Everyone Has The Right To Challenge Scientific Experts

April, 7, 2015 | 79 Comments


  1. There some interesting points here but it largely mistakes the issue. Crucially, in the context, Jenny McCarthy is not, was never, an anti-vaccinationist – she was a celebrity mother who witnessed vaccine injury to her child and became a campaigner for vaccine safety (actually she has been more or less forced into silence on the matter for several years). It has been part of the gambit of government and industry to characterise parents campaigning for vaccine safety as “anti-vaxxers” when for the most part they were parents or grandparents who had witnessed damage to their children from products they had been persuaded to use: it is true that recently the mistrust between such parents and “public health” has become so great that many have become radicalised into anti-vaccinationists, but it is not where it started and not what Jenny McCarthy is.

    And of course this is not for the most part about science at all but about denying damage. If Jenny wants to talk about what happened to her kid they will make it very difficult for her to work (hate material will appear in Time magazine, even NY Times and Washington Post reminding people shock-horror that she was a Playboy Centrefold)). And what people like Mooney, Mnookin and Gorski (Goldacre too) are doing is ad-hominem with bells on. This is not about hard headed science at all, it is about making people shut up, and marginalising them socially and professionally: it is about skewing the data by socially repressive techniques (even if some of the participants are too stupid to realise what they are doing). On the Sense About Science website there used to be an article about the necessity of driving people talking about vaccine damage out of the mainstream media (a project in which they have long since succeeded).

    And what we are talking about is not like physics at all (or the bits of physics that have stood the test of time): there is no central unchanging law of human imunity which underpins the project – there are only industrial products injected or sometimes swallowed, which may not be as effective or safe as the manufacturers would have us believe, and the evidence is usually of a statistical kind which can be distorted or lied about (there would be an unending supply of documentable examples), while the bodies that license and prescribe them are in bed with the industry. It is quite true that it should not need a scientist to penetrate this farago: any competent investigative journalist could do it.

    Meanwhile, it is kind of obvious that vaccines can cause encephalopathies and other types of organic damage (to the gut for example) and that insufficient care is taken. These are the cruise missiles and drone helicopters of the war on the diseases, billions of them are deployed each year and the people in charge don’t want to know about the collateral damage. If you actually care about science the data in vaccinology is let’s face it mostly junk.




  2. John Stone, it should be noted, is one of the last admirers of Andrew Wakefield, a well known fraud, who suggested that MMR caused autism. And as for Jenny McCarthy’s position: correletion and causation are not the same thing.

    • No, I have never had any difficulty defending Andrew Wakefield – a great many lies were told about him – and it seemed the honourable thing to do. Mostly, when people lie they are covering up something. This may help:


      Unfortunately, hit and run is the game of the pharmaceutical industry: they don’t like acknowledging damage and with vaccines they have really got it made. Deidre does not like acknowledging damage either as we saw on an earlier blog https://davidhealy.org/pharmaceutical-rape/ .

      Pharma apologists are always fond of reciting the “correlation does not equal causation” mantra but it is not very consistent since their usual recourse is to negative statistical findings (frequently in demonstrably fraudulent studies such as those by Masden and De Stefano). Normally speaking the physician’s job is to take patient histories but when they involve potential vaccine damage they just seem to disappear. I think this is possibly why the Wakefield Lancet paper was so critical in this story because it recorded the possible adverse effects of a vaccine. And we know from a High Court judgment that there was no fault with the recording (and in fact Wakefield had nothing to do with that aspect of the data).

      Some more on the lies that have been told about Wakefield here:


  3. It seems.at present, that after thousands of years, of intense learning, search and research, Humanity learned very little, and gained less, in the science and wisdom of life. Today, looking at the achievements of digital technology,
    computers et al.I feel like screaming: “Back to Basic!” Today, when we are able to reach for the moon and beyond, we even do not talk to each other. Today when we are brimming with weapons of mass destruction, we still do not have a pill of mass protection. We still do not know the difference between a Drug and Vitamin
    It is not that we do not know, but we refuse to admit to it,why?for the reason of Greed.Today when so many wars are fought on the face of earth, we forget and ignor:The War between the Medicines. It is Allopathic vs. Integrative
    Complementary Medicine. It is Homeopathic vs. Naturopathic Medicine.Ayurvedic
    vs. Scientology.etc.. etc. etc. The list is endless. Is there any hope in the horizon? Yes,How? Activate the innate immunity in real time. Praise the HDL.KISS the Niacin KISS= Kiss It Simple Stu…(HDL-High Density Lipoprotein).Above all: SLEEP RIGHT! Why? Because when you wake up, You Will Have a Dream!!!

  4. On the apparent nature of “expertise” I am obliged to give a couple of personal anecdotes that remind me of the apparent but false existence of some forms of being presented as an “expert” (a term I despise). In every edition, the New England Journal of Medicine publishes an image quiz, usually of a rare condition with a choice of five diagnoses. Although many, if not most, are completely outside my area of medical “expertise” I have a ridiculously high score in getting them correct. How? It’s very simple. In my day, when we were still painting ourselves blue in Scotland, we were obliged to learn Latin and Greek and, in fact, these were required for entry to medical school. A glance at the photograph with a recognition of the Greek or Latin root of ne of the choices and voila! the correct “diagnosis”. The “expertise” if there is such, is in remembering two ancient languages.
    Some years ago, when I was teaching a seminar at a major Canadian university, I believed it my responsibility to breed the ability to critique any and all peer-reviewed journal articles and discard those found failing to reach appropriate standards in subject selection, methods, statistics used etc. I later received a complaint from the head of the department that the students involved in my seminars had become “so critical, it was difficult to get them to accept anything as truth.” The naive young man at Columbia was probably a product of an educational system in which I find that criticism/critiquing is actually discouraged and that if it is in print, it must be true.

  5. David, by the logic of your article, nobody can ever know anything with clarity. That’s simply foolishness dressed up in outwardly respectable journalistic clothing. But ultimately, one of the core principles of science is our best guide to what is true versus mere speculation. Reported results should replicate when the experiment is re-performed by independent investigators. That principle laid to rest the nonsense concerning cold fusion. In the case of vaccines, the original article which caused most of the so-called “controversy” didn’t meet that standard and had to be withdrawn.

    Observed reality is that NOTHING is perfectly safe. But vaccines are rigorously evaluated for safety — and a refusal to have kids vaccinated is directly associated with the persistence of diseases that kill or create long-term harms. Refusal to vaccinate has measurable consequences. It is not at all clear to me that it has measurable benefits in lowered medical risk.

    Science isn’t always practiced well or honestly by those who lay claim to status by use of titles like Ph.D. But in a world where many people still believe in angels and sky gods, science is a far superior framework for testing and understanding truth. And journalists are just as prone to exaggeration and created controversy as the scientists whom they attack.

    Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D.
    Senior Systems Engineer (Retired)
    and advocate for chronic neurological face pain patients.

    • Since when did anyone reporting the adverse effect of a vaccine get a fair hearing? In the UK there hasn’t been a single Vaccine Damage Payment Unit award since Robert Fletcher’s in 2010 and that took 18 years of arguing. The spontaneous acknowledgement of vaccine damage by the medical profession or government is almost unknown.

      I have made my points about the Wakefield paper above.

  6. On the subject of vaccination, things are very dire in Australia, with a continued push towards compulsory vaccination, with no exemptions, see for example this recent article: “Anti-vaccination parents could be refused government benefits” http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2015/s4211991.htm

    It seems anybody who questions vaccination in any way is branded ‘anti-vaccination’. As citizens we are entitled to ask questions, particularly about the growing number of vaccine products which are being mandated in our society. Instead we are supposed to meekly accept the edicts of often conflicted industry-funded ‘experts’. It’s time for transparency and accountability.

    This is very serious because there are some very questionable vaccines on the current schedule, and parents are being forced to have these vaccinations for their children, without valid ‘informed consent’.

  7. Peer review does throw up problems. I am one of the editors of a literary journal which peer reviews. Some time ago one article received a very warm response from the first reviewer and the reverse from the second (who, in effect, said ‘bin it’). The third offered a way out in that she suggested that my journal was not the right place for this article and suggested another. Honour was saved.
    In science there can be considerable problems. The late John Maddox, the former editor of ‘Nature’, told me after a few drinks that he had skipped peer review for one article which he published, because he thought it good , but feared that the reviewers would not agree with him. No names were mentioned.

  8. I had to check the national geographic website to make sure that cover hadn’t been Photoshopped. It just seemed too ludicrous to be real. From a marketing point of view it’s quite clever, but the message is incredibly stupid at the same time.

    I see this as directly aimed at someone like me. A graphic designer who dares question science…the audacity!
    The thing that Richard appears to have missed is that it’s directed at him too. This is about everyone having the right to challenge scientific experts and that would include the right of a systems analyst to challenge psychiatry. A P.h.D in a completely unrelated field does not give you a free pass under Mooney’s line of thinking.


    Had this designer not challenged the experts, his wife would likely at best been committed to mental hospital and at worst have committed suicide (actually it could have been even worse than that), while his children would be in the custody of social services.
    Had this designer not challenged the experts, he would still be an undiagnosed coeliac who was 77x more likely to get lymphoma and who would be taking PPI’s and back pain medication every day for the rest of his short life – just like his mother who died from lymphoma at 54 after years of taking antacids, PPI’s and heavy pain medication for her back through most of her adult life.
    Had this graphic designer not challenged the experts, his bother would still have large bald patches all over his head and beard from his cold sore medication.

    Had this designer not had a healthy understanding of evolution and physics, he likely would have never believed any of that stuff. I only bring that up because you mentioned sky gods and fairies… Evolution is the science that will convince you most that sky fairies don’t exist. Its also the science that once you get past the basics will show you why GMO’s are potentially dangerous, why novel compounds should be treated first and foremost as poisonous, why breast milk is better than pharma milk, why vaccines may not be good for the human race in the long run, why industrial farming is a complete disaster of potentially apocalyptic scale and why most chemists have completely lost their marbles.

    In other words… Sense about Science won’t touch evolution with a barge pole – and Dawkins won’t touch medicine with a barge pole. Why? Because when you get down to brass tacks, they are not very compatible.

    Evolution should only be used to bash the creationists….just don’t read any further than the prologue.

  9. Somebody needs to ask this question of the debaters: since many of you challenge and discredit scientific authority on instinct, how do you distinguish between harmful frauds and helpful therapies? Where the heck is your EVIDENCE! Or doesn’t evidence matter to you? Anecdotes DO NOT COUNT, people! We can’t generalize from them.

    Before anybody pipes up with the time-worn assertion that we can’t know the evidence because “somebody” (never named, of course, even if attributed by general category) has suppressed it in a conspiracy… there’s an old but quite appropriate observation to take on board. “Never attribute to conspiracy that which is credible as a simple consequence of simple human cussedness.”

