Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Logical Fallacies about Logical Fallacies

Over the last year or so, I've been involved in a ridiculous discussion with a former museum supporter, whom I shall call Tuck. I'm sharing it here partly out of pent-up frustration, but also because of its educational value - Tuck repeatedly claimed that I am engaging in logical fallacies, but in fact he was consistently engaged in logical fallacies about logical fallacies.

It's about Covid. Tuck took the vaccine, but hated laws about masks and vaccines (he is a very, very passionate libertarian). Gradually he decided that the vaccine was dangerous, with a risk/benefit reward that was only justifiable for certain adults, and regretted giving it to his children.

Now, there are two ways that one could decide that the vaccine is not suitable for children. One could be a medical professional who genuinely understands all the issues and reaches that conclusion. Or, one could be a layman relying on the opinion of others.

I am personally not a medical professional. So I rely on the global consensus of medical professionals that the vaccine is safe. It's theoretically possible that they are wrong, but that is unlikely. And there is no reason to suspect a global conspiracy, especially since I know some medical professionals personally (one of my brothers-in-law is a PhD immunologist and he isn't being paid off by anyone, or at least that's what he tells me). 

Tuck repeatedly argued that I was committing a logical fallacy of appealing to authority. I pointed out that appeals to authority are not a fallacy, provided the authority is actually an authority; furthermore, following authority is by far the most reasonable course of action for people who are not authorities. 

Tuck then challenged me as being a hypocrite, since with the ban, I went against the consensus of authorities (the Gedolim), whereas here I was arguing in favor of following the authorities. I had to repeatedly point out that there is no comparison, since my claim with the ban was that the charedi Gedolim were not authorities in such matters.

Tuck himself is not a medical professional. He has expertise with numbers, which he believes renders himself qualified to judge the medical statistics. But with something as complicated as a global pandemic and a vaccine, knowing numbers doesn't help - you have to know which facts are actually correct and which statistics are actually meaningful. Tuck would constantly send me articles and interviews with people challenging the efficacy or safety of the vaccine. But, without exception, these people were either non-professionals, or nutcases, or both! And the articles were full of nonsense - confusions of correlation with causation and so on.

One person was proclaimed as being a "very well respected scientist" but was actually a computer scientist that was not at all respected. Another "medical expert", about whom Tuck sarcastically commented that I would reject on the grounds that anyone who doesn’t worship the conventional thinking is by definition a conspiracy theorist, really is a conspiracy theorist who has claimed that drugs and AIDS in the US were planted by the Russians to weaken resistance to a Soviet invasion and Obama healthcare reforms were a conspiracy to euthanize the disabled and elderly. 

The final straw for me was when he sent me an article by a Dr. Naomi Wolf about how the vaccine will cause a genocide. He sarcastically asked if I would just write it off as further nonsense. Within two seconds of scanning the article it was obvious that Dr. Naomi Wolf - whose doctorate was in English Literature, not medicine! - was unhinged. And a simple Google search showed that the author was way crazier than I even expected. She claimed to have overheard a conversation from an Apple employee about secret tech to implant nanoparticles via vaccines that will enable people to travel through time

I pointed this out to Tuck. And he replied that, following Rambam, he evaluates ideas on their own merits, not based on the reputation of those who state them.

Of course, this is a completely invalid application of Rambam's principle. Rambam's principle is about actually evaluating an idea - weighing up whether it is true and logical and supported by evidence or false and opposed by evidence. But Tuck had not actually evaluated whether Wolf's article, or any of the others, were true. He had not researched whether the claims about medical science were accurate and nor was he even qualified to do so. He simply liked such articles because they supported his position.

Why would a person choose to respect the opinions of a few nutcases over that of the global consensus of actual experts? Well, in this case, the reason was perfectly obvious. As a staunch libertarian, Tuck was passionately opposed to the enforcement of Covid regulations. The government were the Bad Guys. And so he both put himself in circles with conspiracy theorists who deluged him with anti-vax propaganda, and was all too willing to accept claims which made the government look even more evil.

Tuck kept sending me quotes from crazies, which I kept dismissing. He insisted that I was being closed-minded. Having lost all patience, I responded that the fact that I considered him to be spouting endless nonsense does not necessarily mean that I am closed-minded - it could just be that he really was spouting endless nonsense.

But while Tuck committed a number of logical fallacies, I myself was clearly committing an enormous fallacy, too. It's well expressed in the following story:

I am totally that guy!

(Note: I will not let the comments section be taken over by anti-vaxxers. I believe in free speech, and they are free to open up their own blog and rant against vaccines to their heart's content.)


  1. Regarding appealing to authority, consider the following thought experiment. Assuming you had no expertise in the subject, if someone gave you a lump of metal, how would you determine whether it was gold or not?

    1. If it was gold, then it wouldn't have been given to me.

    2. Also, the appeal to authority is only a *logical* fallacy. Meaning, it is only when you are arguing about logical principles and conclusions, something theoretically all have access to. However, it is simply not a fallacy to rely on experts for questions of metzius. In metzius, experts have access to the most information and more training in drawing correct conclusions from that information.

    3. Is this is a job interview for Google or Microsoft type question?

  2. Is it possible that the scientific community is experiencing a McCarthyism where they do not feel comfortable and are compelled to take a certain stance. It is obvious now that lockdowns where the wrong move. Your not a conspiracy theorist for questioning the establishment.

