History > Front page
updates January 2011
Wakefield? Fraud? Whoda thunk it? (6/1/2011)
The editorial in the British Medical Journal for January 5, 2011, has a rather unequivocal headline: "Wakefield's article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent". I don't think I could have put it better myself, and in fact I did use the word "fraudulent" back in 2006 when talking about the way that Dr Andrew Wakefield performed some "research" specifically designed to demonstrate that the MMR vaccine could cause autism. And yes, I did mean "specifically" when I said it. Wakefield was paid to find a result that fitted his prejudices and he went right ahead and found it.
I don't believe that I can claim psychic powers if I correctly predict that within minutes anti-vaccination liar organisations like Age of Autism and the Australian Vaccination Network will come out with conspiracy theories and ridiculous defences of this despicable man. No amount of evidence can ever make people like these admit they were wrong, even if admitting it makes no difference to their ideological positions. Wakefield faked his research - that he did this has no bearing on the safety of vaccines, but once declared a hero the garland cannot be taken back. At least he can't practice as a doctor any more, although this won't stop him pretending to be a doctor at anti-vaccination publicity events.
Watch Andrew Wakefield tell lies
And here's JB Handley from Generation Rescue defending the lies
Here is a table showing how what Wakefield said in his published paper differed from reality:
You can see the continuing story of Wakefield's deception here.
Where are the promised awards?
I know, I was supposed to have the 2010 Millenium Awards here this week, but all the excitement about the British Medical Journal calling Andrew Wakefield a fraud and the subsequent defence of the crook by anti-vaccination liars like JB Handley and Meryl Dorey took up some valuable time. Next week. I promise.
Wakefield only lied. What's wrong with that? (8/1/2011)
It took no psychic powers of prediction to correctly guess that Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network would spring to the defence of Mr Andrew Wakefield now that his research has not only been retracted by The Lancet but has been declared actually fraudulent. That's right - Wakefield lied about almost everything in his famous paper. It passed peer review because deliberate fabrication of results and outright lying usually aren't expected in scientific papers and can be hard to detect. The detection in this case was done by journalist Brian Deer, who has been subjected to several years of vilification and abuse for his trouble. Here is a comment about Brian Deer from Ms Dorey:
It seems, however, that Ms Dorey's relationship with the media is not as comfortable as it was a few years ago. Here she is being interviewed on Sydney's Radio 2UE about her reaction to the fact that Andrew Wakefield just made stuff up.
And here is Ms Dorey impugning the motives and reputation of Tracey Spicer.
Then there is the local paper, the Northern Star, which used to be almost a public mouthpiece for Ms Dorey and her AVN idiocy:
Mel Mcmillan | 8th January 2011
Australian Vaccination Network spokeswoman Meryl Dorey is standing by the barred British gastroenterologist, Dr Andrew Wakefield, despite the current edition of the British Medical Journal labelling his work as "an elaborate fraud".
Dr Wakefield's 1998 study ignited a worldwide scare over a possible link between vaccines and autism, and led millions of parents to delay or decline vaccination for their children.
The study has long since been debunked and dismissed by the scientific community, which points to 14 independent studies that have failed to find any link between vaccines and autism.
Last year, The Lancet, publisher of the original study, issued a formal retraction. British medical authorities last year also found Dr Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct, stripping him of his ability to practice in England.
However, the Bangalow-based MrsDorey said there were dozens of peer reviewed studies that showed a possible link between autism and vaccination, and claimed the studies used to show the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) were "poorly designed".
Prof Robert Booy, director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, said Mrs Dorey's claim was "laughable".
"There is not a single reputable study to support a link between MMR and vaccination," Prof Booy said. He said thousands of hours of research time, which could have been spent researching the causes and prevention of autism, had been wasted on a wild goose chase.
The safety of MMR was well established, Prof Booy said.
The BMJ reports that Dr Wakefield, who was paid more than $A676, 658 by a lawyer hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers, was not just unethical, he falsified data in the study which suggested children developed autism after getting an MMR shot.
In fact, the children's medical records show that some clearly had symptoms of developmental problems long before getting their shots, BMJ says. Several had no autism diagnosis at all.
So what would Ms Dorey's reaction to this be:
Do you detect a pattern here? If someone publishes something with which you disagree you immediately attack the person (and never forget to say that they are being paid to say what they say), and the only evidence you offer in support of your position consists of lies that can be easily disproved by anyone who cares to look. As an example, the number of replications of Wakefields "research" is exactly zero. None. Zilch. Nada. On the other hand, Ms Dorey might like to see how forty studies looking for a link between vaccine and autism have shown no connection. Forty studies where money was wasted responding to anti-vaccination liars. Forty studies where the time of real scientists was diverted from doing work that might have had a benefit for mankind.
