The beautiful pandemic machine

Kary Mullis, the scientist who invented PCR testing, died in early August of 2019. A video of Dr. Mullis speaking about PCR testing and about Dr. Fauci (whom he had little respect for) has been doing the rounds, especially on conservative media. While Dr. Mullis didn’t live to see the pandemic really take off, he had a lot to say about the limitations of the testing method he invented. We tracked down a very long article from UncoverDC written by Celia Farber. The piece covers a lot of ground on the subject of testing, the strange divide in science, and the pandemic simulation models that are driving so much of the government response.

Dr. Mullis was an elusive and eccentric scientist who apparently had a clear-eyed view of what science is and what it does. Although he won a Nobel Prize for his research in 1993, he railed against the growing use of his invention for diagnosing infectious diseases. PCR played a big role in the “war on HIV.” (ICYMI Dr. Koontz had a lot to say about this on A Brief History of Power podcast last week.)

Mullis spoke about his newly found testing method in 1992, talking to Spin:

“PCR made it easier to see that certain people are infected with HIV, and some of those people came down with symptoms of AIDS. But that doesn’t begin even to answer the question, ‘Does HIV cause it?’”

But PCR does not produce a binary result.

David Crowe, a scientist interviewed for the piece says, “What they do is they take some kind of a continuum and they arbitrarily say this point is the difference between positive and negative.”

In other words, the level of sensitivity in the testing will determine whether a result is declared “positive” or “negative.”

If this is confusing you, it should. That’s the point. The very methodology is unreliable according to the guy who created it.

“PCR for diagnosis is a big problem,” we learn. “When you have to amplify it these huge numbers of time, it’s going to generate massive amounts of false positives. Again, I’m skeptical that a PCR test is ever true.”

The latest from Lockdown Sceptics contains a great deal of helpful commentary. They have been following controversy  building around PCR testing in Germany. A paper critical of the test has come under fire, claiming the authors stand to profit if PCR is abandoned. (Shout out to Mad reader Hendrik for bringing our attention to the paper originally!) 

The Sceptics also highlight an episode from Austrian parliament this week where a glass of Coke returned a positive “lateral flow test.”