    1. Lockdowns were the most extreme policy and in most places temporary. Conspiracy theorists reject all policies.

    2. My children's playground was locked shut with a padlock for four months. Heshy Tischler thrived in this tyranny.

      I was told for months to stay at home except for an hour a day. Police used drones to track and harass people in the hills of the Derbyshire Peak district who were not breaking the law. They dyed a famous outdoor lake black to try to discourage (legal) visitors. Police told people sitting on park benches to move on, and chased sunbathers lying on their own in the park away. A policewoman told a man that his children were not allowed to play in their own front garden and threatened to arrest him unless they took the children inside (unlawful).

      In the UK doctors wrote to thousands of elderly people asking them to make an advanced care directive and to die at home if possible. Doctors refused admissions from care homes.

      Can you reflect a little on the hysteria of government, civic institutions, law enforcement, and expert doctors that we witnessed and admit it was wrong no ifs no buts.

    3. I did not witness such insanity as you (Hat) describe. But if people kept to the lockdown properly and didn't try to squeeze out, it would have been over sooner.

      Was it absolutely the right move, or the best move? Who knows. Was it "a" right move. Yes it was, but the effectiveness was spoiled by people who didn't properly cooperate.

    4. This is not only wrong, but offensive victim blaming, the most egregious of the ifs and buts.

      The peak rate of UK daily infections occurred two days *before* the imposition of the first legal lockdown.

      Strangely enough, most people don't need government compulsion to persuade them to take steps to save their own lives and those of others.

      Most infections were acquired in facilities like care homes, meat processing plants and hospitals which could not shut.

      Lockdowns of outdoor public spaces brought nothing but misery and death by suicide and alcoholism.

      The Capitol riots, the antivaxers, the nutjobs of Q would all not have been possible without the tyrannical excesses of the experts.

    5. Yosef - pragmatically speaking that was never possible. A rationalist and someone who thinks reasonably would not hold onto some unattainable result. Not factoring real attainable results into decision making is flawed from the outset


    6. Sources for the sceptical (and you should be sceptical)

      Parks padlocked:
      Dyed lake:
      Park benches:
      Sunbathers chased home
      Front garden:
      Advanced care directives:
      Hospitals refuse patients from care homes:

  3. "...provided the authority is actually an authority..."

    Are you trying to be funny? Obviously, there is disagreement as to which appeal to authority is correct, yours or his.

    There are plenty of documentary reasons to reject the very authorities you think authoritative, and you reject any claims to the contrary as non-authoritative.

    Of course, this is not circular reasoning at all.

    Your further appeal to the situation as too complex for us mere mortals to investigate on our own is telling for what it says about you and your limitations and insecurities, not our own. Speak for yourself and your ilk, kemosabe.

    Given your enjoyment in proffering falsehoods as truth here, I have pondered whether Tuck may really be a straw man. Or maybe he's just trolling you with the Naomi Wolf tweet.

    Regarding the experimental medical treatment, as far as follow-on effects, given how the authorities you authorize manipulate all sorts of numbers, the only two numbers worth following are total excess deaths (or whatever the number is called) and anomalous birth patterns. Both of which have been observed in government-tracked numbers to reflect well-above 20-sigma events in several highly compliant countries. Like Germany, Taiwan, and I think there were one or two others. Live births down ~20% and deaths up above trend of a similar or higher amount. Just to start, as they are avid trackers and early publishers of these kind of numbers. These numbers have been worsening over the months too. Either way, if this is something that you actually cared about, I would bother to find some references. And if you confirmed ahead of time that were such events to be documented, you might have acted rashly in your choice of which authorities to authorize. Which I doubt will happen, because as you said yourself, more wordily, feelings don't care about facts.

    1. "the only two numbers worth following"

      And even in those two data points you're probably cherry picking or otherwise misinterpreting.

    2. I'm going to go out on a limb here, and make a wildly speculative guess here:
      1) This is not your research, but something you picked up from a conspiracy theorist/crackpot website, and you haven't analyzed and confirmed the claim
      2) You actually did your research, searching dozens (hundreds) of data points across many countries, and came up with a few points that confirm your biases. And ignored all statistics that show that trends haven't significantly changed for the worse over the past two years.

      So, Shimshon, where's your data?

    3. "Your further appeal to the situation as too complex for us mere mortals to investigate on our own is telling for what it says about you and your limitations and insecurities, not our own."
      No. It's called humility. A man's gotta know his limitations.
      That being the case, one can humble in the face of experts with years of experience, but cockey towards know-it-all Johnnie-come-lately conspiracy theorists.

  4. Dr Raoult is an eminent expert who pushed Ivermectin.

    I'm afraid there are no short cuts to rationalism.

    Trust the science, not the scientists.

    1. Dr. Raoult's much ballyhooed study had so many flaws that my first year medical students would find them. :(

    2. He WAS an eminent expert, but became a caricatural crook

    3. The conspiracy theorists say that covid didn't kill millions, but ivermectin could have saved millions.

      The virus was deliberately engineered as Chinese biowarfare but was not worse than a bad flu curable by ivermectin.

    4. "He WAS an eminent expert, but became a caricatural crook"

      I agree with this conclusion.

      If you trust the eminent scientist, not the science, then how did you reach this conclusion?

    5. "Dr. Raoult's much ballyhooed study had so many flaws that my first year medical students would find them. :("

      You do not dispute Dr Raoult's eminence. He leads one of the finest labs in the world. He is in the top 1% of cited researchers in academic journals.

      Your first year medical students, as every voting adult in a mature democracy, exercised their critical faculties. Raoult was wrong.

      You don't need a medical degree, or to be a medical student, or any specialist qualification to have a view.

      To a sledgehammer, a nut looks like a small rock.

      It is dangerous and wrong if the conduct of wars is the exclusive purview of generals.

