The Real Australian Sceptics

A short time ago the Skeptic community received a delightful tickle on the collective ribcage.

A rather intellectually dishonest blog appeared with the title The Real Australian Sceptics under the pretence of “critiquing” articles. It was, predictably, Meryl Wynn Dorey’s latest shot at the ontology of her assumed foes. Those worshippers of evidence and scientific consensus: The Skeptics. It’s an old tactic. If you can’t sustain an argument attack the party that holds an opposing viewpoint.

This isn’t the post to dissect the intellectual absurdity of Ms. Dorey’s attack on Skeptics. Suffice to to say – again – this game of provocation wherein Ms. Dorey futilely seeks to alienate and besmirch skeptics has it’s genesis within stratospheric errors she has made in the wake of being held to account.

The blog itself is monumental dreck. To date it’s emerging as a rehash of all the disproved antivaccination creeds and attacks on accepted evidence. Magically, everything old is new again. The usual rules of ultra-strict comment censorship apply.

If you’re keen for your daily dose of Merylisms, The Real Australian Sceptics doesn’t disappoint, opening with an attempt at selective deception in the first sentence.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a sceptic is defined as, “a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions”.

Actually the Oxford English Dictionary entry reads:

1 a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions.

  • a person who doubts the truth of Christianity and other religions; an atheist.

2 Philosophy: an ancient or modern philosopher who denies the possibility of knowledge, or even rational belief, in some sphere.

Meryl appears to take advantage of the phrase “accepted opinion”, by omission of the widely accepted opinion of theistic persuasion as a working example. Furthermore the second entry refers to philosophical denial of the possibility of knowledge or even rational belief. Having falsely defined “sceptic”, this then leaves the door open for Meryl to potter about on the very fringes of rationality and knowledge, wearing the guise of evidence whilst ranting about science.

Surely even with limited use of “accepted opinions”, we must include Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Home Birth, Vaccines causing Autism, Vaccine Dangers, Pharmaceutical bias, etc, etc. These are all irrefutably on the scale of accepted opinions. An opinion moves toward fact or mere belief based upon the amount of evidence that sustains it. The subtitle of Dorey’s blog is Accept Nothing. Question Everything. Apparently then, this is applied only to suit the author.

I think we can see, straight out of the blocks as it were, problems with her method of attack. Like two Meryls in a particle accelerator one is shooting off counter-clockwise at the speed of light confident those Wascally Skeptics will finally get theirs. Another Meryl is shooting clockwise questioning everything, accepting nothing… including the existence of the other Meryl. Eventually they collide head on in a great splattering mess.

Meryl also takes a shot at “the American spelling”: Skeptic. Wrong again. In doing this she’s really having a go at the Skeptic movement. Nothing new here, and as we’ll see her tactics are also copied and pasted from others whose beliefs have failed to endure scientific scrutiny. Skepticism is not cynicism or denial as we might associate these concepts with climate science denial, vaccine denial, HIV/AIDS denial and the steadily growing denial of conventional medicine.

Colloquially, Skeptics can be said to seek the evidence, consider existing evidence or ask for evidence when presented with certain claims. Skepticism is the rejection of predetermined ideas that aren’t supported by evidence. Skeptical activism may be described as where evidence, science and consumer and/or human rights overlap. Under What Is Skepticism? Brian Dunning writes in part:

The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It’s the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion… The scientific method is central to skepticism. The scientific method requires evidence, preferably derived from validated testing. Anecdotal evidence and personal testimonies generally don’t meet the qualifications for scientific evidence, and thus won’t often be accepted by a responsible skeptic; which often explains why skeptics get such a bad rap for being negative or disbelieving people. They’re simply following the scientific method.

Okay. So Skepticism is not Accept Nothing, Question Everything. It revolves around the scientific method and evidence. Yet in attacking science Dorey clumsily raises the notion of “true scepticism”.

There are those in Australian society today who call themselves sceptics (or skeptics – which is the American spelling of that word). Yet by their actions and stated beliefs, they are far removed from true scepticism.

