Brian Martin again: Criticizing Judy Wilyman's antivaccine thesis is suppression of dissent

One of the cool things about being a longtime blogger in the skeptical world with a reasonably high profile is that I've met, either virtually or in person at various skeptic conferences, a wide variety of people from all over the world. One place in particular that has a vibrant skeptic movement is, of course, Australia, and I've been happy to meet skeptics such as Rachael Dunlop, Jo Benhamu, Richard Saunders, Eren Segev, and several others. I know that, whenever I finally manage to make that trip to Australia that I've been meaning to make for years, there will be people I know to meet up with. (The same is true of London; sadly I didn't manage to meet up with nearly the number of people that I wanted to when I was there in September.) Certainly, I admire their effectiveness. For instance, Stop the AVN (SAVN) has been very effective in countering the lies and misinformation of Australian antivaccine activists Meryl Dorey and her Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), which was forced to be renamed Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, which to me is the Aussie equivalent of our National Vaccine Information Center, Generation Rescue, and The Thinking Moms' Revolution, all rolled up into one. Oddly enough, some of my most read blog posts have been about Australian pseudoscience fans; indeed, my most read post of all time was one I wrote about Jess Ainscough (a.k.a. The Wellness Warrior) after her death. The damned thing garnered over 100,000 unique visits in a single day. No other post I've written in eleven years has ever come close to that burst of traffic!

Last week, Australian scientists and skeptics were outraged when the University of Wollongong accepted a PhD thesis from an antivaccine activist affiliated with the AVN named Judy Wilyman. I expressed my displeasure, explaining why her thesis was a steaming, stinking, pile of BS. As I said at the time, the University of Wollongong had granted a PhD in antivaccine pseudoscience. Of course, I was by no means alone in my criticism. Allison Campbell criticized it. So did PZ Myers. So did Helen Harris. The list goes on. Not surprisingly, there was pushback. Let's just say that Brian Martin, Wilyman's thesis advisor, was not at all pleased, so much so that he issued a statement defending his student. His statement, couched in defending "dissent" and invoking academic freedom (without, it should be noted, any seeming concern for academic rigor) was every bit as much of a stinking, slimy piece of BS as his student's thesis was.

I'll give Martin credit, though. He doesn't give up. When he digs himself into a deep hole, he just can't resist continuing to dig. For example, the latest broadside against Wilyman's thesis came from John Cunningham, an orthopedic surgeon and spokesperson for SAVN, who wrote an op-ed in The Australian entitled Wollongong should never have accepted Judy Wilyman’s thesis. In it, he makes a point similar to what I and other bloggers have been making:

A thesis critical of vaccination may be acceptable if based on a solid understanding of the subject matter. A document based on a mountain of erroneous understandings and flawed conclusions is simply not valid.

It may be better labelled as a work of fiction. It is a thesis written about a fairytale version of vaccination, better suited to the backwater websites of anti-vaccinationists. If the university finds that to be an acceptable standard for the award of its highest degree, that is strange behaviour for an organisation attempting to raise its reputation.

The University of Wollongong has failed several times over. In my view Wilyman did not have adequate supervision from a person qualified to consider and remedy her lack of scientific appreciation of vaccination. Her supervisor admits to taking a passive role in her study and seems to have neglected to prevent her committing fundamental errors. He should not be permitted to use students as a means to push his own erroneous “whistleblower” wagon.

The University of Wollongong has failed its current and past PhD graduates. By demonstrating how low its standards are in accepting a thesis, it has increased the likelihood of other PhDs being tarred with the same brush.

Exactly. Wilyman's thesis was so full of misinformation that there is no reasonable way that it could be characterized as anything resembling academically rigorous. Yes, I know it was a thesis in the humanities, but that's no excuse. A certain commenter here takes me to task when I pontificate about topics having to do with the humanities or social sciences and he thinks I don't know what I'm talking about; the shoe's on the other foot here. As Cunningham says, I wouldn't object to a thesis critical of vaccination policy, but that criticism needs to meet two criteria. First, it must correctly and fairly represent the state of current vaccination policy. Second, its criticisms must be rooted in science and evidence. Wilyman's thesis fails miserably on both counts.

Unfortunately, Cunningham's excellent article was paired with an op-ed by Brian Martin once again defending his young Padawan. I hate it when newspapers insist on this "tell both sides" trope regarding issues of science, but The Australian did just that, letting Brian Martin publish his own op-ed entitled Hysteria over Judy Wilyman’s PhD: academic freedom under attack.

Ah, yes, you can see right away the tack defenders of Wilyman's thesis are taking. They're characterizing her critics as "hysterical" (this will come into play later) and then wrapping themselves in the mantle of "academic freedom," again without worrying overmuch about academic rigor. Let's see where Martin is coming from:

I was the principal supervisor for Judy Wilyman, who recently received her PhD from the University of Wollongong. The reaction to news of her graduation, much of it bordering on hysteria, suggests that understanding of and commitment to academic freedom in Australia is more tenuous than I had imagined.

This is, as are many of Martin's statements on this matter, a rather massive mischaracterization of the criticism directed at Wollongong over Wilyman's thesis. For one thing, academic freedom ≠ freedom from criticism. Nor does it mean freedom from academic standards. Calls for Wollongong to rescind Wilyman's thesis were not based on censorship. They were based on just how bad Wilyman's thesis was when it comes to facts, science, and analysis of policy. They're not. Don't believe me? Get a load of this bit from her thesis:

It is commonly recognised that this diversity in health outcomes after individuals have been exposed to an infectious agent is not highlighted in the germ theory of disease that is adopted in western scientific medicine. These diverse health outcomes are a result of differences in the host’s immunology, physiology, social and emotional environment as well as differences in the ecological and agent characteristics (Doyal and Doyal 1984 p97; Friis and Sellers 2004; Gilbert 2004). 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.

Two points come to mind. First, in the case of vaccine-preventable diseases, perhaps Wilyman could describe what factors other than the infectious agent cause the disease. More importantly, I always find it so very, very cute when an antivaccinationist "discovers" that there are host factors that can determine the host susceptibility to disease. Gee, it's as though no one ever thought of that before! Oh, wait... Scientists have considered such factors for many decades.

Then there's this:

The concept that the control of infectious diseases is purely medical is incorrect because infectious agents are linked to many industries and professions involved with fermentation, agriculture and the environment (Pelling 2002 p16).

Huh? This is meaningless drivel attacking a straw man, at least if Wilyman means what I think she means, namely that "medical" = vaccines. Of course, doctors, public health officials, and scientists have been, as always, way ahead of cranks like Wilyman.

But enough of the crank Wilyman. Let's get back to the crank named Martin and where he's coming from:

In the late 1970s, I first began studying suppression of dissent, cataloguing cases in which environmental researchers or teachers were targeted.

In the following decades I studied attacks on dissent in a number of scientific controversies, including nuclear power, pesticides and fluoridation.

The usual pattern is that someone with qualifications or credibility threatens common beliefs or vested interests through their research or public comment, and then comes under attack.

Methods include public denunciation, censorship of publications, denial of research grants, expulsion from professional associations and dismissal.

The reason for targeting technical experts is they puncture the apparent unanimity of expert opinion in a controversy. Citizen campaigners are usually left alone.

With this background, I became aware of attacks on dissent in the Australian vaccination controversy.

With this background, I became aware of attacks on dissent in the Australian vaccination controversy.

What I find amusing about this tirade is that nowhere does Martin see to consider where professional and scientific standards fit into the picture. For example, it is not "censorship" to refuse to publish garbage, nor is it "censorship" to retract a paper whose data has been so seriously called into question that it's far more likely than not that its results can't even come close to being trusted. It's enforcing scientific standards. It is not "censorship" to decline to fund grants that are not rooted in rigorous science or to reject manuscripts that do not present scientifically valid findings. That's just peer review, and peer review is not the same thing as censorship. Nor is public denunciation of someone (like, for example, Andrew Wakefield) who has so egregiously violated scientific standards. It's housekeeping. No, it's cleaning house.

Of course, the amusing thing is this. Martin has a strange definition of "technical expert" if he thinks that the criticisms of Wilyman's thesis fall under any of these categories or that she is being attacked because she's a "technical expert" that has to be discredited and silenced. She is nothing of the sort. Martin knows that. So I wondered: If he knows that, given that her thesis was not in the sciences, Wilyman isn't like, for instance, Andrew Wakefield, Mark Geier, Christopher Shaw, or other physicians and scientists who've lost their way and gone antivaccine, why did he start by describing the findings of his "research" over the years? And why did he mention that "citizen campaigners" are usually left alone, when that is clearly incorrect, as the example of Jenny McCarthy, Barbara Loe Fisher, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and any number of "citizen" antivaccinationists with no scientific background illustrates easily?

As a prelude to this, apparently:

The most prominent vaccine-critical group in Australia was the AVN, the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network. In 2010, an opponent group, SAVN, Stop the Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network, set itself the task of destroying the AVN, using a variety of techniques, including unsupported claims, verbal abuse and numerous complaints to official bodies.

This is a highly dishonest and biased accounting of the situation. First of all, knowing a few of the members of SAVN, I know that the SAVN does not traffick in unsupported claims; rather it is the AVN for which unsupported claims is its life blood. The SAVN exists to counter those claims. As for "verbal abuse," here's the thing. Freedom of speech does not equal freedom from criticism or freedom from consequences due to exercising freedom of speech. Moreover, if you want verbal nastiness, Meryl Dorey is your woman, as is apparently Judy Wilyman. Neither of them found it to be going too low to harass the parents of a baby who had died of pertussis who had become the very "citizen campaigners" that, in Wilyman's fantasy world, are usually left alone. Apparently, such activities are to Martin legitimate "dissent."

Martin then paints himself and his young Padawan turned to the dark side—no, strike that; she had turned to the dark side long before she ever met Martin—as a victim, a martyr on the pyre of academic freedom and free speech. She is nothing of the sort. He even goes on to repeat his disingenuous criteria for criticism that is ideological and not about academic rigor that he used before. Get a load of this:

First, they attack the person, not just their work.

Writes the man who's just spent most of his article attacking SAVN without addressing any of its specific criticisms.

Second, they concentrate on alleged flaws in the work, focusing on small details and ignoring the central points.

Which is of course, a fetid load of dingo's kidneys. As I discussed, and as several other bloggers have discussed, the flaws in Wilyman's thesis are not "small details." They are entire narratives about science, history, and policy. Her central points are demonstrably erroneous; her discussion of history is quite biased; and her recounting of the science, whenever she bothers to recount science, consists of the most blatant of antivaccine talking points and pseudoscience.

Third, 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.

Um, no. Much of the criticism has been based on how this thesis is so lacking in anything resembling academic rigor that accepting it falls outside of standard practice. Even if Martin had a point here, so what? When "standard practice" fails so miserably, it is quite proper to criticize it for having permitted such a travesty!

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

No, critics have pointed out that Wilyman's "findings" are incorrect. Belief has nothing to do with it. It is amusing how Martin tries to represent criticism of Wilyman's egregious errors in science and fact as nothing more than an ideological disagreement. Moreover, antivaccine propaganda is both wrong and dangerous. It risks reversing hard-won advances in public health. I realize that Martin seems to value protecting what he views as "dissent" as freedom of speech and academic freedom, but not all dissent is created equal. I believe in freedom of speech at least as much as Martin, so much so that I've defended the rights of Holocaust deniers to spew their noxious beliefs, but I've also spent a lot of time refuting those noxious beliefs. Once again, freedom of speech does not equal freedom from criticism, and noxious beliefs should be challenged.

