Fake news, post truth, anti-vaccine

In 2016 use of the terms fake news and post truth became commonplace. Yet for those who address attacks on science, scientific consensus and the use of evidence in designing legislation, both concepts already had a long history.

Evidence based public health policy is attacked through the intentional disinformation of fake news and mocked via the subjective, emotional selective trickery of post truth. Alternatives to medicine rely upon bogus testimonials, false claims of scientific backing and pseudscience.

The anti-vaccine lobby want to be seen to be presenting a range of specific arguments against vaccination. Yet their main aim is to convince the unwary that vaccines cause harm and also kill on a huge scale. This in turn demands a feverish use of fake news and post truth. When their lack of fake evidence fails, post truth themes seeking to enrage an audience because governments “take away their right to choose” what’s best for their children’s health may quite sadly find their mark.

Presently we can see application of these concepts respectively with the promotion of the fraudumentary, Vaxxed and claims that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife profit from their investment in childhood vaccines.

Meryl Dorey

In March last year Meryl Dorey wrote (bold mine);

Australia has a long history of holding its elected representatives accountable when there is even a hint of corruption or profiteering – yet the current PM’s wife is Chairman of the Board of a company involved in vaccination and other pharmaceutical pursuits whose value has increased dramatically due – at least on the surface in my own opinion – to policies which her husband has helped push through Parliament. Did Mr Turnbull excuse himself during the debate on No Jab No Pay? Did he tell Parliament that he had a conflict of interest and excuse himself from the vote on this legislation? These are genuine questions – I don’t know the answer and my investigations so far have not been fruitful. Despite the apparent conflict of interest, not a word has been raised about this in the media or by the opposition.

Ah yes. “Not a word has been raised about this in the media or by the opposition”. Not so. Particularly with the number of media reports on the Turnbull’s investments.

Firstly had Dorey done her research well (or is that not employed the post truth tactic of cherry picking?), she’d know that six months earlier Lucy Turnbull was questioned about potential conflicts of interest for an article that was published in the media. Most importantly, quoting Mrs. Turnbull;

“I am currently in the process of assessing my role on company boards to ensure there are no conflicts of interest,” she says.

“We are seeking advice from various sources, and we hope to be in a position to decide in the next fortnight, whether I can keep doing what I am doing,” she says.

Just over a fortnight later the same paper wrote up Labor’s attacks on the Turnbull’s wealth. The byline was;

Labor’s attacks look like a shabby smear, but the bar is set very high for prime ministers and their partners.

Now in fairness to Meryl I should address why Bill Shorten didn’t challenge the PM for not excusing himself from the vote on No Jab No Pay, based on that conflict of interest. Firstly, Dorey did contend that “on the surface in my own opinion”, the value of Prima BioMed “increased dramatically due to policies which [Turnbull] helped push through Parliament”.

Okay, so it was a feelpinion. Worthless. But we can do better.

Two paragraphs earlier Dorey was ranting at Malcolm Turnbull, including;

Are you afraid that your wife’s profits at Prima BioMed (profits that jumped to AUD $5.5 million mere weeks after No Jab No Pay legislation was announced) might be affected if enough people start to question vaccination?

Above Dorey has linked to a May 21st, 2015 Financial Review piece headed, Patience Pays Off for Prima Chairwoman Lucy Turnbull. A small three paragraph piece, it finishes;

After a $15 million equity injection from US firm Ridgeback Capital last week at 1.73¢ a share, the stock has climbed from 2.2¢ to 16¢ after the bell on Thursday – jumping 190 per cent yesterday alone. And Turnbull’s stake? Now worth a tidy $5.5 million.

Clearly Dorey has fabricated the notion that the value of Prima BioMed increased due to the passing of No Jab No Pay.

Dorey can claim any rubbish she likes to try to sell the line Turnbull is shaping legislation to boost the share value of Prima BioMed. But the $15 million from Ridgeback Capital didn’t go to a company that manufacturers childhood vaccines. Yes Lucy Turnbull is Chair of the board of Prima BioMed, a biotechnology company working on cancer immunotherapy. Dorey really stretches the facts to contend it is accurately described as, a company involved in vaccination and other pharmaceutical pursuits. The company presently focuses on three main products targetting autoimmune disease and cancer which you may read about here.

