COVID: Where Science Goes To Die

Yves here. I wish this video on how scientists have been flogging their own crap Covid-19 research via preprints and how that’s done considerable damage had a transcript, but it is short enough that hopefully you won’t find it burdensome to listen to it. It’s an addendum of sorts to Lambert’s post earlier in the week, Don’t “Trust the Science,” Trust Science While You Hone Your Critical Thinking Skills.

If you go to the YouTube page for this video, you find it has a “Reference/Reading” list that ties into the key claims of the Medlife Crisis video.

The video makes some important points, such as shredding preprints (“80% of studies published are complete garbage”), spending some time on the sad decline of Stanford’s Dr. John Ioannidis (“Covid-19 is no more dangerous than the flu”) as well as describing how a study that claimed that a substantial majority of Covid victims showed heart damage on MRIs was highly suspect. But readers will no doubt take issue with the forceful attack on hydroxychloroquinine, when virtually all studies focused on using it as a treatment, when the recommended use case was as a prophylactic. Again, the plural of anecdote is not data, but there is much more receptivity to hydroxycholorquinine in the Global South. From a June InterPress news story discussing why Covid-19 infection and death rates had been so low in Africa. One factor is a relatively young population. Another is generally good official responses. A third is widespread BCG vaccinations. But a fourth seems to be anti-malarial use:

In Senegal and Madagascar for example, COVID-19 patients on hydroxychloroquine and the herbal remedy Artemisia annua have been observed to recover faster from the disease with lower deaths. In both countries, even with rising cases, recovery rates from Covid19 are much higher – consistent with the observations in most malaria prone countries. Interestingly, malaria is not prevalent in Africa’s Covid-19 hotspots of South Africa and North Africa.

Regardless, please watch this short video and have fun with it. Even if you disagree with all of its examples, it does illustrate the ongoing corruption of what passes for science.

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  1. cocomaan

    I’m glad you posted this. The absolute madness of this crisis seems to have been kicked off by a scientific establishment whose peer review process has broken down completely. I know researchers who wait three years to get a paper published. It’s yet another system revealed to be cheap and hollow by Covid-19, except that it’s the very system that’s needed to fight the disease.

    When the Lancet retracts their hcq study, you know something is gravely wrong.

    1. Ignacio

      The peer review process has it pros and cons because though it is generally good it is not egalitarian. Some names might be reviewed more lightly than others. In some fields, sending a paper for review from Madrid is not the same as sending the same from Cold Spring Harbor. To be sure there are idiomatic issues with non-native English speakers so these will need more editing as I have experienced by myself. Once I received a commentary by a tough reviewer to the tune that some paragraph was nonsensical (because it was badly worded/phrased in English).

      But IMO, reducing or eliminating temporarily the peer review process for fast track publication doesn’t make science worse. It only makes the publications worse off since they are being less selective. The crappy science, that has always been there but only published in the Annals of the Remotest and Weirdest Research Institute that nobody reads, gets now public access in supposedly serious outlets when in the past it would have most probably been rejected.

      1. cocomaan

        Good post. I guess the problem is that publications don’t get released in a vacuum. Even before the pandemic you had people squabbling over climate change, vaccination damages, and so on. It seems like the length of the peer review process is slowed because these journals do not have the money for full time staff to do project management on the many pieces coming their way. Many if not most of these journal editors are doing it part time, aren’t they?

        So you get preprint. But preprint is, especially in a crisis, an invitation to jump to conclusions.

        1. Ignacio

          Yep you are right. I forgot to say that peer review is not only a method for accepting/rejecting papers. When papers are subjected to peer review, the authors come up with a high level critique of their scientific work by quadruplicate. Very often, additional experiments and proofs are required before publication when it is seen the authors are jumping to conclusions too easily. Frequently, the authors skip to the next Journal in their list to see if it has better reception.

          1. oliverks


            I think this is an overly broad statement. In some subject areas, such as math, peer review is not so important. The entire evidence is laid out in the paper. There isn’t any of the trust me going on in other publications.

            Interestingly math papers have never really had a page limit in journals.

            I think a lot of problems with science would be improved if people had to publish more of the raw data.