Yet, Martin disingenuously goes on:

Within a day of her thesis becoming available online, opponents had taken a few sentences out of context and used them to create a misleading narrative, meanwhile ignoring the central themes in her thesis.

Opponents, following SAVN’s line that open criticism of vaccination policy should be censored, have condemned the thesis, questioned my supervision and the expertise of the thesis examiners, and condemned the university for allowing the thesis to proceed.

I don't know about anyone else, but this critic hadn't even seen the SAVN's response when first wrote about the travesty that is Wilyman's thesis. No doubt Martin will, if he sees this post, dismiss it because I mention that I know a couple of the members of SAVN. Let's just put it this way. I've been refuting antivaccine pseudoscience regularly for well over a decade now, beginning long before the SAVN even existed. It is, however, rather conveniently paranoid for purposes of conspiracy theories, for Martin to attribute all criticism of his student as either coming from or inspired by SAVN.

Finally Martin concludes:

I believe it is worthwhile for vaccination issues to be publicly discussed, without censorship of dissident views. SAVN and others apparently believe otherwise.

I am proud that the University of Wollongong has taken such a strong stand in support of academic freedom.

Now hop on that pyre, you martyr you, wrapped in the cloak of free speech!

One last time: Freedom of speech does not equal freedom from criticism. It is not the SAVN that doesn't believe that it is worthwhile for vaccination issues to be publicly discussed. It is Martin and Wilyman, who apparently believe that speech suddenly becomes bulletproof if the person speaking it is against the mainstream and can claim the mantle of a "dissident."

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When I submitted a pretty shoddy piece of work, described by those who knew such things as about the worst under-grad dissertation seen in that department, and received appropriately low marks for it, I should have protested that my academic freedom was infringed and that I was being bullied by various lecturers and thus it should be re-marked accordingly...

That is how it works, isn't it? Or did I misunderstand something?

I believe it is worthwhile for vaccination issues to be publicly discussed, without censorship of dissident views.

Agreed, but that doesn't mean we should be handing PhDs out like candy to anyone that comes along. Dissent, in and of itself, is not sufficient justification for awarding a top academic degree.

In a sense, Prof. Martin is trying to chill free speech. Labeling criticism as censorship and as denial of academic freedom is an attempt to deter criticism.

Criticizing is using free speech.

And as Orac pointed out, academic freedom means you can write on whatever you want and hold opinions. It doesn't mean you don't get criticized when you do lousy work.

That said, academic freedom means Martin can't and shouldn't be fired for his opinions and probably can't be prevented from mentoring more students. But there is a cost. Sadly, this fiasco is likely to also tarnish Martin's other students, demonstrating as it does that he does not value accuracy or holds his students to high academic standards.

Not much can be done to prevent the fallout from hitting his current students, but hopefully the publicity will warn serious future students that he might not be the best advisor for someone who wants to meet high standard and be seen to meet high academic standards.

By Dorit Reiss (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

Shouldn't have bothered playing the right notes for my music diploma exams:Academic freedom, baby!

If I were the President of the University in question, I suppose I'd have to demand that rather than receiving her degree like everyone else at commencement, the candidate would be awarded her degree in a "farcical aquatic ceremony".

What a monumental embarrassment.

By palindrom (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

Who credentials this University and/or their humanities department? I'd like to think there's some mechanism whereby if a University or a department within is behaving badly , credentials could be revoked. Of course, that's how it's supposed to work for Sears, Gordon, Wolfson and other AV physician quacks who still have their licenses and fellow designations whilst continuing to spew and profit from AV nonsense (at least the system work for Wakefield and the Geiers, on the bright side).

This continued layering of the faux veneer of legitimacy to the AV movement has to stop.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

#1 Murmur

You really missed a great opportunity. And now-a-days it would likely be easier to go to George Mason University in the USA and just cut-and-paste a thesis. http://www.desmogblog.com/foia-facts-1-more-misdeeds.

Somewhere in all that mess I think there is a reference to the first detected serial plagiarism case. :)

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

In a sense, Prof. Martin is trying to chill free speech. Labeling criticism as censorship and as denial of academic freedom is an attempt to deter criticism.

Exactly. Wilyman's thesis was accepted, wasn't it? Martin's op-ed was published, wasn't it? That doesn't sound like censorship to me. They don't even have to state their opinions obliquely, as is the case with, e.g., political opinions in China, where people who disagree with the government often have to come up with clever phrasings to stay one step ahead of the government censors. Martin and Wilyman have been able to state their opinions directly, without threat of jail or reprisals against family members.

Martin has been in academia long enough that he should know how this works. Peer review may not take the same form in his field as it does in the natural sciences, but it still exists. He is expected, even as a social science or humanities professor, to back his views with evidence obtained from primary sources (which might be historical documents or works of art, rather than lab experiments as in the sciences). Others can and will disagree with his interpretation of that evidence.

That's not what happened here. The criticisms he and Wilyman are making of vaccination policy are not based on evidence, and knowledgeable people are calling them out on it. That's not suppression of dissent, and their playing of the victim card is intended to suppress this criticism.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

I went to Brian Martin's webpage and discovered, among other things, that he apparently subscribes to, defends, the TOTALLY discredited thesis that AIDS was a result of the polio vaccine (e.g. Worobey M et al. Contaminated Polio Vaccine Theory Refuted, Nature, April 22, 2004, pg 820; Quammen, David. The Chimp and the River: How AIDS Emerged from an African Forest, 2015) Just one of several examples from his website where Brian Martin ignores science, so, his approval of Wilyman's dissertation is no more unexpected than someone from the World Flat Earth Society commenting on NASA.

By Joel A. Harris… (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

Who were the outside examiners for the thesis?

By James Lind (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

"No one expects the humanities professor! My chief weapon is ad hominem. Ad hominem and strawman, strawman and ad hominem. My two weapons are strawman and ad hominem...and righteous indignation. My three weapons are strawman, ad hominem, and righteous indignation...and an almost fanatical devotion to contrarianism. My four...no...amongst my weapons...amongst my weaponry are such elements as strawman, ad hominem... I'll come in again."

(With apologies to Monty Python.)

It looks as if Brian Martin hasn't left himself much choice in doubling down because of his first decision to use the approach that academic freedom means disregarding standards in order to get anti fill-in-the-blank messages "heard".

Which means he'll have to use the only weapons* he could possibly use in this situation. Logic certainly fails him.

*Hat tip and LOL to Todd W.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

using a variety of techniques, including unsupported claims, verbal abuse and numerous complaints to official bodies.

I think Prof Martin got his notes mixed-up; this seems to be the summary of AVN tactics.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

Let me see if I understand:

Stating your opinion is academic freedom. That's good.

Criticizing someone else's opinion is academic freedom. That's good.

Criticizing someone else's opinion that criticizes someone else's opinion is censorship of dissident views. That's bad.

Criticizing someone else's opinion that criticizes someone else's opinion that criticizes someone else's opinion is defending academic freedom. That's really good.

I'm not 100% sure I see the pattern here.

By justthestats (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

The reaction to news of her graduation, much of it bordering on hysteria, suggests that understanding of and commitment to academic freedom in Australia is more tenuous than I had imagined.

Like many purveyors of deception, Professor Martin badly misunderstands what "academic freedom" means. Silencing criticism is not freedom. He does not have the integrity to come forward and admit the truth -- that he is only interested in the liberty of those pursuing his preferred agenda.

I have to agree with him that academic freedom *is* more tenuous than I would have expected, given the incredibly low standards to which Dr Wilyman's thesis was evidently subjected and the strident efforts on his part to silence her critics. Her thesis was clearly approved because he agreed with it, and not for any other reason. That is not freedom. That is quite the opposite.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

One internetz to Todd.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

Uh ...do you ever prove people wrong with real data, or do you just ridicule and state opinions? Clearly this is meant to intimidate others into conforming with your big pharma views, but it doesn't fool or intimidate me. Your whole site is a great example of a bullshit ARTIST. The whole thing is nothing but bullshit, lol

By Angela Robey (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

he reaction to news of her graduation, much of it bordering on hysteria...

Hysteria? Seriously? Oh, well, far be it from me to argue with a doctor...clearly we all need immediate treatment (could be considered NSFW)

@justthestats #16

I’m not 100% sure I see the pattern here.

I think it's based on a Fibonacci sequence.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

Careful, Todd. SeeNoInfo (tm someone someone very funny and on point) will surface if we're not prudent.

and nice red uniforms............ :)

that he apparently subscribes to, defends, the TOTALLY discredited thesis that AIDS was a result of the polio vaccine

No no no, Martin tells us that he is not defending or advocating that theory (or any other of the not-even-wrong suggestions on his list), and Martin is an honourable man.
He's Just Asking Questions.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

I'm still trying to get my head around the idea that this thesis was accepted by the Humanities faculty. Would the physics department accept a thesis on Shakespeare?

By Joseph McDonnell (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

Angela Robey says (#19),

Clearly this is meant to intimidate others into conforming with your big pharma views, but it doesn’t fool or intimidate me.

MJD says,

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday's announcement of about 3000 layoffs won't affect its search for deals.

Money wins again...

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

No no no, Martin tells us that he is not defending or advocating that theory (or any other of the not-even-wrong suggestions on his list), and Martin is an honourable man.
He’s Just Asking Questions.

Indeed. In his article in The Australian, he takes pains to tell us, "Personally I do not have strong views about vaccination, but felt it worthwhile to enter the debate to defend free speech." I was tempted to call bullshit on that, but then I thought about it. It's probably true, and he's probably telling the truth about this one thing. It would also explain a lot. If you don't have a "strong view" about a topic, then you're very much susceptible to viewing both sides as equally valid or at least way closer to each other in validity than the evidence actually supports. When that's the case, then it becomes very easy to view criticism of the unsupported side as "dissent." All you have to do is to have a mind so open that your brains fall out.

Hey, I like that. I might have to add this paragraph to my post. :-)

I would have thought that a proper supervisor or examiner for a Ph.D on vaccine safety would be an immunologist. Who is this guy Martin to supervise such a project anyhow?

Is this, like, the philosophy of vaccinology, or something?

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

To #19: I doubt you would know real data if hit you between your ears.

I found the following showing good science will win on barfblog.com:

GMO paper retracted

Posted on January 18, 2016 by Doug Powell

An Italian research group run by Professor Federico Infascelli of the University Federico II of Naples was recently informed that their 2013 paper that purported to show that GMO feed can cause detection of GMO DNA in the baby goats was being retracted because of plagiarism. This is featured today in Retraction Watch.

do you just ridicule and state opinions?

Ever ask yourself that question?

By shay simmons (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

I’m still trying to get my head around the idea that this thesis was accepted by the Humanities faculty.

I wouldn't see it as inappropriate if it really had been primarily about how policies are formulated, especially considering how humanities fits into the general structure at U of W. As it is, it's a bunch of inept mock-science.
I believe than many if not most universities try to get outside examiners with expertise in all significant matters presented in a thesis. For example, lots of science theses might be examined by statisticians. It appears that the U of W failed to do that. I think she would have been eaten alive by outside examiners in oral defense.

