The importance of critical thinking in discerning reputable sources

The volume of material published and shared by anti-fluoride, anti-vaccine, pro “alternative” health – all which fall under the deceptive catch phrase of “pro-choice” – is notably bereft of critical thinking.

No doubt there will always be some attracted to the notion of oppressive governments and dark conspiracies. Research indicates the psychological predisposition to conspiracy theory is highly resilient. Yet the persistence of the claim vaccines are the cause of a host of childhood ailments, that homeopathy is effective or that fluoride is a poison added to water supplies, may in part indicate poor cognitive manipulation of available information.

It is not uncommon to find preposterous claims circulating as a purported superior health choice. Such material is favoured by those who contend they are exercising “pro-choice” as a result of having “done my research”. It’s clear that no independent, accredited source has evaluated this “research”. It is more evident that the person has not sought reputable source material or thoroughly investigated critiques of the main aspects of their research. Let’s try claims by one so-called alternative. Homeopathy.

A good example would be claims made by homeopath Isaac Golden. Golden claims homeoprophylaxis (homeopathic immunisations) are a safe and effective alternative to vaccination. In a very short time one can find that homeopathy has not been shown to offer any measurable effect beyond placebo.

Consider the National Health and Medical Research Council statement on homeopathy [PDF].

The media release opens:

The National Health and Medical Research Council today released a statement concluding that there is no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is effective in treating health conditions. Its release follows a thorough review of the evidence, conducted as part of NHMRC’s responsibility to provide advice and support informed health care decisions by the Australian community.

The conclusion is based on the findings of a rigorous assessment of more than 1800 papers. Of these, 225 studies met the criteria to be included in NHMRC’s examination of the effectiveness of homeopathy. The review found no good quality, well-designed studies with enough participants to support the idea that homeopathy works better than a placebo, or causes health improvements equal to those of another treatment.

A little more time reading evidence based material will reveal the mechanism of homeopathy to be impossible. In short it simply cannot work without rewriting aspects of physics and chemistry. Homeopaths often actually admit this – while being dishonest about observed effects.

Homeopathy Plus

Golden himself makes much of having completed a PhD in homeoprophylaxis, leaving the uneducated listener or reader under the impression that this thoroughly discredited pseudoscience is in fact a safe option in health science. Or as opponents of vaccination insist: a Choice. Indeed Golden claims homeopathic vaccines are an option which is “comparably effective but which is non toxic, which provides no danger, no long term side effects”.

In June this year “Dr. Isaac Golden’s Academy” was offering a YesCourse.

IsaacGolden_YesCourse

Yet in his PhD abstract Golden admits;

The effectiveness of the program could not be established with statistical certainty given the limited sample size and the low probability of acquiring an infectious disease.

Indeed. Not to mention the reality of an ethics committee. Let’s be clear. No success was demonstrated with this paper. So Golden also writes:

However, a possible level of effectiveness of 90.3% was identified subject to specified limitations. Further research to confirm the effectiveness of the program is justified.

Possible efficacy, subject to specified limitations, that requires further research is a very, very clear way of documenting no effect. I apologise but there are no prizes for guessing Golden has not gone on to search for, much less publish, the possible efficacy. This won’t prevent him waxing lyrical on “my own PhD” as a source in defence of homeoprophylaxis.

Furthermore Golden’s work has been cited by Fran Sheffield of Homeopathy Plus in defence of her own business. The danger of Golden’s ambitious work and lax clarification can be summed up in Sheffield’s marketing. Referring to his inability to establish efficacy to any degree, she advertised:

Dr Isaac Golden confirmed that homeoprophylaxis provides the same degree, or better protection, than vaccines with none of their side effects or complications

In 2010, following a complaint from Dr. Ken Harvey, the TGA’s Complaints Resolution Panel ordered that a Retraction be published on site. Sheffield ignored the request. Regarding the TGA Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, Sheffield was also noted to have acted in a misleading manner, abusing the trust and exploiting the lack of knowledge of consumers. A summary and key details can be found here at the Skeptics’ Book of Pooh-Pooh.

The notion that parents who choose alternatives are not actually researching or seeking reputable advice on their apparently “informed choice” is in this case further highlighted by ongoing offending by Fran Sheffield and Homeopathy Plus! In May 2012 the ACCC announced it had responded to complaints from the medical industry about bogus claims on the Homeopathy Plus! website. Namely that the pertussis vaccine was ineffective and that Homeopathy Plus! offered an effective homeopathic immunisation for pertussis.

On February 21st 2013 the ACCC instigated Federal Court proceedings against Homeopathy Plus! as the pseudoscience recalcitrant persisted in endangering the health of Australian children and infants. The claims made were in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, and were misleading and deceptive. The ACCC media release included;

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted Federal Court proceedings over allegedly misleading claims on a homeopathy website regarding the effectiveness of the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine.

