How BetterSkeptics lived up to its acronym

The backdrop

Sometime in April 2021 Bret Weinstein started flirting with antivaxx misinformation. Their first date was when he invited Geert Vanden Bosche on his podcast and instead of challenging Geert’s outlandish claims seemed to fawn over them.

In a few short weeks, Bret turned full antivaxxer and an avid ivermectin fan, which culminated in his “How to save the world” podcast with known antivaxxers Steve Kirsch and Robert Malone, as well as podcasts with an ivermectin superfan Pierre Kory: one ominously titled “COVID, Ivermectin, and the Crime of the Century”, and another “Emergency podcast” with Joe Rogan.

Those podcasts got millions of views, and emboldened Bret to further amplify his antivaxx and ivermectin messaging. Considering that Bret and Heather have weekly podcasts where they have been repeating the same points week to week, they just might have been the biggest source of antivaxx and ivermectin misinformation in the world during this pandemic.

Who knows how many people they managed to persuade to follow their example of forgoing vaccinations in favor of “prophylactic ivermectin”. After all, Bret sounded extremely convinced in the protective powers of ivermectin against Covid, and even took it live on air:

https://twitter.com/ydeigin/status/1425613829497663498

Ironically, a few short months later Bret would find himself live-eating his words rather than ivermectin, as he had to distance himself from the Carvallo study which alone formed the basis for his conviction in ivermectin’s 100% efficacy at preventing Covid (23:48 timestamp):

However, back at the start of Bret’s descent into antivaxxery, many people who were more qualified to assess biomedical claims have tried to tell Bret he is wrong, but to no avail. He ignored criticism and plowed straight into promoting deadly misinformation that almost certainly resulted in deaths of some of those he managed to persuade.

The pushback and the anti-pushback

In July, Claire Berlinski and I came out with a public criticism of Bret’s medical misinformation campaign in our Quillette article. That’s when a hitherto unknown DarkHorse superfan leapt to Bret’s defense: Alexandros Marinos wrote a long Twitter thread about our article that tried to debunk it “line-by-line” .

Marinos’ chivalry did not go unnoticed by Bret and Heather, as they mentioned him and his thread quite favorably on their podcasts, agreeing that they do, in fact, need better skeptics — better than Claire and I, presumably. Alas, Marinos’ BetterSkeptics project was born.

By the way, thanks to his efforts, Marinos would later gain favor with another antivaxxer, Robert Malone, whose opinion he seemed to value very highly:

Here is how Marinos personally describes the idea behind the project:

The BS project went live 10 days after Marinos’ original Twitter thread. The crux of it was as follows: it nominated 3 referees to assess any submitted claims from 4 podcasts featuring Bret: the three podcasts I already mentioned above, as well as DarkHorse podcast #87 where Bret and Heather addressed the criticisms in our Quillette article.

The claims submitted to BS were meant to point out falsehoods or unsupported statements made by Bret or his guests. The referees would then give a grade to each claim, and claims that got enough points would make it to the next round, where they could be “appealed” by others with counter-evidence, after which the referees would render their final decisions.

Ultimately, 126 claims would be submitted, of which 44 were deemed to be “assessable” by referees, i.e. worthy to be analyzed by the refs and receive a validity score from 0 to 5. That was the “S1 score”, or the grade after the first round.

12 of the 44 claims made it to the next round, which then mimicked an appeals court where defenders of Bret and Heather could challenge initially validated claims in an attempt to overturn them. If they succeeded, the referees would lower the score of a previously validated claim rendering it no longer so. The “S2 score” after this round was the final score. Whatever claims would survive the two rounds with an aggregate score of 9 or above would be deemed as validated by the BS project.

Of the 12 initially validated claims, 9 would ultimately be overturned, resulting in just 3 claims of 44 to be ruled false or unsupported by the referees. Following a public outcry, the organizers then surprisingly re-reviewed, and then “over-overturned” 2 of those 9 overturned claims, for a final total of 5 claims of 44 to ultimately be ruled false or unsupported.

Doomed from the start

The biggest problem of the BS project was as glaring as it was obvious: only 1 of the 3 referees had the requisite expertise to assess biomedical claims: Dr. Jocelynn Pearl who has a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology and actual drug development experience. The other two referees were Max Borders and Paul Crowley. Max is a philosopher and writer, and Paul is a software engineer. Obviously, peer review is only as good as the peers doing the reviewing.