Around these parts, it is typical to advise grad students to "go elsewhere" for their degrees, particularly for a PhD, and most particularly if you did your undergrad and master's at the same institution. The underlying idea is that different U's have different expertise and perspectives and that can be valuable to the learning experience. To some extend, going to a different faculty to do a PhD is probably much like going to a different U. I cannot help but wonder if she went to a different faculty because her master's made potential supervisors in the sciences leary of her. It's my opinion that whoever supervised her master's was negligent.

Further to Joel A. Harrison's comment at #9, I've always found it interesting that Brian Martin's webpage redirects from the official University of Wollongong site and includes the following disclaimer (apologies for not putting this in italics or indented - I have no idea about using codes for quoting etc):

"This page, including its content and style, is the responsibility of Brian Martin and does not necessarily represent the views, policies or opinions of the University of Wollongong. Where there are links from this website to other sites, these are provided for your general information only. The University of Wollongong does not control or monitor other sites and these links should not be taken as an endorsement by the University of Wollongong of those other sites or their content."

Essentially UoW has distanced itself from Martin and have done so for a number of years (at least that's what I've observed since becoming aware of Martin/Wilyman through my very loose involvement with SAVN and following the remarkable Reasonable Hank.

So far as Martin's claim to having no strong views about vaccination, his "publication" record shows the opposite. He has supported the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network's attempts to prevent criticism, and it also appears from his writings/ramblings/rantings (geez I wish I knew how to do strikethrough) that at one point he was also a financial member of that organisation. As far as having no skin in the vaccination game because he has no children (IIRC), I call BS, because he must be aware of the public health aspects of vaccination policy, otherwise he wouldn't go to such extreme lengths to promote the contrary view.

By RetroPastiche (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

We in SAVN are calling for a complete independent inquiry into the whole appalling saga of Wilyman' s fraudulent thesis and award of a PhD. It is clear that the University of Woolongong have no intention of allowing the facts to come to light and so only this inquiry can achieve this.

The University has form in ignoring well-founded complaints. This complaint of academic misconduct was made concerning her abysmal MSc thesis*. I doubt that anyone read it.

Martin's defense of Wilyman and his role in her conduct is of course only his attempt to deflect attention from the real issue: should that thesis have been passed?

* https://www.dropbox.com/s/zrvb2921bxwcldz/MSC_Complaint.pdf?dl=0

By Ken McLeod (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

An Italian research group run by Professor Federico Infascelli of the University Federico II of Naples was recently informed that their 2013 paper that purported to show that GMO feed can cause detection of GMO DNA in the baby goats was being retracted because of plagiarism. This is featured today in Retraction Watch.

My understanding of the report at RW is that a series of anti-GMO publications were being investigated for clearly-faked Western-Blot evidence, and in the one that was retracted first, the authors had made the mistake of recycling (self-plagiarising) their faked images from a previous study. Because they had put so much work into them.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

“Personally I do not have strong views about vaccination, but felt it worthwhile to enter the debate to defend free speech.” I was tempted to call bullshit on that, but then I thought about it. It’s probably true, and he’s probably telling the truth about this one thing. It would also explain a lot. If you don’t have a “strong view” about a topic, then you’re very much susceptible to viewing both sides as equally valid or at least way closer to each other in validity than the evidence actually supports.

I think the reality is a lot more complex here. Martin may not have quite the same strong views that Wilyman does, but it is not the case that he has no views at all. Anyone who writes an article and has it checked by Andrew Wakefield and Meryl Dorey, Elizabeth hart, Jane Donegan and Greg Beattie among other anti-vaccine luminaries but not by anyone who has expertise in vaccination policy, is not a person with no views at all about the topic.

I suspect Martin's motivations in attacking science-based policy stem from activist activities, where he no doubt mixed with people who held anti-pesticide, anti-fluoridation, alternative medicine and anti-vaccination views. This no doubt spurs his 'man against the machine' approach to social inquiry, which appears to be his prime motivation.

However, ho co-opts the canards of each of these groups as core components of his arguments about dissent. You can see this in the first paragraph of his first response to the criticism of Judy Wilyman's thesis. He gives every impression of having accepted those canards as the truth, which is why I would be tempted to place him as an anti-vaccine believer.

But more than anything else, this seems to be as much about making Brian Martin relevant as anything else.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

As much as I dislike guys like Martin and his meaningful-standard-free 'scholarship', I really don't think asking politicians to intervene in university governance is the answer.

On behalf of the humanities - the real humanities disciplines, not the 'disciplines' drawn upon by the guy who sometimes seems to claim to speak for the humanities - I apologise profusely for letting in the likes of Martin and his minnows to the academy. Academics had many opportunities to exclude grievance studies and other bullshit 'disciplines' from American, Canadian, and Australian universities in the 70's and 80's, and they failed to fulfil their responsibilities. It's our fault ultimately.

Please, please don't ask the politicians to get involved. Next thing you know, they'll be trying to ban Rawls and Dworkin from ANU. No matter how sure we are that Martin's lot is poison to real intellectual work, we can be even more sure that politicians will go after genuinely worthwhile challenging and dissenting opinions. No thanks.

Herr doctor bimler; you are correct, I just didn't want to put up a long post. One of the amazing things is the original work debunking these studies was done by a politician (she is also a science researcher).

Bugga.

I seem to have tripped the moderation queue again. It must have been the many typos in my post.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

It's no accident that the very same tone and indeed content was used by Martin to defend Meryl Dorey and (the then) AVN. AVN never had any intent to engage in reciprocal free speech, simply refusing to respond to genuine questions. In 2012 Martin defended AVN censoring comments on it's discussion list and refusing to substantiate anti-vaccine claims because of the "vilification, threats, complaints to authorities (and worse)", purportedly levelled by SAVN. This was and remains incorrect.
By holding the AVN to account SAVN had closed down prospects for genuine dialogue, Martin reasoned. How novel that a similar defence is used for Wilyman.

In DEBATING VACCINATION (2011) Martin offers postmodernist waffle that goes as far as claiming scientific fact is subjective truth, and as such, the door to conspiracy central is legitimately open because it's mere dissent. He asserts;
>>There is no rulebook, called the scientific method, that scientists follow. They do not necessarily use the approach of verification, namely finding evidence that supports current ideas, though there is plenty of this. Nor do they commonly use falsification, namely trying to disprove prevailing ideas, though they sometimes do this. (p.20)<<

How little things change. This mess is as much about Martin advancing his own agenda for his own reasons whilst perpetuating the same old obfuscation.

"Second, they concentrate on alleged flaws in the work, focusing on small details and ignoring the central points." Hilarious. This is EXACTLY what Wilyman does in her thesis, in which she has completely avoided all the science on vaccination and focussed on tiny irrelevant bits of peripheral nonsense. Brian Martin, I find you guilty of that very primitive psychological defence, denial and projection.

# 32 Ken McLeod

Thank you for that link.

Lovely MSC evaluation. How could any university accept her into a Ph.D program?

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

#32 Ken McLeod: Is there any way to force disclosure of the two anonymous reviewers of her PhD thesis given they are, per UOW guideline to have "unchallengeable knowledge in the field of study, have no conflicts of interest that would impede their examination and there can be no more than one examiner in any one country."?

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

Is there any way to force disclosure of the two anonymous reviewers of her PhD thesis given they are, per UOW guideline to have “unchallengeable knowledge in the field of study, have no conflicts of interest that would impede their examination and there can be no more than one examiner in any one country.”?

It remains to be tested as far as I am aware, but unless the examiners want to identify themselves, their names are protected by confidentiality.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

#19 Angela Robey, I suggest you try taking your own advice. When you've amassed good data on how appalling vaccinations are, let us know what they are. With references please, peer reviewed.

An FOI for that has been submitted. I will post more in a few days after consulting with my colleagues and Orac

By Ken McLeod (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

@#3 Dorit: you hit the nail on the head. If I were a doctoral student of Martin's I'd be heading to the hills, looking for another chair for my committee. The man has made himself radioactive to anyone trying to do serious work.

@#42 jrkrideau I hate to say this, but I've seen dreck just as bad accepted as master's level work in the humanities.

An FOI for that has been submitted. I will post more in a few days after consulting with my colleagues and Orac

Excellent...

"meanwhile ignoring the central themes in her thesis."

Which aren't a load of BS as well? Really?

@ Ken McLeod
"Should that thesis have been passed?"
Obviously not. But is it the worst thesis that has been passed in that discipline? In another thread, where I have been banned, I have argued that infamous theses and papers are different from other very bad works that have been accepted in the same discipline, only because they are "heretic". My conclusion is that one does not have to accept the "authority" of universities or journals, but consider knowledge as a dynamic process where logic and refutation are essential. If you want to raise the level of the Thesis by demanding a minimum of logic, it's OK for me. But defending "authority" by chasing the heretic is not a good solution.

By Pseu Dho Nimh (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

@19

As pointed out Orac and others have given the "data" in Wilyman's "thesis" a good kicking already (why, it's almost like you never bothered to read any other post on here nor follow any of the copious links...), which leaves some good old-fashioned mockery for the rest of us, mockery which is very well deserved in this instance.

Oh, and lose points for jumping straight in with the Pharma Shill gambit.

@ Pseu Dho Nimh

But is it the worst thesis that has been passed in that discipline?

*sigh*
Yes, Daniel. I agree there could be worse cases, including in hard sciences like biology.
That's why I was talking about cronyism: a thesis director who carefully select good buddies for the jury could make some bad works fly by. My boss was just telling me about such a case a few decades back.
Although, nowadays, it's a bit more difficult, in part because the jury composition requires to include at least two people outside the university, and also because thesis should include two publications in peer-reviewed journals.
Where I disagree is about your distinction between "heretic" and "mainstream".
It's all about the company you keep. The more mainstream your ideas, the more likely you can hitch the bandwagon and slip unnoticed some really awful work, because you won't be much scrutinized and you will have a large pool of people in which you will look for agreeable good buddies. On the other hand, if you publish something game-breaking, you will gather a lot of scrutiny, some of it a bit on the contrarian side; but cheaters are more likely to be exposed. And the latter is a good thing.
And, from my point-of-view as a biologist, the hurricane of breakthroughs in biological fields since the 90's makes me skeptical of an all-consuming "chase the heretic" mindset in science. An extreme example is the discovery of RNA interference which resulted in the Nobel prize less a decade after its discovery.

But defending “authority” by chasing the heretic is not a good solution.

If this was that is happening here with Wilyman's thesis, you will have a point.
Until convinced otherwise, I don't think it is.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Helianthus
Concerning the peer review process, we must remind Seralini's infamous paper. And this is the same question: was the peer review process altered by some conflict of interest related to the anti-GMO conspiracy, or is it just evidence that peer review does not work in Food and Chemical Toxicology? If the latter is true, why is it the only paper in this journal for which people have asked for retraction?

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ D Corcos

was the peer review process altered by some conflict of interest related to the anti-GMO conspiracy, or is it just evidence that peer review does not work in Food and Chemical Toxicology?