      It is dangerous and wrong if unprecedented curbs on liberty are the exclusive purview of public health professionals.

    6. "The virus was deliberately engineered as Chinese biowarfare but was not worse than a bad flu curable by ivermectin."

      Some people say this. Others say it was just a bad cold or flu blown up to pandemic status through clever dissemination of propaganda and which was credulously believed and amplified by the likes of Slifkin. And probably intentional placement of the elderly in harm's way, like what was done in New York with nursing home patients.

      I had a positive Covid diagnosis myself last year. I've been much sicker in the past. It was the mildest cold I think I ever had. Hardly the stuff of pandemics.

  5. Halachily, I agree we have no choice but to depend on the preponderance of expert opinion. However, there are indeed many weaknesses in the rational argument to do. For example, many experts have made predictions that were completely wrong. Do they lose their expert status? Way too much to write on this topic. A rational person would go insane trying to define what the expert opion really is.

  6. I think that you and your interlocutor have two different interpretations of "appeal to authority".

    There's a big difference between "I trust Prof. X, who is an expert in virology and believes that ivermectin is an effective treatment for COVID-19", and "I trust Prof. X, who is an expert in virology and believes that ivermectin is an ineffective treatment for COVID-19, based on a very large randomized double-blind study he led"

    Saying "I trust Prof. X" could be perceived as an appeal to authority in either case, but there's obviously a lot more going on in the second example.

    As the engineers say, "In G-D we trust, all others must bring data."

  7. The vaccines obviously do not work as initially advertised. This is really indisputable by now. One can still debate whether their benefits in relieving symptoms are superior to their side effect profile, and how this differs by age risk-profile, sex and many other variables.

    What one cannot reasonably dispute, however, is that the basis for the laws that restricted a wide range of freedoms for unvaccinated people have now been shown false. The way out of lockdown was not - pace Smotritch et al - through vaccination, but a combination of herd immunity and finally having the guts to tell a minority of paranoid hypochondriacs that they do not have the right to indefinitely ruin everyone else's life. Those who enforced the green card etc. owe many people an apology. Whether they owe something more is arguable.

    1. Your lack of any relevant training in the field of vaccine and vaccination, and the reason your comment and the opinions of people who agree with you remain discredited by anyone with professional experience with vaccine and vaccination, is totally proven using your own words: “One can still debate whether their benefits in relieving symptoms are superior to their side effect profile, and how this differs by age risk-profile, sex and many other variables.” Vaccines aren’t (usually) designed as treatments (ie, to relieve symptoms after disease onset). Vaccines—in this case, for SARS-CoV-2–are nearly uniformly designed to protect against infection (and later symptomatogenesis and transmission when relevant). Vaccine doesn’t treat an ongoing illness. There’s no benefit in this case to the control or non-control of ongoing pathology. Vaccine preempts it. This is extremely basic immunology, virology, vaccinology, and ID epidemiology. If you’re not an expert in a field, don’t try to be in comment sections. You end up looking like a total fool.

    2. There is NO question by anyone who actually understands epidemiology that the mRNA vaccines are one of the greatest medical miracles of all time. They keep you alive and out of the hospital and their side effects are mild and transient.

      And you are simply wrong about vaccines.

    3. This is is all very simple. We were told explicitly that the vaccines would end the pandemic. Go look at a graph of cases. Did the vaccines end the pandemic in the literal sense? No. Now, go look at a graph of deaths. Did the vaccines end the pandemic, in some more vague extended sense? No. Move on. Clearly and undeniably the information used to justify the Green Card was false. There is absolutely no way of reconciling the efficacy figures we were given at the time with what actually happens. (Saying 'but muh new variants' doesn't help. If you vaccine doesn't work against new variants of a constantly evolving virus, then it doesn't work).

      The remaining question is whether those enforcing it were lying or mistaken. The fact that vaccine boosters refuse to even admit that they were mistaken, despite this being as clear as the sky being blue, indicates the former.

    4. If everybody would ACTUALLY GET the vaccine, the pandemic would be much more "over."

      One thing we HAVE witnessed: having a shot makes one's response to the infection much less severe. And we do not have the overflowing ICUs anymore.

    5. @Gavriel -- When I look at a graph of cases and deaths for the US, I see continued COVID case waves coming and going, but a big bifurcation in death rates starting in around March-April 2021, in which the unvaccinated began to die at rates many times higher than those who took vaccines.

    6. Dozens of countries have effectively completely vaccinated the adult populations. In the majority of them the largest case spike happened after vaccination. In many of them, the largest death spike happened after vaccination. This is true in Israel where I, the blog author and, I presume, most of the commenters live. We were given figures of 90%+ protection against infection, and even higher among death. We were repeatedly, and explicitly told that the vaccines would end the pandemic. This was false, if the word false has any meaning.

      What has happened is that everyone, vaccinated or unvaccinated, has had Covid, in most cases multiple times. Those who were especially vulnerable are mostly already dead, and the rest have built up immunity. Perhaps vaccines contributed to that sufficient to offset their side effect profile, perhaps not. A large Danish study showed a big positive effect on all cause mortality for Astra Zeneca vaccines, and a negative one for MRNA. What we do know for certain, however, is that people were threatened with losing their livelihood and basic civil liberties over an untruth.

      And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Before that, pandemic policies carefully crafted for decades by experts were thrown aside for a completely untried idea advocated by tech bros drunk on their models and algorithms. Repeatedly, basic lines of civilized behaviour were crossed in a Tower of Babel attempt to control a virus. I know it makes you feel six feet tall to go nutpicking among anti-vaccers. In the real world that we have to live in, it's not Naomi Wolf ruining peoples lives (and, let's not forget, causing a global inflationary recession that we will now have to live through) it's the people actually in charge. The people you blindly follow when they tell you left is right, and black is white. Shame.

