The Medical Literature, Memetic Cascades, and the Destruction of Real Science

The Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain

I’ve been pondering quite a bit lately how most of the scientific literature has turned into hot garbage in the last 2 years, driven by COVID panic. Early on, especially in the mask debate, which was pretty much decreed to NOT work before the pandemic, there were all of the sudden a couple of key papers, as well as supporting papers posing mostly as literature review, aggregators, etc. that came out declaring “masks work!”

Early on, I found myself shaking my head, not so much in negative disbelief. More like I had a gnat in my ear — something was just kind of wrong with all of this. The first tip-off inevitably was the long list of authors attached to the various papers. Anyone that knows anything about academic collaborations knows that they take basically forever to establish, and then once on the move, an equivalent amount of forever to coordinate research, write the paper(s), do the back-and-forth of argumentation (people outside the academy simply have no idea how academics can pick nits to establish status over each other. You have to attend your share of faculty meetings to really get this) and then actually send the paper to the review process.

Papers like this one in the Lancet (an ostensibly ‘distinguished’ journal) are great exemplars of the utter nonsense that dominated early publication, and remains to this day. The authors declare no competing interest, but if anyone believes that scientists in Hong Kong are going to publish anything that goes against the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) narrative need to have their head examined. These people got out early in front of the media wave (this paper was published in May 2020) and it’s far from the only paper claiming territory. Even looking at the author list for this bogus modeling paper causes anyone inside the academic sausage-making machine to blanch. How would such scientists on the list even find each other? And yes — I pulled the bios from the list — most are in AI/ML.

That stack of crazy led to even bigger stacks of crazy, including some extremely famous crazy like this paper, which purposed to aggregate all the bullshit being produced in the academic sausage factory. The author list for this paper is even MORE extreme in range than the various purely Hong Kong papers, primarily indicating that production of mask supporting literature is a bigger, and arguably a memetic problem keyed to how various academic brains work, than anything having to do with reality. Even the National Academy of Sciences got roped into this one. And yes — there are more arguably irrelevant Hong Kong-based authors on this paper. You can be sure they’re not going to sign on to anything contradicting the eminence-uber-alles views of the CCP. The mind reels. This paper, just according to The Google, has already been cited 264 times (and likely is still going up.) Once again, for those of us familiar with academic systems, both the coordination, and the number of citations post-publication, are utterly insane for something like masking, which prima facie really doesn’t have much hope of working.

I would also note that if you read the list, most importantly, the scientists on this list, producing most of this bullshit, have gone on to be key commentators on COVID, exclusively on the side of socially destructive, agency-destroying NPIs, often surfing the front of the wave of popular opinion, because it’s so obvious, from a grounding validity perspective, that the NPIs don’t work. And as far as long-term integrity, I’ve heard no apologies from this crowd, other than more doubling down on the nonsense that is basically destroying people’s lives around the world, while having no effect on COVID whatsoever. Virus gonna virus.

What’s going on?

One of the things that I started doing myself (here is a confession of sins) was subscribe to MedPage Today — a news aggregator for the medical community, that while not exclusively covering COVID, has probably devoted about 80% of its coverage to blurbs regarding COVID research and status checking around the world. It’s been very convenient — there it is with my morning coffee — to read up on whatever the latest COVID research is. MedPage Today does not screen itself to be boring, and often will reproduce histrionic pronouncements from the various researchers. It also will announce pre-prints not yet finished with review, which is interesting for a scientific publication. I am not one of those scientists that will totally die on that hill of peer review — it has its own unique set of problems on how papers are adjudicated, as well as with work that has any cross-disciplinary boundary implications. But it’s the best we’ve got now, and those hordes of graduate students diligently poring through papers assigned by them from their advisors do add some value.

What I do know about MedPage Today is that it allows release of information into the meme sphere far more quickly than anytime in the past — likely by two, or potentially three orders of magnitude. Historically, when I published my own fundamental work at the beginning of my career, on chaos theory and fractals, getting a paper through to publication was truly a herculean task. Review took at least six months, and by the time you got the draftsperson to do the figures, edited the text, resolved all comments, you were lucky to get your paper published in less than two years.

And after you published your precious gem — well then people (and other graduate students) had to find it in the library stacks, read it, and potentially incorporate the findings in their own work. It was ALL SLOW.

What’s the implication of slow? Though not guaranteed, there was a far greater potential of statistical independence in the conclusion. And even if it built on prior work, the timescales were such that the potential for confirmation bias stacking were greatly minimized. The information system simply didn’t allow it. Yes, we had various rock stars and such, but you had to go to that key conference, and argue with a bunch of other academics. The time scales were long, and the work benefited.