    Ultimately this discussion is puerile without evidence. So quote your independently validated references. Or go home and talk to yourselves.

    • Richard

      “Anecdotes” most certainly do count. In the old days when your Xmas tree lights were old style bulbs – every year they wdn’t work when taken down. You’d unscrew each bulb in turn till the lights came on – and then throw away the dud bulb. This is an n of 1 trial – the highest level of evidence in evidence based medicine – an anecdote.

      The original accounts of people becoming suicidal on Prozac were worth far more than the clinical trials done which claimed the science showed no problem – a position FDA colluded with. The reason trials didn’t show a problem is because the company manipulated the data as did all of the other SSRI companies. And the scientific publications were all company or ghost-written. So where is your evidence? Or doesn’t evidence matter to you?

      Even if the data weren’t manipulated and inaccessible and the trials ghost written, RCTs systematically get the wrong answer every time a drug and illness produces the same symptom – as in suicide. How do you solve this? How do you distinguish harmful frauds and helpful therapies in this case?

      You solve it by being rational – not by having recourse to some automated controlled trial procedure. You also solve it as many of the people here have had to do by not turning to the authorities – experts, regulators and companies – who in the case of most drug induced adverse events appear pretty compromised. The fraud action against GSK and $3 billion fine was for standard – not exceptional practice.

      If you want to read Pharmageddon and Let Them Eat Prozac you will see them stuffed full of evidence that supports the kind of points John Horgan and many of the commentators here make.

      There is a much earlier blog – over two years ago – that gives my version of what is going on that I invite you to read – The Factories of Post-Modernism – or alternately the last chapter of Pharmageddon


  10. *Share* *Scam* *Alert*


    Pot, kettle, black, is a *Boiler*

    *Many victims have been successfully *ingesting* for several years*

    *Doctors* are advised to be wary of any solicited advice*

    *If one of these *doctors* contacts you by phone, it is best to hang up*

    *These *brokers* can be very persistent and extremely persuasive about fraud with victims losing an average of £20,000.

    Is that all?



    Just a little example as to how one can bend language and suit it to any situation one comes across…

    We have a little *graphic designer* whose job is to *handle* the GSK website. http://www.gsk.com/en-gb/our-stories/how-we-do-randd/data-transparency/

    He is not doing it well because he is constantly opening, not only himself, but, his company, to crude analysis………..

    My advice would be less about Data Transparency and less about Paroxetine, paraded in front of us and just comment on interesting things like the New Chairman joining forces on the same day as the AGM…………..nothing like a bad share price to make this chap jump……….

  11. Richard

    Do “most of us challenge authority on instinct” as you claim. At least in this instance I began by accepting authority, and then by a very slow and painful process came to realise that my family had been betrayed, and many others too.

    I have also provided a lot of information for anyone who is interested.

    But even if this was not case anybody who has a reaction to a pharmaceutical product is owed sympathetic monitoring and investigation – that is how ethical medicine would work if we had it.

  12. John Horgan has a further blog on this topic = which is now included in the original post and reproduced here

    I recently knocked science journalist Chris Mooney for asserting that “You Have No Business Challenging Scientific Experts.” Non-experts have the right and even the duty, I retorted, to question scientific experts, who often get things wrong.

    Far from reconsidering his stance, Mooney doubles down on it in a Washington Post column, “The science of why you really should listen to science and experts,” that defends not just scientific experts but experts in general. Mooney ends up not boosting experts’ credibility but undermining his own.

    He cites a study that found that judges and other lawyers show less ideological bias—or “identity-protective cognition”–in their application of the law than law students and lay people. Titled “Ideology’ or ‘Situation Sense’? An Experimental Investigation of Motivated Reasoning and Professional Judgment,” the study was carried out by Yale law and psychology professor Dan Kahan and five other scholars.

    To my mind, the study merely shows that lawyers and judges know the law better than law students and non-lawyers. That’s reassuring, but surely it does not mean we should always trust lawyers’ legal advice, especially since lawyers so often disagree on interpretations of the law. Consider the rancor of recent debates on health care, immigration, taxes, the environment and other issues in Washington, where more than one third of current Representatives and one half of Senators have law degrees, according to The National Law Journal.

    Mooney nonetheless insists that the Kahan study “fits nicely alongside a growing trend toward robustly defending and reaffirming the importance of experts.” As an example of this trend, he cites the 2005 book Expert Political Judgment by political psychologist Philip Tetlock.

    Mooney’s citation of Tetlock is bizarre, because Expert Political Judgment—far from a defense of experts—is a devastating critique of them. Tetlock reports on his long-term study of 284 professional pundits, including academics, government officials and journalists, who comment on politics and related issues in scholarly journals and conferences and via mass media. Over two decades, Tetlock recorded some 28,000 predictions by the experts related to wars, elections, economic collapses and other events.

    In a terrific 2005 review, “Everybody’s An Expert,” New Yorker writer Louis Menand summarizes Tetlock’s conclusions as follows:

    “people who make prediction their business—people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables—are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong, they’re rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. They insist that they were just off on timing, or blindsided by an improbable event, or almost right, or wrong for the right reasons. They have the same repertoire of self-justifications that everyone has, and are no more inclined than anyone else to revise their beliefs about the way the world works, or ought to work, just because they made a mistake. No one is paying you for your gratuitous opinions about other people, but the experts are being paid, and Tetlock claims that the better known and more frequently quoted they are, the less reliable their guesses about the future are likely to be. The accuracy of an expert’s predictions actually has an inverse relationship to his or her self-confidence, renown, and, beyond a certain point, depth of knowledge. People who follow current events by reading the papers and newsmagazines regularly can guess what is likely to happen about as accurately as the specialists whom the papers quote.”

    Menand’s review is loaded with gleeful one-liners, including this one: “Human beings who spend their lives studying the state of the world, in other words, are poorer forecasters than dart-throwing monkeys.” And yet this is no laughing matter. Consider how “experts” in the government, academia and media helped enable the catastrophic U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the economic collapse of 2008. Example: New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq expressed the hope that it would lead to “a more accountable, progressive and democratizing regime.”

    How can Mooney possibly interpret Tetlock’s book as a defense of experts? Here’s how. He seizes on Tetlock’s finding that some experts were better forecasters than others. They tended to be not what Tetlock calls “hedgehogs,” who explain the world in terms of one big unified theory, but “foxes.” Foxes, Tetlock explains, “are skeptical of grand schemes,” and “diffident about their own forecasting prowess.”

    In other words, the most credible experts are those who, implicitly, warn us to be wary of experts. Mooney is oblivious to this irony. “So experts really do exist,” he blithely concludes, “and they really are different from non-experts. Now, all we have to do is listen to them.”

    I prefer Menand’s conclusion. He writes that “the best lesson of Tetlock’s book may be the one that he seems most reluctant to draw: Think for yourself.”

    • I have always thought along similar lines albeit with a much less sophisticated approach.

      Regardless of the odds, either someone considered an expert or I can be wrong about a particular matter. Sometimes it’s both of us. But certainly as far as health care goes, if my doctor is wrong – I pay the consequences; if I’m wrong – I pay the consequences.

      So until that changes, I’ll keep thinking for myself and suffer societies condemnation as a fool for it.

      • This discussion has grown long and somewhat circular. And I think many of us are talking past each other. It seems to me that two central questions are being missed: given the high level of skepticism of medical treatments which is represented here, should any of us ever see a doctor when we feel ill? And if we do, then how do we reliably distinguish between the genuine healers and the dangerous quacks? How do we generalize from the reports offered to something that might resemble a standard of effective care?


        • I don’t find it all that complicated or that black and white.

          “Should any of us ever see a doctor when we feel ill?”

          Why wouldn’t we? Doctors are as much a source of information as anywhere else. Presumably better but not necessarily. But I will say that I don’t intend to do surgery on myself ever.

          “How do we reliably distinguish between the genuine healers and the dangerous quacks?”

          Using the information you can obtain from a multitude of sources and the skepticism you appear to disparage. Not every doctor is a quack but I assure you that not a single one of them is perfect.

          “How do we generalize from the reports offered to something that might resemble a standard of effective care?”

          I don’t want to abandon scientific research; what I want to abandon is the one-size fits all medicine, and particularly dietary advice, when I find it is not working for me. Also, when reports come in from multiple people, physicians and researchers may want to pay attention to the after-market clinical trial going on right in front of them before assuming a patient has no idea what they are talking about.

  13. A lot of things would be done differently in an ethically sound medical services system. Pharmaceutical advertising would be banned legally from public media in the US and NZ. All trials data and notes would be documented under supervision and published for independent analysis. Replication studies would be funded by public money. Adverse reaction reports would be reported to and validated by bodies independent from drug companies. Courts would recognize the validity of class action suits challenging not malpractice, but standards of care that are founded on unproven assertions or outright fraud.

    But we don’t live in that world yet, and we may never live in it if the “critics” simply criticize and fuss and fulminate instead of getting organized and applying the methods of science to understanding medical evidence; then lobbying for legal remedies in the courts as well as the press.

    One anecdotal case of bad reactions to a medication can be a catastrophe for the person who goes through it and for their family.

    A hundred anecdotal cases are both a catastrophe and an indicator of issues that need to be explored and resolved by somebody who isn’t financially (or perhaps even professionally) self-interested.

    Thousands of anecdotal cases supported by medical case reports should be grounds for suing somebody out of their positions of authority and privilege.

    The place where I fault this blog as well as Mad in America and a number of similar venues, is that all too often you never get past the rhetoric of criticism to any kind of organized program for fixing the bloody problem! Forgive me if I doubt that you’re serious until you do.


    • A lot of the people contributing here have taken legal actions. Some of us have lost jobs as a result of putting forward our point of view. Some of us have set up RxISK.org as a way to solve the problem. One of us has analyzed the problem in considerable depth in a series of books.

      You don’t seem to have done any research on the people you are throwing jibes at


    • Dear Richard Lawhern.
      You will not see the benefit of knowing a side-effect upfront until you’ve experienced one. (As opposed to many of the commenters on this blog)

      Have you asked yourself what your “statistical proposal” means to those poor 999 individuals that has to live through a possible side-effect Before they could get acknowledgement for it?

      Please give me some advice to what I should do, I have experienced several “events” that thousands of other people has reported as “side-effects”?

      Is it somewhere OK, in your opinion, that Big Pharma takes to extreme measures not to accept certain sideeffects just because they are not replicable in 8-week trials? (Because I feel that an 8-week controlled trial is somewhat less extensive than my 15 years on the medication…)

  14. David,

    Whilst some may think John Horgan adopts a reasonable stance he makes the same mistakes about science as those he criticises. All that is in his favour is that his mistakes are repeated daily by even those who are working scientists by profession and by the vast multitude beyond them.

