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Gorski Gaslights His Blog Readership on Skidmore et al.'s Peer-Reviewed Study
He must think his readers are pretty stupid.
As Editor-in-Chief of Science, Public Health Policy & the Law, I have established rigorous review practices and policies. To date we have published papers by invitation only. The peer-review process is as unbiased as possible: the authors of a paper do not know who the reviewers are, and we do not allow conflicts of interest between authors and reviewers.
Unlike other journals, we consider submissions that may have been wrongfully retracted. The reviewers are made aware that the paper has been sent to the journal following retraction, and why the journal is reviewing the study or paper anew.
The decision to publish or not publish the paper is entirely dependent on the feedback we receive from the peer reviewers.
The study by Mark Skidmore et al. that was published earlier this month survived peer review. The reviewers gave substantiative feedback, and the authors addressed their critiques. Fair enough. Now the paper is part of the living, published knowledge base, not lying in ashes like so many Nazi-burned books.
After publication of our substack announcing Dr. Skidmore’s exoneration by the MSU IRB, naturally, and predictably, a person named David Gorski had to try to spin the events into a narrative he always spins: that vaccine are always safe, that the IRB got it wrong, that Science, Public Health Policy & the Law is an “antivax” “fake” journal, all the usual vacuous and empirically impoverished ad hominem he could muster.
All that empirically empty noise aside, let’s look at his critique:
Rebuttal to the Critique of "COVID-19 Illness and Vaccination Experiences in Social Circles Affect COVID-19 Vaccination Decisions"
The critique of the study by Skidmore et al. raises several points that ostensibly question the study's methodology and conclusions. However, upon closer examination, the critique itself exhibits several weaknesses that undermine its validity. This rebuttal aims to address these issues, focusing on the critique's misrepresentation of facts, lack of contextualization, and other misleading tactics.
The Gaslighting of His Readers: Misrepresentation of Sample Size
The critique erroneously tries to emphasize that the study extrapolates from 39 vaccine-related fatalities to make nationwide estimates. This is a misleading representation. The actual sample size of the study is 2,840 participants, not 39. Thirty-nine is a result, it’s an estimate, not a sample size. Such a misrepresentation not only undermines the critique's credibility but also misguides the reader about the robustness of the study's data. If they cannot see this gaslighting technique, they are not as intelligent as the readers of Popular Rationalism, who can see through this obvious charade.
Lack of Contextualization
Gorski, critique accuses the study of making broad claims based on a small number of fatalities without providing the necessary context. The study employs statistical methods to analyze data from 2,840 participants, and the 39 fatalities are contextualized within this framework. The critique's failure to provide this context undermines its own argument, casting doubt on its intent and validity.
This sounds like a repeat of the gaslight, but it’s actually a general feature of bona fide critical thinking to consider context, too. Double-bad on Gorski
Ignoring Methodological Nuances
The critique broadly labels the study's methodology as flawed without engaging with the specifics of how the study conducted its analyses. The study employs logit regression analyses among other statistical methods, which the critique fails to address. This omission is a significant weakness, as it dismisses the study's findings without adequately challenging the methods that led to those findings.
Reliance on Pedestrian Speculation
ORCA claims that the study ignores other causes of death. Actually, the study included the following passage:
“However, the CDC overcount should not affect the results of this examination because medical authorities are charged with reporting cause of death based on CDC requirements. Further, medical personnel will also likely tell loved ones that COVID-19 was the cause of death, even though the cause of death may have been associated with other underlying health conditions. Some of the respondent comments reveal complicating conditions. For example, some respondents reported that a person they know died from COVID-19, but they also noted that the person had cancer, had a heart condition, etc. In summary, medical personnel have the charge of reporting COVID-19 fatalities as per CDC requirements as well as tell loved ones that COVID-19 was cause of death. In turn, survey respondents who report knowing someone who died from COVID-19 are likely repeating explanations on cause of death from medical personnel.”
And Table 4, for example, includes responses from respondents on COVID-19 deaths
Further, the survey has open-ended questions by which respondents could clarify. All material is available in the study’s extensive provide Supplementary Material, again, ignored by Gorski, revealing academic sloth on his part.