The difference in referee expertise becomes obvious if one compares the sheer number of claims that Max or Paul would deem worthy of qualifying for the next round (by giving claims a score of 3 or above) to that of Jocelynn.

Jocelynn gave a passing score to 36 of the 44 claims:

While Paul and Max gave passing scores to just 12 and 14 claims, respectively:

The second issue is that the evaluation process was not blinded: all referees saw each other’s grades and comments in real time. Also, Max and Paul were usually a couple of days behind Jocelynn in their analysis, and thus had the benefit of seeing Jocelyn’s marks so they could adjust theirs to potentially ensure the desired outcome.

Another very important point that deserves mention is the following: for a claim to qualify for the next round, it needed to receive a score of 9 or above aggregated from the 3 referees, and in the beginning Jocelynn was giving scores of 5, 4 or 3 to the claims she considered valid. But within a day or two of the start of the project, Paul has decided that 3 should really be the maximum score for any valid claim, and subsequently convinced the other referees of this:

This would now imply that for any claim to make it to the next round, all 3 referees would need to unanimously agree on that. Is there any wonder then that just 12 claims made it through?

Even so, 12 potential falsehoods must have seemed like too much to the DarkHorse superfan BS organizers, and 9 of the 12 were quickly overturned after an emotional outburst by Marinos:

https://twitter.com/ydeigin/status/1425720854386823170

The absurdity of the overturning process did not go unnoticed, and ultimately resulted in the project sheepishly reinstating 2 of the overturned claims, contrary to the project’s own rules:

https://twitter.com/BetterSkeptics/status/1428421637624406021

Claims

Let us now dive into the actual claims that were submitted to the BS project.

Validated falsehoods

First, here are the 5 claims the project verified as false or unsupported.

Claim #1 (IVM 100%)

Target quote: [00:03:40] Bret: All right. I’m unvaccinated but I am on Prophylactic Ivermectin, and the data actually shocking as this will be to some people, the data suggests that Prophylactic Ivermectin is something like a 100% effective at preventing people from contracting COVID when taken properly.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. The only source supporting ivermectin’s 100% efficacy against Covid was the deeply flawed Carvallo study, and even Bret has now distanced himself from it.

In some ways, it was quite vindicating to see the BS project validate the most important falsehood on which Bret’s entire narrative was built: that ivermectin is 100% effective at preventing Covid. Take that claim out and Bret’s entire house of cards comes crashing down.

Claim #2 (Vaccine spread)

Target quote: [00:12:21] Steve: And so, if it was really a safe vaccine, then what I just saw was impossible. So that’s kind of what triggered me off on this, and then I had been on this Canadian of physicians call, uh, with Dr. um, Byram, uh, Bridle. And he, uh, showed this chart and he said, “Normally, when you vaccinate someone, the vaccine goes in the shoulder, and it stays in the shoulder, in-in the shoulder area. And what happens is the antibodies are generated and then they attack the, um, this antigen, in the shoulder, and it wipes it out, and-and we’re good.”

This is one of those flip-flopping claims. It made it through the first round, was then overturned by the refs in S2 but ultimately reinstated by the organizers. I guess because it would be too embarrassing to not validate this obvious falsehood.

Claim #6 (Skipped animal trials)

Target quote: [00:23:16] Bret: […] Now, Heather and I on this program when we heard how the vaccines worked and that they had been accelerated through this process our sense was, uh, you’re gonna deliver a brand new technology with respect to deploying it in humans, and it’s going to interact with the immune system, and you’re gonna speed it through this process. We did not know that it had skipped the animal trials that might have alerted us to something really dangerous, um, [crosstalk] there.

[00:23:50] Steve: Yeah, they didn’t even- they didn’t even test the vaccine in itself in the animal trials.

Well, at least this ridiculously wrong claim was validated.

Claim #8 (WHO airborne)

Target quote: [00:14:16] Kory: So-so right now, the CDC finally came around and admits that it’s airborne transmitted, the WHO still does not.

This one was an obvious slam dunk, as at the time of the podcast, the WHO recognized airborne spread of Covid for almost two months.