  8. Although I am more on the Slifkin side of these arguments, scientists and doctors do seem to do a good job in undermining their own credibility: e.g., just recently it turned out that years of Alzheimer's research worth billions of dollars was based on a theory originating in fraudulent articles; the coordinated suppression of research into the origins of covid; etc.

    1. Like with any group, whether scientists, minorities, Catholic priests, or rabbis, the misbehavior of a few of them makes those outside the group perceive/assume that the whole group is flawed. Yeah, there has been some shenaniganery going on in Alzheimer's research. More than once. But how many scientists are included in this problem (and let's include a few other potential frauds who are working on other diseases whose treatment could yield billions of dollars) and how many of the tens of thousands of scientists who publish in the hundreds of journals every month do not have such behavior?

    2. No, Yosef R, it is not a few bad apples. The practice of science if rife with corruption and has been facing a "reproducibility crisis" for decades, that is now blowing wide into the open. Vast swaths of so-called research is simply not reproducible, even in the hardest of hard sciences. It is not mere "shenaniganery". The latest Alzheimer's contretemps, which is absolutely humongous in scale, is but the latest and most prominent example. Do you naively think it stops there? Billions and billions of dollars attract the highly corruptible, period. Whether directly by deed, or indirectly by piling on to fraud, even unwittingly.

  9. I’m a doctoral student in infectious disease epidemiology (mostly flu and SARS-CoV-2) at the titular public research university in the US. I work directly on SARS-CoV-2 vaccination efficacy, effectiveness, and development. Considering the data my colleagues and I use come from our subjects’ medical records, which are then linked to deidentified CDC data for analysis, I’m happy to report that there’s no conspiracy between researchers and the government. What the public sees (in study results in the news, from physicians, etc.) is exactly the same stuff I, subjects, and, if one digs enough, the public sees. There is no conspiracy. If there were one, the conspirators wouldn’t be too great at their conspiring; the science has been too public. The idea of a conspiracy among (usually) hard-righties in the US is due to misinformation, disinformation, and a structurally deficient public education system.

    1. This. No one, not even the most whacked out conspiracy theorist, has ever accused trained researchers of fudging data. It's the powers that establish public policy that are ignoring said data, such as a dogged refusal to acknowledge the efficacy of natural immunity, age related risk profiles, the inability of vaccines to reduce transmission, and a variety of second order risks of imposing vaccines indiscriminately. I will cut this short.

    2. We actually know of one prominent case of fraudulent research related to COVID, which was the large study ostensibly showing efficacy of ivermectin in its treatment. The researchers involved were found to have fabricated their data in favour of ivermectin treatment.

    3. Joe Q - We also actually know of at least one fabricated study published in one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, the Lancet, that claimed that HCQ was killing COVID patients by inducing heart failures, which was subsequently retracted. And unlike the barely known ivermectin study, the fraudulent HCQ study had the privilege of being wielded by an army of fact-checkers, has caused numerous social media accounts to be censored, has caused the WHO to halt testing of it in over a dozen countries, caused France to ban it, and caused the FDA to revoke its EUA as a treatment for Covid. Rabbi Slifkin, with the blessing of his 2 PHD friends, has even argued that HCQ with decades of safety information, is more dangerous than a newly approved and highly politicized vaccine. You can argue whether you believe HCQ has ultimately been demonstrated effective or not, but it’s irrelevant. Add it to lamden’s list of why people are justifiably skeptical of policy makers and the medical establishment.

    4. The ivermectin study wasn't barely-known -- it was one of the major studies supporting that drug's use, and was "weighted" heavily because of the large number of patients. It showed efficacy for ivermectin. But the data was all made up.

    5. Joe Q - Thank you for focusing on the most irrelevant part of my comment. I'll take it as a concession that people are justifiably skeptical of policymakers and the medical establishment.

      Tangentially, even with the exclusion of the disputed study, meta analyses still concluded that ivermectin was effective as a both a prophylaxis, and in reducing mortality:

    6. As far as Anonymous and his cockily confident assertion that there can be no conspiracy, he clearly does not know how they work or are carried out. The vast majority of people, even who participate, have no idea of their involvement. Highly trained scientists, which as an epidemiologist he is not, are highly focused on extremely narrow disciplines, with little in the way of interest of understanding the context of how their own research fits into a bigger picture or how coherent that bigger picture is.

      Having worked in the space program, I know of this firsthand. Let me know when you guys can get me the raw telemetry data or high resolution videos of the moon landings. You can't. We are told the data were lost or inadvertently erased. For the gullible, that's just government at work. For realists, that is the conspiracy, through bureaucratic manipulation. Especially since there is a repeating pattern of such.

      Did I know anything of this during my work in the space program? No, I did not. Or, even after learning of the weird surprisingly common incidents, I believed the lame excuses. I even accepted it all as genuine for decades after. Only recently did I learn new things to change my mind.

    7. And there you have it... the moon landing was also a conspiracy/hoax.

    8. Unlike you, I worked in the space program.

  10. Oh man, I could write a dissertation. There are so many moving parts to this issue. For starters, there exists a gross lack of critical thinking skills that's infected massive numbers of people.
    Then there's the politicization of science. For example people's political views determine whether or not they "want" Covid to have originated in a lab vs. a market. Science doesn't care about your politics or what you want.

    And of course there's the echo-chambering that's being exacerbated by social media. A person like Naomi Wolf is surrounded by "fans" who continually stoke her ego and give her no chance whatsoever to challenge her views.

