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Thursday, July 1, 2021

Degrees and Disinformation

  In The Politics of Autism, I write:

Many articles and blog posts arguing for the vaccine-autism link have the trappings of genuine academic research: tables, graphs, citations, and scientific jargon. Some of the authors have credentials such as M.D. or Ph.D. degrees. None of these things is a guarantee of scientific value, as the history of science is full of crackpot theories (e.g., AIDS denialism) that are the heavily-footnoted products of people with letters after their names. But most people will not be able to spot the scientific weaknesses of such work. Outside of academia, few understand concepts such as peer review. Jordynn Jack describes one dubious article that appeared in a non-peer-reviewed publication: “Regardless of the scientific validity of the article, though, the writers perform the writing style quite effectively. It would be difficult for the layperson to distinguish this article from any other scientific research paper, especially if one did not investigate the nature of the journal … or of the scientific response to the article.”

Harrison Mantas at Poynter:

June also saw a continuation of people with advanced degrees using/abusing the societal respect conferred upon their academic achievement to make unfounded claims about COVID-19. Agence France Presse knocked down a claim by one of the “disinformation dozen” about vaccine shedding, which is the false notion that vaccinated people can shed vaccines and vaccinate the unvaccinated (that’s not how vaccines work).