Academic Authoritarianism and the Apparently Terminal decline of Allopathic Medicine within Australia.

A special report by Ghengis McKahn

(cub reporter for “Individual Empowerment”  ABN withheld)

On 13 July 2013, a special report into chiropractors was published on the ABC show Catalyst. This program has been widely and negatively commented upon as a piece of dishonest journalism. However it was not until I actually sat down and went through what was said that realised how bad the performance of the doctors was.

The transcript can be found here:

Upon my review I have concluded that 5 of the 6 doctors were in clear breach of “Good Medical Practice” and should face investigation by AHPRA the Australian Health Practitioners Authority:

The most obvious breaches are in section 4.2
4.2 Respect for medical colleagues and other healthcare professionals 

Good patient care is enhanced when there is mutual respect and clear communication between all healthcare professionals involved in the care of the patient. Good medical practice involves:

  1. 2.1 Communicating clearly, effectively, respectfully and promptly with other doctors and healthcare professionals caring for the patient.
  2. 2.2 Acknowledging and respecting the contribution of all healthcare professionals involved in the care of the patient.
  3. 2.3 Behaving professionally and courteously to colleagues and other practitioners including when using social media.

For the sake of simplicity, I will focus here on John Dwyer and John Cunningham. They are both well known, outspoken and aggressive critics of chiropractic.They are both members of the Friends of Science in Medicine (FOSM), a group regarded by many as a front organisation for Pharmaceutical Industry interests. I’m yet to formally confirm this for myself, but I am sure the documents will at some stage be sent to me through my now extensive network.

Dwyer is the president of FOSM. FOSM is closely allied to the Australian Skeptics and a rather unsavoury group called Stop the Anti vaccination Network  (SAVN) has been associated with systematic “outing” and attacks through AHPRA on anyone who they dislike. They openly boast of this on their website and have been tied to threats made to Meryl Dorey – the founder of the Australian Vaccination Network.

One piece of evidence for this is a text/twitter message from a Lord Ken McLeod revealing Meryl Dorey’s address and hinting that she should be burned to death.


SAVN have proudly claimed Mr John Cunningham as one of their own.


Dr John Cunningham one of the leaders of Stop the Australian( Anti) Vaccination Network.

He has been awarded an OAM, and in my eyes that is a reason for real Australians to feel deep shame. A follow up piece will document all the aggressive actions he has been involved in. However, for the moment the simple fact of his associations is enough. Many senior doctors in high places are also members- including the head of the Australian Medical Board Associate Prof Stephen Adelstein.

So, let’s have a look at the transcript. I will deal with Emeritus Professor John Dwyer first, then Cunningham. The others will keep for another day.

Emeritus Professor John Dwyer says “Much of modern chiropractic, unfortunately, has descended into the realm of quackery”. He has no qualification in chiropractic, and there is no evidence he has ever studied it closely. His careful phrase “much of it has descended into quackery” neatly avoids defining a group so precisely that he can be sued. This is a classic pseudoskeptic technique.” 

It is also in breach of section 4.2 of Good Medical Practice, the code of conduct for doctors.

It’s the move into paediatrics, and the enormous number of chiropractors who are trying to set up paediatric clinics and claiming that they can cure a range of paediatric conditions, that is really troublesome.

According to whom is it troublesome, and on what grounds?

Emeritus Professor John Dwyer says “I think it is. Dissatisfaction with a quickie turnover turnstile medicine approach is a factor that drives people into the misguided hands of people who are doing the patient no good at all.”

That they are doing patients “no good at all “is an unprovable statement- typical of the academic authoritarian. He is hoping to cover his lack of facts with the sheer force of his personality and his title.

So, let’s look at this statement:


This Sydney-based chiropractor claims to correct the length of a child’s leg with a clicking device called an activator.


First we adjust this. No complaints there, and you get an instant lengthening. See?

The issue here is just plain bad wording- what is corrected is the pelvic tilt, (not actual leg length- which would be absurd) and fully resolving it is a bigger issue- really needing ongoing care.

Emeritus Professor John Dwyer says I mean, what can you ask more? Just a few clicks and the child’s chronic problem is fixed. Deliberate misrepresentation- even given the poor wording an instant one off cure was not suggested buy the chiropractor. In fact, most conventional chiropractors recognise that regular and initially frequent treatments are needed to stabilise the situation.

The cost of carrying that pelvic tilt long term is very high. These postural deformities can be seen frequently in passing pedestrians. The uneven hip loading is really the only valid explanation for the extraordinary need for hip and knee replacements in our society. They are needed far less often in Asian nations as anyone who has been to Bali or Thailand and had their eyes open. I argue here that here that this statement constitutes Academic misconduct and another section 4.2 breach.

Emeritus Professor John Dwyer “Well, it’s totally unscientific. Obviously when you’re positioning a child on a bench like that, you could do anything with your legs, and then he moves the legs until they’re equal, and the random clicking away, from the buttocks to the upper spine, with the instant results, this is what is so objectionable. “

If the “Emeritus Professor John Dwyer” has any real doubts- why does he not talk to a few experienced chiropractors and sit in on them for a few sessions, and attend some of their education. He is surely not too old to learn. This does need to be dealt with by way of a notification (section 4.2) and the appropriate penalty here would be 100 hours of chiropractic education and a public apology.

We expect our academics to have open minds, he is not exempt from this requirement.

Emeritus Professor John Dwyer “It was interesting, that the adjustor is then used on the neck, where there are no anatomical structures that, if you altered them in any way, would fix leg shortening.”

Again, if he knew what he was talking about, instead of spouting his authoritarian rubbish, he would not say this. The reason is- in terms as simple as I can manage, that tight neck muscles cause distortion of proprioceptive input into the brainstem and this input is reflected as a sensory mismatch in the neural integrators- which then sends incorrect postural muscle tone instructions (It appears through the pontomedullary reticular formation, leading to a postural deformity of tight arm and extended leg muscles on the one side ( a “soft neurological syndrome” that resembles the decorticate rigidity seen in some strokes). Now I am still learning the fine details of this- so please accept my apology for any imperfections in my presentation.
Professor Dwyer is not a Friend of Science – he is its enemy.

Next Comment

Emeritus Professor John Dwyer “If he does really believe that he’s just cured a musculoskeletal problem that child had – a shortened leg – then that is really sad. That’s really dangerous, because, as Chekhov said, the quacks that the most dangerous are the ones that really believe it. The chiro did not say that he believed he cured it-that is Dwyer’s projection. “

His language of “a shortened leg” is a professional shorthand and does not reflect what the chiropractors know they are working on. The chiropractors need to tidy this language issue up.

However, Dwyer has (no doubt knowingly) taken and distorted 2 observations then thrown in the insult of “quack”. These manoeuvres are classic of academic authoritarianism– learning to rule by misdirecting people’s attention. I’m sorry, but that is a second rate cup and thimble trick. I’m sure that even James Randi could do better.

Again- academic misconduct and section 4.2 “Good Medical Practice”

Now Dwyer wants to have his cake and eat it. He complains that chiropractic is unscientific, it is not. He claims it has no evidence, I doubt he is young enough to read all the evidence in his remaining autumn years. Then he attacks the presence of chiropractic in the universities as a course. Now it is the assertion of the universities that they help develop people’s academic skills, so if his assertion about limited science is correct, then getting them into the universities is a good thing.

Emeritus Professor John Dwyer “I don’t believe that there is sufficient science to warrant university education. I think they should get out of the chiropractic business. There simply isn’t enough fundamental science in chiropractic to warrant a five-year course. And, I think, the universities, by supplying these courses, give credibility. Those people would be much better off spending their time enrolling in a physiotherapy course and learning a whole lot of practical evidence-based skills. There’s no place for chiropractic in a really strong, academically-based university.”

So here is an alternative view:

  1. 1)  Dwyer knows nothing about the evidence is there. Apparently, evidence does not exist unless he has seen it.
  2. 2)  If chiropractic is weak on evidence base- how better to improve that than have it taught at university? Why is he so intent on kneecapping a profession that has survived a long while despite the overt aggression and malice of the Medical profession. Ref (The Medical War against Chiropractors JC Smith) The book is well referenced and well laid out- I will require any would be critics to read it thoroughly before debating me.

So we have some clear evidence of the appalling behaviour of Emeritus Professor John Dwyer here.

Let’s look at Mr John Cunningham’s performance on the same program:

Mr John CunninghamThere’s no nerves that control hearing that have anything to do with the neck. They all come from the base of the skull, which simply cannot be influenced by any sort of spinal manipulation. I would have concern over someone’s appreciation of anatomy if they were to claim that the middle ear and Eustachian tube is affected in any way by a nerve that comes from the spine.”

False- proprioceptors from the spine feed into the acoustic nucleus and the output of the acoustic nucleus is altered by altered proprioceptive input. When one has a “subluxation” (also known within Australian General Practice as a malalignment or a fixated segment (Murtagh J: General Practice 6th edition Ch 62 pp 684 and 714).
All our senses and our motor output work through the summation of the incoming inputs to create a hypothesis of the nature of the outside world. This is not controversial to anyone up to date with current neurology published within the mainstream medical world.
Basic sources:

Descartes Error: Antonio Damasio Neurologist

Self Comes to Mind: Damasaio again.

How Do you Feel? A.D. Craig.  A.D. Craig is a neuranatomoist…  etc whose work has involved tracing the fine details of the interceptive pathways from the spinal cord through the brainstem, through the thalamic nuclei, to the interceptive cortex and to ultimate summation in the right anterior insula.

Clearly Mr Cunningham is not aware of this work. I have been very ill the last few years as my chiropractors and I struggled to repair the damage done by years of lack of chiropractic care, so I do have an axe to grind. However, I managed to read and assimilate all this despite severe brain fog, and dysautonomia, all of which are now resolved.

Mr Cunningham is professionally concerned with bolting damaged spines back together, not with understanding the subtleties of the networked functioning of the nervous system.He is also in breach of section 4.2 of Good Medical Practice. If he wished to make a statement on the matter, the least any responsible practitioner would have done would be to consult someone suitable in the chiropractic profession- and maybe even sit in on a few sessions with said chiropractor. We don’t need to be fighting like this all the time- it is not in the patient’s best interests. This is not the way in which mature practitioners should act.


Dr John Cunningham in breach of section 4.2 of Good Medical Practice.

Finally, both Cunningham and Dwyer are continually criticising chiropractic and the notion of the subluxation.Dwyer is speaking outside his area of expertise, but the situation with Cunningham is far more serious:

Cunningham is a spinal surgeon and is expected to be up to date with developments in his field. If he were he would know that a series of studies of Whiplash patients have proven beyond reasonable doubt the existence of these subluxations, and some of the mechanisms by which they cause pathology in humans.

Now what is happening here– is Mr Cunningham actually unaware of these studies, or is he aware of them but pretending he is not because such an admission would be politically inconvenient given his opposition to chiropractic?

If the second answer is correct that is disgraceful behaviour. If the first answer is correct that is worse- he cannot keep on top of his own field. The truth is he is too busy doing a PhD out of his field and using it to attack the fine academic work of Dr Judy Wilyman, in a display that I can only call caddish. That is why he can’t keep up. That is one of the key reasons for reporting him.

The critical studies were mostly done around 2006-2010, but some were earlier. The studies have been done by a collective of neurosurgeons, radiologists, and chiropractors on both sides of the Atlantic, including Dr Ralph Demadian, the inventor of the upright MRI.

