Scientific dissent should be engaged with, not suppressed.
You criticize Dr. Ioannidis and the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration for their tactics in saying that Covid had a lower IFR than the ridiculous early estimates used to justify lockdowns, and for saying that lockdowns have negative societal consequences, respectively. Yet you give little credit to these claims for being not only correct (as time has shown) but also rather obviously correct even at the time, appearing controversial only due to the intensely political nature of Covid policy. You criticize dissenters for being "hasty" yet the mainstream scientists were given *months* of essentially opposition-free time to impose unprecedented, near-total lockdowns on society. I wish the dissenters had been hastier. You talk about scientific quality, but ignore that the CDC regularly churns out non-peer-reviewed advocacy of the mainstream agenda on its MMWR channel, that gets picks up as "science" by the entire media apparatus. Finally you emphasize the importance of "scientific" debate, which is 100% needed, but most Covid policy is only marginally about science at all. Maybe cloth masks are 0% useful or maybe they are 10% useful, that's a scientific question, but in either case should they be mandated? That's a social and political question.
I am glad you are arguing for more vigorous and structured dissent in science and we do need it. But the dissenters on Covid were brave souls taking on a thankless task against a global hegemon. They were censored and shunned. Nitpicking their tactics is fair but kind of an odd thing to prioritize.
These are good-faith suggestions for dealing with real problems, but in the spirit of the essay itself, allow me to take issue with it:
First, I don't recall any discussion of roles played by academic and professional institutions and by the media. A dissenting scientist who becomes unemployable or suffers other professional consequences will likely censor himself -- and even if he doesn't, how will we know? He'll have no platform. The media have the same sort of gatekeeping power. I don't see how any plan that doesn't account for these factors can have much effect.
Next, it's not clear why having opposing scientists duke an issue out in public is more "democratic" than having them do so before the public's elected representatives. That is the function of those representatives, after all. That said, the idea of organizing adversarial proceedings before those representatives seems a good one.
And attention should be paid to the supporting function of creating materials to help laymen understand the scientific arguments. Furthermore, the organizers should emphasize ideas such as level-of-confidence and effect-size, without which there's not much basis for decision-making. It should, for example, be significant for one side of a debate to demonstrate simply that the other side hasn't made a conclusive case -- even if the first side has no case to make at all.
Along those same lines, the public and its representatives need to be educated about basic statistics and probability, common cognitive biases and other factors that should inform their decisions. It's not that difficult, since we're not talking about calculation but a general sense of proportion, of what it means to know something and of common pitfalls.
Lastly (for now), we should work to make it socially unacceptable for academic and professional organizations to engage in anything outside their narrow purviews. There should be no letters signed by hundreds of doctors/lawyers/chemists/hairdressers on climate change, minority rights or immigration. All the members are encouraged to add their voices to the groups already organized around these topics, or to create new ones if it suits them, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘢𝘴 𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘧𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴. Not only can no good come of it, it automatically casts their professional opinions into doubt, as well it should. Judges should administer the law, doctors should maintain health, scientists should seek and disseminate the truth. If they're doing anything else at the same time, they're not really doing their jobs.
As a researcher with a background in epidemiology (i.e. a scientist) I'm tired of having to defend "science". In fact scientific methods are just good ways to find and use evidence. The process generates evidence and that changes as more is gathered. Three obvious points: 1. most people can understand the evidence (epidemiology is not quantum physics), 2. most people do need someone to explain the evidence - and particularly how reliable it is (i.e the ivermectin data) 3. a significant number of people do not give a s- - t. They have already made up their mind and nothing will change it (the anti-mask crowd being poster children for this group). This proposal will only work if the #3s stop dominating the conversation.
Duh! We learn this now? Where was the courage to write this article 2 years ago?
Science is certainly not static or "settled". The act of bleeding patients for infectious disease as in the time of George Washington is seen as barbaric now. The idea 20 years ago that it was OK to give pain patients large doses of opioids has resulted in the Opioid Crisis, now compounded by massive influx of highly potent illegal drugs. I suspect that in our zeal to appeal to the Transgender Community, we will have a crisis in 5-10 years of individuals who are regretting their transformations.
Science has been full of dissent ever since Science has been in existence. Have you ever wondered why in advertisements they claim "three out of four doctors recommend this product"? What's the problem with that fourth doctor?
The Covid virus is new and dangerous, and to imply that there is any settled science on it is fallacious. As with much of medical science, it is entirely appropriate to tell patients or the public what the current best information is and proceed accordingly, with the idea that particularly with a pandemic, things may change as more information becomes available.
To stifle or suppress dissent, further opinions or recommendation for further studies or discussion will only serve to increase public distrust and cause further rift in the scientific community.
When a physician is dealing with a single patient, the risk/benefit ratio must be explored to determine what treatment plan is worth the potential risk to the patient vs. that of the disease. When dealing with a pandemic, you have thousands or millions of potential patients with varying risk factors, varying social and economic supports and varying emotional or psychological health to deal with fear, isolation and potential mortality/morbidity of one's self or loved ones. It is for that reason that scientists or physicians must work with community leaders both local and national to come up with reasonable plans to cause the least damage.
It is also imperative that plans, policies and procedures be developed going forward, that allows frank and open discussions between medical/scientific personnel, leaders, and security organizations to prevent another fiasco like this one, because surely this will not be the last potential pandemic we will see.
Cool, let’s do it. Where do I sign?
I was not familiar about this idea and I like the proposal. It could bring more wisdom and team-think within the general scientific community around the world