Brian Martin and Judy Wilyman: Promoting antivaccine pseudoscience as "dissent"

Yesterday, I wrote about what can only be described as an academic travesty. What riled me up sufficiently to lay a heapin' helpin' of not-so-Respectful Insolence on a graduate student named Judy Wilyman, her PhD thesis advisor Brian Martin, and the University of Wollongong was the fact that Wilyman is an antivaccine loon and the University of Wollongong saw fit to bestow a PhD on her for a thesis riddled with antivaccine tropes and pseudoscience. As I pointed out at the time, the University of Wollongong deserves nothing but ridicule and contempt for allowing this travesty to come to pass, but what about Brian Martin? After all, it is the thesis advisor who bears the most responsibility for making sure that the work done by a PhD candidate is academically rigorous (which Wilyman's work was not). Sure, there's a thesis committee to whom PhD candidates periodically present their work and who are supposed to give constructive criticism and advice and make sure the candidate's work is up to snuff.

I can't bring myself (yet) to go through the entire thesis. It is, after all, 390 pages long, which means I might never find the time to read it all. I don't know that I really need to, anyway, if what I've read thus far is any indication. Truly the burning antivaccine stupid is black hole density, sucking all science and knowledge into its event horizon, never to be seen again. Brian Martin, however, has defended Wilyman's thesis and her against attacks. I was curious what defense anyone could come up with to justify such a load of pseudoscientific tripe, rife with easily refutable downright incorrect information. So when I read Brian Martin's defense of this whole fiasco, entitled Judy Wilyman, PhD: how to understand attacks on a research student, I ended up thinking that this topic deserved a followup post addressing his justifications.

Sadly, the very first paragraph of Martin's article lets the reader know where he's coming from, and where he's coming from is not from anywhere resembling science. He starts out noting that "Judy's thesis is long and detailed." Well, yes, I'll give it that, but if the details are nearly all wrong, length is not a virtue. I like to think that I get away with my penchant for logorrhea because my prose is (usually) entertaining and engaging and because I get the facts and science right. So, although I sometimes get complaints about the length of my posts, most of the time no one minds. In contrast, Wilyman's "long and detailed" thesis is indeed very detailed, but the vast majority of details are either factually incorrect or distorted.

Martin thus begins:

It makes four main critical points in relation to Australian government vaccination policy. First, deaths from infectious diseases had dramatically declined in Australia before the mass introduction of most vaccines, suggesting that vaccination is not the only factor in controlling these diseases.

Antivaccine trope: Vaccines didn't save us, one of the more intellectually dishonest of some very intellectually dishonest antivaccine tropes.

Second, Australian vaccination policies were adopted from a one-size-fits-all set of international recommendations, without consideration of the special ecological conditions in Australia, for example the levels of sanitation and nutrition, and the incidence and severity of diseases.

Antivaccine trope: The "sanitation" gambit. The easiest way to refute this trope is to point out that polio and measles ran rampant in the US in the 1950s, even though sanitation was perfectly fine and children were well nourished. It wasn't until vaccines for these diseases were developed that the incidence plummeted. Also, sanitation doesn't do much good against diseases whose spread is primarily through the air, like the measles.

Two down. What's next? Oh, goody:

Third, nearly all research on vaccination is carried out or sponsored by pharmaceutical companies with a vested interest in selling vaccines; the conflicts of interest involved in vaccine research can lead to bias in the research design and conclusions drawn.

Pharma shill gambit, reporting for duty, sir!

Then:

Fourth, there are important areas of research relevant to vaccination policy that have not been pursued, but should have been; a plausible reason for this “undone science” is that the findings might turn out to be unwelcome to vaccination promoters.

Ah, yes. The "inconvenient facts 'they' don't want you to discover" trope. What, pray tell, might these "inconvenient" facts be? That vaccines cause autism, perhaps? Given Martin's defense of Andrew Wakefield and his characterization of criticism of him as "suppression of vaccination dissent" one has to wonder how much Martin buys into antivaccine pseudoscience. Quite a lot, I suspect.

Here's the problem. All Martin sees when it comes to antivaccine activists is "dissent." I suppose such views do represent "dissent" of a sort, but they sure don't represent well-informed dissent based on facts, logic, and science. Unfortunately, Martin doesn't seem to distinguish between dissent based on facts, science, and logic and dissent based on pseudoscience and misinformation. Wakefield's "dissent" was clearly based on the latter. So is Wilyman's "dissent." Martin, however, doesn't seem to recognize this. It's postmodernism at its worst. There are no "narratives" that are closer to the truth than others. If you believe that, then "telling both sides" becomes paramount and any attempt to censor or shut down pseudoscience is viewed not as a proper enforcement of scientific standards, but an attempt to crush "dissent." That's the entire worldview of Brian Martin in a nutshell. Indeed, only a couple of months ago, Martin referred to criticism of Wilyman as the "mobbing of a PhD student":

Mobbing, or collective bullying, usually develops for a reason, though sometimes it is difficult to identify the original trigger. In Judy’s case, the reason is obvious enough. She debates vaccination in public forums, and there is a group of campaigners who want to silence any public questioning of the official government vaccination policy.

Yep. Martin has played the "bully" card. It's a favorite card of antivaccinationists. Any criticism of rank pseudoscience is portrayed as "bullying" rather than reasonable criticism.

Speaking of reasonable criticism, let's look at what Martin considers unreasonable criticism. Basically, he identifies what he considers to be illegitimate attacks thusly:

When people criticise a research student’s work, it is worth checking for tell-tale signs indicating when these are not genuine concerns about quality and probity but instead part of a campaign to denigrate viewpoints they oppose.

  1. They attack the person, not just their work.
  2. They concentrate on alleged flaws in the work, focusing on small details and ignoring the central points.
  3. They make no comparisons with other students or theses or with standard practice, but rather make criticisms in isolation or according to their own assumed standards.
  4. They assume that findings contrary to what they believe is correct must be wrong or dangerous or both.

The attacks on Judy’s research exhibit every one of these signs. Her opponents attack her as a person, repeatedly express outrage over certain statements she has made while ignoring the central themes in her work, make no reference to academic freedom or standard practice in university procedures, and simply assume that she must be wrong.

This is such incredible nonsense, not to mention rank hypocrisy. After all, how often have I documented how antivaccine warriors attack the person because they can't successfully challenge the science? I myself have been at the receiving end of such attacks, most prominently five years ago, when Jake Crosby falsely insinuated that I had undisclosed conflicts of interest, and as a result ai endured a campaign on the part of antivaccine activists to get me fired from my job. It didn't work (fortunately), but it was a quintessential example of how cranks attack the person and not the science. They can't attack the science because they don't have it on their side.

As for the second claim, Martin appears utterly clueless. It is the central points of Wilyman's thesis that are being criticized—and quite rightly so—based on facts, science, and logic. Similarly, it's not bias that leads those of us who defend vaccines to conclude that attacks on vaccination like those made by Wilyman are wrong or dangerous or both. They are wrong and dangerous, and we can demonstrate that. We have demonstrated that time and time again.

None of this stops Martin from asserting:

The attacks on Judy Wilyman and her PhD research should be understood as part of a campaign to denigrate and discourage anyone who dares to make public criticisms of standard vaccination policy.

Uh, no. The criticism of Judy Wilyman and her PhD "research" (and I do use the term loosely) derives from her repetition of antivaccine tropes and conspiracy theories. Really, it is just that simple. Sadly, Brian Martin is utterly clueless when it comes to understanding this. If you doubt my assessment, just look at how Martin characterizes criticism of Andrew Wakefield:

Unlike most of his peers, Wakefield has been subject to a degradation ceremony, a ritualistic denunciation casting him out of the company of honest researchers (Thérèse and Martin, 2010). By degrading Wakefield’s reputation, vaccination is symbolically vindicated and the credibility of any criticism undermined. Supporters of vaccination have repeatedly used the example of Wakefield to suggest that criticism of vaccination is misguided (e.g., Grant, 2011: 105-124; Offit, 2010). The logic of using Wakefield’s ignominy as an argument in defense of vaccination is not replicated in the case of a single biomedical scientist who supports standard views. Considering that bias and conflict of interest are endemic to pharmaceutical-company-sponsored research, it is striking that no supporter of orthodoxy concludes that this discredits support for pharmaceutical drugs generally. (Some critics draw this conclusion.)

Gee, I can't help but thinking, Martin says this as though it were a bad thing.

Here's the problem. Wakefield really is a scientific fraud. Brian Deer has extensively documented this conclusion. Wakefield does have real ignominy. He deserves it. It isn't a bad thing to point this out, either.

Basically, Martin has a history of being sympathetic to medical cranks. He views crank views as "medical dissent." Technically, I suppose they are, but not in a good way and certainly not in a useful way. Unfortunately, Brian Martin doesn't recognize these differences. To him all "dissent" is potentially valid, no matter how pseudoscientific it is. That's how Judy Wilyman got her PhD.

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While it is possible that Martin originally started out defending dissent, it seems over the years he has imbued much of the denialst philosophy. To the point of giving more than equal weight to dissenting vews solely because they are dissenting, and promoting conspiracy theories for why such dissenting views are suppressed (as opposed to the real reason that they are ignored because they are wrong).

He has come to demostrate an excellent example of crank magnetism.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

To his credit, he didn't go the whole "academia is a boy's club and she is only attacked because vagina"-route that is such a popular line of defense - especially within quackery.

When I get the men-bully-alt-med-believers argument, I have been known to play the Harriet Hall card.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Chris makes a good point that I should have picked up on. Yes, that is a common alt-med trope whenever a female quack is criticized. Because so many prominent antivaxers are women, it's particularly beloved by the antivaccine movement.

I know some folks over in the humanities who understand science quite well (though they're obviously not specialists), respect it as an intellectual enterprise, and who don't assume that they know things they don't. It's really too bad that cranks like this give them all such a bad name!

Even training in science doesn't always succeed in de-gaussing the crank magnetism -- after all, our own community has its share of Brave Maverick Scientists (regulars will know what I mean).

By palindrom (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

#4 - Which is highly, hiiiighly ironic since that act of leaping to defend the female quack stems from the rather sexist notion that she needs defending from the internet meanies because her fragile female mind can't bear such abuse.

I'm sure a male quack would be quite upset at his defenders if they used that rationale on him!

"Defend the weak-willed one!"

I just now realize that everyone probably already made the same observation and it probably didn't need me pointing it out. I feel like I derailed the discussion of a very important and dire issue.... my bad... (as a new commenter, am I allowed to plead the "It's my first day"-defense?)

Welcome, Amethyst, and don't worry about multiple observations. You did make it first, and we welcome discussion of those sorts of points. It's a valid point, not a derail.

Wilyman's thesis is reminiscent of Alan Sokal's infamous hoax article, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." Both were eagerly accepted by audiences who wanted to believe they were true. Both would have been readily revealed as nonsense if they had been reviewed by anybody with actual knowledge of the subject matter.

The main difference is that Sokal knew he was writing a parody. He said he did it in order to remind postmodernists that there is such a thing as objective reality. He famously invited anybody who considered the laws of physics to be social constructs to transgress those boundaries from his apartment window (he pointed out in his invitation that he lived on the twenty-first floor).

Martin seems to have learned nothing from the Sokal incident. Now, like the journal editors who accepted Sokal's parody, he has egg on his face. And he's reacting the same way those journal editors did: doubling down.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

“Judy’s thesis is long and detailed.” Well, yes, I’ll give it that, but if the details are nearly all wrong, length is not a virtue.

From a long way off, a dump truck full of manure looks impressive, and it certainly is heavy, but when you get up close, you realize it's just one big ass pile of shit.

By Marry Me, Mindy (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

If Ms. Wilyman is unable to defend her thesis against these criticisms against it, then perhaps she shouldn't have been awarded a PhD.

Having her advisor do her work for her (and even he does a poor job of it, resorting to calling critics "bullies" as a personal attack instead of addressing the criticisms) just confirms that she was awarded a degree she does not deserve.

First, deaths from infectious diseases had dramatically declined in Australia before the mass introduction of most vaccines, suggesting that vaccination is not the only factor in controlling these diseases.

Well, duh. It's almost cute when these guys work out facts which are known and admitted by any epidemiologist. Just because public health is insisting on vaccinations, doesn't mean that PH thinks they are the ONLY existing factor ever.

Dissent when there is actual debate? Sure.

Dissent when there is no debate. No.

There is no debate on 2+2 = 4, and no debate on the earth being a sphere. There is also no debate on why we vaccinate and how effective, safe and important it is to continue doing so.

Martin should be fired. Wilyman's doctorate revoked. Here's to hoping someone at University of Wollongong has a shred of common sense.

By Chris HIckie (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

I could understand someone examining the antivaccine movement and counter-movement (for lack of a better word) from the point of view of sociology, political science, psychology, etc., and of course the academic standards for such a thesis would be different from (which is not the same as "lower than") those for a thesis in the "hard" sciences. But this thesis doesn't appear to adhere to any standard - I can't even tell what field of study it's supposed to be in. The name of the department is "School of Humanities and Social Inquiry," which isn't very informative.

Martin want's us big dumb meanie-heads to stop nitpicking at details and talk about the "central themes" of the thesis. Okay, lets see what those central themes are. From the abstract:

It is important that independent research is carried out to assess whether all the vaccines being recommended today are safe, effective and necessary for the protection of the community... This investigation demonstrates that not all vaccines have been demonstrated to be safe, effective or necessary. It also concludes that the government’s claim that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks cannot be sustained due to the gaps in the scientific knowledge resulting from unfunded research and the inadequate monitoring of adverse events after vaccination.

Notice that her thesis isn't about the political process that resulted in the current vaccine guidelines, examining the "vaccine wars" from a sociological perspective, etc. She's making specific (and demonstrably false) claims about the adequacy of the science that informs vaccine policies, so its entirely appropriate the judge those claims on their scientific merit (or lack thereof.)

As an aside, if you want to get a good idea of Wilyman's level of scholarship/critical thinking, there's no need to read the entire thesis - just look at the abstract. It's so poorly written that I was tempted to just copy/paste the whole thing rather than try and tease out the main idea from the disorganized grab-bag of antivax tropes.

@ Sarah A

the disorganized grab-bag of antivax tropes.

For the regulars here, the excerpts from her thesis sure looks like she just copy-pasted a few lectures from Kennedy (the anti-vax loon, not the late US president).
I mean, if there is some new argument in her thesis, that didn't show up so far. It's, indeed, just a méli-melot of the usual antivax tropes.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

1. They attack the person, not just their work.
2. They concentrate on alleged flaws in the work, focusing on small details and ignoring the central points.

Wow, I think I got whiplash from the speed of his internal contradiction there. Attacking the person and not the work, followed by, but they attack the details of the work. I suppose he feels it is disingenuous to attack the supporting material provided for the central points, but is he really so dense as to not realize this leaves the central points with nothing to stand on? If we aren't to attack the supporting material, how can we criticize the central points?

Oh. I see. That's his real goal. He doesn't want this work criticized. Either that or he actually doesn't understand how criticism works, which I suppose is possible given the stupidity of his next point.

3. They make no comparisons with other students or theses or with standard practice, but rather make criticisms in isolation or according to their own assumed standards.

