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Practical Epistemology: The Lab Hypothesis for COVID

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As a philosopher, I annoy people in many ways. One of these ways is that I almost always qualify the claims I make. This is not to engage in weasling (weakening a claim to protect it from criticism) but because of my awareness of my epistemic limitations: as Socrates famously said, I know that I know nothing. People generally prefer claims made with bold certainty and can see expressions of doubt as signs of weakness and a lack of confidence. Another way I annoy people is by presenting alternatives to my claims/views and providing reasons as to why they might also be true/correct. Doing so has the downside of making matters more complicated and can easily confuse someone. A common response I get to such behavior is an exasperated “what do you really believe!?!” I then annoy the person more by noting what I think is probably true/correct but also noting that I can always be wrong. For the obvious reason that I can always be wrong. I also create annoyance by adjusting my views based on credible changes in the available evidence. This really seems to annoy people; one is presumably supposed to stick to one view and adjust the evidence to suit it rather than the other way. The origin story of COVID-19 provides an excellent example for this discussion. When COVID first appeared in China, speculation began as to its origin and people often combine distinct claims without considering that they can be separated. One set of claims deals with the origin of COVID. The main claims here are that it is either naturally occurring or the virus was engineered in the lab. At this point, the best explanation is that the virus is naturally occurring. But since humans do engineer viruses, it is certainly possible that the virus was engineered. The obvious challenge is to provide proof for this claim—merely asserting it is not enough. So, at this point my annoying position is that the best evidence is that the virus is naturally occurring, but that new evidence could change my position.. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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