For the 1st part, Seralini had a good buddy in the board of editor, for the second part you are getting close to the Nirvana fallacy.
Either way, we are imperfect creatures living in a imperfect world.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 20 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Helianthus
Many people have buddies in the editorial board when they submit and their bad paper does not cause a scandal.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Daniel Corcos:

Many people have buddies in the editorial board when they submit and their bad paper does not cause a scandal.

Examples required.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

Julian, you'll need to get a PhD first and then e-mail him.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

Oh, please. You were not "banned." You were instructed to stop beating an off topic dead horse about breast cancer in the comment thread where it had nothing to do with the topic at hand. That requirement still stands in this comment thread, as there is a comment thread where such a discussion would be on topic.

Leaving aside the fact that it was your comments B and C that were incorrect, and I showed them to be incorrect, you haven't given examples to support your conjecture that individuals who are friends with people on editorial boards of journals are allowed to get away with flawed papers.
As for:

For my information, do you have a PhD?

How is that germane to the conversation?

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

Orac
In my post which has been removed, I was answering to "has" who was suggesting the possibility of a vast antivax conspiracy.
This was very relevant to the topic.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Julian
How is that germane to the conversation?
Actually, you don't need to answer. PhDs know that bad papers go to journals where the boss knows somebody in the editorial board.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

Daniel, your say-so isn't sufficient. Provide examples of bad papers that were published because the author/s were chummy with people on the editorial board, or I will assume that you are making stuff up.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

Julian
I fear that we would not agree on what is a "bad" paper, and that the next step is that you will ask me to "scientifically" prove that the author and the editor were buddies.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

I've heard this one before. I can't remember the set up, but the punchline was "University of Woolongong".

Gets a huge laugh every time.

Julian
I fear that we would not agree on what is a “bad” paper, and that the next step is that you will ask me to “scientifically” prove that the author and the editor were buddies.

https://youtu.be/l8IkbCeZ9to

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

When I read things like this I truly pity mainstream so-called 'medical professionals' like the author of this blog. So many of them get into the profession - materialistic and looking to impress people and make a handsome living, yes - but also perhaps with ideals of helping people, diminishing suffering, making the world a better place. In the process they compile all manner of debt, psychological distress and desensitization through medical school and are essentially forced to memorize an ungodly mass of mind-scrambling data points becoming so-confused in the process that they lose track of the basic fact - that modern medicine is actually very bad at doing the two things it should do well: (a) understanding the complex roots of real world disease and ailment occurrences and (b) healing. Show me a surgeon who has ever healed a human being and I will show you a pig that can fly. Surgeons don't heal - they make symptoms disappear. At what cost to the patient, though? And with the rise of superexpensive medicine came the rise of people having no choice to but take employment in megacorporations in order to gain 'insurance benefits' .. all part of great big march of history, institutionalizing the masses. But I digress.

Similarly, and more to the point of this particular article, show me a 'peer reviewed journal' that concerns itself with healing and I will eat my shorts.

The roots of the word 'peer' are in the British 'peerage' which is essentially the ruling oligarchy and its confreres. So when we say 'peer-reviewed' what we are talking about are publications, the entry to which is controlled by the not-so-benevolent upper crust of the various global social hierarchies. It's no mere coincidence that healing as an activity carried out by medical professionals is not discussed in peer-reviewed journals. Instead, they discuss 'administering doses' and 'performing procedures.' Ask an M.D. what it takes to heal somebody and the likely answer is 'what do you mean by heal?'!!

Now, the word 'prevention' is used slightly more regularly, but again - practices which actually do 'prevent' diseases are categorically not promoted. There's no money in health! Take such a simple example as the brassiere. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that the tightness of a brassiere will constrict lymph drainage, blood circulation, respiration, fascial fluxion, the transmission of nerve-signals, etc. in exactly the same way that a rubber strap constricts the arm for drawing blood. And yet there is 'no evidence' that brassieres 'cause' breast cancer?

Here is the essential question: How do we know that no data was falsified, or that the research was carried out in good faith? How to we know that the pharmaceutical industry (which obviously profits handsomely from the occurance of cancer) had no wherewithall to 'influence' the 'gathering and reporting' of the 'data'? How do we know that the lingerie industry, which is of course highly lucrative as well, did not use any of its resources to steer the findings in some invisible way?

In short, what exactly is the proof (for example) that Chen's report from the Sept. 5 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention - a report which was FUNDED BY THE US CANCER INSTITUTE - was researched and delivered using the best available epidemiological methods in order to objectively analyze the potential connections between brassieres and breast cancer at the population level?

Have a look at this link: http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/news/20140905/bras-blameless-for-bre… ... the 'sponsorship' ads may cycle, but when I was there, on the second page was a pop-up advertisement by none other than Monsanto. If Monsanto is paying your salary, you are not making the world a better place.

If you don't understand how tight-fitting clothing inhibits the body's ability to micromanage its internal processes in the ways already mentioned and more - then you don't understand much about pathogenesis.

So I truly pity so-called medical professionals and the swarm of associated researchers. They often believe - or want to believe - that they are doing good by the world, when in fact they have been duped into peddling the extravagant wares of a network of industries and investors who's interests are anything but benevolent.

By Anonymous Intel (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

Daniel Corcos,

I have no doubt that bad papers have passed because someone had buddies. However, what does that have to do with an individual instance?

Let those who have an interest in this paper address it and if you find a paper you think is not deserving of a degree then you and like-minded colleagues can address it in a similar manner.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

One person's heresy is another person's lack of prior plausibility.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Krebiozen
Yes, and every view is equal ;-)

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

^ Their opinions have equal weight, not their arguments. And who do you think would have the more plausible argument?

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

I suspect that Martin's comments can be best understood through the lens of his having a post-modernist epistemology. Specifically, that there is no such thing as objective truth or facts, but only competing narratives. Consequently, attacking Wilyman's thesis for being devoid of real facts is "suppressing" "dissent" from the "patriarchical narrative". If facts don't exist, only narratives, then his viewing criticism as her as a violation of academic freedom makes somewhat more "sense".

And this, ladies and gentlemen is why post-modernism should have stayed in literature/the arts where it belongs.

Does Prof Martin realize that calling someone a "technical expert" doesn't work if the someone refuses to have her work judged by fellow technical experts, for example by presenting it as a thesis in medicine, public health, epidemiology?

"show me a ‘peer reviewed journal’ that concerns itself with healing and I will eat my shorts."

Should be an easy gulp for you, since you've already swallowed the bras-cause-cancer meme.

Full disclosure - I had to swear eternal fealty to Big Lingerie in order to get my M.D. degree.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Anonymous Intel #68

I'm so glad I don't live in your world. It sounds like a very scary place.

Depending on just what is meant, I think post-modernism also does not belong to arts and literature either. Every discipline should consider the evidence in an open-minded manner that uses jargon to enable criticism rather than using jargon to shut out people who disagree. Every single postmodernist I've read does the latter. It's not scholarship.

I suspect that Martin’s comments can be best understood through the lens of his having a post-modernist epistemology.

I enjoy pointing and laughing at PoMo as much as the next man, but other commenters have convinced me that Martin's Latour-lite science-as-a-subject-for-sociology schtik comes from a different intellectual tradition.
He is wont to cite Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend... and Kuhn, of course, paradigm shift yadda yadda yadda. It's not only his students whose citations emerge from a time capsule from many decades ago.
I am sure he has read Lakatos' work, but he seems to have got the wrong end of the stick with Lakatos' central distinction between 'degenerative' and 'progressive' research programs (this being an empirical way of navigating the post-Popper intellectual landscape where there are no *true* theories, only better approximations). Martin sympathises with the degenerative programs, like crank physics -- populated by individual mavericks, no-one building on anyone else's work, no questions answered and opening up new questions. Also crank alt-med.

Full disclosure – I had to swear eternal fealty to Big Lingerie in order to get my M.D. degree.

DB is guilty of criminal negligee.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Anonymous Intel #68

What do you mean by "heal"? I mean that completely seriously, is removing a cancerous tumor not a kind of "healing"? Do you think there is some sort of root cause that needs to be addressed before it can be called healing? A disruption of humours perhaps.

By Secret Cisco (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

@Anonymous Intel

modern medicine is actually very bad at doing the two things it should do well: (a) understanding the complex roots of real world disease and ailment occurrences

Arguably so, but it's light years ahead of anything else humanity has ever tried for understanding disease, and it's getting better all the time.

and (b) healing.

Now that's just false. While there are still some nasty things we still have a hard time with, there are many, many diseases and injuries that we can cure or control.

Surgeons don’t heal – they make symptoms disappear. At what cost to the patient, though?

Strangely enough, none of the people I've known that have gotten emergency appendectomies have questioned the cost-benefit analysis.

I know someone who had a horrible traumatic accident who after the surgeons were done with him had 100% function again and only a tiny scar. How is that not healing? Had the same thing happened to him a century before he would have died of sepsis or been crippled for life and horribly scarred.

And with the rise of superexpensive medicine came the rise of people having no choice to but take employment in megacorporations in order to gain ‘insurance benefits’

That's pretty much exclusively a USA problem. Other countries don't have it, although the reasons vary.

The roots of the word ‘peer’ are in the British ‘peerage’ which is essentially the ruling oligarchy and its confreres.

If only there was an online etymology dictionary you could use to check your . . . interesting . . . idea.

Ask an M.D. what it takes to heal somebody and the likely answer is ‘what do you mean by heal?’!!

Since your definition seems to exclude doing things that are known to make the patient better, I can understand why someone would ask you the question.

Now, the word ‘prevention’ is used slightly more regularly, but again – practices which actually do ‘prevent’ diseases are categorically not promoted. There’s no money in health!

Shh, don't tell Amazon that!

It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that the tightness of a brassiere will constrict lymph drainage, blood circulation, respiration, fascial fluxion, the transmission of nerve-signals, etc. in exactly the same way that a rubber strap constricts the arm for drawing blood. And yet there is ‘no evidence’ that brassieres ’cause’ breast cancer?

Is there any evidence that any of that stuff causes cancer? Is there any evidence that wearing a rubber strap causes cancer? How would any of those things trigger tumor promoting genes or inhibit tumor suppressing genes anyway?

Besides, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that we tried comparing cancer rates in people who wear bras with those that don't and didn't find any differences. When you actually try something and it doesn't do what you expect it to, there is nothing to be gained from trying to come up with reasons for why it should do what it obviously does not do.

Here is the essential question: How do we know that no data was falsified, or that the research was carried out in good faith?

We don't. It's pretty likely, because most research is done in good faith, but despite the fact that falsifying data is career suicide when caught, people sometimes still do it. Fortunately, however, reality is real everywhere, so if you don't trust an experiment, all you have to do is try it yourself! Please take a few courses in research methodology and statistics so you don't make the kinds of newbie mistakes that they warn you about in research methodology and statistics classes.

How to we know that the pharmaceutical industry (which obviously profits handsomely from the occurance of cancer) had no wherewithall to ‘influence’ the ‘gathering and reporting’ of the ‘data’? How do we know that the lingerie industry, which is of course highly lucrative as well, did not use any of its resources to steer the findings in some invisible way?

How do we know that you're not being paid by people who indirect profit from whatever it is that you believe?