Well, that definitely does not describe Orac's criticism, which absolutely compared this thesis to the normal standards expected of PhD candidates. Perhaps the truth is that Martin is actually unaware of standard practice. This might explain why he allowed his student to go so far off the rails; he's too incompetent to know where the rails are in the first place.

4. They assume that findings contrary to what they believe is correct must be wrong or dangerous or both.

Damn, there goes another irony meter.

Here’s the problem. Wakefield really is a scientific fraud. Brian Deer has extensively documented this conclusion.

Hey, Martin! You're attacking details and not the central points! ;-) Of course, your protrayal of Wakefield being struck off as a "ritualistic denunciation" honestly is a bit of an ad hominem as well, though not as much as your claim that any criticism of your student are just part of a disinformation campaign. Hmm.... I might need to invest in some more irony meters if I'm to read any more of this stuff.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Anti-science disinformation and bullshit have consequences in the real world outside the realm of self-indulgent, post-modern doctoral theses.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35299597

It galls me that vaccine denialists assume the mantle of brave voices of dissent, with the courage to speak out against the medical orthodoxy. Real courage is a public health worker in Pakistan, polio vaccine in hand, standing between a villager and the Taliban.

In the 1950s polio was on the increase. As Sarah Roger's book, Dirt and Disease, documents, polio's rise was connected with better sanitation. I won't go into the details. Measles deaths had declined significantly before the 1950s because of better nutrition, mainly vitamin A, and antibiotics used against the secondary bacterial pneumonias that were responsible for the vast majority of measles deaths. However, measles in the 1950s, despite nutrition, and antibiotics, killed between 400 and 500 kids per year, resulted in about 50,000 hospitalizations, up to 2,000 with permanent disabilities such as seizure disorders, mental retardation, and deafness, and even for the over 1 million cases who didn't end up in the hospital, it was a miserable week at home, missing school, requiring one parent to be with them. With so many single-parent families and two-parent families with both parents working just to make ends meet, this would be a financial hardship. There is still no scientifically validated treatment for measles and with the rise of antibiotic resistant infections, the number of deaths from the secondary bacterial infections if there were a major outbreak could actually increase. So, yes, deaths had declined substantially prior to the 1963 vaccine; but measles was and is still a really nasty microbe. Oh, one last point. As measles is just as contagious as ever and our population has more than doubled since the 1950s, good chance one could approximately double the statistics I gave above.

By Joel A. Harris… (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

It's another one of those pesky irregular verbs, isn't it?

I dissent
You unjustifiably criticise
S/He bullies

Or some such...

A few things:

- Sarah A, I could probably imagine reality-based studies that examine personality and educational differences that set anti-vaxxers apart from the general public. I think that a few studies have already looked at cognitive / personality styles being a factor and being associated with belief in conspiracy.

Another facet would be how immersed the subjects are in fantasy as a substitute for realism. I'm not entirely joking on that last one.

- I read a little of her work and it reminds me a lot of the poppycock I encounter at prn.fm - long winded articles complete with reference lists abound, courtesy of Null & Gale
- and the books and posts dreamt up by the denizens of AoA and TMR.

Helianthus is correct - Kennedy sounds like this as well- they utilise the same, tired old material and tropes.

- I am aware of how quacks defend female associates- and thinking moms- with charges of sexism from the SB world.
A woman isn't misevaluated or persecuted by the powers-that-be just by virtue of being a woman.
Sometimes women are wrong. Especially if they write for the aforementioned sinkholes of irrationality and self-aggrandisement.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

As I mentioned in the comments on the previous post, point #3 seems inherently flawed, to me, in that, to my mind, a scholarly work should stand or fall on its own merits, not based on other arbitrary comparators. Are we to judge it compared to other PhD programs? Okay, which ones? Some are quite rigorous, others less so. Hell, even if we compare the quality of her work to that of a high school paper, it would fail for the numerous reasons other have already enumerated.

More altie 'feminism'..

( Green Med Info)
Are "Moody Women" Being Drugged Into Submission By Pharma?**

by Margie King***, MBA, corporate attorney and graduate of the Institute for Applied Nutrition

** insert mandatory tasteless joke here
*** didn't she occasionally show up at RI?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

sanitation

Sounds like we should check for COI from Big Sewer.

By justthestats (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ justthestats:

re COI from Big Sewer
No, that's David Lewis

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Thanks for the laugh, Murmur.

Denice Walter, your comment about immersion in fantasy as a substitute for realism is spot-on. Martin's point 4:

4. They assume that findings contrary to what they believe is correct must be wrong or dangerous or both.

comes directly from the solipsistic tendency in pomo scribblings. Since the grimy lint yielded from their navelgazing (that they call knowledge) is entirely of their own creation, they come to believe that all knowledge is similarly obtained. When someone says "scientists believe..." as a shorthand for "trained scientists who have considered the mountains of evidence have come to the consensus view that...", they hear that belief as synonymous with their own pretentious sputum. To them science isn't an expression of our best comprehension of the reality that we all share, it's just, like, your opinion, man. Rejecting/criticizing stuff like Wilyman's is the automatic response by people who ground their concepts in evidence. To those who don't do that, it's inconceivable that opposition could be based in anything but malign intent. Trying to link conclusions to evidence just isn't part of their world, and it doesn't occur to them that anyone else would ever think that way.

Sometimes women are wrong. Women may be wrong sometimes, but mothers are seldom wrong. They are only wrong when they don't listen to their amazing maternal intuition, which trumps absolutely everything else.

killed between 400 and 500 kids per year I know you're speaking of the US here, #19, but for the record, measles still kills around 300+ people PER DAY worldwide. Just pointing that out in case anyone is reading this thinking that people no longer die from measles.

Did anybody notice Martin's acknowledgments section of his little paper

Acknowledgements

"For advice, checking text and offering comments on drafts, I thank Greg Beattie, Jason Delborne, Kevin Dew, Jayne Donegan, Meryl Dorey, Don Eldridge, Gary Goldman, Richard Halvorsen, Elizabeth Hart, Lucija Tomljenovic, Andrew Wakefield and several anonymous referees."

So he actually cleared his copy with Wakefield (he didn't clear it with me), and then he uses his position to give out Ph.Ds to people who parrot him. As well as all the others - like the profiteer Halvosen , who made a fortune selling single shots.

This so-called university needs to have an institutional inquiry into this.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

To them science isn’t an expression of our best comprehension of the reality that we all share, it’s just, like, your opinion, man.

That's the pernicious thing about postmodernism: when applied outside of its narrow fields of applicability, it quickly leads to absurd results. Again, I refer to Sokal's writings. "Transgressing the Boundaries" was written 20 years ago. Some humanities and social science academics learned a lesson from that incident. Martin seem not to be among them.

A question which doesn't seem to be asked often enough is, "How do we know X is true?" Even scientists have been known to fail to ask that question, which at least they can usually answer. Sometimes the answer to that question turns out not to be satisfactory, and that is a sign that something is wrong with our understanding of the phenomenon--perhaps a published result turns out to be statistically spurious, or is based on extrapolating experimental results into a regime where the underlying assumptions are valid. Martin isn't asking this question at all--he's assuming that the scientists' opinions and the anti-vaxers' opinions are equally valid. That's a reasonable view to take if you are discussing a work of fiction, but not when you are discussing testable ideas.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

So he actually cleared his copy with Wakefield (he didn’t clear it with me), and then he uses his position to give out Ph.Ds to people who parrot him. As well as all the others – like the profiteer Halvosen , who made a fortune selling single shots.

Whoa. I didn't notice that Wilyman had cleared her text with some antivaxers, although I did notice she had cited several of them.

@Orac

That acknowledgment bit is from Martin's paper about suppression of vaccination dissent, not from Wilyman's thesis, though Wilyman does thank Tomljenovic and Shaw.

I downloaded the thesis yesterday from the free link provided in the comments . After reading, somewhat randomly, several pages, the profound ignorance of these humanities people who seem to genuinely believe their nonsense with a bunker mentality is stunning. However, I remind myself there are some good universities that award a PhD for divinity studies where in my view, the basic premise of a supreme Deity does not exist. Preventable disease has probably killed more people that religions, but submit advancing the respective agendas is the same, without any proof of concept. The comfort is, there are some enigmas, like the well meaning astrologers who do less damage with a certain entertainment value.

By Ross Miles (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Looking at Brian Martin's curriculum, he has a theoretical physics PhD. He was terminated as a mathematician at the Australian National University (no reason given, might only be position cutting), then took a position at Wollongong working on the politics/debates in science (on a wide range of topics, most of them with woo "debates").

Interestingly, he was president of Whistleblowers Australia and is still involved with them. Might give an idea on how he thinks...

A list of his publications, which he put online himself, makes for some interesting reading from unusual "academic" sources....http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/index.html

After that, that he might accept Wilyman's thesis is not that surprising, and Wollongong U's acceptance isn't either, since they've had him for quite a while.

Among Brian Martin's papers, I have picked one which is quite revealing: "Can scientific development be stopped?"
This approach for stopping scientific development is pathetic, when compared to the results obtained by the Mark Gable foundations.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Eric Lund:

Yeah, it's kind of surprising that they don't realize that a method that is capable of generating meaningful discussion for the question "Is Hamlet gay?" might not be capable of generating meaningful discussion for reality-based questions.

By justthestats (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Don't scoff gentlemen: Martin has been published in the Townsend Letter.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Chris Hickie #13

There is no debate on 2+2 = 4, and no debate on the earth being a sphere.

Playing the anti-vax devil's advocate:

But the earth is not a true sphere and if you would lie about something so easy to disprove, you would lie about anything!

Quite apart from all the other problems mentioned it is well known that writing concisely is harder than writing at length so to cllaim length as a good quality is questionable is any area of study.

Word of the day: TROPE: a plot device. e.g. using "trope" over and over in a self-aggrandizing way.

My favourite bit:

"... smallpox is only transferrable by direct skin to-skin
contact. It is not transmissible through the environment or until the symptoms appear. Therefore, isolation of the cases alone could have stopped the circulation of the
virus and eradicated this disease. "

What. The actual. FUCK? WIkiepdia wouldn't have let that one get past.

Wilyman's paper is long and detailed and reviewed by her thesis committee.
This journal article is long and detailed and (allegedly, according to the editors)peer-reviewed:
http://www.scs.stanford.edu/~dm/home/papers/remove.pdf
The latter is definitely more valuable than her thesis.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

I'm mildly interested in Martin's "Challenging Dominant Physics Paradigms" (2004). It starts out with the neutralish disclaimer

"[t]o exclude most of the many uninformed and unsophisticated critics, we restricted our attention to those who have scientific degrees or are affiliated with reputable universities or have publications in mainstream journals, though no doubt this restriction excludes some worthy challengers.

This futher becomes

Hence, rather than use personal assessments in our selection process, we relied on the surrogate measures of degrees, affiliations and publications, which encapsulate the collective judgments of other scientists.

The next thing you know, Ruggero Santilli is being trotted out in the same paragraph with... Bruce Harvey, "dissident physicist"?*

That's quite a switcheroo from the putative criteria.

* h[]tp://bearsoft.co.uk/Biog.html

She’s got a table where 137 kids presented with pertussis, and 37 of them were immunised. She concludes: “The statistics indicate that one-third of fully vaccinated children still got infected with pertussis.”

That’s…. dear god. I’m speechless. I have no words.

Just had the best laugh I've had since one of the dogs got her head stuck in the fence this weekend. Thanks for that. I'm serious. :)

^ The unclosed link does work, but only for the name "Ruggero Santilli" itself.

@magpie #43--That master's thesis is crap. Page 7, right at the intro she states:

Controversy has surrounded the pertussis vaccine ever since it was introduced into mass
immunisation programs in Australia in 1954. Throughout the twentieth century it was
continually questioned with respect to both efficacy and safety and for this reason it’s use has
been discontinued in some countries and is discretionary in many others.

No citation is given (inexcusable), and I don't know of any countries this have discontinued pertussis vaccination, unless she is being duplicitous and lazy by not clarifying she means the whole-cell pertussis vaccine.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Magpie:

She’s got a table where 137 kids presented with pertussis, and 37 of them were immunised. She concludes: “The statistics indicate that one-third of fully vaccinated children still got infected with pertussis.”

I've noticed that many of the antivax folks have trouble with simple math, and I am not the only one:
http://thespudd.com/five-out-of-four-anti-vaccers-failed-high-school-ma…

I have a detailed explanation on the pertussis numbers, which has been used elsewhere (Hi Todd!), but what it really hilarious is their refusal to do a little division problem I give them.

What I do is pull up the most recent NVICP statistics page and ask them to look at the first table. Then get the total number of vaccines given (2,532,428,541 vaccines), and then divide it by the total number of compensated claims (2104 compensated claims). I ask them to tell me what the number is, and what it is.

From that exercise I have learned that no anti-vaxer understands that there is a built in calculator in most computers and smart phones. Or which button is the "divide" key.

@Chris Hickie #47 - I think ‘inexcusable’ is the best possible one-word review for both documents. Utterly baffling that this could be defended by the university. As an Australian who works with a lot with academics (I’m pretty much an academic – layperson translator by profession) I am genuinely worried about how this reflects on Australian academia. I think we need to have a good hard look at the PhD process in this country. Certainly a PhD from the Gong is worth a lot less today than it was…

I’m disgusted, frankly.

@Chris #49 - I reckon you've been caught by Poe's Law on that one. It's satire. Thank god.
:)

Magpie, I know it is satire. It is one of at three of their posts that mock the dubious math skills of the antivaxers You will see I also posted proof on how that particular satirical article was reflecting reality.

Look at the last "The Spudd" link I posted. I asked for the ratio of the vaccines give versus compensated claims, and the nutcake replied by just posting a link to the page that I used to get the statistics! I was then accused of being a Pharma Shill on the basis of knowing how to do third grade division.

It is really hard to "Poe" when some of those guys are even more ridiculous than the satire on that page.

Le sigh... then there are the folks who expect satire to always be funny. I am saddened by how many people don't understand Jonathan Swift or Terry Gilliam.

Why would you expect a satirical comment about a woman letting her three kids suffer for months with pertussis to be funny?

Oh, sorry. I didn't see the first post, and the second didn't take me to the comments. My browser badly needs updating - it often struggles with comments links.

@ Chris:

As you probably know, 'getting' satire is a more advanced skill than general reading - as such, it is grouped alongside skills that use abstraction and develop in adolescents- just like sarcasm.

Actually, today Dachel has a post today that includes a quote about 'not getting' irony et al ( how to recognise if you might be autistic) as she scoffs at the UK study that showed how many adults are on the spectrum.
Which of course she doesn't believe. She probably doesn;y get irony either.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

DOESN'T get irony

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Magpie: "Oh, sorry. I didn’t see the first post, and the second didn’t take me to the comments"

Yeah, it got held in moderation because it had three links. Sometimes with Disqus comments I just load the whole page and scroll, scroll, scroll. It is kind of annoying,

Chris Hickie #48:
That master’s thesis is crap. Page 7, right at the intro she states:

The misuse of apostrophes is a failing offense in itself.
[/apostrophe police]
By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Dammit Chris #13!

Earth is an oblate spheroid. You are the one in dissent!

the special ecological conditions in Australia, for example the levels of sanitation and nutrition, and the incidence and severity of diseases.

I am intrigued by this special Australian ecology. Are Australians more disease-resistant than humans elsewhere, due to their healthier life-style or superior genetic stock? Are diseases less virulent?
Perhaps it is a terroir issue, like with grapes.

