Kung Fu flu kick-starts a thousand PhD theses

Bonking boffin: the discredited and disgraced epidemiologist Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London. He touted his alleged expertise on the Wuhan flu but his real interest lay in the legover arena

The theses about the epidemic will settle nothing once and for all, Dalrymple observes. There will always be a need for further research. Science, he points out,

is not a body of doctrine, an orthodoxy from which dissent is heresy. Its truths are multiform, contradictory, and provisional.

If politicians merely followed the science,

they would zigzag or careen like a drunken sailor; they would be at the mercy of the last qualified person to whom they spoke.

Politicians,

despised as they are (they are lower in public esteem even than journalists), are expected to deliver us from death, and if death supervenes it is they who are to blame. We hate them, but we run to them.

It is hard to feel sorry for politicians, says Dalrymple, for

they have chosen their career and (especially in modern conditions) have generally pursued power to the exclusion of all other possible goals, which is not admirable. As often as not, they have not much cultural or psychological hinterland, for they have no time or energy for it, which is why they are mostly not very interesting people. The trouble is that they are important (though perhaps not as important as they think they are), and for the rest of us to have to think about people who are important but not interesting is a kind of torture.

He notes that the problem for politicians in the time of the Chinese virus is that

they are faced with a population of experts. In only a few weeks, millions have become epidemiologists of the first rank, even those who in December would have been hard put to define what epidemiology was — if they had heard of it.

Bruce Lee

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