    Horgan assumes throughout there is a one-size-fits-all brand of “science” and that all the knowledge it delivers is capable of being reliable even if it is not always so. Horgan acknowledges sometimes even “authoritative” scientists are wrong. But his lack of understanding of what it is he covers by indiscriminate use of the label “science” makes for some cringeing schoolboy howlers like “Science is a uniquely potent method for discovering how nature works”. 400 years ago Sir Francis Bacon in Novum Organon recognised that was not correct writing in 1620:

    “XXXVII. Our method and that of the sceptics’ agree in some respects at first setting out, but differ most widely, and are completely opposed to each other in their conclusion; for they roundly assert that nothing can be known; we, that but a small part of nature can be known, …” [1].

    The problem is we have been sold a conceptual pup, a pig in a poke. From the earliest time any of us are taught science in schools what is in the bag labelled “science” is not what we are told it is. The problem is people like Horgan have never looked properly in the bag if they have looked at all to see what it is that is really there – like the buyer of pig in a poke, it is not a pig they have been given in the bag but a pup.

    There is no one flavour of “science”, there is no one scientific method and the vast preponderance of knowledge delivered by what we lazily refer to under the umbrella term “science” is not reliable and indeed not even scientific if we judge it by what we think ought to qualify.

    When executing a commission to write two peer reviewed papers about the nature of scientific and other knowledge I found the task an eye-opener despite the benefit of having read a graduate degree in physics. The fundaments of what we call “science” do not match the descriptions propounded by educators to students in schools and universities nor in journal papers or the media.

    Modern physical science and its successes in technological advances are built on a foundation of inquiry by reductionism. Whilst some mathematicians knew over a hundred years ago and possibly much earlier, it seems it is only now that some scientists are catching up and realising how reductionism fails [and dramatically so] when faced with complexity.

    Complexity is why doctors cannot be scientific in the diagnosis and the treatment of patients. But this goes wider and deeper affecting all spheres of human knowledge and endeavour. Medicine is one example. The principles and the issues are of more general applicability. Complexity is why meteorologists can never succeed in predicting the weather reliably nor economists in formulating accurate predictions of the behaviour of economies nor psychologists in predicting an individual’s behaviour.

    The successes of the exact sciences in modern western societies have been used to create an impression that we can know and predict everything about nature and more when the truth is far from that conception. Much more is known in modern psychology today about how “the mind” works than 30 years ago but it is when we look to the inexact sciences that we find an array of theories which are falsified in the Popperian sense by the very experiments by which the theories gain credence. Psychology’s successes are built upon inexact theories which cannot be used to predict reliably and certainly not in the way successful repeatedly verified theories in the exact sciences can be.

    And how exact a “science” is physics? In astronomy and space physics the classical reductionist experiments upon which physics’ classification as an exact science is founded are impossible. Theories cannot be tested by experiment. We cannot put a planetary system nor a galaxy in a laboratory. Meteorology, cosmology, geology are all sciences in which reductionist experiments are impossible.

    But after examining these kinds of limitations it is when complexity presents itself that science fails. The conventional view of what “science” is does not work in the real world for providing knowledge about how to handle complex systems – which include the human body – and much more besides.

    Complexity dictates why doctors can only work as they do and why they cannot be “scientific” when they do it – but they can use knowledge gained by science in what they do to inform their expert intuition and judgement gained by experience of treating many patients over many years.

    What some may find surprising in particular is the realisation that despite the success of reductionism in the exact sciences, beyond simple linear systems, for everything else we are left to educated guesswork about what might happen in all areas. Expert judgement and intuition based on long experience is indispensible to the practice of many professions and callings.

    We cannot use science to predict reliably what will happen in a complex world even if the we see the same things happening over and over.  Our solar system, which everyone used to think is highly regular, could behave irregularly and possibly chaotically with planets deviating substantially from what were thought reliably predictable orbits.

    If you want your conventional “consensus” conception of science realigned to match the unforgiving truth, the first of the commissioned papers is entitled “Medicine is not Science” [2]. This led to the second entitled “Medicine is Not Science: Guessing the Future, Predicting the Past” [3].

    These papers are the only ones I and my co-author know of which addressed the issues. The papers cannot be posted online but anyone interested can be provided a personal copy if they contact me. Both were presented at a conference in Madrid in July last year. The powerpoint can be downloaded from the link here [4] and an abstract which introduces Knowledge-Based Medicine here [5].

    Neither of the papers are based on anything other than existing knowledge. It is the analysis and explanation which is new as if no one had thought to question any of it before. If anyone does find something similar I should be most grateful to know.

    [1] Bacon, Lord F. (1620). Novum Organon or True Suggestions For The Interpretation Of Nature.[(1902) English translation ed. by Joseph Devey]. New York: P.F. Collier & Son.

    [2] Miller, C. & Miller, D. (2014) Medicine is Not Science EJPCH 2 (2)

    [3] Miller, C (2014) Medicine is Not Science, Guessing the Future, Predicting the Past JECP 20:6, 865–871

    [4] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Clifford_Miller/publication/264235962_Medicine_is_not_science_Guessing_the_future_predicting_the_past._Introducing_Knowledge-based_Medicine/links/53d3ca3d0cf220632f3ce74e.pdf

    [5] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264235962_Medicine_is_not_science_Guessing_the_future_predicting_the_past._Introducing_Knowledge-based_Medicine

    • Clifford

      Thanks for this. I think John Horgan is much closer to you than might appear on the surface – its just rare to attempt to grapple with the issues you lay out here in a blog post


  15. Richard

    How about if you’re living the bloody evidence.

    I saw my son turn into a paranoid psychotic mess within the week of stopping venlafaxine. He did not take the drug for depression, he was prescribed off label for a neurological condition, so it was not a return of depression.

    He is now facing a prison sentence. A young man who has never been in trouble, never so much as been arrested or even a caution. Never been violent.
    I have never seen anything like it in my life. This has ruined his and my life.

    So I may not be be scientific or academic, I can’t reel off lots of facts and jargon, I just live it and watch my 20 year old Son’s life go down the tubes.

    That’s my evidence.

    • Lisa, I have just found your comment about your son. It is now 2 years later, and I so hope he has not become even more unwell. Your comment caught my attention because my son, aged 32, who took Venlafaxine also for a reason that was not depression, it was RoAccutane (acne drug) triggered brain damage, although this was not understood till after his death. A psychiatrist, who he only met twice, for about a hour on each occasion, suggested he stop the Venlafaxine immediately (no suggestion about the advisability of tailing off). He too had never been violent, was law abiding, kindness itself etc etc. He changed for the much worse within 2 days. Within 2 months he had taken his own life, convinced the world would be better off without him. He took his scientific evidence from the psychiatrist who predicted, loudly and insensitively that because of his expressed suicidal feelings on stopping Venlafaxine, he probably would take his own life, but even so, he was being denied further Home Treatment as he had “not co-operated’ presumably because he was saying how ill he felt and this, in the psychiatrist’s mind, did not fit the evidence ie that stopping this drug so quickly could cause akathisia, and irrational suicidal thoughts.

      Today I have attended an NHS Wellbeing Event where many service providers set out their stalls and explained to the public what ways to Wellbeing they could provide. Having set up a charity in our son’s name, on our stall we were offering creative courses in a compassionate and understanding peaceful countryside environment for anyone suffering anxiety or depression. When asked, we explained to people what had happened to our son, several being themselves professional service providers locally, I was horrified, though sadly unsurprised, to learn that that same psychiatrist had ruined many other lives besides our son’s (and inadvertently of course, ours). The man has just retired, within the last few weeks. All those who commented having known him, some having worked with him, said thank heavens future patients have been saved from him. So where does this fit with DH’s post re questioning scientific evidence. We did, in polite suggestion to the psychiatrist before our son died but he told us we were talking nonsense. He believed stopping Venlafaxine suddenly could not cause the symptoms our son was manifesting. Yet it was ‘anecdotally’ obvious to us that they were. Like DH says, many of us have tried to get our voices heard, but can’t seem to make much difference. I do so hope your son is improving, and I thank you for the evidence you’ve shown us, by writing your comment, that it’s likely our impressions were correct.

  16. I don’t think David Healy, Neal Carlin or anyone else with RxISK wants to rely solely on “anecdotes” and throw experimental evidence in the dumpster. Neither does John Horgan. But we do have a few problems with Richard Lawhern’s proposal (and that of Horgan’s student of science journalism) that we solve our problem with an appeal to “the evidence.” Here’s one:

    There is a BIG difference between “scientific evidence” and “articles in peer-reviewed journals.” Especially when it comes to medicine. And the key problem is exactly what Richard pointed to: reproduceability. When you make a scientific claim, you are supposed to lay bare ALL your findings, and ALL your methods for arriving at them, so that other scientists can examine them and try to duplicate your results. If you don’t do that, said my high-school biology teacher, IT AIN’T SCIENCE.

    Yet that standard has been utterly abandoned in modern medicine, where it’s become routine for the financial sponsors of research to assert that they “own” the results and don’t even have to share them with regulators, let alone with people who doubt their findings. As a result, an analysis of all the randomized controlled trials of a given treatment may or may not get you any closer to “the facts” about its usefulness or safety. It may just be garbage in, garbage out.

    It’s not just a few conspiracy freaks who think this, but a growing roster of senior scientific experts which includes current and former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine and the BMJ. Here’s a good example of why:

    A study just released by Northwestern Med School found a small but significant number of men who’d used Finasteride for baldness suffering severe sexual side effects. It also found a total lack of useful evidence in the published trial literature that would help doctors or patients decide if Finasteride was worth the risk. http://www.feinberg.northwestern.edu/news/2015/04/Belknap-baldness-safety.html

    Moreover, they had no clue whether the authors had simply not found this evidence because they failed to look for it, or had in fact found the evidence and suppressed it. No one can say – because the raw results from these “scientific” studies have not been shared with anyone! Thirty or forty years ago that might have been shocking. Now it’s the rule, not the exception.

    It’s common for people who see these facts for the first time to think there must be a quick fix. Surely this is illegal! Why don’t you talk to your senator? Draft a law, and get him or her to sponsor it? Why don’t you bring this up in your professional societies? Why don’t you call the New York Times, or get on the Oprah show? There are procedures, in a democracy, to bring bad actors like this to justice. Use them! Don’t just rant and rave on your pathetic little website.

    It’s only when you start trying to do exactly this, that you discover how many forces are ranged against you. It’s much like trying to reform the banking system or the stock market. A lot of things that are illegal, and others that clearly ought to be, are also very profitable. And with wealth, goes power.