Ms Dorey, it's time for you to STFU. If you don't know what that means then look it up on the Internet. I'm sure that someone there will explain it to you.
He's writing stuff again
While everyone has been away having holidays and celebrating things I've been slaving over a hot keyboard, making sure that the world's appetite for things I write is being satisfied. The latest edition of Australia's best popular science publication, Australasian Science, is on the newsstands with my Naked Skeptic column. This month's article is about how charlatans like to hide behind the skirts of respectable people and institutions, and even mentions the now fully-discredited Mr Andrew Wakefield. You can read the article here. I will also nag you again about subscribing to this excellent magazine. It is money well spent.
After a hiatus of a few months I have returned to writing for Yahoo!7 News. My first resurrection column came out just before Christmas and mentioned some things that annoy me about the celebration of the season. No, not the religion but the dreadful abuse of good music that the season brings and also the ignorance some Christians have about what happened on that first Christmas day. I've read the book but sometimes I wonder if they have, You can see the article here. The second column contains my psychic predictions for 2011, and you can see that here as well as just below where you are reading now.
Psychic predictions for 2011 (8/1/2011)
I like a challenge, so I thought I would pit my psychic powers against those of the professionals who write columns for magazines and sell predictions over the telephone for so many dollars per minute. (These predictions also appear as an article at Yahoo!7.)
Before giving my psychic predictions or 2011, I will review my success at predicting the events of 2010.
So my score was 81.25% correct. According to newspaper reports professional psychics averaged about 7% accuracy. Am I in the wrong job or are they?
Now the predictions for 2011.
There are thirteen predictions because of numerology. Add the 2 of "2011" to the 11.
Chiropractic ethics (8/1/2011)
I know, putting those two words in a sentence is an oxymoron. Here is some advice to chiropractors from a professional newsletter.
A common question I get asked as a coach is, "How can I stop having a symptom-based practice?" The answer to this question is really simple: If you don't want to have a symptom-based practice, don't ask people how they are.
When you greet a patient and ask them how they are, you have just reinforced to them that their symptoms are important to you. On future visits, they will think you want to know their current symptoms and will tell you. They will also be more likely to stop coming in when their pain goes away.
A very simple way I have found to stop from asking patients how they are involves a thick rubber band. You place the rubber band around your wrist and if you catch yourself asking a patient how they are, you give yourself a flick on the inside of your wrist after the patient has laid down. I have found with the clients I have coached using this method, they have stopped asking their patients usually within about a week as they start to get a very sore wrist!
Instead of asking your clients how they are, you tell them. For example, say "This is doing well today", or "This is not as good today". If they are really struggling, you can be sure that they will tell you.
Could you find a better admission than this that for a significant number of practitioners chiropractic has nothing to do with treating anything that is wrong with patients or addressing patient needs but instead is just about getting people to keep coming back for more billing. And these people have the hide to claim that real doctors are only in it for the money.
I do not think it means ...
....what they think it means. This set of signs was outside a church. My mind often goes "WTF?" when confronted with what some religious folks manage to believe, and as this sign was outside what appeared to be one of those megachurches where money is worshipped more than any other god the feeling was even stronger.
Oh dear, look who's in trouble (8/1/2011)
Look who has popped up on the Australian site NotGoodEnough.com, dedicated to reporting poor customer service and other problems with those who sell things. Why, it's our old friend Meryl Dorey, erstwhile President of the Australian Vaccination Network and current peddler of cosmetics and other things designed to increase feminine attractiveness and self-image. All natural, of course, and almost certainly not tested on animals. It seems that Ms Dorey has joined the ranks of mobile phone companies, plumbers who "will be there right away", used car dealers, telemarketers and other sources of consumer aggravation.
I thought that Ms Dorey might not be aware of her arrival at NotGoodEnough, so I dashed off the first Kind and Gentle email of 2011 to her:
Dear Ms Dorey,
I'm not sure if you are aware of it, but Fountain of Beauty has received an Honourable Mention at http://www.notgoodenough.org/. I assume that the poor service was an aberration and that your business is now operating in the top echelon of customer service in Australia.
On another matter, I'm looking forward to sitting in the audience in a courtroom on February 14. My friends and I thought that showing support for you was better than sending roses, although some did mention that they might like to see a reminder of Valentines Day in Chicago in 1929. When I heard that you would be defending your actions against the OLG&R a song by Tex Perkins came into my head. I think you know which one.