The ACCC has taken proceeding against Homeopathy Plus! Australia Pty Ltd and against the owners of the Homeopathy Plus! website.

The claims on the Homeopathy Plus! website include statements that the whooping cough vaccine is “unreliable” and “largely ineffective” in preventing whooping cough and that homeopathic remedies are a safe and effective alternative for the prevention and treatment of whooping cough.

On December 23rd, 2014, the ACCC reported that the Federal Court had found both Homeopathy Plus! and Frances Sheffield had engaged in misleading conduct and made false or misleading representations regarding the effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine and homeopathic remedies as an alternative in breach of the Australian Consumer Law. Sheffield and Homeopathy Plus! had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. Put simply, Fran Sheffield had continued to use her website to lie to unfortunate visitors who were not in the habit of critically investigating such claims.

Harking back to the echo of Isaac (My own PhD) Golden we read (emphasis mine);

The Court also found that Homeopathy Plus! and Ms Sheffield engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false and misleading representations to the effect that there was an adequate foundation in medical science for the statement that homeopathic treatments are a safe and effective alternative to the whooping cough vaccine, when in fact no such foundation exists and the vaccine is the only treatment currently approved for use and accepted by medical practitioners for the prevention of whooping cough.

I should be clear. This is only one arm of a notable junk science making as a matter of course outrageous claims. To see that so many can be fooled into believing plain water can protect from disease in a manner no-one can explain, is to some, mind boggling. But to be even clearer the information to debunk such nonsense and thus protect yourself and family is there to be found.

It is plain that scam artists, conspiracy theorists and so on cannot be swayed by the findings of official investigations or years of scientific consensus. Thus it is better to ignore those who claim to hold an apparent truth or a wonderful therapy and subject their claims to robust and varied critique.

Critiques can be made for all of the pseudosciences purporting to offer a superior or natural alternative to evidence based medicine. The same applies to the unwarranted attacks on vaccines, fluoride, medical intervention and so on. A far better way to approach these topics is to do so with the confidence to review material from a bipartisan standpoint. Where claims of conspiracies or corporate corruption for profit are made be very skeptical.

Make a habit of visiting consumer advocacy groups, such as Choice. Spend some of that research time looking over the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. We looked at both of these and the NHMRC, above. Let’s say the best your new friends at Essence Of Moonbeam are offering in response is a claimed conspiracy, the mocking of “sheeple” or bemoaning the trampling of rights (or that “informed choice”). I’d say you’re pretty safe in concluding genuine evidence has caught up with debunking their claims.

No-one can develop the skills or knowledge base from the Internet to argue that “my research” on one topic is sufficient to make decisions that are traditionally overseen by specialists or experts. The skill we can develop is that by which we can discern between a reputable source and a disreputable source. And this process should include discussions with genuine, experienced practitioners.

There is too much information on individual areas of health to allow us to investigate fully and believe we may come away educated and/or able to advise others. Where new trends are jostling for our attention and money there are recurring themes that help reveal them to be useless.

The skills we develop in discerning the reputable from bogus information sources are increasingly the skills that will benefit us in more ways than seeking optimal health.

The man who draws ducks draws a long bow against vaccine science

Michael Leunig was a guest on ABC News Breakfast to chat about his new book Musings From The Inner Duck, his role as a cartoonist and the impact of his commentary both political and social.

It wasn’t long at all before discourse turned from reflections on the Leunig duck to Leunig’s support of quackery. Particularly his April 15th cartoon in response to Scott Morrison’s removal of up to $15,000 in tax payer funds to parents who seek to claim “conscientious objection” to vaccinating their children.

The awful piece of nonsense from our 1999 National Living Treasure firmly ran the ignorant antivaccinationist banner up Leunig’s flagpole. One doesn’t say so lightly, but the cartoon and subsequent interview ticked all the worst of the anti-vaccine boxes. I’ve also no doubt Leunig would have kept digging had he more time. Headed Some mothers do ‘ave ’em the piece continued;

They have maternal instincts
That contradict what science thinks.
They stand up to the state:
A mother’s love may be as great
As any new vaccine
That man has ever seen

Leunig_April15_2015Problems with Leunig’s thinking come across in the text.

Mothers have maternal instincts that contradicts what science “thinks”. I realise a rhyme is important here but there’s no reason why mothers can’t have maternal moods that contradict what science concludes. Because science must not drift off into thinking or feeling or musing. It follows a strict set of processes designed to invite replication and strident attempts at falsification. This doesn’t involve just one, two or a handful of variables. Multiple factors help form hypotheses in this process until a scientific consensus is formed. In the face of new evidence and conclusion a new consensus is formed in the same way.