            1. Ignacio

              It is true my comment was valid for Life Sciences and scientific work is different in other fields. Chemists often publish negative results. Experiments in nuclear physics often involve hundreds of researches and the most difficult part must be access to the particle accelerator…

        2. Paleobotanist

          No, we scientific editors, reviewers and authors do all this work for free, while governments and taxpayers fund the research. Hence, we are very very pi$$ed off at the price-gouging of the big 4 scientific publishing companies which have a near monopoly which they are grossly exploiting hence the public’s charges of $50 per article or worse. Oh, we authors have to pay large sums of scarce research money to publish in these journals owned by these vultures.

          1. Nell

            Thanks for mentioning this, it’s saved me a post :). I don’t know what it’s like in other countries but in the UK peer reviewing is not just unpaid it doesn’t factor into promotion and internal motivation stemming from professional values is discouraged as doesn’t fit the ‘Universities are businesses’ narrative. Ironically, getting on Fox would be valued.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Just saw an example of how science is being used to deal with the pandemic but in an insane way. So Scotty from Marketing is demanding that all the Australian States open up by Christmas but Western Australia said to forget it as the pandemic is not over yet. The tool that Scotty will use to have all the country open up again is to have a bureaucratic definition of a ‘hotspot’ with advice of medical doctors. What is this definition of a hotspot? Why it is ‘more than 30 cases of community transmission within ten days.’ Anything less that that and it is all cool and doctors are going along with it including Australia’s Chief Medical Officer.

    Since the pandemic started, I have seen so many medical doctors fall over themselves to follow whatever the politicians wanted. Saw one interview with a doctor who spent more time talking about the economy rather than, say, doctor-stuff. The present explosion of cases that has raced across Australia and increased Australia’s death toll by a factor of five all started with a family of four. With this ‘tool’ I think that he wants to use it to open Australia up to overseas tourists again which mean he has learned nothing from the past few weeks. And science is being used to push this idiotic idea forward-

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      Hyman Minsky wrote of “court economists” who spoke of things pleasing to the throne, Laffler and Kudlow being among the more recent examples. This doesn’t mean that real, valid, economists doing real, valid, defensible work don’t exist, just very rare that they have the King’s ear.

      Courts also had physicians with buckets of leeches, mercury enemas and vapors, and, more recently, quick with the testosterone and amphetamine highballs (if you are in the US, you are probably within 20 minutes of a “Youth clinic” offering HGH and testosterone injections for the aging upper middle class male) or whatever else pleased the throne. Hitler had one. JFK had one. Obama and Trump shared one.

      We should not be surprised to learn that there are court scientists as well.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Forgot to mention with that definition of a hotspot being ‘more than 30 cases of community transmission within ten days.’ For country areas it says ‘For regional areas, a hotspot would be a rolling three-day average of three locally acquired cases per day, equating to nine cases over three consecutive days.’ Sounds legit. But if you have one person starting a cluster where he lives and another one on the other side of the city where he works, they will call it two small cluster instead of one large one which makes both clusters ‘manageable. Idjuts!

  3. Jonathan

    Good video. But he says that WHO endorsed the ibruprofen scare (at 3:45) while I am pretty sure the opposite is true. Maybe there was an initial credulous statement but I don’t see any.

    The last thing WHO needs is being wrongly blamed by intelligent critics.

  4. Synoia

    Interestingly, malaria is not prevalent in Africa’s Covid-19 hotspots of South Africa and North Africa.

    No Southern Africa has other rather nasty diseases. The High Veld, altitude over 3,000 feet helps, because many insects cannot fly higher that that, and the dry season is very dry.

    Malaria needs frequent rain.

  5. Susan the other

    I appreciate this list of confusion. I’d have liked it more if he had given us a brief rundown of all the mania over producing a vaccine in record time. If anything makes me uneasy it’s that one. It’s impossible to trust a vaccine after enduring all the unmitigated BS in the run-up to it. And also too, I’d love to have one of those full-body skeletons. Looks like my family. Same spooky-eyed pageboy look.

  6. Joe Well

    He lost me when he said that masks have not been categorically proven to be effective. At best, that’s splitting hairs.