Now this is an example of fine work, a positive, respectful mutually supportive relationship between colleagues of different professions. This is an example of what happens when the spirit of Section 4.2 of “Good Medical Practice” is adhered to.

I am sure that AHPRA will be able to override the Medical Board on this one.

Now that is enough for now. I’m reporting both of them to the Medical Board, and there had better be a full enquiry and not an attempt to push this to one side. The formal charge against Cunningham is infamous professional conduct.

As a parting thought:

Max Planck, the inventor of quantum physics once said:

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”

Well – we are in the midst of a mass extinction event. Let’s hope that the academic authoritarian meme is the next to go.

Posted in AHPRA, Anti Science, Articles, Australian Skeptics, Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI, Dr John Cunningham, Dr Judy Wilyman, Ken Mcleod, Meryl Dorey, Professor John Dwyer, real skepticism, Rejecting Skepticism, SAVN, Skeptics, Stop the Australian Vaccination Network, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Death threat sceptic crowned 2017 Skeptic of the Year

Christine Bayne, who, back in 2010, implored her Twitter followers to “put a bullet” in AVN founder Meryl Dorey’s brain has taken out the Australian Skeptics top award at Skepticon.

Christine Bayne’s 2010 tweets using Twitter handle @fuzztwin

In an attempt to avoid responsibility for those tweets, Christine Bayne made her tweets private for that Twitter account shortly after she posted them in 2010.  Her main Twitter handle currently is @DilutedThinking but there are others.

It is always a great source of amusement when the deceptively named Australian Skeptics hands out awards to its own for seriously questionable, if not, downright illegal activity, and let’s be honest; it’s not as if one would list this award on one’s CV.

The award seems to be reserved for the most repugnant of a repugnant lot.

Previous winners of Skeptic of the Year include anti-complementary medicine campaigner, Ken Harvey (2016), serial cyberstalker Reasonable Hank aka Peter Tierney (2014), Friends of Science in Medicine (2012) and Stop the Australian Vaccination Network (2010).

Dr. John Cunningham, a long time member of hate group, Stop the Australian Vaccination Network, was, quite ironically, awarded the 2017 Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason.

Trust Me I’m a Doctor and Voice of Reason – Dr. John Cunningham

Previous winners of the Thornett Award include none other than Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy (2016), Catherine and Greg Hughes (Light for Riley) (2015), and Toni and David McCaffery (2009).

Readers may recall that, earlier this year, the Murdoch media reported that Cunningham had attempted to coerce Village Cinemas in Melbourne into breaching its contract with the AVN, using financial inducements, after cinema management had refused to buckle under the weight of heavy mobbing and bullying from Cunningham and other fanatical sceptics.  Nice promotion of reason doc.

Trust Me I’m a Doctor and a Voice of Reason and I Have Loads of Cash So Do As You’re Told – Dr. John Cunningham

The AVN had made the booking with Village Cinemas as part of the hugely successful Vaxxed tour of the eastern seaboard of Australia, which included a screening and Q and A session at The Australian National University (ANU), no less.

Polly Tommey outside a lecture theatre at Australian National University

Cunningham has a longstanding obsession with freedom of choice/vaccine safety advocates.  In addition to relentlessly bullying and attacking AVN founder Meryl Dorey and Dr. Judy Wilyman for years, he has also targeted current AVN President (and widowed mother of eight), Tasha David.

In 2015, he publicly questioned the paternity of Tasha’s eight children not once but twice in two separate articles, claiming that the older six children had a different father from the youngest two.  He did this for the sole purpose of trying to discredit Tasha’s lived experience of raising six vaccinated children who suffer from a range of developmental and immune disorders, and two completely unvaccinated children who are extremely healthy and disorder free.  For the record, Tasha’s healthy unvaccinated children and severely vaccine injured children have the same father.

Just one example of John Cunningham questioning the paternity of Tasha David’s children

Cunningham’s defamatory claims are made worse by the fact that Tasha’s husband died suddenly in late 2010, and Tasha and their children were the ones who found him. Cunningham knew this before making his callous and false statements but he chose to disregard the emotional impact that these hurtful mistruths would have on Tasha and her family just so he could try and undermine Tasha’s family’s vaccine injury experiences.

In our opinion, Cunningham is not a fit and proper person to be a member of a profession which the general public holds in such high regard, yet the government have rewarded his tactics with an Order of Australia Medal for promoting immunisation.

Alas, an Australian Skeptics event wouldn’t be complete without some serious hating on, and mockery of vaccine safety activists.  In fine sceptic tradition, Catherine Hughes of Light for Riley fame gave a presentation denigrating “anti-vaxers” and “conspiracy theorists” on Day 2 of Skepticon.  Her presentation was called “The harsh reality of the anti-vaccination movement”, in which she even employed the cliché, tinfoil hat meme so loved by the sceptics.

Powerpoint slide banner used in Catherine Hughes’ “anti-vaxer” presentation

Such love from a person purporting to be merely promoting awareness of so-called vaccine-preventable disease.

Light for Riley followers could be forgiven for believing that Catherine Hughes is only a newcomer to the dirty business of vaccine activism.  After all, she’s only been at this since March 2015, right?


She’s actually a veteran anti-choice groupie.  On 27 March 2015, she made the following post to Stop the Australian Vaccination Network (SAVN) Facebook page, admitting to her longstanding commitment to the silencing of vaccination sceptics (the real sceptics).

Catherine Hughes’ post to Stop the Australian Vaccination Facebook page on 27 March 2015

Finally, in a major sceptic fail, Jane Hansen’s article about the so-called baby formula tampering scandal, has provided free, unprecedented, and worldwide publicity to Brandy Vaughan’s organisation, LearnTheRisk.Org.  Brandy went Live on Facebook to thank Jane for her help.

Thanks Jane. XXX


Posted in AHPRA, Anti Science, Articles, Australian Skeptics, Christine Bayne, Light for Riley, SAVN, Skepticism, Skeptics, Stop the Australian Vaccination Network, Tasha David, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Australian Skeptic loses attempted report to AHPRA

10 October 2018

My name is Andrew Kinsella

I am a registered Medical practitioner. I am currently off on sick leave after a nervous breakdown in early 2016. 

I have been fit for work for an extended period, and AHPRA were notified of this at the end of March 2018.

Despite that the process leading to my return to work is still dragging on 6 and 1/3 months later.This is typical of the lax and slovenly approach that marks all AHPRA actions.One of the restrictions on me has been a ban on publishing anything.

I have adhered by this, but given the retarded and incompetent response of that organisation I have decided to cease adhering by it. We can fight this out in court if that is their choice. The condition is unconstitutional.


On 27 July 2017 I was involved in an email discussion regarding the precise concerns around informed consent. I responded thinking that I had replied to only 2 people out of the 70 or so on the email list- however, buy mistake it went to all of them.

On 6 October 2017 I found myself at the centre of yet another notification, claiming professional misconduct. However, in due course that notification was rejected by AHPRA (10 April 2018 ref no available on application).

Much to my surprise, the final letter actually revealed the name of the notifier– a nasty little man who is suspected of making death threats against one Meryl Doery.

This vile individual is entangled with a large cluster of individuals of questionable character working under various pen names– “Stop the Antivaccination Network, Australian Skepticsp ( never was an organisation so dishonestly named) unless it it this one- the absurdly named “Friends of Science in Medicine.” This disgusting group makes me ashamed to be a doctor. Even their name is a lie.

If anyone wishes to wallow in the trough of swill that these groups produce I recommend looking at these sites:
Neither of these sites are regarded as mainstream journalism, but so far the mainstream media have resolutely refused to investigate these matters properly. I can only imagine why that should be.

From what I can see there are a number of serious crossovers. Most particularly Heather Yeatman, the dean of the school of Medicine at Wollongong University who has strong provaccination connections and associations with members of the Friends of Science In Medicine.

Now I do not know which of the 70 people on this list was responsible for dropping my name to the Aus Skeptics hatchet man, but I do know it failed.

I also know that in the context, any decent, honourable person would have called me and spoken to me to discuss the matter, rather than exploit the situation in an attempt to take another potential challenger out through trauma.

These people have been warned. AHPRA have been warned that they are aiding and abetting a bunch of sociopaths.

They can’t hide behind legal process forever. Not even for one more day. This letter will be followed up with a demand for an investigation.

Andrew Kinsella
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According to Fairfax journalist Kylar Loussikian, Dr Judy Wilyman has, “… no specific expertise in vaccination science.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 23.09.2018.

For your information, Kylar, Dr Judy Wilyman has, among other qualifications, a Master of Science degree in Population Health. This included a research project analysing the Australian Government’s Policy on Whooping Cough. Dr Wilyman has also completed a PhD on Australian Vaccination Policy, available on the University of Wollongong website.

Kylar Loussikian seems to have no specific expertise in investigative journalism, or any morals or ethics for that matter. His only qualification is a Commerce/Arts Degree from the University of NSW.

Expertise usually arises from a personal interest that stimulates one to study the background of a topic or issue, like a PhD.Standard degrees tend to qualify you to regurgitate the accepted position. It is shocking that journalists like Kylar are being presented with media awards, considering his articles that denigrate the academic research of professionals like Dr Wilyman.

Kylar also does not mention the important point that Australian doctors who agree with Dr Wilyman are at risk of losing their medical licenses. This threat has effectively gagged doctors from speaking out about vaccine issues.

Greg Hunt, Australian Federal Health Minister, said, “If it is accurate that there are registered doctors that are advocating an anti-vaccination position, then they will have the full force of the authorities come down on them.”

Herald Sun, 24.8.2017.

This was clearly demonstrated with the investigation of Dr John Piesse, not long after Greg Hunt made the above statement.

Kylar’s journalism is a thinly veiled piece of corporate pharmaceutical industry marketing. Its purpose is to destroy critics of their products. This has worked very effectively up until now. Independent voices on vaccines have been suffocated due to the powerful industry forces that control our government and media. See Elizabeth Hart’s presentation at The 2018 Sydney Vaccination Conference outlining all the industry conflicts of interest involved in Australia’s vaccination policy development.

Kylar’s past pieces against Dr Wilyman have also been constantly publicly praised by what have been described as ‘industry lobby groups’. Reasonable Hank, also known as Peter Tierney, is a well known member of both the Australian Skeptics and the Stop the AVN group. Reasonable Hank has been very vocal in his support of Kylar’s past articles and TV news interviews against Dr Wilyman. See tweets below.

Professor Brian Martin, University of Wollongong, has written a paper about the inaccuracies in Kylar’s past coverage of Dr Judy Wilyman’s thesis:

Another article by Professor Martin shows how Kylar’s incorrect journalism has been used by others to publicly defame Dr Wilyman’s research.

The powerful JP Morgan group also has a vested interest in the owner of the Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax Media. JP Morgan group is the second biggest shareholder in Fairfax.

JP Morgan is closely aligned with pharmaceutical companies, particularly GlaxoSmithKline. The group is also openly invested in the global vaccine market.

If you connect the dots, controlling interests like JP Morgan have a major say at Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald, and ofcourse this would include influence over their journalists.

On 26 July 2018, Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment Co announced they had agreed on terms for a merger between the two companies to become Australia’s largest media company. Shareholders in Nine Entertainment Co. will own 51.1 percent of the combined entity and Fairfax shareholders will own 48.9 percent.

The public would be better informed if they listened only to independent media sources. New players on the Australian media scene such as The Australian National Review are not connected with the pharmaceutical industry in any way.