Nor is this a matter for the famous Leunig “whimsy”. If we honestly made way for this new antivaccinationist insistence of maternal instinct ruling over what science “thinks” (because ‘science always changes its mind’) we would be beset with tragedy. Recent revelations about the conduct of midwife Gaye Demanuele give valuable insight as to what is at stake when ignorance and/or defiance clashes with evidence based health practice as recommended by national health experts.

Speaking of “the state”, Leunig tells us these mothers (who let’s face it are either part of, or misinformed by the anti-science in medicine chapter) also “stand up to the state”. Perhaps he’s referring to the reckless and abusive decisions they make in denying their children the protection of vaccination. He winds up letting readers know a mother’s love can apparently create antibodies and/or protect from vaccine preventable disease as well as any vaccine.

Underneath the text is a plainly shocking cartoon. A mother sprinting, baby in pram, away from giant flying syringes. It seems like the cartoon version of those Photoshopped images favoured by Natural News, Mercola, Age of Autism and other junk sites that depict lines of crying children or babies jabbed with multiple syringes.

“It does seem to be an odd thing to assert Michael Leunig, that a mother’s love may be more beneficial for a child than a vaccine”, offered Virginia Trioli.

Leunig tries to dodge this claiming he is “not taking a position publicly”… but is concerned that the maternal instinct is being asked to step aside and accept what the state is saying. Virginia challenges his claim of not taking a public position. Leunig works his way around to asking “…if we should sweep aside those mothers who in great conscience, intelligence and research feel they just can’t go ahead with this. Should we demonise them? Should we criminalise them? Should the whole society make them feel a pariah? That the traditional work of the cartoonist is to stand up for the improbable, the minority which seems to be of true heart and sincerity”.

“Isn’t it an issue about science?”, Virginia asks.

“Well science is… it depends on whether you believe science is the final say on everything”.

“Most people do”, offers Michael Rowlands.

“Well they did when they had Thalidomide…”, Leunig replies bizarrely with confidence, probably blissfully unaware what a cruel and ignorant fool on this topic he has just revealed himself to be. Dragging out the Thalidomide card in this instance is thunderously immoral. All antivaccine champions ignore the fact that drug trials and testing were forever changed for the better.

Virginia baulks at this nonsense and pulls the cartoonist up. “Ooh, that’s a difficult comparison, because there was a concerted cover-up about that for many, many years, and such corporate malfeasance that it’s probably unparalleled in medical history, so you’re not asserting something similar to that are you?”

And then it happens. The man who draws ducks proclaims, “There is a science against vaccines also”, masterfully ignoring that he just informed us that “…it depends on whether you believe science is the final say on everything”.

As Michael Rowland observes at this point, “It’s not science Michael”.

Leunig denies upholding “a lot of evidence (against vaccination safety)” and warns beware the crowd. He contends that science is not complete [yawn] then just to prove he’s reading lots of antivaccine dreck, poses “… and what is this impulse that’s universal, it’s not freakish but I’ve seen a lot of very intelligent women and parents hold a really grave concern… and there are really bad consequences of some vaccinations…”. He thinks the science is incomplete. Disagrees with the finding Wakefield is a fraud.

Delightfully, with the feel of a eulogy, Virginia’s next sentence is “But as someone who has been much loved as a cartoonist can I just show you one response to your cartoon”?

It’s a tweet from Hannah Gadsby (@Hannahgadsby) and reads;

After years of enduring Leunig staring at her, the duck finally spoke “I can’t give you the benefit of whimsy today. You’re a dickhead”.

HannahGadsby_tweet

Leunig is now worried that this means “so we don’t tolerate the outsider voice that says the improbable. That’s what my job is, it’s not to march entirely with science it’s to be the improbable”. He suggests Virginia and Michael should be getting fired up about criticism of the antivaccination lobby.

“What is this fierce anti anti-vaccination… why so emotional…?”.

“It’s called public health Michael”, Michael Rowland cuts of the rant.

Dismissively, the man who draws ducks reckons “If we cared about public health we wouldn’t design cities like this, …terrible television, dreadful media. Public health is in disarray at so many levels and all we’re worrying about is this little needle”.

You know that little needle – perhaps the greatest medical breakthrough of all time. Virginia tries to see him off.

“But I’m not standing against vaccination”, Leunig lies as all antivaccinationists do. “It’s this thing as a matter of conscience”.

He was a C.O. to the Vietnam war so knows what he’s talking about he finishes.