    I know it's become cliché, but very few issues are black and white... they are nuanced and complex. Conspiracists use people's inability to deal with complexity to create illusions based either on complete fabrication, misinformation or crafty manipulation of existing information. They shoot their arrow and they draw the target.
    I'm actually doing to disagree with you a bit regarding appeal to authority. One form of the logical fallacy is when you appeal to an authority who has no expertise in the area under discussion. For example, your buddy Meisleman has a PhD in math and if he were talking about a mathematical subject referencing his authority would not be a fallacy. However, when he writes about cosmology, a subject he has no expertise in, it is fallacious to reference his "authority" on that subject. (And disingenuous of him to represent himself as one.)

    One of the problems here is that there are actually a few figures with expertise who've fallen down the conspiracy rabbit hole. One example is Robert Malone. He has actual expertise, but somewhere along the line he went off the rails. This is where critical thinking comes in. If you carefully analyze what he's saying you'll see that, despite his background, his thinking has somehow been warped. Add to that people like Malone being uncritically platformed by popular podcasters like Joe Rogan and you have a real disaster of the spread of misinformation.

    Another problem is that it takes a lot of time and effort to properly debunk misinformation and lies. Now, more than ever, the saying that a lie can travel around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes is disastrously true and worse in our internet age by orders of magnitude.

    Also along the lines of nuance is that idea that science gets conflated with public policy. While any 5th grade science student can understand why a mask can minimize the spread of particles blocked by the mask, there are a legitimate discussions that can be had about when and where to masks and if, when and where they should mandated. Same is true for mandating vaccines for kids. The vaccines are, of course, quite safe, but what the cost/benefit of mandating them to a skittish public. (One cost is the recent cases of Polio that have popped up in part thanks to a growing backlash against mandates.)

    Finally, for now, a word about Rabbinic "authority". Unless you're discussing a particular area of halachic knowledge, like kashrut, rabbinic "authority" is an amorphous, subjective concept unrelated to the scientific authority being discussed here. Your legitimate pushback against the so-called rabbinic authorities that attacked you has nothing to do with this discussion and it was specious of "Tuck" to raise it.

  11. I don’t think it was wise of you to put up this post because it alienates you from much of your readership. Although, i respect your analytic thought and critical approach, I actually think you are wrong in one particular point in this instance:
    There very much is reason to believe that there is a global conspiracy theory occurring at present; pushing a narrative regarding Covid 19 that is exaggerated and shear propaganda.
    Particular powerful people have gained more power, wealth and general influence because of the pandemic. Your relative who is an immunologist is probably an expert at immunology and May understand the mechanism of the vaccine, how we can expect it to work and how it interacts with the virus, but decisions for risk: benefit require expertise in many more fields including but not limited to statistics, epidemiology and even geopolitics. Unfortunately, your relative is most likely not an authority able to definitely say whether vaccine mandates, let’s say for ten year olds, are beneficial or detrimental to society and even that particular population of ten year olds. Understanding the immunology, does not necessarily mean a deep understanding of the flaws in the trials on this population and even the interpretation of the results. Additionally and unfortunately, there are a number of well qualified whistleblowers (Philip Krause and Marion Gruber come to mind . In my mind Vinnay prisad is amply qualified to judge the science. ) who doubt many of the Covid-19 mandates basis on real evidence.
    I believe your post will not date well.

    1. "Particular powerful people have gained more power, wealth and general influence because of the pandemic"
      "They" could also have gained more.. without & in spite of a pandemic.

  12. "I believe in free speech, and they are free to open up their own blog..."

    Which is to say you no longer believe in it. As I already noticed, by most of my comments the past few weeks having been censored. You always said a lot of stupid things on this blog, but the redeeming factor was the freewheeling comment section, which made you unique among leftists. We should have known it was unsustainable for someone of your politics. I'm not interested in your ranting and raving if you're not even man enough to take pushback (and I mean real pushback, strong pushback, not tepid criticism or wacko criticism that you can leave in for a fake veneer of free speech.) Let us know when you mature, or switch to yet another life path. Until then, have fun in your echo chamber. I'm out.

    1. Oh don't be silly. There is a difference between agreeing with free speech and not wanting people to keep shouting at each other in your own dining room. Especially not the same things, over and over...

    2. Right. At my dining room table, I express my opinion and only allow those who agree with me to talk.

    3. OR, Mr. Sarcastic, how about after having family blowouts every Thanksgiving where several people leave crying and others throw the cranberry sauce at the person sitting across from them and Uncle Ted leaves in a huff and gets into a car accident, Dad says in a strained voice that for the sake of peace in the family and love of all that's holy would you please this year not talk about politics during dinner!

      Clearly you missed the part about "the same things, over and over."

      My point was that GP was being disingenuous. There have been discussions - and arguments - about Covid in this blog before, many times, and there likely will be more. The fact that THIS time, given this specific topic, the blogowner said not to do so, does not reduce the support for freedom of speech.

      Gosh, this is such a silly thing to argue about.

      -Yosef R

  13. Of course, you COULD be just trying to protect the conspiracy. 😉

    The "Take it from me" argument is an argument from authority. It's only valid if "you" are well known and respected as an expert. You might be exactly whom you say you are, with the expertise you say you have. But you also might not. How would *I* know?

  14. As always, I am dismayed by the commenters here who buy into a conspiratorial view of the world. As Jews, we have been victimized throughout our history by hatred inspired by such thinking — the blood libel and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion being two glaring examples — which you'd think would make us the world's leading skeptics of conspiracy allegations. Alas, that isn’t the case; we are just as susceptible to folly as any other group. It’s so much easier to blame the machinations of dark forces than to deal with reality. If we aren't capable of learning from our own history of victimization, I can't help thinking that the classic insult “goyishe kopf” applies.

