Science and Technology

The history of anti-vaxxism

In recent weeks there have been protests denying that Covid-19 is a problem. Many of these people are also against vaccinations. Why? Nowadays, vaccinations are very safe. Like all medications they do have side effects, but the chances of a vaccine causing significant harm are many times smaller than the harm that would be caused by the disease that they are vaccinating against. Yet some parents do not vaccinate their children because of a belief that they cause harm. In 1998 Andrew Wakefield published falsified research claiming there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. His...

An antidote on the internet

The ideas that socialists try to communicate are often complex. They don't always fit on a placard. As Marxists, we base ideas are based on reality, on things that we know about the world around us. Knowledge comes from scientific enquiry — systematic gathering and analysis of evidence about the world around us. Covid-19 presented a challenge to rational thinkers everywhere. Action was needed, but no-one knew very much about the virus. When I, as a nurse, first had patients who had the illness, I did what I always do when coming across something new. I tried to find sources of information. I...

Conspiracy theorists out again on 19 September

Saturday 19 September is due to see another anti-mask, anti-lockdown, anti-vaccination demonstration in Trafalgar Square. MC’d by currently suspended nurse Kate Shemirani, a host of conspiracy theorists and “medics” of dubious qualifications and views will take the stage to denounce “enforced vaccination”, to call Covid-19 a hoax, or to blame it on 5G. They will be joined Jon Wedger, “police whistleblower” into “elite paedophile rings”. The “medics” include an osteopath, a holistic and homeopathic dentist, a lecturer in mental-health nursing, a “nutrition and wellness doctor”, and more than...

When "free thought" turns against science

Over the months there have been a number of anti-mask demonstrations, most of them fairly small, and certainly well on the fringes of public opinion about the Covid-19 pandemic. On 29 August that shifted up a notch. A number of larger demonstrations were held in Europe. In London, several thousand of people, at least, crowded into Trafalgar Square to hear speakers including David Icke and Piers Corbyn. As Levente Zékány reported in Solidarity 561 there is a crossover between these demos and the wider-ranging QAnon and “Save our Children” demonstrations. Within the milieu are people committed...

Twenty per cent think virus is a hoax

An Oxford University study conducted in May found that around 20% of adults in England may believe in conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic. In a study of 2,500 adults — weighted by income, region, age and gender — people were asked about the extent to which they agreed with a series of statements about coronavirus. (For more, see the Oxford University site here.) Alarmingly, 60% of respondents said they believed the government was misleading the public about the cause of the virus and 40% believe that there is an attempt to use the virus to control the population. The most agreed...

New Covid plans

Doctors and scientists want a shift in virus-control policy. An open letter to all the political parties, on 23 June, by leading medical figures, called for an urgent effort to map new policies because "the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk".

Scientists say: "1 metre? Not yet"

Boris Johnson announced on 23 June that he plans to let pubs and cafés reopen from 4 July with only one metre covid-distancing. The Independent SAGE group of dissident scientists said on 18 June that "until there is evidence that infections have dropped to much fewer than 1,000 cases a day [the current 7-day average is 1,205, falling slowly] [one-metre] is not safe in indoor spaces particularly in restaurants, bars, or workplaces..." The official SAGE scientists in late May blocked government plan to reduce the virus risk rating from 4 to 3, and got that move delayed to 19 June. One of them...

Diary of a Tube worker: Absolutely essential?

While I waited for my train into work I heard three separate automated announcements. One from a member of staff, one from an NHS paramedic and one from the child of an NHS worker. They had one message in common “Do not travel unless you are a critical worker making an absolutely essential journey”. That first part is right, but that second part? Well, why are TfL playing me a message about not travelling unless absolutely essential when they want me to come in right now at 23:00 on a Friday? This week I was unlucky. I didn’t get my act together, emails went unanswered and my phone calls didn...

Can we get R<1?

Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, and France have all announced measures to ease their pandemic lockdowns. Several other countries in Europe look as if they are at or past a pandemic peak. The UK may be around a peak. As of yet, no-one - not the scientists, not the governments, and not us either - has even a halfway clear picture of how these easings (over-hopefully called "exit strategies") can best be designed to avoid new peaks. Only slow, piecemeal, feeling-our-way approaches are possible. The UK looks not yet ready even for that. The wild "exit now" talk of...

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