More People Are Testing Positive For COVID-19 Because We Are Doing More Testing

An Unfortunate Failure In Logic

Michael Ken

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As more and more Americans test positive for the COVID-19 virus, an argument keeps surfacing about why the testing numbers are so high.

There are more positive cases because we are doing more testing.

This explanation seems obvious to some people and maddening to others. This conundrum provides a good opportunity to address a common error in thinking Neil deGrasse Tyson describes as, “knowing enough about a subject to think you’re right, but not knowing enough about the subject to know you’re wrong”.

Most people don’t make logical errors on purpose and believe their arguments makes sense. The specific claim that COVID-19 cases are going up because the country is doing more testing sounds satisfying. It’s a straightforward answer that provides comforting reassurance that a dangerous threat could be more hype than fact.

Broken Logic

Testing is the only way to confirm someone has contracted the COVID-19 virus, and if we were doing fewer tests before and more testing now, then it makes sense that the amount of people who test positive for the virus would also increase.

This argument, however, fails to provide any useful information about whether or not the virus is spreading. While it successfully identifies a correlation between testing and positive cases, it only addresses the increase of positive cases if the argument is made that the testing is causing the spread of the virus, something people are not claiming.

“The virus is not spreading, we are just testing more, and if you test more, then you’re going to find more cases”.

Key Assumptions

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Michael Ken

My journal about life in the woods. Visit intothewoods.blog to see my complete journal, photographs, and articles.