I think the fashion industry and the pharmaceutical industry would do fine without bras. And if the pharmaceutical industry is fudging research so much, they're doing a mightily poor job of it considering how few drug candidates make it all the way through the FDA approval process.

a report which was FUNDED BY THE US CANCER INSTITUTE

That's the National Cancer Institute to you. Names aside, are you insinuating that funding from all of the US government is suspect, just funding from any part of the National Institutes of Health is suspect, or that funding particularly from the National Cancer Institute is a smoking gun? I'm confused.

Have a look at this link: [news article from webmd.com] … the ‘sponsorship’ ads may cycle, but when I was there, on the second page was a pop-up advertisement by none other than Monsanto.

Right now the ad on this page is for ASU Online, so I'm going to assume that means you're writing for the sweet, sweet ASU lucre. I bet you can't prove you're not a shill for Big Internet Learning.

If Monsanto is paying your salary, you are not making the world a better place.

How do you know what they do during their free time? During their work time, they create products that people choose to spend money on. If people didn't buy them they'd stop making them. Pretty much the same thing that most everyone else does.

If you don’t understand how tight-fitting clothing inhibits the body’s ability to micromanage its internal processes in the ways already mentioned and more – then you don’t understand much about pathogenesis.

Might I suggest you buy a bra that fits? Seriously, if you're cutting off blood circulation you're doing it wrong. I've heard that most women that have never been professionally fit are wearing the wrong size, and that that hurts. I have no personal experience in this area, but I know in general that tight-fitting clothing can be uncomfortable and smelly.

I'll agree with you that I don't understand much about pathogenesis. But the great thing about reality is that I don't have to understand why reality does what it does in order for it to be real. The fact is that when people actually try out your ideas they don't work. That means that reality doesn't agree with your hypothesis. I find reality's argument quite compelling.

By justthestats (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

“unchallengeable knowledge in the field of study"

As my colleague Helen Petousis Harris has said, of Wollongong's criteria for examiners' expertise, does *anyone* really have "unchallengable knowledge" of a subject?

does *anyone* really have “unchallengable knowledge” of a subject?
Stalin comes to mind.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

And with the rise of superexpensive medicine came the rise of people having no choice to but take employment in megacorporations in order to gain ‘insurance benefits’

It seems odd to whinge and derogate modern medicine for the existence of efficacious treatments.
I mean, there have always been "superexpensive medicines", as long as there have been charlatans and mountebanks, long before there was any effective pharmacopeia... just look at TCM. The admission that some pills actually work (if they didn't, who cares what prices pharmaceutical firms charge for them?) does not fit well with the rest of Anonymous Intel's outburst.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

Off topic - site security
For several days now, I have been getting intermittent messages from my browser (Firefox, up to date) saying invalid security certificates are being presented (sorry, don't have full message at the moment). It is very odd, because sometimes when I get such as message from RI, pharyngula is OK, and sometimes vice-versa. I just go away for awhile and all is fine when I come back, then it may happen again the next day.
Anyone else seeing this?
Opinions on safety of telling my browser to ignore this for the whole ScienceBlogs site?
Thanks.

doug@85 I see it maybe every other day. I leave the site, and the Internet, and then when I come back, it's OK. I have not tried telling my browser (Chrome) to ignore it. I'd rather not take a chance.

For several days now, I have been getting intermittent messages from my browser (Firefox, up to date) saying invalid security certificates are being presented (sorry, don’t have full message at the moment).

Since when is SB delivering HTTPS in the first place?

... does *anyone* really have “unchallengable knowledge” of a subject?

Maybe, but I take a statement like that to mean that the field of knowledge isn't in the sciences.

Since when is SB delivering HTTPS in the first place?

I probably used the wrong word. Next time it happens I'll copy the details and inquire again. I pay as little attention to the those details of internet operations as I can get away with. If I don't need to know it to write the code to do what I want, I doan wanna know about it.
It happens only when I click on a link to a comment.

@ doug :

I have the same intermittently- Chris explained what it is ( an extra s?) At any rate, I ignore it and have had no problems with my security system.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

Bras cause cancer? What did s/he read Louise Kuo Habakus ( Fearless Parent)?

Seriously.

Also 'Criminal Negligee?
Sounds like the title of a noir 1950s film, its poster having a femme fatale wearing said garment.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

I probably used the wrong word. Next time it happens I’ll copy the details and inquire again.

No, SB answers on 'https:' (port 443) as well as 'http:' (port 80). All it does is encrypt the connection, which isn't somethng that particularly concerns me here.

Maybe I'll try switching to HTTPS and see whether the problem appears (SBM's recent all-HTTPS delivery switch means that I can't even read it with Safari 5, and I later had to add a security fallback option to get FF to work after that broke, too).

/Users/narad> openssl s_client -showcerts -connect www.scienceblogs.com:443 < /dev/null
CONNECTED(00000003)
depth=3 C = US, O = Equifax, OU = Equifax Secure Certificate Authority
verify return:1
depth=2 C = US, O = GeoTrust Inc., CN = GeoTrust Global CA
verify return:1
depth=1 C = US, O = GeoTrust Inc., CN = RapidSSL SHA256 CA - G3
verify return:1
depth=0 CN = *.wpengine.com
verify return:1
---
Certificate chain
0 s:/CN=*.wpengine.com
i:/C=US/O=GeoTrust Inc./CN=RapidSSL SHA256 CA - G3
-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----
MIIFMzCCBBugAwIBAg[...]
-----END CERTIFICATE-----
1 s:/C=US/O=GeoTrust Inc./CN=RapidSSL SHA256 CA - G3
i:/C=US/O=GeoTrust Inc./CN=GeoTrust Global CA
-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----
MIIEJTCCAw2gAwIBAg[...]
-----END CERTIFICATE-----
2 s:/C=US/O=GeoTrust Inc./CN=GeoTrust Global CA
i:/C=US/O=Equifax/OU=Equifax Secure Certificate Authority
-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----
MIIDfTCCAuagAwIBAg[...]
-----END CERTIFICATE-----
---
Server certificate
subject=/CN=*.wpengine.com
issuer=/C=US/O=GeoTrust Inc./CN=RapidSSL SHA256 CA - G3
---
No client certificate CA names sent
Peer signing digest: SHA256
Server Temp Key: ECDH, P-256, 256 bits
---
SSL handshake has read 4058 bytes and written 444 bytes
---
New, TLSv1/SSLv3, Cipher is ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384
Server public key is 4096 bit
Secure Renegotiation IS supported
Compression: NONE
Expansion: NONE
No ALPN negotiated
SSL-Session:
Protocol : TLSv1.2
Cipher : ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384
Session-ID: 50[...]D2
Session-ID-ctx:
Master-Key: 13[...]93
Key-Arg : None
PSK identity: None
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I suppose you could argue that the surgeon who removed my inflamed and infected gall bladder didn't "heal" in the sense that he didn't leave me with a working gall bladder.

I'll settle for the fact that he treate the symptoms (severe pain) and not-so-incidentally saved my life.

My gall bladder isn't a separate organism; what's relevant is that I, Vicki, was healed.

I gotta add to all the other voices saying "surgeons don't heal -- say what???"

My dad used to work in an ER, doing trauma. My grandpa was a general surgeon, who got his start operating in an army field hospital. (Including in Korea, so think Alan Alda.)

It takes an astonishing amount of blinkeredness to deny that trauma surgeons do more than "treat symptoms". There are soldiers who only went home to their loved ones because of my grandpa. And soldiers who went home with their full complement of body parts because of my grandpa. Bullet holes and shrapnel wounds and massive gangrene aren't things that can be healed by energy fields or waving crystals over the patient or taking special herbs. There's actual structural stuff that needs fixing.

And while we're on that subject, I had an umbilical hernia repaired when I was 6 years old. The surgeon wasn't just treating the symptoms -- he actually repaired the problem by reinforcing my abdominal wall. Did such a good job that it held up through two pregnancies too.

Honestly I gotta wonder whether our Anonymous guest is actually a Christian Scientist, although even they will admit that the setting of bones requires an expert rather than just positive thinking and prayer.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

I dunno man, when my uterus wouldn't stop bleeding and then my blood wouldn't clot for sh!t, the surgeon who removed the offending uterus AND stopped me from bleeding to death THEREBY ensuring my newborn would have a Mum...I'd say she was a healer. When you come up with a better alternative that doesn't involve death, feel free to expound.

Most of what appears in security warning message, slightly condensed; some button text missing

This Connection is Untrusted
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What Should I Do?
If you usually connect to this site without problems, this error could mean that someone is trying to impersonate the site, and you shouldn't continue.

scienceblogs.com uses an invalid security certificate.
The certificate is only valid for the following names:
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(Error code: ssl_error_bad_cert_domain)

@RJ #78:

Depending on just what is meant, I think post-modernism also does not belong to arts and literature either. Every discipline should consider the evidence in an open-minded manner that uses jargon to enable criticism rather than using jargon to shut out people who disagree. Every single postmodernist I’ve read does the latter. It’s not scholarship.

I thought this was appropriate.
http://xkcd.com/169/

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Julian Frost

I thought this was appropriate.

The mouseover text say so.

@ Calli Arcale

although even [Christian Scientist] will admit that the setting of bones requires an expert

Ah, but that's different, it's a mechanical issue, so you need some mundane handyman to do this menial work.
No comparison possible with exalted people fixing humor imbalance with the strength of their mind.

Seriously, this "surgeons don't heal" stuff seems to come from people stuck in the 14th century.
At that time, barber-surgeons were "only" good for pulling teeth, burning warts and setting bones, and occasionally cutting people open to remove shrapnel or tumors, while "real" doctors were treating about all the illnesses without an immediately apparent cause.
Usually by a mix of blood detox (the rationale behind bloodletting) and enema. Sounds familiar?

By Helianthus (not verified) on 21 Jan 2016 #permalink

@doug (various): I get that warning too, sometimes. It happens usually when I click on a comment to go there instead of going through the whole post, but I have had it happen when I click on a link for a post. If I close Firefox or go to a new tab then come back, it usually goes away. I'm not computer literate enough to figure out what's causing it.

Re; "surgeons don't heal"

I suppose at a very basic and misleading level, that is correct. I mean, surgeons don't knit tissues back together at the cellular level. But they do make it possible for the body to do so. While surgeons don't "heal" in the strictest, most narrow use of the term, they do put the body into a position from which it can mend itself.

Me, I'm fine with the colloquial meaning of "heal", as in, "making the bad stuff go away".

"Bras cause cancer?"

That explains why men live longer than women. Oh, wait...

"show me a ‘peer reviewed journal’ that concerns itself with healing and I will eat my shorts...

...the tightness of a brassiere will constrict lymph drainage, blood circulation, respiration, fascial fluxion, the transmission of nerve-signals, etc. in exactly the same way that a rubber strap constricts the arm for drawing blood. And yet there is ‘no evidence’ that brassieres ’cause’ breast cancer?"

For your own health I suggest you eat your shorts to remove that constriction.

Also loosen the tie, it is constricting blood circulation and could lead to brain cancer.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 22 Jan 2016 #permalink

@rs

That explains why men live longer than women. Oh, wait…

No, no. It explains why women suffer breast cancer significantly more often than men. It has nothing to do with the amount of breast tissue.

doug:

Most of what appears in security warning message, slightly condensed; some button text missing

This Connection is Untrusted
You have asked Firefox to connect securely to scienceblogs.com, but we can’t confirm that your connection is secure.

