Department Blog

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    How studying the history and philosophy of RNA can help us understand COVID-19

How studying the history and philosophy of RNA can help us understand COVID-19

25 May 2021|

How can the philosophy of science help inform our response to COVID-19? Stephan Guttinger looks at the history and philosophy of ribonucleic acid (RNA), a central but often overlooked molecule in the story of the pandemic.

Can beliefs be morally wrong?

4 May 2021|

It’s clear that beliefs can be wrong about the way the world is, but can they also be wrong in a moral sense? Lewis Ross looks at the moral status of belief.

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    Science and policy in extremis, part 2: the limits of SAGE’s neutrality and independence

Science and policy in extremis, part 2: the limits of SAGE’s neutrality and independence

20 April 2021|

Scientific advice cannot be completely neutral or independent, says Jonathan Birch. But records from autumn 2020 suggest that the Cabinet Office leant on SAGE to build in optimistic assumptions about the government’s ability to control the pandemic.

Animals, humans and pandemics: what needs to change?

9 March 2021|

How can we mitigate the risks of future pandemics? Jonathan Birch looks at the role of human behaviour in the emergence of new zoonotic diseases.

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    What are “scientific models”, and how much confidence can we place in them?

What are “scientific models”, and how much confidence can we place in them?

16 February 2021|

Modelling is vital if we are to control COVID-19, but it is not infallible. In this post, Roman Frigg and James Nguyen explain how epidemiological models work and consider the uncertainty inherent in their predictions.

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    Bad data and flawed models? Fact-checking Winsberg et al.’s case against lockdowns

Bad data and flawed models? Fact-checking Winsberg et al.’s case against lockdowns

26 January 2021|

Can the justification for current COVID restrictions be challenged on scientific grounds? Philippe van Basshuysen and Lucie White look at the evidence used by Winsberg et al. in their case against lockdowns.

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    Science and policy in extremis, part 1: what can we learn from the UK’s initial response to COVID-19?

Science and policy in extremis, part 1: what can we learn from the UK’s initial response to COVID-19?

22 December 2020|

SAGE uses a set of assumptions called the “reasonable worst-case scenario” in its pandemic planning. In this post, Jonathan Birch looks at the group’s minutes and documents from early 2020 and argues that over-reliance on these assumptions led to costly delays.

What unfolded in the UK in the spring of 2020 was a national tragedy within the global tragedy […]

The mind-body problem

3 November 2020|

What’s really at stake in the mind-body debate? Jonathan Birch looks at some of the explanatory differences in approaches to the metaphysics of consciousness.

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    Lives v livelihoods: Evaluating policies to address COVID-19

Lives v livelihoods: Evaluating policies to address COVID-19

21 October 2020|

Policies that suppress or control COVID-19 prevent illness and save lives, but exact an economic toll. How should we balance lives and livelihoods to determine which policy is best? Richard Bradley, Alex Voorhoeve et al. compare benefit-cost and social welfare approaches to the pandemic.

G. E. Moore’s hands vs. radical scepticism

29 September 2020|

Do we need to prove that we’re not living in a computer simulation? Jonathan Birch looks at G. E. Moore’s famous argument against scepticism.