Now we can see the purpose of the second definition in the Oxford Dictionary. I doubt Meryl is aware of the metaphilosophy of True Scepticism, most commonly associated with David Hume, the 18th Century Scottish Philosopher. Nonetheless in a roundabout sort of way Meryl has painted herself into a very tight corner wherein she is seemingly defending denial of knowledge and rational belief, as a means to critiquing scientific arguments and articles.

Oh my.

We need a term for these traitors of true scepticism of course. Some time back on her Facebook page Meryl spotted the term pseudo-skeptic. She decided there and then it was “a keeper”. Unfortunately it was already being kept and here is where it all gets a little more silly.

RationalWiki has an entry on Pseudoskepticism. Interestingly is does not describe anything like Meryl’s contention. There is Legitimate use. The use by those who deny climate change science, vaccine success, etc. In fact it does a good job of describing Meryl Wynn Dorey. The description includes:

In this case the word is simply a synonym of denialism, as there is a vast amount of real evidence which is simply willfully ignored by these pseudoskeptics. The use of the phrasing “I am skeptical of X” is to sound more rhetorically reasonable that “I don’t accept X and never will regardless of the evidence”, even if the latter is more accurate.

Then there’s the delightfully headed paragraph on Usage By Woo Promoters, which also describes Meryl Wynn Dorey:

It is perhaps more often used as a loaded term by promoters of woo to dismiss skeptical criticism of their beliefs as unfounded… Given the difficulty of absolutely disproving even the most absurd hypothesis they then go on to maintain that all those who ask for evidence are “pseudoskeptics”.

Oh, snap!

We seem to have established Meryl’s hijacking of terms for the purpose of provocation and revenge. With the greatest of respect to Meryl is must truly be the nadir of her two decade assault upon scientific knowledge. The world is full of those who despise the notion of skepticism because it quite simply requires evidence for ones claims. Dorey has no evidence. She deals in falsehoods. Very lucrative falsehoods. Scams.

The abuse of authority or the demanding of privilege based upon certain claims crumbles before skepticism’s quiet and calm request for evidence. Meryl’s fraudulent donation campaigns, subscriptions for a non existent magazine, promised vaccine tests and boasts of phoney “protection” from mandatory vaccination evaporate in the presence of just one skeptic.

In some strange anger driven fever, Ms. Dorey seeks to discredit the Skeptic movement by making absurd claims about the nature of reality and science. Suddenly claiming something isn’t true does not make one a skeptic. Nor does it remotely undermine the accepted notion of Skepticism. Accepting nothing cannot be any further removed from the outcome of scientific research. Science, as skeptics understand and accept it, is not about belief. It is about conclusion. The weight of evidence.

There is nothing wrong with doubting and questioning. Far from it. Yet at some point we need a method from which to exploit our knowledge – not a mangled pseudoskepticism that denies knowledge exists in the first place. That method is the scientific method. Proper doubt and proper questions are what give us scientific consensus.

Because of doubt, questions and the demands for evidence that skeptics and scientists continually entertain, scientific consensus can and does change. Because it can change it is arguably fragile and unfairly criticised by opponents of skepticism. Yet because of what is required to change scientific consensus, it makes for an incredibly robust source of evidence. Thus “accept nothing” is naught but a position of intellectual paucity.

Accept Nothing, Question Everything is sheer, utter denial. It demands to be seen for the intellectual cowardice it really is: Shirk Certainty.

Meryl Dorey is happy to quote Hippocrates when it suits her. I hope she is aware of this quote:

There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.

The Real Australian Skeptics is an emerging cornucopia of contrary, provocative nonsense based upon grossly misunderstood notions of evidence, opinion and philosophy. Whatever it is intended to be, it is certainly not a place for truth.

It is presently the very home of Ignorance.

Meryl Dorey’s Great “Vaccine Testing” Swindle

It doesn’t take much digging and delving to discover that Meryl Wynn Dorey is committing fraud and always intended to commit fraud.

In what will be the first post to examine fraud capers perpetrated by Meryl Dorey we’ll have a look at the false promises and schemes used to mislead members about the always imminent “vaccine testing”. One may wonder, where is that money now?