    It’s almost a tautology to say that putting something over your mouth and nose reduces the spread of what comes out of that mouth and nose, and it’s stunning that anyone would ever question that. That may not be good enough in a Covid hospital ward or even in certain crowded workplaces, but no one is suggesting it is. Meanwhile, numerous “natural experiments” like the masked Covid-positive hair stylists have strongly suggested that masks provide protection, which may not be “categorical,” but, again, that’s splitting hairs: masks work.

    He also doubles down on the canard of people who for medical reasons can’t wear masks, as if plastic face shields didn’t exist.

    Then he cutely finishes by saying he still advocates for mask usage as a precaution while having just given a ton of ammunition for the all the antisocials who are looking for any excuse at all.

    There is such a thing as being too clever for one’s own good, or for the good of society.

    1. Arthur Dent

      I think the overall results have shown that no single measure prevents covid, so he is somewhat correct there. But it is pretty clear that combining multiple measures including masks, social distancing, ventilation, and hand washing dramatically reduce risk to the point that many countries are successfully using mass transit.

      From a probabilitstic standpoint, the failure rates of each protective measure failure rate can be multiplied together to come up with a final probability of failure (getting sick) that is much, much lower than no measures or only one measure. Even throwing in a measure that may reduce the risk by only 10% to 20% is beneficial to the end result even though it is nowhere near good enough on its own. If everybody does this, then the resulting reduced risk reduces the probabiltiy that the person near you is sick to begin with and all of a sudden Ro is much smaller than 1.0 without having to hide in your basement.

      I have found that Americans typically want one single, simple answer and can’t account for multiple factors, particularly if they need to be applied in a communal way. That usually results in bafflement and then a firm “that will never work”. Hence we have one of the proportionally highest case loads and deaths in the world and the highest in the developed countries, by far.

      My wife has gone back to school for a couple of days for meetings etc. as they plan on how to re-open the school. Other teachers and administrators are showing up with masks with exhalation valves, masks worn under the nose, removal of mask indoors if they are more than 6 feet away from you, standing right next to you if they are wearing a mask, fans blowing across a group of people, etc. We joke that the 10 year old kids are going to be the easy part because they will pay attention to instructions and then follow directions.She is planning on hiding in her classroom away from the other adults while running the HEPA air purifiers we purchased for her classroom (these are not on the school district’s list of prevention measures ).

  7. jsn

    I’m halfway through Ulrich Becks “Risk Society” from 1986 and he was hitting all the issues of “scientism” 35 years ago. (Recommended in a Tooze FP link here several weeks ago)

    Like our politics and culture generally, we seem to be hitting the “reductio ad absurdum” on all fronts of the neoliberal project at the same time.

  8. JohnMc

    re: ioannidis i feel he put more than a few too many words into ioannidis’s mouth. i could be wrong but ‘no worse than the flu’ isn’t something i’d expect him to say.

    in any case, a new study was just published this week that calculates an infection fatality rate of 0.26%, exactly as ioannidis calculated back in march.

  9. RDE

    As my chiropractor commented, “Its all Political”.

    Follow the Money.

    Apply Ocam’s razor to the War on Hydroxycloroquine. Do you find any other logical explanation for the outpouring of fraudulent studies, inappropriate usage, and studies designed to fail that the MSM fed into the Panic Machine? Which is more profitable, a $5 generic medicine with 40 years of proven safety or a vaccine of dubious and unproven effectiveness for a viral illness of a type that no vaccine has ever been effective against in the past? But of course a vaccine can carry a $3,000 price tag, be purchased in endless quantity by the Government, and only costs a few million $ in political bribes to be mandatory.

    Speaking of control of information by the “free press” in our Democracy, when is the last time you heard the word “Cuba” in relation to the Corvid 19 pandemic? Are you aware that Cuba experienced only 39 deaths from the virus in the entire 6 months of pandemic? During the same time New York City, with only 2/3 the population and twenty times the per capital wealth, lost 17,000++? Is there not something to be learned here? Of course not— after all Cuba is the Designated Enemy we are trying to starve into submission along with its Venezuelan ally.

