There are two rules in life:
- “Never get involved in a land war in Asia”
- Never agree to an interview with Issac Chotiner.
(for the Princess Bride fans).
Libertarian ‘thinker’ Richard Epstein, after arguing that the mortality from COVID-19 would be very low, decided to dig the hole deeper by allowing himself to be interviewed by The New Yorker’s Issac Chotiner. As you might imagine, the results are brutal–Chotiner is brilliant at letting stupid people expose themselves. Hilzoy has a pretty good roundup of what Epstein doesn’t know about biology.
One thing to emphasize is the part about Epstein’s argument that pathogens will evolve to become less pathogenic. Over the very long term, perhaps. But, as some asshole with a blog discussed years ago, that assumes the pathogen is already optimized for a human host. A zoonotic pathogen–one that recently jumped from another host–violates that assumption, and, to make a long story short, there is no reason to think SARS-CoV-2 will evolve to become less virulent. It might even evolve to become more virulent (hopefully, not). And there are data that support this variability in evolutionary outcome.
Epstein might know math, but he doesn’t know things. You have to know things too.