The biggest problem – or a very big problem – with Leunig is that he’s had a long time to work his way through the science around Wakefield’s fraud. Indeed, vaccine science in total. This was Leunig on January 29th 1997;

Leunig_Jan29_1997

This cartoon pushes the old and rather pointless defence of pseudoscience that argues “science doesn’t know everything”. Or rather, it’s that defence on steroids. Unapologetically we’re asked to believe a cruel and arrogant medico has jettisoned any capacity to be humane or understand the whole person as a patient and reacts aggressively to the mother. Nothing could be further from the truth, and no reaction could better impede the aim of vaccinating the mother’s baby. In fact it’s quite silly in that any medico so dangerously constrained by medical science would point out the heart is a pump and emotions, superstitions are seated in the brain. But the point is taken. Doctors and medical science are pathologically removed from understanding emotion, preferring to belittle human nature as some primitive throwback to be “immunised” against. “It is a disease in itself”. This nasty, inaccurate and combative message, dreamt up by opponents of medical science, is entirely without merit.

Thirteen months later Wakefield’s infamous fraud was published and public health has suffered immensely ever since. Largely thanks to fools and egos like Michael Leunig. To sit there and say “there is a science against vaccination also” and that he has detected “a universal impulse” and is standing up for intelligent people who have researched and hold “grave concerns”. These poor people treated as pariahs or criminals and pushed about by the state. The softly spoken champion for the maternal instinct. He’s not antivaccine – nooo – but just doing his job. What was it? Oh yes, “it’s not to march entirely with science it’s to be the improbable”.

Well I find it improbable in the extreme that Leunig had such views 18 1/2 years ago and just happens to have them again today because it’s “his job” to worry about one of the most dangerous and most cruel antiscience and antimedicine cults at the present time. Leunig is an antivaxxer, cut from the same mold of them all.

His duck will now be remembered for its quackery.

David Hawkes on the fake anti-vaccine “church”

Dr. David Hawkes chats with Jon Faine on radio ABC 774 about the bogus “church” set up to allow anti-vaccine devotees to plead religious exemption.


It was reported in The Age today the loophole would be exploited to bypass the “no jab, no play” legislation emerging in Australia. This legislation aims to ensure children not fully immunised will be:

…unable to enrol in childcare unless their parents declare they have a medical reason or personal, philosophical or religious objection.

The recent and ongoing outbreak of measles in California is a firm example of the ticking time bomb unvaccinated children pose. Regrettably vaccine refusers have been misled on even the most basic facts pertaining to vaccination. As such their understanding of what vaccination seeks to achieve is misguided to the point of being ludicrous.

In this respect basic notions such as herd immunity or poor immune response to a vaccine are seen as false claims or evidence that vaccines are 100% ineffective. A perfect example of this is indeed the Disneyland measles outbreak in which vaccinated individuals were infected (<100% efficacy) but the outbreak itself is due to the zero immunity of the unvaccinated (low herd immunity in an area of high vaccine refusal).

Despite this reality the antivaccine lobby will continue to falsely insist only the vaccinated are infected, the unvaccinated enjoy robust disease free health and that safe vaccines are in fact riddled with disease and “toxins”.

The only answer to managing what are lethal and disabling diseases is presently vaccination.

What SAVN doesn’t want you to read, reviewed

Recently Brian Martin of Wollongong University penned a selective piece headed What SAVN doesn’t want you to read.

Selective in that material used and omitted leans strongly toward sustaining the primary claim of the article. Arguably deceptive and certainly erroneous in that a great deal of baseless extrapolation must occur from each example to contend SAVN wants certain material unread.

My name appears a couple of times, both in the body of the piece and an apparent standout in “Acknowledgements”.

I thank the many individuals who read drafts of this comment and offered valuable feedback, especially Paul Gallagher who helped clarify several points.

Brian asked if I’d like my input to be acknowledged and I agreed. Yet it’s important I stress that input was not in support of the article’s contention but against it. As it stands readers may assume the opposite. The item which drew most comment from me is “March 2014: “Biased reporting”. It refers to a “lengthy critique” by Martin of an article by Rick Morton.

The article revealed that Wollongong University paid $3,000 for anti-vaccine lobbyist and PhD student of Martin to attend an overseas conference run by the frequently discredited OMICS group. The student/lobbyist/conspiracy theorist is Judy Wilyman. Wilyman presented what has been demonstrated to be flawed, offensive and misleading views contending that the HPV vaccine is not cost effective.

Australian information on sound cost effectiveness may be found here. Research finding positive or high cost effectiveness includes Chesson et al, 2008, Xian Wen Jin et al 2013 and Mark Jit et al 2014. Wilyman’s contention is false.

Meryl Dorey published Martin’s piece on her anti-vaccine conspiracy blog. Initially in What SAVN doesn’t want you to read Martin wrote under “Biased Reporting”;

Meryl Dorey wrote a blog about my critique; her blogs are scrutinised by some SAVNers, but I did not see any comments by them.