The most notable link to vaccination is the development of CVac, the commercialisation of which was one reason for the formation of Prima BioMed in 2001. CVac, targetting ovarian cancer, ultimately trialled unsuccessfully. A potential trial for pancreatic cancer was cancelled in Febuary 2015. Read up on CVac here and Lucy Turnbull’s personal financial loss here.

More on the Turnbull’s investments here. Remember it’s now 18 months since Lucy Turnbull told Fairfax she was, “assessing my role on company boards to ensure there are no conflicts of interest”. Her full history of board, Foundation and senior committee positions indicates a person devoted to the success of not for profit, charity and with a love of science and medical innovation.

There is simply no substance to the claim by Dorey and others of a conflict of interest based on profits from childhood vaccines.

Belgin Sila Colak/Arslan

Last October when Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy was targetted by antivaccinationists the public got a glimpse of the name behind the Facebook group Anti-Vaccination Australia. Belgin Colak, aka Belgin Sila Colak, aka Belgin Sila Arslan.

Earlier this Month (March 6th) she posted this on her public timeline.

A “Yale study” eh, I thought. I followed the link and ended up at a “trueactivist” Feb. 17 piece. Under that deceptive headline the authors ran through a number of bogus, disproved claims about vaccines based at best on temporal correlation. A number of comments were scathing as to the misleading intent of the article. Now have a good read of Belgin’s claims above. “Multiple studies and other countries” report vaccine induced disorders. And these “very brave and unabashed scientists [who] have been able to show a correlation of what many have known for quite some time”? Where are they?

Had Belgin read the comments she’d have picked up on the objections to the alternative facts the authors had used. The worst was;

As with most research studies, the researchers stop short of claiming the vaccinations cause the all too common brain disorders.

In other words there really was no study from Yale suggesting autism and multiple brain disorders were linked to vaccines. Belgin’s love of fake news was on display here, for there was in fact an accessible link to the actual study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry. The title was Temporal Association of Certain Neuropsychiatric Disorders Following Vaccination of Children and Adolescents: A Pilot Case–Control Study. The institutes involved were, 1) Department of Public Health Sciences, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA and 2) Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.

What conclusion did these “very brave and unabashed scientists” offer? Bold mine;

Conclusion: This pilot epidemiologic analysis implies that the onset of some neuropsychiatric disorders may be temporally related to prior vaccinations in a subset of individuals. These findings warrant further investigation, but do not prove a causal role of antecedent infections or vaccinations in the pathoetiology of these conditions. Given the modest magnitude of these findings in contrast to the clear public health benefits of the timely administration of vaccines in preventing mortality and morbidity in childhood infectious diseases, we encourage families to maintain vaccination schedules according to CDC guidelines.

This is so clear we should thank Belgin. This study offers what antivaccinationists often demand. It’s saying there may be correlation in a small group but not causation. Vaccines work. Keep on vaccinating. The end.

A week ago I noticed Belgin post what can only be described as simply reprehensible exploitation of Saba Button.

The health department knew this vaccine had been reported several times, yet they still administered this vaccine on (sic) children regardless of numerous ER reports. You’re told a fever, seizures and crying is normal. Some never wake up, some end up with autism, and some are permanently disabled. Every vaccine causes damage! They’re still out there murdering babies, destroying lives, pushing more vaccines on children and now on expectant mothers. Every parent should be aware of this and have a choice!

Alternative facts and post truth galore. I addressed this case back in November 2011, because of similar exploitation at that time by Meryl Dorey. There are no excuses or denials to be made. Fluvax was not suitable for under 5 year olds. There were problems with both CSL, who incorrectly advised the TGA and the W.A. Health Department. Meryl Dorey was variously, fallaciously claiming hundreds of cases and hundreds of admissions. The ABC reported “hundreds of reactions” on April 18th, 2010 with 47 taken to hospital reported on April 23. The West Australian on the same day reported 23 admissions. This led to the suspension nationwide by Commonwealth chief health officer Professor Jim Bishop.

