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Science and uncertainty

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During the Covid ‘pandemic’, the British Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir PATRICK VALLANCE, made it clear in a BBC Radio interview in 2021 that UNCERTAINTY – not certainty – underpinned the pandemic, and was a defining feature of the scientific methodology in general. Uncertainty is eventually overcome by science, but not straight away. Everyone is ignorant to begin with, so there are no ‘experts’ at the start of a scientific investigation. How can you be full of certainty when a virus and vaccine are new? 

His words contradicted the prevailing view of the many who believed (or said publicly) that the scientists who officially dealt with the pandemic (the WHO, British NHS, et al) were full of certainty and facts, thus were the only reliable decision makers (the ‘experts’) and the only ones to be trusted. This reverence for scientists could be described as ‘scientism’, where science is like an organised religion with its supposedly infallible leaders (the ‘experts’) and mindless followers (the ‘non-experts’). 

In reality, there was certainty and uncertainty on both sides of the debate; fact and fiction on both sides. Alas, the medical professionals who opposed the ‘official’ narrative were censored and/or dismissed as unreliable and unscientific; much of the savage criticism delivered by ‘non-experts’ in the mainstream: TV presenters, celebrities, journalists, comedians, satirists, etc. This reflected the Ruling Elite’s technique of employing a variety of groups (‘expert’ and ‘non-expert’) to deliver propaganda. When an outrageous lie is required, ‘non-experts’ are more likely to deliver the lie, thereby protecting the reputation of the ‘experts’. 

In the aforementioned BBC interview (“The Patrick Vallance Interview”, BBC Radio 4, October 10th 2021), Vallance was interviewed by the non-adversarial scientist JIM AL-KHALILI, who credited Vallance’s role in the pandemic with boosting public trust in science. Al-Khalili agreed with Vallance about the uncertainty in science, and agreed that there was a need for science to be an integral part of political government. “Why not have a Minister for Science?”, Al-Khalili asked, though Vallance said that scientists should not be “on top”. Not long before the interview, Vallance had been appointed (in June 2021) by the UK Government for another science role: to lead a new OFFICE FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY, in an aim to cement the UK as a “science superpower”, according to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Vallance added that the new office would put science and technology “right at the heart of policy-making…” 

Vallance had previously gained fame in Britain in 2020 when appearing alongside prime minister Boris Johnson and the Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, in televised briefings on the COVID-19 pandemic. They initially advocated a ‘herd immunity’ approach, in March 2020. 

Vallance’s career led to claims that he had a conflict of interest as regards the pandemic. A few years before the pandemic he had been President of Research and Development at the global pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a company that subsequently worked on developing a COVID vaccine.  Vallance owned a deferred bonus of 43,111 shares worth £600,000 in GlaxoSmithKline, leading to claims of a potential conflict of interest, as Vallance could be seen to have a financial interest in pushing for a vaccine-based response to the pandemic whether or not this was objectively the best approach. 

Vallance was Professor at UCL Medical School, later becoming head of UCL’s Department of Medicine. In the 2019 New Year Honours he was appointed Knight Bachelor.