Keep smiling. Things could be worse, and probably will be when the Attorney General's office gets around to actioning those memos from the HCCC and OLG&R.
Let's just talk about it (8/1/2011)
I've had a bit to say in the past about the futility of trying to debate people who don't play by the rules. (You can see examples here and here.) Thanks to Atheism Resource, we now have an excellent graphic representation of the problem.
The 2010 Millenium Awards (15/1/2011)
Citations and details will be announced next week
An outbreak of common sense (15/1/2011)
You can't drive around with a child in your car unless the child is properly restrained in an appropriate safety apparatus. You can't carry your kid on the back of your bicycle unless the kid wears a helmet. You can't take your son out to sea fishing in a boat unless he wears a lifejacket. But if you are misinformed or terminally stupid you can expose your child to life-threatening diseases by refusing to have them vaccinated. Now at least one judge has decided that the welfare of children is important and overrides parental stupidity. This story appeared in several Australian papers on January 15, 2011 (but I read it in The Daily Telegraph).
Ordered to have vaccine
A Sydney mother has been ordered to have her five-year-old daughter immunised in a controversial Family Court decision.
The girls' father, who remarried and had another child, wanted the girl vaccinated against preventable diseases for her own wellbeing and the health of his other children.
But the girl's mother said her daughter was healthy and the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases was very small.
The couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, separated before their daughter was born.
The court heard the father initially consented to the child not being immunised but claimed it was because he was desperate to establish a relationship with her.
The father now wants her vaccinated, producing medical evidence immunisation provided no unacceptable risks for his daughter.
He said if the girl remained un-vaccinated, she would be forced to withdraw from school during outbreaks of some diseases.
She would also be unable to spend time with any new children he had as she was not immunised against whooping cough.
The mother produced opposing evidence that the vaccinations were unnecessary but was criticised in the judgment for submitting evidence from an "immunisation sceptic", who made what the magistrate described as "outlandish statements unsupported by any empirical evidence".
Outside the court, National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance research head Professor Robert Booy said immunisations prevented very serious diseases.
He said 97 per cent of parents had their children vaccinated and that immunisations formed a chain of protection around those vulnerable to infection.
"The only way we can protect the vulnerable, and that may be a newborn or someone with an immune deficiency, is to ensure other people are vaccinated," he said.
However the decision shocked paediatric chiropractor and author Dr Warren Sipser.
"It's a sad situation," Dr Sipser said outside court.
"I think it's dangerous to impose [immunisations] on anyone when there are two opposing viewpoints and when there is credible evidence they may do more harm than good," he said.
Why anyone would ask a quack calling himself a "paediatric chiropractor" for comment about vaccination is a mystery, but I suppose he was at the court to provide misinformation on the mother's behalf and was handy for the reporter to talk to. At least the reporter also talked to Professor Booy who was able to talk sense (and is a real doctor).
As expected, Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network had to have something to say about this.
Court orders rape of a child. Think this is an exaggeration? Think again. This is assault without consent and with full penetration too. If we as a society allow this crime to take place, we are every bit as guilty as the judge who made the order and the doctor who carries it out If anyone knows this family, please put them in touch with me - 99 9999 9999 - I would like to see if there is anything the AVN can do. MD
When even some of her supporters suggested that they might be uncomfortable with the rape analogy, Meryl Dorey offered the following apology. It further illustrates her complete lack of contact with reality.
To anyone who was insulted or hurt by my comparing the forced vaccination of a child against the custodial parent's wishes with rape, I do apologise wholeheartedly and without reservation.
I looked up the definition of rape prior to posting that comparison and in the dictionary sense of the word, it is accurate. But I do understand that this is a vexed issue and for those like the two who are dose to me and who have been victims of rape, the last thing I would want to do is cause them more pain.
Perhaps the term violation would have been better and in future, I will use that word. Because this mother and her child are being violated In so many ways if s hard to know where to start
I feel that the only proper response to this disgusting comment is a Kind and Gentle email to the lady herself. And I use the word "lady" loosely.
Dear Ms Dorey,
I didn't think you could demonstrate your detachment from reality any better than you did in your famous blog post about the genocidal mind-control microchips in the H1N1 vaccine, but you have succeeded. Your equating vaccination with rape not only shows that you are prepared to say anything at all if it reflects badly on vaccination but you don't care how disgusting you look while you are saying it. I'm not sure what you could do to be even more revolting to sane people, but I am sure you can rise to the challenge. I look forward to your next effort in the campaign to clearly distinguish anti-vaccination campaigners from members of civilised society.