#boycottfairfax #boycottmurdoch

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“Science based medicine and scholarship based medicine”. Twitwatch article 1

By Honest Skepticism Esq
I’m sure you are all as aware of the skeptic brigade as I am. It took an unacceptably long time for me to find the functional neurology treatment that I needed to save my life.
I saw the nasty review on Dr Melillo’s clinic. and have seen all sorts of garbage from sites that are allegedly science based or skeptical. With a bit of patience though you can find that they are based on non arguments.

Skeptic Stephen Novella left with Skeptics Founder James Randi 

Assistant Professor Stephen Novella is a clinical neurologist, very anti chiropractic, and apparently regards himself as quite the critical thinker (according to his wikipedia entry)
Fair enough, I’m critical of his thinking too. He has already  been humiliated on National TV after he debated Dr Oz on alternative Medicine.  Here is one where has a go at functional neurology, and the great Prof Carrick.
Now Im not going to go through the whole article this morning- but this is enough- for now.
“A search on PubMed for “Carrick T” yielded nothing, and searching on “chiropractic neurology” yielded mostly studies about neurological complications from chiropractic treatment. There was one letter from the President of the International Academy of Chiropractic Neurology.”
So he apparently believes that one should search authors on Pubmed by nickname. Carrick FR yields very different results. “Functional Neurology” is just not a good search term (nor, I guess, is “dill”, nor “shill” ). I was wondering why his searches were so incompetent, as it is inconceivable that an Associate Professor would have such dismal skills.
However many lay people do not have great skills. It seems that this is a little underhanded stunt to give the impression of academic authority and a scientific base. Something to suck in the people who are reading something they want to believe in the space that they occupy in the astroturf. Lets face it they are usually lab tehnicians and science groupiesrather than people who do science. I think this is a disgrace and should be reported as academic misconduct.
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Dick Smith’s role in setting up the Australian Skeptics & surpassing the Vaccination Debate

Newsletter 209 Part 2 The Suppression of Scientific Debate on Vaccines in Australia

29 August 2018

As you read the information below please take note that the Australian Government has mandated with financial incentives 16 vaccines (~51 doses) for children for welfare benefits and access to early childhood education. This has resulted in discriminatory social welfare policies, the banning of many healthy children from early childhood education and university students who cannot choose careers in health without receiving 10 – 16 vaccines. These are vaccines that most adults have never used and they did not control these diseases in the Australian community by creating herd immunity.     

Currently the Australian government is “educating” the population to believe that vaccine reactions are “rare” and that vaccines are thoroughly tested before they are approved in populations. This information is false and I have provided the evidence in my university PhD research.

The evidence is also provided in this 4 minute video clip of the recent law suit against the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that found that vaccine manufacturers are not testing vaccines with true inert placebos or for long-term cumulative health effects before they are marketed in the population.

In the 70’s and 80’s it was known that vaccines were causing thousands of injuries and deaths and this was resulting in many law suits. But these disabilities and illnesses were covered up when the US government passed a law in 1986 removing liability from pharmaceutical companies for any damage that is caused by a vaccine. 

As Australia does not have a vaccine injury compensation scheme (unlike many other countries) the Australian government has health ministers that are informing the community that “vaccines do not have any side-effects” (Victorian Health Minister, Jillian Hennessy) and a Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt who dismisses the risks of vaccines as an “anti-vaccination campaign“.

So how have we reached this point in Australia where politicians and journalists are being “educated” with false and misleading information about vaccines provided by lobby group activists and rogue doctors that are condoned in making false claims about university research in the mainstream media and on social media?


Dr John Cunningham (Spinal Medicine not Vaccination) 

This is a result of the establishment of the powerful Australian Skeptics / SAVN and Friends of Science in Medicine lobby groups. Prominent activists in this organisation have a loud voice with politicians, in the media, and on social media and they are providing false information about my university research on vaccines. This includes Ken McLeod (a retired air traffic controller), Dr. John Cunningham(spinal medicine – not vaccination) and Dr. Rachael Dunlop (PhD in heart research – not vaccination).



Retired Air traffic controller Skeptic Ken Mcleod

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) that runs the industry sponsored Australian Immunisation Conference, supports these lobby groups to promote false information about vaccines. This includes PHAA president, University of Wollongong, Professor Heather Yeatman (Nutrition – not vaccination) who has been permitted to advertise the government’s false claims about vaccines on the University of Wollongong website – without ever having specialised in vaccination or infectious diseases.

How did the Australian Skeptics and its offshoot lobby groups come into being?

The Establishment of the Australian Skeptics in Australia 

In July 1980 prominent Australian, Dick Smith, collaborated with renowned skeptic, James Randi, founder of the US Committee of Skeptical Inquiry (an organisation that promotes corporate interests) to set up the Australian Skeptics lobby group.

Dick Smith also funded the first full page advertisement for the Stop the Australian Vaccination Network (SAVN) – an offshoot of the Australian Skeptics – in the Australian Newspaper in 2008/09.This advert derided the Australian Vaccination Network – a grassroots citizen group advocating for choice in vaccination.


Australian Skeptics L-R; President Eran Segev, Philip Peters, Peter Rodgers, secretary John Sweatman, Dick Smith founder of Australian skeptics, Vice President Richard Saunders, Vice President Rachael Dunlop, Peter “Ratbag” Bowditch

At this time I was presenting my university research at the Australian National Health Promotion Conference in Perth (2009), in the PHAA newsletter (2009) and at public forums with the Australian Vaccination Network.  

The advertisement funded by Dick Smith was written by the Australian Skeptic Committee and future adverts were funded by the SAVN page subscriber and other doners (Eran Segrev, Australian Skeptic president 2012).

SAVN was set up as an anonymous facebook page in 2009 called Stop the AVN (SAVN) Facebook Friends with the only contact being “The Young Australian Skeptics”. This anonymity enabled the SAVN facebook friends to use abuse and ridicule to defame professionals and academics who presented the risks of vaccines – with impunity.

Whilst the funding arracgements for the Australian Skeptics/SAVN lobby group are hidden, their agenda that focuses only on infectious diseases that are claimed to be prevented by a vaccine provides evidence that they are not a true grassroots citizen group. This is because they are actively suppressing and ignoring the skyrocketing chronic illness in children, including autism, that is increasing with the expansion of the vaccination schedule

This is further evidence that their agenda is not solely about the “health” of children as would be the case for a true grassroots movement. This is an example of astroturfing and the spreading of propaganda. In 2013 Richard Di Natale, leader of the Greens, defended the disreputatble activities of many SAVN activists in the Australian Federal Parliament – with false information about this lobby group.

The push for the No Jab No Pay social welfare policy was driven by the  Australian Skeptics/SAVN activists and the Friends of Science in Medicine in the News Corp (Murdoch) media and on Mia Freedman’s MamaMia blog, It was approved by Scott Morrison, the Social Services Minister in 2015 for implementation in January 2016 based on false and misleading information.

Here is a 5 minute comment on this web of conflicts of interest of lobby group activities that is being described to the Washington Board of Health. Please also watch this 4 min clip describing the history of the removal of liability from big pharma for any harm caused by vaccines –  The US Loses Landmark Vaccine Law Suit.

Judy Wilyman PhD
Bachelor of Science, University of NSW
Diploma of Education (Science), University of Wollongong
Master of Science (Population Health), Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Wollongong.
PhD in The Science and Politics of the Australian Government’s Vaccination Program, UOW School of Humanities and Social Inquiry. 


Posted in Anti Science, Australian Skeptics, Dr John Cunningham, Dr Judy Wilyman, James Randi, SAVN, Skepticism, Skeptics, Stop the Australian Vaccination Network | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

O Hank, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive


Response to Hanks blog by Brett Smith in black bold italics
Anti-vaccination doxxing and defamation, the HCCC, and Holdsworth House Medical Practice

Posted on February 8, 2018 by reasonable hank

This post will be a little self-indulgent, in that it has been coming for a long time – fifteen months in the making – and that the circumstances surrounding the doxxing, defamation and vilification of a complete stranger, by anti-vaccination activists, continues to this day.

All your posts are self indulgent. That is of course when they aren’t stalking, doxing & defaming. 

Directly related to the above is another subject which pertains to the alleged illegal sharing of my personal mobile phone number to anti-vaccination activists, I argue, originating out of Holdsworth House Medical Practice (HHMP), in Sydney. Whether or not HHMP knows that they are the source of the alleged illegal sharing of my phone number is up for debate. Below, I will include HHMP’s response to an investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), regarding a complaint that was lodged about the alleged illegal sharing of my personal information by this healthcare provider. HHMP has not and has never assisted me with any requests I have made of them in this matter.


Remember all, that here is where this anonymous little coward was ringing a nurse’s workplace to have her sacked. Let that sink in for a minute. This wretched little thing spends his days stalking and doxing midwives doctors and nurses who actually have the courage to question vaccine safety. Then he has the nerve to complain that somehow his phone number got out into the real world. 

Pete, when you ring as many workplaces as you do trying to have nurses sacked, your number is eventually gonna get out there. Snitches get stitches as they used to say. 

I will also include responses from the investigating police station at the time, which would appear to be in conflict with the claims made by HHMP to the HCCC. I argue that this is enough to have the HCCC take another look at the claims made by HHMP and, in particular, its staff.


My name is Peter Tierney. I live on the New South Wales South Coast. I am not a healthcare practitioner. I am single. I am a full-time, single parent to my two kids. You can hear my voice in this ABC North Coast interview about this exact topic. This exact topic exemplifies best why I keep my identity – apart from my name – and those of my children, a secret. Check out my testimonials page for further examples as to why this secrecy is a good idea.


I love it when Pete starts moaning about his lot in life.  He is the gift that keeps giving. 

First up, let me be transparent. I despise the Australian Skeptics and the Friends of Science in Medicine. These are front groups for pharmaceutical companies to attack the families of vaccine damaged children and dox any healthcare professional who raises the urgent issue of vaccine safety. 


Australian Skeptics L-R; President Eran Segev, Philip Peters, Peter Rodgers, secretary John Sweatman, Dick Smith founder of Australian skeptics, Vice President Richard Saunders, Vice President Rachael Dunlop, Peter “Ratbag” Bowditch.

Only a select few are paid for their antisocial behaviour, Tiernan being one. Most are just lonely degenerates who want to belong to something (anything) so they can get by without the financial benefit. Then you have the poor souls who are actually true believers. They honestly believe Merck has a patient’s best interests at heart and profit is secondary to pharma saving the world. 

Now while I hold a special contempt for the actual doctors in these groups (they can and do know better), at least they have the courage to troll under their own names. They have to really, because pharma wants the public to see a real doctor selling their bogus vaccine schedule. They can’t just have a dole bludging father of two leading the charge. Zero credibility. But, and it’s the only concession I will make for the Skeptic doctors, they do it in their own names. John (JC Bigears) Cunningham of course, has multiple anonymous accounts because his love of trolling and stalking women online is too great to suppress. 

Back to Pete though. For some reason he needs his anonymity. For some reason his case is so ‘special’ amongst his crazed skeptic crew, that he needs to be anonymous. We shall find out why as we move forward. Of course, there is the possibility that Hank is the Skeptic’s biggest coward?

My name is not Peter Tiernan. Peter Tiernan lives on the NSW North Coast. He is a healthcare practitioner (a physiotherapist). He is married. As far as I know he has one daughter. You can hear his voice in this ABC North Coast interview about this exact topic, given the day before my interview.


Ok, let’s try & keep up with Pete’s forked tongue and warped mind here, shall we?

