From the beginning of time, humans have used mythology to make sense of a chaotic natural world. Sir G.L. Gomme dubbed myths “the science of a pre-scientific age.” Folklore provided pre-scientific people a comforting sense of control over nature. To address dry spells, they deployed rain dances. Sunless stretches hindering crops prompted offerings to Helios. Then, our ancestors sat back and waited. The rains always came. The sun always reappeared, validating their “wisdom,” the illusion of control reinforced.
Thanks to science, we know this was pure superstition. Though the same outcomes would have occurred had the tribe taken no action, the tribe leader would still have received credit or blame from his constituents.
Similarly, today’s politicians race to take credit – or place blame – for COVID-19 “results.” Do politicians really control these outcomes, or are they simply exploiting our ingrained tendencies?
When China first deployed lockdown in January to “defeat COVID-19,” The Washington Post approvingly quoted a Georgetown University professor as saying,
“The truth is those kinds of lockdowns are very rare and never effective…”
In March, Imperial College London’s dire projections influenced the White House, but a careful reading of the advice contained in the Imperial College report reveals that its authors knew lockdown alone could not eliminate any infections, only delay them:
“The more successful a strategy is at temporary suppression,” it stated, “the larger the later epidemic is predicted to be in the absence of vaccination, due to lesser build-up of herd immunity.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pandemic planning documents state non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing are ineffective once a disease infects 1% of a region’s population. Literature on this subject is unanimous worldwide. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control:
“There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread.
It is hard to imagine that measures like those within the category of social distancing would not have some positive impact by reducing transmission of a human respiratory infection…