    What did Cuba do differently? No strangulation by ventilator. 2.6 times as many doctors per capita. An army of heath care workers and volunteers who monitored anyone with the first signs of Corvid19 symptoms on a daily basis. And the use of an entire array of proven anti-viral medicines developed over years of experience combating tropical infectious diseases.

    1. Temporarily Sane

      Very good points. When avarice becomes not only a virtue but a guiding principle, the inevitable corrupting of societies that follow this backasswards ideology can never be acknowledged by governments and the establishment and the successes of countries that play by different rules will always be ignored or met with hostility.

      1. RDE

        Recently watched an interview with Gates following a TED speech he had given. The interviewer asked how the Gates Foundation’s investments in the Pharma sector had been performing. ‘Very well, thank you. We took equity positions in various companies to help the children in Africa, but were pleased to discover that the ROI (return on investment) was 20/1.’ (even better than owning operating system software.)

        Follow the Money

    2. The Rev Kev

      Dr. John Campbell has a YouTube channel giving updates on the virus and the other day he did a segment on HCQ. He talked about the British Recovery study, among others, and you could see that he was flummoxed at the dosages of HCQ that they used in the Recovery study at near lethal doses. He could not understand why they would do such a thing which I should note is a study that is quoted as proof that HCQ does not work. My own conclusion is that they killed people using this dosage regime just to make a point that HCQ ‘doesn’t work’ which is ethically challeneged at the very best-

    3. berit

      World of meters pr September 6, Cuba 4309 Coronavirus cases, 101 deaths, 3590 recovered, Good example in army of health care workers and volunteers, use of proven, inexpensive anti-viral medicines, enough doctors to help out overseas too. Bravo Cuba!

  10. albrt

    “There is such a thing as being too clever for one’s own good, or for the good of society.”

    Yes, they are usually called Democrats.

  11. Maritimer

    The government I live under also does the old “trust the science” mantra. In this jurisdiction, there is very little Covid. Yet, previously, it was “flatten the curve” (can’t get any flatter) now the science is Bait ‘n Switch: Second Wave and Flu-on-the-way. This is the science of engendering unending fear, panic, hysteria. And extend the Emergency and Government by fiat.

    In addition, our airports have continually remained open during all this, apparently the scientists are uninterested in attacking the disease at a major point of entry. Doing so might interfere with the travel plans of the Tier 1 members of society.

    Then, the science does not recommend proven immune boosters like Vitamin d, c, get some sunshine, exercise, lose weight, etc.—such recommendations are seemingly not science. No word at all from the government on these proven aids.

    Again here, the government used this death-on-your-doorstop, end-of-the-world crisis to institute a TAKEOUT BOOZE PROVISION for the booze and hospitality industries, a provision which they have long sought. This approved by the Chief Medical Officer and reigning Scientist. (Booze, of course, lowers the potency of the auto-immune system.) So, we are to respect the Science…Have a Bud on the go.

    Like Finance and probably all other Institutions, Medicine and Science deserve no respect. These institutions have failed to control the rotten apples in their barrels. Indeed, finding an untainted apple is increasingly difficult.

  12. Pedro

    People in África are most likely dying in exactly the same way as everywhere else in the world. There is no centralised death count on most of the continent so I find disapointing to read so much mambo jambo speculation in a text that demands higher standards from scientific knowledge.
    The fact is that all in all science is doing a great job in the fight against this pandemic.

  13. Krystyn Podgajski

    Science does not reveal truth, it only reveals the probability of a truth. And it only reveals the truth the are looking for. For instance, they will never study how nutrition might be a cause of the variability of outcomes. The art in science is lost, which to me is a bigger problem.

    I have been looking at Artemisia (Wormwood). It basically works by creating free radicals to kill the virus (and parasites like malaria). We make superoxides as well, the main source being NADPH oxidase (NOX1).

    NOX1 needs riboflavin and NADP+ as a cofactors. So again, nutrition might be important. Here is a study linking riboflavin intake with malaria resistance.

    Here is another

  14. ArvidMartensen

    This video is an example of how every part of society is soaked in propaganda, either for political or monetary or reputational gain. This video debunks some propaganda and then inserts other propaganda. Entertaining? Yes. Totally reliable? Not so much.
    So what to do? Well a group of researchers in Poland have a published paper on the topic of Youtube as a source of patient information for Covid-19 .
    It gives a list of videos on Youtube that present the actual science associated with Covid-19 without biases. Well worth a read.