Just edit out the "s" in "https", so it is an "http" in your browser address.

Just edit out the “s” in “https”, so it is an “http” in your browser address.

Or accept the certificate if you have that option, which should preserve TLS security if you don't want the E-mail address being sent as cleartext.

I'm not sure what the source of the problem is; if the hosting is really on wpengine.com, it could be inconsistent configuration behind a load balancer, but I'm not used to parsing openssl output.

Thanks, Denise, MI Dawn, Chris & Narad.

Right now, all is fine and the links to the comments are just http:.
I'll check for https next time I run into the problem. It isn't a big deal, but since no one else had commented on the issue I wondered if it might be something odd going on at my end.

If it turns out to be the https issue, I can write a script in a few minutes to auto-edit the links. (I'm pretty sure I mentioned it before - I use AutoHotkey. Among other things, its very useful for wrapping selected text in those tedious HTML codes. I even use it for such oddities as assembling multiple paths into one in Google Earth, then converting from KML to send to my mapping GPS receiver. I highly recommend AHK.)

Narad, now that other people far away from me have confirmed they've seen the same thing, I can just tell firefox to accept all certificates from scienceblogs. I'll wait until after I see the issue again, so I can see if the links are indeed sometimes showing up with https instead of http..

fascial fluxion

I read it first as "facial". I know wonderbra could push them quite high, but that much?
So, "fascial". Checking online. Um, "rectum fascial". OK, now I picture them the other way. Not helping.

the transmission of nerve-signals

I always wondered if women had a counterpart of men thinking with their little head. It's apparently thinking with their breasts.

The things a single man could learn about women on internet!

in exactly the same way that a rubber strap constricts the arm for drawing blood.

The way the nurse has to put a foot on my chair in order to tighten the strap around my arm, I have the feeling there is a bit of difference in the forces involved.
That, or you really need to upgrade to a bigger cup size.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 22 Jan 2016 #permalink

I’ll wait until after I see the issue again, so I can see if the links are indeed sometimes showing up with https instead of http..

Regular HTTP doesn't do a TLS handshake; you should only see mention of a certificate on HTTPS.

I have been seeing an intermittent problem that may be related, though: lately, pages have intermittently been served without the right sidebar. This is most noticeable on my end because it breaks the killfile.

The whole thing is really pointing to more incompetence from the SB tech monkeys, possibly directly related to the broken installation of the "responsive.css" v.4.3.1 theme that nuked the right sidebar entirely for certain devices.

The things a single man could learn about women on internet!

On behalf of all of the women here, let me assure you that its a lot more fun learning these things in person.

(That "bras cause cancer" thing has been around for quite a while -- I want to say at least ten years).

By shay simmons (not verified) on 22 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Doug
Since off topic posts seems to be tolerated in this thread, I should mention that I get a lot of ads for ALK specific inhibitors each time I go to this site. Is it only me? I am not particularly interested in these drugs.

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

^ I expect it is targeted ads and your surfing habits that cause you to see those ads.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ Not a Troll
It makes sense, but the thing is that I am not interested at all in ALK specific inhibitors.

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

It is not necessary for you to be interested in a specific product promotion. If you are tagged as in the medical field by other searches you perform/sites you visit, then those companies willing to pay the price for your demographic to see the ad, will target you.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

Yes, but I should not be the only one in the medical field in this blog.

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

Have you considered the possibility that Orac is taunting you with references to ALK inhibitors, because he knows you have developed the Universal Cure for cancer?

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

Well, I am investigating all the possibilities ;-)

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

Daniel Corcos@113
Ahem. Problem solved.

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

I expect it is targeted ads and your surfing habits that cause you to see those ads.

Last spring I was bombarded with deal offers for Disneyland after tracking the measles cases here (see location line) - for months after the outbreak had subsided. It took the beginning of baseball season (checking scores) to get that bumped by promos for our local team.

I get them for (sigh) senior dating sites.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ capnkrunch
I use Safari.

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

I get them for (sigh) senior dating sites.

College seniors?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

The purpose of the internet is now to deliver advertising. That it is also still capable of delivering information is a hold-over from bygone days that has not been completely resolved.

If you keep getting ads based on previous web activities, clear your browser cache, regular cookies and "flash cookies". Completely deleting all your cookies can have some drawbacks, such as sites you want to have remember things about you (e.g. geographic location, login name, etc.) forgetting, but it usually isn't a big deal.
One thing you become aware of as soon as you add a script blocker to your browser is that any particular web site is likely to rush around grabbing stuff from a bunch of others, and they in turn will do the same. You can amass a lot of crud in your cache and cookie jar.

Flash-cookies (Local Shared Objects, LSO) are pieces of information placed on your computer by a Flash plug-in. Those Super-Cookies are placed in central system folders. They are frequently used like standard browser cookies. Although their threat potential is much higher as of conventional cookies, only few users began to take notice of them.

(from description of BetterPrivacy browser add-on)

M O'B -- I should be so lucky.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

I get ads that are in Spanish, a language I speak as well as any three year old or someone who has taken two years in high school forty years ago.

doug@126

If you keep getting ads based on previous web activities, clear your browser cache, regular cookies and “flash cookies”.

It's a losing battle. There's also browser fingerprinting (see here, JavaScript tracking, even advertising ID's added to headers or queryable by JavaScript from ISPs, mobile providers, even your OS (see Windows 10 or Android). Use Google, Facebook, or most search engines or social media actually? You can bet they sell you data.

What apps or programs do you use? Even ones you would expect to be benign will sell your data (see AVG's privacy policy).

Your best bet is a to just block them. With the rise of malvertising it's a security problem too. I like supporting content creators but not at the risk of exposing my systems to exploit kits (I donate or pay to remove ads where that's an option). It's a very, very broken system fundamentally and I fully expect that the ad agencies refusal to clean up their act will cause the ad support online ecosystem to collapse sooner than later.

Funny story, I Googled my username a while back a found out that someone wrote a blog post about a comment on this subject I had made on the Malwarebytes Unpacked blog.

h[]p://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/256254/ponder-this-malvertising-…

Apologies about how OT this has gotten. It's a passionate topic for me. I will refrain from further comments on this subject.

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

Off topic, but after a discussion of TLS/SSL certificates, and not seeing another article open for comments that this would fit better in, I hope our host will forgive me.

I went to Jake's dusty and unused site (no new articles in 3.5 months or so) to see if any tumbleweeds had blew thru, and sure enough there was a new comment. Some idiot ask Jake if there was a new post in the works about our host and the latest HPV vaccine scandal. Our host seems to have “taken a body blow”. Jake may or may not be working on such a post, he didn't answer either way.

The scandal concerns a Dr Sin Hang Lee. Dr Lee has received a heapin' helpin' of Respectful Insolence in the past, The most receint seems to be -
scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/01/09/dr-sin-hang-lee-is-at-it-again-with-the-gardasil-fearmongering/

Dr Lee seems to have found HPV DNA fragments in HPV vaccines, and seems to think that this makes the HPV vaccine deadly, or something.

Dr Lee is in the possession of a suite of documents that, he claims, prove allegations of scientific misconduct by GACVS/WHO/CDC representatives, that he spells out in “An open-letter of complaint to the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan” dated 14 JAN 2016, so I guess this is the scandal in question. You can read the letter at -
sanevax.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Allegations-of-Scientific-Misconduct-by-GACVS.pdf

I've read the letter, and if there is scientific misconduct going on, I can't see it, but I'm just this guy, ya know, so if there is anything there, let me know.

Our host is mentioned in the letter. Dr Lee quotes an e-mail from a Dr. Helen Petousis-Harris
to Dr. Robert Pless, the chairperson of the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS). What does Dr Petousis-Harris say about our host?

...has written prolifically on some of the experiments in his science blog over the past few years so I assume he has also given the material some thought.

Thinking and writing doesn't seem like misconduct to me, in fact, I think it's a good thing.

Dr Lee this goes on to let Dr Chan know that our host is -

...a well-known online character assassin masquerading as a science defender...

Well, that has gotta hurt.

And that's about it. Dr Lee said a bad thing about our host, and somehow a low IQ commenter at Jake's place thinks our host will be driven from the ranks of humanity. Or something.

Dr Lee is in the possession of a suite of documents that, he claims, prove allegations of scientific misconduct by GACVS/WHO/CDC representatives....

Yah, AoA regurgitated Norma Erickson's bit a while ago, with a MailChip tracking link, no less. It seems to have landed with a thud even there.

HDB has also taken note of Frompovich's attempt to pitch this one.

In other news....**

Dan ( AoA) continues to flog dead hypotheses, elaborating upon his and Blaxill's book because another ( reality-based) book that discusses autism is being mentioned on television and oh my, doesn't he wish that he were in the limelight?

So mercury causes autism and gold salts, given for RA in the past, improves symptoms of ASDs. Or so he tells us.

Dan doesn't seem to be able to fathom why he and his material haven't made such a splash.

** not really news

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

re ads..

Ha. I get ridiculous adverts as well as some which reflect my browsing.
Most recently - flights to various places
- clothes ( including Agent Provocateur)
- study for a certificate in autism ( legit uni)
- study computer security ( legit uni)
- lease a Range Rover
- nearby restaurants

I occasionally gets ads in Spanish and Italian- which I can read.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

The scandal concerns a Dr Sin Hang Lee.

I think you have forgotten his full title, "Green-tea-cures-cancer-scammer Sin Hang Lee".

You might find it entertaining and educative to ask the Great Gazoogle about "Milford Molecular Diagnostics". There turns out to be an endless array of press releases heralding that lab's capabilities, and Sin Hang Lee's world-shaking accomplishments; and his attendance at this or that predatory OMICS mockademic conference as Invited Speaker at Prestigious Meeting. For instance, he now offers a PCR test for Ebola.

I begin to suspect that Lee pays the press agencies to put up an announcement on their websites every time he flushes the toilet.

It turns out that the other half of Milford Molecular Diagnostics is its Media Relations Director, Kevin Moore, a press agent. In fact it might be more accurate to describe the company as a press agency that does a little PCR work on the side.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/moorecomm1

Most working scientists of my acquaintance do not feel the need to have a press agent as their key collaborator. They publish papers rather than paid media puffery. Perhaps things are different in the antivax world.

When we first encountered Dr Lee at RI, he was engaged in employment-related litigation with Milford Medical Laboratory... that being a section of Milford Hospital in Connecticut. I gained the impression that his employers wanted him to run his Personal Secret PCR test (i.e. selling positive-Lyme diagnoses) on his own time, with his own equipment, rather than theirs.

At the moment he seems to be back on the hospital staff as one of two pathologists.
ht_tp://milfordhospital.org/medical-services/clinical-services/staff-physicians/

But he has also set up "Milford Molecular Diagnostics", sharing premises in a building across the road from the hospital, and sells the positive Lyme diagnoses from there:
ht_tps://bizstanding.com/profile/milford+molecular+diagnostics+llc-83699180
http://www.dnalymetest.com/

...and in many of those press releases he tries hard to blur the distinction between the two Milford laboratories, to imply that announcements from his private laboratory are sanctioned by the hospital.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

and somehow a low IQ commenter at Jake’s place thinks our host will be driven from the ranks of humanity

Even "better," "Hans Litten" = "Sophie Scholl" = "Georg Eisler" = "White Rose." The last has piteously moaned about being "banned" from AoA before at Jake's, although the middle two are posting away, sometimes in the same thread.