Claim #10 (ZBW IVM)

Target quote: [01:35:01] Kory: […]. South Africa and Zimbabwe, especially Zimbabwe, when they were getting hurt earlier in this year, they basically eradicated COVID with the widespread adoption of Ivermectin. They were doing dealing with the South African variant.

This is the second flip-flopping claim which was overturned by refs in S2 but resurrected by the organizers. Ivermectin use was obviously far from widespread in Zimbabwe, and at the time of the podcast Zimbabwe was in the midst of its third wave with skyrocketing infection numbers.

Validated but then overturned

Now let’s look at what claims the refs initially agreed were false or unsupported but then changed their mind.

Claim #3 (Spike toxicity):

Target quote: [00:13:22] Bret: And the other- the other problem and this is your area of expertise, is that what the- what these vaccines do is they encode spike protein, alone, so that the immune system will learn to recognize by protein and will catch it quickly when one is confronted with COVID. But the spike protein itself, we now know is very dangerous and cytotoxic. Is that a fair description?

What Bret was claiming there is that the vaccines encode a lone spike protein that is known to be “very dangerous and cytotoxic” by itself, i.e. not as part of a virion. It is an obvious falsehood based on an incorrect interpretation of the “Salk study” which the study’s own author refuted on numerous occasions.

The refs initially recognized this but then for some reason decided to cite the very same Salk study as a justification for overturning the claim, completely omitting the lone part of the spike being cytotoxic, and choosing to ignore several counts of evidence that proved the lone spike is not toxic in concentrations many orders of magnitude greater than what is seen in humans after vaccination:

https://twitter.com/ydeigin/status/1417213855177101324

I was quite disappointed to see the BS refs waver on this obvious falsehood as it formed the basis for a lot of Bret’s antivaxx fearmondering and should have been vocally refuted.

Claims #4 & 5 (vaccines and ovaries):

Target quote: [00:13:53] Steve: And-and to be fair, the FDA did not think that, um, the S1 subunit and the spike protein was toxic. And so, they knew, the FDA knew about the biodistribution. And-and one of the scary things is that the biodistribution like peaks in your ovaries.

Now, this claim is blatantly false. It has been shown time and time again that Kirsch blindly used a misleading graph that omitted tissues with concentrations 2–15x higher than that of the ovaries:

Based on his misunderstanding, Kirsch then proceeded to wax poetic on it with some illogical scaremongering that betrayed a lack of biological understanding:

Eventually, the group that made the original graph that Kirsch used subsequently corrected it by putting other tissues with higher concentrations:

But for some reason they still omitted the injection site, which dwarfs all other sites when included:

Moreover, the study in question that Kirsch got his graph from was done in rats, so “peaks in your ovaries” is doubly misleading. How in the world the BS project failed to validate this obvious falsehood is beyond me. Their explanation is as illogical as it is juvenile:

Conclusion: Ineffective. The first challenge focused on the technicality of the word “peak”, and missed an opportunity to discuss whether the concentration found in the ovaries is scary or significant, especially in the light that subsequent repeat-dose studies didn’t find elevated levels in the ovaries. That said, the word “peak” is clearly a source of ambiguity, and we feel that specifying that the quote could have clarified that the study was done in rats, especially in light of the word “your” in front of “ovaries”.

Technicality of the word ‘peak’, eh? This just might rival the infamous Clinton quote: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”.

Claim #7 (Remdesivir cost):

Target quote: [02:00:17] Robert: MBAs controlling the practice of medicine and, uh, the use of alternative drugs. The other disincentive they have, and this is- this is really, you know, coming out of the federal treasury. This is coming out of your tax dollars. Okay? Is that, um, they don’t make the same compensation if-if they’re- if they prescribe remdesivir, you know, $6,000 or $8,000 pop, um, for treatment course, versus they prescribe ivermectin. Okay?

The cost of a treatment course of remdesivir is $3,120, which the BS project directly acknowledges. But then instead of validating the obviously false claim, the project comes up with the lamest excuse for not doing so:

After reading the above, it becomes crystal clear the entire project is just an exercise in exonerating Bret and Heather, and watching the (il)logical pirouettes the organizers are capable of performing to accomplish their goal could make anyone dizzy.

