John P.A. Ioannidis, professor of medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University and co-director of Stanfordâ€™s Meta-Research Innovation Center, warns that, as is very much standard operating procedure in the modern world, we are making serious decisions treating totally unreliable statistics as facts.
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 donâ€™t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300. Three months after the outbreak emerged, most countries, including the U.S., lack the ability to test a large number of people and no countries have reliable data on the prevalence of the virus in a representative random sample of the general population.
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 â€” and are meaningless. Patients who have been tested for SARS-CoV-2 are disproportionately those with severe symptoms and bad outcomes. As most health systems have limited testing capacity, selection bias may even worsen in the near future.
The one situation where an entire, closed population was tested was the Diamond Princess cruise ship and its quarantine passengers. The case fatality rate there was 1.0%, but this was a largely elderly population, in which the death rate from Covid-19 is much higher.
Projecting the Diamond Princess mortality rate onto the age structure of the U.S. population, the death rate among people infected with Covid-19 would be 0.125%. But since this estimate is based on extremely thin data â€” there were just seven deaths among the 700 infected passengers and crew â€” the real death rate could stretch from five times lower (0.025%) to five times higher (0.625%). It is also possible that some of the passengers who were infected might die later, and that tourists may have different equencies of chronic diseases â€” a risk factor for worse outcomes with SARS-CoV-2 infection â€” than the general population. Adding these extra sources of uncertainty, reasonable estimates for the case fatality ratio in the general U.S. population vary from 0.05% to 1%.
That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done. A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05% is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. Itâ€™s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies.
We have a serious problem in the fact that most people, including the overwhelming majority of people in positions of power and responsibility do not understand math and think that statistical estimates and projections constitute scientific fact. How many times have you heard the network news talking head gravely report that “We know there are only [pick a number] of [pick an allegedly Endangered Species] left”?
Only old people like myself remember today the 1976 Swine Flu Epidemic Panic that Gerald Ford presided over which, when the whole thing petered out into a non-event, left the President and official Washington looking ridiculous.
1. Osama bin Laden was being held in Abottabad as a prisoner of ISI, the Pakistani Intelligence Service, which was using him as a hostage to keep al Qaeda from attacking Pakistan. The Saudis were funding his detention.
2. There was no courier trail. A former Pakistani intelligence spilled the beans to the CIA in order to get the offered reward.
3. The Pakistanis knew we were coming, and reluctantly agreed to let the US conduct the hit under threat of loss of US aid.
4. There was no heroism and no firefight. Osama had no guards. He was a helpless invalid and a prisoner and the Seals were under orders simply to kill him out of hand.
5. Osama was not in touch with, or directing, al Qaeda operations, and there was no treasure trove of intelligence.
6. Barack Obama then completely broke his word to the Pakistanis. There was supposed to be a delayed announcement that Osama had been killed by a drone strike on the Afghan side of the Hindu Kush, no mention of the house in Abottabad, and no clues whatsoever of Pakistani involvement or cooperation. By exploiting the killing of Osama for personal prestige immediately and abandoning the agreed-upon “drone strike” story, Obama double-crossed Pakinstan’s Intelligence Service, leading to a four-year-long rupture in relations.
7. There was never any burial at sea or Islamic service. Osama was literally shot to pieces, and the Seals happily tossed body parts out of the helicopter while flying home over the Hindu Kush.
Breitbart collected 32 of Brian Williams’s biggest whoppers.
Iâ€™ve done some ridiculously stupid things under that banner, like being in a helicopter I had no business being in Iraq with rounds coming into the airframe,â€ he said [to Alec Baldwin in March 2014] â€” PolitiFact
â€œWe were in some helicopters. What we didnâ€™t know was, we were north of the invasion. We were the northernmost Americans in Iraq. We were going to drop some bridge portions across the Euphrates so the Third Infantry could cross on them. Two of the four helicopters were hit, by ground fire, including the one I was in, RPG and AK-47. â€” Williams to Letterman on March 26, 2013 â€” PolitiFact.
On â€œ60 Minutes,â€ the president faulted his spies for failing to predict the rise of ISIS. Thereâ€™s one problem with that statement: The intelligence analysts did warn about the group.
Nearly eight months ago, some of President Obamaâ€™s senior intelligence officials were already warning that ISIS was on the move. In the beginning of 2014, ISIS fighters had defeated Iraqi forces in Fallujah, leading much of the U.S. intelligence community to assess they would try to take more of Iraq.
But in an interview that aired Sunday evening, the president told 60 Minutes that the rise of the group now proclaiming itself a caliphate in territory between Syria and Iraq caught the U.S. intelligence community off guard. Obama specifically blamed James Clapper, the current director of national intelligence: â€œOur head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,â€ he said.
Reached by The Daily Beast after Obamaâ€™s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. â€œEither the president doesnâ€™t read the intelligence heâ€™s getting or heâ€™s bullshitting,â€ the former official said.
In the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer look at the evidence, and find that the oft-repeated claim that “97% of climate scientists” subscribe to a belief in Catastrophist Anthropogenic Warmism is just as empty a claim as the newspaper headlines about melting glacier and Polar icecaps.
Last week Secretary of State John Kerry warned graduating students at Boston College of the “crippling consequences” of climate change. “Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists,” he added, “tell us this is urgent.”
Where did Mr. Kerry get the 97% figure? Perhaps from his boss, President Obama, who tweeted on May 16 that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Or maybe from NASA, which posted (in more measured language) on its website, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.”
Yet the assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research.
One frequently cited source for the consensus is a 2004 opinion essay published in Science magazine by Naomi Oreskes, a science historian now at Harvard. She claimed to have examined abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and found that 75% supported the view that human activities are responsible for most of the observed warming over the previous 50 years while none directly dissented.
Ms. Oreskes’s definition of consensus covered “man-made” but left out “dangerous”â€”and scores of articles by prominent scientists such as Richard Lindzen, John Christy, Sherwood Idso and Patrick Michaels, who question the consensus, were excluded. The methodology is also flawed. A study published earlier this year in Nature noted that abstracts of academic papers often contain claims that aren’t substantiated in the papers.