    The fight for basic access to “the evidence” already spans continents, and involves hundreds of scientists and thousands of lay activists. If our accomplishments are awful damn modest to date, it ain’t because we haven’t tried all the conventional methods of political and professional influence. It’s because we’re up against Goliath, for real. Hope you’ll join us.

  17. Lisa, this is an appalling and not untypical situation in which you find yourself.

    If Rxisk shows up Venlafaxine to have violent side-effects it could be debated in a court room that the law of probabilities is that Venlafaxine caused your son to commit an aggressive act.

    Presumably his doctor would argue that he gave this drug to your son in ‘blind faith’.

    Do we criticise the doctor?

    Do we suggest to your doctor he should be more aware of risk even though he may not have experienced such a reaction before with any one else?

    Do we maintain that doctors who do not describe fully or even mention the possibility of possible discontinuation symptoms are not doing their job properly?

    The doctor is the go-between, piggy in the middle and the rights of patients to seek redress when it all goes wrong should be a critical part of the medical system and acknowledged as such.

    I am just one more ‘anecdote’ but I am hopeful that the thousands of ‘anecdotes*’ from swallowing Venlafaxine or Paroxetine or Fluoxetine or anything else will be a support for you in these months ahead.

    The Burden of Proof is your burden

    Stick to your guns…there are and always will be ugly people who only have their own interests at heart.


    • Thank you Annie. We are fighting it all the way for him. His Doctors have been very supportive they just did not realise that venlafaxine could cause such severe withdrawal.
      It’s very stressful I had to try and cope with the fact that he was diagnosed with an incurable neurological condition that severely impedes his life and now this.

      It breaks my heart to see my Parents who are pensioners and have never been in a court in their lives sitting watching their grandson locked in a perspex box. I don’t sleep, I had to leave my job. We were a normal family just trying to get through life and when he was diagnosed I thought that his diagnosis was the worst thing that could happen, I had no idea that it could get worse than that. I can’t even describe properly what it’s like…. because what’s happened is so surreal and out of context with our lives that I struggle to believe it’s real.

      And before anyone decides to pipe up that venlafaxine works for them, I realise that .I’m not saying that prescription drugs should be banned. I’m saying that if we had been aware of how severe the effects of withdrawal could be things may have been different. With hindsight there were several red flags in the days leading up to the event but none of us acted on them because we didn’t know they meant anything.

      He is still on a lot of prescription drugs, he has to be to try and live the best life he can but now we are more informed and aware. Some of the drugs are helping him, some haven’t. It’s trial and error but at least now we are aware the errors can be minimised and managed.

      One of the things that really narks me is that if you dare speak up and say anything about pharmaceutical companies and prescription drugs you are treated as if you are some sort of hippy dippy fanatic who wants all drugs and treatments banned. Why does wanting the information to make informed decisions about what you put into your body mean that to the majority ?

      The other is people like Richard who obviously has no knowledge of David Healy making comments ” forgive me if I doubt you are serious until you do ”
      Are you serious Richard ??
      Forgive me if I think you should “go home and talk to yourself”

  18. The Mooney problem is not of course that he’s mistaken (which goes without saying), the problem is with what he does which is to manipulate and isolate: it is about crowd control and compliance. He’s the sheep dog. Looking back Horgan half gets the problem that Mooney is in a paradoxical and self-negating position (as a non-expert) but he accords him too much respect. Secondly, he falls for the Jenny McCarthy trap ie Horgan’s opinion and doubts about vaccines are so much more important than Jenny’s, but of course Jenny is the evidence. If you don’t run after her other people might speak up too. It happened at the end of 2013 with Katie Couric as well. She ran a programme on girls who had suffered ill-effects of HPV vaccines. There was a massive storm round this very experienced newsperson, people writing about their problems to her blog were swamped with vicious attacks for self-styled “sceptics” (there were over 12,000 comments), she was made to eat-humble pie, do another program in which the HPV vaccine proponents had it all there own way, and her career was more or less wrecked anyway.

    This morning in California you can watch every mainstream media outlet baying to have the vaccine mandates made compulsory for all schoolchildren – this is not because they have considered all the ramifications of an endless extending schedule, the toxic ingredients, the limitations of the knowledge, the corrupt nature of public agencies, it is because they are paid to, or because they themselves are intimidated. This is not to do with science it is to do with penning people in for financial gain, and the creation of an ideology in order to achieve this.

    • Of great interest I think is this report by Kent Heckenlively of Robert Kennedy Jr’s address to California’s Commonwealth Club a couple of days ago:


      “..In discussing how this came to happen, he cited the removal of vaccines from the civil justice system by the creation of the Vaccine Court in 1986, and the vast amount of money spent by the pharmaceutical industry in the political process (twice that of oil companies), and among the news networks (sometimes 70% of their advertising revenues). The lawyers have been taken out of the process, the regulatory agencies, the politicians, and the press neutralized.

      “Some interesting information was revealed by Kennedy about CDC whistleblower, Dr. William Thompson. Thompson invoked federal whistleblower status this summer and hired leading whistleblower attorney, Morgan VerKamp, to represent him on his claim that his superiors had required him to lie for the past ten years about the connection between vaccines and autism. He has turned over tens of thousands of pages of documents to Congress and has “asked” to be subpoenaed by Congress. The matter is currently before Congressman Jason Chaffetz’s Oversight committee. Kennedy related how the chief of staff of Chaffetz’s office had said that these documents, when they are released, “are not just a smoking gun, but a wildfire that will burn CDC to its foundations.”

      “Kennedy talked of how he had been present when his family started what became known as “Special Olympics” and they never saw a child with autism. He talked about how the severe problems of these children cause their parents to essentially “disappear” from society and political discourse because they are just trying to get through the day managing their lives and their children. To say that this problem was missed in previous generations was ‘like missing a train wreck.” He recalled how he had been in Utah the previous night, which has both the highest vaccination rate and the highest autism rate, 1 out of every 39 kids…”

    • John, on the subject of HPV vaccination, another review has recently been published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases supporting this intervention: “Population-level impact and herd effects following human papillomavirus vaccination programmes: a systematic review and meta-analysis”, published online 2 March 2015: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099%2814%2971073-4/fulltext

      The abstract includes this interpretation: “Our results are promising for the long-term population-level effects of HPV vaccination programmes. However, continued monitoring is essential to identify any signals of potential waning efficacy or type-replacement.”

      I wonder how many children and their parents are being properly informed of the possibility of waning efficacy or type-replacement with the use of HPV vaccines, and the implications this may have? It is my strong suspicion that in many instances valid ‘informed consent’ is not being properly obtained before this medical intervention.

      It is notable that the review is behind the paywall of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, i.e. it can be purchased for $31.50 USD. I suggest it is highly problematic that papers which promote the use of vaccine products are not open access, i.e. easily accessible for public perusal.

      There’s also commentary in The Lancet Infectious Diseases on this review: “Greatest effect of HPV vaccination from school-based programmes”: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099%2815%2970078-2/fulltext

      Again, it’s behind the paywall…. For interested citizens who do not have the privilege of institutional access, this will mean a time-consuming visit to a university library to try and access the paper there, or another $31.50 USD for the coffers of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, kerching…

      One of the authors of this review is Julia Brotherton. This person has been involved in the promotion of HPV vaccination in Australia for some years, at least since 2003. See for example: “Planning for human papillomavirus vaccines in Australia. Report of a research group meeting.” CDI Vol 28 No. 2 2004: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-pubs-cdi-2004-cdi2802-htm-cdi2802p.htm

      In the acknowledgements of this report published in 2004 it is noted: “We would like to thank CSL Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline for their support in facilitating this meeting…”

      Julia Brotherton, and the other author of the report, Peter McIntyre, currently an ex officio member of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and have been associated with CSL and GSK for some time.

      It really concerns me that people such as Julia Brotherton, who have associations with industry, and who may also have an ideological and career interest in ‘proving’ the benefits of HPV vaccination, are also the ones evaluating the effectiveness of HPV vaccination. Personally, I have no confidence in their objectivity on this matter.

      I’ve also become very cynical about the often industry-associated ‘peer-reviewed literature’. Even The Lancet’s editor, Richard Horton, has confessed that: “Journals have devolved into information laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry.” (As quoted in Richard Smith’s essay “Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies” PLOS Medicine 17 May 2005: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020138 )

      • Cervical cancer and other HPV cancers only kill about 20,000-30,000 Americans a year. The vaccines, even if universal, would not prevent all of those deaths. HPV can be prevented by other means, which should be obvious without my stating them. Injecting 320,000,000 people with a poorly-understood vaccine to prevent and infection that rarely leads to cancer or death seems to be overkill, perhaps literally.

        (Of course, non-lethal cases of Cervical and similar cancers are more numerous then lethal ones, and treatment can be disabling and life-disrupting, so those cases should be taken into account alongside deaths when evaluating the need for the vaccines.)

        But still, I think people who manage to limit their exposure to HPV have a better chance at good health than do those who use the vaccine and do not alter their behavior.

        Early detection is a very good tool, but the CDC has been advising women to get tested for dysplasia and cancer less often then ever before. Last I heard it was every three years for someone whose last test was negative. To me that is ridiculous. Getting infected the day after a negative test would mean three years for dysplasia to develop without detection, during which it could advance into cancer.

        My own oncologist at a fancy cancer center told me (in 2009) that there was no evidence that the vaccines prevent edcancer at that time, anyway. (Maybe more is known by now.)

        Another reason to scrutinize HPV vaccines is that not all squamous cell cancers of the cervix, head and neck, anus, etc., reveal HPV, and not all cases of HPV result in cancer. The vast majority do not.

        So, though HPV is associated with certain cancers, it is hard to say it causes them, given that it is neither necessary nor sufficient to bring about the squamous cell cancers it is correlated with.

      • I think people like Horton and Smith and Godlee (Smith’s successor at BMJ) try and get street cred by admitting there is problem but it does not mean they are not up to their ears in it themselves.

  19. During my independent layperson’s investigations into vaccine products, I’ve been struck by the often arrogant, patronising and dogmatic attitudes of people with a science background I’ve come across. It seems to me there is a religious fervor by some people wedded to their ‘scientific’ views on vaccination, and they will brook no dissent.

    It’s interesting to contrast the assuredness of vaccination zealots with others less certain of the status quo….

    Consider for example the attitude of the late journalist Christopher Hitchens in his interview with Jennifer Byrne about his memoir “Hitch 22”, undertaken in 2010.