Charity fraud is known to be the choice of cowards. The callous, the cruel, the weak. Fines are so puny as to render the prospect of prosecution remote. The maximum fine for an offence (regardless of it’s size) that can be imposed upon the guilty is $5,500. Little wonder then that in NSW the OLGR has prosecuted one person in seven years. Jesse Phillips informed us of this last July 24th, when writing Why Charity Fraud is The Softest Crime.

He also noted:

Gaming and Racing Minister George Souris has pledged that investigating charity fraud will be a priority and that he will initiate prosecutions where appropriate. […]

Reports of bogus charities were rare but all complaints about suspicious charities were investigated, he said.

Last year the office cancelled the fundraising authorities for Solutions to Obesity Problems and the Australian Vaccination Network.

Solutions to Obesity Problems had its charity status revoked following publicity from radio presenter Ray Hadley while the AVN’s charity status was revoked after it was found to have breached charitable fundraising laws and potentially misled the public as its appeals were not done in good faith.

Neither was prosecuted.

I suggest checking The Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 (NSW Legislation) for a better understanding of “fundraising appeal”, “participating in a fundraising appeal”. etc. Do note however that Section 10 Participating In Unlawful Fundraising states:

A person who participates in a fundraising appeal which the person knows, or could reasonably be expected to know, is being conducted unlawfully is guilty of an offence.

So let’s ease in to the “vaccine testing” swindle with a generic gimme ya money appeal, that sort of morphed into having a partially stated purpose of vaccine testing. Around June of 2006 Meryl was availing her members with a magazine called Doing The Rounds. In this first issue Meryl opines that the catchy themed “$26 donation from every member donation drive” has yielded a puny $1,700.

Unfortunately, the $26 from every member donation drive has been floundering. After a flurry of donations and pledges in the first days of our appeal, the not-so-grand total to date is just over $1,700. Considering the fact that we have over 2,000 AVN members and another 800 or so readers of this email who have never joined but are reading this information, I hope that this tally can be lifted substantially in the next week or so. If you haven’t donated yet, please do so and if you are not a member, have a think about joining. Also, remember to forward our information on to friends, family and acquaintances who you think might be interested in joining.

Nothing like a bit of flounder to get an Aussie interested. By issue two of Doing The Rounds the total was $6,016 – “a fantastic start” Meryl enthused. We also learn there’s a total goal of $52,000. The detective in you has spotted that 52,000 divided by 26 suggests 2,000 members. And Meryl has put the guilt trip on another “800 or so readers”.

Also great news! Meryl has announced “Our First Project With These Funds”. She has arranged with an independent laboratory to test two different vaccines for the presence of heavy metals. One will be a “supposedly mercury-free shot”. Also this money should now be going into a trust account with a stated purpose.

Issue 3 of Doing The Rounds brought more updates. Another 2 grand had hit the target, but there was $48,000 to go.

As you no doubt remember, we are looking for total donations of $52,000 which equated to a donation of only $26 from each one of you. Since the last newsletter, we have raised an additional $2025 in donations which is lovely but means that we still need more than $48,000 to get to our goal.

And there was a graph headed “How Close Are We Getting?” to prove it:

Next came Doing The Rounds Issue 4. Since July 1st $3,114 had rolled in. One generous donor had given $2,000. Two things also happened in Issue 4. The promise of putting the $2,000 toward testing vaccines for heavy metals “such as mercury” was made. This now locks the AVN into certain conditions laid out in The Charitable Fundraisng Act 1993 (NSW Legislation).

  • Division Three: Application of funds raised

20 Proceeds of Appeal

(1)  Any money or benefit received in the course of a fundraising appeal conducted by the holder of an authority is to be applied according to the objects or purposes represented by or on behalf of the persons conducting the appeal as the purposes or objects of the appeal.

21 Investment

(1)  Money received in the course of a fundraising appeal which is not immediately required to be applied to the purposes or objects of the appeal may be invested only in a manner for the time being authorised by law for the investment of trust funds.

The Charitable Trusts Act 1993 notes:

In this Act:

charitable trust means any trust established for charitable purposes and subject to the control of the Court in the exercise of the Court’s general jurisdiction with respect to charitable trusts.

Effectively money raised toward “vaccine testing” must go toward vaccine testing, or into a charitable trust. Other monies not earmarked for vaccine testing, but raised from the $52,000 donation drive must be invested in a charitable trust as money raised in the course of a specific appeal.