Claim #9 (ZBW eradicated Covid):

Target quote: [01:35:01] Kory: […]. South Africa and Zimbabwe, especially Zimbabwe, when they were getting hurt earlier in this year, they basically eradicated COVID with the widespread adoption of Ivermectin.

When the podcast in question took place, Zimbabwe was well into its third wave of the virus:

This should have been one of the easiest claims to validate. And yet, the Better Contortionists managed to wiggle their way out of doing so with yet another exercise in rationalization:

I don’t even…

Claim #11 (FLCCC 0.2 mg)

Target quote: [00:42:01] Heather: Uh, and the results were so staggeringly promising with regard to the ivermectin and carrageenan, so then they did the-the bigger study, which had 1195 healthcare workers in Argentina, uh, in which 788, about two-thirds of them were put on this combination of ivermectin and carrageenan. Uh, difference being in the main study in 1195 people study, uh, the ivermectin was, um, a-a weekly dose. It’s actually exactly the, uh, same protocol that the FLCCC has-has put up as — What is it called the [unintelligible 00:43:03] Math+ protocol I think. It’s like two mgs per kilogram bodyweight — . [00:43:08] Bret: Two milligrams. .2 milligrams per kilogram body weight.

Ok, if there is any claim I am content with being invalidated or overturned, this one’s it. Heather clearly confused the names of the FLCCC protocols, and the prophylactic one did indeed have 0.2 mg/kg at the time.

Claim #12 (IVM teratogenic):

Target quote: [01:17:01] Heather: […] Uh, to the second paper, uh, which they cite for the teratogenicity of the drug, um, the people actually find the opposite.

Here again the refs pull the Bill Clinton defense by debating what is actually meant by “find the opposite”. The opposite of labeling the drug as teratogenic is establishing that the drug is NOT teratogenic, i.e. that there have been no observed teratogenic effects in human or animal studies. This stands in stark contrast with the study we cite which reported a 15% increased risk of stillbirths and spontaneous abortions, and a 69% increased risk of congenital abnormalities.

Calling this “finding the opposite” of teratogenicity is clearly false. And yet, the BS project managed to overturn this claim.

Claim #13 (IVM fertility effects):

Target quote: [01:17:01] Heather: […] So to these particular claims, uh, we just say that the paper that they cite for testicular- testicular dysfunction, um, A, it’s in rats, it’s not in humans, and they- and the-the paper itself says, “Ivermectin and acaricide and anthelmin-helminthic drug of the family of Avermectins produced by streptomyces, avermitilis cultures, is a well-tolerated drug with no side effects in mammals in pharmacological doses.” Now, this is in the introduction of the paper which Berlinski and Deigin are claiming as finding statistically dysfunction. And when you actually read the paper, you find that there are tiny effects maybe but it’s in combination with this other drug, Verapamil, in which fertility meiotic effects become an issue. So that’s cheating. That’s not the result that they were claiming.

Here the BSers used the an interesting new tactic to overturn the claim they initially validated: “Only the abstract of the study is available for free”. I guess the fact that I posted the relevant table from the actual paper in my original submission somehow escaped their attention:

That table clearly shows that ivermectin alone does have negative effects, which is why the claim was a slam dunk to begin with, and should have stayed that way.

Rejected outright

Now let’s look as some clearly valid claims that did not even make it past the first round.

Submitted Claims #29 and 45 (vaccines not safe for women at all)

[02:20:57] Steve: Yeah. And-and-and-and it’s the-the cognitive dissonance between what the CDC says is that this is safe for pregnant women.

[02:21:05] Bret: Right. It’s cra- at some level, it’s not safe for women at all.

This one is really weird. Steve and Bret make an obviously invalid claim, which two BS refs agree should be validated as ‘unsupported’ but Paul misunderstands it and decides to reject it completely by giving it a 0 (I guess because even a 1 would have given the claim the necessary 9 points to be validated):

I then provided extra context to clear Paul’s misunderstanding, and Jocelynn and Max again agreed the claim should be upheld but Paul again gave it a 0:

Thus a clearly valid claim that got a grade of 5 from Jocelynn and a 3 from Max did not even make it through the first round.

Claims #12, 13, 14 (ivermectin can eradicate Covid and end the pandemic in a month):

1: https://www.betterskeptics.com/transcript-how-to-save-the-world-in-three-easy-steps/

[00:04:45] Steve: One-one could argue that if everybody just took Ivermectin for a month, worldwide — we would end the pandemic.

