If you think of science like the multiple-choice quizzes in a high school science class, where there’s exactly one correct answer that your teacher knows in advance, then watching science happen in real time can be confusing. Especially when it mixes up with politics, business, and human stubbornness.
If socially disruptive anti-virus actions work, they will seem like they are unnecessary over-reactions. If they don’t work, they will seem like they were too little and too late. If nobody in your immediate circle has been infected, you will grumble at the inconveniences. If people in your circle are directly affected, you will want to know why the authorities didn’t act sooner.
Here’s some good writing from The New Yorker: Seattle’s Leaders Let Scientists Take the Lead. New York’s Did Not
Epidemiology is a science of possibilities and persuasion, not of certainties or hard proof. “Being approximately right most of the time is better than being precisely right occasionally,” the Scottish epidemiologist John Cowden wrote, in 2010. “You can only be sure when to act in retrospect.” Epidemiologists must persuade people to upend their lives—to forgo travel and socializing, to submit themselves to blood draws and immunization shots—even when there’s scant evidence that they’re directly at risk. | Epidemiologists also must learn how to maintain their persuasiveness even as their advice shifts.”