Also, The AVN had applied to be a tax deductible gift recipient. Perhaps being over confident of success changes were made to their constitution. It all got confusing when they accordingly opened a new bank account called Australian Vaccination Network Inc. Gift Fund. Although the AVN’s application “to be a tax deductible gift recipient” was, to this day, never accepted (like say, with Charities), the practice of switching between these two accounts remains a feature of this and future scams.

Next up is Issue 5 of Doing The Rounds. There’s $8,541.59. $2,500 has been “set aside” for testing vaccines for the presence of mercury. I do hope you have no liquids in your mouth dear reader, because it was also announced that a new goal of submitting the “results of these tests for publication in a mainstream medical journal”, had been established.

So to date there should be one trust account holding $8,541.59 as the total so far of the “$52,000 donation drive”. And another trust account holding $2,500 for vaccine testing. The confusion with money going into Australian Vaccination Network Inc. and the meaningless Australian Vaccination Network Inc. Gift Fund bank accounts should also be corrected.

Things go a bit quiet on the Vaccine Testing front for 15 months, until January 2008. Members are then told about Your Donations At Work. Or rather, it seems their donations are not doing much work at all.

No more gushing detail about totals is forthcoming. Indeed members will never hear of any financial total related to vaccine testing again. They will also never hear of the fate of the $52,000 donation drive. Exactly how that $11,000 in total of theirs in the above screenshot is to be (or was) spent is a mystery. The fate of that money is never mentioned again.

Oh, never fear though. There were other feverish donation and fundraising drives in the meantime. Girls were being savaged with “mandatory HPV vaccination”. Only an “urgent $2,000” could save them. Legal action was to be launched by the AVN to save hospital employees from immunisation. I’ll cover those later. But in January 2008, Dorey had cranked up ye olde “vaccine testing” myth again.

You see, the donations aren’t at work because the AVN now needs a “couple of people with expertise in [vaccine testing]”. Perhaps a Laboratory Scientist, a Research Scientist, a Graduate Scientist or a medical or healthcare professional previously involved in research. They still “plan on submitting it for publication in a medical journal”.

Then came February 2008. Can You Help With Raising Funds For This Project? Suddenly donations weren’t at work anymore. In fact, they apparently weren’t even enough anymore.

I don’t have a problem with total donations not being enough to test vaccines for heavy metals. In truth the entire hoped for $52,000 would have delivered little in that respect. It’s the way this phoney caper is presented that’s concerning. And we see more polish to AVN’s standard conspiracy laden scheme of them saving members from the danger of vaccines.

The call for money blurb was:

In 1999, the Australian government ordered the removal of mercury from all childhood vaccines. It was several years however before the old mercury-laden vaccines were actually used up and in all that time, children continued to receive mercury – a known killer of brain cells – in their shots.

Recent vaccine tests conducted by HAPI (Health Advocacy in the Public Interest) indicate that many if not most childhood and adult shots may still contain this toxic heavy metal. Independent testing is needed!

The Australian Vaccination Network is planning on testing every currently-licensed vaccine for the presence of toxic heavy metals. Funding is required to perform these tests properly. Without proper independent tests, Australian children and adults may continue to be poisoned by the failure of the government to ensure the removal of toxic ingredients from vaccines.

This continued on for four more months. You can check in Doing The Rounds March, April and June 2008. Of course it’s entirely bogus. Whatever amount was needed was never conveyed. Clearly they were not consulting, or knew it was financially prohibitive. Whatever total was raised was also never conveyed. It was a crude grab for dollars. Nothing less.

Nobody ever heard of this “scheme”, any respondents to the request for research help, the proposed medical paper or a single cent related to it again. Nonetheless every AVN publication during and since 2006 have provided options for donating, getting slicker and more bold over time.

To the delight of AVN watchers however, Meryl Dorey did make one other attempt to keep the “vaccine testing” scam afloat. Heavily weighed down with donor dollars Dorey was off to the USA in October 2010. Donors had paid for multiple iMacs, iPads and countless flights around Australia. Why not a trip to good old USA? Why not indeed?