2: https://www.betterskeptics.com/transcript-jre-1671-bret-weinstein-dr-pierre-kory/

[00:57:47] Bret: All right, a couple of things. Um, one, Jamie, can you put the abstract to that paper back up? Because there’s this thing so the world is very focused on using ivermectin to treat COVID, which I understand, but we miss this other thing. So scroll down a little bit. Therapeutic advances, there it is, sentence in the middle. Okay, this might be one of the most important sentences written this century. Low certainty evidence found that ivermectin prophylactic — prophylaxis reduced COVID-19 infection by an average of 86%, 95% confidence interval between 79% and 91%.

So, that sentence actually, is a hallelujah sentence. Because what it means is, even if ivermectin were completely ineffective at treating people who have COVID, that number is high enough, because it is over the number, uh, that we understand herd immunity to be for this disease. Uh, any number that has been proposed, uh, as far as I know, because that number is so high, what it means is that ivermectin alone, if properly utilized, is capable of driving this pathogen to extinction.

3: https://www.betterskeptics.com/transcript-covid-ivermectin-and-the-crime-of-the-century-darkhorse-podcast-with-pierre-kory-bret-weinstein/

[00:58:22] Dr. Kory: You could eradicate, period.

[00:58:22] Dr. Weinstein: — is clearly enough to end the pandemic, and the benefit, very few people understand really what we’re up against because they don’t think about this in evolutionary terms, the longer we leave that bug out there, the longer it is transmitting between people, the greater the chance that it evolves into something we can’t eradicate like seasonal influenza.

[00:58:42] Dr. Kory: There’s no question. Thank you for bringing that.

On at least three separate occasions Bret or his guests claim that ivermectin alone can eradicate Covid and end the pandemic. This is an obviously ridiculous claim, and should have been easy work for the BS project. Jocelynn saw that clearly, Max was splitting hairs about what ‘is’ is, and Paul just rejected the submissions outright:

Shame.

Claims #42 and 43 (leukemias and lymphomas):

[02:21:25] Bret: — preferentially. Yes, the lipid is ending up there. And then the other place that we have a signal, which I think suggests something we need to worry farther down the road. You tell me, Robert, if I’m on the right track here or not. But the fact that it shows up concentrating in bone marrow.

[02:21:39] Steve: Bad news.

[02:21:40] Bret: Actually that suggests that you could end up with — And I’m not saying this is gonna happen, but I’m saying we need to look for something like leukemias showing up here, because of their creation in the bone marrow. I know from other work, that it also seems to show up preferentially in-in, uh, lymph nodes, which raises the question of whether or not, uh, lymphomas might be created. In any case, these are possible long-term effects that we have no way of knowing, but don’t arise because these things have not been injected into people for more than a year.

Leukemia is a cancer of the early blood-forming cells. Lymphomas are a group of blood cancers caused by an oncotransformation of lymphocytes, a subclass of immune system cells like T- and B-cells. For a cell to turn cancerous, driver mutations are necessary. Such mutations are usually endogenous but could also be caused by external factors: radiation or chronic exposure to external carcinogens, e.g. asbestos or cigarette smoke. Mutations by definition happen in the DNA of cells, and DNA is located in the nucleus.

Unlike DNA vaccines, mRNA vaccines deliver inside cells an already transcribed RNA molecule which never goes into the nucleus. This was the inspiration behind the mRNA platform, as it eliminates oncogenic risk, since mRNA cargo cannot integrate into cell genome, unlike the DNA one. Moreover, mRNA cargo delivered in mRNA vaccines disappears from the body within 1–2 weeks.

In fact, Moderna’s founder Derrick Rossi is on record saying that his inspiration for the mRNA platform was trying to deliver Yamanaka genes into cells without the risk of oncotransformation:

Moreover, all vaccines “show up in the lymph nodes”, as that is where immune system training happens. In all of the history of vaccines, no cases of vaccine-caused lymphomas have been observed. Thus, there is no plausible mechanism by which mRNA vaccines could cause leukemia or lymphomas, and Bret’s two scaremongering claims are completely unjustified.