So Hank claims to be Peter Tierney and this poor innocent soul above, Peter Tiernan, is just some innocent bystander caught in crazy antivax crossfire. At this point let us accept that as truth. Let’s ask ‘Tierney’ where he went to school and with whom? We’re also curious about his relationship to the McCaffery family. How odd would it be if we had a Peter Tiernan and a Peter Tierney who both went to school with Jane (pharma stooge) Hansen and both were intricately related to the McCaffery family? Wouldn’t that just be an astounding coincidence?


Peter Tiernan was school captain of Mullumbimby High School in 1983 and was in the same class as Jane Hansen.

In the course of investigations into this whole debacle, NSW Police verified both of our identities as separate individuals living in different regions of NSW. We both did this in person, at our local police stations, using our real faces and our real driver’s licences with our real names on them.

Fact or fiction? As the Skeptic tools are so fond of saying, “citation please”? 

Anti-vaccination activists, led by Belgin Colak-Arslan and the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network’s Brett Smith, both of Sydney, wrongly identified Mr Tiernan as me, because: our names are similar; he grew up with the McCaffery family, whom I have known only since 2009; he went to school with journalist Jane Hansen, whom I have only known, but, never met in person, since about 2010; and he is a healthcare practitioner.


Interesting links. Let’s dig deeper. I usually do not like to involve families who have suffered regardless as to whether I agree with their views or not, but Pete continues to hide behind them so I have no choice. 

The McCaffery family tragically lost a baby to whooping cough. Dana McCaffery was only 4 weeks old when she passed away. This is without doubt the worst tragedy a family can endure and for that I am truly sorry. 

This is, coincidentally, where Reasonable Hank was born.  This timing is important. At the time (2009/10), the AVN’s Meryl Dorey was pretty much the only brave soul publicly questioning vaccine safety. She had been subjected to some very vicious attacks by the likes of Peter Bowditch, Ken Mcleod, and Daniel Raffaele. Ultimately this led to public disgrace for the trio when threatening video of them attacking Meryl was posted on youtube (yes, grown men with their own children smh). Here is the link.


It all fell apart when Dan R was caught making threatening phone calls at 2am telling Meryl she was “gonna die in a fire” and Ken M posted her address online. Check this video out


Ken Mcleod posting Meryl Dorey’s address online to incite violence in his hate group Stop the AVN

Pharma was pissed. Their credibility was utterly destroyed and the anonymous Reasonable Hank was born. Check Hank/Bowditch blogs to see how these disgraced creeps nurtured baby Hank into the fully fledged shit sandwich that he is,of course, there is the possibility that Hank is the Skeptic’s biggest coward?.

Hank (‘Tierney’) was outraged that Meryl Dorey publicly challenged the pharma/Skeptic line that poor Dana McCaffery had died from a disease that she caught only because ‘antivaxxers’ refused to vaccinate their children. This truly highlights why morons like Tiernan should never get involved in adult debates, as the pertussis vaccine not only does not work, it spreads the disease it is supposed to protect you from. It is truly criminal to promote this vaccine to anyone let alone the family & friends of new born babies. 

Meryl, correctly, said no. The pharma/government policy recommending that all family members and visitors of new born babies have a whooping cough vaccine, was responsible for spreading the disease and was not only a zero benefit to the community, it probably led directly to the death of this poor child. 

Oh boy, the Skeptics did not like that & voila! a new blogger to attack Meryl and the AVN was born. Peter ‘Tierney’ aka Reasonable Hank aka Peter Tiernan, led the charge with the disgraced trio mentoring his twisted development all the way.

Basically, antivaxers put two and two together and got potato.

Umm, no Pete, we got you. Slowly now, ‘Tierney’ tells us he lives on the South Coast. I don’t deny that possibility, in fact I believe he did at some point. Right next door to his buddy Ken Mc. 

Coincidentally so do many members of the Tiernan family. Same suburb. Interestingly, many have links to the ABC, which I won’t go into at any length right now. Note all the access the ABC gave ‘Tierney’ and Tiernan to tell ‘their’ side of the story. The radio interview where Tiernan actually doxes himself is priceless radio. He also admits to no one having made any threats to his or his family’s safety. When the poor interviewer Joanne Shoebridge, desperate for some juice gives up on any threat made to Tiernan she asks,

What about this Reasonable Hank? Has he had any threats?

“oh yeah, just this morning I, he got this….” whoops! Doxing yourself 101.

Back to this ABC media run of this dull story. Maybe old Hanky can fill us all in on how many Tiernan siblings work for the ABC? Should we look into that mate? Hopefully the public broadcaster was not used to spread a little “Unreasonable Wank” fake news? Hate to see abuse like that. Can you confirm how many Tiernan siblings work at the ABC? Would love to have that cleared up, cheers mate.  

Then they mashed the potato and doxxed Peter Tiernan and his extended family, and continue to defame and vilify Peter Tiernan to this day. They contacted his daughter and his wife on Facebook, for God’s sake. They contacted him at work and threatened him.

Lies. Listen to the interview, particularly at the 2 minute mark. Not once does ‘Tiernan’ say he was threatened. 

At the same time let’s remember that Pete got himself into this position because he rang the workplace of a nurse to have her sacked. No shame. No shame at all. 

He had to shut down his social media presence and change his phone number.

“I was planning to take it down anyway”

“no death threats made” to Tiernan. Poor Hank never lets fact stand in the way of a crap blog.

His work had to start screening his calls due to the threats and abuse. Belgin Arslan even published his address on a public Facebook thread, eliciting a threat from deranged anti-vaccination activist Frank Vazquez:


For greater detail on the doxxing, please read these two articles on the whole doxxing debacle, by Diluted Thinking:

The Doxxing of Peter Tiernan – an Overview

The Doxxing of Peter Tiernan – the Doxxers


Pharma troll referencing pharma troll. How cute. 

So, what tipped these antivax conspiracy theorists over the edge into illegality, apart from their usual Dunning-Kruger certainty?

Look at Pete, so deranged and deluded he actually wrote, “in the course of collecting evidence for my blog series on anti-vaccine nurses and midwives, I came across a Sydney nurse – whom I had noticed some months previously”

Who does this deluded creep think he is? An anonymous little twerp on a mission from Merck?

The nurses and doctors standing up to government & Bad Pharma on the issue of vaccine safety are true heroes. They are losing their jobs and being ridiculed and defamed by an anonymous clown like Hank who spends his days trolling, stalking, & doxing these brave men & women. On taxpayer’s & pharma’s money. 

On October 18 2016, in the course of collecting evidence for my blog series on anti-vaccine nurses and midwives, I came across a Sydney nurse – whom I had noticed some months previously – who bragged in the Anti-Vaccination Australia Facebook group that her workplace knew about and condoned her anti-vaccination activism:

I’m a nurse and will continue to say what I believe about vaccines. They can shove their guidelines up there ass

…my boss and colleagues all know my views on this issue and are fine with it. I have worked here for a long time and my views and beliefs are no secret to anyone in my workplace so I think I’m safe 

 This nurse was Loretta Blaikie (AKA Loretta Salakas, AKA Loretta Baxter). Blaikie included the name of her employer on her public Facebook profile. Blaikie’s employer is/was Holdsworth House Medical Practice. Exercising due diligence,

“Exercising due diligence”?

You mean stalking and doxing taken to it’s most shameful level. Ringing this woman’s workplace to have her sacked. Disgraceful. 

I called HHMP to verify that she did in fact work there. This was confirmed by the receptionist. I advised the receptionist that I would require Blaikie’s AHPRA registration number – to facilitate a complaint about her anti-vaccination activism that cited her employer’s imprimatur

Hank would have been a wonderful gestapo agent except those creeps at least eyeballed you before they shot you in the back. Hank does it from the safety of his mum’s/dad’s/taxpayer’s funded basement. 

– as Blaikie was not using her AHPRA-searchable, registered names in her antivax activism. The receptionist told me I would need to talk to the nursing unit manager, that the nursing unit manager was unavailable, and that I could leave my name and number for the nursing unit manager. I agreed to leaving my name and number for the stated and specific use of the nursing unit manager only, and for no-one else. I stated that the call was confidential.

Ha! ‘Course ya wanted it confidential. You are a born coward. 

I received no reply from the nursing unit manager, and so left another message the next morning, October 19 2016, re-stipulating all of the above. Again, I received no reply from the nursing unit manager.

On October 20 2016, at 0819 hours, I published my article on Blaikie: Anti-vaccine nurses and midwives 26.

Blaikie has since had restrictions placed on her registration:

The registrant must not work as an enrolled nurse until reviewed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of New South Wales and this condition is removed.

A letter sent to complainants, on August 21 2017, by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of NSW, states the following:

Complaint about Ms Loretta Lee Blaikie

Thank you for your letter dated 21 October 2016 about Ms Loretta Lee Blaikie.

The Council considered your complaint and additional information, and decided to take urgent interim action under section 150 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.

Interim conditions have been imposed on Ms Loretta Lee Blaikie’s registration to protect the public. Information about these conditions are available on AHPRA’s website These conditions are temporary and will remain in place until removed, amended by the Council or the complaint is finalised.

This coward is so deluded he proudly displays the results of his despicable activities online. If a normal human being with any decency actually felt committed enough to behave like this you would think they would at least have the decency to be secretly shamed by their actions. Not Hank. Like a sick dog returning to lick up his vomit, he drops this disgraceful act on our doormats as proudly as a sick dog can.


On October 20 2016, at 1742 hours, I received a phone call from a senior-constable at a South-Western Sydney police station, who was acting on an in-person complaint of harassment lodged by Loretta Blaikie. I was skeptical that the senior-constable was indeed a police officer due to his thuggish demeanour, his reluctance to provide the phone number for the police station, his vague threats to arrest me, and his devolving argumentation and intimidation which ended in him calling me a “grub.” After some days, verifying with my local police that the call had indeed come from a serving police officer, I lodged a complaint about the officer which resulted in his chief-inspector apologising to me for his behaviour – on November 25 2016 – even though the senior-constable refused to apologise. I agreed to settle my complaint via an informal process. At no stage did I seek disciplinary action. I only ever requested an apology.


It’s not often I agree with the NSW police force but in this instance, hats off, salute! You Pete, are a grub. 

When you apologise to all you have slandered, doxed, and called grubs maybe, just maybe, you can bleat about the apologies you believe you deserve. You take the love you make in this world Pete. 

While on the subject of NSW police though, Hank, can you confirm whether or not your/’Tiernan’s’ dad was/is a Byron Bay detective? Hate to see police resources being wasted on pharma troll liars like yourself. 


While this NSW Police complaint process was ongoing, a friend had lodged a complaint about HHMP to the NSW HCCC – expanded below – regarding the alleged illegal release of my phone number to anti-vaccination activists. A brief account of the fallout of this alleged illegal release of my number – apart from having to change my mobile phone number for valid safety reasons – is as follows.

You can’t laugh hard enough at an anonymous little creep who was so tight he couldn’t be bothered to buy a $2 sim card for all his defamatory and doxing behaviour. Bet ya have one now you evil little bugger! 

Note to self: next time I dox a hard working health professional I will invest $2 is another sim card. If Hank was a bank robber, the cops would be waiting for him when he arrived home. He would have robbed the bank in his own car. Doh! 

Problem for Hank and this complaint is his number had been in circulation for months before the doxing of this brave nurse. Months you fool and you know it. 

On October 20 2016, at 1833 hours,


1833 hours? Hank the dole bludger likes to appear very precise. His buddy Ken taught him well. 