Actually Dorey didn’t write a critique but simply cut and pasted the first two paragraphs then linked to Martin’s full article. But that’s not the point. In 2012 Brian had sought comment before publishing “Online onslaught” and “Public mobbing”. I responded then, mentioning Dorey’s refusal to discuss or respond at a rational level. Weeks later I noted her selective censorship of comments to her blog and Facebook. This allows her to shape the tone of reader feedback and thus, mislead readers in general.

In this light one can see “onslaughts” and “mobbing” are the result of provocation by Dorey, who indeed revels in the opportunity to cry brutal persecution, hate speech and general woe. I was keen for Brian Martin to realise many of his concerns can only exist in the milieu Dorey constantly nurtures.

At one point Professor Martin replied;

As I’ve written before, there is a fundamental asymmetry in the encounter between the AVN and its opponents. SAVN and perhaps others are trying to shut down the AVN. In this context, I think it is unrealistic for those in SAVN to expect the AVN to open its columns to its opponents. As I think I asked before, can you give me an example of any advocate of a minority, fringe view opposed by a powerful establishment who, having come under heavy attack for years, is still willing to open their own organisation’s columns to their opponents? If you can give me a few examples, it might help me rethink my views.

Thus as Martin had conveyed he is both aware and supportive of Dorey censoring her blog it is impossible to suggest the absence of SAVN comments is evidence that SAVN has something to hide. There was quite some back and forth until Martin could see the point I was making. He then altered the text of the “Biased reporting” paragraph to that in the published draft.

Another aspect where I’m directly mentioned is in the paragraph headed, “September 2012: SAVN and conspiracy theories”. Martin refers to his paper Dealing with dilemmas in health campaigning. At the time I wrote in response, Dealing with the Brian Martin dilemma. There’s only one published comment. That’s from Ken McLeod who referred to being asked to comment on another draft article by Brian Martin. I didn’t publish Martin’s reply as I predicted a response or responses to be biased and unhelpful.

I informed him of my reason for omitting his reply. Of course it wasn’t lost on me that as an academic who actively supported Dorey’s manipulative and deceptive censorship of posts and comments he should understand.

At 7:42 PM +1100 9/10/12, Paul Gallagher wrote:
Hi Brian,

Sorry for the delay.

As you may know Ken is the subject of unremitting attacks from Meryl Dorey and I would be unwilling to provide her with any more material.

I have forwarded Ken your reply and he has rejected your account.

I have weighed – and continue to seriously consider – whether to publish any of your content. Given the vast amount of material omitted about the AVN’s conduct and your defence of Ms. Dorey censoring critics and misinforming the public, I fear any content published would be biased.

Over our exchanges I have raised many issues pertinent to the AVN, yet none are accepted by yourself. Thus I am reticent to provide yet another platform for what is arguably intellectual dishonesty. This appears to be happening on Hank’s blog.

I remain keen for your input on AVN matters such as fraud, monetary scams, deleting of material, tormenting grieving parents, refusal to acknowledge recent TGA/CRP requests, or obsessing over claims of persecution, etc, etc.

In fact as an example the matter of the $180,000 in subscription fees taken for many as yet unseen magazines (a dupe still attracting professional advertisers), does beg acknowledgement or comment.

I’d be interested in how a “citizens group” can attract your interest and continually be presented as benign.

Omitted from Dealing with dilemmas in health campaigning

In the same paragraph he also referred to Peter Tierney’s piece Of publication and sleights of hand. This was also in response to his piece on dilemmas in health campaigning. As you will see by following the link there are 42 responses, many from Professor Martin. His “September 2012: SAVN and conspiracy theories” paragraph initially concluded with a reference to Hanks post that he (Martin) was “winning the argument hands down” and thus the comment thread was terminated. The published version however offers;

My interpretation is that they terminated the interaction to prevent others from seeing their refusal to submit our views to review by experts.

“They”? The blog is under the control of Peter and only Peter. Perhaps assuming “they” control it and terminated it for a reason other than avoiding time wasting is insightful. Yet as I’d observed in the above correspondence I was worried about biased input, taking the place of genuine exchange and wasting time. As Hank more directly put it before terminating the thread: “Last warning. Piss or get off the pot.”

Another arguably ridiculous paragraph refers to the manufactured claims by Meryl Dorey that she is subject to serious death threats, abusive comments, false claims and is regularly sent pornography. Dorey has manufactured this from tepid insults almost six years old. Her desperation shines through in that Dorey published her “Dossier of attacks” in August 2012. Clearly she isn’t troubled by the material. The “dossier” was simply another scheme by Dorey to embellish the persecuted victim persona. The content of the “dossier” is rather pitiful compared to Dorey’s own insults.