    During the interview Hitchens described his concept of “Hitch 22”: “Hitch 22 for me is, that having been involved in various kinds of quite solid commitment and allegiance throughout a lot of my life, been through it and out the other side, that now the only group I’m associated with is a loosely knit collection of people – Richard Dawkins is the best known member of the founding group. The meeting of this group was held in my house, there’s a photograph of it in the book – Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, people who…want to defend science and reason, and who say that the main principles are that the only thing you’re sure of is uncertainty; that the only thing that is certain is doubt; that the main thing is the Socratic principle…you’re only educated when you understand how ignorant you are. So all assertions of faith, or absolutism, or complete belief are, almost by definition, useless and false… And that actually, that’s quite a strong commitment to be making…to…a party of doubt and uncertainty, open-mindedness and scepticism. I feel I can spend the rest of my life doing that with a fair degree of conviction.”(1)

    Hitchens refers to Richard Dawkins in the interview. An internet search indicates Dawkins is an avid supporter of the ‘science’ of vaccination, see for example: “Stop the Anti-Vaccine Gospel”: https://richarddawkins.net/2013/09/stop-the-anti-vaccine-gospel/

    I presume Dawkins puts his faith in the industry-funded scientific community on this matter. I wonder if he has ever critically examined any individual vaccine products, e.g. the arbitrary second dose of live measles/mumps/rubella vaccine; the questionable effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine and annual flu vaccines; and the dubious international fast-tracking of HPV vaccination?

    Ref 1:
    The interview with Christopher Hitchens is currently on YouTube. The discussion about “Hitch 22” starts at 05.44 in Part 2. It’s a great interview, worth watching:
    Jennifer Byrne Presents: Christopher Hitchens
    Pt. 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=1yuSMBrOSGs
    Pt. 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81FcA4PlMus&feature=related
    Pt. 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWV_CJ1WU78&feature=related

    • No human being is constituted to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and even the best of men must be content with fragments, with partial glimpses, never the full fruition.
      William Osler

      There’s nothing new…….

    • These are the people I followed for years. Dawkins sucked me in and is in fact responsible for a lot of my interest in science. I read all his books, and Hitchens, but I kept coming across these conflicts and inconsistencies that when I applied the very methods Dawkins taught, against much of his own assertions, they just didn’t hold up.

      It almost made me write him a letter to ask if I was missing something or if he was missing something. I didn’t do it because I thought ‘ who was I to question the great Dawkins of Oxford’. Shortly after someone lobbed a hand Grenade into my home in the shape of venlafaxine, which kept me busy for the next while.

      He stays out of the deeper medical questions for the most part as far as I can see. He is a defender of science, but its orthodoxy that he defends, so when pressed he will side with vaccines, antidepressants or whatever, but never with any real depth.

  20. Oddly enough Dawkins had MMR proponent Michael Fitzpatrick (trustee of Sense About Science) on a BBC documentary as if belief MMR was a foundation of a modern secularist’s view of the universe and quite amusingly Fitzpatrick subsequently turned on Dawkins because he did not like his dogmatic view on religion.

    • Hahaha, made my day. In my experience (but sadly only of others) too much praise and “success” can be very harmful to people. Only a minority can maintain their critical self-doubt under its ego-bloating pressure. I consequently try to do my thankless bit by slagging off anyone who makes a mistake.

  21. I offered three personal anecdotes as examples that explain why I personally will never stop challenging the experts. It wasn’t meant as evidence that these things happened but as an explanation of my position. But I used evidence the whole way through the process. For example, the battle with my wife’s carers took a long time and a lot of self-doubt crept in along the way. The sheer amount of evidence (of all types) that supported what I was witnessing was in fact what gave me the confidence to confront the “experts”. I actually didn’t need to go that much further than the package inserts of venlafaxine XR and prozac as it turns out, but the references Richard wishes I’d posted under every sentence can be found in David Healy’s and Robert Whitaker’s books, which are very detailed in that respect. I borrowed heavily from them and a number of others before I challenged the experts.

    My brother’s hair loss was easy and illustrates the value of a resource like RxISK and the evidence it collects. The doctor had ruled out his medication as a cause. I was sure I had read something about hair loss and cold sore meds before, so I asked for the name, checked it on RxISK, found 36 reports for hair loss, printed it out, my brother took it to his doctor and while she was still sceptical she told him there was no harm in stopping the medication to see if it made any difference. He did and his hair slowly started to grow back. It really was that simple. Evidence was key in the process. It’s even possible that it taught the good doctor something that she will apply in the future.

    Richard, you mention the dreaded C-word…conspiracy. Actually conspiracy does pop up on this blog now and again, but it is normally mentioned in a similar way you used it, by people accusing others of attributing things to conspiracy without any real cause for doing so.

    And you think “this discussion is puerile without evidence”, and that you think we should “quote your independently validated references. Or go home and talk to yourselves.” Which part of the discussion is missing evidence?– there appears to be a number of overlapping areas being discussed, and as far as I can tell, not all of them can even have evidence of the type you require.

    The main article itself has some hyperlinks dotted through it and below it, that expands on the subject, and these in turn have more hyperlinks, and on, and on as far as you want to take it. I got lost about 8 links in and came up for air some 2hrs later. Sometimes on this blog you have to do a bit of the donkey work yourself…if you’re not interested you won’t do it, if you are and have the time, you will. This particular subject excites me and angers me in equal measure so it didn’t require any effort for me to follow up. Sitting on the patio on a sunny day off work also helps.

    You as a systems analyst questioned psychiatry and the DSM and you appear to have judged their ‘evidence’ as unworthy. Even though I disagree with a lot of what Psychiatry and the DSM has to say, I still treat it as evidence to be considered along with all the other types of evidence you appear to reject. To me their value can only be accessed as part of the whole which includes the baggage they all carry with them. The corrupt evidence, be it the results of an RCT, certain anecdotes or whatever part of the always incomplete whole, should in my mind start to show as a lone wolf. I have no references – that’s just how I see it as a non-scientist.

    As an artist I see it as looking at reality in three dimensions from every plane, every angle and every colour. Rather than what I perceive as a flat, monochrome, predetermined, two dimensional approximation of reality that RCT’s produce. But even the 3D full colour multi angled view is inadequate when things get too complex.

    Clifford Miller’s post and links do a great job of explaining some things I feel I have understood for a long time, but have been struggling with a way to communicate them effectively.

  22. I’m inclined to view this post through the lens of a new term I learned about a year ago from one of the founders of “The Coalition for Diagnostic Rights”- the term is MEDICAL TYRANNY . Forgetting for a moment that there is ample history to support healthy skepticism of scientific breakthroughs, especially those that are sold as a treatment, a cure or a prophylactic to vulnerable people, the real issue here is not about having the expertise or even the balls to challenge scientists and their claims, but that we are being held hostage by a profession that has nothing even close to a perfect track record– much less, a legitimate claim to ultimate authority. This is the definition of medical tyranny. I think it is more important to look at what is happening to us than to debate the merits of any side of the *Science Wars*.

    I like to walk slowly through the vaccine safety issue– trying to smell the coffee, I ponder it this way:
    IF vaccines are made available to everyone, then, anyone who believes they are safe AND/OR chooses to protect themselves and their kids from contacting whatever disease the vaccine advertises it will prevent– is being served. Those who opt out are also being served by having their choice respected. WHO is being served when anyone is forced to receive vaccines? Don’t forget– those of you who don’t want to be subjected to the risk of contacting the disease a non -vaccinated person may subject you to, are free to choose the vaccine(s). WE live in a time when there are multiple accessible safeguards for our health from which to choose– and by necessity we may also decide to reject some of these options.

    Practices that promote health and well being are generally considered important in schools, places of work– businesses– “Don’t leave home with a fever with or without cough, vomiting–etc. Stay home if you are sick and consult your doctor- if you develop- certain symptoms— or they worsen etc.” Is it unreasonable to imagine that some people, having attained a level of trust and/or comfort in regulated public health practice, might also choose to focus on health maintenance, and rely on the expertise, or skill of health care professionals to respond to their needs — if needed? Health care- there when you need it. Out of your face when you don’t. Where is the cause for alarm here? Is it that people autonomously developing better health habits with an eye toward avoiding unnecessary risks might turn out to be a population with fewer *health*problems than the gung ho vaccinate me for everything group? OR– will their defiance become contagious? Will a control group give credence to concerns about vaccine safety- especially the overload given to kids these days? And what IF this leads to a trend- say for example, parents insist on selective or more prolonged vaccine schedules–or opt out all together? In what I would call a rational society, this would serve as motivation for the the medical/scientific community to work out a reasonable approach– that serves the needs of patients, while continuing to provide medical care as indicated for everyone who seeks it. Please tell me WHO will be seriously harmed by this approach? Too much work for doctors and scientists? or loss of revenue for * he who cannot be named?*

    How about health care workers being mandated to get flu shots– in the context of protecting patients, co-workers AND hypothetically not missing work due to having the flu–.?I am not against the availability of flu shots for health care workers– or campaigns to educate and encourage flu shots–,but I find it intolerable that with no guarantees regarding effectiveness or safety of the flu vaccines, anyone can be coerced, threatened, in some cases, to get a flu shot. WHO benefits from 100% compliance of a health facilities work force ?

    And how about the latest rage: psychiatric diagnosis supremacy ? I am half way through a book Richard has praised highly: Angela Kennedy’s well documented/compelling evidence based, “Authors of Our Own Misfortune?”–“the problems with psychogenic explanations for physical illness” have already been laid out in what I would call an undisputed dissertation. By page 107, I am in agony, as I see clearly that presuming to know that a psychological problem has either caused or worsened the physical symptoms reported by a patient,is a conclusion that is lacking in reason, logic, science–maybe even lacking in humanity, itself . What I don’t know is how such assertions can become the basis for a psychosomatic disorder diagnosis that will most likely be the cause for withholding medical treatment and compassion. Both forms of abuse will be billed as *medical treatment*. Here we have only the evidence of people, especially young people whose illnesses grow worse and whose trust in medical professionals dissipates. And considerable reduction in health care costs billed to insurance companies. WHO benefits?

    In all three cases I have briefly outlined, I have illustrated that the patient- a human being with mind,body and spirit- endowed with reasoning capacity and rights over her own body, is not the focus– or, rather is not treated as the *ends* as Kant [medical ethics standard] would have it. Rather than viewing we the people as having ultimate authority about and over ourselves, it seems to me that medical and scientific experts see only the wide gap between their superior knowledge and our inferior understanding. -So, it begins to appear as though we are a *means*– consumers of health care and services, who are neither courted by, or convinced of the greatness of science and medicine. WE don’t have to be satisfied consumers , when the business of science/medicine/pharma can literally force us to be their lifelong customers.
    “WAR on Science””?? Not hardly–

  23. Indeed, it is not ultimately a scientific problem at all. It is salutary to watch Robert Kennedy jr on the steps of the California Capitol explaining what has happened when every elected politician and every journalist has been bought out, intimidated and silenced (or perhaps are rather spouting lies). What we are witnessing is the complete failure of regulation, the capture of agencies, the politicians, the press and media. Kennedy has a throat problem and it is difficult for him to speak, his life would no doubt be much easier and an awful lot safer if he shut up like everyone else, but he speaks (from 11 minutes in to 28 mins).