I received a phone call from anti-vaccination activist Belgin Arslan, on mobile phone number 04******69, who conveyed to me that she had just obtained my private, unlisted phone number from a ‘private messaging thread where my phone number was being shared amongst dozens of anti-vaccination activists’. Arslan refused to state the name of the individual who had started this Facebook messaging thread. On October 22 2016 at 1415 hours, Arslan called me again, this time denying that she obtained my mobile phone number from a private antivax messaging thread. She instead claimed she was given the number by Herald Sun Health Editor Grant MacArthur. Arslan then claimed it was given to her by a female Herald Sun receptionist who gave Arslan my number, after checking through messages which had been left (I had not left any messages with the Herald Sun). Grant MacArthur expressly denied these claims as false and impossible, in an email to me. Colak then begged for her name to be left out of any reports to police on this matter. Colak called and texted me several times throughout the day. She continued attempting to call and text me until the end of October 2016. In an act which speaks volumes to Arslan’s deceit and attempt to cover her tracks, and the tracks of others, she texted me to claim that she and Loretta Blaikie had only become Facebook friends on October 23 2016. I know this is a lie. They had already been Facebook friends for several months when I posted my blog post on Blaikie:



Oh what a tangled web we weave when at first we start to deceive. What is and what is not true ?I’m pretty sure Pete does not either. 

October 20 2016, at 2037 hours, I received a phone call from anti-vaccination activist Brett Smith misrepresenting himself as “Dr Andrew Gowrie” of Holdsworth House, on 04******14. He stated that he was the “on-call doctor”. He stated that he was prompted to call me by, and “on behalf of [his] boss” Dr Dick Quan, Managing Director of HHMP. He stated that he was tasked by Dr Quan to investigate any breaches of privacy at Holdsworth House Medical Practice. On October 21 2016, Smith also sent a text, impersonating Dr Andrew Gowers (a real doctor at HHMP):


Ah the delicious irony. Gowrie, Gower? Tierney, Tiernan? Note the text sender Andrew Gowrie is simply Andrew Gowrie, not Dr Andrew Gowrie. Not very observant is old Hanky. So desperate to have a nurse sacked he does not take the time to read his texts slowly. 

Not a lot of the rest of that little Hank ramble is true either, but suffice to say, old Hankie tried his damnedest to have the nurse in question sacked whilst at the same time bleating long & hard about his lot in life. He was way more pathetic in real life than I could ever imagine. Why don’t you just give permission for the audio to be released Pete? Scared? Worried you will look like the pathetic little creep you really are? What are your real concerns here? You got nothing to hide? Right?


October 22 2016 at 1142 hours

I received another phone call from Dr “Andrew Gowrie”. I recognised Brett Smith’s voice on this occasion and searched for a previous message where his number was shared with me. It is the same phone number as this June 16 2016 Facebook message, from Brett Smith:



And it’s also the same number Smith publicly posted to a friend, in 2016, with Smith going on to threaten to assault my friend, over the phone:


Ha! Big Smiffy? Let me tell you a funny story about Big Smiffy. For the time being I will keep his identity a secret. Suffice to say, he is a Brisbane Skeptic. He is a big lump of a man (also a big cat) who specialises is stalking the mothers of vaccine injured/killed children online. Like all big, bad, online bullies their resolve dies when faced with the reality of somebody calling them out. Big Smiffy is one of the most (unintentionally) hilarious trolls I have ever come across. The night he doxed himself by posting, get this, his own home rate notice on Twitter was the most fun I’ve ever had with a Skeptic (unless of course we count the time I caught his fellow Brisbane Skeptic scumbag mate at a vaccination safety rally in Mullumbimby). Poor Smiffy, dumb bastard. thought he’d redacted his actual address. Little did this numbskull realise the address was also typed neatly in the top right hand corner. Doh! 

So, Big Smiffy, as per usual, was making all his standard big threats from the safety of his living room keyboard and I sent the above text. To his credit the poor fool rang. Let’s just say, after giving him a few quick tips on Twitter etiquette, I have never heard from that big pussy cat ever again. If you’re still out their Marty, thanks for the memories. 

When I publicly tweeted that I was now aware of Smith’s impersonation of Dr Andrew Gowers, Smith texted me again:


Smith texted again on October 31 2016, attempting to intimidate me with blog posts:



The threat of doxing the serial doxer? Exposing this anonymous little creep? When Hank does it, it is “due diligence”, when it happens to Hankie it is “threatening” “intimidation”. This sad muppet has no idea how ridiculous his stance is. 

Also note that ‘Tierney’ was given the right of reply. He could have, at any point, manned up and said hey wait, you got the wrong guy. Did he? Nope. By his own admission Hank just sat back and let an ‘innocent man’ get doxed. Was his cowardice too hard for him to overcome? Why did you sit back and do nothing Pete? ‘Tiernan’ was also given 48 hours to respond/reply to the blog. ‘He’ also did nothing. Wonder why?

The threats, intimidation, defamation, and doxxing of Peter Tiernan and me then kicked off, in earnest. This Dropbox collection contains over a dozen PDFs of evidence of this attack on Peter Tiernan and me. Smith published three blog posts based on his and Arslan’s poor investigative skills, all defaming Peter Tiernan,


I love this bit: “defamed”? How so? Because he was ‘mistakenly’ identified as Reasonable Hank? Isn’t Reasonable Hank a brave individual who just promotes vaccination 24/7 as a service to the community? Wouldn’t any virtuous individual love to be mistaken for Hank? Wouldn’t it be like one of the disciples being mistaken for Christ? I would think most would be proud to be just compared to the mighty Hank? Like Spartacus, I am Reasonable Hank? At least Hank has enough self-awareness to realise no one wants to be mistaken for him. No one. 

a completely innocent man.

We shall thoroughly review Tiernan’s innocence as we progress. 

These blog posts remain published and Smith retweets them on a regular basis. Given that Smith is aware – even via his own solicitor – that NSW Police have verified that Peter Tiernan is not me, I would argue that Smith’s continued defamation and vilification of Peter Tiernan falls into the category of criminal defamation:


Pete knows as much about defamation law as he does about immunology. Anyone who wants to have a crack though is welcome to step up to the plate… 

No, the police have not advised me that Reasonable Hank is not Peter Tiernan. Ever. Nor have they advised my solicitor. Untrue. A detective from Byron Bay did contact me but I was advised Peter Tiernan’s father was an ex Byron Bay detective. I advised the polite fellow that if he felt a crime had been committed he should arrest somebody. The end result of that was zero.

I then had a female detective from North Sydney turn up at a clinic I once practiced from to tell me,  “no you haven’t committed a crime we are just sending you a message. Take that blog down, now”!?

Huh? Just sending a message? Looks like Tiernan’s dad was a detective I guess.

The blogs were not taken down as I still stand by them. 

“Smith then started implying – with the assistance of Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network – that we are involved in paedophilia:”


Feel free at any time to look into the skeptic’s founder, failed magician, James Randi. One very creepy individual who perfectly represents all that the Skeptics are. A dirty front group for one of the most criminally corrupt industries the world has ever seen, the pharmaceutical industry.

I have heard many disturbing things about Reasonable Hank and have seen first hand his disgraceful and disturbing behaviour and that of his Skeptic peers. Do I think Hank is a paedophile? No. Do I think the Skeptics are infested with them? Yes. It will all come out in the wash, it always does. Just wait and see over the next few years how many ‘ex-Skeptics’ end up convicted over these heinous crimes.   

Here is the Skeptic founder and leader James Randi procurring an underage boy for sex.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 9.40.45 am

“Arslan and Smith have also repeatedly boasted of being in the possession of illegally recorded  telephone conversations between themselves, me, and Peter Tiernan. In NSW, this is a breach of the NSW Surveillance Devices Act. Both are aware that they did not have permission to record the phone calls, nor share the illegal recordings, nor publish the illegal recordings. To date they have not publicly published these recordings.”


In the process of making/editing a documentary I was making on the Australian Skeptics at that time, a camera was inadvertently left on during my call with Hank. It has never been shared publicly, though if Hankie had nothing to hide I suppose he could give permission for it to be? 

Your call, Braveheart. What you got to fear?

So, we are back to where we started from. Hank? Who is he? Tierney or Tiernan or both?

This was a text sent to me a couple of years ago, before this blog was even just a glint in my eye.  You recognise the style Hanky? Anyway until this source retires s/he shall remain anonymous. She/he knows you pretty well Hanky…..knows your interesting ‘backstory’ which even I will admit sounds particularly ‘interesting’. I really can’t wait to finalise your story Pete, write that final chapter. Til then, slowly, slowly, catchy monkey. 
“The c%*t  stalked me in the early days of SAVN so I set about researching him. Contrary to speculation, his real name is Peter Alexander Tierney. He used the name Peter Letienne for a while on Facebook and has also used the names Louise Linton and Deb Manion but there would be others. He lives (or at least used to) in
******* St  Narrawallee NSW. He moved there from the Northern Rivers.
His kids attended ****** Public School and it’s possible he is related
to the McCafferys, the original poster parents for WHooping Cough
propaganda. .His picture used to be available on this member list but has since
been taken down. The Wayback machine may have archived it but I
haven’t checked. “

For Hank’s  moronic blog to be factual Peter Tierney AND Peter Tiernan had to both, somehow, attend the same high school on the North Coast, both be school chums with Jane (Pharma Troll) Hansen, and both cousins/best buddies of the McCaffery family. AND not know it ‘til my blog was posted.

At this point I have not gone into the links between Tiernan’s parents & their links to the McCaffery family. I have not gone into the links between Tiernan’s siblings and the ABC. I have not gone into details of Tiernan family connections to the Byron Bay Police. I have not gone into details of the Tiernan family and the Dana McCaffery charity.  I can though if you really need more info Pete? How deep shall we go? 

So, let’s clear this up once and for all. A public challenge. A charity boxing match? Winner takes all? 

‘Peter Tierney’, Peter Tiernan, and ‘Big Smiffy’ v Me. 

Yep. ‘Three’ skeptics v One Quack. All at the same time. If the Skeptics win, the money goes to McCaffery charity. When I win, the money goes to the AVN. What do you say, Pete?  Come out from underneath that bed. Stop all the cowardice, all the lies, Let the truth set you free. Stop hiding while all your other dirty Skeptic mates shoulder the burden of being. Whadd’ya say punky? 


Posted in Australian Skeptics, Dr John Cunningham, Jane Hansen, Ken Mcleod, Light for Riley, Meryl Dorey, Peter Tiernan, Peter Tierney, Reasonable Hank, Skeptics, Stop the Australian Vaccination Network | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Prominent Blogger Spoke Out About Sexism in her Skeptic Community. Then Came the Rape Threats

It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too

I spoke out about sexual harassment among atheists and scientists. Then came the rape threats.

Screenshot via
Rebecca Watson.

Photo by Larry Auerbach.

I’m a skeptic. Not the kind that believes the 9/11 attacks were the product of a grand Jewish conspiracy—we hate those guys. “Stop stealing the word ‘skeptic,’ ” we tell them, but they don’t listen to us because they assume we’re just part of the grand Jewish conspiracy too.

No, I’m the kind of skeptic who enjoys exposés of psychics and homeopaths and other charlatans who fool the public either through self-delusion or for fun and profit. It’s not just me—I’m part of a growing community (some would even call it a movement) consisting of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who value science and critical thinking. We’re represented by organizations such as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which was established in 1976 and has included fellows like Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, and Bill Nye.

I learned about the skeptics back in college, when I worked in a magic store and performed gigs on the side. I was a huge fan of James “The Amazing” Randi, a magician who offers a million dollars to anyone who can prove they have paranormal abilities. (There’s a huge overlap between magicians and skeptics, both of whom are interested in the ways we fool ourselves.)