Dorey’s narcissism shows as she likens herself to Charlotte Dawson, even quoting then police minister Michael Gallacher that (in Dawson’s case) there may be grounds for prosecution under 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act. Dawson was subject to hundreds of vile and offensive tweets. Dorey has a couple that are years old. She would delight in receiving a genuine insult or threat.

On February 22nd this year Charlotte Dawson died by suicide. Dorey has not seen fit to edit or delete her offensive page which exploits this tragic series of events. As a social scientist this is a dynamic Professor Martin should be pursuing. Instead he notes of the “dossier”;

There was an initial flurry of criticism of the dossier by SAVNers, but subsequently they seem to have largely ignored it. It is reasonable to suggest that SAVNers are not keen to draw attention to their own methods of attack.

Given these are not methods of attack employed by SAVN, but lies and misrepresentation on the part of Dorey why would anybody wish to engage continually on her obsessive hatred of critics? Two individuals have been removed from SAVN for their conduct. One admitted sending porn circa early 2010. Another had called Dorey’s home and left insulting messages. These events and the standard expected on the SAVN Facebook page and elsewhere (regardless of topic) were intentionally publicised at the time.

Dorey’s obsession with casting those who hold her to account as dangerous, and seeking to gag critics extended to taking out Apprehended Violence Orders. This was all quite jolly but somewhat spoiled by Dorey publically taunting the subjects she concomitantly insisted posed a threat of violence.

Essentially Martin’s claim that It is reasonable to suggest that SAVNers are not keen to draw attention to their own methods of attack, is without merit. The purpose of SAVN is stated clearly on the Facebook page Stop The Australian (Anti)Vaccination Network. Whilst “exposing [AVsN] lies, their endemic corruption and their fraudulent practices.” is mentioned as a purpose of SAVN, nothing appears as part of the SAVN mission that precludes obsessing over this unique aspect of Dorey manufacturing the impression she is unjustly persecuted.

The so-called dossier includes Complaints to Government Bodies as a mode of “attack”. It really goes without saying that complaints follow the strict and legal guidelines laid down, reflecting the reality that Dorey is accountable for and guilty of many breaches of public health legislation, corporate and financial responsibility and based on their own disseminated material is the subject of a NSW Health Care Complaints Commission warning.

Put succinctly this absurd and irrelevant “dossier” dragged together by a narcissist is utter rubbish. Fiction. There’s no evidence to mount a serious critique of vaccination schedules or vaccines themselves and more appropriately the arguments have all been debunked. Faced with this reality antivaccinationists often fall back to generating outrage and disgust in the minds of their readers. No real cognition is needed but the pseudoscientist appears somehow correct.

Indeed Dorey made much of this in December 2010 via Death threats and suppression of vaccine truth in Australia, hosted by another bastion of lies and quackery; International Medical Council on Vaccination. Attempting to participate saw SAVN banned and disconnected from the webinar. Ample commentary and deconstruction occurred at this time.

It is not at all “reasonable to suggest SAVNers are not keen to draw attention to their own methods of attack”.

Under “April 2014: Medical Observer”, Professor Martin draws attention to a critique of Patrick Stokes’ article No, you’re not entitled to your opinion. Stokes’ piece has been exceptionally well received. The article provokes thought about the consequences of not not just giving respect to another’s right to hold opinions, but of treating certain opinions as fact and acting as if they were truth. Stokes presents a crisp example of very poor thinking on the part of Meryl Dorey.

Dorey “reasoned” that if Dr. Bob Brown can comment on nuclear power she can seriously comment on vaccination. Brown of course isn’t a nuclear physicist. Dorey doesn’t see what having a medical background has to do with (immunology). Dorey is equipped with the full knowledge Andrew Wakefield was struck from the UK medical registrar for his fraudulent paper seeking a link between MMR and “autistic enterocolitis”, and his callous disregard for the disabled children he exploited. She is aware that the paper was retracted by The Lancet.

The Essential Baby article cited by Stokes also includes;

Did the Wakefield case cause any doubt in her mind about his research? “No, not at all,” she says. “I knew he was being scapegoated, because there is so much money involved in vaccination.”

You can see where Stokes is going and the vital importance of affording serious consideration to understanding the when, why and how certain opinions cannot be dismissed as polite entitlement. The case for denying Dorey (and many others for that matter) the right to be taken seriously is strong. Arrogant, intellectual disregard should be considered reason for forfeiture. Although Dorey mentions Ken McLeod’s 2009 complaint to the NSW HCCC in her “dossier of attacks”, we should now turn our attention to her 2009 HCCC reply (pp.5-7) addressing McLeod’s challenge to AVN free speech which may harm or maim innocents.