Naturally we can dismiss the possibility that the incidence of many infectious diseases in Australia is relatively low because of high immunisation rates.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

With apologies to the Boogalie Woogalie Band, I can't help but think that none of this would have happened without the interweb machine:

"We think of the internet as an information superhighway. It’s not, it’s a bias superhighway. Twitter and Facebook are wonderful ways of sharing information, but it may be that because we’re sharing our prejudices, they’re making us dumber.”

Daniel Richardson, quoted by Michael Bond, in: Why people get more stupid in a crowd. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160113-are-your-opinions-really-your-…

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

From Narad's link @ 58

The list includes more than 8000 names of scientists, doctors ou engineers for more than 50%

As a semi retired engineer with a family history of dementia I should be able to make an arrangement with a University Physics department whereby should I ever send them an alternate theory refuting Relativity, QM, the big bang etc, they will receive my entire estate if they dispatch a grad student to shoot me.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Earth is an oblate spheroid. You are the one in dissent!

I looked up Oblates and I am pretty sure that the Earth is not constructed from them.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Jean di Climont is Nicolas Bourbaki–style routine.

From Narad's "Alternative Theorists" link:
Physicists, whether online, in lectures or individual discussion, are generally weary of criticism

Well it tends to be pretty repetitious.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

For the information of those commenting on the shape of the earth;
The shape of the earth has been determined by surveyors determining the sea water levels world wide (the tide marks). Those levels are mainly affected by the gravitational forces of the sun and moon and the rotational velocity of the surface of the earth which varies from 1668km/hr at the equator to nil at the poles.

By John Turner (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

if they dispatch a grad student to shoot me

/me think they'll dispatch a shrink...

Big Al

@ Magpie: She’s got a table where 137 kids presented with pertussis, and 37 of them were immunised. She concludes: “The statistics indicate that one-third of fully vaccinated children still got infected with pertussis.”

This is mathematical dissent.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

She’s got a table where 137 kids presented with pertussis, and 37 of them were immunised. She concludes: “The statistics indicate that one-third of fully vaccinated children still got infected with pertussis.”

This, too, gets better:

"Behrman et al, (1998) state the efficacy of pertussis whole-cell vaccine to be 70 – 90 percent. They claim the vaccine does not stimulate antibody production in one hundred percent of individuals therefore they remain unprotected from infection. In addition, it is known that outbreaks of pertussis have been common in urban areas in fully immunized children (Behrman et al, 1998, p.363). It leads us to question whether this is because the bacteria revert to virulence or because uptake of the vaccine was unsuccessful. Refer Appendix 3."

"Us"? "Uptake"? A girl named John? What?

She concludes: “The statistics indicate that one-third of fully vaccinated children still got infected with pertussis.”
This is mathematical dissent.
I think she is dividing apples by oranges and getting Potato.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

Just dipped a toe into the Bibliography section in the Wilyman thesis, looking for anti-vaccine loons. I noticed the Geier name and found it repeated 5 times. I know about Geier father and son, but Geier, Geier and the other brothers Geier? Here is a copy and paste from her novel, er thesis:
Geier D, Geier D, Geier MR, Geier D, Geier MR. 2005. A case-control study of serious
autoimmune adverse events following hepatitis B immunization. Autoimmunity. 38: 4: pp295-
301.
Compare that to the authors as cited on PubMed:
Geier DA, Geier MR.
How does anyone not proof read their Bibliography?

By Verna Lang (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

I note in the vaccine ingredients section of her master's thesis she cites Orac's ol' pal David Kirby about a zillion times.

In Narad's quotation at 70, what does "revert to virulence" mean? Virulence is a continuum, not a binary state. It may just be sloppy language, but it suggests to me a lack of understanding of the basic concepts of the topic, especially taken along with the "uptake" thing. Or is she suggesting zombie bacteria in the vaccine?

Here's a great little article from the good professor on the University of Woo's website
http://ro.uow.edu.au/artspapers/573/

A report commissioned by the AVN,
written by a member of the AVN,
detailing the "attacks" on the AVN

I can't seem to find the same article on good professor's own website?
http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/index.html

University of Woo must be super proud of their antivax faculty

By Geoffrey Clarence (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

In Narad’s quotation at 70, what does “revert to virulence” mean?
She appears to believe that the diphtheria vaccine uses live (attenuated) bacteria, which feel the Call of the Wild, forget domesticity, and revert to feral status in a White Fang scenario.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

s/diphtheria/pertussis.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

#73:

Bibliographies ought to be automatically generated these days from tools like Zotero (what I use), EndNote ($$), Mendeley and so on. I can only presume she’s done something manually to get that.

@ Verna Lang
Good find! It discredits all her thesis. Now we can ask for retraction and get our check fom Big Pharma.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 14 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ herr doktor bimler

I am intrigued by this special Australian ecology.

Australians fungi have a marsupial pocket for their spores and when an Australian bacterium bites you, it injects poison. Also, the viruses are dropping from Eucalyptus trees on the unaware traveler.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

"from" not "fom"
This typo error discredits all I said above.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

I took a look at the supervisors homepage, and he has a blog post about the vaccination controversy. You are right about the post modernist thing where everything is a text with equal value. The possibility some evidence is stronger than other evidence is absent. No facts or truth only opposing statements of equal validity.

“Us”? “Uptake”? A girl named John? What?

You rang?

-JP

(You know, like, whatever, maaan.)

By Yoru Teruhiko (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

She appears to believe that the diphtheria vaccine uses live (attenuated) bacteria, which feel the Call of the Wild, forget domesticity, and revert to feral status in a White Fang scenario.

One never knows! I mean, metaphorically/metaphysically speaking or whatever.

By Yoru Teruhiko (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

It may just be sloppy language,

I was not able to make myself read very far into Wileyman's thesis so it's possible I'm being unjust, but sloppy language appears to be her default mode.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

I don't think it's so much a matter of sloppy language as simple indifference to the concept of facts and evidence. Assertions are valuable to her only to the extent that they can be represented a certain way. Since they are divorced from any underlying reality, they are nothing more than signals. As such, her decision to deploy and represent them in a certain way is just as "valid" to her as any other.

It's "bullsh|t" in the philosophical sense, where the speaker has absolutely no concern for the truth or validity of their statements.

From the master's thesis:

Acknowledgement
I would like to acknowledge Glenn Mitchell for directing me to appropriate literature for this project.

Ye gods, it's not just Martin and Wilyman couldn't even research a high-school-level paper on her own.

As for the references, the in-text citations are formatted just as randomly. Perhaps they were automatically generated but incompetently entered.

In Narad’s quotation at 70, what does “revert to virulence” mean? Virulence is a continuum, not a binary state.

As HDB noted, it's pretty binary when wP uses killed bacteria. Appendix 3 (which I'm not going to look back up) is about three paragraphs summarizing another source and nowhere explains why the "us" is "led to question."

You are right about the post modernist thing where everything is a text with equal value.
Once one has abandoned "faithfulness to reality" as an explanation for why a lot of people would all promote the same position and the same public-health policy, all one has left is "conspiracy and brainwashing".

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

I would like to acknowledge Glenn Mitchell for directing me to appropriate literature for this project.

For some reason, when I first read that line, I read appropriate as a verb, rather than an adjective.

The statement might actually be more true that way.

By Jenora Feuer (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

but HDB, don't you know that "reality" is just a social construct used as a tool of oppression?

To me, that was always the most resonant point that Sokal was making: the pomo crowd likes to think* that their maunderings are somehow sticking it to the Man. But the lower classes' best weapon is "speaking truth to power," so how can undermining the very idea of truth do anything but reinforce the power of those who already have it?

*Feel free to post-modernly criticize my use of the verb "think" in this context.

I thought I'd take a look at the chapter on HPV vaccines in Wilyman's thesis as I have an interest in that area. I was immediately struck by her consistent use of "stated" wherever she agrees with a researcher, and "claimed" wherever she doesn't agree.

Then I came across this statement:

The incidence of cervical cancer is found to be four times greater in sex workers than in other women (Gitsch et al 1991). Yet the study by Gitsch et al did not find any statistically significant difference between the distribution of HPV subtypes in the lesions of sex workers and 227 other women. That is, there was no correlation between the incidence of high risk HPV subtypes and the incidence of cervical cancer in sex workers. This indicates that environmental factors must also play a role in the progression to disease.

Yet when I took a look at Gitsch et al. 1991 I found this (my emphasis):

Overall HPV detection rate in CIN lesions was equal in prostitutes (47-8%) and controls (50%). HPV types were equally distributed in the control group. In prostitutes we detected HPV 16/18 twice as often than HPV 6/11. In both groups HPV 31/33 infection showed a similar distribution. The difference in distribution of HPV types showed no statistical significance.

So there was a correlation, though it's true that the difference in high risk HPV in sex workers and controls didn't reach statistical significance, but since the study wasn't designed to investigate this n was too small to achieve statistical significance, but the difference (and hence correlation) is very large. It seems more than a little disingenuous to conclude from this study that "environmental factors must also play a role in the progression to disease" when high risk HPV occurred twice as frequently as low risk HPV in sex workers but with equal frequency in controls, especially when the distribution of HPV 31/33 in both groups was so similar. A call for further research would be more appropriate, perhaps, especially since this has been done and has confirmed Gitsch's findings. She doubles down on this disingenuity later when she summarises her findings:

Sex workers have a four times greater chance of getting cervical cancer even though the detection of HPV subtypes is similar to controls (Gitsch et al 1991).

At this point I decided that I was wasting my time reading further when the author describes twice as many high risk HPV strains in sex workers as in controls as being "similar".

She also lists many risk factors for cervical cancer, apparently suggesting that these are independent, but most of them are factors that are likely to lead to HPV infection, multiple sexual partners, for example.

The author was seemingly intent on proving that the evidence for introducing HPV vaccines was insufficient at the time, so she states that she has ignored the copious evidence that has become available since then, though she doesn't mention this newer evidence demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that HPV is responsible for cervical cancer and that preventing HPV through vaccination will dramatically reduce its incidence.

She also makes a great deal of HPV being necessary but not sufficient to cause cervical cancer, which I don't really follow. If it's necessary and you prevent it with a vaccine, then cervical cancer cannot follow. Smoking is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause lung cancer since plenty of non-smokers get lung cancer and plenty of smokers avoid it, but it is still a very important preventable cause of lung cancer.

This is slightly more sophisticated antivax writing than I usually see, but it's still the usual cherry-picking of evidence to fit what is clearly a predetermined conclusion.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

Appendix 3 of her thesis does explain why she used "virulence" in the way she did. It still leaves the question of when and where this answer to the Call of the Wild was imagined to be occurring. In the vaccine itself? In the vaccinated person at some unknown time post-vaccination, with the obvious implication that the bacteria were being carefully maintained alive but non-virulent by their host?

The more of her work I read, the more I believe she is sloppy with language, doesn't understand the basics and is indifferent to facts and evidence.

You are right about the post modernist thing where everything is a text with equal value.

No you're not. 'Postmodernists' think everything is a text, but not JUST a text, and they don't think everything is equally valid. For one thing, they're not a choir singing in harmony, but a disputatious bunch regularly busting each others chops. 'Pomo' comes in so many incommensurable varieties no general statements about it can be made, and you really have to refer to specific thinkers.

But the lower classes’ best weapon is “speaking truth to power,” so how can undermining the very idea of truth do anything but reinforce the power of those who already have it?

Exactly. That's why few if any pomos actually "undermine the very idea of truth". That's just a BS straw-man interpretation / accusation from the relatively powerful who have had THEIR truth criteria called into question (not truth denied, just criteria questioned).
__________

BTW, I quickly glanced over 3 of Brain Martin's articles. No even remotely pomo lingo or references. He's an odd duck, and it's hard to say exactly 'where' he's coming from, but pomo it ain't. Seems closer to very old school "I don't agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" classical liberalism mixed with an equally old school animus against Mr. Big's attempts to shut down any and all 'agitators'. Martin publishes some of his stuff in an anarcho-syndicalist journal — trust me, they don't do pomo at the IWW.

What IS going on with Martin's relationship with Wilyman is hardly clear. It could be a variety of different things, and I don't know enough about the players to speculate which might be more probable. I'm guessing this little drama is just in it's first act, and there will a good bit more to come, including some reveals and maybe even twists, before the curtain falls.
_________

Unrelated to the above: This 'skeptic' blog post on the affair (found via a quick Googling Wednesday) has some useful detail and commentary that hasn't been covered here. Recommended.

Available information is a function of signal strength against background noise. So there are two ways to make info not available:

1. suppress the signal
2. crank up the noise

Brian Martin is worried about signals being suppressed but he seems blind to the problem of noise overwhelming a signal.

Right now, anti-vax noise is taking up a lot of public space and Joe Public is not getting a clear signal regarding vaccine facts. This makes Joe Public less able to make informed decisions. So he has less freedom.

In sum, Brian Martin and Judy Wilyman and the University of Wollongong are making the common man less free. So they all are bad and should feel bad.

"... they don’t think everything is equally valid."

My text is more valid than yours to me.

Did I get that right?

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

If one of her central points is that Australia's policy is based on one size fits all, it's demonstrably false.

I live in the Northern Territory, which has a very large percentage of Aboriginal people living in remote communities, with unfortunately not unique but third world sanitation and nutrition. A Hep B birth dose was offered to all babies here while all other states only gave it to high risk babies. One of the reasons other states introduced the birth dose for all was because the NT rate of Hep B in children dropped while theirs remained static. I can't offer a citation for my lived experience, but isn't an anecdote worth a thousand studies?

And another one - we were living in a community when we had children and they were offered Hep A vaccination, which is not standard anywhere else in Australia, even in NT cities. What's that? Differentiation based on nutrition and sanitation factors?

So am I attacking her personally, ignoring her central point, or making an invalid assumption that the things that happened to me did actually happen? Perhaps expecting her to remember the NT (everyone else ignores us) is an unreasonable standard.

NaT #99:
Yup. But once any concept of validity enters the picture, it can extend to third parties as well. E g., most 'science studies' types who question the validity of this bit of science or that don't think anything like 'science is invalid sui generis', and however many notches they may take 'science' down the validity pole it still gets more cred than a lot of other stuff. E.g. I knew a couple of the founders of Social Text, and some folks who worked on it during the Sokal Affair era, and none of them would have touched anti-vax, AGW denialism, creationism, or vitalism with a ten foot pole. Martin seems like an outlier, and even if I could take the time to read deeper into his stuff, I'm not sure I could figure out where he's coming from or what he's up to.

I should note that most of the ideas that get mangled into the hyper-relativist 'pomo' straw man by skeptics are NOT actually 'postmodernism' as most people who actually do 'Theory' understand the term. They're poststructuralism. The difference is that poststucturalism presents theses about human processes that are trans-historical, and postmodernism presents theses about cultural changes in the late 20th century. E.g. Derrida's talking about the way language has worked since the beginning of civilization at least, while Baudrillard is talking about how ubiquitous mass media have altered our concepts of 'reality'.

...I’m not sure I could figure out where he’s coming from or what he’s up to."

Here's a WAG. His rants in support of dissent is breaking new ground with this philosophy and Martin is the "pioneer" and "standard-bearer" of it. At least in his own mind.