    I would be greatly interested to hear John Horgan’s response (not to mention Chris Mooney’s).

    • This link spells out, at least for me, the heart of the matter–

      The response from the power brokers starts to look like “Please, don’t bore me with the *science*–

      And the science brokers somehow manage to control the debate by changing the topics themselves or by introducing some bit of added complexity to the topic that only *they* can comprehend.

      C’mom– these are the very same tactics employed by the *divine rights* group of religious authorities. If you challenge the word of the *divine*, you will be oppressed –either submit or prepare to be destroyed.

      The industry that claims *science* as it’s foundation has the power to oppress in the same manner inflicted by organized religious leaders since their appearance on the planet. An 8 year old can see that the scientific method is thrown out the window the moment a question or concern is raised about the *science* in these tiring monologues that are termed, *debate* or *dialogue*.

      What was the great good envisioned by both religion’s proponents and those who uphold the doctrines of science ?
      Religion was supposed to provide us a moral compass for peaceful human co-existence.
      Science was supposed to ensure that we continue to survive amidst the perils that are looming everywhere within and around us.

      How could such intentional *great good* spawn acts of *great evil*

      The answers are in the bottom line– “Whatever they are talking about– they are really talking about money.”

      100% effective for producing personal happiness or success– *religion* only promises validation for suffering, and *science* is working on the antidote .

      Remove the financial reward from religion and science -based industry and there goes their power to divide us into categories of superior and inferior ability to make rational personal decisions. Wealth is power– like the club in the hand of any self professed authority figure who will not bother himself with asking our permission to enforce his authority.

      An 8 year old can conceive of everyone having the inherent potential to reason and begins at this tender age to make autonomous decisions with a learning curve enhanced by natural consequences. Within a few years, this young lad or lass will realize that there are consequences for breaching authority, and that *authority* is defined in some ways that are clearly not reasonable– even to a pre-adolescent. By the time this youngster reaches adolescence, it becomes clear that the power wielded by authority does not have to be grounded in reason,; that punishment for breaching it will be swift and sure nonetheless… AND, by the time he/she has reaches the age of 21, evidence of the corruption throughout the established bases of authority will likely evoke an inner struggle that crystalizes into two choices: either rebellion or submission– neither choice has been proven *scientifically *to be 100% effective for producing personal happiness or success– *religion* only promises validation for suffering, and *science* is working on the antidote .

      We have, as a species, always had the capacity to develop into fully rational beings capable of steering our fate if we are provided both true information and
      resources. Knowledge acquisition, or learning how to learn is the first order or task our children complete before entering junior high school. If anyone reading here has forgotten the tried and true means for negotiating even difficult personal challenges– then, by all means go out and spend time with young school kids to refresh your memory of what is our shared human capacity. The divisions that will separate us into categories of superior and inferior abilities are the actions of two powerful authorities that continue to propagate that their mission is to preserve and protect us all., the *great good* of their intentions– despite the lacking of evidence-

      Newsflash: I have been engaging with our upcoming generation in a variety of venues for the past 30 years. I am both elated and frightened by the evidence that kids are coming of age at a much earlier age; that they are asking the same questions the leading thinkers of our time are writing and talking about–; that they see through what has blinded my generation; that they don’t immediately buy into the *good intentions* of authority— . I worry about their fates as I grieve over the treatment very young, courageous whistle blowers have incurred. I worry because a feeling of invincibility goes hand in hand with being young.

      Unless we focus our attention on the reality that science based industry is little more than the right arm of organized religion; that it is the power gained from wealth that we are threatened by– . Unless we stop wasting time trying to disprove the science behind the industry that views us as so many cretins incapable of recognizing their tireless efforts to protect us– from our own ignorance. Unless we simply ask :How do the intentions so clearly stated as ,*great good * find expression in our tines?

      Here is the logic of a 10 year old- pondering what I have written above: : “Why would they even care what happens to people they can don’t even want around them? How can they claim to be doing us any good when they really don’t want to hear how much we are hurting?”

      Then the clincher, the conclusion of this 10 year old lass: “They must be talking about some other good thing– maybe something that is only good for them.”

      Out of the mouths of babes..

  24. Richard has a point. I have noticed much hostility on this blog to my reporting positive reactions to anti-depression medication, as if my positive experience is an insult to the position of those who have suffered terrible side effects. By all means make side effects public and warn patients, but don’t exclude the possibility of benefit. In today’s Guardian there is a horrifying account of a psychotic breakdown suffered by an otherwise healthy young man after taking Lariam for Malaria. But anti-malarial medications are very important for those working in danger zones.

    • The emotional and cognitive numbing effects of anti-depressants, the desired therapeutic effect of satisfied AD customers, seems to be the common thread along the spectrum of potentially life threatening adverse effects of these drugs.

      When does apathy for the suffering of others and inability to see the big picture become lethal –* mortal danger to self and others*?

    • Hi Deirdre

      Just to be clear, as I was one of the people who clashed with you, I did not have any objection to your anecdotal evidence that you had positive benefit from an anti-depressant medication. I reflected on the ethics and practical consequences of a medication that might randomly affect people favourably or adversely (it might just as well have been you as one of the unfortunate people). It seemed to me rather that you objected to people reporting adverse consequences (and using the term “rape”) because you had benefitted and it wasn’t what was on the packet. You didn’t seem too sympathetic, and were unwilling to accept how devastatingly the medications had affected other people – or considered that it mattered much. That was where I think we came in.

      It is surprising given your position as literary editor that you should have taken such a legislative view of over the use of language.

      • I’m also one of the people Deirdre clashed with and I too had absolutely no objections to the point that Deirdre made about positive reactions to her meds.
        You need to read your comments on that particular post back to yourself Deirdre, I think you will find that you were the one who was very hostile and very unsympathetic towards people who have suffered greatly and had their lives ruined by side effects.
        If you read the posts back you will see that several times it was said by several people that they didn’t have a problem with you saying your medication had worked well for you.
        You have the problem you seem to think that everyone on here is anti medication and we want all prescription drugs banned. You are the one who is being judgmental.
        After all when you came on this blog, didn’t you realise that the majority of people who follow and comment on it are doing so because their lives have been badly affected by side effects of prescription drugs on themselves or loved ones. So when you tell us we are being outrageous by using the phrase pharmaceutical rape obviously we are going to tell you why we feel like that. A lot of us come here because we’re desperate and have nowhere else to turn … not to exclude the possibility of benefits.

  25. On the subject of laypeople challenging ‘experts’, I would like to put forward an example for consideration on this forum.

    This example relates to the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine. This is neither an aggressively ‘pro’ nor ‘anti’ vaccine argument, it’s simply a logical argument for minimal vaccination based on available information.

    In this argument I will refer to Merck’s live M-M-R II vaccine used in the United States, but the argument is also relevant to GlaxoSmithKline’s Priorix MMR vaccine.

    According to information provided by Merck, most seronegative individuals are likely to be immune to measles, mumps and rubella after one effective dose of live MMR vaccine, (given at the appropriate age, i.e. after maternally derived antibodies have waned). According to the Information Sheet for Merck’s M-M-R II vaccine “clinical studies of 284 triple seronegative children, 11 months to 7 years of age, demonstrated that M-M-R II is highly immunogenic and generally well tolerated. In these studies, a single injection of the vaccine induced measles hemagglutination-inhibition (HI) antibodies in 95%, mumps neutralizing antibodies in 96%, and rubella HI antibodies in 99% of susceptible persons.”(1)

    While one dose of effective live MMR vaccine is reported to result in seroconversion of a high number of susceptible persons, two doses of this vaccine are mandated in many US states.

    The US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) report on MMR vaccination admits that: “The second dose of measles-containing vaccine primarily was intended to induce immunity in the small percentage of persons who did not seroconvert after vaccination with the first dose of vaccine (primary vaccine failure).”(2)

    It is my argument that parents of children (and other individuals) should be informed of the reportedly high rate of seroconversion after the first dose of live MMR vaccine, and offered the option of a blood test to verify immunisation rather than simply be compelled to have an arbitrary second dose of live MMR vaccine. I have been making this argument for the past few years to a number of parties, and I have encountered strong resistance to my argument.

    More detail for my argument is available in my recent letter on this matter to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, (7 January 2015): http://users.on.net/~peter.hart/Letter_to_Sylvia_Mathews_Burwell_HHS_re_MMR_second_dose.pdf

    I have received a response on this matter from Candice Swartwood, Deputy Associate Director for Policy, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (11 February 2015): http://users.on.net/~peter.hart/MMRdosage_prepared_for_Elizabeth_Hart.pdf

    I am still considering the response from Ms Swartwood.

    There are important principles at stake here in regards to ‘informed consent’ before a medical intervention, in this case the second dose of live MMR vaccine.

    What do others think about this?

    1. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc. M-M-R® II. (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Virus Vaccine Live). Information Sheet: http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/m/mmr_ii/mmr_ii_pi.pdf (Revised 06/2014)
    2. Prevention of Measles, Rubella, Congenital Rubella Syndrome, and Mumps, 2013. Summary Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vol. 62, No.4. June 14, 2013:http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr6204.pdf

  26. The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has today announced “NO JAB – NO PLAY AND NO PAY FOR CHILD CARE”.

    The Prime Minister’s media release notes: “The Commonwealth Government will end the conscientious objector exemption on children’s vaccination for access to taxpayer funded Child Care Benefits, the Child Care Rebate and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement from 1 January 2016.” https://www.pm.gov.au/media/2015-04-12/no-jab-no-play-and-no-pay-child-care-0

    I suggest this action by Tony Abbott is problematic because there are some questionable vaccines and repeat vaccinations on the Australian National Immunisation Program Schedule, e.g. the second shot of live MMR vaccine; and repeated ‘boosters’ with the failing pertussis vaccine: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/nips-ctn

    This raises questions in regards to ‘valid consent’ before vaccination, see for example Section 2.1.3 of The Australian Immunisation Handbook which includes: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/handbook10-2-1

    For consent to be legally valid, the following elements must be present:
    1. It must be given by a person with legal capacity, and of sufficient intellectual capacity to understand the implications of being vaccinated.
    2. It must be given voluntarily in the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation.
    3. It must cover the specific procedure that is to be performed.
    4. It can only be given after the potential risks and benefits of the relevant vaccine, risks of not having it and any alternative options have been explained to the individual.

    The Australian Federal Government’s vaccination schedule will generally be compulsory to obtain family tax benefits.