Exciting Times Ahead! gushed the October 2010 edition of Living Wisdom/AVN newsletter. Meryl was off to the Freedom For Family Wellness Summit in Washington. Just in case you were wondering what Meryl was doing jetting off to the USA almost 5 years after first promising to spend your money on Vaccine Testing you got this *:

Of course no feedback followed and no-one was kept up to date with what is essentially the last entry (to date) in the sorry saga of Meryl Dorey’s promised vaccine testing.

Just this one example indicates that the up to 25 breaches of The Charitable Fundraising Act uncovered by the OLGR were not “minor”. Indeed the most basic requirements have not been adhered to. No member has a clue where any money is, exactly what it has been spent on, or in this and other cases at what stage, and indeed how likely, the fruition of certain projects are.

All that is constant is the ongoing siphoning of money from a rapid turnover member base. Rather than accusing her critics of libel Ms. Dorey would do well to address the damning evidence that comes from her own hand. That is published under her own name.

In closing one can only be drawn again to consider the many claims of threats and harassment Dorey claims comes her way from Stop The AVN or members of various Skeptic groups. It’s a tired old line and few believe it. Her critics work from evidence not emotion.

However, if it were true I’d be worrying about the thousands of members schemed and lied to for financial gain.

Maybe someone really wanted vaccines tested.

* I’m indebted to an alert AVN watcher for knowing where to recover this text.

P is for Paranoid, Persecutory Delusion

Definition Paranoia:

Paranoia is an unfounded or exaggerated distrust of others, sometimes reaching delusional proportions. Paranoid individuals constantly suspect the motives of those around them, and believe that certain individuals, or people in general, are “out to get them.”
Persecutory Delusion:
A fixed, false, and inflexible belief that others are engaging in a plot or plan to harm an individual.
Fact Sheet Defamation:

Defamation is a tort, or a civil wrong, which occurs when defamatory material relating to an individual is published.  Material will be defamatory if it could:

  • injure the reputation of the individual by exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule;
  • cause people to shun or avoid the individual; or
  • lower the individual’s estimation by right thinking members of society.

For a defamation action to be successful, three elements must be satisfied:

  1. the information was communicated by the defendant to a third person other than the plaintiff (publication);
  2. the material identifies the plaintiff (identification); and
  3. the information/material contains matter that is defamatory, regardless of whether the material was intentionally published or not (defamatory matter).

Some readers may remember the recent AVN post by president Meryl Wynn Dorey, entitled V is for Vendetta.

We shall ignore the theft of that copyright movie name to pursue more pertinent matters. The post was a rant against Mr. Ken McLeod who has devoted massive amounts of his time and effort to protect Australians from a sham organisation convinced it is above the law.

For twenty years Ms. Dorey has peddled misinformation designed to terrify an endless stream of new parents about vaccination. Over this time many of these same parents paid her via donation for the endlessly promised, but never delivered, cornucopia of “solutions”. The children grow, parents move on and for Meryl it was always simply rinse and repeat.

In 2009 Ken filed a complaint against the AVN with the NSW HCCC. The findings of their investigation were damning indeed. The complaints were not found to be “illegal”. The findings have not been quashed. It is what the HCCC did with the findings that was found to be technically outside of their jurisdiction. The AVN have not been “vindicated”. However Ms. Dorey did win an appeal against a Public Warning and an order to warn website visitors that the AVN is anti-vaccination.

The very same Supreme Court ruling ensures that the following remains true and accurate:

An investigation into The AVN by the Health Care Complaints Commission of NSW found that the AVN website:

1) Provides information that is solely anti-vaccination.
2) Contains information that is incorrect and misleading.
3) Quotes selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous.

For some legal jargon and a look at what the OLGR position was regarding removal of the AVN’s Charitable Fundraising Authority, prior to it’s reinstatement check here.

Getting back to Dorey’s post we should note the following attacks on Mr. McLeod:

1- The Health Care Complaints Commission received a 90-page complaint by Ken McLeod – member of Stop the AVN and a man whose obsession with me seems to border on the psychotic. McLeod filed the original complaint, resulting in a 12-month ‘investigation’ by the HCCC and a public warning – both of which were later deemed to be illegal by the NSW Supreme Court. It appears that McLeod must spend hours every day trying to prove that I am a liar and that the AVN is responsible for global warming, the current financial crisis and the death of every child from infectious disease no matter where in the world it occurs (this is only slightly tongue in cheek).