None of this is true anymore. Pre-printed work is sensationalized, and researchers in the various fields can curate results quickly that fuel their own confirmation bias. This turns the work far from any independence of thought, or search for nuance, and allows geometric/Pareto stacking of results — not unlike what we’ve seen in politics! Worse, it draws people inside the COVID research bubble who are hunting for status. One can almost generalize this as a social/collective assault on reason along the lines of Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. If you get your work tied in quickly into a simpler, less complex knowledge structure, it’s far more likely you’ll win both the Researcher Internet, as well as the Public Relations machine. Your simpler explanations are more viral, and memetically replicate far more rapidly than more nuanced versions. But they’ll come out of the social network limbic centers, and not surprisingly drive more fear and rancor on a hot-button issue like COVID, than reality.

I wrote about this around a year ago in this piece on the triumvirate of Drs. Bhattacharya, Kulldorff, and Gupta. These three august scientists, the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, got double-bushwhacked by both their professional communities, as well as the Medium paper propagated by Tomas Pueyo and his “hammer and dance” nonsense. The mismatch in timescales created deep memetic conflicts I talk about here. Why do the memetics matter? Because once these deep currents are tapped, you don’t need to get on the phone and organize. The behavior of dichotomous limbic attack, attack, and attack becomes emergent. Nuance and multiple solution thinking get lost. And the press, already aligned with limbic response and spreading terror, having long ago lost their cultural mission of speaking truth to power, lined up behind the confirmation bias crowd. Dr. Kulldorff, a preeminent Harvard faculty member, was even banned from Twitter for going against the limbic crowd.

What’s the upshot of all of this? Short timescales in information systems like MedPage Today lead to Pareto cascades, statistical dependence and confirmation bias in work, and poorly thought-out belief systems that cater to the needs of those in power. Displacing those long slow days in the library, Internet search allows researchers almost instantaneous access to confirmation-bias-accelerating work. And the various citation indices create even more Pareto amplification. Inevitably, the entire system is biased toward producing statistically dependent, shoddy work. And it has.

At some level, other scientists are recognizing the problem. But it’s incorrectly framed, and is very likely to make things worse. More data mining, which will likely make researcher bias worse, not better. People stuck in status-driven systems are far more likely to use these tools to create even more elite opinion — even if it’s wrong.

This is not a simple problem. But grandma had the best advice in all of this — don’t be jumping’ to conclusions, son. That’s what gets you into trouble.

10 thoughts on “The Medical Literature, Memetic Cascades, and the Destruction of Real Science

  1. The degenerative process you describe is not puzzling at all but a logical consequence. It is simply the logical “progression” of a psychopathic world — a psychopathic cult, rather (read “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room –The Holocaustal Covid-19 Coronavirus Madness: A Sociological Perspective & Historical Assessment Of The Covid “Phenomenon”” at https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html ).

    Real science has been degraded for at least a century. Nearly nobody noticed. And most of those who did, such as “smart” people, ignored it.

    The troubling fact that you subscribed to MedPage Today questions what you ACTUALLY learned about the world we live over the years versus copiously theorized/verbalized in your cognitive linguistic constructs and formulas. It seems to fully corroborate what the author of the article I cited rather comprehensively explains…

    Like

      1. Sure — the CCP and China right now are a narcissistic authoritarian regime that has no problem lying to advance their aims. Most nations are authoritarian hegemons outside of their borders anyway. Re: lab leak — I also believe that SARS-COV-2 was a bioweapon that escaped the lab. All weapons systems go through test/fail, and I think that’s also true for bioweapons. They are going to be a choice for China because they cannot establish temporary superiority through conventional means that can effectively deter US Navy power in the Pacific.

        The Chinese are masters of gaslighting, and they’ve certainly done that with COVID. Highly recommend following Michael Senger on Twitter for a complete expose of the various details.

        Like

  2. “Nuance and multiple solution thinking get lost.” It seems to me COVID exposed this everywhere on almost all sides, nobody has a monopoly on seeking confirmation bias, limbic responses, and spreading terror. But the pareto amplification from compressed timescale is really interesting.

    Like

    1. I’ve found we’ve built intrinsic assumptions about statistical independence under almost all of how we know the world. I’m working on understanding what happens if that is NOT true. And we’re finally running full-scale experiments (like it or not) at the societal level to see what will happen, from an informatics perspective.

      Like

  3. Dear Chuck

    Many thanks indeed for this post. And hello from the UK!