Which brings me to the question, what do you rebel against when there is nothing left to rebel against? A question best considered late at night with copious amounts of alcoholic beverages.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

Kreb @95 -- The "stated" and "claimed" thing is interesting. The superb Australian climate blogger HotWhopper points out that on Anthony Watts' p-suede-o scientific site, mainstream climate articles are almost always graced with a headline that starts with "Claim:", as in "Claim: Oceans growing warmer" (the example is made up).

It's a rhetorical technique designed to sow doubt from the git-go.

By palindrom (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

So am I attacking her personally, ignoring her central point, or making an invalid assumption?

No, maybe (but irrelevant), and no. Deb's comment is golden. Martin's not saying any critique of Wilyman would necessarily be 'mobbing' or 'bullying', only that many of the actual critiques that have appeared function as such. And he's got a point. His first three 'tell-tale signs' are well in evidence: "They attack the person, not just their work": Orac calls Wilyman a "loon" in the first sentence. "Ignoring the central points...": not having read the dis, Orac doesn't know for sure what the central points are, i.e. how they're presented "in relation to Australian government vaccination policy". "No comparisons with standard practice; criticisms according to their own assumed standards": Orac cites no exemplars from the humanities, shows no general understanding of it's methods, and displays no knowledge whatsoever of the fields of 'political theory' or 'sociology of controversy'.

Deb's just offering counter-evidence to Wilyman's assertion of "one size fits all". Deb's not saying that makes the whole thesis invalid, or saying anything disparaging about Wilyman.

But, more importantly, Deb CAN'T bully Wilyman because she presents herself as a mere resident of the NT, speaking from her own personal experience. If anything, as a university doctoral candidate, Wilyman has more generic authority and 'power' than Deb. See, in academia, it's a widely recognized abuse-of-power no-no for a tenured faculty member to publicly attack a graduate student in a different field they know f***-all about. Imagine some doctoral students in epidemiology at, say, Michigan State had done the DeStafano study, and one of their MA assistants had made a stink about data on Black males not being included in the write-up, and then some eminent Black Studies professor had gone all Minister Tony on some TV show, and accused the researchers of being genocide abiding racists. That would be considered out of bounds because he's punching down. Because he's got enough juice to possibly make trouble for the junior epidemiologists, even though he knows squat about what they do and why. But he's just one guy, from a low-status field, attacking a Med School, which is THE Big Dog on campus (at least if you don't count the athletic department), and if he calls for the reserachers PhDs to be withheld or their advisors canned, the Med School and central administrators are just going to laugh for awhile, and then ignore him.

On the other hand, Martin's got one mere grad student at a low status uni in Australia [with a name that sounds like the gag school in the Monty Python Australian philosophers sketch: that would be the 'University of Woolamaloo' for those of you not named 'Bruce'], and in a low status humanities program therein to boot, getting slammed all over the Internet by a whole gang of tenured faculty in Medicine and the Sciences at schools with more prestige than his. That might not be 'bullying' exactly, since that term tends to connote innocence on the part of the victim. But it's vigilantism: 'mobbing' as in 'lynch mob'.

It would have been different if the skeptic attack had pointed at Martin to begin with, left Wilyman's other activities out of it as much as possible, and focused on the specifics of the dissertation in accurate detail – meaning the critics would have had to read the whole thing, not just some cherry-picked pull-quotes (even if Wilyman was picking the cherries...). It would have been even more different if critics with a science background had rung up a humanities colleague more-or-less in Martin's neck of that woods and chatted about what this thing looks like from the inside... which might have yielded even more and better dirt, for all I know, besides coming out with 'better optics' to observers not-already-in-the-choir. But, to invoke the ghost of John Belush, "NOOO!"

Here's a question for the minions. Which of the following do you think is more likely:
1) A scholar who studies "the dynamics and politics of controversy" and has published papers on "the suppression of vaccination dissent" and "Censorship and free speech in scientific controversies" imagined he could supervise a PhD thesis by Judy Wilyman and have it published in full with free access on the University website, and this would all be routine academic process, drawing no notice beyond the yawns that greet 99% of all dissertations.
2) A scholar who studies "the dynamics and politics of controversy" and has published papers on "the suppression of vaccination dissent" and "Censorship and free speech in scientific controversies" imagined that if supervised a PhD thesis by Judy Wilyman and had it published in full with free access on the University website, that it would get exactly the reaction it did, and provide him both a major new research opportunity and lots of publicity for it. From http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/controversy:

Brian Martin. Mobbing of a PhD student: lessons and responsibilities. In press

Either way, it looks to me like Brer Skeptic Bear just threw Brer Brian Rabbit into the briar patch – exactly where he wants to be. Rather than failing to learn from Sokol as Eric Lund imagines, Martin may have learned exactly how far you can get with duplicitous doucherey: baiting a trap, creating a manufactroversy, and twisting the umbrage aroused into 'evidence' along the lines of a self-serving pre-scripted narrative, never mind that the writing of which commits the very sins it finds so damning in others. If Martin was a theory guy, I'd wonder if this was a situationist prank, but he's not... Whether it's consciously a reverse-Sokal or just came out that way 'organically', I'm guessing there'll never be a reveal...

I can only guess where this thing is going to go, but I'm pretty confident it ain't over...

“Ignoring the central points…”: not having read the dis, Orac doesn’t know for sure what the central points are, i.e. how they’re presented “in relation to Australian government vaccination policy”.

Bullshit, sadmar. A striking, drippy load of bullshit.

I bet I've read more of that misbegotten thesis than you have (lest my teeth grinding become so irritating that I had to stop, lest I have nothing left to chew with), and her "central points" are not hard to understand. Read the damned abstract; her "main points" are all there, and they're all antivaccine propaganda talking points, focused on Australia. She claims that one basis of the Australian government's vaccination policy, the fact that serious adverse events due to vaccines are rare, is wrong. She posits that sanitation had already caused a massive decrease in vaccine-preventable diseases and that vaccination was only adopted later as a "central management strategy" (because of too cozy cooperation and profit driving big pharma and government). This is the antivaccine trope known as the "vaccines didn't save us" lie wedded to typical big pharma conspiracy theories. She argues that more research needs to be done, the framework being "to analyse the Australian government’s claim that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks," as though such research hasn't already been done and isn't continuously being done now. She is, quite simply, wrong about that too.

Sadmar, her entire central points are bullshit, period. I didn't spend a lot of time on them because they are so obviously bullshit to anyone who knows anything about vaccines, in particular the readers of this blog.

As for calling Judy Wilyman an "antivaccine loon," well, that is an accurate description of what she is.

Re: #104

So if one person says you're wrong, that can be dismissed as just one guy's opinion and you win.

But if a whole bunch of people say you are wrong, that is mobbing which is really mean so again, you win.

Dammit seems like I will lose this game before I start.

So if one person says you’re wrong, that can be dismissed as just one guy’s opinion and you win.

But if a whole bunch of people say you are wrong, that is mobbing which is really mean so again, you win.

I think you have accurately described the Brian Martin theory of dissent.

The issues around the criticism of Judy Wilyman's thesis topic were that she was a well-known 'antivaccine loon', had already produced a Masters thesis of antivaccine lunacy and was now to be researching a topic where she already held strong and clearly incorrect ideas. Even worse, she would use the fact that she was a Ph.D. student to give her views legitimacy (rarely pointing out that she was not a student in a science faculty and in the early days, before the University directed her to stop doing so, she used the letters Ph.D. after her name, suggesting she already had completed a Ph.D.).

This was not a case of "mobbing a Ph.D. student', but of pointing out where someone was incorrectly using the degree and the University to give legitimacy to her anti-vaccine views.

You can bet she is going to push the Ph.D. thing hard now that it is real. She is already doing so on her anti-vaccine website.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

The strange and unfortunate case of Wilyman's thesis reminds of the highly 'oiled' notion of "Health Freedom", the battle cry of dietary supplement mfgs in the U.S. When I recently read that the plans of the Natural Products Association for 2016 include engaging Congress on the subject of the Free Speech About Science Act, I had to look that one up. Being a newcomer to this blog, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Orac had more than ably covered the subject way back in 2011, once again showing this blog to be an exceptionally valuable resource. Here's the link:

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/04/26/free-speech-about-science-…

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

Here’s a WAG. His rants in support of dissent is breaking new ground with this philosophy and Martin is the “pioneer” and “standard-bearer” of it.

No so WA. But I'm not sure what you mean by "breaking new ground with this philosophy", e.g. what philosophy you think it is, and whether it's philosophical ground being broken. My not-totally-WAG would be that the body of thought at hand is Enlightenment free-expression absolutism of the "defend to the death your right to say it" variety, and the ground Martin is breaking is pushing that an accepted principle to the extreme in practice – as indeed the general premise is one that gets most Americans nodding their heads, 'yeah!', but when specific cases hit the table, the 'except for [X]!' qualifiers come flying pretty quickly.

My guess is it's similar to attorneys who represent the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer because the system can fail if there are any exceptions to the principle of 'everyone deserves a zealous defense.'
_____

For the record, my WAGs that what Martin is up to could be 'in bounds' in terms of 'allowable' work in the humanities doesn't mean I think he's right. I know bupkiss about anti-vax politics in Oz, but I'd argue that taking anti-vax as a 'radical dissent' in the U. S. would be a serious mis-reading of the power dynamics at work here – where Congress is controlled by explicitly anti-science ideologues, anti-vax activism is well-supported by wealthy and well-connected power brokers like RFKJ and Claire Dwoskin, and policy was shaped to allow the easy exemptions that broke down community immunity and led to a dangerous outbreak...

Also for the record, though I haven't read Wilyman's dis, it appears to be very much atypical of the kind of work humanities scholars do to earn PhDs, at least in the U.S. I can't think of a program where that would fly, It's possible for a 'star' advisor to strong-arm a weak candidate through a committee via manipulation of department politics, but that hardly ever happens. The humanities do, I think, have a wider spectrum of standards, and 'heights of the bar' than the sciences. We often say that any fool can get a PhD if they find the right program and advisor, and just keep plodding away. It's probably not true, but we say it anyway. The point is that the work is difficult and grueling, the faculty often merciless, and that a lot of pretty smart candidates can't hack it, and just drop out rather than try to jump over the next big hurdle. Thus, finishing is more about dedication and endurance than brilliance. So yes, we pass a few bozos who never get 'rigored' to the degree a science PhD would, but on average (mean, median or mode) getting a humanities PhD in the U.S. is similar to the process Orac described yesterday, but a bit more difficult and fraught with peril, with longer time-to-degree, a higher fail rate, and a higher instance of contentious committees that whipsaw candidates out of the blue, w/o warning.

[If you want low-bar PhDs in volume, look at 'empirical social science.', especially anything related to Social Psychology.]

The Australian model, with two external readers who can apparently remain anonymous, just seems mystifying. I'm not clear on how that works exactly. Is it just the thesis advisor and the two readers who sign off? No committee from the home program? No oral defense before a committee? Do the readers get to pose questions in writing they can demand be answered adequately before they sign off, or do they just read the thing and vote thumbs up or down? I don't get it. Is there anyone from Oz here who can help me out?

Judy Wilyman [used] the fact that she was a Ph.D. student to give her views legitimacy (rarely pointing out that she was not a student in a science faculty and ...before the University directed her to stop doing so, she used the letters Ph.D. after her name). You can bet she is going to push the Ph.D. thing hard now that it is real.

I won't bet that, I'll guarantee it. What I'll bet is that hardly anyone would give a damn if it wasn't for the outraged reaction. It's not a 'real' PhD. It's a stunt by Brian Martin to try to prove a point. The letters after her name aren't going to fool anyone who isn't already gullible enough to think posts on AoA actually make sense. What benefit does a PhD from Woolamaloo offer to the anti-vax true-believers who already have a stable of MDs and science PhDs generating the bogus research Wilyman cites, to which she can only add, "Yes, This!"? Damn little. What benefits the AVs is the opportunity to pump up the base with anyone being able to shout anew, "Help, help, I'm being oppressed!"...

The AVs have been on the run since Disneyland, and SB277 put their cause underwater. The way to react to them now is either to ignore them, or laugh at how desperate they are. Wilyman's dissertation posed no policy threat whatsoever. Martin backing it was just a form of woofing. Or, in net-speak, they're just trolls.

You don't feed the trolls! You starve them out. You especially don't feed trolls who are scholarly experts on trolling, i.e. "the dynamics and politics of controversy". Brian Martin, as it happens, has written a couple papers on 'The Streisand Effect', looking at when and how 'efforts to silence' backfire, and the conditions under which no Streisand Effect occurs, and 'efforts to silence' succeed. I'd think twice before calling for that guy or one of his peeps to get whacked.

Speaking of 'backfiring' I'm guessing some of y'all haven't been following the response to Nikki Haley's attempt to smack the Donald in the Republican response to the State of the Union address. She didn't mention him by name, but nobody was missing the point when she said:

During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

After which, Trump's poll numbers went UP.

See, if I was Barbara Loe Fisher, I'd be feeling Andy Wakefield's damaged goods thanks to Brian Deerworn, and his shtick is worn out anyway out from repetition. I'd be mindful of the #cdcwhistleblower's failure to get any traction at all. I'd be looking at how well the whole 'bully' angle is playing with every faction, from the frothing rants on AoA to the soft-sell of friendly 'sensible' Dr. Bob, and just how neatly it articulates with my new Gadsden-Flag-Flying target allies. And what I'd want more than anything is a new martyr. 'They crushed her, and all she did was dissent!' Yeah! That'll fly. So if Alex Fein hadn't put up that petition on change.org "Stop the University of Wollongong's Spread of Disease and Death Via Anti-Vaccination PhD" (Right, the Aussies got rid of guns, so now PhD dissertations from Woolamaloo are obvious the most dire threat to Kill You!), I've have had a stooge put one up myself, just as over-the-top. [Hmm, anybody in the antipodes know Ms. Fein, or what her stake in this might be?]

Yup, Brian Martin's in the briar patch with a new book contract, and Judy Wilyman's the new anti-vax poster-child/martyr/hero. Nice work there, Team Skeptic. Very, very nice.

The Australian model, with two external readers who can apparently remain anonymous, just seems mystifying. I’m not clear on how that works exactly. Is it just the thesis advisor and the two readers who sign off? [...] Is there anyone from Oz here who can help me out?

Lincoln Colling, in the previous thread, may be able to correct some of your misconceptions.
http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2016/01/13/the-university-of-wollongo…

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

OK, two missed slashes in blockquote end tags in one post. Apologies. I obviously need a break. Stay warm and dry, comrades. Auf whateversehen.

@Sadmar I’m not clear on how that works exactly.

In Australia they have their thesis in the pocket.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

This is such incredible nonsense, not to mention rank hypocrisy. After all, how often have I documented how antivaccine warriors attack the person because they can’t successfully challenge the science?

Brian Martin has repeatedly stated that he is interested in promoting a fair discussion of controversial issues, and that he doesn't personally have strong opinions about vaccination. Presumably, he would look for those same "telltale signs" if he were considering how anti-vaxxers have treated you. Those kinds of attacks do indicate that the anti-vaxxers are trying to suppress views that they oppose, and it suggests that the anti-vaxxers have no good arguments.
Brian Martin made some good points about the advantages of promoting a fair discussion:

even if dissenters are completely wrong, suppressing them can be damaging in several ways. It sets up a pattern of unfair behavior that can hinder open discussion of issues even within the dominant viewpoint. It discourages supporters from thinking for themselves about the evidence and arguments, because they encounter contrary views less frequently. Critics can keep advocates honest and alert, with their arguments well formulated. Finally, suppression can aid the cause of critics by making them feel unfairly treated: some observers may wonder why proponents cannot rely on the arguments. When the struggle is open and honest, the outcome will seem more legitimate.