Why was it even used? During a 2006 Fluvax trial with a sample of 272, 1 child had a febrile convulsion. The TGA argue that one adverse event in a clinical trial is “not usually regarded as an adequate signal of a major safety problem”. In 2010 the febrile seizure rate caused by Fluvax was 3.3 per 1,000. This is remarkably similar to the rate in the 2006 trial. Yet TGA national manager, Dr Rohan Hammett told a Senate estimates committee hearing that the 2006 data showed “no sign of a febrile convulsion signal”. More so CSL may have advised the TGA of fever (not seizure) rates from 2005 – far less than 2006 fever rates. It is a convoluted, detailed issue. Do read this post. Fortunately Saba was compensated.

Belgin Sila Arslan claims there were or are fatalities and cases of autism. False. Every vaccine causes damage! False. Babies are being “murdered”. Repulsive. A visit to The Saba Rose Button Foundation presents a very different view.

The SABA ROSE BUTTON FOUNDATION is a not-for-profit charity focussed on raising funds to help children who have special needs and their families. The funds raised will pay for these special children to participate in ‘intensive blocks’ of physiotherapy, for specialised equipment that is needed, for parental respite and for care in the home.

Vaccine Injuries

I stated above that antivaccinationists ultimately seek to convince the unwary that vaccines harm and kill on a significant scale. Both references here to Belgin confirm this. Dorey also insists vaccines injure and kill – but never has the subjects or the evidence to confirm this. On her blog she lies smoothly, as here;

Many of you know of children who were injured or killed by vaccines. I personally know the families of at least 10 children who died as a result of vaccination and dozens (this is within my family and my close friends) who are permanently injured.

Other material above shows Dorey beating the conspiracy drum: profit from evil vaccines. Fortunately for me she raised the passing of No Jab No Pay legislation. Professor Julie Leask is not a fan of No Jab No Pay. This may well delight the anti-vaccination lobby. During the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab No Pay) Bill hearing in Brisbane on November 2nd, 2015, Professor Leask answered questions on vaccine injury. Her submission to the inquiry was firmly against No Jab No Pay. Thus with some hope one may view her information on vaccine injuries as something antivaccinationists might entertain.

Put simply there are between zero and less than five injuries that would require compensation each year, according to Leask citing a vaccinologist.

The audio and text below is from page 41 of the hearing.

If you listened to the audio you heard the anti-vaxxers in attendance groan in denial at the “zero to less than five” serious vaccine injuries per year figure. But this didn’t stop Meryl Dorey publishing Julie Leask’s anti-No Jab No Pay submission to the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill on her blog. Splendid post truth cherry picking right there.

To conclude we can expect to see anti-science groups gradually develop skills in the use of fake news/evidence and post truth. Recent stories in Australia involving measles cases in the unvaccinated and a case of tetanus are concerning. Cases of vaccine preventable disease are likely to become more and more common. As the unvaccinated spread their wings management of imported disease will demand more resources and frustrate health authorities.

Politically, science has lost a certain respect and may be under threat as rabid post truth movements such as Trumpism take root. Yet the harm such thinking and ideologies cause, and the cost inflicted financially and socially is easily seen and eagerly discussed. Exploitation has its limits.

And that is always a positive.

UPDATE: What does a health minister and an anti-vaxxer have in common?

Pod On The Hill podcast (by Victorian Labor). Episode 6, March 30th 2017.    

  • Outtake of discussion of anti-vaxxers – 3min 27sec – Download mp3
  • Or listen to outtake below:

———————————

Full episode on Soundcloud. Forward to 23 minute mark for beginning of anti-vaxxer discussion.

‘Wellness Warrior’ Jessica Ainscough dies from cancer

Comparing the eternally positive reflections of Jessica Ainscough with the reality of her recent passing from epithelioid sarcoma just two days ago, one cannot help feel somewhat disturbed. The ABC website has a leading description of Jessica’s struggle;

When initial mainstream cancer treatment didn’t work, one woman chose alternative methods that offer a different perspective on health and wellbeing.