    1. Moshe, I agree with you 100%. I am always floored how intelligent, logical frum Jews who sound so reasonable fall for all this garbage and conspiracy theories. Very disappointing. The problem is that you cannot prove them wrong. During last winters strain, the anti-vaxxers were saying that the vaccine will cause fertility complications in women. I personally know women who took the vaccine who went on to have babies. Did that convince them that they were wrong? Did they back off and apologize?? NO! They are on to the next garbage conspiracy. They have no accountability. Scientists on the other hand are bound to statistics and facts, and do not have the same leeway to shoot from the hip. The irony and imbalance is reminiscent of morally comparing the Israelis and Gaza terrorists, yet holding them to very different moral standards.

    2. Not quite. Modern conspiracy theories start in the late 18th century. They have not for the most part been anti-Semitic in particular. The Protocols, despite it's devastating outcome, is an outlier.

    3. Marc and Moshe -- This is the result of many members of the community having joined a particular political team. And it illustrates the dangers of joining political teams, in general.

  15. 1) What does it mean to say a vaccine is safe ? How is "safe" defined and how was the safety tested and by who ? Are there conflicts of interest ? 2) Even if it is "safe", does that mean everybody needs to get the vaccine ? The risk of getting covid varies and the danger of covid depends on many important variables. There is a risk-benefit-cost analysis that needs to be done and then it becomes a matter of opinion and politics.I got the covid vaccine b'cause I was in the high risk category, but would resent a government or company forcing virtually all people to get the vaccine. I would resent schools closings, forcing kids to wear masks, forcing kids to get the vaccine. ACJA

  16. What's confusing me here is that why are all these MODOX commentors whose names I recognize regularly dismissing mesora and divrei chazal in favor of science are suddenly throwing science under the bus in favor of conspiracy theories. Quite bizarre. Seems like roles are reversed. That's not to say that we definitely have our fair share of anti-vaxxers as well, but I would expect better from a community that puts such a strong emphasis on trusting science.

  17. This post illustrates why rationalism is not reasonable.
    1) There is no consensus among credentialed experts on the safety or efficacy of the vaccines across all the populations for whom they have been mandated.
    2) In order to claim consensus, Rav Slifkin has to dismiss all the critics of the mandates that have been imposed as kooks -- so Rav Slifkin has to hold that, e.,g. Professor Vinay Prasad MD, MPH is a kook, in conflict with the opinion of his expert peers who have just promoted him to full professor at UCSF Medical School.
    3) In fact, it is exceedingly rare for their to be a public controversy on a matter in which all the credentialed experts actually agree. In almost every real public controversy, as in the case of the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines as mandated, there are credentialed experts on both sides. And if all the credentialed experts are on the same side, that side is probably wrong -- because, in the absence of expert authority, what is most likely sustaining the other side is that they are in touch with the reality of matter -- and the experts are not.
    4) Since I am a credentialed expert on science policy, Rav Slifkin by his own standards should defer to my expert view -- unless and until he can find a science policy expert who disagrees with me.

    1. You might be a "credentialed expert," but you're nuts, having once written: "The evidence for the existence of demons comes from our experience of demonic possession and exorcism, both within and outside of the Jewish community, from ancient times down to the present day." So there's that.

    2. It's on his blog, "Possibly seriously reactionary." There's other chutzpah there about the Rambam that I won't repeat.

    3. The symptoms of schizophrenia sound a lot like a milder form of demonic possession, when divorced from the clinical medical description of the ailment.

  18. No serious professional has declared the vaccine 'safe'. That simply is not possible so short after its introduction. It's not the way scientific professionals talk.

    All they have said is that the benefits outweigh the risks.

  19. Everyone who is no hopelessly naïve knows that the vest majority of medical professionals don't do their own research but simply follow official recommendations of Ministry of Health of whatever official body governs the health "industry" in a given country. And that body of course is being heavily financed by big pharma. Everyone who is open minded enough to search for data, will find that mortality rate of children from covid is nearly statistical zero and is lower than the rate of vaccine-induced myocarditis. One argument of politicians for vaccinated children was they can infect elderly and vulnerable. Now however we do know that vaccinated, boosted and double boosted people still get covid and still transmit viruses. So, the above argument does not hold water either. The bottom line is Phizer got mega profits for selling the vaccines, and now ironically getting mega profits for selling Paxlovid 'cause their vaccines did not work.

    1. Two questions:

      1. Can you point to examples of any western country where the government health ministry is financed by Big Pharma?

      2. Why compare COVID child mortality rates to myocarditis rates? Is COVID only serious when it kills you?

    2. This is a typical example of what I've seen conspiracy theorists describe as "research".

      1) Exaggerated statements with no evidence:
      "the vest majority of medical professionals don't do their own research"
      You could have simple stated "many" or "some", but why "vast majority? Please cite the study that confirms this claim.

      2) Prima facie ridiculous claims:
      "Ministry of Health... of course is being heavily financed by big pharma."
      Joe Q has already addressed this. I'll just add that in the USA, where there is private healthcare, the statement is even more ridiculous.

      3) Really bad comparisons:
      "that mortality rate of children from covid is nearly statistical zero and is lower than the rate of vaccine-induced myocarditis."

      You can compare:
      a) vaccine induced deaths with covid deaths
      b) vaccine induced myocarditis vs covid induced myocarditis

      You're comparison is faulty. But technically it's correct- something like 2 per million vs 2.7 per million. So you're basing your conspiracy theory on the difference of less one per million.