    This appears to me to contravene point 2 above re legally valid consent before vaccination, i.e. “It must be given voluntarily in the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation.”

    In regards to the compulsory second dose of live measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, I suggest point 4 is being contravened, i.e. “It can only be given after the potential risks and benefits of the relevant vaccine, risks of not having it and any alternative options have been explained to the individual.” In the case of the second dose of live MMR vaccine it appears parents (and possibly other individuals) are not being informed of the alternative option of a blood test to verify immunisation after the first dose of live MMR vaccine.

  27. Dear Mr Stone,
    Yes as a literary editor I can be prescriptive. I am hard on those who ignore gerunds.
    My evidence is indeed anecdotal, as is the evidence of those who have suffered terrible side effects from anti depressants. I have said quite clearly that I think that pharmaceutical companies who supress evidence should be sued.
    I have also queried the response of Deirdre Oliver who informed me that my well-being on Venlafaxine was simply a placebo effect, as if this powerful medication were merely a sugar pill.
    As a literary editor I am also fairly strong on matters of fact. I told a contributor that her argument that Rossetti had never had intercourse with Lizzie Siddal was mistaken as they had a still- born daughter, Jane. She accepted this when I referred her to Rossetti’s letters.

    • Deirdre

      There is no hostility to your reporting positive effects of venlafaxine or any other drug and I agree with you totally that it is a complete mistake to say that anyone who reports a positive effect is just experiencing a placebo effect – this is like telling someone that the effects of the wine or beer they have just had is down to placebo.

      The issue here seems to me to be that most of the respondents are trying to grapple with the establishment’s inability to show much intelligence – where to cite Scott Fitzgerald “the test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still function”.

      Pretty well of the people injured here or just skeptical of the pronouncements of experts can readily accept the idea that treatments can help and can harm but it seems like the establishment can’t.

      These issues get trickiest when it comes to vaccines where the help is at a herd level but the harm is at an individual level – what sticks in people’s throat on this score is the failure of the authorities to come clean about this and concede that some may be injured for the greater good.

      Elizabeth Hart’s comments here pull at this thread in a particularly interesting way


      • David,

        Certainly the rhetoric and ideology of herd immunity is quite germane – not so certain about the hard reality which is that vaccines like whooping cough and measles are failing leaving populations more exposed, and instead of acknowledging this reality we have public health’s outcry the unvaccinated (who are not numerous) and requirement for ever more vaccination ever more ineffectively. Before the vastly hyped and exaggerated measles outbreak in South Wales there was a bigger one amid a highly vaccinated population in North England: our health officials know this but they seek to deflect attention.


        I remember in 1968 when the vaccine was introduced we were told that measles would be eradicated for all time within months. Now we are fighting a rearguard action with the product failing and natural immunity much reduced (a particular problem with young infants). I make the point not because I am against vaccines in principle but because once you cannot tell the truth about these things you are in trouble, and the manipulation and bullying just gets worse.

    • Deirdre

      What you have said about your function as a literary editor rather misses the point that you were being censorious about people using the term “rape” who had had their lives wrecked by SSRIs. It disregards not only the way the word has been used in many contexts historically but also the possible figurative use of language that you would expect an expert in creative writing to understand and condone. Instead you seem to have adopted a narrow bureaucratic view as a means to inhibiting how people express themselves about their injuries. That is why I expressed surprise.

      • Dear Mr Stone,
        I was not being censorious about those people who had experienced severe side-effects, I was simply reporting a different experience. I am not an expert in ‘creative writing’ but the editor of a journal which concerns itself with W.B. Yeats. He’s the creative writer.
        Would your own distrust of experts run to medical oncologists? There are times when you have to trust medical expertise or risk dying a horrible death. As someone has mentioned HPV and cervical cancer I might add that a smear test identified an early stage cancer when I was 30. I had minor surgery and have lived to tell the tale. A friend of mine was not so fortunate.

        • Deirdre Tooomey

          I think this was where you came in:-

          “Sinead this is an outrageous comparison! Talk to someone who has been raped and they will tell you that it is much worse than wholly mistaken medication. Two friends of mine (both male) have been raped and in both cases rage and bitterness lasted for years. I have taken quite a lot of rough and ready medication (for cardiac problems) in my time and it’s NOT rape.”


          The question would not be whether you were a creative writer, but whether for instance only certain people like Yeats are allowed to use metaphor, or figures of speech. In fact some of the things that happen to people as a result of medications are so immutable and neurologically crippling that it might be very hard to find words, and probably you are not in that position when your seek to compare your experience with others who have fared much worse.

          • John Stone,
            And what is your attitude to getting bad news from a medical oncologist? Do you decide to follow the example of Steve Jobs and find your own cure for cancer of the pancreas?

          • Deirdre Toomey

            Without sticking my neck out very far I note John Horgan’s comment above:

            “Gorski critiques my column in a post titled “On the ‘right’ to challenge a medical or scientific consensus.” Like Mooney–and like me!–Gorski has concerns about the propagation of pseudoscience, but his piece is one long exercise in begging the question. That is, he implicitly assumes what he is attempting to argue. He writes: “It’s… important to remember that there are scientific consensuses and then there are scientific consensuses. What I mean is that some consensuses are stronger than others, something Horgan seems to ignore or downplay.” The primary point of my piece is that there is often no way to know whether a consensus is legitimate or not; scientists often claim more certainty than is merited, and hence outsiders are justified in questioning scientists’ proclamations. Gorski’s own field, oncology, offers an excellent example of this problem. For decades, the consensus was that cancer should be combatted with frequent testing and aggressive treatment, but now that consensus is unraveling. “In the end,” Gorski concludes, what Horgan seems to be arguing is that we should take pseudo-expertise seriously.” Actually, I am arguing that the public should be wary not only of pseudoscientific charlatans peddling homeopathy and “energy healing” (Gorski’s examples) but also of genuine experts like Gorski.”

            Embedded links:



            I also would not recommend Gorski as model of professional conduct. He seems to me to be trying to intimidate and deride anyone who disagrees with him (the column cited by Horgan is unusually well mannered). It is not the obvious strategy of someone who is confident of their ground.

            However, I am not the subject of this column. I intervened originally, if I remember correctly, to defend Jenny McCarthy from unfair comment. The wider point was not only how journalists uphold scientific orthodoxy, they intimidate and insult the witnesses – and therefore are themselves a major source of scientific bias when it comes to the practice of “medical science” on real people.

        • Deirdre
          You were telling people who have had their lives wrecked by side effects through no fault of their own that they are being outrageous in how they describe it. You were very hostile.
          You have taken the view that everyone on here is anti medication and wants all drugs banning and the vast majority don’t. Your comment to John about if he got bad news from an oncologist proves that. As I’ve said before to one of your other comments of that nature. If you are going to die anyway without the medication, then the benefits obviously outweigh the risks because you will die anyway.
          I don’t know why you seem to take the views of people who have suffered so greatly as a personal attack on you.
          I’m glad you’ve never had horrendous side effects or withdrawal and I hope you never do. I’m glad that your medication is working well for you and I truly mean that but I must admit that very fact does make me ponder how you ever ended up on this blog.

  28. The Australian Prime Minister is ultimately responsible for the Federal Government’s vaccination schedule, which effectively mandates vaccination interventions for healthy people, particularly children.

    In this regard I am forwarding letters to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, questioning vaccination policy in Australia.

    In the first instance my letter to Prime Minister Abbott (21 January 2015) requests he urgently address the problem of potential conflicts of interest and lack of disclosure by members of groups influencing vaccination policy in Australia, i.e.

    • the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI);
    • the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC);
    • the TGA Advisory Committee on the Safety of Vaccines (ACSOV);
    • the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee (AIVC); and
    • the Working Group and Oversight Committee for the Australian Academy of Science publication The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers, which was funded by the Australian Federal Government’s Department of Health and Ageing.

    My detailed letter to Prime Minister Abbott is accessible via this link: http://over-vaccination.net/letters-challenging-over-vaccination/letter-to-australian-prime-minister-re-vaccination-policy-in-australia/letters-to-prime-minister-tony-abbott-re-vaccination-policy-in-australia/

    In my letter to Prime Minister Abbott, I describe the lack of transparency and accountability for the groups providing advice on vaccine products to the Australian Federal Government, there is an alarming amount of secrecy in this area.

    As the influence of these groups can result in the imposition of medical interventions (i.e. vaccinations) for healthy people, and massive sales of lucrative vaccine products for pharmaceutical companies, it is vital that the process of adding vaccine products to the national vaccination schedule is open and transparent, and that any potential conflicts of interest of the members of these groups are accessible for public perusal.

    I have received a response to my letter to Tony Abbott from the Immunisation Branch of the Department of Health*, which indicates we may be at last obtaining some sunlight on this matter, at least in regards to ATAGI. The letter advises: “The ATAGI has an established process for the declaration and, if necessary, the management of CoIs. At its 19-20 February 2015 meeting ATAGI reviewed the COI policy and agreed to publish details of the CoIs of its members on the Immunise Australia website to improve transparency. It is anticipated this information will be published in March 2015.”
    (The letter is accessible via this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9ZVuVqOGTd5ZkgtRm14eXNTOHc/view )

    Checking the Immunise Australia website, the information on conflicts of interest is now finally available – refer to this document which discloses potential conflicts of interest for members and ex-officio members of ATAGI: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/87143EFA535E0367CA2575BD001C80C5/$File/2015-ATAGI-conflict-interest.pdf

    The document makes for interesting reading as many of the members, and an ex-officio member, of ATAGI have associations with pharmaceutical companies via funding for clinical trials and travel expenses.

    I requested this information from then Health Minister Nicola Roxon in November 2011 and from then ATAGI Chair Professor Terry Nolan in March 2013 – why has it been kept secret for so long? Why do citizens such as myself have to fight for access to this information in our liberal democracy?

    It is notable that only information for current members and ex-officio members of ATAGI is currently accessible. I suggest it is imperative that this information be retrospective and also detail associations with the pharmaceutical industry of previous members.

    For instance Professor Terry Nolan has only recently departed the ATAGI Chair, yet there is no information on his potential conflicts of interest in the recently published document.

    An article published in Australian Doctor in November 2005 titled “We’ll be fast: new vax boss” notes that: “The new head of the Federal Government’s revised vaccine advisory group, Professor Terry Nolan, will prioritise timely responses to new vaccines and industry developments…”

    As Professor Nolan has overseen the addition of vaccine products to the national schedule during his long tenure, including the Merck/bioCSL Gardasil HPV vaccine and GlaxoSmithKline’s Priorix-Tetra measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine, I suggest it is imperative that potential conflicts of interest during his tenure should also be disclosed.

    I will pursue this matter further.