Citing High Court rulings Dorey argues that activity of the (then) Australian Vaccination Network is akin to;

…the right to unfettered communication and discussion of all matters relating to government and public policy

Freedom of communication on matters of government and politics has been determined by the High Court as being an indispensable incident of the system of representative government that the Constitution creates…. This freedom of communication and discussion is protected against the exercise of federal and state legislative and executive power and extends to all those who participate in ʻpoliticalʼ discussion (such as the AVN) and therefore is not limited only to electors and elected.

… The High Court has extended this freedom of communication on matters of government and politics extends to all non-verbal conduct [Citation], which would include content on the AVN website and all published materials of the AVN which is the subject of this complaint from Mr McLeod.

In this case the reasoning as to why Dorey is not entitled to her opinion is manifest.

Professor Martin refers to an article penned by Neil Bramwell 18 months after Stokes’ The Conversation article. It mentions vaccination and dedicates a few lines to Patrick Stokes. Entitled Not qualified to speak out? Martin’s concern appears to be that SAVN has not given due attention to Bramwell’s piece. Why?

I think the main reason is that the article is so balanced, presenting various perspectives, not just ones favoured by SAVN.

Two other items draw Martin’s attention. SAVN did not respond publically to his article On the suppression of vaccination dissent. The piece includes a dozen paragraphs under the heading A high-profile researcher. That researcher? Andrew Wakefield. Yep. Taking up the lions share in an article on suppression of dissent. Yes, dissent. Not fraud and deception as he is guilty of.

The other name in this piece by Professor Martin is Gary Goldman. Goldman – known for being anti-varicella vaccination – is the founder and president of that appalling anti-vaccine mess of scam and quackery, Medical Veritas international. His abuse of VAERS is almost legendary. Orac has written about him here and here. Also mentioned in this paragraph is Dr. Jane Donegan, antivaccinationist who was charged (unsuccessfully) with scientific misconduct in 2007.

She is also a hero on the pages of another vaccine conspiracy blog, Child Health Safety. This hive of conspiracy, skepgoating and nonsense has been kind enough to publish Martin’s very same article we’re examining today, What SAVN doesn’t want you to read.

Next is our “citizen campaigner”. Without evidence Martin accepts the probably bogus claim of her son suffering vaccine “reactions”. It’s known he suffered inconsolable crying after whole-cell pertussis vaccination. The others Dorey fabricated. Her section includes a list of SAVN evils, suggesting by implication Dorey is mobbed and attacked.

Is Brian Martin seriously suggesting SAVN has something to hide regarding the claims of Andrew Wakefield, Gary Goldman and Meryl Dorey? Apparently so. The likelihood of this being true deserves no comment.

Which brings us to the final piece on two articles authored and co-authored by Professor Martin. In March 2012 Martin attacked SAVN in both Online onslaught and Public mobbing. These describe criticism of Meryl Dorey and the then Australian Vaccination Network by SAVN. Whilst Dorey is indeed challenged by SAVN it is impossible to seriously suggest she is a victim of onslaughts or mobbing when she refuses to engage in discourse and censors online content to present false impression. One would expect better of Professor Martin.

More so Martin had in 2012 sought input from members of SAVN. Indeed I have referred to such exchanges above wherein he makes no attempt to hide the fact Dorey is censoring material. Rather he supports this conduct. In fact by then members of SAVN were arguably exhausted with the insistence of Professor Martin to defend the intellectually dishonest conduct of Meryl Dorey.

In March 2012 Brian Martin wrote to me:

On 26/03/2012, at 9:42 AM, Brian Martin wrote:

Hi Paul,

I’ve written a couple of new articles about the vaccination debate, and would welcome your comments. They are “Online onslaught” and “Public mobbing” and are available at http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/preprints/.

Regards,
Brian

Brian Martin
Arts Faculty
University of Wollongong, NSW 2522

I replied;

On 26/03/2012, at 8:09 PM, Paul Gallagher wrote:

Hi Brian,

I’ll aim to read more in detail but for now would simply note Meryl’s refusal to discuss or reciprocate on a rational level.

Usually when errors or problems are demonstrated some reply is forthcoming. You may be interested in a couple of topics I’ve sent to Meryl via email to no avail:

Pertussis;

http://luckylosing.com/2012/01/04/my-personal-request-of-meryl-dorey/#personalrequestpertussis

Autism;

http://luckylosing.com/2012/01/06/vaccine-induced-autism-how-meryl-dorey-misled-her-woodford-audience/

Also:

Reflections on the “skeptic involvement” and “free speech” myths. Considering reluctance to discourse the perpetual claim of bullying and oppression is a little tiring:

http://luckylosing.com/2011/12/22/are-meryl-doreys-critics-really-against-free-speech/

http://luckylosing.com/2012/01/23/meryl-dorey-claims-that-australian-skeptics-suppress-free-speech-why/

Finally her misrepresentation of the court judgement continues. Certiorari was not granted, yet as recently as last Friday on “Fair Dinkum Radio” Meryl claimed the HCCC ruling had been wiped (not so) and the OLGR admitted to using only HCCC material.