Despite the HCCC’s rejection, it is obvious that McLeod will continue to try and get me charged with some sort of crime and will not stop trying to shut down the AVN until one of us is imprisoned or he is finally provided with the psychiatric support he seemingly needs.

2- The Department of Fair Trading which originally investigated the AVN back in 2009 due to another complaint from McLeod and others involved with the Australian Skeptics and Stop the AVN, has come back again due to yet another complaint, involving what appears to be dubious technicalities. […]

4- Earlier in the week, I received a call from a representative of the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) Advertising Codes Council who informed me that they had received a complaint about us (gee, I wonder who would have made such a complaint? I just can’t imagine!) and I would be hearing from them in the next few days in regards to a matter I will have to respond to.

I won’t take up the entire page quoting Meryl Dorey. Follow the link above if you care to. Suffice it to say she blames Mr. McLeod and Government authorities for her own breaches of legislative requirements. That alone seems to require towering hubris.

Yet item 2 here has zero to do with Mr. McLeod, as does item 4 – referring to the TGA.

Regarding the Office of Fair Trading Ken did some digging and found the wonderfully generous complainant. Thanks to that person’s selflessness we can confirm that unless Mr. McLeod has moved to QLD he is innocent of the charges Your Honour.

  • Response/s from NSW OFT:

Clearly there are likely to be many people writing letters, filing complaints and quite simply expressing their keenness to see this sham gig brought to account. There’s no doubt no apology will be forthcoming from Ms. Dorey. A cursory glance at the customary vulgarity of her many transgressions should forewarn us of that.

I for one doubt that paranoid ramblings or a persecution complex will hide the truth for long.

Scientific consensus is a myth and flu vaccine infects with influenza

I was astonished to read this tweet today from well known anti-vaccination identity, Meryl Dorey:

Certainly, I agree that science never “proves” anything. Mathematics and logic have “proofs”, but not science. Which is why scientific consensus provides us with invaluable insight into evidence that applies to matters of science. More so, it is the flexibility of scientific consensus that gives one confidence in science. Dorey’s proposed infinite loop of unending testing is a semantic trick, designed to convey a feel of impotent stasis.

Scientific consensus provides the best explanation from the very best and most reliable of all possible theories. It has after all, extended lifespan and quality in the developed world. Surely there must be more to this reworking of reality. Facebook rewarded my curiosity.

I see. Further application of what we consulted just recently. Meryl’s Equation: < 100% = 0%.

Thalidomide was a watershed in how drug trials are conducted. The tragedy forever changed the way trials proceed before drugs are released onto the market. Vioxx – Merck’s COX-2 inhibitor – is equally concerning. Yet Vioxx represents regulator apathy and a triumphant change in scientific consensus. The FDA approved it in April 1999 and it was recalled completely by Merck in September 2004. There was no “ignoring evidence that their consensus is wrong”.

I’m not seeking to whitewash either event but they do not render scientific consensus as a valuable and crucial notion, suddenly useless.

I imagine mentioning “mercury” is aiming to cast the removal of thimerosal from childhood vaccines, in response to unfounded fears and a drop vaccination rates, as evidence it was causally related to autism or other horrors. In fact, speaking of consensus this remains a topical point. Many insist it was foolish to pander to the anti-vaccine lobby as it may be abused to legitimise their false claims. Such is exactly what we see here.

Depending upon what it is confirming, scientific consensus may come under attack as its relationship to the scientific method is open to exploitation and abuse. Denial of anthropogenic climate change, vaccine efficacy and promotion of intelligent design (biblical creationism), rely heavily on trying to undermine the fact of overwhelming scientific consensus. A key weapon here is in producing “their” scientists to attack the work of others and advance a sham alternative.

The relationship between scientific consensus and the scientific method is perhaps poorly understood. Thus, it befalls us to educate ourselves about the sources of proposed consensus. And by that I really mean finding reputable sources and knowing how to spot disreputable sources. I found myself recently struggling to explain these notions to a friend.