Jessica initially underwent isolated limb perfusion. Her left upper limb was treated with chemotherapy. Initial signs were positive but within a year or so her tumor had returned. The surgical option she then faced involved amputation of not just her arm but the shoulder also. This disfiguring alternative may have offered some hope and Orac writes that before the choice of perfusion arose, Jessica may have been preparing herself to face the surgical option [2]. Ultimately she didn’t decide on surgery. A disturbing cornucopia of woo, “positive affirmations”, “cancer thriving”, coffee enemas, “the tribe”, etc… and surrendering to what the universe had in store led to The Wellness Warrior. Jessica also took on promoting the widely discredited quackery known as Gerson Therapy with gusto. You can read what Cancer Council Australia write about Gerson, and also check some citations here. This summary is from an article in today’s news.com.au;

Australia’s leading cancer organisations do not endorse Gerson therapy as a means of treating cancer. The National Cancer Institute says: “Because no prospective, controlled study of the use of the Gerson therapy in cancer patients has been reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, no level of evidence analysis is possible for this approach. “The data that are available are not sufficient to warrant claims that the Gerson therapy is effective as an adjuvant to other cancer therapies or as a cure. At this time, the use of the Gerson therapy in the treatment of cancer patients cannot be recommended outside the context of well-designed clinical trials. Cancer Australia says there is “little evidence” that alternative therapies are effective in cancer treatment. “Most have not been assessed for efficacy in randomised clinical trials, though some have been examined and found to be ineffective.” If you’d like to know more about cancer treatment in Australia, visit cancer.org.au or call 13 11 20.

The scale of denial Aiscough was in for so many years comes across in her piece published on ABC’s The Drum website. Eg;

How have I managed to escape the frail, sickly appearance that is so firmly stamped on the ‘cancer patient’ stereotype? I refused to follow the doctor’s orders. […] Our bodies are designed to heal themselves. It is really that simple. Our bodies don’t want to die. […] This is the basis of natural cancer-fighting regimes. While conventional treatment is hell bent on attacking the site of the disease and destroying tumors with drugs, radiation and surgery, the natural approach aims to treat the body as a whole. […] This stuff isn’t new. Reading Plato shows that holistic modalities have been understood for centuries: “You ought not to attempt to cure the eyes without the head, or the head without the body, so neither ought you to attempt to cure the body without the soul… […] …I will spend three weeks being treated at the Gerson Clinic. The basis of the Gerson Therapy is a diet, which includes eating only organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking 13 glasses of freshly squeezed juice per day in hourly intervals. The idea is to strengthen the immune system and load you up with heaps of minerals, enzymes, beta-carotene, Vitamins A and C, and other antioxidants that attack free radicals and ultimately the cancer.  According to the late Dr Max Gerson, if you can stick to the strict regime for a minimum of two years, Gerson Therapy has the ability to cure cancer like no drug can. Alternative treatments like Gawler and Gerson offer patients hope, choice and understanding. They also offer them a cure, not just remission. To me, that sounds like the much more attractive option.

The Cancer Council of Victoria has some great advice on the topic, “How will I know if claims of a cure are false?”. On page 39 of this booklet they note that the dishonest and unethical may;

  • Try to convince you your cancer has been caused by a poor diet or stress: they will claim they can treat you or cure your cancer with a special diet
  • Promise a cure – or to detoxify, purify or revitalise your body. There will be quick dramatic and wonderful results – a miracle cure
  • Use untrustworthy claims to back up their results rather than scientific-based evidence from clinical trials. They may even list references. But if you look deeper these references may be false, nonexistent, irrelevant, based on poorly designed research and out of date
  • Warn you that medical professionals are hiding “the real cure for cancer” and not to trust your doctor
  • Display credentials not recognised by reputable scientists and health professionals

Comparing Jessica’s beliefs and a small amount of advice from Cancer Council (Victoria) indicates Ainscough was entertaining a range of dangerous ideas about what both caused and might treat or even “cure” her cancer. Plainly the Cancer Council would reject Gerson Therapy based on its major traits. Tragically Jessica’s mother died from breast cancer after following her into trusting the disproved belief system. Orac writes in October 2013;

From what I can gather, it is the story of a death from quackery, a death that didn’t have to occur. Even worse than that, it appears to be a death facilitated by the daughter of the deceased, a woman named Jessica Ainscough, who bills herself as the “Wellness Warrior.” It’s a horrifying story, the story of a woman who followed her daughter’s lead and put her faith in the quackery known as the Gerson therapy.