Note the preceding whine at Jake's:

"AoA is blocking anyone daring to mention the word 'Nagalase' .

"AoA is blocking anyone daring to mention vaccines having secret ingredients ."

The latter is trivally false, so I presume the former is the "payload," if suitably modified to denote simple indignation over all of its ejaculations' not being appropriately cherished.

Little known fact:
Lee's Milford Molecular Diagnostics is located only a stone's throw from AoA's Managing Editor ( Trumbull, CT).

Happenstance? or is there an underlying connection?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

HDB has also taken note of Frompovich’s attempt to pitch this one.

Evidently someone in NZ used the FOIA to obtain a few hundred pages of e-mails (centred on the NZ inquest in which antivaxxers blamed Gardasil for a death), and passed them on to Lee. He was unable to find any sign of malfeasance in them so his 16-page open letter is just innuendo about what might have been in the redacted parts of the e-mails, advertisements for his own super-secret technology that no-one else can replicate, and unsupported allegations that Someone Should Investigate.

Understandably, Frompovich does not attempt to summarise Lee's letter, as that would reveal its gaseous nature; she settles for hinting at its contents, a kind of meta-hint built on Lee's own hints. She finishes, though, by inviting her irate readership to e-mail the Vice Chancellor at Dr Petousis-Harris' university, with the implicit message that they should call for Petousis-Harris to be sacked for testifying the wrong way at that inquest, and for being part of The Great Conspiracy.

I can only imagine how little attention the VC will pay to shouty capital-letter correspondence from loons. Still, we can hope that Brian Martin will appear on the scene to fight for Dr Petousis-Harris' academic freedom and defend her from this campaign of mobbing and suppression.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

“AoA is blocking anyone daring to mention the word ‘Nagalase’ .
“AoA is blocking anyone daring to mention vaccines having secret ingredients .”

Did "Hans Litten" not get the email from Dr Ruggiero, chief impresario of GcMAF and Nagalase testing? Ruggiero has moved on to a new product, and recently informed the faithful that Nagalase is an irrelevant red herring.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

Dan doesn’t seem to be able to fathom why he and his material haven’t made such a splash.

This bit is particularly sad:

"Meanwhile, others were on the case. John Donvan and Caren Zucker, doubtless in possession of our 2010 book the Age of Autism which outlined our reporting on Donald, made a suspiciously well-timed splash the day before with an article in the Atlantic and a gig on Good Morning America, with the always-eager-to-diminish-autism George Stephanopoulos presiding."

His writing here is so poor that's difficult to suss out what he's babbling about, which I can only presume is that the (remaindered) Blaxsted tome was released the next day and screwed up their book tour or something.

John Stone adds his trademark insight:

"Meanwhile, I also note the comment of Jonathan Rose in these columns the other day:

"'It's wonderful that Donald Triplett grew up in small town (population 3000) where he was loved and accepted. But if the real autism rate in the 1930s was equal to what it is today (2 percent of children) there would have been 60 autistic people in this small community. And their neighbors and doctors simply overlooked 59 of them? They were just like Donald Triplett, and no one noticed them?'"

It appears that nobody went back to "the 'scoop'":

"One insightful resident of Forest put it this way: 'In a small southern town, if you’re odd and poor, you’re crazy; if you’re odd and rich, all you are is a little eccentric.'"

AoA contributors frequently ask, "Where are all the autistic adults?" ( see the British survey, Ann and Dan)

Well, they weren't all like Triplett but they are around:
one of my gentlemen worked with a fellow whose peculiarities make me suspect Asperger's
He has at least average intelligence and likes numbers. His parents were an engineer and a librarian. His brother had similar oddness: both did detailed clerical work for business or government,

The one I know lived alone for 40 years but created such a cluttered apartment that he needed to move in with a female ( non-romantic) friend when he need knee surgery. Recently, he learned he has cancer and is undergoing treatment and staying with his aforementioned friend, a nurse.
AND is driving her crazy it seems.

Amongst his many oddities is an incapacity to admit being wrong about anything while he couldn't take a social cue if you hit him over the head with it. He says inappropriate things and dresses bizarrely. Sometimes he is taken advantage of financially. He's got into arguments with doctors and other medical professionals during the course of his treatments.

Yet he seems to have friends and co-workers who pretend not to see or hear his faux pas. At least to him.

I often see e-mails from another fellow who writes to my cohort and is similarly clueless. He writes as though one else knew anything and he needs to inform everyone about everything.
Doesn't that sound familiar to us?

AoA also had a post about mixing up Asperger's and NPD.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

HDB: thanks for #79. From the brief skim I gave a couple of Martin's papers I didn't see any epistemology at all. When I first read about this flap, I imagined a number of intellectual traditions that Martin might be referencing – including 'Latour-(ultra)-Lite' which is really funny since I always though 'Latour' sounded like the name of a beer – but he seems to be just flying by the seat of his pants. If he thinks his 'dissent' game is justified by Lakatos and Feyerabend, I think he doesn't get Lakatos and Feyerabend.

Whatever, Judy Wilyman sure doesn't seem to have an epistemology, and can't even manage a few mangled citations from the philosophy of science, much less critical social or political theory in her bibliography. The fact I have problems with the critiques that have been offered of Wilyman and Martin doesn't mean I have anything nice to say about either of them, or that I think Wilyman's thesis is doctoral level work in any field.

I'm not willing to make definitive judgements without reading the whole thing, which ain't happening, but it sure looks like a steaming pile of crapola by my very-humanities-based standards. First, as my thesis supervisor would have sneered (and he was a very good-hearted man) 'it has no theoretical foundation'. Second, I don't see how you can do a critique of science institutions and public policy from a humanities perspective by trying to build a 'scientific' argument. It seems you'd just be chasing your tail, as your premise ('you can't trust the scientists') would have to invalidate your own 'evidence'. Third, anyone, in any field, who didn't catch the logic flaw / rhetorical double-shuffle / total WTF premises in the 'germ theory' segment Orac quoted above was asleep at the wheel, and shouldn't be sitting on doctoral examination boards. (You don't have to be a scientist to know that 'causes' and 'outcomes' aren't related that way; just, you know, have a reading knowledge of English and a functioning brain.)

Speaking of steaming piles of shit, IMHO this passage from Brain Martin qualifies given the context:

The usual pattern is that someone with qualifications or credibility threatens common beliefs or vested interests through their research or public comment, and then comes under attack. Methods include public denunciation, censorship of publications, denial of research grants, expulsion from professional associations and dismissal. The reason for targeting technical experts is they puncture the apparent unanimity of expert opinion in a controversy. Citizen campaigners are usually left alone.

Yes, I previously averred that Martin 'has a point' with the first 3 of his 4 claims about the criticism of Wilyman. Of course, one can make a few valid points amidst a lot of nonsense, or scramble the two together into a souffle. Having a point or two hardly justifies an overall position. Take the passage above. It's generally true. It would describe, for example, the successful campaign by the NRA to ruin the career of historian Michael Bellesiles.* But I guess I'm puzzled that Martin's critics haven't pointed out the general 'all men are Socrates'-class logical fallacy here. If 'process X always follows pattern A' that doesn't mean the observation of pattern A is evidence of process X.

Orac hits one nail on the head: getting a PhD in the humanities doesn't make Judy Wilyman a technical expert on vaccination, or, for that matter a technical expert on anything. John Calhoun alas, completely misses this point:

Wilyman did not have adequate supervision from a person qualified to consider and remedy her lack of scientific appreciation of vaccination.

Well, duh. In what alternate universe does Calhoun imagine Judy Wilyman's POV as a 'lack of scientific appreciation' that could be 'remedied' by some advisor yielding a scientifically valid disertation? Any science-based supervisor who would have accepted her as a thesis student to begin with, or passed any dissertation making the claims she's made, would be a fraud. Again, duh.

The humanities are not the sciences. When we talk about the sciences, we're not going to play by science's rules (re-duhn-dant 'duh'), But we've got some. And it sure seems Martin didn't foilow them. See, you can argue that the process of 'enforcing scientific standards' can be corrupted by influence or simply ideology, and you can argue that lost grants, rejected papers and other products of 'peer review' can be forms of censorship, but what you CANNOT do if you want to make such claims is fail "to consider where professional and scientific standards fit into the picture" which is exactly what it seems Martin fails to do. Seems he just sees a pattern that kinda resembles the suppression of legitimate dissent, and assumes that's what's going on. Nope, in the humanities you have to argue for everything, and for something like a 'censorship' claim you'd have to have historical and textual evidence to make your case. You'd have to document the flaws in or limits of the professional standards of the field in question that leave them open to the abuses you allege. You'd also damn well better account for how often and under what conditions the standards don't work as claimed, compare them to the instances where they do work as claimed, and consider how reasonable it is to expect the system to work better than you allege it does, or even imagine that it might someday, somehow work better. You still get to hope, even if it's 'unreasonable', but you have to have some ground to stand on to assert there's a problem to begin with.

In short, you could indeed do a humanities dissertation on "the philosophy of vaccinology", and you wouldn't need or want an immunologist to supervise that because it's the practice of actual immunologists you'd be interrogating. But you would need, you know, a philosopher or something, and Wilyman's thesis appears to have been judged by a very bizarre set of standards absent of anything resembling that.

In other words, there might be a valid humanities critique of the 'attacks' on Andy Wakefield, but it would be damn hard to make, and it wouldn't confer any validity to Wakefield. You can attack a fraud for the wrong reasons, or have flaws in your case, but he's still a fraud. If I take exception to something Brian Deer has written, that doesn't invalidate the totality of his (overwhelming) case against Wakefraud, or present any defense or apology for Andy's perfidy whatsoever.

Dr. Calhoun is (IMHO) on humantities ground when he asserts "[Martin] should not be permitted to use students as a means to push his own 'whistleblower' wagon." Which would be dubious at the least, regardless of whether that agenda is "erroneous" as Calhoun claims, or not. What is not evident in my comments here is that my mind goes to contrarian thoughts in any circle. If you think I'm a 'pest' here, you should ask people in my field how I treated conference presentations in cul-studs and pomo. I always think of the exceptions. That said, I can imagine a scenario where it would indeed be acceptable for a humanities scholar to use a student dissertation to push an agenda, as long as the student knew that was what was up. After all, if it was OK for James Randi to 'use' his lover, the vulnerable illegal immigrant 'Jose Alavarez' to pull the skeptic wagon with the 'Carlos' hoax, which was born in Australia after all, I don't see getting too high-handed about stunts being out of bounds sui generis. I'd say the propriety of the 'Carlos' hoax remains the kind of 'questionable' matter that can't and shouldn't be settled, as it's the stuff of productive ongoing debate. Different specifics could certainly tilt the question differently though, and I'm inclined to think that IF (and that's a very big 'if') Martin and Wilyman were in cahoots on some kind of 'performance art' provocation, trolling the science establishment on vaccination would be a very, VERY bad way to go about defending political 'dissent'.

