrially-produced food (including fresh produce) is already iodine-deficient, the overwhelmng majority of western adults are already iodine-deficient to an extent that compromises thyroid function: giving them doses of fluoride where the dose depends on their thirst rather than any biological need, makes this worse.

[2] The War on Drugs must be seen as a completely separate thing from the prohibition of recreational drugs; it has very different effects – militarisation of police and the rise of the incarceration industry being the main ones.

It is entirely possible to ban a thing, without it leading to a high-school underperformer in a Stormtrooper costume kicking your door in and shooting your pets.