These two obviously unsupported claims got a 4 from Jocelynn and a 3 from Paul but then Max killed them with 0 and 1 grades based on very weak reasoning:

Claims #26 and 28 (variants do not escape ivermectin)

[01:22:14] Dr. Kory: It’s no question. Then so what the phrase that we like is that we consider it a bridge to and a safety net for. The other reason why it’s a safety net is because of these escape variants. The idea that these vaccines are going to have long-term efficacy is not clear. They seem to be working quite well as far as on the efficacy side, the safety, I’ll leave alone for now, but we don’t know what it’s going to look long-term. Ivermectin, on the other hand, is doing incredibly against all the variants. We know that in the areas of Brazil that did a concerted use of it, it was crushing the P.1 variant, especially if you use it early.

We knew it for doctors on the ground. There are cities in Brazil that used it. That totally, it is completely effective against the deadly P.1 in Brazil. The South African variant, which gave them fits a few months ago, that went to Zimbabwe. 60% to 90% of the cases in Zimbabwe, whether it’s South African variant, they literally eradicated COVID using ivermectin in Zimbabwe.

We know it did well against South Africa, did well against the P.1, the UK variant, which went to Eastern Europe, Slovakia, and Czech Republic, they adopted international guidelines, cases and death counts plummeted. All of the variants, it has so many mechanisms of action. We still don’t know all the mechanisms, and we’re still not positive on what exactly the mechanisms are, but the ones that we think are, there’s multiple, and they’re not going to deal with — the variants are not going to escape this. It has many tentacles.

[01:24:39] Bret: Now, you could imagine, and in fact, I wondered, whether or not ivermectin was going to suffer the same fate that effectively we were going to get resistance because, like an antibiotic, it is having some action, and to the extent that there are variants that aren’t susceptible, they have an advantage but what you’re telling me is that. actually, empirically speaking, if nothing else, whether we know the mechanism or not empirically speaking, the variants do not appear to escape ivermectin. They do appear to escape vaccines.

These are absolutely unsupported musings by Bret and Kory with zero evidence to back them up. As such, these claims should have quickly been validated by the refs. Jocelynn gave them a 4, Max 3 and 2, but then Paul, while agreeing with the logic of his fellow refs, gave them 0s with an extremely surprising rationalization:

I agree with your reasoning and I think this reasoning is bogus, but “the podcast correctly states the evidence, reasons from it in a way they make clear, and there’s an error in their reasoning” isn’t nearly strong enough to back the claim that Dark Horse propagates falsehoods.

Wait, what?

Claim #32 (grossly underreported VAERS deaths)

[01:02:16] Steve: Which means 5,000 reports translates into 500,000 deaths. And I don’t think it’s that high. Okay?

[01:02:31] Steve: Right. It’s not that high, but-but it’s higher. It’s — I guarantee you it’s higher.

Even the 5000 VAERS death reports at the time of the podcast were yet unconfirmed to be caused by vaccines — in fact, most were ruled not to be. And the 100x estimate for underreported events cannot be extrapolated to underreported deaths, as the original estimate comes from a 2011 report assessing all possible adverse events after vaccinations, the overwhelming majority of which are benign: headache, fever, pain at injection site, etc.

Moreover, the lack of correlation between vaccination rates and reported VAERS deaths clearly refutes the causal link between vaccines and VAERS deaths:

Ironically, at some point Marinos personally tried to challenge my analysis above only to subsequently validate it:

https://twitter.com/alexandrosM/status/1424379421033590785

As an aside, this wasn’t the only time Marinos opined on the VAERS data. When he leapt to Bret’s defense against Sam Harris’ criticisms, he claimed that the bad design of the VAERS website might be responsible for a 10x underreporting of VAERS deaths:

https://twitter.com/alexandrosM/status/1418862092975702016

Yup, he said that. That bad VAERS website design would cause 90% of the people who come to it to report a potentially vaccine-related death to turn away. This is ridiculous for several reasons: most potential adverse events are reported by medical professionals who are required by law to report them, and they are well familiar with the VAERS system. And any laypeople who might also want to submit something, would also be able to navigate through the 3 pages of a VAERS submission — it is not flashy but pretty straighforward.

Anyways, coming back to the original VAERS claim at hand — Jocelynn again gave this claim a passing grade but the other two refs did not, even despite agreeing that Kirsch’s claim is unsubstantiated in the comments:

Sigh.

