Thank you for supporting Quillette with your subscription. By now you have probably noticed our new look—we have a cleaner and simpler website that is faster and easier to navigate (note the search function at the top of the home page). You may have also noticed that we have switched ads off. This has been a deliberate choice on my behalf, as I want to bring you the highest quality content and highest quality reader experience.
So welcome to the new ad-free Quillette!
Quillette is now entering its sixth year of operation. I am delighted by how many of you have become members of our community. We have a collegiate and politically diverse community of contributors and similarly, our discussion forum draws insights from highly knowledgeable and curious readers. I wish to thank each and every one of our contributors and forum members for making Quillette what it is today.
In this short letter, I hope to clarify one issue of concern that has arisen over the past few months and has caused consternation among a minority of readers—particularly on social media—and that is our editorial position on COVID vaccines.
Quillette has published a range of articles that have been pro-vaccination since the beginning of the pandemic. Some of these articles include “Looking for COVID-19 ‘Miracle Drugs’? We Already Have Them. They’re Called Vaccines,” “Vaccines and the Coronavirus Crank Crisis,” “Making the (Conservative) Case for Vaccine Passports,” and “Vexed by the Un-Vaxxed.”
A number of readers have expressed outrage and disgust that we have taken a strong pro-vax editorial position. (Out of all the controversial editorial positions we have taken over the years, I am surprised that being pro-vax has turned out to be the most controversial.) I have received angry emails and indignant comments on social media alleging that I have been paid off by “Big Pharma,” or the Australian government—as if being pro-vax during a pandemic were not supported by the overwhelming majority of people in Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US today.
Being pro-vaccination is consistent with everything that Quillette stands for, and has always stood for. Supporting the mainstream science on vaccines is no different to supporting the mainstream science on psychological sex differences, or the mainstream science on intelligence (two controversial topics on which we've also taken a strong editorial position).
Scientific consensus can—indeed must—be questioned in good faith. Yet there is a clear difference between questioning a scientific consensus within a young science such as psychology or climate science (disciplines which still have rather rudimentary methodologies) and an older science such as biomedicine, which has one of the most robust methodologies known to man—the double-blinded randomised controlled trial (RCT). Querying epidemiological models is one thing, but denying evidence that arises from RCTs with tens of thousands of participants is akin to arguing that the Earth is flat.
Vaccine technologies have existed for longer than automobiles, antibiotics, X-rays, thermometers, the telephone, and the lightbulb. The technology underpinning mRNA vaccines is likewise older than many people think—and although some of our COVID vaccines use this newer technology, these particular vaccines have been tested more thoroughly than any others we've ever had before. This is not an opinion. It is simply a fact.
In November last year, we published an editorial heralding the emergence of mRNA vaccines as a “triumph of science.” This remains our position today. For all of the destruction and misery brought about by the COVID pandemic, the rapid technological response to it has been a marvel, and one of the only rays of light in what has been a dark period in our recent history.
Some have expressed surprise that Quillette would adopt the “mainstream position” on this issue. Or that we have taken a position inconsistent with “conservative” or “libertarian” principles. We have, after all, run many articles that dispute the mainstream position on weighty topics like gender, race, academia, and education. The assumption seems to be that because we disagree a lot with the Left, we must be part of the Right.
This is simply a misunderstanding. Quillette is not a contrarian or partisan publication and it never has been. And if we are partisan, it is in the preference of empiricism over intuition or revelation. In an uncertain world, sometimes the elite consensus will get it right and sometimes it won't. If a popular narrative is not supported by good evidence, or if good evidence supports another more plausible explanation for what is going on, what we publish will tend to counter that narrative.
That is why you will find articles querying narratives underpinning activist movements such as Black Lives Matter and the modern transgender movement among these pages. The anti-vax movement is not dissimilar to the activist movements we have scrutinised over the years. Radicals of all kinds rest their claims on cherry-picked data, the imputation of sinister motives, unfalsifiable theories about government conspiracies, and emotional reasoning.
It may be that the pro-vax message is just as unpopular to a right-wing audience as debunking the tabula rasa is for a left-wing audience. If this is the case, so be it. I have received more pushback for being pro-vaccine than for taking any other editorial position in the history of Quillette. Nevertheless, I can reassure you that it will not influence the essays and writers and views we decide to publish. In 2021, our mission remains unchanged, and that is to defend the Enlightenment project.
If you would like to join us in our mission please consider subscribing to the Quillette Circle, contributing via essays which can be sent to email@example.com, and supporting us financially through a paid subscription.
P.S. Please enjoy our weekly roundup of articles. Don't miss "George Floyd and the Rise of the Rival Constitution," by Craig Trainor, and Kenneth Whyte on Ralph Nader and the 'Sack of Detroit'. And—don't miss our weekly podcast with our indefatigable host, Jon Kay. —C
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