Look for me in court on February 14. I will be the person sitting in the audience with a square of black silk on my head. Metaphorically speaking, of course - I wouldn't want to do anything that you could construe as a death threat.
And another (15/1/2011)
In 2005 an article by Robert Kennedy Jr was printed in Rolling Stone and published online in Salon. It contained more lies about vaccination than a dinner with Meryl Dorey and has since then been cited by anti-vaccination liars as conclusive evidence of the harm that vaccines can cause. A sort of retraction was published by both outlets a couple of weeks after initial publication, but this didn't faze the liars one bit (the truth rarely does). This has now appeared in Salon:
Correcting our record
We've removed an explosive 2005 report by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about autism and vaccines. Here's why
By Kerry Lauerman
In 2005, Salon published online an exclusive story by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that offered an explosive premise: that the mercury-based thimerosal compound present in vaccines until 2001 was dangerous, and that he was "convinced that the link between thimerosal and the epidemic of childhood neurological disorders is real."
The piece was co-published with Rolling Stone magazine -- they fact-checked it and published it in print; we posted it online. In the days after running "Deadly Immunity," we amended the story with five corrections (which can still be found logged here) that went far in undermining Kennedy's expos�. At the time, we felt that correcting the piece -- and keeping it on the site, in the spirit of transparency -- was the best way to operate. But subsequent critics, including most recently, Seth Mnookin in his book "The Panic Virus," further eroded any faith we had in the story's value. We've grown to believe the best reader service is to delete the piece entirely.
"I regret we didn't move on this more quickly, as evidence continued to emerge debunking the vaccines and autism link," says former Salon editor in chief Joan Walsh, now editor at large. "But continued revelations of the flaws and even fraud tainting the science behind the connection make taking down the story the right thing to do." The story's original URL now links to our autism topics page, which we believe now offers a strong record of clear thinking and skeptical coverage we're proud of -- including the critical pursuit of others who continue to propagate the debunked, and dangerous, autism-vaccine link.
I predict that the Kennedy article will continue to be cited, but only after the attacks on Salon and Rolling Stone for retracting the article have subsided. And here's the first comment. You can guess who it is from.
need this book! (15/1/2011)
If you haven't got The Australian Book of Atheism yet you need to immediately go to Embiggen Books and order a copy. I can't remember the last anthology I read on any topic which had such a consistently high standard of quality across all the included articles (there were only two that I thought could have been omitted without diminishing the value of the whole). I don't agree totally with everything in there of course but I didn't expect to, and even where I was challenged I was still given something useful to think about. (The two articles I would have excluded weren't selected because I disagreed with them - one was irrelevant and the other badly argued its case and took too long to do it.)
This book would make a perfect gift for anyone who wants to know what atheism is all about, and it might even convince some wavering, doubting believers to think a bit harder about what it is that they believe and why.
I am chastised (15/1/2011)
Someone didn't like what I had to say about a scam that supposedly cleans water by applying all the force of a phone charger to make noises which kill things. My responses are in itallics.
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2011 09:08:54 +1000
From: "pool family"
Subject: Anitbio feedback
I write to let you know about an out of date page on your website. https://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/antibio.htm
I don't see anything there which is out of date, other than the statement that I manage the Australian Skeptics web site. I no longer do this and this fact is now noted. I have checked the AntiBio web site and there doesn't seem to be anything there which would make me change my mind about anything else I said.
It might be worth your while revisiting this item given 6 years has past since you posted this baseless information. It would seem that gathering facts is something you don't do very well so I write to inform you that I've had an Antibio system treating the water in my domestic pool for six continuous years without issue. My pool contains 82,000 litres of pure fresh water and the only treatment it has received in six years is from the Antibio system. No other antibacterial additions - without fail.
I congratulate you on the robustness of your immune system. I assume you are still filtering the water. By the way, an Olympic-sized pool is about 30 times as big as yours so one would assume it would take 30 AntiBio gadgets to keep one of them clean, but the AntiBio web site still shows only one mobile phone charger being used. It is normal for treatment things like this to scale with the application and the fact that it seems that "one size fits all" is evidence that the thing doesn't do much at all. If you doubt me, compare the size of your sand filter to the one at the local council pool.
My local pool shop were very interested when I installed this system and collected weekly water samples for the first three months of operation. They were shocked that this technology works and departed muttering about having to charge me for future water analysis because they doubted being able to make money from me by selling chemicals. My local pool shop undertakes more assessment than you appear to!
I'm surprised that they haven't signed on as distributors of the AntiBio device. Perhaps they thought that selling tested methods of controlling pool water quality was preferable to selling kits consisting of some wires, a couple of hose clamps and a mobile phone battery charger.
