In his September 14 op-ed, “Questions for the hitherto unquestionable”, George F. Will assigned the same certainty to scientific predictions for the future as he did to legal claims of the past. Unfortunately, retrospective analyzes and the results of prospective hypotheses do not always coincide.
He criticized epidemiologists in the first months of the emergence of a new virus for not favoring “protection aimed at the most vulnerable: the elderly and other people with comorbidities,” which was later modified. He criticized the infectious disease specialist. Anthony S. Fauci’s statement in March 2020 that “there is no reason to wear a mask” when transmissibility was still unknown. Those statements were made when knowledge was based on other viruses and were updated when studies showed otherwise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be applauded, not criticized, for its willingness to change course once additional information became available despite the criticism it was sure to receive. SARS-CoV-2 was a “novel” virus when it emerged, meaning its behavior was completely new and preventive measures had not yet been determined. Unlike law, where precedent defines the future, in science the past is a placeholder until additional information arrives.
Dean R. Wasserman, Plymouth, Mass.