The intelligentsia, Thomas Sowell once wrote, pay no price for being wrong. Politicians lose elections, businessmen go broke, even sports coaches see their teams lose. But academics who are repeatedly wrong are rewarded with tenure. Where they get to keep being wrong, again and again.

Instead, everyone else pays the price for academics’ mistakes.

His name is forever tainted with a seriously flawed forecast about foot and mouth disease that resulted in the unnecessary slaughter of millions of livestock that saw pyres burning across Britain and cost farmers their livelihoods.

That was in 2001, and now […Professor Neil Ferguson] is behind Imperial College data that the UK government is relying on to inflict the most extreme social isolation measures in the coronavirus pandemic.

As we reported on The BFD, Ferguson has already admitted that his initial assessment of the threat of COVID-19 was grossly exaggerated.

Given Professor Ferguson’s unquestionable influence on UK action, and possibly by extension Australia’s two-person social distancing policy that came into effect overnight, his numbers are being carefully scrutinised by others.

Early in March, Professor Ferguson and his team originally underestimated, by as much as half, the numbers of people who might require ventilators, prompting a drastic change in policy by Boris Johnson to try to suppress the virus rather than mitigate the crisis.

Before the UK went into lockdown, Professor Ferguson’s team warned 260,000 people would die if the less restrictive measures remained in place. But just days ago, Professor Ferguson told a parliamentary committee the numbers of deaths would be “substantially less than 20,000,’’ and his team predicted it could be as low as 5,700 – less than the annual toll from seasonal flu – with at least two-thirds of deaths in people who would have died anyway from underlying health conditions[…]

Worryingly, Professor Ferguson claimed over the weekend that the lockdown would have to stay in place until the end of June, claiming any lift of measures earlier, say in May, would “be optimistic’’[…]All the while the British economy is tanking, with predictions the unemployed will rise to 2.75m and GDP plummeting 13.5 per cent.

It’s easy, after all, when your job is secure, to tell everyone else to stay home, not go to work and slowly watch their livelihood collapse into ruins around them.

Ferguson has a bit of form when it comes to making hysterical predictions and destroying other peoples’ livelihoods.

Another professor, Michael Thrusfield of Edinburgh University has claimed Professor Ferguson’s “severely flawed’’ errors 19 years ago led to the cull of more than six million animals that did not need to die. Another government study also found Professor Ferguson and his team at Imperial College used models during the foot and mouth crisis that “were not suitable for predicting the course of the epidemic and the effects of control measures. The models also remain not validated. Their use to predict the effects of control strategies was therefore imprudent.”

The same Professor Ferguson predicted as many as 69,000 deaths from swine flu in 2009 when only a few hundred died.

[…]Professor Ferguson’s coronavirus gloom, contrasts with a study led by Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University, who believes fewer than one in a thousand of those infected with coronavirus need hospital treatment, with most having mild or no symptoms. He also believes that millions of Britons may have already had the disease.

How on earth does someone whose repeated mistakes have been so disastrous (for everyone else) still have a job? If you or I stuffed up as badly, our arses would be kicked to the curb in no short order.

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