Rootclaim accepts $500,000 challenge on COVID vaccine safety & efficacy

Have mRNA vaccines killed more people than they have saved?

That’s what American entrepreneur Steve Kirsch claims in his list of Covid-19 challenges. Today, Rootclaim has officially accepted his challenge in the amount of $500,000.

After reviewing all challenges we decided to accept challenge no. 6: “The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines have killed more people than they have saved from dying from COVID“. This addresses two of the most pressing and hotly debated issues of the pandemic: vaccine efficacy and vaccine safety. Advancing public discourse on these issues will likely save lives, and improve preparedness for future pandemics. 

After analyzing the available evidence, we conclude that despite several shortcomings, mRNA vaccines have saved many more lives than they cost.

While we challenge Kirsch on this specific item, we actually agree with a number of his other claims, including some that run counter to mainstream opinion. As Kirsch pointed out in his post, we agree with item 9 (“Lab origin is more likely”) and even offer our own challenge on the subject. Before examining vaccines, we studied the benefit of masks (items 7 and 10 in Kirsch’s list) and were surprised to find it is far from clear they are indeed effective, given the many factors involved in their practical use, such as most people wearing them poorly, virus transmission through the eyes, virus adaptation, and considerations of herd immunity. We are also generally in agreement on the importance of drug repurposing in COVID (related to challenge no. 8).

We have great admiration for Kirsch’s willingness to take a personal risk on his public claims. This is in sharp contrast to the many public figures constantly making overconfident statements on matters of great importance, without taking any risk. This is something we repeatedly encounter in our work. Some examples:

These examples demonstrate the low value of claims made when nothing is at risk: public discourse is awash with baseless, overconfident claims that carry no repercussions for their claimants if they turn out to be false. We believe that adding ‘skin in the game’ can dramatically reduce this problem, and therefore offer our own public debate challenge, which coincidentally happened to be very similar to Kirsch’s. So far no one has applied.

We therefore greatly appreciate Kirsch’s courage and leadership here. We see it as our responsibility to accept a challenge when we think the claim is wrong, and of course, take the loss if we fail.

It should be emphasized that regardless of who wins in this particular case, this is a victory for public discourse. First, by offering a reliable resolution to the important question of vaccine efficacy and safety, and more importantly, by setting a standard for settling controversies: an impartial, judged debate where both sides take a significant risk on the outcome. Hopefully, in the future, people making confident assertions on issues of importance without taking a risk will be ignored as background noise.

Update: As we were applying, we noticed Kirsch has recently added a note to his challenge page, terminating the bets due to no one applying. Since we were already in private discussions with Kirsch on the terms before this update, we would be very surprised to find this would apply to us. 

Update #2: We and Kirsch are making good progress on setting the parameters of the $500,000 challenge and we’re in the process of finalizing our agreed picks for two judges. Our preference will be for the most experienced, well-respected, and unbiased experts. 

14 Comments

  1. It’s going ahead? Or he backed out? Please update as soon as you know.

    And did anyone even contact you about your “virus was developed during gain-of-function research and released by accident” ? Let me guess, not one single scientist.

    • He has not yet confirmed the application. It would be very disappointing if he backs out after making such clear public commitments.

      We indeed did not receive any inquiries about the virus origins analysis.

    • Paddy Lenox-Conyngham

      December 24, 2022 at 6:47 am

      I see that he has asked for six judges, three vaccinated and three unvaccinated. I couldn’t figure if this was the original deal but on balance seems like a very good idea for equality and mitigation against bias.

      • The perceived balance of having 3 vaccinated and unvaccinated judges for the debate is actually skewed. Due to the mainstream narrative being that vaccines are safe, individuals who are vaccinated could simply stem from social pressures – with them not needing a solid opinion to conform with policies relating to vaccines. However, someone who has not been vaccinated would be an outlier and need to have a belief system that outways the pressures from the mainstream.
        Despite this – Kirsch and us have recently managed to overcome this issue with new parameters that keep the debate fair.

  2. Steve just published a counter offer and narrative. See his Substack. Hopefully you can both get to a point where you can agree. I think having 6 judges as he suggests is a good idea – 2 is too few.

    • Our founder, Saar Wilf has replied to the post by Steve Kirsch, as well as comments on the Substack that discuss Rootclaims concerns with the number of judges here: https://stevekirsch.substack.com/p/the-chairman-of-rootclaim-wanted

    • Damian T. Rafal

      February 1, 2023 at 2:05 pm

      but what for judges? It is irrational. Everything if it is possible should be calculated and not left for someone to guess (/opinions are usually irrational, like guessing):
      https://zenodo.org/record/7372672

      • In an ideal world, it would be best if we could determine the efficacy of vaccines based solely on calculations.
        However, in this case, both parties have access to the same information, yet came to opposing conclusions. Therefore, the most rational way to resolve the differences and come to a clear conclusion is by having independent judges review our interpretations of the data and determine which side has the strongest, most rational argument.

  3. BTW – you may want to update your original 2020 Election analysis – given there was very clear interference from the FBI and other government entities as revealed by Twitter files.

    • Twitter files are dealing with election interference. While very serious and might even change the outcome of an election, our analysis deals with election fraud. So the FBI, Russia or anyone else, trying to change how Americans vote is interference. IF the FBI, Russia or anyone else changed the vote you actually casted (not the reasoning behind it), this would be election fraud.

      The twitter files actually increase the confidence in the results of our analysis: seeing that the FBI might have interfered with US elections with regard to what the voters think and how they would vote, means that they believe the votes do matter and the election process itself, is working (one person – one vote, as that person cast it). If the election was rigged, why would they care about democrats seeing the Hunter Biden laptop article? But since this new information isn’t direct evidence and only shows what some people in the FBI thought (e.g., maybe the CIA knows something different), this doesn’t really change our likelihoods in any measurable or significant way.

  4. Please go ahead and do it! Steve’s terms (see https://stevekirsch.substack.com/p/the-chairman-of-rootclaim-wanted ) seem reasonable and well-suited to shedding light on the issue. Personally I’m agnostic on this, have no idea which side would prevail, and would love to see both sides present their best case. I do think the vax cost-benefit ratio isn’t nearly as favorable as portrayed by mainstream institutions, but I’m not at all sure it’s so bad that it’s pushing all-cause mortality up rather than down. Please help elucidate this!

  5. Damian T. Rafal

    January 31, 2023 at 2:16 pm

    Hi

    Your chances to prove that vaccines save more lives than take are Zero ones. The Covid-19 bogus is built on fully irrational mechanical assumptions concerning deaths and hospitalizations attributing to Covid-19 (because someone has just a positive pcr-test result or the symptoms of the infection). Here you have the math-logic proof (there are even two ways) that the real number of Covid-19 deaths in 2020 was not more than 25,000 (the gross number); taking into account the simultaneous flu disappearance and possibly the increased number of bacterial superinfections the net number is considerably closer to ZERO.
    https://zenodo.org/record/7372672

    = there should be hardly any excess deaths due to Covid-19 visible; if there is any other than a minimal number it can be only due to injuries, lockdowns, panic and the vaccines (from 2021)

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