I have seen this myself. I've been reading Wilyman's thesis. She talks about how infant mortality decreased a lot at the start of the 19th century, for reasons other than vaccination.
No genuine anti-vaccination implications in that. But I checked this claim and according to the CDC, it's true.
So when I see pro-vax memes showing tombstones from the 19th century with a lot of child deaths on them, saying something like "anti-vaxxers want us to go back to that" - that is giving a false impression. The decrease in child mortality seems to be mostly due to other causes besides vaccination.
It's very important to hold the pro-vaxxers to a high standard of honesty and fairness. If people find out they have been misled in some way by pro-vaxxers, they'll lose trust in them. If they see pro-vaxxers engaging in invective, that just makes it look like one more mudslinging contest.
Brian Martin actually makes a lot of good points. The sociological perspective matters a lot. He wrote a controversy manual that has a lot of insights.
And promoting a fair discussion doesn't imply that he doesn't care about truth. Fair discussion can help the truth.
At the same time, suppression of dissent isn't necessarily bad. For example, when parents have to get their children vaccinated in order for them to attend school (no religious or personal belief exemptions), this makes vaccinating a no-brainer for most of them. Such laws mean that there's no point in their considering anti-vax rhetoric, and so they're less likely to. Anti-vaccination is a kind of dissent that harms others.
Similarly, we don't have lots of blogs and rhetoric against traffic laws. Stopping at a stop light becomes a no-brainer for most people. And that's good, because when people don't obey traffic laws, it makes life more dangerous for everyone.
And, approving a thesis with misrepresentations of facts isn't promoting a fair discussion, it's promoting propaganda. Her thesis should have been reviewed for factual accuracy by an immunologist. Brian Martin can't do that review for accuracy.

And promoting a fair discussion doesn’t imply that he doesn’t care about truth.

No one ever said it did. Rather, it is his exuberant tolerance and defense of "dissenters" peddling rank antivaccine misinformation (like Meryl Dorey and Judy Wilyman) that implies he doesn't care that much about the truth, only protecting what he considers "dissent." Or at least he cares far more about protecting "dissent" than scientific standards, which he seems to view negatively or not at all. Never mind that some viewpoints are opposed because they should be opposed because they are demonstrably incorrect and, if accepted, would lead to damaging consequences.

AND readers are able to differentiate controversies in
science ( which exist) from manufactroversies.

The chief perpetrators @ AoA foggy on this notion.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

SEEM foggy

My eyes have glozed over ( but no tooth grinding as of yet) after reading her material and reams of other tptally unrelated reality based reports ( see Markets in Turmoil)

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

"I’ve been reading Wilyman’s thesis. She talks about how infant mortality decreased a lot at the start of the 19th century, for reasons other than vaccination.
No genuine anti-vaccination implications in that. But I checked this claim and according to the CDC, it’s true."

Actually, I'm not aware of any CDC publication which discusses a major drop in child mortality starting around 1800, and certainly none that suggest childhood infectious diseases were well on the way to being conquered that long ago.

There _are_ major antivax implications in stressing childhood death rates from hundreds of years ago.

Antivaxers are good at conjuring up graphs showing childhood deaths declining from, say, early colonial times to 1900 and thus pretending infectious diseases were on their way out. The key is to start the graph very early when medical care was highly ineffective or nonexistent, and pretend that only the number of deaths matter.

Death rates did decline thanks in part to a number of medical advances, but vaccine-preventable diseases still caused a great deal of mortality, as well as morbidity (the suffering and often permanent complications of disease that antivaxers ignore).

"At the beginning of the 20th century, infectious diseases were widely prevalent in the United States and exacted an enormous toll on the population. For example, in 1900, 21,064 smallpox cases were reported, and 894 patients died (1). In 1920, 469,924 measles cases were reported, and 7575 patients died; 147,991 diphtheria cases were reported, and 13,170 patients died. In 1922, 107,473 pertussis cases were reported, and 5099 patients died (2,3)."

Is it unfair and misleading "pro-vaxxer invective" to point out these dismal statistics, Bpeth?

"Dramatic declines in morbidity have been reported for the nine vaccine-preventable diseases for which vaccination was universally recommended for use in children before 1990 (excluding hepatitis B, rotavirus, and varicella) (Table_2). Morbidity associated with smallpox and polio caused by wild-type viruses has declined 100% and nearly 100% for each of the other seven diseases."

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00056803.htm

So, it _is_ accurate to depict tombstones of children who died from vaccine-preventable diseases, not just from the 19th century but well into the 20th, as a reminder that avoiding vaccines puts us at risk of repeating that history. It is also fair game to show iron lungs and other reminders of the sequelae of once-common diseases, whether or not Wilyman and other antivaxers like it.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

It sets up a pattern of unfair behavior that can hinder open discussion of issues

How is criticism unfair, particularly when it is so very well-deserved? The writer of this thesis is guilty of sloppy writing, sloppy research, and sloppy thinking (not necessarily in that order). Do we overlook this because in Martin's kumbaya world criticism will hurt other people's feelings?

There are some issues on which there is no debate; the world is not flat, the Holocaust actually happened, slavery was evil, cigarettes are bad for you, vaccines don't cause autism. Pretending that, in fact, these are open to debate does nobody any favors.

Not even their addle-brained proponents. Particularly their addle-brained proponents.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Bpeth: "So when I see pro-vax memes showing tombstones from the 19th century with a lot of child deaths on them, saying something like “anti-vaxxers want us to go back to that” – that is giving a false impression. The decrease in child mortality seems to be mostly due to other causes besides vaccination."

It depends on what caused the mortality. First medical increased a bit during the 19th century, but the actual growth in survival happened when that care was bolstered by simple things like electricity and antibiotics. It is much easier to keep someone alive with a mechanical ventilator than having a nurse operate the bellows by hand.

What folks like Martin and Wilyman also fail to understand is that drop in mortality did not also include a drop of infections for many diseases. Diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, polio, Hib, and others were still around causing misery, disability and even death.

Shay: "Antivaxers are good at conjuring up graphs showing childhood deaths declining from, say, early colonial times to 1900 and thus pretending infectious diseases were on their way out. The key is to start the graph very early when medical care was highly ineffective or nonexistent, and pretend that only the number of deaths matter"

They are often showing they do not understand the difference between "mortality" and "morbidity."

That was DB, but I'll take the credit.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

They are often showing they do not understand the difference between “mortality” and “morbidity.”

Very true.
The risk of death from infantile diseases - or any disease, really - is not the only reason for wanting to avoid the disease.
Aside from the discomfort/loss of time/money they generate, many diseases like measles, mumps, pertussis, leave a number of their victims with sequelae - long-term consequences.
Wanting to avoid a well-documented risk of becoming deaf, asthmatic (from weakened lung tissue), or infertile, for oneself or one's children, doesn't sound to me like an irrational fear.
Also, recent discoveries on the measles virus, on how it targets the memory cells of our immune system and thus leaves its victims open to more infections, is a strong indication that the mortality/morbidity from these "harmless" infantile diseases has been under-appreciated.
More children may have been surviving these infantile diseases in the early 20th century, thanks to progress in medical care and nutrition, but for a number of them the toll exacted by these diseases on their health may still have lead to an early grave.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Thanks, Shay. I am easily mixed up before my second cup of coffee.

Exactly, Helianthus. I do not care much for those that think it is okay dokay for a child to suffer for up to two weeks with high fevers, rashes, and respiratory distress. Especially that horrible mother whose three children suffered for months with pertussis.

@Bpeth - It's important to make the distinction between suppression and criticism. Suppression would be preventing someone from expressing a viewpoint, either by denying them access to a public forum or by attaching a punishment to the expression of the dissenting view. Pointing out that someone's viewpoint is factually incorrect, morally repugnant, etc., isn't suppression, it's criticism. Heck, even if the only response you can come up with is "you're a dumbass," that's not a valid criticism, obviously, but it's not suppression, either. It's just being insulting.

Having clarified that, hopefully you'll understand why I also disagree with your statement that "suppression of dissent isn't necessarily bad." I personally would argue that suppressing the expression of a viewpoint, as opposed to limiting how people act on that viewpoint, is always wrong, no matter how appalling the majority might consider that viewpoint to be. Making vaccinations required for attending school is an example of the latter, not the former.

Re: Pro-vax memes showing tombstones, etc. In a perfect world (well, my idea of a perfect world, anyways,) people would make decisions based on logic and evidence and the use of such images would be considered both unnecessary and distasteful. But we don't live in a perfect world, and one of the lessons science advocates have learned the hard way is that dry facts are no match for emotionally powerful (I would say, "emotionally manipulative") images. Vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) certainly weren't the only cause of childhood mortality in the pre-vaccine era; they may not even have been the primary cause, but the fact remains that children did die of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) before the advent of vaccines, children continue to die of VPDs in areas where vaccination is unavailable, and more children will die of VPDs if vaccination is halted in areas where it is currently practiced. So pictures of tiny tombstones engraved with short lifespans as the likely result (if not necessarily the intention) of the antivaccine movement are accurate, as far as they go; some might consider them less offensive than graphic images of children suffering from VPDs.

sadmar #109.

I'm not sure what philosophical label is appropriate as I haven't been able to figure out the difference b/t post-modernism and post-structuralism even with your example and some hit or miss reading on the Web.

But the philosophy I am thinking of is not the liberal "your right to say it" as one would expect if this was an Op-Ed piece but rather the making of dissent into an end of itself even if it means chucking academic rigor, standards and intellectual honesty. Others have already stated this better than I.

You listed some philosophers(?) that wouldn't have touched the subject of anti-vax. I think Brian Martin picked this as one of his areas for exactly that reason. So I think we agree there. He wants to stand out in an area few have ventured for philosophical reasons or his own benefit. Which or both I don't know. But I hope he ends up serving as example of what not to do.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Brian Martin has repeatedly stated that he is interested in promoting a fair discussion of controversial issues

I cannot help wondering what other concentrations of shouty fringe cranks Martin regards as "controversial". Climate change? Smoking and cancer? Chemtrails? Fluoridation?

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

I cannot help wondering what other concentrations of shouty fringe cranks Martin regards as “controversial”. Climate change? Smoking and cancer? Chemtrails? Fluoridation?

Apparently, there is benefit to 'anthropogenic' climate change; If that is indeed the case:

Recorded human history has played out within one type of climate—an interglacial period. During the glacial periods of the last million years (commonly referred to as “ice ages”), great ice sheets grew to cover Canada and some points south, as well as Northern Europe and much of Russia.

In the 1970s, we learned there was a consistent 100,000-year heartbeat to this back-and-forth cycle governed by subtle patterns in Earth’s orbit. The thing is, it’s about time for the next heartbeat. We’re at the part of the cycle where the interglacial period should be wrapping up and the slow but inexorable descent into another ice age would begin...

... the sunlight/CO2 relationship that sets the ice age threshold is new, and shows how close we came in the last few millennia. Since people are often naturally curious about the future of the ice age cycle, the reality bears repeating: we broke it.

http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/01/we-narrowly-missed-a-new-ice-age…

You know, housing can be made to float and liquid oceans can be farmed; Fishing and Venice come to mind. It would be hard to do either with 3/4 of the planet encased in ice.

Smoking? It depends on what is smoked -- or vaped

People who smoke marijuana do not appear to be at increased risk for developing lung cancer, new research suggests.

http://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/news/20060523/pot-smoking-not-linked-t…

Chemtrails? There are proposals suggesting atmospheric seeding with 'shiny stuff' such as sulfur dioxide to reflect sunlight and combat global warming limit solar input thus the productivity of plants, plankton, and algae. {I'd suggest a real concearn is the dropping oxygen -- CO2 is a limiting factor to plant growth; in a healthy biosphere, O2 should rise with the rise in CO2.}

Fluoridation?

You know, it is a good thing I can drink something *for my teeth* that only has surface contact with my teeth for about two seconds before I swallow it; And yet, somehow it only fluoridates my teeth and not the other soft tissues, organs, and bones in my body

Because Fluoride:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPGZHQHsjD0

Martin misses the point. 'Dissent', 'Academic Freedom' and 'Freedom of Speech' are not green lights for dishonesty, misrepresentation, incompetence and bizarre conspiracy theories. In any other industry these would have led to sacking. In academia they should lead to failure of any 'thesis.'

By Ken McLeod (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

I cannot help wondering what other concentrations of shouty fringe cranks Martin regards as “controversial”. Climate change? Smoking and cancer? Chemtrails? Fluoridation?

Fluoridation certainly and polio vaccine causing AIDS as well.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Sadmar, I have a great deal of respect for your knowledge of, and comments on, the humanities. Unfortunately, your comment @104 was very ill-considered.

Martin’s got one mere grad student at a low status uni in Australia...and in a low status humanities program therein to boot, getting slammed all over the Internet by a whole gang of tenured faculty in Medicine and the Sciences at schools with more prestige than his. That might not be ‘bullying’ exactly...But it’s vigilantism: ‘mobbing’ as in ‘lynch mob’.

Sorry but no. Wilyman made a number of extremely factually inaccurate claims about vaccination (and I'm being kind). That she's getting slammed by people who do know vaccinations and medicine, know them inside out and can refute her claims is not "mobbing" or "vigilantism".

It would have been different if the skeptic attack had pointed at Martin to begin with, left Wilyman’s other activities out of it as much as possible, and focused on the specifics of the dissertation in accurate detail.

I have read several different blogposts (Orac's, Sciblogs New Zealand and elsewhere) where the posters " focused on the specifics of the dissertation in accurate detail". Your comment above is amazingly misinformed and I'm being kind.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

I see that Bpeth has switched threads.

Brian Martin has repeatedly stated that he is interested in promoting a fair discussion of controversial issues

As with the requirement of defining 'dissenters', this necessitates a definition of "controversial." At least the physics example advanced something resembling criteria, even if they were promptly ignored.

Martin's choices illustrate his prejudices (unless he's gotten around to splainin' why the rejection of ontology per se is a downtrodden notion, or something similar). Making a show of hiding under the skirts of "fair discussion" is simply a transparent diversionary maneuver.

I have downloaded the thesis, but do not have the qualifications to even dare critique the methods or statistics used. I have tried to find a scientific critique of the thesis itself that does so in its entirety, not just cherry picked points here and there. As a document like this is supposed to be used to further understanding and education in the sciences, I think that general dismissal is counterproductive, as such dismissal should be factual and comprehensively substantiated. If such critique is based on generalities and not specific facts, it actually undermines the credibility of the critic. In short, in following these posts, not one was of assistance in showing factually and in its entirety why this dissertation is incorrect and seriously flawed, seeing that she based her study on official government data. Instead I have to base my experience gained from here on insults, rhetoric, personal bias and the odd quote.