When I first started finding a large audience on my skepticism website, on my podcast, and on YouTube, I wasn’t terribly bothered by the occasional rape threat, sexist slur, or insult about my looks. There was something downright amusing about a creationist calling me a cunt while praying that I’d find the love of Jesus. The threats were coming from outside of my community. Outside of my safe space.

It wasn’t until I started talking about feminism to skeptics that I realized I didn’t have a safe space.

When I first got involved with the skeptics, I thought I had found my people—a community that enjoyed educating the public about science and critical thinking. The sense of belonging I felt was akin, I imagine, to what other people feel at church. (I wouldn’t exactly know—like most skeptics, I’m an atheist.) I felt we were doing important work: making a better, more rational world and protecting people from being taken advantage of. At conventions, skeptic speakers and the audience were mostly male, but I figured that was something we could balance out with a bit of hard work and good PR.

Then women started telling me stories about sexism at skeptic events, experiences that made them uncomfortable enough to never return. At first, I wasn’t able to fully understand their feelings as I had never had a problem existing in male-dominated spaces. But after a few years of blogging, podcasting, and speaking at skeptics’ conferences, I began to get emails from strangers who detailed their sexual fantasies about me. I was occasionally grabbed and groped without consent at events. And then I made the grave mistake of responding to a fellow skeptic’s YouTube video in which he stated that male circumcision was just as harmful as female genital mutilation (FGM). I replied to say that while I personally am opposed to any non-medical genital mutilation, FGM is often much, much more damaging than male circumcision.


The response from male atheists was overwhelming. This is one example:

“honestly, and i mean HONESTLY.. you deserve to be raped and tortured and killed. swear id laugh if i could”

I started checking out the social media profiles of the people sending me these messages, and learned that they were often adults who were active in the skeptic and atheist communities. They were reading the same blogs as I was and attending the same events. These were “my people,” and they were the worst.

Thinking the solution was to educate the community, I started giving talks about the areas where feminism and skepticism overlap. I encouraged audiences to get involved with issues like ending FGM, fighting the anti-woman pseudoscience of the religious right, and aiding those branded as “witches” in rural African villages.


In June of 2011, I was on a panel at an atheist conference in Dublin. The topic was “Communicating Atheism,” and I was excited to join Richard Dawkins, one of the most famous atheists in the world, with several documentaries and bestselling books to his name. Dawkins used his time to criticize Phil Plait, an astronomer who the year prior had given a talk in which he argued for skeptics to be kinder. I used my time to talk about what it’s like for me to communicate atheism online, and how being a woman might affect the response I receive, as in rape threats and other sexual comments.

The audience was receptive, and afterward I spent many hours in the hotel bar discussing issues of gender, objectification, and misogyny with other thoughtful atheists. At around 4 a.m., I excused myself, announcing that I was exhausted and heading to bed in preparation for another day of talks.

As I got to the elevator, a man who I had not yet spoken with directly broke away from the group and joined me. As the doors closed, he said to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting. Would you like to come back to my hotel room for coffee?” I politely declined and got off the elevator when it hit my floor.

A few days later, I was making a video about the trip and I decided to use that as an example of how not to behave at conferences if you want to make women feel safe and comfortable. After all, it seemed rather obvious to me that if your goal is to get sex or even just companionship, the very worst way to go about attaining that goal is to attend a conference, listen to a woman speak for 12 hours about how uncomfortable she is being sexualized at conferences, wait for her to express a desire to go to sleep, follow her into an isolated space, and then suggest she go back to your hotel room for “coffee,” which, by the way, is available at the hotel bar you just left.


What I said in my video, exactly, was, “Guys, don’t do that,” with a bit of a laugh and a shrug. What legions of angry atheists apparently heard was, “Guys, I won’t stop hating men until I get 2 million YouTube comments calling me a ‘cunt.’ ” The skeptics boldly rose to the imagined challenge.

Even Dawkins weighed in. He hadn’t said anything while sitting next to me in Dublin as I described the treatment I got, but a month later he left this sarcastic comment on a friend’s blog:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and … yawn … don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.


Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so …

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


Dawkins’ seal of approval only encouraged the haters. My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page.


Twitter accounts were made in my name and used to tweet horrible things to celebrities and my friends. (The worst accounts were deleted by Twitter, but some, such as this one, are allowed to remain so long as they remove my name.) Entire blogs were created about me, obsessively cataloging everything I’ve ever said and (quite pathetically) attempting to dig up dirt in my past. The best they seemed to come up with was that I obtained a bachelor of science in communication from Boston University. The horror! I actually made a joke about this in one of the first talks I ever gave, many years ago: “Don’t take my word for it—I’m not a scientist. I have a BS in communication. I literally majored in talking bullshit.”

Nevertheless, my shameful past as a college graduate was “exposed” and passed around on social media and forums and blogs, as triumphant skeptics demanded I stop writing and speaking about science since I lacked the proper credentials. (Interestingly, no one has ever petitioned for my three non-scientist podcast cohosts to be removed from the show. Probably just a coincidence.)

Just a week after Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima” comment, I was scheduled to speak at The Amazing Meeting (TAM), a skeptics’ conference in Las Vegas that in years past I had fundraised thousands of dollars to send dozens of women to. In the weeks leading up to TAM, a man tweeted that he was attending and that if he ran into me in an elevator, he’d assault me. 

Screenshot via Twitter.

Screenshot via Twitter.

The organizers of the conference, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF)—the organization started by the person who first introduced me to skepticism—allowed the man to attend the conference and did nothing to reassure me. I attended anyway and never went anywhere alone. This past year I finally stopped attending TAM when the organizers blamed me and other harassed women in our community for driving women away by talking about our harassment.

Other skeptical organizations have been more compassionate. Center for Inquiry (the umbrella organization for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry), American Atheists, and several humanist organizations have enacted anti-harassment policies for their conferences. But still, there are leaders in the skepticism community who refuse to accept that there is a problem, and those who play the “both sides are wrong” game, insinuating that “misogynist” is just as bad an insult as “cunt.”

Meanwhile, other skeptical women are being bullied out of the spotlight and even out of their homes. My fellow writer on Skepchick, Amy Davis Roth, moved after her home address was posted on a forum dedicated to hating feminist skeptics. In September, blogger Greta Christina wrote that “when I open my mouth to talk about anything more controversial than Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster recipes or Six More Atheists Who Are Totally Awesome, I can expect a barrage of hatred, abuse, humiliation, death threats, rape threats, and more.” And Jen McCreight stopped blogging and accepting speaking engagements altogether. “I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few),” she wrote. “I just can’t take it anymore.”

I know that this article will only rile up the sexist skeptics. I’ll hear about how I’m a slut who deserves whatever I get, about how I’m a liar who made everything up, about how I’ve overreacted, and about how I should just ignore the trolls and they’ll go away. I’ve written this article anyway, because I strongly believe that the goals of skeptics are good ones, like strengthening science education, protecting consumers, and deepening our knowledge of human psychology. Those goals will never be met if we continue to fester as a middling subculture that not only ignores social issues but is actively antagonistic toward progressive thought.

I also believe that old line about sunlight being the best disinfectant. Ignoring bullies does not make them go away. For the most part, the people harassing us aren’t just fishing for a reaction—they want our silence. They’re angry that feminist thought has a platform in “their community.” What they don’t get is that it’s also my community.

Posted in Anti Science, Atheism, James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), Sexism, Skepticism, Skeptics, Skeptive Dissonance, Social Skepticism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment



Stephen Bond

Former Skeptic rejects the Skeptic Movement and explains why


This is not a tale of how I found Jesus, of how acupuncture cured my haemorrhoids, or of how my alien abductors revealed the ultimate truth about 9/11. I still have no faith in anything supernatural, mystical, psychical or spiritual. I still regard the scientific method as the best way to model reality, and reason as the best way to uncover truth. I’m no longer a skeptic, but not one of my core beliefs has changed.

What has changed is that I have come to reject skepticism as an identity. Shared identities like skepticism are problematic at the best of times, for numerous reasons, but I can accept them as a means of giving power and a voice to the disenfranchised. And indeed, this is how skeptics like to portray themselves: an embattled minority standing up for science, the lone redoubt of reason in an irrational world, the vanguard against the old order of ignorance and superstition. As a skeptic, I was happy to accept this narrative and believe I was shoring up the barricades.

However, it’s a narrative that corresponds poorly with reality. In the modern world, science, technology and reason are central and vital, and this is widely recognised, including at the highest level. On any major political decision, the technocrat speaks louder than the bishop, or anyone else, for that matter. Sure, Bush and Blair were noted god-botherers, but if you seriously think that, say, Gulf War 2 was their decision alone, or that that “God wills it” would have convinced anyone they had to convince, then you’re subscribing to a cartoon view of history. Such decisions are always calculated, reasoned, and backed by dozens of accommodating scientific experts.

Science has a high media profile and a powerful lobby group: in the midst of a global recession and sweeping government cuts, science funding has generally held up or even increased. Hi-tech corporations have massive wealth and influence, and their products are omnipresent and seen as ever more desirable. In fact, the world today would be unthinkable without the products of science and technology, which have infiltrated into almost every economic, political and social process. We live in a world created by and ever-more dependent on science, technology and reason, in which scientists and engineers are a valued and indispensable elite.

That’s right: the nerds won, decades ago, and they’re now as thoroughly established as any other part of the establishment. And while nerds a relatively new elite, they’re overwhelmingly the same as the old: rich, white, male, and desperate to hang onto what they’ve got. And I have come to realise that skepticism, in their hands, is just another tool to secure and advance their privileged position, and beat down their inferiors. As a skeptic, I was not shoring up the revolutionary barricades: instead, I was cheering on the Tsar’s cavalry.


Of course, there is nothing inherently elitist about reason or the scientific method. Critical thinking involves applying a few simple rules that are accessible to everyone, at least in theory. And indeed, a lot of people become skeptics for the best of intentions: to spread the word of reason and critical thinking, to arm the masses rather than shoot them down. In highlighting bunk and deception wherever it occurs, their aim is to protect the vulnerable against the hucksters, charlatans, politicians and priests who exploit them.

But such is the character of skepticism that good intentions quickly get swamped by bad ones. Look past the crocodile tears on any online debunking forum, and you’ll quickly find that the majority of visitors are not drawn there by concern for the victims of irrationality, but by contempt. They’re there to laugh at idiots. I’m not going to plead innocence here: I’ve often joined in with the laughter, at least vicariously; laughing at idiots can be fun. But in the context of skeptic sites, the laughter takes on a bullying and unhealthy tone. It’s never pleasant to watch a group of university graduates ganging up to sneer at people denied their advantages in life, especially when for some of them it’s a full-time hobby. It’s an unfair fight between unequal resources, and far too few skeptics care about this inequality or want to do anything about it.

If anything, I’m convinced that most of them would prefer to keep the resources unequal. The average skeptic has little time for spreading the word of reason to the educationally or intellectually lacking. His superior reason is what separates him from the chumps around him, and he has no interest in closing the gap. For him, the appeal of the skeptic clique is its exclusivity. It’s a refuge from the stupid masses, and a marker of his own special privileges. It’s Mensa rebranded.

About ten years ago there was a short-lived movement to rebrand skeptics as “brights”. This proposal was widely derided within the community, perhaps because it revealed too much about the skeptic mindset. Many skeptics indeed see themselves as “brights” in a world of “dims”. And rather than illuminate the world, they prefer to gather on skeptic forums and try to outshine each other.