    I am a Chartered Building Surveyor, no longer working as such, much to do with my health issues, now slowly recovering. I am used to defect diagnosis, following the trail, looking at subjects form all angles, and coming up with detailed reports based on observation, evidence and logic.

    I had the opportunity to look at Covid 19 in detail in furlough. I am glad I am not a doctor because I realised that the human body works not dis-similarly to a building.

    It has a sewage system (the bowels), plumbing (blood and lymph system), electrics (nervous system) etc.

    So if you are interested, here is my standard text presenting the case for what Covid 19 is and which starts to unravel those behind all the nonsense spouted by MSM etc.

    “I have had my fair share of vaccines, including polio I believe. I used to think vaccines were of some use until, at 60 years of age in 2020, I researched properly. I changed my mind.

    Covid 19 is the ‘flu, dressed up as a monster to scare people, re-branded if you will. This helps big pharma etc, control the populace and make more money.

    The ‘flu is the internal toxicosis of the body, mainly via urea, partly due to metabolism of food and partly due to the many poisons in our environment which can and do enter our bodies in the air, food and water. The ‘flu cannot be transmitted to someone else as it is individual to each person.

    Unless your blood is given to someone in a blood transfusion, for example.

    Injecting poisons such as via vaccines merely adds to the toxicosis problem. Vaccines have never been of any use, it is merely that constant and persistent ‘advertising’ persuaded people that they were of use. The various deaths and harm have been well-documented over the decades. It is being documented now.

    Vitamin D deficiency is the true pandemic due to indoor working and living away from the sunshine which, if we do the right thing things, will give us vitamin D (free!). Big pharma etc. are not keen on free as they don’t make much money out of it.

    Vitamin D levels drop in the winter months, depending on latitude, due to reduced sunshine levels and as any gains in the summer months are depleted.

    Vaccines are neuro-toxins, if there is anything in them at all, as are most big pharma drugs. Therefore they are at best pointless.

    If your immune system is in good order then by and large you will tolerate a poisonous vaccine. If weakened you will suffer various side effects. If your immune system is very poor you may die.

    Boosting your immune system with vitamin D can go a long way to protecting you against the toxicosis, but vitamin C is very good as an anti-oxidant to help flush the toxins out of your system. By and large you should be able to gain your vitamins etc from good, untainted food. Highly processed foods will not help.

    I have seen the statistics on Australia since February 2020. These show a close correlation between Covid cases and vaccination. It is abundantly clear the vaccines are causing the case numbers rise, as would be expected. Look at other statistics and you will no doubt see the same correlation.

    I have done much on Covid 19 etc., here is my link to my summary. That gives access to the various other issues. I cover the statistics in the UK and USA and more recently those in Australia.

    https://alphaandomegacloud.wordpress.com/covid-19-summary/

    The following explains the variants. These are merely fear techniques to fool the gullible.

    https://alphaandomegacloud.wordpress.com/2021/12/02/various-variants-covid-19/

    The following explains the media fear campaign.

    https://alphaandomegacloud.wordpress.com/2021/09/26/fear-is-the-key/

    A useful website on the deceit.

    https://timefortruth.blog/2022/02/01/how-the-media-lies-about-covid/

    It should be noted that fear tends to ‘freeze’ the body’s immune system from functioning correctly and can stop people doing sensible things. Like avoiding having foreign bodies injected into their systems.

    And I wonder how many people would choose to have a vaccine if they had to pay for them directly rather than via their taxes (vaccination is not free)?

    As regards vaccinated/unvaccinated I gather the goal posts keep changing so unvaccinated currently means not fully vaccinated in at least some countries. This means people who have had vaccines are lumped in with those who have not had recent vaccines. Therefore the people of the world are being duped into having something nasty put into their bodies.

    Unless they like playing Russian roulette with their bodies of course. But then that is both sad and mad.

    As regards reasons of variance of symptoms, if any, between those who are vaccinated the problem lies in not knowing what exactly in each vial; sadly people will sell nothing for something and the vial might contain only saline, it is impossible to tell without testing each vial.

    Vaccines are causing the issues by and large nowadays and case numbers and deaths will rise as a consequence. I recommend avoiding vaccines like the plague.

    Please note I do use humour as necessary on posts and pages to lighten the mood and help make the points. I will use strong salty language if required and am not PC.

    Kind regards

    Baldmichael Theresoluteprotector’sson

    Please excuse the nom-de-plume, this is as much for fun as a riddle for people to solve if they wish.

    Like

Leave a Reply to shellbytorian Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s