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Pandemicity, COVID-19 and the limits of public health ‘science’
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  • Temitope Fisayo, Alexander Gray
    Published on:
  • Published on:
    Model Hazard?
    • Temitope Fisayo, Medical Student King's College London
    • Other Contributors:
      • Alexander Gray, Economist

    Richardson (1) argues three substantive points:
    1. Models are merely fables dressed in formal language.
    2. Fables are unscientific.
    3. Models serve as epistemic confines to our understanding.

    We argue that 2., a premise he makes implicitly, is wrong. Formal language in fables cannot produce an ‘illusion’ of scientific-ness, because there is no division between ‘fables’ and ‘science’. We suggest that scientific models are stories (2) in some real sense, and therefore it does not make sense to say that models are unscientific because they are fables. Science is composed of a complex web of interacting models (stories) whose aims are to explain and understand the world. This would be consistent with Sugden’s (3) view of economic models as credible worlds.
    Richardson cites Rubinstein (4) to buttress his argument that models are merely fictions. This misuses Rubinstein, who argues ‘The models presented… are nothing but fables. Neither of them describes reality, but both of them still describe something from reality… studying both of them together helps to some extent in understanding economic mechanisms.’ (p.182). It does not seem fair to brand models as ‘merely’ fables on this reading, and nor does this give us licence to dismiss fables as unscientific.
    Epidemiologists often make significant assumptions in order to model disease progression. Many parameters are unknown, and there are often practical constraints to modelling significant hete...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.