Claims 30 and 44 (Quillette authors don’t know what prophylaxis means):

[00:39:34] Heather: the authors of the Quillette article don’t seem to know what prophylaxis means. …

[00:40:48] Bret: Yeah, so they absolutely screw up. And somehow it got through the editing process.

This claim refers to our Quillette article, so I am obviously an interested party here, but the claim is still clearly false and should have been upheld as such. Heather simply misunderstood what the paragraph she quoted was saying.

Here is a screenshot of the full quote from our Quillette article:

Note the italicized any in “any significant benefit”. Any there stands for either prophylactic or treatment benefit, and the reference to the JAMA study is meant to highlight that even as treatment (i.e. not as crazy a suggestion as promoting ivermectin over vaccines for prophylaxis), ivermectin has no proven benefit when the clinical trial is done properly. It is very clear from our JAMA quote that the study we cite talks about treatment (“patients with mild COVID-19”).

With lack of evidence for ivermectin’s efficacy even for treatment out of the way, our next paragraph then dives into the prophylactic comparison of ivermectin to vaccines, explaining why it’s not even close. Just from that paragraph alone it should be clear we know what prophylaxis means.

Jocelynn clearly agreed that the claim should be validated, as she gave it a score of 5 but Max and Paul simply refused to give it any consideration. Max gave it a 0 with the following eyebrow-raising explanation:

This counterclaim is trying to do too many things. You can’t falsify a claim in which someone says “seems,” because that just makes it subjective. It seems to her that X is unfalsifiable, because the seem means it’s true for her, even if she were in error. Let’s get beyond this kind of petty stuff as the referees’ time is valuable.

Even if Heather’s “seems” should have then given her a free pass to say any falsehood (by Max’s logic), Bret’s subsequent “Yeah, they absolutely screw up” agreement should have nullified the indulgence given to Heather by Pope Maximums. Paul was also unwilling to validate the claim based on highly dubious logic:

Even after I resubmitted it with clarification, the refs refused to budge. Paul’s comment is the most telling: “Still not allowing this one. The Quillette article played stupid games and won stupid prizes.”

So much for fact-based analysis.

Claim #19 (soil bacteria):

[00:17:30] Bret: the fact that the drug in question, Ivermectin, comes from, uh, soil bacteria, it’s not a completely synthetic molecule, means that that it is likely to be similar to the things that one’s ancestors have encountered before and there’s, therefore, a good chance that the body has a reasonably elegant way of dealing with it rather than uh, using some mechanism that’s-that’s not so great.

This is a clearly unsupported claim by Bret. There is no evidence that there is “a good chance that the body has a reasonably elegant way of dealing with” a molecule extracted from soil bacteria. There are plenty of counterexamples of toxic molecules found in soil bacteria:

The refs agreed the claim was unsupported but for some reason not strongly enough:

Conclusion

Even if the referees or organizers of the BS project might not agree, thanks to their efforts, it is now crystal clear that just four of the podcasts they analyzed were rife with falsehoods and mortally dangerous medical misinformation.

As I said, since Bret and Heather have weekly podcasts where they have been repeating the same points over and over, they just might have been the biggest source of antivaxx and ivermectin misinformation in the world. They reached tens if not hundreds of millions of viewers, and almost certainly convinced many people to forgo vaccinations in favor of “prophylactic ivermectin”.

Even though they have now greatly subdued their antivaxx/ivermectin crusade and renounced some of their crazier claims, they are under the impression that the BS project has somehow provided them with a “clean bill of health”. They have repeated this on a number of occasions, and Marinos himself seems to promote this spin on the results of the project.

I hope that after reading this analysis you will be convinced that nothing could be further from the truth. Even ivermectin couldn’t rescue Bret and Heather’s suffocating antivaxx narrative, which upon close examination is revealed to be total BS.

References

Here is the full BS project spreadsheet with all of the submitted claims and referee comments:

PS: If you found this article informative, you might also enjoy this one:

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Preventing death is my life’s mission. I am a drug developer currently working on a rejuvenating gene therapy using the approach of partial reprogramming.

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Yuri Deigin

Yuri Deigin

Preventing death is my life’s mission. I am a drug developer currently working on a rejuvenating gene therapy using the approach of partial reprogramming.

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