An excellent blog is The View From The Hills by Rosalie Hilleman. It is an excellent examination – through postulation, questioning and evidence – of Jessica’s extensive deception and manipulation of her readers in order to maintain two illusions. One being that Gerson offers some efficacy. The second being that Jessica’s epithelioid sarcoma was not progressing with the morbidity expected for that condition diagnosed at the time it was.

EDIT: Jessica insisted she was “thriving”. Readers could easily be left with the impression that Gerson Therapy is effective. All the more because most don’t associate “cancer” with the bright, positive Jessica. This is why questions raised in The View From The Hills were and are so necessary. Gerson was actually doing nothing. In reality her cancer was markedly indolent – very slow to progress.

But it was progressing. It always was. Clinically, just as cancer of this type does progress. And now like her mother, Jessica Ainscough has died from cancer.

JessAinscough

Medical Observer Interview: Dr. Ken Harvey

Former editor of the Medical Journal of Australia and GP Dr Annette Katelaris interviews Dr. Ken Harvey.

Dr. Harvey originally graduated from the University of Melbourne. Initially specialising in infectious disease and medical microbiology Ken’s interest in antibiotic resistance led to a study of the forces that drive prescription. Ken moved to the School of Public Health at La Trobe University to continue his work on medicinal drug policy.

He now holds the position of Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at La Trobe.

INTERVIEW – CAMs regulation and pharmaceutical industry influence – Assoc Prof Ken Harvey – Obserations

Noted public health advocate Associate Professor Ken Harvey on what’s lacking in regulating complementary medicines, and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on ‘the hand that writes the script’.

Ken talks about his extensive role in prodding Australia’s regulator of complementary medicines and shortfalls in the present system for regulating these “listed” therapeutic products. He is also asked about the personal impact of holding shonky products, advertising and ultimately – dishonest, unforgiving individuals – to account. Ken’s interest in information technology makes him a welcome source of advice to overhaul the TGA’s Electronic Listing Facility.

For a self confessed “stubborn bastard” in chasing blatant advertising breaches, it’s clear that Australian consumers are in Ken’s debt. Ken holds life membership of the Australian Consumers Association, Choice, and is also a member of their Policy Advisory Group. Dr. Harvey is Chair of Health Action International, Asia Pacific (HAIAP). He was a member of the WHO expert group that drafted their Ethical Criteria for Medicinal Drug Promotion. [22 page PDF]

mp3_mic
INTERVIEW AUDIO

Or direct download MP3 here. 21 min 13 sec. 21.4 MB
Listen or download file at chirbit.
———————————————————
Copyright symbol

Interview Source – © Medical Observer, Sound Cloud. Published August 26th, 2013.

 

———————————————————

Essential reading from @kill3rTcell.

An excellent review of the preventative impact on liver cancer provided by the full sequence of the Hepatitis B vaccine schedule. Includes a thorough deconstruction of the disinformation frequently pushed by Australia’s Anti-Vaccination Network that the vaccine is ineffective in this regard or (no surprise) is the “cause” of increasing hepatitis B infection.

The LymphoSite

One of the commentors over on the Australian Anti-Vaccination Network’s facebook page challenged the group’s president – Meryl Dorey – to comment on a hypothetical scenario as a way of discussing the utility of vaccination against Hepatitis B (Hep B). A conversation ensued and commentor’s question was never answered, however just last night Dorey posted the following comment on the AVN page:

…with this chart of liver cancer incidence in the United Kingdom:

Right now I’m going to focus on the claim of increasing liver cancer rates thanks to Hep B vaccination.

But first the rationale behind using the Hep B vaccine to prevent liver cancer:

  • Hepatitis B is a virus that chronically infects liver cells.
  • This chronic infection naturally leads to prolonged inflammation.
  • A continual inflammatory state is conducive to cancer formation.

