It sounds like great tabloid fare: A leading disease expert in the United Kingdom is discovered to have violated the country’s stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic so he could canoodle with a married woman. And, yes, the British tabloids ate it up.
But the scientist in this case was the highly respected Neil Ferguson, the person who more than anyone on the planet is responsible for the lockdown that has cost the U.S. economy trillions of dollars.
It was Ferguson’s modeling that predicted massive deaths from the coronavirus unless drastic actions were taken. In the U.S. alone, he predicted 2.2 million deaths – and more than a million if the country went into lockdown.
“Based on our findings,” he told the New York Times in mid-March, “there’s really no option but follow in China’s footsteps and suppress.”
“We don’t have a clear exit strategy,” he told the Times. “We’re going to have to suppress this virus – frankly, indefinitely – until we have a vaccine.”
Ferguson’s dire prediction was instrumental in the U.K.’s decision to abandon its initial Swedish-style response to coronavirus of allowing the economy to continue functioning while taking steps to limit the disease’s spread.
It was Ferguson’s forecast that prompted the Trump administration to issue its sweeping federal recommendations limiting people’s activities, and push states to rush in with stay-at-home mandates. The result was a crashed economy, double-digit unemployment, and trillions of dollars of added debt as the federal government tried to paper over the massive losses.
After his lockdown dalliance became public, Ferguson resigned his role as adviser to the British government because, he said, he was guilty of “undermining” the lockdown.
But the problem is much deeper than that. The fact that Ferguson would so blithely fail to practice what he was preaching isn’t just a minor character flaw, it completely undermines his credibility.
And that is a good thing, because Ferguson isn’t just a hypocrite, he has a long and sorry history of causing disruption and panic by massively overpredicting deaths from new diseases, as Michael Fumento detailed in this space recently.
In 2001, Ferguson helped spark a panic over U.K. beef when he predicted that 136,000 people could die from “mad cow” disease in coming decades. His forecast was multiples higher than what other scientists had been predicting. Ferguson dismissed them as “naïve.”
A report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control found that as of 2013, there’d been a total of … wait for it … 174 cases in the U.K., and 226 worldwide.
In 2005, Ferguson predicted the bird flu pandemic could kill 200 million people. “Around 40 million people died in 1918 Spanish flu outbreak,” he told the Guardian. “There are six times more people on the planet now so you could scale it up to around 200 million people probably.”
The total number of deaths, according to the World Health Organization: 440.
His 2.2 million deaths prediction is just as fatuous. That report claimed that more than a million could die in the U.S. even with extreme control measures.
If 134,000 die from the disease – which is the current prediction by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation – that’s still off by a factor of eight.
Plus, there’s increasing evidence that the lockdowns achieved little if anything in terms of “flattening the curve” that far less extreme measures would have achieved.
If Ferguson had been in any other profession, except perhaps weather forecasting, no one would ever take his pronouncements seriously again. He and others in the disease “modeling” community keep getting away with it because public health officials figure it’s better to err on the side of caution. That, however, ignores the cost in human lives from the panic and the shutdowns.
Elon Musk had it right when he took to Twitter to thrash Ferguson, saying “this guy has caused massive strife to the world with his absurdly fake ‘science.’”
One can only hope that Ferguson’s public disgrace will do what his incredibly wrong predictions couldn’t – namely, discredit his work for good.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board