      4) Retconning
      "Now however we know..."
      And before "we knew", you weren't a conspiracy theorist?

      5) Missing the point
      ".. we do know that vaccinated, boosted and double boosted people still get covid and still transmit viruses."

      But what about severity and rate of transmission?

      6) Misdirection
      "The bottom line is..."
      No, that's not the bottom line, it's a tangential detail.

      7) Insults, implict and explicit
      " Everyone who is open minded enough"
      Yeah, and everyone else is a closed minded bigot.

      If there is a vast conspiracy, part of it public relations operation is to hire & promote conspiracy theorists who wallow in fallicies.

      You see, I'm open minded. I looked at your claims. I've combed through them with a critical eye (beware of mixed metaphor!) . I've done my own research. And I found your claims wanting.

    3. 1. I should've said bribed rather than financed. In US for example (if it's still a western country) Big Pharma is the major donor of all Congress members (as well as AMA and all medical schools). And then these politicians when elected appoint "right people" to run HHA and appropriate funds to HHA. Likewise, half of FDA funds come from Pharma.
      2. Just as an example. Myocarditis is not the only serious side effect of covid vaccine either. Actually, nobody but nobody knows long term effects of RNA vaccine on children.

    4. @Ephraim . You conveniently omitted the 48.1 myocarditis cases per million in 12- to 15-year-old. Either way, if you claim to be open minded, 1) Give me examples of vaccination of a group which is not a risk factor for a particular condition (for example, do they recommend Pneumococcal vaccines to the kids although the kids do get pneumonia)? 2) What are benefits of a vaccine that a) being evaded by mutated viruses; b) losses efficiency after several month anyway?

    5. Lazar - I am not an expert in anything here, but your statement that 'half of FDA funds come from Pharma' is just plain Geneivas Da'as.
      Yes, they pay for it. But not by choice. Rather through fees and taxes. They pay for a service, and that isn't a bribe. The FDA does not grant them approval for that money, that money pays for the FDA to do its job.

      Likewise, your statement about the 'vast majority of medical professionals'. You are right, yet lying. Nurses are professionals, yet they are not researchers. The authority being pointed to here is researchers, not paramedics, nurses, PAs, GPs, or even hematologists. It is researchers.

    6. Correct. I was referring to actual experts in the field. Of which at least 99% strongly recommend the vaccine to adults, and probably close to that number for children.

    7. The authority being pointed to here is researchers, not paramedics, nurses, PAs, GPs, or even hematologists. It is researchers.
      Name me the doctors who did clinical studies with their own money. Who provides funds for the clinical studies? Those who you call researchers are mainly just study the literature.

    8. I am not an expert in anything here, but your statement that 'half of FDA funds come from Pharma' is just plain Geneivas Da'as.
      If you think FDA and HHA are not bought by Pharma, please explain why Americans can't buy the same FDA approved drugs from Canada, or similar drugs from Europe at a fraction of the cost?

    9. You made a fallacious claim, and instead of admitting it, you decided to move on to something else about researchers' funding sources. That is the tactic missionaries use, when debunked, they smoothly move off topic, thinking the audience didn't understand.

      And your next statement is equally false. All you proved is that Pharmaceutical companies pay taxes and they also pay fees for their approvals system. You had no mechanism that the fees they pay could influence the decision making process. So you moved the goalposts and found out that big companies are suspect of influencing public policy for their own benefit. Just like insurance companies prevent competition across state lines and we are forced to buy title insurance on every purchase of real estate. Still no evidence or proof to the FDA's approvals systems being corrupted.

  20. Tim Harford writes well on understanding numbers and statistics and on logical thinking generally. See You can subscribe to his posts there. Always well-written and well thought out, even if you may sometimes disagree with him.

  21. I received this today from Coronavirus Israel group:

    Dr. Jon Campbell reviewed new German government reports of COVID vaccine serious side effects. Here’s the key data….

    1.7 reports per 1,000 doses of vaccine ADVERSE events - 0.17%
    0.2 reports per 1,000 doses of vaccine SERIOUS events - 0.02% which equals 1 person per 5,000 doses.

    SERIOUS events = myocarditis/pericarditis, thrombosis, immunologically mediated adverse events such as immune thrombocytopenia.

    Let’s put that in perspective for Israel dosing…If you were dosed 3 times,
    you had a 1 out of 196 chance of having a bad reaction serious enough to report and/or seek treatment,
    and a 1 out of 1,667 chance of ending up in the hospital due to a serious effect.

    The original case fatality rate for COVID classic was 1.7% and for Delta (with the medical system having some understanding how to treat serious cases) was 0.3%.

    That likely makes the risk - reward ratio still in favor of the vaccine for those at risk (health issues, older than 60). But this is proving to NOT be a low risk vaccine for those at low-COVID fatality risk, and probably a 10-50x higher risk rate that most vaccines. (Long COVID risk is another factor and I have no way to calculate it into the consideration - probably should be ignored being the vaccine provides limited or no protection now against catching COVID.)

    1. A naive use of reported side effects doesn't correct for the baseline frequency of, say, myocarditis in the general population. I also doubt your figures. But I admire your willingness to approach a practical question practically.

    2. "Let’s put that in perspective for Israel dosing…If you were dosed 3 times, you had a 1 out of 196 chance of having a bad reaction serious enough to report and/or seek treatment, and a 1 out of 1,667 chance of ending up in the hospital due to a serious effect."