(The virus also seems to be able to integrate its DNA into host cells to cause…

View original post 1,104 more words

Manipulation, not gullibility may be driving alternatives to medicine

We hear so much about what alternatives to medicine are not doing, it’s perhaps worth pondering what they might be doing.

Beyond producing a placebo effect, which I stress is nothing to sniff at, it seems we can articulate other accompanying features we would do well to understand. One usually thinks of prescription writing conventional doctors upon hearing expressions like “we expect a pill for every ill”. This is not without good cause. As we saw medicine leap forward and family consulting rooms multiply, the gap between symptom severity and seeking attention quite naturally narrowed.

Yet whatever was going on in our minds that modified our part in closing that gap is a restless beast indeed. Part worry, part suspicion, part urgency, part ignorance, part arrogance, part fear, part expectation, part assumed knowledge and more, it can play a role in convincing us we’re ill – or far more ill than we are. Doctors now know that pandering to this aspect can lead to over-prescription, self medication and hypochondriacs. As a result the medical profession has learned how to manage certain traits with placebo and/or skilled bedside manner.

However, the industry to far and away exploit the sole notion of people needing attention for absolutely no reason is the so-called Wellness Industry. It is aptly named, proffering entirely useless or arguably harmful potions, rituals, observances, gizmos, pokes, prods, states of mind and more, to the entirely well.

But why? As one woman informed ABC’s Lateline some time back as they examined the scams used by chiropractors, It’s “…maintenance… making sure everything’s working properly, making sure everything’s working at it’s best”.

Sure enough the chiropractor asked her to bend to the left, then right. “How that going for you?”, he asked in the tone real doctors might use when examining an actual problem. The woman gets a check up every 4 to 6 weeks. The question we need to ask is about the driving force for her to ask someone if she is in good health. Is it a type of hypochondria? Is it a type of “self medication” in which one seeks out excessive treatment? Is not this chiropractor simply pandering to a psychological state, when his best advice would be to encourage less dependence?

I’m sure she felt better after paying, because just like with Cold Reading all the action occurs within the patients mind. In this case a complex array of cues, sciency stuff, repetition, anatomy posters and models, machines that go “Bing!”, tones of voice and even payment lead up to a nice squirt of dopamine upon completion. The woman is simply conditioned to associate the entire hanky panky with feeling good and thus, better health.

Of course take away this experience without the woman’s consent, and the more time that passes the more anxiety will mess with critical thinking and the usual creaks and twangs she’d ignore become directly attributable to not making it to her “maintenance”. This is the truly brilliant aspect of Wellness Scams. Even when their “patients” are well away from them the urge to return is steadily growing.

People don’t need chiropractic rituals as “maintenance” of health. Thus to continue to exploit this woman is unethical abuse simply for monetary gain. Get them hooked on this notion and it’s easy money. When challenged for evidence of efficacy these visits are trotted out, as if volume of attendance equates to success.

This is why chiropractors, shady nutritionists, reflexologists, reiki magicians, homeopaths, traditional therapists/masseurs work so hard at reinforcing “hits” between their scam and the patient verbalising an association. In the case of New Age diagnostics – often combined with a “therapy” (say iridology and vitamin therapy) – it’s quite simple to create a syndrome that just might be about to run amok.

“Hmmm. We’d better double the selenium, calcium and vitamin E and get you to come in at least twice a week. Let’s see if we can’t nip this in the bud, shall we?”.

It is actually a welcome trait seeing individuals wanting to take more charge of their own health. Certainly that plays a role in the viability of ongoing pseudosciences that masquerade as health services. Perhaps combined with the highly visual and ritualised capers pretending to offer health people are feeling in more control of their health than with brief doctors consultations. It may be that in our present uncertain world of such frequent change to once permanent features, that one seeks out modes of reassurance.

What is certainly a concern is that as people seem intent on taking more control over, and playing more active roles in their own health management, there are charlatans highly skilled at taking advantage of human needs. Nothing is too  difficult for them, nothing cannot be understood, all can be managed and all will be well.

