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GORSKI'S LAW: A Skeptic Ends Discussion by Calling You Anti-Vax
Quacking that everyone is a medical quack, David Gorski is America’s most famed debunker of pseudoscience and a clinical case study in 'argumentum ad anti-vax.'
6 minute read
Last February, Dr. Marty Makary of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that COVID cases in America had dropped 77% and that the pandemic virus would be mostly gone by now. Saying that he did not “necessarily agree” with Makary’s numbers, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that he expected some return to normalcy by this summer, but he predicted problems again in America by Christmas.
Such polite exchange is refreshing, but is seldom the norm, especially with vaccines. When Makary published an essay at MedPage Today titled “Think Twice Before Giving the COVID Vax to Healthy Kids,” his call for caution in vaccinating children caused an immediate backlash from physician David Gorski, who tweeted that Dr. Makary is a “crank.”
Among the legion of self-licensed pseudoscience debunkers, none comes more credentialed for relentless skewering of medical quackery than Dr David Gorski, the extremely-online surgeon and managing editor of the sometimes factual yet always confident skeptic portal Science-Based Medicine. (Note to reader: any Website with both “science” and “medicine” in the title must always, always be trusted.)
Unlike other pro-science nags marketing themselves to credulous media as unimpeachable debunking authorities by endlessly bitching about vitamin supplements or obsessing over Hollywood actress/alt-health guru Gwyneth Paltrow, Gorski never shirks from his Hippocratic duty to expose fellow physicians for crankery and pseudoscience (yes, irony intended).
In 2013, Gorski spoke at the National Science Foundation where he blasted the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as “a major force for quackademic medicine,” a claim that sits somewhat outside mainstream medical opinion, to put it mildly.
Founded in 1950, under the auspices of the American Medical Association (AMA), AMSA is the oldest and largest independent association for future leaders of U.S. medicine. Among its many renowned past members, former AMSA presidents include:
Dr. Leana Wen - Emergency physician and former Baltimore city health commissioner who is now a CNN medical analyst and Washington Post contributing columnist.
Dr. Kavita Patel - Brookings Institution fellow in health studies who served as President Obama’s White House director of policy for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement.
Dr. Helen Burstin - Executive Vice President of the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and former federal official for health information technology and quality of care.
Dr. Valerie E. Stone – Harvard Medical School’s first African-American professor of medicine and a nationally recognized expert on HIV / AIDS.
Chucking aside caution and ignoring this esteemed history, Gorski wowed his small crowd with a scholarly shake of his head followed by a long-winded sigh, before letting listeners in on an explosive medical secret about AMSA.
“It’s a major force for integrating quackery into medicine, I’m afraid,” Gorski said.
Diagnosing a Ham Sandwich as Anti-vax
Gorski’s scholarly record on vaccine studies remains threadbare to nonexistent in scientific journals. But, like an economist who accurately predicted seven of the last two recessions, Gorski has found peer-reviewed medical glory on Twitter.
On Twitter, Gorski puts in exhausting, daily clinical rotations, diagnosing and treating every type of anti-vax disorder known to man, beast, and a horde of skeptic groupies who worship all of his 280 characters. But hold one thought in mind: any Twitter discussion with David Gorski inevitably ends in argumentum ad anti-vax with Gorski glibly labeling you an anti-vaxxer.
For skeptics ignoring reductio ad anti-vax while treating their Twitter medical patients—to include anti-vax, anti-vax straw men, anti-vax tropes, anti-vax arguments, and borderline antivaccine—a selection of Gorski’s critical debunking insights.
Pay attention clever science writer reporting a confusing medical controversy on deadline: If you feel itchy to insert a paragraph that clubs some hapless target over the head as anti-vaxxer, then Dr. Gorski’s credentials as both surgeon and oncologist should satisfy overworked editors eager for a doctor’s quote.
Even if it’s Gorski.
However, for the non-physicians such as myself, try to avoid skeptics who wield “anti-vaxxer” as a rhetorical cudgel to bludgeon anyone with differing opinions. And consider basic courtesy and concern for the dignity of other people to establish rapport and to build trust in online chatter.
Or maybe tests!!!