      Your addition of the probabilities based on doses given to an individual seems like a huge logical leap. It assumes that adverse effects are randomly linked to doses and are independent of patient physiology. I'm not sure any epidemiologist would buy that reasoning.

      In Canada there are figures on the number of vaccinated people who reported adverse events. That number is 6 in 10,000, quite a bit lower than 1 in 196. The number of serious events is even lower, about 800 out of 33 million people vaccinated.

    3. Are you being dense on purpose? The German version of Vaers doesn't assert a causal link any more than the American version does. Sheesh.

  22. I agree with a growing number of scientists who are of the opinion that peer review has no empirical basis as a mark of quality, and that it preserves the privileges, resources and outdated ideas of baby boomer academics.

  23. Well, I see no one's mentioned the monkeypox. The "experts" aren't exactly covering themselves in glory there, are they?

    Admit it: "Experts," like everyone else, are their own worst enemy.

    1. I appreciate Trump's exposing all of the conspiracy theorists among us. It's educational and bracing to finally know where people really stand.

    2. It's science that you should be locked in your house for months over a virus that is effectively no risk to you at all. And it's also science that homosexuals must be allowed to have uninterrupted promiscuous anal intercourse during a pandemic in which the main driver of spread is promiscuous anal intercourse. This is SCIENCE. You are a conspiracy theorist. Asher Weiss will explain it, probably.

    3. GM,

      So a talmid chacham muflag (RAW) doesn't deserve the basic modicum of respect because you don't like his stance on the halachah in a pandemic? Do you have any life or value system outside of your political views?

  24. " I will not let the comments section be taken over by anti-vaxxers"....

    ....comments section is promptly taken over by anti-vaxxers

  25. I am a physician(internist/nephrologist) with almost 50 years in practice. I took the first 2 vaccines because the time it seemed reasonable to trust the CDCs recommendations But it seems that they have been suppressing other options and make illogical conclusions
    Most recent evidence shows that the vaccine does not prevent spread
    A lot of side affects are not reported
    It is impossible to honestly claim that it is safe in children because nobody knows about possible long term affects. Initially they claimed spike was eliminated from body in a few days but this does not seem to be true
    Children are at very low risk of serious complications from COVID so I think it is immoral to recommend it

    1. Use numbers to evaluate benefits and harms.

  26. It's too bad about Naomi Wolf. She was, once upon a time, a respectable voice on the left wing of American politics.

  27. The whole point of the case was to lift that shroud and cast a spotlight on the unscientific basis of the mandate.

    Among other things, the court documents indicate:

    + No one in the COVID Recovery unit, including Jennifer Little, the director-general, had any formal education in epidemiology, medicine or public health.

    + Little, who has an undergraduate degree in literature from the University of Toronto, testified that there were 20 people in the unit. When Presvelos asked her whether anyone in the unit had any professional experience in public health, she said there was one person, Monique St.-Laurent. According to St.-Laurent’s LinkedIn profile, she appears to be a civil servant who briefly worked for the Public Health Agency of Canada. St.-Laurent is not a doctor, Little said.(Reached on the phone, St.-Laurent confirmed that she was a member of COVID Recovery. She referred all other questions to a government spokesperson.)

    +Little suggested that a senior official in the prime minister’s Cabinet or possibly the prime minister himself had ordered COVID Recovery to impose the travel mandate. (During cross-examination, Little told Presvelos repeatedly that “discussions” about the mandate had taken place at “senior” and “very senior” levels.) But she refused to say who had given her team the order to impose the travel mandate. “I’m not at liberty to disclose anything that is subject to cabinet confidence,” she said.

    + The term “cabinet confidence” is noteworthy because it refers to the prime minister’s Cabinet. Meaning that Little could not talk about who had directed the COVID Recovery unit to impose the travel mandate because someone at the very highest levels of government was apparently behind it.

    In the days leading up to the implementation of the travel mandate, transportation officials were frantically looking for a rationale for it. They came up short.

    That was made clear by an email exchange in the latter half of October 2021 between Aaron McCrorie and Dawn Lumley-Myllari. McCrorie is the associate assistant deputy minister for safety and security in Transport Canada, the department that houses COVID Recovery. Lumley-Myllari is an official in the Public Health Agency of Canada. In the email exchange, McCrorie seemed to be casting about for a credible rationale for the travel mandate. This was less than two weeks before the mandate was set to kick in.

    “To the extent that updated data exist or that there is clearer evidence of the safety benefit of vaccination on the users or other stakeholders of the transportation system, it would be helpful to assist Transport Canada supporting its measures,” McCrorie wrote.

    Four days later, on October 22, McCrorie emailed Lumley-Myllari again: “Our requirements come in on October 30”—in just over a week—”so need something fairly soon.”

    On October 28, Lumley-Myllari replied to McCrorie with a series of bullet points outlining the benefits, generally speaking, of the Covid vaccine. She did not address McCrorie’s question about the transportation system, noting that the Public Health Agency of Canada was updating its “Public health considerations” with regard to vaccine mandates.

    Two days later, on October 30, the travel mandate took effect.

  28. By the way, Naomi Wolf is a rabid self-hating Jew, and wild conspiracy theorist. Among other things, she believes that Fauci secretly works for Israel in a cabal to undermine the US, condemns Israel of "genocide" against the Palestinians, that the US faked the videos of ISIS beheadings in justification to invade Syria, and is planning on bringing Ebola to the US to infect the citizens. Not sure why anyone is taking this mamzeres seriously. If they do, it's pretty indicative of their judgement capabilities in general. BTW, why do so many anti-vaxxers think that the Mossad was responsible for 9/11?? I personally know of a few that hold that belief. No such thing as a משוגע לדבר אחד...


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