Online forums, whatever their subject, can be forbidding places for the newcomer; over time, most of them tend to become dominated by small groups of snotty know-it-alls who stamp their personalities over the proceedings. But skeptic forums are uniquely meant for such people. A skeptic forum valorises (and in some cases, fetishises) competitive geekery, gratuitous cleverness, macho displays of erudition. It’s a gathering of rationality’s hard men, thumping their chests, showing off their muscular logic, glancing sideways to compare their skeptical endowment with the next guy, sniffing the air for signs of weakness. Together, they create an oppressive, sweaty, locker-room atmosphere that helps keep uncomfortable demographics away.


One demographic skeptics are particularly uncomfortable with is the female of the species. It’s an increasingly acknowledged fact that the skeptic community is rife with sexism — especially in the wake of the “elevator guy” controversy, about which more later. Women are a small minority in the skeptic world, and the few who get involved get shit thrown at them constantly by their skeptic peers. Every day, they suffer the whole gamut of attitudes from sneering to leering.

[Note by Jime: see an example of sexism and misogyny by male skeptics and atheists in this link

Skepticism, of course, is only one of the many online interests which attract barely-closeted sexists. But the particular attraction of skepticism is also its particular problem: it allows the sexist to disguise his prejudice as rationality and “common sense”. You can spot guys like this easily on skeptic forums: the word “feminism” brings them crawling out, like slugs after a downpour. For them, feminism is an unscientific discipline (but how could it be otherwise?), as nonsensical as astrology or Roman Catholicism, and as ripe and essential for debunking. They’re okay with women’s lib, within reason; but now it’s gone too far, and the firm hand of reason must rein it in. Reason, weirdly enough, never seems to disrupt their own grip on power. It’s always on the side of the patriarchy.

To be fair, such unabashed sexists are a minority on skeptic forums, but to be fairer, the general attitude to women isn’t exactly healthy. Women are present on skeptic forums in much the same way that women are present in early Star Trek episodes: while the men can take on a variety of roles, the women are always sex characters. Their every attribute is sexualised and objectified. Intelligence in a male skeptic is taken for granted; intelligence in a female skeptic is a turn-on. When a male scientist knows about science, it’s expected and goes unremarked; when a female scientist knows about science, she’s hot! And she’ll be barely visible beneath the throng of nerds trying to fap off over her lab coat.

Too often, the skeptic nerd who tries to display his women-friendly credentials ends up revealing himself only as a sexist creep. He’s all in favour of women, as long as they satisfy his own ideals of what a woman should be. This kind of attitude is typified by the skeptic-oriented webcomic xkcd. “I like nerdy girls”, says Randall Munroe — but can he tolerate any others? I looked through hundreds of his stick-figure strips, god help me, and where his females are characterised at all, they inevitably conform to the same constructed ideal — geeky, quirky, all-knowing, whimsical — an ideal largely constructed around Randall himself, or his own self-image. This female ideal says a lot more about his vanity than his feminism; and it’s an ideal shared by many guys in the skeptic community.

Idealising women is not the same thing as feminism — in fact, it’s usually the opposite. Throughout history, the concept of the “perfect female” has been more about men forcing their impressions on women, stifling them, not allowing them a voice. The Virgin Mary was not a progressive figure, and neither was Joan of Arc, and neither is the skeptic chick of your dreams, guys, whoever she may be. Wrapping women up in your clammy fantasies is not much different from wrapping them up in a burkha.


Only a minority of Muslim women wear burkhas; some of them do so by choice, as a statement of cultural identity. Some others do so purely on the insistence of the men in their family. Some of those men are traditional sexists of the kind you might find in the skeptic community; many of the others are guided by the same kind of wrongheaded chivalry that makes nerds idealise quirky science chicks.

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet unduly, but I believe the above paragraph to be a more measured and factual statement about Islam than you will find in all the work of Prof. Richard Dawkins or his co-thinkers. In fact, in the skeptic community it’s much more common to find statements insinuating that all Muslims are women-hating, freedom-hating, clit-butchering, suicidal terrorists, and furthermore, find those statements accepted without comment. Under the guise of atheism, liberalism and rationality, ugly Islamophobia thrives.
A recent shocking example occured in the aftermath of the so-called elevator guy controversy. At a skeptic conference in Dublin, prominent skeptic Rebecca Watson (aka “Skepchick”) was propositioned by some creep in an elevator at 4am. She politely refused and later video-blogged about the incident, saying that, guys, elevator come-ons are not such a good idea. Fair enough, one might think. But predictably for the skeptic community, her words incited the fury of a number of sexists, including Prof. Richard Dawkins, who couldn’t resist dragging in one of his other prejudices from left-field. It’s worth quoting his words in full:

Dear Muslima
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so…
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

This comment was not made by some low-rent Youtube troll, or by a declared BNP member, or even by a malicious impostor; as was later confirmed by PZ Myers, these are the words of Richard Dawkins himself. That’s the Richard Dawkins, author of Unweaving the Rainbow and The Blind Watchmaker, professor emeritus for the public understanding of science at Oxford university, the skeptic’s ultimate skeptic. And his words are hate speech, plain and simple.

As is typical of hatemongers, Dawkins is careful not to name his target directly: instead, he works with insinuation — though that said, calling the victim “Muslima” is particularly crass. As is also typical of hatemongers, he builds us a generalised picture from a number of isolated and unrelated instances. Female genital mutilation, for example, is nothing to do with Islam, as Dawkins probably knows, though he’s quite happy to throw it in there and suggest it’s endemic. The effect of his screed is to portray Islam as a kind of institutionalised woman-torture in which all Muslim men are complicit, thus slandering about half a billion people, and furthering the agenda of Fox News and the “war on terror”. (Incidentally, the irony of the first paragraph doesn’t conceal Dawkins’ lack of compassion for the plight of “Muslima”. Looking for an example of skeptical crocodile tears? I can think of none better.)

To their credit, many big-name skeptics (including PZ Myers and Phil Plait) called Dawkins out on his obvious sexism; but to my knowledge — and correct me if I’m wrong — not one of them has said a word about his Islamophobia. It seems as though this racist trash is as accepted within the skeptic community as it evidently is within the common rooms of Oxbridge.

And racist trash is what it is. Some Dawkins apologists claim that he is not Islamophobic, but simply a militant atheist combatting the evils of religion wherever he sees them; but Dawkins sees his evils rather selectively. Indeed, he is markedly sympathetic towards the faith of his childhood, the good old C of E — so much so that I suspect the “God Delusion” per se is not his main concern. From his writings, I gather that Dawkins would be content to live in a world where gentle Anglican vicars presided over their bored, civilised congregations in England’s vales and hills, while the British Empire did its dirty work elsewhere, in places like Kenya, India, and West Cork. He saves his real ire for the creeds of the unruly natives — all those nasty Muslims and Catholics and tribalists who don’t know their place. Not that he’d want to associate himself with the bloodshed done in his name. Like a lot of gentle liberals, he hypocritically declared himself against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while continuing to poison the atmosphere in their favour with his hate speech. At least his buddy Christopher Hitchens, for all his thuggery, was consistent enough to follow his views to their logical, and repugnant, conclusion. But then, Hitchens is better aware of what skepticism is.


As we have seen, skepticism is a broad and varied church — welcoming, among others, elitist, sexist and racist views. One thing all skeptics have in common, though, is that they support the freedoms they believe to exist in present-day western civilization, and think those freedoms should be spread worldwide. In other words, all skeptics are neoliberals. They might disagree, like Hitchens and Dawkins, over the correct strategy to win the latest neoliberal crusade, but they can usually be relied upon to support it, at least in principle.

All skeptics are neoliberals: if you do not consider yourself a neoliberal, you should not consider yourself a skeptic. I realise this can sound like a contentious claim, so please let me explain.
Skeptics are people who believe in the primacy of the scientific method as a source of knowledge. For a skeptic, all knowledge derived through other means is either inferior or spurious. Extreme skeptics like Dawkins come close to claiming that the scientific method is the onlytrue source of knowledge, and that what is presently non-scientific knowledge — like morals and culture — will eventually become more rigorously and correctly established through the scientific method.

The scientific method generally involves observation of reality, hypothesis based on observation, and experimental testing of hypothesis. All of these elements, particularly the first and third, involve the use of human perception — which, when building models of objective reality, can introduce a dangerously subjective element.

We perceive the world through metaphors: mental models that help us interpret and understand our raw perceptions, and construct our observations. Some of these metaphors are inherited and probably immutable without some kind of biological engineering: a rock wall is mostly empty space, but we’ve evolved to see it as solid mass. Other metaphors are learned, and liable to change or be transmitted to others in the environment. As an example, one can regard events as having apurpose, or one can regard events as having a cause; these are very different metaphors, that lead to very different perceptions of reality. The existence of such metaphors is uncontroversial, by the way; this isn’t wishy-washy pomo stuff. Even Dawkins acknowledges them: he calls them memes.

Our observations are conditioned by the metaphors we have been exposed to culturally, socially, and in our society’s history. This is what Newton meant when he said he stood on the shoulders of giants: he was acknowledging the accumulation of metaphors which helped him make his discoveries. Some of these metaphors were provided by scientists, like Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler. Others were provided by philosophers, like Descartes and Francis Bacon, who helped transform the way people looked at the world, introducing a mechanistic and empirical view. Other metaphors still came from the cultural, political, social, economic and even religious transformations experienced in Europe in the previous two hundred years. The decline of feudalism, the emergence of a strong middle-class, renaissance humanism, the Protestant reformation, all had a profound effect on the way Europeans of Newton’s time could perceive the world. (And all those transformations in turn were influenced by the influx of Islamic culture in the preceding centuries, pillaged during the crusades….)

It’s impossible to imagine the breakthroughs of Newton or Copernicus or Descartes happening in 14th-century Europe. The medieval mind did not perceive the world in the right way to make them. It was too clouded with metaphors of heaven and hell and angels and divine will and oaths and tithes and loyalty and hierarchy and feudal exchange; metaphors that, in our understanding, obscured its perception of reality. When these metaphors were transformed and replaced, people could see more clearly; but these transformations were not and could not have been wrought by the scientific method alone, even if such a thing existed at the time. Scientific advance was inseparable from political, social, and economic advance. And the same has been true of all scientific advances. It’s just as impossible to imagine Darwin’s breakthrough in Newton’s time, or Heisenberg’s in Darwin’s time.

Skeptics, in insisting on the primacy of scientific knowledge, deny the value of non-scientific metaphors in future scientific advance. As far as they are concerned, western liberal democracies have made all the political, social, cultural and economic advances they need to. Western thought is already so free that anyone who tries can perceive reality direct and unmediated, with no obscuring metaphors in the way. To the trained western eye, the truth simply reveals itself, in as much detail as our scientific understanding allows. It’s difficult to imagine a more absolute statement of confidence in liberal democracy.

Similarly, when skeptics insist that scientific thinking should be spread worldwide, they necessarily mean that liberal democracy should be spread worldwide. Which is to say, they are neoliberals.

This is not the place to describe the many problems and hypocrisies of neoliberalism. Suffice it to say that I do not believe that liberal democracy, which condemns the majority of the world’s population to varying degrees of slavery, is a perfect system. I do not believe that the metaphors of liberal democracy allow us a perfect view of reality. And therefore I do not believe in the primacy of the scientific method as a source of knowledge. It might be the best we’ve got, but when it comes to human advancement — including the advance of science itself — other sources of knowledge can be just as useful, and often more important.