It seems this is an attempt to avoid discussing the 23 breaches of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 and breaches of The Charitable Trusts Act 1993.

Regards,

Paul Gallagher
paulgall@westnet.com.au
=====================

Yet in reference to “Online onslaught” and “Public mobbing” Martin fails to mention any exchanges with SAVN prior to publication. He maintains “to my great surprise, there was hardly any response.” And that “it was the first indication of an emerging pattern of not responding to contributions that are well written and that SAVNers do not want others – including their supporters – to read.”

Perhaps in truth it reflects the poor quality of material which seeks to defend evidence denial behind the veil of “scientific dissent”. Certainly Professor Martin was simply ignoring the fact that perfectly rational material was being sent to Meryl Dorey. She was choosing to ignore this and instead both were presenting the highly biased claim that Dorey was subject to “attacks” and “mobbing”.

It is likely members of SAVN were both wary of being manipulated and quite rightfully ignoring Brian Martin’s intellectual dishonesty. Also at these times Martin was asked how he justified involvement with a cruel, callous and dishonest individual like Dorey. No reply or indeed acknowledgement was forthcoming.

Martin has offered no critical reasoning for his claim. Simply correlating the odd absence of comment around the time that suits him seems good enough. He’s ignored confounding variables and failed to reference or justify when there was indeed SAVN comment.

Professor Martin might like to explain if he accepts and defends Dorey censoring material, does he seriously still contend there is a “fundamental asymmetry in the encounter between the AVN and its opponents.” Looking at this article it’s difficult to comprehend the extent of Dorey’s manipulation by censorship. It appears to me the only asymmetry is Dorey crying her disdain for censorship yet proceeding to engage it excessively and dishonestly.

Ultimately it appears that What SAVN doesn’t want you to read by Professor Brian Martin is a dishonest article.

  •  For now it’s best to remember how deceitful and dangerous this anti-vaccine group is.

HCCC warning with WmarkFrom The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission – April 30th 2014

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

The importance of relative risk in understanding vaccine effectiveness

A while back I noticed that Greg Beattie was deceiving his readers about pertussis vaccine efficacy by misrepresenting NNDSS data.

Yes, the same Beattie with the bogus claim that vaccines did not reduce infectious diseases. He dresses this up with misleading graphs comparing mortality from vaccine preventable disease to the introduction of X vaccine. These graphs are also bogus in that he omits the impact of vaccine introduction. The stunning success of the vaccine itself and the elimination of infection is always absent from his peculiar artwork.

Beattie’s claim back in 2012 was that the pertussis vaccine failed because high numbers of notifications had been vaccinated against pertussis. This is thunderously misleading in that it’s at the same level as dismissing seat belt safety because most fatalities on our roads involve seat belt wearing occupants. He also avoided explaining all reasons as to why notifications were high. Increased awareness, testing and follow up, pockets of low vaccination driving an epidemic, low booster uptake.

You can check the post here to follow my review of the same data table Beattie used. But it’s pretty simple. By 2011 close to 95% of 0-4 year olds were fully vaccinated by age 2 [NCIRS]. Using the table provided it turns out those not fully vaccinated made up 27.2% of notified infections. Fully vaccinated notifications equal 56.7%.

Relatively speaking a child fully vaccinated against pertussis has a notably reduced chance of being infected. Conversely, the small number who are not fully vaccinated have a frightfully high chance of being infected. To be sure, if 56.7% of notifications collected over 2008 – 2011 are from fully vaccinated children one can argue the vaccine could (and needs to be) more effective. But when the 5% who are not fully vaccinated make up 27.2% of infections, then the claim the vaccine is not effective is patently absurd. A dangerous and irresponsible lie.

Basically this is a story of relative risk being falsely presented as absolute risk. Choose some data and omit other data and the claim looks sound. But the post itself is limited in examining Vaccine Effectiveness vs Relative Risk (Risk Ratio – see screenshot). Understanding related and relative data sets is crucial in grasping how vaccine efficacy can be misrepresented. Regrettably many falsehoods peddled by the anti-vaccine lobby stem from such misrepresentation.

Fortunately an excellent piece addressing this was recently published on The LymphoSite by kill3rtcell. Headed But most of the people who got the disease were vaccinated for it! the post comprehensively addresses vaccine effectiveness, risk ratios and even provides interactive calculators. These crunch values of vaccine effectiveness, vaccination rates and resultant cases in the unvaccinated or vaccinated.

Do head over and read what is an excellent contribution to the deconstruction of misinformation peddled by antivaccinationists.

The screenshot below helps explain what this post accomplishes.

relative risk

© kill3rtcell – The LymphoSite

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