Conspiracy theorists, science deniers, and similarly minded folk make some outrageous claims. Quite often they will learn science-y words and throw them in abundance at people giving the illusion of being knowledgeable (though it suggests there might be some insecurities/compensation for low status; Brown et al., 2020). This trick has some relation to gish gallop (where you throw so many arguments at an opponent it’s basically impossible for them to counter you).
The thing is though, most of these ideas are utterly ridiculous. They go against (nearly) all high-quality evidence. Whilst their jargon and gish gallop techniques may work for the average person, it is obvious to an expert that they do not know what they are talking about. In my experience, often the lack of understanding is beyond what can be explained on social media.
The best way to effectively critique things usually starts by legitimately understanding them. I say usually because of course some brilliant ideas do come about exactly by not understanding them!
So this page is a list of things that I would say to legitimately make it hard to argue against. Some of these are just things we do not know, some are more philosophical, and indeed some are fallacious and/or show lack of understanding but are very difficult to argue (and may be hotly debated in the scientific community). And yes, some of these are still outright ridiculous!
If I was a conspiracist, I would be asking…
How can you be sure randomised control trials are causal when they compare two different groups of people who live fundamentally different lives?
How can you base your inference on statistics, when these are underpinned by a vast array of theoretical assumptions that can never all be fully tested?
If DNA and mRNA COVID19 vaccines both work by making us produce spike proteins, why do they have different efficacies?
If I was a conspiracist, I would…
Outright disown the scientific method, rather than justifying my position with cherry picked and/or flawed studies, whilst disregarding the rest
Ask for the first animal to be carrying SARS-CoV-2 and for evidence that it was actually carrying the virus
Discuss viral vector COVID19 vaccines (rather than mRNA vaccines) in relation to altering our DNA, since they actually contain DNA
Make claims about the use of the chimpanzee adenovirus vectors and how this is another way to make us ill and/or encourage another zoonotic pandemic
Claim the chimpanzee adenovirus vectors are making us genetically modified organisms and THIS could affect fertility because different species can’t mate
Say ALL the data are faked
How can we deny that wave 3 of the pandemic is not a "casedemic"
Highlight that current vaccine effectiveness is based on correlation only, and as many scientists like to point out "correlation doesn't equal causation"
Brown, Z. C., Anicich, E. M., & Galinsky, 2020. Compensatory conspicuous communication: Low status increases jargon use. Organizational Behavir & Human Decision Processes, 161, 274-90, doi: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2020.07.001.