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Home » Steve Kirsch wants a vaccine debate — science doesn’t debate

Steve Kirsch wants a vaccine debate — science doesn’t debate

Our favorite anti-vaccine tech bro Steve Kirsch, has issued a request for a debate between himself and pro-vaccine people like myself, David Gorski, and Susan Oliver. As flattered as I am that Kirsch thinks I am worthy of debating him, especially compared to Drs. Gorski and Oliver who far exceed my skills in vaccine science, I need to keep making a point that I have for years — science is not subject to “debate,” it relies on published evidence.

Since I have an overwhelming amount of published evidence that the science is settled about vaccine safety and evidence, and Steve Kirsch has nothing, it won’t be a debate. Moreover, there are hundreds of thousands of scientists, with advanced degrees in vaccine sciences like epidemiology, public health, immunology, physiology, microbiology, and virology, who should be on the stage with Kirsch. Then each of these thousands can describe the thousands of scientific articles that debunk Kirsch’s claims.

Now, I have written a lot (probably too much) about Steve Kirsch and his vaccine pseudoscience. He may be a good “tech bro,” but he hasn’t a clue about vaccines. He’s loudly proclaimed that the polio vaccine caused cancer (it doesn’t), about how COVID-19 vaccines killed millions of people (it hasn’t), and so much else.

I’ve written about the fake debate of the anti-vaccine world before — basically, it’s a public relations move. The anti-vaxxers know that no respected scientist would engage in such a debate, so they can proclaim “VICTORY.”

So let me tell you why I won’t do it.

woman shouts on man using megaphone
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

Ignoring the Steve Kirsch anti-vaccine debate spectacle

It’s so cute that Kirsch calls us “anti-anti-vaxxers,” trying to make a ridiculous point. I try not to use “pro-vaxxer” to describe myself — I am pro-science, and I let the published, peer-reviewed evidence take me where it takes me. When I read a published article, I try to go in without bias, reading the methods, statistics, and analysis, trying to see if it supports the claims that are made.

So, here are my reasons for not engaging with Kirsch and his bogus “debate.”

  1. Science is not debated, at least not in the way that Kirsch is proposing. Scientific debates usually include two (or more) real scientists discussing the methods, statistics, and analysis. Each “side” of a scientific debate uses published evidence to support their claims. Eventually, science comes to a consensus. The two sides of this “debate” are usually made of real scientists with sterling research backgrounds and education, in this case, vaccine scientists with expertise in epidemiology, public health, immunology, microbiology, physiology, and/or virology. Kirsch has none of that.
  2. Science is not a democracy. We don’t vote for a scientific theory or consensus, eventually the preponderance of evidence supports a claim. And right now, the preponderance of evidence overwhelmingly supports the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Not accepting that is simply science denialism, and so we “pro-vaxxers” would be “debating” someone who doesn’t accept the basic foundations of science. It’s kind of a waste of time.
  3. Debate is for opinion. I don’t have an opinion about vaccines — I accept the vast body of evidence that supports the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
  4. Steve Kirsch has nothing to support his claims. His latest endeavor is to use stolen patient data (yes, it was stolen) to create pseudo-epidemiology (that is what it is) to claim that COVID-19 vaccines killed some incredible number of people. I won’t go into it, because David Gorski MD tore his claims into tiny little pieces. If Kirsch was a real scientist who went a bit off the rails about vaccines, I might consider “debating” him. Of course, I’ve got those hundreds of thousands of real scientists who accept the scientific consensus on vaccines, so I probably wouldn’t accept such a debate.
  5. Steve Kirsh uses various logical fallacies, such as ad hominem attacks, confirmation bias, and the old Big Pharma shill gambit. It’s hard to have a scientific discussion with someone who can’t use real logic.

But the major reason for rejecting his kind offer for a debate is because it will have zero effect on him or his acolytes and sycophants. None of them cares even the tiniest bit about science or scientific facts. They have their minds made up, and it is a waste of my remaining neurons to engage in such a spectacle.

Of course, Steve Kirsch, who has put children’s lives at risk with his claims, couldn’t care less if I, or anyone else, debates him. He gets to declare a win either way.

Oh, there’s one more reason why I wouldn’t participate. I’m not very nice to science deniers like creationists, climate change deniers, and anti-vaxxers. At some point after banging my figurative head against the wall, I’d just start laughing hysterically and tell them where they can place their stupid claims.

At any rate, I hope this is done. But we know he’ll come back with something. Maybe he’ll offer me $5 million to do so. I mean, he is a wealthy tech bro, so, maybe? Or maybe Dr. Gorski will take him up on his offer. That I would watch it because David Gorski’s level of snark is awesome.

Michael Simpson

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