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  • Writer's picturegraeme


It's now been six months since we first identified Covid-19.

Where the hell is the vaccine? Why do scientists keep changing their advice about how to deal with it? Why don't we know yet who will be affected by it and who won't? Why isn't it cured yet?

These questions are now floating around my timelines.

About a quarter of people in the world seem to be ignoring science. What a revelation Lockdown has been to see the number of people in my network who are not just gullible, but deliberately deny science and chase down conspiracy theories. It is been, frankly, tiring to try and engage with these science deniers. No amount of evidence helps - to be honest I have stopped trying.

About a quarter of people appear to think that science is magic. Six months into a global pandemic, they want to know what's taking so long for scientists to come to consensus and produce solutions. The fastest we've ever produced a vaccine before was 4 years, for mumps. Most vaccines take a few decades to produce. Science needs to not just find the first possible solution and "go for it". Solutions must be tested, then tested again on a different group of people (or animals), then all possible side effects must be understood, and even then scientists know it won't be perfect (some people have adverse reactions to vaccines, no matter how careful we are). Science takes its time, quite rightly, to ensure it gets it right. With diseases, this means months and years before we have the understanding we need; and along that journey there are dead ends and changes of mind and adjustments in understanding. It is how it works. It is a sign that it IS working, rather than that it is not. But these people aren't having it - and some of them are starting to drift into conspiracy theory realms too, thinking that scientists are hiding data or that the WHO has some nefarious agenda of confusion and misinformation.

About a quarter of people appear to not understand that not everyone who is a qualified professional is an expert on everything in their field. Some medical doctor somewhere in Hicksville makes a statement about Covid-19, and it gets spread around the Internet like wildfire - mainly, of course, if it feeds a narrative related to one of the viewpoints above. A medical researcher at a university says Lockdown is wrong, so it must be. The owners of medical clinics (that were closed by Lockdown) say that the economy should be opened, so it must be. Some person who works at some medical company (check their CV, they might even have been in sales, rather than L&D) says masks are dangerous, so they must be.

About a quarter of people seem to understand statistics, research methodologies, double blind studies, and the scientific method. Or probably more accurately, they know enough about these things to know that they don't know enough about these things to consider themselves to be the arbiters of the scientific process, and know enough to leave this up to proper scientists. Which also means waiting for the scientific process to do its thing, because science is not magic - it does know what it is doing (and when it doesn't, it sorts itself out quite quickly).

Yeah, I'm a fan of science. Does it show?

Science is not perfect. But it is on the job. And that's a good thing.

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