Dueling arguments about Wuhan coronavirus data

Yesterday, I posted a piece by Aaron Ginn called “A data-driven look at the Wuhan coronavirus.” I thought it was worth reading, and still do.

However, Ginn’s piece has received criticism. I’m posting a lengthy twitter thread by Carl T. Bergstrom, a biology professor, that attacks Ginn’s work. Bergstrom’s response contains a higher ratio of ranting to reasoned analysis than one likes to see. However, I believe it’s worthwhile reading for those who have read Ginn’s analysis.

I’ll leave it to our readers to decide the extent to which Bergstrom’s attack have merit. I want to make just one observation.

Bergstrom seems to believe that one needs a background in infectious disease epidemiology to discuss intelligently the data pertaining to key aspects of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. I don’t know that this is true.

Good, fair-minded data analysts probably have something valuable to contribute to the discussion. However, I wouldn’t want them to be the primary drivers of decisions that are purely epidemiological in nature.

By the same token, I wouldn’t want experts in infectious disease epidemiology, or public health officials generally, to be the sole drivers of economic decisions. Decisions as to which portions of our economy should be shut down or sharply curtailed can’t, in the long or even the medium term, be based entirely on public health considerations. At some point, economic considerations must enter the analysis.

Right now, it looks like important decisions about the economy are being made almost solely based on the input of medical experts and public health officials. If so, that needs to change before too long.

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