In Australia a documentary aired called I can change your mind on climate change. Presenting both “sides” (denialist rehash vs evolving facts) it was followed by an episode of QandA that offered a terribly worded poll. The question was “Would you change your mind on climate change”? By itself, my answer to that question is an unhesitating Yes. Availed of convincing evidence and a change in consensus I have no problem answering that I “would”.

Yet I suspect the question was worded to be seen in the context of the programme. In which case it should have read “Would you change your mind on climate change given the pathetically, preposterous, piffle to poke at the periphery of your predisposition to weigh dissenting views?” Er… No.

Nonetheless I spent a futile half hour attempting to explain to my friend that whilst I need no convincing of anthropogenic climate change, those very views are important to me because of the relationship between the scientific method and scientific consensus. It is because the scientific method makes scientific consensus so potentially frail, that I back the notion of anthropogenic climate change.

So it is with any consensus arrived at within science. The scientific method is the weapon of choice with which consensus is changed. Little wonder then, an anti-vaccination crusader seeks to demean both.

Prior to this another tweet had caught my eye:

This is pure nonsense. Being infected with influenza is “one of the most common side effects” of vaccination against influenza? I think not.

In fact the NCIRS have a handy Fact Sheet on influenza vaccination. Influenza vaccines used in Australia are inactive. Influenza cells in vaccines cannot cause infection. They have lost their mojo.

As Julie Leask pointed out, in what a betting person might argue was the catalyst for Meryl’s merriment, only 1% – 10% of recipients report symptoms of mild infection for “a day or two”. In fact the article entitled Monday’s Medical Myth: the flu vaccine will give you influenza also noted other reasons for claims of inefficacy-by-infection.

  1. Anyone vaccinated might get another virus that feels like influenza.
  2. Some people’s immune system does not respond to the vaccine.
  3. Anyone vaccinated may get another strain of influenza.
  4. (As mentioned) less than 10% have mild flu-like symptoms for up to 48 hours.

Other strains of influenza exist because at the time production began, the vaccine strains targeted were calculated to be in circulation months later. This isn’t always correct. Combined with the other issues influenza vaccine is suboptimal. And suboptimal is manna for application of Meryl’s Equation.

Leask points out that we under-react to the risk of influenza. Costing Australia $115 million annually, it kills 3,000 and hospitalises over 13,500 people over 50 each season.

Nonetheless a visit to Facebook was a definite must.

Writing in Science-Based Medicine about problems associated with suboptimal flu vaccination Mark Crislip touches on “vaccine goofs” prone to Meryl’s Equation (<100% = 0%).

So it’s a suboptimal vaccine.  And that’s a problem. One, because it will make it more difficult to prove efficacy in clinical studies and two, there is a sub group of anti vaccine goofs who seem to require that vaccines either be perfect, with 100% efficacy and 100% safe, or they are not worth taking.

The CDC have this to say:

At least two factors play an important role in determining the likelihood that influenza vaccine will protect a person from influenza illness: 1) characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health), and 2) the similarity or “match” between the influenza viruses in the vaccine and those spreading in the community. During years when the viruses in the vaccine and circulating viruses are not well matched, it’s possible that no benefit from vaccination may be observed. During years when the viruses in the vaccine and circulating viruses are very well matched, it’s possible to measure substantial benefits from vaccination in terms of preventing influenza illness.

NCIRS:

[In older people] influenza vaccine is about 30– 40% effective in preventing symptoms of the flu, 50–60% effective against hospitalisation due to influenza, and 70– 80% effective against death from complications of  influenza. Influenza vaccination also appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. When there  is a good match between the influenza strains in the vaccine and those causing current disease, the vaccine can prevent illness in about 70–90% of healthy children and adults. The vaccine is less effective in those with an impaired immune system

Certainly then there is no evidence that the influenza vaccine doesn’t work or as claimed, “causes the flu”.

I don’t quite know what sparked this most recent attack on “skeptics” and science in general but I would hope to see better from a so-called “health educator” able to raise funds as a charity.

For now the scientific consensus is sound and overwhelmingly in favour of mass vaccination.