On the ‘so what?’ test
When I was in the beginning of the writing up phase of my PhD thesis, one of my supervisors handed back a chapter and rather matter of factly told me that it failed the ‘so what?’ test. It was brutal and it hurt, but his feedback ultimately led to a much better thesis. What he meant by the comment was: why should anyone care about what I had written? I had failed to make the case for why my story was important. I think that is probably the single most important question anyone can hold in their mind when they are communicating something they care about: am I telling people why this matters?
I recently read a press release and corresponding article by Dr Peter Doshi of the BMJ which really shocked me. The current population-wide vaccine trials are not designed to answer the only question worth asking: do the vaccines protect against severe disease? As the article says, “None of the trials currently under way are designed to detect a reduction in any serious outcome such as hospital admissions, use of intensive care, or deaths. Nor are the vaccines being studied to determine whether they can interrupt transmission of the virus.”
I find this flabbergasting. How can population-wide vaccine trials be undertaken for a question that is not worth answering? Who cares if the vaccines are proven to protect against mild forms of COVID? The only thing that matters is that the vaccines protect the vulnerable from severe disease and dying and this is something that will never be answered by these trials.
In short, the entire vaccine trials have utterly and totally failed the ‘so what?’ test. And what’s more dangerous is that it is unlikely that Dr Doshi’s article will get much press, which means that, should these vaccines pass their trial, most people will not understand the nothingness it means and therefore likely still continue to clamour for the containment and discrimination of unvaccinated people.
The moral bankruptcy of this whole situation never ceases to amaze me.