    Elizabeth Hart

    * While the letter is written in the ‘first person’, it is curious that no individual has signed the letter, the sign-off merely stating “Immunisation Branch Department of Health”, with no signature and no date.

  29. Speaking of ‘experts’…. Last night the Australian current affairs program Lateline featured an interview with Ben Goldacre, discussing “his campaign to stop drug companies burying the results of their clinical trials”.

    The interview transcript can be accessed via this link: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4218048.htm

    Ben Goldacre is a self-styled guru promoting evidence-based medicine. However, it has been my experience that his Bad Science Forum has a blind spot when it comes to critiquing vaccine products…

    I have endeavoured to raise serious discussion about individual vaccine products on Goldacre’s Bad Science forum but was met with hostility and derision by people, mostly hiding behind pseudonyms, who were intent on closing down discussion on vaccination and protecting the status quo.

    I was ‘permanently banned’ from participating in the ‘Bad Science’ forum in December 2012, ostensibly for not responding to a sarcastic and time-wasting person hiding behind the apt pseudonym ‘Pipsqueak’, so the opportunity to publicly air concerns about vaccination on this popular UK-based forum was closed to me. Any questioning of vaccine products and the vaccine industry is effectively forbidden on the ‘Bad Science’ forum.

    Indeed, this attitude is reflected in general society where it seems that any questioning of vaccination is taboo. It is truly frightening the way legitimate concerns about vaccination are stifled in our so-called democratic society. As a result, more and more lucrative vaccine products are added to national vaccination schedules, with little or no consultation with the community. There is a serious lack of transparency and accountability in this area.

    In regards to Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science forum, these are the discussion threads on which I tried to discuss vaccination:

    – Is the MMR ‘booster’ necessary? http://www.badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=28015
    – Is universal HPV vaccination necessary? http://www.badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=31857
    – Whooping cough epidemic – caused by vaccination? http://www.badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=31879
    – Lethal flu virus research… http://www.badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=27118
    – Cancer and immunology http://www.badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=15273
    – Swine Flu – Where did it go? http://www.badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=14209&p=328769
    – Unnecessary vaccination of pets / Daily mail article http://www.badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=15335

    • I was just saying I was planning to impeach the Director of Ontario’s Drug Benefit program over his testimony during a 2014 hearing where he stated, under oath mind you, that all the drugs provided under our Drug Benefit program have been proven to work. The evidence, FROM THE MANUFACTURER which stated right on the cover that it had never been proven to work, missed ending up in the court publication, so did all my other evidence, now that I brought that up.
      I was / am attacked on Quoradotcom by Shills constantly, who have no evidence, and worse, the real evidence is disappearing from the internet, including citations, thanks to #GoogleCensoringLife take for example the real trials against that skanky shill at QuackWatch Stephen Barrett #WikipediaControlledBySockPuppets #WikipediaOwnedByBigPHarmYa where he admitted to being a paid shill and the courts said he was no expert so he couldn’t testify, heck your GP would qualify as an expert in Canadian courts.

      • I feel obliged to comment on the statement about GPs being allowed to testify as experts in Canada . This has happened many times but the supreme Court of Canada had made this practice unacceptable in any court or tribunal.
        In R v Mohan, the Supreme Court of Canada laid down four rules with respect to medical/legal experts:
        1.The evidence must be relevant.
        2. It must assist the judge and jury and must not include information about which the lay public is expected to be knowledgeable.
        3.It must not be admissible under any other circumstance i.e. it must not be used to introduce through a “back door” evidence that would be otherwise inadmissible
        4. Most importantly, the expert must have specialized knowledge on the subject on which he/she is testifying. Anything beyond his/her area of medicine is inadmissible.
        The Canadian Medical Protective Association underscores this requirement that testimony be within the witness’s area of specialization. A quote from comments about the Goudge enquiry:” Judges have done a poor job of preventing expert witnesses from testifying in areas where they lack expertise, a widely respected former judge told the Goudge Commission yesterday. “I think we’ve been drawn into thinking : “Oh well, of course, she is a medical doctor, or pathologist, or a pediatric pathologist “ so, of course we’ll receive their opinion,” said Patrick LeSage, former Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Ontario.
        It is, of course, the responsibility of lawyers and courts to be aware of these conditions with respect to medical expert testimony.
        With respect to the question posed by this thread, I am reminded of Socrates:
        Socrates (469 – 399 BC)
        “Most people, including ourselves, live in a world of relative ignorance. We are even comfortable with that ignorance, because it is all we know. When we first start facing truth, the process may be frightening, and many people run back to their old lives. But if you continue to seek truth, you will eventually be able to handle it better. In fact, you want more! It’s true that many people around you now may think you are weird or even a danger to society, but you don’t care. Once you’ve tasted the truth, you won’t ever want to go back to being ignorant. The only thing I am certain of is my own uncertainty.””

        • By the logic of Socrates as applied by Irene Campbell-Taylor (and I believe by David Healy as discussion host), nobody should need a medical license to practice medicine because nobody knows anything. That is a basic weakness of skepticism indulged for its own sake. All of us lose even the pretense of being able to reliably distinguish between genuine healers and self-anointed quacks. Nobody knows truth because nobody believes it can be determined in any systematic way.

          There are many cross-threads here and many experiential reports. There’s clearly a lot wrong with much of the medical literature and many of its practitioners. But what seems missing from the discussion and debate is any ability to generalize rules of behavior and practice for medical practitioners who are expected to exercise due care and caution on behalf of those who come to them with disease, disorder, or distress.

          Being a medical skeptic isn’t enough when it leads to social paralysis and the desertion of those in need. In the company of the very authorities whom you cricitize, you’ve created a quandary from which there is no apparent exit.

          So what is your way out of the maze? Or do you not care enough to name one? Is this not the very thing of which you accuse those whom you criticize? Physician, first heal thyself!


          • Richard

            You should check before drawing too many conclusions. I post most comments except those that are abusive on anonymous. I might have lots of reasons other than agreement to post this one. There’s lots about this that I don’t agree with.

            I think the basic point people are making across a range of comments is we live in a world where you cant believe the experts cited in the media anymore. They too often lie. This is quite a different position to not believing in the scientific method. I am not aware of a single comment from anyone here saying they don’t believe in the scientific method.


          • David,

            There is no single scientific method. There is the idealised simplistic reductionist conventional conception of a scientific method which schoolchildren and even undergraduates are taught is “the” scientific method.

            It is a fiction.

            See Professor Susan Haack’s excellent “Defending science, within reason” where a number of fictions about science are examined.

            I refer also to my previous comment April 8, 2015 at 4:01 pm

          • If science is done correctly, it is its own skeptic. Too many forget that when insisting on the “science” of a matter.

            However, I don’t adopt skepticism for the sake of it; I merely use it as tool of self-defense.

          • Richard:
            >nobody knows anything.

            Rubbish from a silly “great thinker” is still rubbish. We obviously have greater or lesser knowledge about things. If you Richard don’t know anything then best if you don’t waste our time telling us what you don’t know anyway.

            >nobody should need a medical license to practice medicine because

            ….. because:
            (1) ALL people have a right and duty to help others who are ill, and any bureaucratic laws which generate a conflict with that duty are an abomination.
            (2) People have a right to organise their own healthcare as they deem fit, without the meddling of fascistic nannies whose business it is none of.
            (3) More often than not, those doing the meddling or granting or removing the licences are not fit themselves in terms of honesty or competence. There is tons of evidence on this latter point. And I will be presenting many tons more shortly.

            David H:
            >They too often lie.

            Indeed but also too often they are so incompetent they wouldn’t know what the truth was anyway. As will be explained more fully in my book nearing completion.

  30. The notable problem illustrated in Barb Kuebler’s comment was that someone was apparently lying, whatever their level of expertise. There is certainly a big problem with arrogantly asserting things that are uncertain. Oddly enough someone sent me a quote earlier today of Richard Feynman saying exactly the same thing as Socrates, only in 1966 (and I remarked to them surely someone had said it before).

    As to Richard Lawhern that is plain silly. The systems to protect the public don’t work and many of us campaign to reform them, even if it causes him cognitive dissonace.

  31. Oh, that is not to say people do not believe in “the” scientific method. They do. It is what they were taught as children.

    Some people also believe in God.

    Whilst belief in God is a matter of choice and faith, belief in “the” scientific method is demonstrably a matter is being misled on a grand scale. Even hard bitten journalists believe in “the” scientific method.

    • >“the” scientific method

      Language can be useful for communicating but too much attachment to it can be counterproductive. Unless there is an obvious universally-shared meaning of a term it is more likely to be unhelpful than helpful. “The scientific method” does not present a clear single meaning to me. More useful would be the following concepts.
      – checking one’s hypotheses against evidence;
      – that checking to include seeking out evidence which would tend to disprove one’s hypothesis.
      – having regard to the wider theoretical context which may support or alternatively undermine the credibility of the bare evidence.

      My own concept of how science should proceed includes those three above. Others may have other ideas in theory and or in practice. Most people are rather lacking in objectivity anyway, so their efforts are somewhat doomed.

  32. Thank you for this enlightening article as well as some enlightening and respected comments. I know for sure that I am the expert in parenting my children – this includes being the expert in knowing and maintaining their health. Some parents do not have the education nor experience that I do so maybe they are not so expert at parenting and therefore turn to professionals appearing as experts in their given fields of work/knowledge. The experts all agree, science has proven repeatedly that cigarette smoking is bad to say the least, causes cancer and worse, causes death. It is not outlawed, it is taken up by free will by those who believe they need cigarettes. Exercise has been proven and all experts agree that to get and remain healthy everyone should exercise/be physically active every day. So far, it’s still my personal choice whether or not I get and maintain good health by the means that I deem work for me-physically and emotionally and on my schedule, etc. Experts also agree that we human beings have immune systems, not one immune function or response to infectious agents that exist in the world. Vaccines that get injected into the human body or that are swallowed, sniffed or consumed in a banana (flu vaccines?), bypass the typical ways vaccine ingredients would otherwise enter the body and that is a problem. Where you stand on the problem is personal choice. It’s not about herd immunity or public good or anyone else but yourself (or you to your children as a parent). I do not regularly ingest or otherwise put into my body, mercury, aluminum hydroxide, monkey kidneys, etc. especially in quantities that are in vaccines. However, I evaluate my personal situation (am I traveling to a foreign country? am I immunocompromised? etc) to determine which path to health works for me. Additionally, even if I work in a field where I am regularly in contact with mercury, lead, copper, formaldehyde, etc. I wear and use approved safety gear to minimize my personal exposure. So far, this personal freedom to be in charge of our own bodies is still a right in the world – yes, some countries infringe on this freedom with their lack of acknowledging human rights but that’s another topic.

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