By the way, have you had any water quality checks done since the initial six months? Your filter can make the water look clean but most of the bugs are invisible even when a lot of them are in the water.
I also notice that you continue to speak on behalf of the Australian Skeptic Association, a group to which I belonged until I visited your website six years ago whilst deciding to buy an Antibio unit. I was your website and one eyed ideology that lead me to feel that this was not something I wanted to be part of. I'm an engineer, a practical person who is not prepared to disregard a new idea until it can be tested. Apparently, you are not of the same mind.
I do not speak for Australian Skeptics (there is no Australian Skeptic Association) and never have unless I have specifically said so at the time. If my comments about AntiBio drove you away from the organisation then you could not have been much of a fan in the first place.
While I can't tar all Skeptics with the same brush, your website does contain some relevant and valid social comment but the overwhelming smell of arrogance is enough to turn me off.
Thank you. Constructive comment is always welcome.
I don't expect you'll reconsider your position, although a little more objective factual homework wouldn't hurt.
I've had a look at the scientific "research" conducted on behalf of AntiBio and I would say that they are the ones to do some more objective factual homework. As an example, if you are doing a study to test the ability of something to reduce microbiological population and a seperate system monitoring chlorine injection fails allowing more chlorine than usual to enter the water you cannot then claim that the device under test had any effect on microorganisms. If the research cited on the AntiBio web site is indicative of what passes for PhD-level standards in some parts of Griffith University than I can only feel sympathy for the friends of mine who work or study there or who are alumni, because their work will be devalued by such amateurism.
Say what? (15/1/2011)
This is an example of the sort of advice about vaccination that you can find on the Internet. There have been these things called "schools" for hundreds of years but some people seem to have missed finding them.
My advice is sought (15/1/2011)
Sometimes I can help. You can see something about the "Dr" Pearl charlatan here.
From: "Patricia Bowie"
Subject: Re: Dr. Pearl
Date: Fri, 07 Jan 2011 13:05:02 -0500
Do you have any information on Dr. Eric Scott Pearl? Anything scientifically disproving his beliefs?
The main argument against "Dr" Pearl's beliefs (the correct word, although there is a real possibility that he doesn't believe a word he says) is that if he is right then much of science is wrong. In any case it is up to him to provide the evidence (testimonials are not evidence), not for others to disprove him in advance.
A friend has taken reconnective treatment & they strongly wanted me to take it also. I declined.
You made a wise decision.
You can see something about the "Dr" Pearl charlatan here.
The sewer keeps flowing (15/1/2011)
With an area under water that exceeded the size of most countries, Australians were united as one to help the victims of the floods in Queensland. Donations flowed in, people offered their homes as refuges, more volunteers turned up than could be usefully employed. (A friend of mine who is a nurse is about to give up his holidays to travel interstate at his own expense to work for nothing in a hospital.)
I exaggerated when I said we were united, because Australia's answer to Fred Phelps had something to say. Pastor Danny Nalliah from Catch The Fire Ministries knew exactly why all those people were dying or having their possessions and livelihoods destroyed - the Foreign Minister had made a speech in Israel recommending that Israel become a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open its nuclear facilities to UN inspectors. The Israelis were not offended by this, but apparently God decided to punish everyone in the home state of the most overtly religious political leader that Australia has had in living memory. Pastor Danny's last foray into comment about natural disasters was to blame the 2009 Victorian bushfires (in which 197 people died) on God's wrath at a modification to the abortion laws in that state.
You can read Pastor Danny's vileness here, but don't wear your best clothes because dry cleaners find it hard to get vomit out. I posted a comment congratulating Pastor Danny on his similarity to Rev Fred Phelps. The comment was there for a few days but has disappeared now. I assume that this is just a case of them exercising their right to freedom of speech when it comes to making absurd and offensive statements while simultaneously denying me the right to object. I am not surprised.
A Festivus Miracle! (15/1/2011)
There are miracles associated with Festivus, the festival for the rest of us. In the case of the celebration in Sydney I personally witnessed four such miracles. The first was that it stopped raining on the Festivus picnic, the second that there was a parking spot right outside the Thai restaurant where a group of us decided to have dinner. The fourth miracle was that while driving home the song Bohemian Rhapsody came on the radio so we were able to drive along a major Sydney thoroughfare with five atheists emulating the famous scene from the film Wayne's World. I was Garth,
It was the third miracle that was the best however. In a shop window there was a diorama showing The King descending in a blaze of glory to offer his congratulations to Joseph and Mary on the birth of their son, Jesus. You don't see religious iconography like this every day.