Climate Models and COVID-19 Models
Computer models are seductive even though they are very often completely wrong. The more complicated they are the greater chance that they are wrong. Like children, they copy their parents -- the model architects. Confirmation bias involves cherry picking facts to obtain a result consistent with preexisting beliefs. A complicated computer model with many degrees of freedom is a perfect environment for confirmation bias to have its way. The investigator usually will believe, or at least claim, that his model is objectively setup without bias entering into the effort.
Not all computer models are wrong. Sometimes they produce good predictions. But all too often they fail and the failures are not acknowledged because the modelers are emotionally or ideologically attached to their creation.
The claim of objectivity by academic modelers contrasts with the standard leftist or academic belief that practically everyone is a racist, driven by unconscious motives. Google “implicit bias” if you want to know more. When professors are pushing racial justice theories everybody is driven by unconscious forces. But when constructing computer models all is well.
Complicated models are always full of escape hatches that can explain away any failure. Climate models still enjoy support in spite of 30 years of failure. The failures are alleged to be due to things like chaotic variation or data that has to be adjusted because it does not agree with the model. COVID-19 models are new but have had notable failures. For example, the IMHE model predicted up to two million deaths but has been repeatedly adjusted and now is down to 60,000 deaths. Usually it is claimed that the model is not wrong, but deaths are lower because the American people have been good boys and girls.
In both climate models and disease models, the associated scientific establishment has a vested interest in the validity of the model. If the climate models are a waste of time, then climate science and its practitioners have been wasting everyone’s time. The scientific establishment behind COVID-19 modeling is wedded to a particular method of dealing with an epidemic. Their approach is to constrain the spread of the disease with social control until a vaccine is available.
If someone discovers a cure for the disease, or at least a therapy that makes the disease’s effects minor, then the scientists working to stop the spread of the disease become suddenly irrelevant. That explains the hostility shown to potential therapeutics like hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir. Hydroxychloroquine has the additional burden that President Trump suggested that it might be helpful. The academic community is full of Trump haters, so anything Trump likes must be bad.
Hydroxychloroquine is dismissed out of hand by COVID-19 task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, who calls the evidence anecdotal, which it isn’t. There is plenty of evidence that hydroxychloroquine is effective as both as a treatment and as a prophylactic. For example, it has been noticed that patients taking it for other diseases (lupus) rarely or never get COVID-19. Various doctors have produced case series strongly suggesting that it is effective against COVID-19. The problem is that the establishment wants to do double-blind studies that will take years and that are completely irrelevant to the current reality. That is just another way of marginalizing therapy in favor of social-control techniques.
The opposition to climate models comes both from outstanding experts and nonprofessional technologists that smell rats. That opposition is largely theoretical because hardly anyone really believes in impending climate doom. Medicine is different because real doctors are faced with the task of treating real patients that are in danger of dying. Some younger doctors, educated to believe deeply in strict scientific method, may be willing to refuse a treatment that has not be proven to be safe and effective via a 3-year long experiment. Older, more experience doctors may understand the limitations of strict obedience to alleged science and be more willing to take calculated risks appropriate for the patient. The risks are small for hydroxychloroquine because it has been used for decades for malaria, lupus, and arthritis.
All that social-control techniques can accomplish, other than destroying the economy, is to slow down spread of the disease. Evidently, probably long before a vaccine is available, every susceptible person will have had it. Slowing things down may help avoid overload of the medical system. The real breakthrough would be prophylaxis or therapy that would take the teeth out of the disease. For example, if vulnerable old people could avoid catching the disease by taking hydroxychloroquine, deaths would be dramatically smaller. A preliminary study by Dr. Mehmet Oz suggests that 14,000 lupus patients, mostly taking the drug, have few cases of the disease. If this works, once a vaccine was available in two years, the vulnerable could be immunized and taken off hydroxychloroquine. Keep in mind that HIV is treated successfully with therapeutics. No vaccine has been invented. How hard would it be to get a handle on the prophylactic benefit of hydroxychloroquine. One could quickly get an idea by giving a group of medical workers exposed to infection the drug and comparing the infection rate to those not taking the drug. A variant of hydroxychloroquine supplemented by zinc could also be tried. Although I believe that many medical workers are taking the drug, I am not aware that anyone is studying the results.
Hydroxychloroquine is blacklisted because Trump suggested that it is worth trying. At least three (Democrat) governors have literally blacklisted it by restricting availability and usage. The social-control doctors act as if therapeutics are a distant possibility and ignore them as much as possible.
Instead of destroying the economy by making everyone stop working and stay home, an alternative scheme might be to fall back on handwashing and face masks and let everyone go back to work. If vulnerable people can be protected by prophylaxis that would be better and more effective compared to trying to keep them isolated from human contact, possibly a fate worse than death. Surely, the treatment for the severely ill will improve as doctors get more experience and try various therapeutics. Intubation of comatose patients connected to a ventilator is a serious step with huge risks. It seems odd that the well understood and mild side effects of hydroxychloroquine are made into a big deal while more ventilators are urgently requested, as if ventilators are a fine treatment.
All this is mixed up with Trump hatred. It is sad, but true, that many of the Trump haters would rather have an economic and social disaster than see Trump reelected. If this seems implausible, they should read up on their own massive literature on “implicit bias.”