Which – being not a relativist thought, but quite judgmental – would bring me back to pomo, and what that term means to people who actually do that stuff, in contrast to the skeptic stereotype of (an imaginary) ultra-relativism, and to the various other spurious snark about the humanities in general in these threads... but I'll have to save my thoughts on most of that for later as the day grows long, and I'm out of gas. I'll just say this, if you actually care to know what 'pomo' is really about, why it's not BS, and why we all need the humanities, read chapter 20 (it's just 4 pp.) of David Harvey's The Condition of Postmodernity (1989), then see "The Big Short", then go back and read chapter 9 in Harvey (22 pp. of text, another 10 pp. of charts, graphs and tables). Then tell me what 'science-based skeptic' had as prescient a take on the biggest magical thinking of all back in '89. Consider that a double-dog dare. Read, watch, read, report. Then get back to me, if I'm still here...
_____

By the by, I've been spot-checking my BP the last two weeks, and my readings are regularly bouncing up to levels the Web says constitute 'hypertensive crisis' – my highs are 188 diastolic and 101 systolic (not at the same time, fwiw)... Haven't checked today though, so lemme see... 176/96. Whee! But I haven't gone to the doctor yet because I have HAD IT with the young assembly-line MD I wound up with at Kaiser. I don't believe he'll take the time to dig into what's wrong (based on evidence, not 'gut' btw), don't trust him to do the right thing (OK, that might be gut), and have resolved to find a new PCP, but haven't been up to struggling with the Kaiser system to get that done. Basically, my lingering anxiety disorder issues mean I need a more 'proactive' health care, and I've got the opposite. And I'm LUCKY I have any health care at all...

Shit...
_______

* He had published a book contrary to their mythology, as it happened to document the fact firearm ownership was quite rare in colonial America because they had to be imported, were very expensive, and of no practical peacetime use (long guns being essentially useless for hunting until the invention of the rifled barrel).

Even “better,” “Hans Litten” = “Sophie Scholl” = “Georg Eisler” = “White Rose.” The last has piteously moaned about being “banned” from AoA before at Jake’s, although the middle two are posting away, sometimes in the same thread.

"Hans Litten" is currently having an extensive months-long conversation with himself over there.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

Did I fail to close the link above?

Apparently I did, and not for the first time.

The link still works though.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 23 Jan 2016 #permalink

Sadmar,

As much as I am sure I raise your blood pressure, don't let this go without seeing a doctor. I have lower systolic but higher diastolic than you so I'm not unfamiliar with the hassles that this condition brings but you can work on getting your pressures down and work on causes at the same time.

Btw, through trial and error, I've found I am salt sensitive and that is one thing I can do without an Rx but it doesn't quite get me there.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 24 Jan 2016 #permalink

@ sadmar:

Please please please see a doctor. Maybe call if you have a provider number for a nurse or doctor today.
I don't know if you take meds. Check that out too.
Sometimes meds for psychological conditions can affect bp adversely or beneficially. Be careful. We'd like to see you around for a long time.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 24 Jan 2016 #permalink

It looks like Ben Swann is going to release William Thompson’s collection of agendas he saved from the garbage can on Tuesday. Two weeks after Matt Carey did so.

Actually, three weeks after Matt Carey did it. :-)

I'll be brief. Yes I think we need the humanities, but we don't need postmodernism, poststructuralism, deconstruction, new historicism, relativist sociology of science, or any of those puffed-up bundles of jargon to study the humanities. The fact that people confuse these is due to the cavalier approaches to argumentation and evidence taken in all of them.

I've read these texts, and I am unimpressed. I've met smart people who like them. Their good ideas and arguments are always in spite of, not because of, their love for Foucault or Bloor or Latour or Jameson. At best they just write good stuff 3 or more times more verbosely than they need to.

Jameson is boring and irrelevant and only thinks he makes arguments. As usual, myself and someone who likes J won't agree, so I'm just offering my perspective. Me, many others, have given these texts a fair chance, and were unimpressed. Yes, it's BS at worst, bad writing at best. That's my considered opinion, after reading all classic and recommended texts.

And yes, admit it or not, these 'schools' of humanities bear much responsibility for helping develop the scripts of science deniers. If a representative of pomo thinks I'm wrong in my conclusions, they'll have to do better than 'trust me' or 'you just don't get it'. I listened; I listened twice or three times; still think its BS.

@sadmar:

As a physician myself, I agree with the two prior comments. Don't dawdle. See a frikkin' doctor, even if it's one you don't like. Get your blood pressure under control now, and then worry about getting a new primary care doc after that to look at the whole picture and adjust your management. Don't put off a potentially dangerous issue until you can find a new primary care doc. You don't necessarily need to go to the ER today, but do see a doctor no later than tomorrow and call your doc's answering service today to ask for advice and arrange to see someone. And if your blood pressure gets much higher (as in sustained systolic over 180 for more than 12 hours), you should call again. The on-call doc might tell you to go to the ER or urgent care then. Heck, the on call doc might tell you to go to the ER or urgent care now, but that's not my call. Either way, you need to contact your doctor or whoever's covering for him for the weekend today and get the ball rolling to fix this problem.

It would describe, for example, the successful campaign by the NRA to ruin the career of historian Michael Bellesiles.*

Possibly not the best example. I was under the impression that Bellesiles was hounded into the corners of academia not so much by the NRA, as by other academics, unhappy with the fugitive and unsunstantiated nature of Bellesiles' data.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 24 Jan 2016 #permalink

If I may go back to Dr Sin Hang Lee for a moment --
He turns out to have an uncanny gift for sniffing out low-life trashy "academic conferences" of the no-standards cash-for-CV-padding variety. To the extent that his attendance at a conference is usefully diagnostic of its position. So his career does have some benefit for science.

Most obviously, he's a regular attendee at OMICS meetings -- the most egregious members of that niche in the mockademic ecosystem. But the Goofle further informed me that he signed up to address the "Global Biotechnology Congress 2015". That sounds all prestigious until closer inspection reveals the GBC to be a marketing branch of the record-beating spamming scum at Bentham Science Publishers:
http://www.scientificspam.net/?tag=global-biotechnology-congress-2014
(curiously, the GBC goes by two names -- it also advertises and spams for delegates under the title of "Drug Discovery and Therapy World Congress").

You might also enjoy the 2014 symposium organised by CALRB, the Coalition Against Lyme and Related Borrelioses. This was designed to pressure legislators to fund wider testing for Lyme Disease -- preferably using Sin Hang Lee's proprietary PCR technology -- and the paid press-releases flew as thick as cherry petals in spring:
ht_tp://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20140804005753/en/Hartford-State-Capitol…
ht_tp://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20141201005220/en/Lyme-Disease-Ebola-Dia…

The Coalition Against Lyme and Related Borrelioses, Inc. (CALRB), a non-profit organization which promotes science based Lyme disease testing and research, agrees with Dr. Lee’s approach, said Kevin Moore, president and executive director of CALRB.

Kevin Moore's support for Dr Lee's approach is not enormously surprising, for when he isn't Presidenting over TOTALLY GRASS-ROOTS organisations like CALRB, he is Lee's business partner / publicist. While the CALRB website (shuttered and blank, now that has fulfilled its purpose) was set up by Jessica Vigliotti -- Lee's laboratory employee and co-author of his junk papers.
ht_tp://whois.domaintools.com/calrb.org

I am kind of impressed by the parade of total shamelessness on show.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 24 Jan 2016 #permalink

Most obviously, he’s a regular attendee at OMICS meetings — the most egregious members of that niche in the mockademic ecosystem. But the Goofle further informed me that he signed up to address the “Global Biotechnology Congress 2015”.

Ha. I get invitations for this sort of thing all the time, including the Global Biotechnology Congress. I always figure if it's something I haven't heard of and inviting me to speak it's probably a scam. :-)

More and more, the larger predatory publishers like OMICS and Bentham are moving into the predatory scamference grift. I guess that's where the money is.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 24 Jan 2016 #permalink

More and more, the larger predatory publishers like OMICS and Bentham Open

FTFY, if I recall correctly. I think this came up when Joel Harrison first visited, but I'm also a tad frazzled at the moment.

Those who haven't seen this article about a math paper consisting of intentional gibberish may find it enlightening --

http://thatsmathematics.com/blog/archives/102

Fortunately, I'm in a relatively small field (astronomy) in which (as much as Narad may justifiably complain about how horribly proofreading and typesetting standards have slipped) the main journals are run by professional societies which at least TRY to maintain some kind of standards.

By palindrom (not verified) on 24 Jan 2016 #permalink

I think this came up when Joel Harrison first visited

Ah, this thread:
http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/01/13/a-counterpoint-to-jenny-mc…

Dr Harrison's admirable book review was the last thing that the Open Vaccine Journal published, so it looks as if Editor-in-Chief Rubin's goal of swimming against the Bentham current and maintaining the journal's standards was not a success.

The status of Bentham's non-OA operations -- predatory or benign? -- remain moot because they're outside Jeffrey Beall's purview.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 24 Jan 2016 #permalink

Sadmar, GO TO THE DOCTOR!!!!

The status of Bentham’s non-OA operations — predatory or benign? — remain moot because they’re outside Jeffrey Beall’s purview.

Which entity's umbrella are the conferences under?

Which entity’s umbrella are the conferences under?

The congresses I looked at are organised by Eureka Science
http://www.eureka-science.com/
-- which is nominally a "service provider" (proofreading, copy-editing etc) for Bentham Science and for Bentham Open.
The analysts at ScientificSpam reported that the spams for the Congress were coming from a network and domain previously used by Bentham Science Publishers (who spam people without any distinction between their OA and non-OA production). The GBC website specifies "Bentham Science" as its media partner, and promises to stovepipe the proceedings to a Bentham Science journal.
http://www.globalbiotechcongress.com/ifa.php

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 24 Jan 2016 #permalink

The congresses I looked at are organised by Eureka Science
h[]tp://www.eureka-science.com/
— which is nominally a “service provider” (proofreading, copy-editing etc) for Bentham Science and for Bentham Open.

Look, brother, I am not an "etc." Anyway, I've found no evidence that Eureka is actually running anything resembling a language service.

On the other hand, there's this. It's unclear to me what it's doing there.

So mercury causes autism and gold salts, given for RA in the past, improves symptoms of ASDs. Or so he tells us.

There's market interest!

In other ( non) news...

KIm ( AoA) gripes and carps today about how the media and politicians " spread lies that autism has always been among us" and is just a "brain difference" or an "improvement": this attitude "disrespects" parents like her.
She understand the "dark underbelly of autism" and the "trauma" it inflicts upon families. A commenter, Patience, agrees that coverage like that is indeed a "form of bullying".

Interestingly, she -despite a hard life of toil , woe and massive disappointment day and night- manages to have time to write books and articles, "lecture" at conferences, listen to radio shock jocks, maintain twitter and facebook accounts and devote enough time to martial arts training to be acquiring a black belt and to assist in teaching seminars.

She must be Super woman,

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 25 Jan 2016 #permalink

this attitude “disrespects” parents like her.

Are you sure that Kim is not simply Sarah Palin, or vice versa?

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

@ herr doktor:

One never know, do one?

However the other day I had the sublime pleasure of discovering that there were quite a few videos when I g--gled
*Sarah Palin BAD JACKET Donald Trump*- including a parody- altho' the jacket itself was a parody I believe.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 25 Jan 2016 #permalink