Lex Fridman Has It Right: Public Health Mangles Uncertainty. But He Has It Wrong on "Why"
YouTube podcaster and humanitarian superstar Lex Fridman knows machine learning, likely as well as anyone in that field. What this means is that he knows that value of uncertainty in learning. It’s a difficult thing to teach someone that the “error” in “trial and error” is as important to learning as the “trial”. And he understands completely that someone’s opinion does not change reality.
In a recent interview with Dr. Vincent Rancaniello, Lex showed a great deal of patience and emotional intelligence when describing how Dr. Anthony Fauci has shown that he, and the part of science he represents, can no longer be trusted. Fridman explained how he thinks that Fauci speaks in a manner that projects to the public that he may be hiding something. He described how Fauci comes across as having more expertise and knowledge that anyone could have. I’m paraphrasing my quotes here, but… “No one is an expert… in this new virus” Lex said, because by definition the virus is so new. The implication of course is that no one is expert in the vaccination against this new virus, either.
Lex, who told Vincent he was vaccinated, but who also told Vincent that he would never try to force anyone else to be vaccinated, gave some memorable quips. such as “The internet can smell bullshit”. He then breathed normality into the phrase “conspiracy theory” as “naturally” stemming from the way public health clearly plans their messaging.
Lex brought up “not measuring things the right way”, but Racaniello jumped to “leaving data out”, a very different problem. CDC defining “vaccinated” as people who survive to day 7 after the single-dose vaccine or people who survive to day 14 after a two-dose vaccine means those who die or have a serious adverse event on day 1 and day 2 are not counted; people who quit after the first dose due to tolerance issues, i.e., the half-vaccinated are not counted as “vaccinated”, but instead are counted as “unvaccinated” in some reports, biasing the data in favor of vaccine safety and in favor of risks of non-vaccinating. Racaniello may not know this fact, but still, by jumping from “not measuring things the right way” to “leaving data out”, he side-stepped.
Lex then pressed him … “How hard would it be to falsify the data for vaccine safety studies”… a total massive elephant in the room given what we’ve seen actually happening - and Racaniello instead addresses the question of vaccines for profit. If Lex had someone like me answer the same questions, the questions would be answered directly, and with examples given: change the subject groups, change the outcomes measured, play around with alleged confounders, and never, ever do what Lex would love to do, I’m sure: Use covariates to predict who would experience death and injury from vaccines.
I have to hand it to Racaniello for showing up. It’s a tough spot for him; Lex is going to be 100% objective about the facts about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines, which is actually disallowed in many public forums. Lex thought he was having an “honest exchange” with Racaniello. But I’ve watched Vincent Racaniello (whose wife, he revealed, works at Merck and worked on Ivermectin), and the Racaniello in this podcast is not the same Racaniello, who week after week, would agree with his guests/co-hosts on his own podcast as they chided so-called “anti-vaxxers”. Throughout this interaction, Lex spoke with a nearly contrite Racaniello. Lex lauded their conversation as being on “an even playing field”. As seemingly more open-minded Racaniello was, I’ll let Lex decide if he truly was on an even playing field during the conversation when Lex was discussing long-term consequences, or if Racaniello was hiding something.
Fortrightness is Part of Honesty
On the question of whether Racaniello could “steel-man” concerns about COVID-19 vaccines, he chose a strawman: he compared the longevity of a COVID-19 DNA vaccine (which does not exist) to that of mRNA. No one is ever offered a DNA COVID-19 vaccine or an RNA COVID-19 vaccine. He then told Lex that the spike mRNA was so it wouldn’t cause cell fusion - only Moderna did that, not Pfizer, and it is not altogether clear that the two amino acids changed in the Moderna vaccine was to prevent cell fusion - it was to cause the spike protein RNA to last longer - contra the presumption of safety in Racaniellos’ initial straw-man! We already know that the pericarditis and myocarditis from COVID-19 vaccines are caused by fusion of heart cells.
Lex brought up the fact that long-term consequences of COVID-19 vaccination were unknown, and Racaniello agreed, stating that the only way to know long-term consequences was to conduct long randomized clinical trials, and by implication not rely on post-market surveillance studies for long-term safety. But then Racaniello defined “long-term” as “50 years” (and later “40 years”), leaving out that the opportunity to learn the long-term 6-month, 1-year, and even 2-year health consequences of vaccination were destroyed when it was decided that the control groups in all of the short-term vaccination trials should be vaccinated so they could enjoy the potential - the hypothetical - protection that might be afforded from the vaccine. Racaniello also brought up long-term consequences of COVID-19 itself (a rational definition of which would be disease from infection with SARS-CoV-2), as if the truly unknowable long-term consequences of infection were epistemically equivalent to the long-term consequences of injection. The former is by definition unknowable; the latter is, by definition, knowable. Racaniello knew this, and was not forthright. Being forthright is an immense part of having a depth of character enough for someone to be, as Lex called for, thoroughly honest.