At the top of the scam pyramid reign chiropractors, at once tuning, “diagnosing” and “curing” entirely made up syndromes that engender fear, anxiety, poor decision making and dependence upon ritual in innocent people. So good are chiropractors at this that pregnant patients, fed lies about the needs of newborns, express an impatience for delivery. All so that their neonate can begin chiropractic and thus, start to overcome the abnormalities they believe all children are born with.

Chiropractors run workshops on increasing income. The malleable state of women in a state of hormone flux either side of gestation is well understood. Not for the “patients” benefit. For the benefit of profit born of maternal anxiety and parental fear. It becomes a matter of urgency. The longer left, the more “abnormal” the child will be. Antivaxxers make use of the maternal instinct also, as do renegade home birth groups.

It’s a trait that has served our species well. If mum receives bogus input suggesting the foetus or bub is under threat, no harm comes to either if mum acts upon it. But if mum hangs around to weigh up the risks or ignores constant cues for some time and the risk is real, the chance of this remaining as a successful evolutionary trait is zero. The strength of this trait is notable in that addiction to harmful substances can overrun it. Yet this is following changes in the reward-pleasure centre of the brain, that then initiate neuronal projections into the frontal lobe that serve to inhibit reasoning, decision making, self control and inhibition of behaviour.

Antivaccination lobbyist, AVN member, anti-medicine advocate, homeopathic immunisation promoter and chiropractor Simon Floreani who has children making up 60% of his client base once told Today Tonight:

Babies often come directly from the hospital. They’re referred from the obstetricians, the doctors, the pediatricians, the nurses because chiropractic care’s so safe for them. Many of the current medical procedures just don’t work and parents aren’t silly. They’re looking for good alternatives from people that care and are prepared to look into diet and lifestyle.

As one time Skeptic of the year, Loretta Marron contends, “what they are is faith healers”. Traditional chiropractor John Reggars insists it’s a case of self limiting conditions or perceived changes. From an evidence viewpoint there’s nothing to support chiropractic – even with sore backs. In fact studies show the locus lies with parental belief. If parents think the kids are getting treatment they report improvement even if they are not. Conversely if they believe the child is not being treated when it is, they report deterioration.

The Courier Mail reported recently:

SCIENTISTS spent $374,000 recently asking people to inhale lemon and lavender scents to see if it helped their wounds to heal. It didn’t.

The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the US also outlaid $700,000 to show that magnets are no help in treating arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or migraines.

The centre spent $390,000 to find that old Indian herbal remedies do not control type 2 diabetes and $406,000 to prove coffee enemas do not cure pancreatic cancer.

It’s the same story around the globe. One by one, weirdo treatments are being exposed as bunkum.

Why are people so gullible, handing over their hard-earned cash for unproven alternative therapies?

Why do usually sane people get sucked in by pseudo-scientific fiddle-faddle such as homeopathy, reiki, reflexology, naturopathy, aromatherapy, iridology and crystals? […]

Chiropractors have now been discredited by every reputable medical organisation from the Royal Society down, yet people still spend up on these bone-crunchers and state and federal governments seem unwilling to shut them down.

Recently I reported on two experts on alternative medicine who reviewed all the evidence and concluded chiropractic was “worthless”.

Professor Edzard Ernst and Peter Canter found no convincing data to support claims the technique was effective.

With the possible exception of the relief of some back pain – where spinal manipulation is as good but no better than conventional treatments – the technique is worthless, the review in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine concluded.

Another impacting feature is the “legitimising” tricks buffering complete rubbish. “Diplomas” in homeopathy. “Degrees” in chiropractic. The meaningless but very powerful use of the term Doctor. Flashy titles given to Boards or National Bodies. Misleading titles such as The Australian Vaccination Network that supports zero vaccines calling them “instruments of death”. “Pro-choice” groups. All this is strictly designed to mislead from the outset.

Yet I’m not sure asking only about gullibility is enough. Gullibility persists often due to a conscious decision to not examine criticism of what has become a comforting belief or set of beliefs. More so we are hard wired to seek out information that confirms what we think we know as fact and associate with people who reinforce our beliefs. Even internalising contradictory information about our beliefs can in time lead to reinterpretation that reinforces the opposite of the information we took in. Cognitive bias is a powerful master.

