COVID-19: Faulty Logic, Distorted Perspectives
May 22, 2020
Tom Jefferson, Carl Heneghan
The Lord Bertrand Russell was always critical of induction, the everyday logic which was first systematised by Francis Bacon, first Lord Verulam.
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Russell exemplified the fallacy of induction with an apt if gruesome famous example, that of the inductivist turkey:
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The committee *bestowed the award upon Yoshinori Ohsumi of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, for his research on *autophagy, which is a self-eating process seen in cells.
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We have already commented on the reliability of the firm predictions of future “waves” of COVID-19, made even by the most senior politicians of some countries. We have shown how the theory of “waves” is grounded on contemporary reading of influenza pandemics, of which only some had “waves”. This first gap in the pattern would probably not be acceptable to Russell’s turkey. He may, however, concede that given repeated observations of the presence of “waves” in some influenza pandemics, their appearance in COVID 19 would be highly likely. This logic, as Russell’s gory example shows, is faulty. It also has a devastating consequence.
Although ARIs are a syndrome caused by a wide variety of known and unknown agents, the narrative of the last half-century has been dominated by just one: influenza. The figure shows that between 1970 and 2019, 67,936 articles with “influenza” in the title were published and indicized by PubMed. Twelve times the 5,502 coronavirus publications over the same period.
In 2020 the picture is completely reversed: 13,847 articles with coronavirus or covid in the title against only 16 articles on influenza – a ratio of 865:1.
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In Italy, as in all other countries in the world, there are no accurate numbers of deaths by influenza. One study analysing excess deaths for influenza over four years estimated the number for 2016-2017 “season” (the highest of the four years) to be 24,981. For Covid 19, we have far more accurate figures from 20 February 2020 to the time of writing: 32,330 deaths.
Our current approach is based on inductive logic and the research agenda is dominated by the herd approach. This leads to a disproportion between the impact of the disease and its research base and our preparedness.
Tom Jefferson is a senior associate tutor and honorary research fellow, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford.
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Carl Heneghan is Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine and Director of the 双重高压 夹江陶企授信额度最高超4千万 and the 全球避暑城市名城百佳榜单出炉 贵阳昆明入前十.
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