By Ronald Gibson (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

I am delighted to see that the "Teach the Controversy!" people have added a "Granary / Pyramid" design to their t-shirt range. Along with the Heliocentric Universe "Controversy", Flat Earth, Phlogiston, and many others.
http://controversy.amorphia-apparel.com/

The point being that for all Brian Martin's pretense of dispassionate above-the-fray objectivity, something is not "controversial" just because a gaggle of innumerate loons* happen to disagree with evidence and the consensus interpretation thereof.

* Or in the cases of AGW and smoking / lung cancer denalism, gaggles of remunerated liars-for-hire.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Heh. Here come the kidney stone dissenters.

The "Bias and Absence" bit is also quite ironic. "Solidly backed findings" are whatever Martin feels like.

If such critique is based on generalities and not specific facts, it actually undermines the credibility of the critic.

And when criticism is based on specific facts -- does Wilyman's demonstrable innumeracy count? -- you dismiss it as "cherry picked points here and there". OK.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

herr doktor bimler: "I cannot help wondering what other concentrations of shouty fringe cranks Martin regards as “controversial”. Climate change? Smoking and cancer? Chemtrails? Fluoridation?"

In case you haven't seen it, here's Brian Martin own listing of publications. He hits many ideas of dissent!

http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/controversy.html

I have downloaded the thesis, but do not have the qualifications to even dare critique the methods or statistics used. [...] Instead I have to base my experience gained from here on insults, rhetoric, personal bias and the odd quote.

So basically Ronald can't be arsed checking the validity of the thesis himself, so he wants someone else to take it seriously and do the hard grind of rebutting it point-by-point ("in its entirety")... threatening that in the absence of a sufficiently comprehensive rebuttal, he will assume that the thesis is true.
I can live with that.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s Brian Martin own listing of publications. He hits many ideas of dissent!

His exercise in AIDS denialism is a good example of his methodology:

Why was Pascal so unsuccessful in getting his ideas [on an anthropogenic origin for AIDS] considered? There are at least three plausible reasons. First, Pascal is not a professional scientist. ... Pascal wasn't considered a peer, so his submissions were not given a fair trial by peer review. [...]
A second reason is that Pascal's articles are not written entirely in the dry, concise and passionless style demanded by scientific journals. [...]
Even without these handicaps, there is a third reason why Pascal would have had enormous difficulty gaining a hearing. Quite simply, his ideas are highly threatening to the medical research community.

Notice the glaring absence from Martin's list... the possibility that Pascal's notions remained unpublished because they were ill-informed and factually wrong in multiple respects.

Martin begins that essay by claiming to have no dog in the fight, and not to be taking Pascal's side; then goes on to praise Pascal's "incisive intellect, a comprehensive grasp of the literature and scrupulous attention to detail". Stick to one story, dude, it's easier.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Martin likes "scrupulous attention to detail”?!
I gotta get a face shield with something stronger than polycarbonate. My detonating irony meter nearly took out an eye, even with the shield - and it's only been a year since the eye was rebuilt.

Mr. Gibson, I have some questions for you to assess how well you understand the issues.

Here is the first: Ms Wilyman wrote in her thesis:

This was due to the progress in etiological theories based on microbiology. In contrast, the decline in infectious diseases in the first part of the century was brought about through political, social and economic interventions in behaviour and the environment: termed social or ecological medicine.

Where in the 20th century did incidence of measles, mumps, rubella, rotavirus, chicken pox and polio start to decline before the vaccine was introduced? Please provide citations, and do not mix up the terms "mortality" and "morbidity."

Again Ms. Wilyman writes:

In contrast, the germ theory describes disease as being caused by the infectious agent and resulting from internal biological changes. This simplified theory, termed a reductionist theory, is a central belief of the scientific medical model (SMM) and it lends itself to using a vaccine to prevent disease from infectious agents. A more detailed description of the germ theory is provided later in this chapter.

Please explain what other factors cause tetanus, diphtheria, measles, hepatitis, influenza and Hib if not their respective pathogen (bacteria or virus).

And the last one: Do you think Andrew Wakefield is a valid competent person to give advice on vaccines and vaccination policy? If your answer is yes, please explain your reasoning with supporting documentation that Dr. Wakefield has the requisite education in epidemiology.

Thank you in advance.

@ Sarah A

Re: Pro-vax memes showing tombstones,

In addition to an emotional appeal, pointing to the tombstones is also a way for us to tell the layman: "Forget the complicated sciency words. The frelling tombs are just over there. Go check by yourself the infant mortality if you don't believe us".

By Helianthus (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Dr. Cunningham also challenged Martin on his ridiculous writings on kidney stones, so Martin has been on Cunningham's radar since 2014.

I emailed Martin telling him he didn't know the difference between dissent and dumb and that he should be fired and Wilyman's thesis revoked. His response was "Thank you for your input.". Sounds like someone who thinks his job is secure.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Dr. Cunningham also challenged Martin on his ridiculous writings on kidney stones

Martin's methodology would lend itself to a study of how the petroleum industry managed to suppress water-driven engines.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Ronald Gibson
South Africa
January 16, 2016

I have downloaded the thesis, but do not have the qualifications to even dare critique the methods or statistics used. I have tried to find a scientific critique of the thesis itself that does so in its entirety, not just cherry picked points here and there. As a document like this is supposed to be used to further understanding and education in the sciences, I think that general dismissal is counterproductive, as such dismissal should be factual and comprehensively substantiated. If such critique is based on generalities and not specific facts, it actually undermines the credibility of the critic. In short, in following these posts, not one was of assistance in showing factually and in its entirety why this dissertation is incorrect and seriously flawed, seeing that she based her study on official government data. Instead I have to base my experience gained from here on insults, rhetoric, personal bias and the odd quote.

Dude, scientific debates happen in only one place: the scientific literature. And once the debate is over, it is over. Maybe a new debate happens if new evidence comes in. But people do not keep on arguing the same point forever.

Just like in real life when somebody is tried for a crime. Once the trial is over it is over.

The "trial" or scientific debate weighing the pros and cons of vaccines ended a long time ago. I have seen a fair amount of LA Law in my time and I can tell you, you can't try the same thing twice.

If you want to learn some science, there are people who will teach you. But you likely will have to pay for that.

Brian Martin: " It discourages supporters from thinking for themselves about the evidence and arguments, because they encounter contrary views less frequently."

I hate to break it to Mr. Martin and all the "think for yourself!" types out there, but the rational position is to trust what you are told by scientists describing the consensus position on some matter.

Today it is impossible to get up to speed in a scientific niche without actively working and publishing in that area. Just give it up and trust what you are told.

If a scientist is full of shit, the guys who have to deal with him will suss that out eventually.

Scientists tell us vaccines are legit and awesome. So that is our reality.

Notice the glaring absence from Martin’s list… the possibility that Pascal’s notions remained unpublished because they were ill-informed and factually wrong in multiple respects.

Martin makes exactly the same mistake in his response to criticism of Wilyman's thesis.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Martin makes exactly the same mistake in his response to criticism of Wilyman’s thesis.

It appears to be a central part of his methodology. If someone comes up with what hey claim to be a scientific theory, but it is rejected or (even worse) totally ignored by scientists, this is either because the theorist used the wrong class signifiers, or because the theory threatened powerful interests. The possibility that it was not even wrong is excluded from his sociology.
One might see this as Martin's attempt to revenge himself on the scientific world for his own experience in his original career as theoretical physicist, but I could not possibly comment.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Ronald Gibson, from one Saffer to another:

I have downloaded the thesis, but do not have the qualifications to even dare critique the methods or statistics used.

And you are therefore not qualified to state that you "have tried to find a scientific critique of the thesis itself that does so in its entirety, not just cherry picked points here and there." The dissertation is based on false premises and makes numerous demonstrably factually inaccurate claims.

As a document like this is supposed to be used to further understanding and education in the sciences...

Wilyman's dissertation is not intended to "further understanding and education in the sciences". It is intended to attack and undermine vaccine policy. Secondly, as has been pointed out above, the dissertation is based on false premises and makes numerous demonstrably factually inaccurate claims.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

In this post, I am serious. My default mode is to make jokes, so I don't use smileys. But here I should use a "seriousley".

I am really concerned by the fact that most of the theses in biology contain the same kind of flawed reasoning as Wyliman's, but this seems not to be a problem as long as the thesis is in accordance with some formal requirements, and do not challenge accepted knowledge. But actually, conformist theses with such flaws are more a problem than the heretic ones because doctors armed with such thesis assimilate "science" with "authority", and this is exactly the contrary of science (as shown by Popper).
Universities have been designed to propagate knowledge, not to make science. When a thesis triggers strong rejection, it is not because it is flawed, but because it is "heretic". So Martin is partially right: it is mainly the sociology he describes that determines the immediate reactions to a claim, as truth may take much longer time to be accepted.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

One might see this as Martin’s attempt to revenge himself on the scientific world for his own experience in his original career as theoretical physicist, but I could not possibly comment.

As an aside, the W—dia page for Chandra Wickramasinghe seems to have him badly confused with his brother Dayal Wickramasinghe, who appears to have been a coauthor on all of Martin's physics output.

Ironically, Chandra sure doesn't seem to have been drummed out of the literature over the whole panspermia thing (but see 2011JCos...15.6229W; I'm too tired to do so myself).

A recent Quebecois scientific blog (Agence Science Presse) reminded me that Wilyman has been around fighting the good fight* for some time.

She was already around and part of the AVN pack which attacked online and harassed in-the-flesh a grieving Australian family, for daring to publicly say that their daughter died of pertussis and that a vaccine could have prevented this.

Here are two relevant links: news dot com dot au, and the Illawarra Mercury.**

* sarcasm
** yep, Mercury is asking pointy questions to/about antivaxers.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

Dangerous Bacon #118 Chris #120
And of course smallpox often left survivors badly disfigured where it counted most, on the face. Our charmed generation has no experience of these things, which seems to lead some people to take the benefits of modern science for granted, or even deny them.
#Chris 141
It interesting (or depressing) to see that for Wilyman germ theory is tainted with the defect that it's reductionist.

By Peter Dugdale (not verified) on 16 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Daniel #149 - "When a thesis triggers strong rejection, it is not because it is flawed, but because it is “heretic”. So Martin is partially right: it is mainly the sociology he describes that determines the immediate reactions to a claim, as truth may take much longer time to be accepted."

Show me a thesis with such basic errors of fact and stunning lack of anything like a justification for its conclusions (especially if the conclusions were in the first line) and I'll complain just as loud.

I don't give a crap about the subject. I care about the utter lack of scientific merit in a PhD thesis supposedly addressing a scientific topic. It devalues the award of a PhD, at least for this institution, and that's not fair to the decent scholars who might have UoW stamped on their papers.

I could have written this guff in a week. I've written much better in two. This work is embarrassing to anyone involved in Australian academia, and I genuinely believe work of this dismal quality reflects badly on my country's standards. I don't care who the author is, or what her agenda is. I care that she's an idiot with a PhD - and what that says about an Australian PhD.

This thesis reminds me very much of Wakefield's fraudulent Lancet paper, the first sentence of which, to reprise the matter, read:

"We investigated a consecutive series of children with chronic enterocolitis and regressive developmental disorder."

I was surprised by that, and interviewed the second author, a gastroenterologist called Simon Murch. How did they know, I asked him, that the children had enterocolitis, in order to investigate a consecutive series of children suffering from it (inflammation of both the small and large intestine).

He got very angry, and said it wasn't a well-written paper and that I "ought to see the first draft".

My point being is that these people always know what they will find before they start looking for it. There is no scientific method, no attempt to falsify their own beliefs. Which is why you see Martin acknowledging Wakefield in an article he wrote about Wakefield, and not, say, me, or anyone who might offer him fact that contradicted his beliefs.

The thesis is the same: the sources could be depended on not to contradict. There are no quotes of contradictory source material (or really quotes from anything). Wakefield himself, if he sought collaboration with someone who sought to put him right, he generally never spoke to them again.

I don't think you can fault the award of a Ph.D for being "anti-vaccine". But you certainly can for failing to observe the basis responsibilities of a researcher to challenge their own beliefs and to welcome falsifying evidence.

Personally, I think on that basis the Ph.D award should be retracted, and Martin given a formal warning by his employer.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Magpie
I don't want to argue about a specific thesis in French where the conclusions are wrong. There are many of them and it would take days to explain why the conclusions are wrong, but when a thesis is in defense of astrology, you can imagine that there is something wrong in the whole process of PhD defense in France.
But let's remind what has been discussed here in recent posts:
Orac has published and presented here a paper in NEJM where he claims that early detection of breast cancer does not prevent metastasis. Then he comes later and argues that early breast cancer surgery leads to better prognosis. You don't need to be an expert to understand that one of the conclusions is necessarily wrong. However the unorthodox statement appeared in NEJM, and therefore has the argument from authority. Moreover it did not threaten powerful interests. What if the conclusion of the paper was:"Vaccination does not prevent infectious disease"? Then people would have criticized the methodology of the paper, the misplaced references, and so on..
So if you want to complain about the NEJM just as loud...

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Universities have been designed to propagate knowledge, not to make science.

considering only science related faculties:
That isn't the model for Canadian universities with which I am familiar.

Undergraduate programs are very much to propagate knowledge. Students working toward an M.Sc. are expected to do research for their thesis. It does not need to be original research, but they must demonstrate an ability to do research. To earn a Ph.D., original research is required.

Most of the faculty in the sciences want to and do do research. Depending on the field, most will have their own laboratory and many will have a flock of graduate students, possibly a lab manager and maybe a tech support person or two. Funding for the research is usually from sources completely independent of the university (e.g. Natural Science and Engineering Research Council). Typically a faculty member will be expected to do six hours of undergraduate lecturing per week, and will often also do another hour or two of seminar work. Labs and much of the marking are usually conducted by grad students or even undergrad assistants. They are expected to supervise grad students. Lots of faculty would like to worm their way out of having any undergrad responsibilities so they can spend all of their time doing research. Grad students can be regarded as somewhere between useful laborers for the labs and petty annoyances, depending on how well they fit into the faculty members' research objectives. That isn't necessarily consistent with institutional policy, buy is often the reality.

If any of the faculty members I've known had supervised Wilyman's work and allowed her to submit such ill-written theses, they would have been regarded as derelict in their duties. I knew one or two who would have gone through half a box of red pens marking up a draft of her master's thesis. (One took a similar approach with undergrads. He expected them to write nice, neat, carefully composed answers even on exams. I had a hard time convincing any of his students that when they wrote exams I set, they could cross stuff out rather than erasing, put sentences or paragraphs out of sequence and use circles and arrows, and not fuss too much about spelling and grammar - the idea being to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding, not their ability to make pretty under pressure.)

@Daniel Corcos:

Orac has published and presented here a paper in NEJM where he claims that early detection of breast cancer does not prevent metastasis. Then he comes later and argues that early breast cancer surgery leads to better prognosis. You don’t need to be an expert to understand that one of the conclusions is necessarily wrong.

Early detection of cancer is different from early breast cancer surgery. The fact that you don't understand this does not mean that one conclusion is "necessarily wrong". Both can be correct.

Moreover it did not threaten powerful interests.