An admirable foe to conventional medicine who pops up here, Meryl Dorey, completely dismisses the findings above. Yet, when criticising vaccines she relies upon respect for the same scientific approach. “The gold standard of scientific research”, she argues, is the Randomised Controlled Trial. As RCT’s mow down alternatives to medicine Meryl insists that until vaccines are subject to RCT’s they cannot be regarded as “properly tested”. Although Meryl is beyond reason (as evidenced by this level of ignorance about how RCTs work) it’s a fine example of how belief can eliminate respect for evidence.

Perhaps we should be asking more about what leads people to internalise so much misinformation about the world we live in and the basics about how it works. So much of the market sustaining disproved alternatives to medicine also accept without question that our environment is highly toxic, it pollutes our health and natural new age “cures” are needed. They also believe conventional medicine, hiding the truth about “natural cures”, is irrevocably corrupt, peddles poison as medication and is ironically creating a world of sickness from which it profits.

Much of this is provided to them from so-called “alternative practitioners”. Detox’ is necessary. No, it’s quite dangerous. Medicines treat the symptoms not the cause. Quite true, I hasten to add in many cases. I’m just not sure why this is assumed to be a blanket flaw. Figures on medical mishaps draw concern. Yes real doctors are accountable and mishaps are still a small percentage. Adverse reactions from drugs prove medicine is lethal. Quite wrong. Primarily ADR’s underscore patient error, and again given the millions of scripts dispensed is another small symptom of accountability.

The truth is, Conventional Medicine is not peddling sickness and keeping you ill for profit. But Alternatives to Medicine are profiting from the false belief you need maintenance and from keeping you splendidly ignorant.

This continued misinformation about real medicine takes up an exorbitant amount of the message coming from the supposed “complimentary”, “alternative” or “integrative” chapters. From antivaccination messages to the vast bulk of alternatives to medicine the claim of “efficacy” is buoyed upon a childish notion. “We are good, because they are bad”. The more “bad” squeezed in the less the need for evidence to show Theta Healing could possibly work or that oscillococcinum isn’t plain nonsense.

Still this doesn’t explain everything and I don’t imagine I could. What causes one mother to accept antivaccination hogwash in a maternal embrace and another to sink her teeth into it’s carotid artery, so to speak? Personal experience can shape belief but even here outside forces tend to be the final decider. Certainly scientific literacy and the awareness that one must trust experts in certain fields is crucial to good decision making.

Alternatively, having “researched” every crackpot self affirming, disreputable source whilst avoiding reputable – indeed any source – material is intellectual sabotage. Likewise being affluent and highly skilled in one area doesn’t immediately make a person “educated” as the media insist on telling us.

At best one could argue that so many scams continue to attract patronage because they offer an emotional and psychological package of oneself taking control. Lengthy consultation sessions provide for bonding and a sense of loyalty.

Much of the practice or ritualised session is designed to instil reliance and dependence upon the so-called practitioner. Bogus symptoms and syndromes are tacked on whilst alienation from conventional medicine evoking feelings of betrayal and self-superiority sinks in. Reading material and other patrons readily reinforce this.

Some charlatans often claim their Wonder Woo is suppressed by Big Pharma, as was the case with Francine Scrayen, Dr. Death Sartori charged in multiple countries and QLD MMS wielding cancer curing, scam artist Jillian Newlands. Although most often this is announced to the very desperate and the most ill.

Ultimately it appears that if we are to push down this bubble of bogus practices we need to understand just why so many of us are seeking attention to our state of being. It is not last ditch desperation or even seeking treatment for obvious illness. People need attention and in seeking it they are being sold dependence.

Dependence upon forces, rituals, cleanses and superstitions they previously never knew existed. That so much of this comes with ready packaged insults toward conventional medicine instills distrust of the very regulators who must act for the public good.

Perhaps as more and more scams are shown to be clinically useless, those that have depended upon them need to be educated in how they’ve been manipulated.