Government predictions based on predictions of people who are lousy at predicting

If we  shut down the country based on advice from people who have been really really wrong four times before, nothing could;possibly go wrong, says government

by Steve Cook

Neil Ferguson is professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London.

He has been instrumental in forming the UK government’s response to the coronavirus.

It was his modelling that evidently freaked out the Prime Minister with predictions of hundreds of thousands of UK deaths. This persuaded the PM to panic, rush totalitarian laws through Parliament, cancel traditional freedoms and implement the catastrophic lockdown – an event that has probably needlessly visited upon the people of the UK a degree of damage and misery only surpassed by open warfare. Not bad fir a government that has only been in power for five minutes – it usually takes governments  a few years to wreck the country.

Indeed if an enemy agent had caused the destruction to the UK that is now resulting from this lockdown, it would probably have been regarded an act of war.

A look at Ferguson’s track record of predictions, however, begs an obvious question – a question so obvious even an entity as dim as our government could have been reasonably expected to ask it:  why the hell is our government taking advice from a man whose modelling and predictions have consistently been so utterly and consistently wrong? And I mean not just slightly wrong, but majorly, disastrously wrong.

Oh, and we should also note this significant fact as to the financial hold of vested pharmaceutical/vaccine interests over the Imperial College:

The Imperial College is heavily funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (evidently to the tune off $184,872,226.99 by 2018).  The Gates Foundation is the second biggest donor to Imperial College. The biggest  is the Wellcome Trust, whose donations amount to $400,322,589.00.  But the Wellcome Trust works closely with the Gates Foundation in a number of endeavours, such as the founding of CEPI, whose mission statement reads,  ‘The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation’s (CEPI’s) mission is to stimulate and accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and enable access to these vaccines for people during outbreaks.’

So no possible compromise of objectivity there then!

As to why government would give a “scientist” with such an awful track record as Ferguson the time of day, particularly on matters of such importance is anybody’s guess but the two most likely reasons are either:

The government is stupid, or:

The government needed to scare the populous and was more interested in scary prediction dressed up to look science rather than anything remotely approaching honesty.

So here’s Ferguson’and Imperial College’s execrable track  record:

In 2001 the Imperial team ‘s modelling on foot and mouth disease that suggested that animals in farms neighbouring an outbreak should be culled, even if there was no evidence of infection. This influenced government policy. It led to the killing of more than six million cattle, sheep and pigs. And that devastated the farming industry and cost the UK economy estimated at £10 billion. Experts such as Michael Thrusfield, professor of veterinary epidemiology at Edinburgh University, have said that Ferguson’s modelling on foot and mouth was ‘severely flawed’ and that he made a ‘serious error’ by ‘ignoring the species composition of farms,’ and the fact that the disease spread faster between different species.

In 2002, Ferguson predicted that around 50,000 people would likely die from exposure to BSE (mad cow disease) in beef. He also predicted that number could rise to 150,000 if there was a sheep epidemic as well. In the UK, there have only been 177 deaths from BSE.

Still, never mind, on the basis that someone who has let you down twice by being hopelessly and hugely wrong, is bound to be all right the third time, the government sought Ferguson’s mathematical wisdom again in 2005. This time he unreliably predicted that up to 200 million people could be killed from bird flu (see here) In the end, only 282 people died worldwide from the disease between 2003 and 2009. This must go down as the wrongest prediction in history. What kind of mathematical modelling produces that level of inaccuracy? It should at least have established for him a strong reputation of being rubbish at predicting – or modelling.

Yet still the government, evidently unable to learn from experience like normal people, sought out the wise and incredibly reliable professor yet again in 2009. This time, Ferguson and his Imperial team predicted that swine flu would have a case fatality rate of 0.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent. He expertly informed everyone gullible enough to listen that the most likely estimated mortality rate was 0.4%  A government prediction based on Ferguson’s advice, was that a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ was 65,000 UK deaths (see here),  In the end swine flu killed 457 people in the UK – a death rate of just 0.026 per cent in those infected. So, slightly off there again, Mr Ferguson.

Is it just me or do you see a pattern developing here?

So now, in 2020, Ferguson’s disease modelling for Covid-19 has been criticised by experts such as John Ioannidis, professor in disease prevention at Stanford University, who has said that: ‘The Imperial College study has been done by a highly competent team of modellers. However, some of the major assumptions and estimates that are built in the calculations seem to be substantially inflated.’

Ferguson drew further criticism from Epidemiologist Dr Knut Wittkowski, see the UK Reloaded feature here

I think the government needs to start taking advice from people who are reliable.



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About Steve Cook 2280 Articles
Director, UK Reloaded

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