FOLLOW the science, follow the scientists. Much has been said, quite correctly, that for a political leader to ‘follow the science’ as Boris Johnson puts it, is both extremely foolish and an abnegation of responsibility. Obviously, a Prime Minister should use expert advice, but weigh it in the balance with the advice of others, his own instinct and an understanding of the big picture. The big picture here being the colossal cultural, psychological, economic and physiological damage the response to Covid-19 has done to a previously free society.
Terrified of ‘you killed my granny’ headlines, the government threw any thought beyond tomorrow’s mortality count completely out of the window and gave the scientists complete control. For this we, and the generations to whom we bequeath our sorry legacy, will pay dearly.
But what of the mentality of the scientists? An all-important question, given that they are the masters now. How do they think and what is the effect of their thoughts on public policy?
It is difficult for those who have never worked with top rate scientists to understand just how odd many of them are. Of course, we all know they are both dedicated and highly specialised, the old joke about academics being that they end up knowing everything about nothing. However, many, especially those at the very top, are obsessive to the point of fanaticism, their entire lives dedicated towards a single goal: the endless pursuit of knowledge gleaned from nature’s infinite complexity. As a result, they have no hinterland, sometimes poor emotional skills, with often shallow and underdeveloped understanding or interest in any other aspect of society or politics. When I was an academic in my twenties it was noticeable that outside my own field of study it was often much easier to have an informed conversation with the laboratory technicians that with the senior researchers. The reason was simple: they had lives.
Of course, I am wildly generalising here, but I am not stating this in a pejorative sense: humanity has benefited enormously from those rare individuals who have both the intellect and the maniacal drive to understand better the world around us. Or rather, it did until they were let loose to run that world. Because our world has become their laboratory and, we, dear reader, have become their experiment. Take, for instance, the attitude of Imperial’s Professor Neil Ferguson, putting his foot in it as only he can: he recently exulted in his surprise that they had been able to lock down the country, which hitherto he didn’t believe would be possible. I doubt that the libidinous professor is a psychopath who revels in crushing liberties, but it did reveal his frame of thought: he was talking as an experimentalist. Not to be outdone, Professor Chris Whitty of Sage even suggested further lockdowns may be needed next Christmas! Even if true, that is the last thing a demoralised population could do with hearing right now.
The statements of both men demonstrate a certain unworldliness, and therein lies the danger: from the scientific point of view, each lockdown can be viewed as a unique experiment and the interludes between them the experiment’s controls. For scientists, the Covid-19 phenomenon is a once in a lifetime opportunity to test their theories on the grandest of scales. It would be going far too far to suggest that these people are callously indifferent as the disasters of our lives are played out before their eyes, but not too far, I think, to suggest that the scientific quest to which they have fanatically dedicated their lives is subconsciously skewing their advice, and thus government policy.
We are the lockdown lab rats. Model. Experiment. Repeat.