The speed of science

I hope you clocked the questioning of Janine Small, president of international developed markets at Pfizer and apparently forty years in that corporation, about the question of whether they had tested their COVID vaccine for prevention of transmission before rolling it out.

You’ll also remember that the entire superstructure of coercion, vaccination of the not-at-risk, vaccine passports and so on depended – and still depends – on that prevention of transmission, now belatedly proven to be non-existent.

Internet focus has, rightly, been on Small’s admission that the question was never tested, raising all kinds of interesting questions about who first claimed it had been, and why the vaccine manufacturers didn’t quickly correct the misapprehension. But we know the an$wer to that £ast que$tion a£ready.

Of greater interest to me was the astonishing phrase she slipped in (certainly not off the top of her head) that Pfizer had had to move “at the speed of science.” Almost as weird was the rest of the sentence, that this speed was necessary “to understand what was happening in the market.”

I don’t know how many people with no science background read this blog, but that is tosh on stilts. Even after years in marketing, Janine Small as a chemistry graduate knows well that “the speed of science” is, in any truthful setting, “the speed it takes to disprove, or fail to disprove, the claims being made.” It is the “speed of science” that establishes that one ought to take a good ten years to test a new pharmaceutical product thoroughly, and especially when that product is a new technology with an appalling safety record in animal trials over the years. The speed of science is the speed required to evaluate a hypothesis (in this case the effectiveness and safety of an mRNA drug), design and perform experiments to test it, publish the full data and results, and await the criticism of the scientific community. That is not compatible with marketing a new drug from scratch in nine months, hiding the data and cancelling any scientist questioning the hype.

What she really meant was that they had to move “at the speed of politics,” or perhaps, “at the speed of commercial competition,” though to be honest, Pfizer had their deals sorted and safeguarded well in advance, as the quiet replacement of AstraZeneca’s product in Britain with Pfizer’s may demonstrate, and the killing of alternative medications certainly does. In either case, what it means is “the speed of cutting scientific corners for gain.”

Like all such propaganda, the reason this matters is that the catchy phrase “speed of science” capitalizes on, and solidifies, a popular myth, in this case that Science™ solves any problem, Fast. This myth is probably related to generations of detergent ads using actors in white coats touting sciency-sounding ingredients like “Bluinite” or “GL70”. Though I think the latter was in toothpaste. “Speed of science” has the potential to become one of those universal un-fact-checked phrases like “safe and effective,” “epidemic of the unvaccinated,” “Putin’s unprovoked war” and so on, enabling arbitrary political oppression with science as the excuse.

But in this case the slogan did not originate in a Persil advertising campaign, nor even in one of the government nudge pieces disguised as public service advertising. It was coined by a senior executive of Pfizer providing evidence to an EU committee inquiring into the reasons for the COVID catastrophe that has contributed to the collapse of western economies and health. It was designed to evade the uncovering of massive and worldwide malfeasance.

But since nearly all the news nowadays is about massive and worldwide malfeasance, about which nothing is ever actually done, this scandalous abuse of science will get buried under the huge pile of other unfinished business. But at least you will understand what’s going on if the “speed of science” catches on amongst the powerful.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
This entry was posted in Medicine, Politics and sociology, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The speed of science

  1. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Here’s a bit of fun on the same theme. It’ll probably get taken down by YouTube soon!

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