That's one of the best disguised ad hominems I've ever seen. Your insinuation is that Wilyman's dissertation was slammed because it threatened "vested interests", not because it was a pack of half truths and demonstrable falsities.
To paraphrase the Futurama character Zoidberg, "Your argument is bad, and you should feel bad!" And so should Wilyman and Martin.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Doug
Universities have been created at the pre-scientific era. This is why I have written "Universities have been designed to propagate knowledge, not to make science". Whether they do science is another question. You can find creationist universities, religious universities, what defines the university is teaching. Whether they do research, and if this research is "scientific" is another matter. I do not think that a PhD in humanities requires original "scientific" research.

By Daniel.Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Daniel:

I do not think that a PhD in humanities requires original “scientific” research.

True, but irrelevant. Any PhD requires that any factual claims made in the premise, Abstract, body and conclusions of the dissertation are accurate. As has been pointed out, in her dissertation Wilyman made claims of fact that were not only very wrong, they were easy to prove wrong.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Julian Frost
"Early detection of cancer is different from early breast cancer surgery"
I guess you think that once you have detected the cancer you continue watching it without doing anything.
"That’s one of the best disguised ad hominems I’ve ever seen."
So well disguised that I can't see where is the ad hominem. When I show you a demonstrable falsity you jump to defend an absurd position, showing that your aggressive reaction is specific to anti-vaxers.
And I swear that I have no information concerning your relationship to Big Pharma ;-)

By Daniel.Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Corcos: "I am really concerned by the fact that most of the theses in biology contain the same kind of flawed reasoning as Wyliman’s, but this seems not to be a problem as long as the thesis is in accordance with some formal requirements, and do not challenge accepted knowledge."

Can you provide some examples to back up this tu quoque?
A half-dozen or so recently published theses in biology that you feel are similarly flawed would go some way toward proving your point.

Otherwise I fear you are engaging in the same sort of defective reasoning as Wilyman.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ DB
Same answer as to Magpie #156. I don't want to argue about theses in French on subjects that interest very few people, when I have provided evidence that scientists react against demonstrable falsity differently according to the subject( #161).

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Orac has published and presented here a paper in NEJM where he claims that early detection of breast cancer does not prevent metastasis. Then he comes later and argues that early breast cancer surgery leads to better prognosis. You don’t need to be an expert to understand that one of the conclusions is necessarily wrong.

I believe locally invasive breast cancer can kill, with no metastasis required, so I don't follow your logic.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

I don't know if you're playing dumb or not, Daniel.

“That’s one of the best disguised ad hominems I’ve ever seen.”
So well disguised that I can’t see where is the ad hominem.

You said that Orac's comment was acceptable because, in your own words, "it did not threaten powerful interests." Your insinuation was that Wilyman was being attacked because her dissertation "threatened powerful interests", not because it was a complete pile of horse droppings.
Let's go back to what Orac said. Early detection of Breast cancer does not prevent metastasis and early breast cancer surgery leads to a better prognosis.
Detection is not treatment. I understood the first part as meaning that even if breast cancer was detected early and treatment started immediately, metastasis would still occur. That does not contradict the part about early surgery being beneficial.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Brian Deer said"
" The thesis is the same: the sources could be depended on to not contradict. There are no quotes of contradictory source material..."

I don't know, maybe I'm just too Old School but...

I was always under the impression that doctoral candidates were supposed to be aware of the entire scope of their field of study- no matter how large- and that they were supposed to survey all of the literature that EXISTED on their selected topic even if it meant going into OTHER fields of endeavor or research ( e.g. someone interested in memory might have to delve into what Associationist philosophers wrote about centuries ago or what neurological imaging has discovered more recently. Truly people have done exactly that).

Instead she focuses upon highly restricted material and even, suspect literature, that has little to do with what most research in the field has ascertained= there are loads of studies that show absolutely no association between vaccines and autism AND then, a maelstrom developed around the question apres Andy that ... um... sort of made the news.

Next, there is the whole question of showing how you put together studies that led to your particular research.. showing how the investigation is based upon things that have transpired and have been demonstrated to exist in reality ( for lack of a better term).

When the entire confabulated Rube Goldberg construction of a thesis relies upon conspiracies to explain away what generally accepted research has found..
well, it sounds like Jake Crosby might be an uncredited source.

I always say that woo need conspiracies to explain away why its supposed perfection has not been accepted across the board as being real. They need to explain away data.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Same answer as to Magpie #156. I don’t want to argue about theses in French on subjects that interest very few people, when I have provided evidence that scientists react against demonstrable falsity differently according to the subject( #161).

https://youtu.be/l8IkbCeZ9to

LOLOLOLOLOL Orac! My parents own Monty Python and the Holy Grail on Blu-Ray. I once tried to borrow it but my DVD Player isn't Blu-Ray compatible. I need to go around to them and watch it there.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Krebiozen
I believe you are wrong ;-), so it is our dissent ;-). Otherwise I follow your logic.
@ Julian Frost
I don't understand your logic. It seems that we have a logical dissent ;-)
I have decided to put smileys to indicate when to laugh because I cannot use laugh track.
More seriously, for Krebiozen, they might be exceptional cases of invasive breast cancer killing without metastasis, but nothing in agreement to the curves presented by Orac and its interpretation that death is due to CAM.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Orac
Do you think I will take any risk (people are resentful, and in France they can be really nasty), when I can easily make my demonstration on a subject that the minions know better?

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Daniel Corcos

Orac has published and presented here a paper in NEJM where he claims that early detection of breast cancer does not prevent metastasis. Then he comes later and argues that early breast cancer surgery leads to better prognosis. You don’t need to be an expert to understand that one of the conclusions is necessarily wrong.

We've been over this before. I was willing to believe that you merely overlooked the detail that the study Orac discussed showing that earlier surgery led to better prognosis was restricted to non-metastatic cancer, but now* it's clear that you're not arguing in good faith. (I know what you're all thinking - now its clear?! I'm not stupid, I just prefer to err on the side of giving people the benefit of the doubt.)

I am really concerned by the fact that most of the theses in biology contain the same kind of flawed reasoning as Wyliman’s, but this seems not to be a problem as long as the thesis is in accordance with some formal requirements, and do not challenge accepted knowledge.

I don't know what the PhD process is for the biomedical sciences in France, but no accredited university in the U.S. would pass a thesis where the applicant used decades-old references and ignored newer ones, made claims that weren't backed up by citations, and contained statements so trivially false that you could find more accurate information on Wikipedia (to say nothing of the sheer disorganization of the writing.) If a thesis like that did slip through the cracks somehow, it would be a scandal.

I don’t want to argue about a specific thesis in French where the conclusions are wrong. There are many of them and it would take days to explain why the conclusions are wrong

Well isn't that convenient. But there's a big difference between a thesis whose conclusions you happen to disagree with and a thesis fails entirely to adhere to the most basic standards of good scholarship.

Orac, it's time for you to explain breast cancer to your minions. They seem to only accept argument from authority ;-)

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

I do not think that a PhD in humanities requires original “scientific” research

Any PhD that analyzes the results of scientific research ought to get the science right, no?

By shay simmons (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Shay
You are right but this is irrelevant: I was answering to Doug # 157.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Orac - this has zero to do with Daniel Corcos comment #172 but I have been hoping to read your educated, serious response to the question he raised.

Daniel Corcos - I don't know if you have other examples of where scientists have treated each other differently during contentious disagreements than they have non-scientists dabbling in it, but I hope that you consider there are varying degrees of scorn and once someone is respected in their field their being incorrect may prompt a different response than someone lacking a background in it and approaching it from a political angle.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Sarah A

I don’t know what the PhD process is for the biomedical sciences in France, but no accredited university in the U.S. would pass a thesis where the applicant used decades-old references and ignored newer ones,

Unless it changed a lot since my time a couple decades ago, it would be about the same in France.
I will grant that there is a lot of academic politics in the choice of the jury, so a bit of cronyism and partisanship may be frequent. More than in the US, I don't know.
But at the end of the day, some readable manuscript has to be produced, and each thesis should contain 2 or 3 articles published by the author in peer-review journals. A thesis director who let garbage be published will see his career go into stasis.

And to continue with Daniel Corcos' assertions, as for a "heretic" thesis triggering a strong knee-jerk reaction, I don't know. If that was true, I would expect a "same cause, same effect" on published articles and new ways of analyzing things. But that's not my experience. N=1 and all that, but the people who managed me and my thesis worked in medical microbiology, and in less than one decade, they actively went from:
- bacteria are unable to modify their proteins, identification is by biochemical tests
to
- bacteria have a number of glycoproteins, and nowadays the standard for identification is mass spectrometry

We are talking turning upside-down what we know about bacteria, here. And it was not just my bosses whose opinion evolved. These views are mainstream, now.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

"Orac, it’s time for you to explain breast cancer to your minions."

Actually, he has done that in the past ten years. The upshot message to us minions is that there are several kinds, and there are several options available depending the type.

Instead of telling a blogger what to write, you might try using the tag cloud on this page to find the previous articles (some of the comments are discussions involving other oncologists), or you might try reading The Emperor of All Maladies. That book has an extensive discussion on the changes in breast cancer treatment over the centuries.

Helianthus: "We are talking turning upside-down what we know about bacteria, here. And it was not just my bosses whose opinion evolved. These views are mainstream, now"

It is kind of like what Pasteur did over a century ago. Thinking changes when there is enough data that has been verified.

Unfortunately, Ms. Wilyman is not using real data. She is even throwing out all of the work done by Pasteur.

@ Helianthus
My sentence, and all I have been saying was about "flawed reasoning". Don't try to make me say things I have never said. And I have been able to pick up an example of flawed reasoning
in a less controversial topic.
Now the question is whether the scandal triggered by some theses (Elisabeth Tessier; Wilyman) is due only to their very poor quality (which I don't doubt) or to some other reasons. It seems that the jury has considered that Wilyman's thesis had met the requirements for a Thesis in Humanities.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Chris
"The upshot message to us minions is that there are several kinds, and there are several options available depending the type."
And that surgery is not an option after detection by screening?
;-)

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Helianthus #176:

In retrospect, I hope that "I don’t know what the PhD process is for the biomedical sciences in France" bit didn't come off as insulting. I figured the PhD process (esp. in the sciences) couldn't be that different - I was just bending over backwards to give Daniel Corcos the benefit of the doubt.

@ Not a Troll #175

I know it's rude to answer questions put to another person, but just in case Orac doesn't feel like spending his Sunday afternoon reprising his previous blog posts I thought I'd mention that what Daniel Corcos is talking about is this post from a few days ago, where Orac discusses a study showing that delaying surgery for "invasive breast cancer that had not metastasized beyond axillary lymph nodes" resulted in decreased survival. Orac has also discussed the recent changes to mammography guidelines, and the evidence they're based on, several times over the years, most recently here.

Daniel:

And I have been able to pick up an example of flawed reasoning.

As Sarah A pointed out, "the study Orac discussed showing that earlier surgery led to better prognosis was restricted to non-metastatic cancer". The other part was "Early detection of Breast cancer does not prevent metastasis". You have not found an example of flawed reasoning. You have simply misunderstood and instead of asking for clarification, you have insisted that your interpretation of things is correct.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Sarah A
Since Orac does not want to talk, let me clarify: death from non-metastatic cancers occurs when these cancers metastasize years later. So if a non-metastatic cancer is diagnosed by systematic screening, this leads to early surgery, which should offer some protection against death. And there is no other way to understand things, which Orac knows, reason why he does not want to talk.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Yawn.

Or perhaps I don't bother with you because I'm busy writing two R01 grants and two blog posts this weekend, not to mention because of the fact that we've been through this all before ad nauseam. If you can't figure out how both articles have something useful to say about breast cancer and are not necessarily in conflict, I don't know that I can educate you. Read the NEJM article again. Its point is much more nuanced than you represent it as.

Sarah A,

It doesn't bother me in the least when someone else answers a question I have posed in a public forum because I am aware it's public. However, I appreciate it when they acknowledge they weren't the original recipient in their answer, like you have.

I was more interested in a response to the idea that scientists are more vicious reviewing a thesis containing dissenting ideas as opposed to one that agrees with the prevailing wisdom. I don't think this is true for the most part but rather that the strength of the response is related to how poorly the work is done. But what do I know; I'm not in academia or a scientist (although I would think that someone with radically different ideas would welcome a rigorous critique so that they would be solid in their work).

To the other issue Daniel Corcos raised about Orac's views, I think Orac can easily answer it in a few sentences without repeating a blog post...and it looks like Julian Frost already did this in #182. Thanks, JF.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Well, I see Orac has

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

already responded. Never mind.

And drat these godawful touchpads!

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Narad @151 -- Are we certain that this Brian Martin is the same Brian Martin that co-authored a bunch of papers on magnetic white dwarfs with Dayal Wickramasinghe way back when?

I know Dayal a little bit -- he struck me as a very good guy and a perfectly cromulent astrophysicist. My field (as in subject, not as in magnetic field) overlaps his a bit, and I'm sure I've met him at conferences.

By palindrom (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Corcos: "And that surgery is not an option after detection by screening?"

Insufficient data.

Also, please stay away from open flames when you are full of so much straw.

Chris, just for my information, do you have a PhD?

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

I was more interested in a response to the idea that scientists are more vicious reviewing a thesis containing dissenting ideas as opposed to one that agrees with the prevailing wisdom

I like to think that I am more skeptical about theses that conform to prevailing wisdom... partly out of contrarianism, partly because such theses are more likely to suffer from confirmation bias, with sloppier statistics, not designed to falsify. Also we are exposed to more papers and churnalised press releases that simply regurge the received wisdom.
Of course we all like to think that.
More vicious? I have enough viciousness to go around.

I think it's worth repeating that many of Martin's examples of "controversial" dissenting theses -- the purported victims of suppression and bird-like "mobbing" -- include claims that sank without trace (everyone thought "this isn't even wrong" and saw no reason to replicate or disprove them). Claims like "polio vaccine caused AIDS", and "preventative treatment of kidney stones".

So the absence of controversy is itself a kind of controversy in Wilson's paradigm, a kind of suppression by vested interests. Also, Wilson is a mendacious pissant, but we knew that.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

I was more interested in a response to the idea that scientists are more vicious reviewing a thesis containing dissenting ideas as opposed to one that agrees with the prevailing wisdom
It is not vicious to tell people they are wrong.

People who willfully spread misinformation about important issues should suffer some consequences for that. The mildest consequence that I can imagine would be a form of public scorn.

Being mild is not the same thing as being vicious, obviously.

By Pie for everyone (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Daniel Corcos - is there a level of ignorance about a subject that would, in your view, be ok to criticise?

If I wrote, as a PhD thesis, a refutation of estimates of the age of the universe by a lengthy discourse about the impossibility of the sun lasting so long without burning all its fuel, and I showed no understanding - or even awareness of - nuclear fusion, would the inevitable derision be ok, or merely a sign that I had ruffled feathers in Big Age?

Is there a level of utter incompetence in a PhD effort that would, in your mind, be grounds for failure?

That's the point, here. This is an incompetent thesis. If this didn't fail, then a PhD is apparently worthless.

Regardless of the requirement for her PhD, Wilyman as abundantly referred to herself as a "researcher", frequently with "PhD" somewhere proximal, even before it was granted. Start at this site (via PZ at Pharyngula).

