Guessing, Economy, Epidemiology: The HIV/AIDS Hypothesis

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Tschaepe, Mark
conference paper description
Of the scientific concepts that the American philosopher, Charles S. Peirce, analyzed in his work, two of the less commonly investigated have been those of guessing and of scientific economy. Peirce argued that guessing was the initial moment of hypothesis-formation. He also argued that economic factors play a significant role in the development and acceptance of hypotheses; however, the relationship between these two concepts has been neglected in most philosophical and scientific literature. In the following, I provide an analysis of how guessing and economic considerations contribute to hypothesis-formation. This analysis focuses primarily upon medical science; specifically, the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS. By using the first case studies in medical research that led to the ‘discovery’ of HIV/AIDS, I will argue that guessing is a tool utilized by researchers that is determined, at least in part, by implicit bias and economic considerations, which ultimately effect the trajectory of hypothesis-formation and the ensuing scientific research founded upon those hypotheses. In this particular case, both the biases of researchers and their effect upon economic considerations in the initial moments of guessing led to problematic hypotheses concerning the disease, populations susceptible to the disease, and how it was transmitted within that population. By recognizing how guessing and economy relate in this particular case and the functions of these conceptual tools as they relate to the isolation and discovery of disease, we can better understand epidemiological investigations and facilitate overcoming detrimental biases in such investigations.