  15. Dirk77

    Interesting video, though many commenters here seem to make valid criticism, including Yves herself. While the quality of science and scientists may indeed be dropping, there is also the issue that science is best done slow. Yet, even if done slow, in my view the author is being very generous with claiming just 80% of preprints are crap – more like that of peer-reviewed papers. That is just how science is done these days. That said, readers of NC shouldn’t have had to peruse the scientific literature about Covid, discovering to their horror that scientists are people just like everyone else. It is policy failure that prevented a decent pandemic response in the first place. I don’t know where the blame about that goes to though, but hopefully things will go better next time.

  16. JohnTh

    Yes. Lots of damage has been done by poor science. But forgive me if I beg to differ in my opinion of this video. It is very mediocre. I would point you to articles from Children’s Health Defense and the Off-Guardian as being far more rigorous in their analysis of the research before they draw their conclusions. The most bizarre example of this is in relation to hydroxychloroquine which the doctor believes to be useless versus the mountain of data highlighted below. Below is the link to ALL the valid research on hydroxychloroquine. I also provide Dr. Meryl Nass critique of the four studies that were used to try and denigrate hydroxychloroquine as a treatment. All of which gave treatment more than 7 days after a person showed symptoms and at doses 3 or 4 times the recommended amount!!! I leave it to the readers to judge the quality of the research referred to in the links below.

    All the Hydroxychloroquine research from across the globe (93 Studies, 55 peer reviewed) – Global HCQ studies. PrEP, PEP, and early treatment studies show efficacy, while late treatment shows mixed results
    C19 Study

    Dr. Meryl Nass Discovers Hydroxychloroquine Experiments Were Designed to Kill COVID Patients
    Dr Meryl Nass article

    Lockdown Lunacy I: Shows the infection fatality rate range (compared to seasonal influenza/flu), covid-19 deaths by age, spreading of the disease, masks, flaws in epidemic models and predictive model of viruses (i.e. Farr’s Law)
    Lockdown Lunacy I

    Lockdown Lunacy II: Discusses countries/states that have reached or not reached herd immunity (i.e. Sweden, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Arizona, etc) and explains how to calculate implied herd immunity threshold using (deaths/implied fatality rate) / total population and the range across various countries
    Lockdown Lunacy II

    Lockdown Lunacy III: Discusses countries/states were viruses has burned out based on following weekly death rate (using Farr’s law). And explains viral seasonal dynamics based on Dr. Edgar Hope-Simpson’s book, The Transmission of Epidemic Viruses
    Lockdown Lunacy III

    Here is an in depth article from the Off-Guardian explaining that PCR Tests are scientifically meaningless
    RT PCR Tests

    Here is an in depth interview from the Off-Guardian with Dr. Stoian Alexov explaining that pathology work on covid-19 deaths is showing that no unique antibody from SARS-COV2 has been identified and that people whose underlying conditions were quite severe are being classified as covid-19 deaths instead of deaths from their underlying conditions (which is the standard method). Based on the standard method, where the longest underlying condition is classified as the underlying clause of death and influenza or flu or covid-19 is the immediate cause of death it is normally the underlying cause of death which is put on the first page of the death certificate. Now they are being classified as covid-19 deaths.
    Inflation of covid-19 numbers through change in how deaths are encoded

    I will add one more to highlight how this is not really a pandemic. This comes from the CDC via the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine comparing Swine Flu to covid-19:
    The US Centre for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) estimated that 150, 000 to 575,000 people died from (H1N1) pandemic virus infection in the first year of the outbreak.
    * 80% of the virus-related deaths were estimated to occur in those < 65 years of age.
    * In seasonal influenza epidemics, about 70% to 90% of deaths occur in people ≥65.

    Swine Flu /Covid-19 Comparison

    If you check the covid-19 deaths by age, they are overwhelmingly above 65 years of age. It is very clear that covid-19 is a seasonal influenza epidemic not a pandemic.

    I hope this adds to the debate.

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