The Problem With “Following The Science”

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What is “The Science”?

State, local, and federal governments often make the claim that they are “following the science” when it comes to COVID-19. What few people realize is the extent to which the “science” may be manipulated to match a particular agenda. Instead of survival of the fittest data, it’s survival of what fits…a political narrative.

Politicians’ faith in the opinions of the medical experts serves a purpose: To separate them from the blame for faulty recommendations. “Why, we were just following the science”. The goals of a medical expert, even an unbiased one, is different from that of a politician.

The medical expert is concerned with preventing every bad outcome that can occur from the presence of a virus in a country. That means they will recommend measures strict enough to achieve that goal, even if it means putting every citizen in their own personal bubble.

This is, in some cases, due to idealistic, if impractical, motives. In other cases, these measures are used as hedges against the kind of civil liability that may occur from being too lax (It’s a great time to be a lawyer). In the worst-case scenario, experts may cynically recommend strict measures to wear down citizens’ support of a government. If the New Normal makes people sick and tired enough, they’re going to blame someone. It’s usually not the medical expert.

One thing that doesn’t concern medical experts much is the effect their recommendations have on a society’s economy and other collateral damage. They point to the “science”: “Look, we’re saving lives!”, even while the fabric of an entire nation unravels. Are we being told that this is the equivalent of an apocalyptic event or is it something similar to the far end of a bad flu season?

Politicians, in general, like experts to made decisions and recommendations for them. It takes away some of the responsibility if they’re just “following the science”. But implementing advice from scientists has gotten them in some trouble: For some reason, many didn’t realize how much lockdowns would result in wide-ranging consequences. I did, and I’ll bet you did too.

Public health policy has many more repercussions than just, well, public health. The process of putting together task forces and advisory committees involves a lot of politics. Once task forces are populated with experts, politicians hope for sympathetic treatment from their appointees.

Medical expert motto: It’s my way or the Highway

These appointees, however, are mostly administrators, even if they have MD or DO after their names. Like their bosses, they act politically and can erase physicians working on research or the front lines that don’t agree with them. I don’t mean by putting them in jail; destroying their reputations works just fine to get them out of the picture.

Real science takes a look at many different approaches to a problem. With COVID-19, some potential treatments and preventatives have been shoved to the curb because the wrong person endorsed them. Studies are manipulated to assure the desired results. A component in a drug combination is left out, perhaps, or a medicine is used at a higher dose that causes complications.

This is what has happened with Hydroxychloroquine, a drug that potentiates the anti-viral action of zinc. The problem is that zinc was not included in almost all the “failed” studies on the drug.  

(Aside: One large study is including zinc. However, that study was arranged to finish after the November election.)

In another study, significantly higher doses of hydroxychloroquine were used than normal, leading to heart complications in some participants. Others still used the drug in critically ill patients, although the medicine was recommended for mild cases.

The “science” is thought by most citizens to be a wholesale agreement among the entire medical community. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. For example: One New England Journal of Medicine article in July cast doubt on the effectiveness of chloroquines, while another in the International Journal of Infectious Disease the month before claimed they were a viable option.  Nor can you depend on published results remaining published. Several studies have been retracted in The NEJM and a number of other prestigious publications in the last few months.

Other inexpensive options like Vitamin D, Povidone-Iodine solution, Quercetin, and others have their detractors in positions of power on advisory committees. If not actively criticized, their proponents are widely ignored.

All this makes it difficult to know what is real. Are we “following the science” or following someone’s agenda so they gain some benefit out of destabilizing the country? I’ll let you decide.

I’ll tell you this: If we are to expect real science that we can depend on, we must demand it. We must scrutinize every study to make sure that the research is transparent, as well as the affiliations and motivations of those behind it.

These people are human and, these days, humans in the United States have very strong opinions. So strong, as a matter of fact, that they have little reluctance to cast aside any who disagree, no matter how reasonable their opinion. There should be a pro and con discussion of every decision and we must consider both the risks to the general population and also to the economy and stability of the nation.

There will be always be political winners and losers. However, if we allow politics to interfere so powerfully that it makes it unclear where the real science lies, we will all be losers.

Joe Alton MD

Dr. Alton

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