Brian Martin's modus operandi seems quite consistent - find some poor deluded woman nutty about some pseudo-conspiracy or other and use her to flog his own whistleblower -martyr agenda.
Have a look at a truly terrible article he wrote in The Conversation (theconversation.com/whats-killing-tassie-devils-if-it-isnt-a-contagious-cancer) with his last hapless "student." She also graduated with a Wollongong PhD with a thesis on the facial tumour that is endangering the Tasmanian devil, manufacturing a conspiracy to suppress a long-discarded hypothesis. Like the present thesis, this article displays complete ignorance of the science she was criticising (genetics, which is my field), as well as its social and political setting. The article is rife with completely unsupported innuendo.
I was horrified that the U of Wollongong allowed this to pass as a piece of scholarship - don't they have a Higher Degrees Committee in charge of quality control who scrutinises the choice of examiners? The only good thing about the article is the largely rational and critical response from Conversation readers.

By Jenny Graves (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Ah, the things I learn here. Thanks for the insight, HDB.

As for "more viscous", I could have used a better term (and I suspect proper English), but it seemed to fit the accusation. Or it could be that I had just been on Twitter where that is what many aspire to.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Chris Preston - That Devil thing was a bloody embarrassment, but I hadn’t realised it was from Martin and Friends until this latest idiocy blew up. Creating a “controversy” by failing to grasp basic concepts is not a useful activity. Might as well call it the Straw Man Institute and be done with it.

I don’t understand how their pride can stand it. If I’d released that mess, having missed that the genetic markers of the cancers utterly destroyed my argument before it had even begun, I’d pretty much have to hide myself in a hole and wait for everyone to forget who I was before I ever wrote another word. Every time I thought about it, my testicles would crawl up into my body from the shame. But no. Let’s double down. Shame is for the WEAK.

It’s like the old lawyer joke:
Q: "How can you be so sure he was deceased, doctor?"
A: "Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar."
Q: "But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?"
A: "Well I guess he could have been practicing law somewhere."

I read the commentary on that Conversation piece at the time and noticed how evasive Brian Martin’s responses to criticism were. It is quite a good illustration of the way he operates.

Oh my, that article is fraudulent on multiple levels... not just the tergiversation between "here is an alternative, discredited, counter-factual theory where research money should have been spent" and "Oh noes, we're not actually advocating for that alternative theory".
The authors talk about bio-accumulation of the pesticide 1080 ("Furthermore, because devils, as carnivores, are at the top of the food chain, toxic chemicals in the environment are concentrated in their diet."). If only there were some system of on-line indexing of information, which would have allowed them to check whether 1080 actually bioaccumulates!

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

As for “more viscous”
I knew I should have wiped the glue off my face.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

The argument of whether scientists treat non-conforming theses differently is disingenuous. It may be completely true, and indicate unfairness in the system, but the fact remains that Wileyman's thesis is based on factual errors and misinformation.

It's like complaining that while the cop was writing your ticket for speeding, several other drivers sped past. Is it fair? No, and it may mean a review is needed of how speeding is detected and treated. But it doesn't mean you should get off from the ticket - you were still speeding.

It almost appears that Martin is conducting an experiment using his grad students as guinea pigs, to see how much he can force institutions to accept by framing it as dissent.

@ Magpie." Is there a level of utter incompetence in a PhD effort that would, in your mind, be grounds for failure?"

In Jenny Graves' example you can find this degree of utter incompetence. But no one is asking here for retraction of the PhD because most eutherian people ;-) don't give a damn about Tasmanian devil.
And this degree of incompetence is not far from ignoring either the basics of breast oncology or elementary logic.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Daniel Corcos - This PhD ignores basics of virology in a very similar way to the Devil paper's ignorance of oncology. It's entirely possible some folk are particularly energised about the vaccine paper, though, as this paper has a real chance of convincing some people not to immunise, and there is a very good chance that this will, eventually, lead to one or more deaths.

It is not going to far to say that this paper is so bad, children are likely to die. There is a family in the future who will go through and awful tragedy because of this embarrassment of a paper.

So yeah, I can kinda see how people might get upset. Can you not? Do you not think that's justified?

No-one was ever going to change their practices based on the Devil results, because people dealing with Devils know enough to ignore it. But immunisation is a very different story.

@Magpie
If you read carefully, my last sentence was about BREAST oncology. And it could be harmful to suggest that early detection of breast cancer does not prevent metastasis.
So what could be more harmful, an obscure PhD thesis without any peer reviewed paper, or a paper in NEJM?

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 17 Jan 2016 #permalink

Start at this site (via PZ at Pharyngula).

The recursivity of this comment is priceless:

"A FOI request for the names of the two ‘unchallengable assessors’ has been submitted."

I do idly wonder, though, whether the smallpox angle is being read correctly or whether Wilyman has a uniquely garbled version, as the usual routine follows a script (PDF).

The argument of whether scientists treat non-conforming theses differently is disingenuous. It may be completely true....

I think a meaningful definition of "non-conforming" comes first. Martin seems to be dully trying to turn Justice Potter Stewart's remark that "I know it when I see it" into an isomorphism ouroboros.

@ Sarah A #181

No worries.
If anything, I am offended by Daniel Corcos' non-answers*.
There are issues with academia communities in France - which community hasn't? We occasionally try to implement some rules to make it better, with mixed results.
I would have been interested in some precise examples, but if all we got are fuzzy generalities and the old hard sciences/soft sciences divide...

By Helianthus (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Helianthus
OK, if you take it like that.
I have seen many situations where results were really hard to believe, were not really supported by data, were part of a thesis and eventually published but never confirmed. In one of the cases, a paper by another team showed that the main finding was not occurring in the original cell line where it was reported to occur. The paper has not been retracted.
Above, I have shown that unlikely conclusions due to flawed reasoning could be attacked or supported depending on the argument from authority. Do you need more?
I am not here with a pseudo. If you want to know more, give me your real name and your e-mail address. So if you feel offended, it will be a pleasure for me to give you the answers you request.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

So what's preventing Daniel Corcos from revealing here the title and source of the thesis that supposedly had "hard to believe" results, which he intimates was accepted because it appealed to the Power Elites? And are we supposed to conclude on his say-so that it should have been retracted because someone else didn't confirm part of the findings?

"Above, I have shown that unlikely conclusions due to flawed reasoning could be attacked or supported depending on the argument from authority. Do you need more?"

Yeah, actual evidence.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

Helianthus has not answered. Brave behind a pseudonym.
Same for you, Dangerous Bacon, indicate your e-mail address and you will get my precise answers.
Actual evidence, this is what I have presented at post #183, #205, #207.
Dangerous (if I may call you by your first name), for my information, do you have a PhD?

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

None of those posts contain any evidence whatsoever.

Refusing to provide it suggests that it doesn't exist, or that you are afraid of speaking Truth to Power.

Not very flattering in either case.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

Dangerous, tell me the Truth. Do you have a PhD? Are you Dangerous?

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Daniel Corcos, what you have presented in your comments is NOT evidence, despite you believing that it is.
To repeat my comment at #182:
As Sarah A pointed out, “the study Orac discussed showing that earlier surgery led to better prognosis was restricted to non-metastatic cancer”. The other part was “Early detection of Breast cancer does not prevent metastasis”. You have not found an example of flawed reasoning. You have simply misunderstood and instead of asking for clarification, you have insisted that your interpretation of things is correct.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Julian Frost
My post # 183 has answered the question. If you make the effort to read it and understand it, you'll see it. If there is still something, please tell me.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

HDB #203

Ha! You got me there. I find myself unable to keep track of spellcheck while also fighting the jumping cursor.

No need to worry about AI killing me in the future. The current technology is doing a well enough job of gas lighting me now.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Julian Frost
I am trying to help you. Consider the following sentences:
A) Early detection leads to early surgery
B) Early surgery prevents death
C) Death by breast cancer is due to metastasis
D) Early detection does not prevent metastasis
One of the sentences above cannot be true. Do you agree?
Then try to find the wrong sentence.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

Ignoring Mr Corcos' ridiculously tedious derail for a moment...

It's pretty clear that Martin, Wilyman, and AVN are all fellow travellers, and it looks like Martin is an experienced enabler of academic bullshittery, so I'm surprised there hasn't been much consideration of a possible conspiracy between Martin and Wilyman in deliberate service of their common antivax agenda.

I find it very hard to believe that an attention seeking crank like Wilyman would've diverted a significant chunk of her misguided life into obtaining those impressive-looking "PhD" letters without having first secured a solid up-front guarantee of them being awarded for blatant incompetence and lies. So I wonder just how long and how well she and Martin have had dealings, and whether this whole "Dr Wilyman PhD" gig was rigged right from the very start with the specific purpose of making her a more powerful warrior for the cause.

It reminds me a bit of the Moonie church putting Jonathan Wells through a molecular biology PhD at Berkeley, just so he could more authoritatively attack the theory of evolution as the rubes love a liar with letters even more than a liar without. Except in Wells's case the university was merely a patsy, not a perpetrator. Shame on UoW for its cowardice and negligence in defending the academic corruption within its walls.

Indeed. Thank you for pointing out the obvious.

If Mr. Corcos has such a burning desire to discuss breast cancer, I suggest that he go back to the post about the study in question and do so freely. There, unlike the case here, his blathering will be on topic. He has derailed this comment thread off-topic long enough. I might even indulge him and explain how both studies could be correct, as it is clear that he lacks the imagination and understanding of different study designs to figure it out for himself. (One hint: The two papers do not look at the same patient population. The NEJM paper looks at incidence numbers for patients diagnosed with metastatic disease at first presentation; the surgery delay paper looks only at patients without detectable metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis who are candidates for surgery. These are not comparable populations. That's the only hint I'll give for now.) If Mr. Corcoros wishes to continue to beat this dead horse, he should go back to the discussion section of the post where it is on topic. I will no longer permit him to derail this discussion with off-topic discussions of breast cancer.

I have to get back to work now.

@Daniel Corcos:

B) Early surgery prevents death

Early surgery improves outcomes in NON-METASTATIC cancers. That is what Orac was saying, as you have repeatedly been told.

C) Death by breast cancer is due to metastasis

Not always and not necessarily.
Both B) and C) are wrong. What prize did I win?

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

Please don't encourage Corcos on this thread. I told him to move the conversation over to the appropriate post because he was beating a dead off-topic horse in this comment thread; it wouldn't be fair if I didn't apply that request to everyone. :-)

Sorry Orac. Understood.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

So I wonder just how long and how well she and Martin have had dealings, and whether this whole “Dr Wilyman PhD” gig was rigged right from the very start with the specific purpose of making her a more powerful warrior for the cause.

Answer to the first part of the question is at least a decade, since she was a Masters student at UoW. She then started a Ph.D. at UoW, left for Murdoch University to be supervised by Peter Dingle. After a few years, she returned to UoW and finally submitted her thesis 8 years after starting it. Reading the thesis it is clear that those 8 years were not well spent.

As for the second part, I really don't know. If I were to guess, I would say that this is Wilyman's initiative, rather than some sort of conspiracy, because that makes more sense.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 18 Jan 2016 #permalink

#209: "I think a meaningful definition of “non-conforming” comes first."

Do you think Brian Martin means, "non-conforming to the scientific evidence"? Or "non-conforming to the dominant view"?

If the dominant view reflects the scientific evidence, there is no practical distinction between those two meanings.

The answer to Brian Martin's question must be "yes." People are friendlier toward viewpoints consistent with the available evidence as compared to viewpoints at odds with the evidence.

Dissent.
It's such an inspiring word. It connotes great bravery in the face of corrupt power.

The thing that shits me most deeply about Brian Martin's delight in 'dissent' - at the expense of people's lives - is that if he really wanted to do 'dissent,' he'd be far better off in places like China or Saudi Arabia.

But if that's all too scary for him, there's still room here in Oz to 'dissent.'

There are actual, real, honest to God things that aren't OK here. We could start with Indigenous incarceration rates. Or the need for urgent drugs law reform. How about cuts to funding for programmes helping women escape domestic violence?

Nope. That would render 'dissent' as something focused on actually benefitting society, as opposed to a self aggrandising notion requiring you to piss off as many people as possible.

By alex fein (not verified) on 19 Jan 2016 #permalink

The main difference is that Sokal knew he was writing a parody. He said he did it in order to remind postmodernists that there is such a thing as objective reality. He famously invited anybody who considered the laws of physics to be social constructs to transgress those boundaries from his apartment window (he pointed out in his invitation that he lived on the twenty-first floor). You can see here also: no-single.de thx

Dodgy science aside, I thought defending your work against criticism was a part of academia/research?
She'd best get used to it!

I thought I’d take a look at the chapter on HPV vaccines in Wilyman’s thesis as I have an interest in that area. I was immediately struck by her consistent use of “stated” wherever she agrees with a researcher, and “claimed” wherever she doesn’t agree. Then I came across this statement - Yet when I took a look at Gitsch et al. 1991 (http://no-single.de/ ) The incidence of cervical cancer is found to be four times greater in sex workers than in other women (Gitsch et al 1991). Yet the study by Gitsch et al did not find any statistically significant difference between the distribution of HPV subtypes in the lesions of sex workers and 227 other women. That is, there was no correlation between the incidence of high risk HPV subtypes and the incidence of cervical cancer in sex workers. This indicates that environmental factors must also play a role in the progression to disease.

Is this a strange spamming incursion? The comments at #230 and #232 are odd partial echoes of previous comments with a link (that I refuse to follow) added.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 25 Jan 2016 #permalink

I saw the strangeness too but also a notice that comments were off while they performed an update. Perhaps that update fragged the existing comments???

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 25 Jan 2016 #permalink

Ignoring Mr Corcos’ ridiculously tedious derail for a moment…

It’s pretty clear that Martin, Wilyman, and AVN are all fellow travellers, and it looks like Martin is an experienced enabler of academic bullshittery, so I’m surprised there hasn’t been much consideration of a possible conspiracy between Martin and Wilyman in deliberate service of their common antivax agenda.

I find it very hard to believe that an attention seeking crank like Wilyman would’ve diverted a significant chunk of her misguided life into obtaining those impressive-looking “PhD” letters without having first secured a solid up-front guarantee of them being awarded for blatant incompetence and lies. So I wonder just how long and how well she and Martin have had dealings, and whether this whole “Dr Wilyman PhD” gig was rigged right from the very start with the specific purpose of making her a more powerful warrior for the cause.

By Vibrador Feminino (not verified) on 25 Jan 2016 #permalink

Is this a strange spamming incursion?

Straightforward Turkish-style blog spam.

I have not seen that kind of brain dead spamming by repeating a previous comment in ages. Though with the name I pictured a sword fight with weapons that could double as props for the play "Lysistrata."

The one college production I saw of that play was a great homage to crafting with tubes from paper towel rolls.

I will spare you a link to the Beardsley illustrations for Lysistrata.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 25 Jan 2016 #permalink

It is brain dead spamming but I have to acknowledge it is on topic.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 25 Jan 2016 #permalink

Krebiozen,

Er...Having seen your comment just after the corruption on my screen and the notice, I failed that projective test.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 25 Jan 2016 #permalink

Ken McLeod@243

Has anyone submitted a similar complaint about her PhD thesis? It seemed like one of the reasons no action was taken was because the complaint was lodged so much later. I haven't bothered reading past the abstract butbsurely her integrity has not improved. I can't imagine there are no misattributions, manipulated data, etc in this one.

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 22 Mar 2016 #permalink

There was no new data in this thesis in social sciences. If all the PhD theses where the data have been misinterpreted had to be retracted that would make a lot.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 23 Mar 2016 #permalink