On the question of Ivermectin, Racaniello dismissed the information available because the studies were small; Lex missed an opportunity to point out that except for one flawed study, meta-analyses conducted in real-time, and peer-reviewed meta-analyses as well show that the results are reproducible. Lex knows from machine learning and statistics two important facts that make the Ivermectin results far more compelling than Racaniello allows for, (1) that the interpretation of “small study” implying “low power” is not the same for positive results as it is for negative results. and (2) learning conducted multiple trials with learning sets can be used to suss out false positive results and reduce the overall Type 1 error rate. As medical superstar Dr. Pierre Kory has pointed out - to the point of personal exhaustion - the consilience of the evidence from case series studies (which Racaniello decries as not being controlled trials), observational trials (which do have comparator groups), and the clinical trials that have been conducted, as well as comparisons of rates of hospitalization in regions, states and countries that are using Ivermectin, and evidence from shifts in hospitalization regions and countries that were not using Ivermectin but then adopted it, or dropped it - ALL agree - Ivermectin is a very, very strong candidate for “most likely effective”.
Under US FDA rules, a drug or vaccine only needs to be shown to potentially be effective to be granted Emergency Use Authorization. Racaniello knows this, and he could have educated Lex (who is not yet expert in clinical and translational research).
This is the type of sin by omission that Fauci and his type do all the time - they leave out critical pieces of information when it’s convenient, and then people like Lex lose their trust in them when later on they discover that the person they were receiving information from was not forthright.
“In Fauci We Trust”
Before I was banned from LinkedIn for pointing out that CDC changed their definition of influenza in 2014 from “disease stemming from infection with Infleunza virus” to ““disease stemming from infection with Influenza virus PLUS pneumonia from any source that could be influenza but most likely is something else“ (aka “Influenza Disease”, or “P&I” (Pneumonia & Influenza)), I saw people posting memes that stated “In Fauci We Trust”. (Here’s a Google Link to see some examples).
These memes, of course, equate Fauci with God - and in a country in which up to 87% of people say they believe in God (depending on how the question is asked, 2017 Gallup poll), this representation of Fauci is sure to spark outright resentment, let alone distrust. If the goal of public health was to acquire or at least keep some of the public trust, they should not act as if they are all-knowing. The public knows that no one knows everything, and, in 2020/2021, the public is interacting with people through the walls of the ivory tower institutions. As a scientist I am a sometimes arbiter and sometimes participant in debates on interpretation, but I don’t see those debates as determining reality. As an empiricist I see science as a tool for reflecting or discovering, not creating reality. Public health is so far afield from empiricism that is falls outside of the realm of Science. Public health is constructivist, positivist, and certainly not about genuine, two-way trust. And I can see Lex’s disappointment in this fact.
Public health is about controlling and manipulating perception via the manipulation of definitions and terms. They have gone so far as to re-defined such terms as “vaccinated” to mean those who have survived for two weeks following their last dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or for seven days following their last dose of a single dose vaccine. This of course means that people who die or develop adverse events too soon following vaccination fall into the category of “unvaccinated”, warping all reports and studies that follow these nonsensical definitions. Public health has been caught in the pandemic timing (delaying) the release of critical information, and burying key and important data points that they dare not let the public know. More on that in another article.
Public Health is thus both patronizing and condescending, and when and the lives of millions depend on whatever reality exists about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines, while at the same time the reality of millions of peoples’ real-life experiences contradict directly what they are being told, and when they are being told they must take on risks by people who they don’t trust as risk managers, well, you can see for yourself that the loss of trust in public health was inevitable.
I was gratified to see Lex, in a previous podcast, decry the bullshit Vaccine Adverse Events Tracking System. Lex is a far more generous scientist that I am. But he does not yet understand that it is in the very DNA of vaccinologists, the CDC, and the rest of the HHS to never allow the public to learn of any risk of vaccination. He does not yet know that it’s in the Federal Register, from 1984:
“Any possible doubts, whether or not well founded, about the safety of the vaccine cannot be allowed to exist in view of the need to assure that vaccine will continue to be used to maximum extent consistent with the nation's public health objectives.”
Source: US Federal Register 1984-06-01
Racaniello is a virologist. This makes me wonder if even he is aware that the calculations of the efficacy of the vaccine calculated in randomized clinical trials - way back to Moderna’s original 95% efficacy estimates - were biased due to the exclusion of the cases of COVID-19 that occurred after the 1st dose of vaccine or saline placebo. Including those patients, who were half-vaxxed, leads to 75% efficacy. And those patients were, in the words of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., like Marvel superheroes - no comorbidities, no chronic illness, no allergies. The 75% efficacy means means were we never likely to reach herd immunity. Which means the entire societal stress of people losing jobs, nurses quitting by the thousands over a combination of witnessing fraud and not being willing to submit to vaccine mandates - was for nothing. Vaccinologists have learned from COVID-19, in the US anyway, that in spite of, or some would say because of, their success in regulatory capture, their era of unfettered disinformation campaigning on vaccines has ended.
With that backdrop, watch Lex and Dr. Racaniello compare notes and see for yourselves if Racaniello was sufficiently forthright with Lex, or did he dodge the real questions?