Trump did not know science neither does his opposition.  Mask work, social distancing works, copious rapid testing works but no one or two or all of these things are a ironclad guarantee one will not get sick.  Keeping six feet apart reduces your chance of getting sick by a certain fraction, as does mask wearing, as would testing everyone.  We can reduce that probability of infection to a single digit percentage.  No one, no matter how righteously they believe, will be completely immune.   

Science is about probabilities and statistics not absolute statements.  Every scientific statement could be preceded by an “on average” or “more likely than not” before it.  As a psychologist once wrote in a book doing so again and again becomes annoying.  So generally, we do not and keep such statements to tables in our papers or the backmatter of books.  Physics and its seemingly ironclad laws are on some level statements of probability which become invalid when the conditions are radical enough.

A simple guide to combined probabilities.


There are a lot of caveats I will say up front.  This is not a math textbook.  This is intended to be approachable to the layman who knows how to use multiplication.  The numbers chosen are meant to be illustrative.  For example for how effective mask (Staff, n.d.) and Social distancing (Doheny, 2020) are.

Suppose wearing a cloth mask reduces your chance of catching covid 19 by 66% so if you have one on there is a chance of 1/3 you will be infected.

Suppose having six feet of social distance reduces the chance of catching covid 19 by 50% or 1/2 .

Suppose having everyone in your workplace rapidly tested and screened for temperatures reduces your chances as much as wearing an n95 mask at all times  so 95% less chance.  In other words a 5% chance you will catch covid.  (This last one is highly speculative but is based on the fact Trumps inner circle did just this and did not get sick in a large number until now.)

If someone does all of the three above things, then the chance the will catch covid 19 is 1/3 times 1/2 times 5/100.   Which is 5/600  or an 0.83% chance of catching covid 19. 

The person who does all three of these things is Joe Biden and his team.  Because they “believe in science”.  However, that is not a guarantee of not getting sick.    Having the testing done daily as Trump did was also believing in science.  Maybe believing in it a little too much!   Believing that one thing by itself can be a silver bullet is not scientific at all. 

They don’t believe in science.  

Claiming that ones opponent does not “believe in science” has become like claiming that ones opponent wasn’t a good protestant 100 or more years ago.  Scientist are not priest.  We all know very well the limitations of our knowledge.  This is why every statement must be taken as a probability not a certainty.   Just as the following broad statements are.

On the right they don’t believe in climate change on the left they don’t believe in new safer cleaner nuclear power.  On the left people did not believe in using vaccines on the right they do not believe in wearing mask. 

On the left they do not believe that 2+2=4 when dealing with the set of real and natural numbers (i.e. the ones you count fingers with) on the right they believe in a young 6000 year old Earth.

Believe what you want… just leave science out of it.


Speaking for myself, and likely many other scientist who are really tired of the word “science” being a political weapon believe what you want.  Just leave our work out of it.  Cite our papers, and what we say, and keep our factual and probabilistic statements separate from your opinions that you may base on them.

Humans Are Social Creatures

Humans are social creatures separated from groups we fade a little.  It is human nature to want to go to a bar, or have a quite cup of coffe at a crowded cafe (even if you are just reading alone yet in the crowd).  It is human nature to want to have a protest... that can also become a dance party ...or a riot.  It is human nature to use announcing a new supreme court justice as a chance to have a backslapping party in the White Hose Rose Garden.  It is human nature to want to mix and mingle.  We are as evolved for it as the bees and ants. 

For now we have to be different from the social creatures we are.  We have to know science and do everything we can to avoid covid19.  While also accepting that no set of procedures is without fault.