Overemphasis on VAERS Data
The critique tries to criticize the study's use of VAERS data for comparison. While it is valid to question the reliability of VAERS, the critique misleads the reader into thinking that the study's findings are solely dependent on this database. This is not the case, and the critique's overemphasis on VAERS data is a disservice to a balanced study evaluation.
Gorski then also fails to call for mandatory reporting to VAERS with penalties for physicians who fail to report. He fails to bring forward the fact that the consistency between the data types lends credence to the study’s conclusions.
His agenda is showing.
Absence of Counterarguments and Full Contextualization of Deaths
An earnest critique should offer alternative approaches or counterarguments or state the manner in which the analysis or design could have been improved. Gorski’s critique fails to do anything like that. It points out (incorrectly) perceived flaws but does not offer any alternative methodologies or solutions. This absence weakens the critique's position and raises questions about its comprehensiveness and objectivity.
Gorski should have acknowledged deaths that have clearly been attributed to COVID-19 vaccines. But he won’t: Because he has to stick with his vaccine advocacy, he can’t. Thus, his in an impractical, unethical, and untenable position to sustain.
The critique employs selective quoting, choosing specific lines and figures from the study to critique. This tactic creates a skewed perception of the study and is intellectually dishonest if the aim is to provide a balanced evaluation.
The good news is that the study is open-access due to generous gifts from the public to support the journal via IPAK-EDU. [How You Can Support the Journal]
On the Robustness and Rigor of Skidmore et al. (2023)
The study by Mark Skidmore et al., recently published in Science, Public Health Policy & the Law, has garnered attention and critique, particularly concerning its methodology. This document aims to provide a robust defense of the methodological choices made in the study, emphasizing their scientific rigor and appropriateness for the research questions posed.
The study employed a sample size of 2,840 participants, a figure that provides a reasonable basis for statistical inference. Contrary to some critiques, the number 39, which refers to vaccine-related fatalities, is not the sample size but an estimate derived from the data. The sample size is robust enough to lend credibility to the study's findings.
The study uses logit regression analyses among other statistical methods to analyze the data. These are standard techniques in epidemiological studies and are well-suited for analyzing the effects of multiple variables simultaneously. The choice of these methods aligns with the study's objectives and contributes to the robustness of the findings.
The study does not merely present raw numbers but contextualizes them within the broader framework of COVID-19 experiences and vaccination decisions. This approach allows for a nuanced understanding of the data, addressing the critique that the study makes "broad claims based on a small number of fatalities."
While the study does incorporate data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), it does so for comparative purposes and does not solely rely on this database for its conclusions. The critique's overemphasis on the use of VAERS data misrepresents the study's multifaceted approach to data analysis.
The study explicitly acknowledges and discusses potential confounding factors, such as underlying health conditions. This is evident in the study's inclusion of open-ended questions and its extensive supplementary material, which provides additional context for the quantitative data.
The study underwent rigorous ethical oversight, receiving approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Furthermore, it survived a peer-review process that included substantive feedback, to which the authors responded adequately. This adds an additional layer of validation to the study's methodology.
The study is transparent in its methods and findings, providing extensive supplementary material for further scrutiny. Its open-access nature ensures that the scientific community can engage with it fully, further validating or critiquing its methods and conclusions.
The methodology employed in the study by Mark Skidmore et al. adheres to scientific rigor and is well-suited to address the research questions posed. While no study is beyond critique, it is crucial that such critiques are grounded in a thorough understanding of the study's methods, rather than misrepresentations or oversimplifications. The methodological choices made in this study are both defensible and appropriate, contributing to its value in the ongoing discourse on COVID-19 vaccination experiences and decisions.
In light of these points, Gorki’s critique's approach appears to rely on the readership's inability to discern its misleading tactics from bona fide critique.
Such tactics compromise the critique's integrity and do a disservice to scientific discourse. It is imperative for critiques to adhere to the principles of reason, science, and logic to contribute constructively to academic and public discussions.
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