It is my hope that human beings will one day live in a more just society, a more free society, than any that has yet existed in our history. I am certain that the people of such a society would look back at us and regard our minds as clouded today as we regard those of medieval peasants, and look back on those who insisted we had it all — today’s skeptics prominent among them — as we look on friars, preachers, despots and other historical enemies of progress.


Because we perceive the world through metaphors, all observations, theories, experiments, statements and facts have a context, including a political context. Our science is necessarily and unavoidably contaminated by our political system; political ideologies propagate through science, and science on its own is incapable of purging them. This is widely understood by people who study scientists, but less often by scientists themselves, and never by skeptics.

Skeptics like to portray science as a hermetically-sealed, self-correcting enterprise, where false theories naturally yield to conflicting evidence, and the truth will always out. To support this position they always trot out the same old anecdotes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read the heartwarming tale of the old geologist who happily dismantled his life’s work once the truth of plate tectonics was demonstrated to him. However, the history of science shows that such tales are the exception, and that old theories, and old scientists, have greater stubbornness. Much more common is the scenario described by Max Planck:

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

This “new generation”, not incidentally, tends to be armed with new political attitudes.

The idea that politics could or should have any input into science is anathema to skeptics. They often bring out the examples of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union, or the racial science of Nazi Germany, to illustrate the dangers of allowing science to be contaminated by political ideology. They less often acknowledge that racial science was not unique to Nazi Germany, and that the same kind of racist garbage was enthusiastically pursued by scientists in the most enlightened liberal democracies of the time, and found in all the standard British and American anthropology textbooks. Eugenics, including racial eugenics, wasn’t just supported by Nazis, but by people who considered themselves among the vanguard of all that was good and progressive. Liberal democracy was no guard against the influence of political ideology on scientific thought. (On the contrary, liberal democracy is a political ideology that influences scientific thought.

What’s more, skeptics never acknowledge that racial science was defeated by political ideology, and not by science itself. In fact, there was nothing that could have defeated it within the empirical framework of racial scientists. Their racist experiments confirmed their racist hypotheses based on their racist observations. But while the science supported them, politics, in the aftermath of World War 2 and the Holocaust, did not. After 1945, racial science became politically unacceptable in western liberal democracies, and remains so in spite of the various attempts to revive it. It was not disproved by the scientific method; instead, the political ideologies behind racial science were discarded, and replaced by new ones that did not accommodate it.

And when the political consensus shifts, other sciences could go the same way. Whatever science you support, future generations might well regard it to be as wrongheaded as we regard racial science today. We look at reality through a thicket of political metaphors; as these metaphors come and go, different parts of reality become more or less visible; it can become easier to see where we were wrong at earlier times, and harder to see where we are wrong at the present.

What parts of reality do the metaphors of present-day liberal democracy obscure? I’m willing to believe that it affords us a very good view of physical reality: the “hard sciences” have truly prospered under the last few hundred years of political progress. Facts like “the Sun is larger than the Earth” or “the Earth is billions of years old” or “humans and chimpanzees have a common ancestor” are unlikely to be rendered obsolete by political progress, certainly not progress of the positive kind.

I’m less willing to believe that liberal democracy affords us a good view of the realities of human experience. I’m as deep in the liberal thicket as anyone else, so I can’t say for sure, but I suspect many human sciences as they are practised today are heavily clouded by dubious political assumptions. The most dubious of these is the assumption the liberalism itself is a politically neutral context. This has led to the widespread fetish for reducing complex psychological or social or cultural problems to “quantifiable” data amenable to scientific study. When this data and the conclusions drawn from it are subjected to the scrutiny of free-thinking liberal experts, the results will necessarily be unbiased — or so the assumption goes. That assumption can fuck right off.

Which is not to say that the human sciences are entirely wrong or useless as currently practised: I’ve no time for the hardcore skeptics who dismiss anything that isn’t maths or physics. But skeptics should be careful of cheerleading indiscriminately for all science, any science. Here are just a few examples of where the problems could lie.

  1. Medical science. In criticising homeopathy, chiropractic, faith healing and the like, skeptics tend to overstate the integrity of medical science, which for all its achievements is still rife with difficulties. I can’t help but be suspicious of a field in which research is dominated by a handful of particularly large and unscrupulous corporations. But even if Big Pharma doesn’t bother you, you should consider, for example, the political assumptions inherent in the sciences of pathology and psychopathology. Symptoms can be empirically there, but the decision to categorise a set of symptoms as an illness is frequently a political call. Over the years, medical science has tended to pathologise those sets of symptoms which interfere with an individual’s participation in the profit system (like physical disability), or which confirm existing social prejudices (homosexuality and female hysteria were once considered mental illnesses), or which can be profitably “treated”, regardless of whether the symptoms are actually debilitating (a process known as disease-mongering). It is conceivable that to a future society all these decisions might seem as barbaric as the decision to categorise a set of cranial measurements as characteristic of an inferior race.
  2. Evolutionary Psychology, Sociobiology, etc. These fields are largely bogus, and almost everyone associated with them, however tangentially, is a purveyor of poisonous bullshit. The modus operandi of evolutionary psychology is to take some observation about human behaviour (which is typically a statistical artifact of dubious significance), shear it of all cultural, historical, social and political context (other than the scientist’s own), and explain it as a necessary consequence of our genetic coding or hunter-gatherer past — typically in a way that endorses the scientist’s political and cultural assumptions. In fairness, skeptics like PZ Myers and Ben Goldacre regularly criticise the most obviously loony excesses of evolutionary psychology — but the methods and conclusions of celebrated friend o’skeptics Steven Pinker are just as bogus, and are seldom remarked upon. Perhaps because his politics are generally in line with the skeptic consensus.
  3. Linguistics, Computational Linguistics. These have been dead-end fields for decades, chiefly because their practitioners are anally obsessed with syntax and semantics, the elements of language most easily tackled by scientific methods and of least importance to human communication. I’m convinced (and Wittgenstein agrees with me) that the pragmatics of language — its use in context — is much more significant; but a proper study of pragmatics (and not the quasi-semantic junk you usually see) would require dropping those clumsy logico-empirical tools and admitting the presence and value of non-scientific knowledge. Want to know why we won’t be remotely close to a talking AI any time soon? Blame skeptics.
  4. Economics. A lot of the claims of free-market economics, such as the notion of endlessly increasing growth, sounded rather dubious to my skeptic ears, and still do. I’ve seen skeptical exposes of Ponzi schemes (where people are incited to buy into an idea that only tiny minority at the top have a chance of profiting from) and Scientology’s Sea Org (where, in order to afford the cult’s most desirable products and treatments, poorer members are forced to slave away at shitty jobs for a meagre salary, or otherwise risk ignominy and destitution), but have yet to see any skeptic make the obvious observation that both of these scams are just capitalism in miniature. Perhaps it’s because the capitalist perpetual-motion-machine underpins the political assumptions of skepticism that no skeptic is interested in debunking it. On the whole, they’d much rather debunk fairground sideshows.


In their fevered debunkings of astrologers, hypnotists, mystics, spirit mediums and the like, skeptics usually miss the fact that these are simply sources of entertainment for a lot of people, and taken no more seriously than the plot of any random Hollywood blockbuster. For paranormal sideshow acts, hocus-pocus is all part of the spectacle, a fact skeptics are willing to overlook in performers who meet their approval. If anything, the psychobabble that friend o’skeptics Derren Brown uses to sell his mediocre conjuring tricks is more fraudulent than the the mind-power nonsense Uri Geller uses to sell his, if only because Geller has apparently deluded himself more than his audience.

And if you truly believe in any of these frauds, so what? They’re mostly just a harmless diversion, a faint ray of amusement to guide us through the long and darkening days. Uri Geller fans, if indeed such people exist, are not hurting anyone. Evil hypnotists are not programming people’s minds. And astrologers, except in the paranoid fantasies of skeptics, have virtually no influence in the modern world, for good or ill. Skeptics aside, the only person who believes Ronald Reagan’s former astrologer had an impact on US policy in the 80s is Ronald Reagan’s former astrologer. (That Reagan employed a court astrologer, by the way, was the least of his crimes. Skepticism would be better directed at the scum he put into positions of actual power.)
There’s a lot of phony outrage on skeptic sites about spirit mediums like John Edward, who purport to channel voices “from the other side”, and in so doing exploit the grief of the kind of people skeptics laugh at anyway. Edward is obviously slime, but I’m convinced that many of his customers are quite aware of that. They know he’s feeding them lies, but they’re comforting lies, lies they feel the need to hear at that moment in time. And the cash transaction and the audience setting and the hocus pocus and even Edward’s clumsy name-flailing all help legitimise them. Edward’s customers are looking for the kind of catharsis he provides; to claim he simply cheats them out of their money isn’t the whole truth.

And even at their worst, the hucksters of mumbo-jumbo are only minor-league con artists. Their crimes pale next to those of our financial institutions, and all the others who convince the public to throw their life savings at the stock market, take out mortgages they can’t afford, buy junk they don’t need with money they don’t have, and pay for the fuck-ups of bankers and the greed of speculators. But which skeptic is going to debunk these swindlers?

Cheating people out of their money is one thing, but cheating them out of their lives is quite another. To read some skeptic takes on alternative medicine, you’d think only heart disease rivalled it as a killer. It’s true that alternative medicine is not going to cure anyone of serious illness, but it’s also generally true that the terminally ill only turn to it when real medicine has given up hope on them. And the value of hope in one’s final days is not to be dismissed so easily. The relaxed swagger of a charlatan can be far more comforting than the stress of an overworked hospital registrar, and the charlatan typically receives his patients in more comforting surroundings than a hospital. If I’m going to die anyway, I’ll take aromatherapy over chemotherapy every time.

The placebo value of alternative medicine should also not be so easily dismissed, and neither should its emphasis on “wellness” instead of illness. If a homeopath cures your imaginary itch by giving you diluted water, is it really much worse than a GP curing your imaginary itch by prescribing you paracetamol or antibiotics? It might be nonsense from start to finish, but alternative medicine helps millions of people get through the day, with no side effects apart from spouting the occasional line of bullshit. Real medicine is better at curing its recognised ailments, but alternative medicine seems to be better at helping with a chronic unrecognised ailment: daily life under the capitalist system. And so it shall remain until opiates are freely available in pill form.


Arguably the worst purveyors of bunk are the conspiracy crackpots and pseudohistorians, who really do fill the minds of their followers with some reprehensible opinions. But in picking apart the nonsense they come out with, skeptics miss the most important question, which is why they felt the need to create this nonsense in the first place.

Our political system, education and culture leave a lot of people marginalised, lost, impotent, irrelevant, and made to feel so daily. But these people are not complete idiots. They know something is wrong (though they’re not sure what), they know they have been denied knowledge and power (though they’re not sure by whom), they know that official life has left them on the scrapheap (though they’re not sure why). They look at the reality that has been dealt to them and ask, can this be all there is? Is this as good as it gets? And so, quite justifiably, they invent an alternative. An alternative reality where the people who marginalised them are reduced to easily-identifiable comic-book villians, plotting in underground hideouts. An alternative reality where, more often than not, they and their people are the heroes: the rebels, the fearless investigators, the pioneers of science, the true keepers of knowledge.

And the same is true of almost all bunk, from cryptozoology to Christianity: it’s an alternative reality for the disenfranchised, a wonderland where the losers are promised triumph, and The Man holds no sway. The masters of bunk — the bishops and wizards and cult sages — can wield considerable power in objective reality, but their greatest power is always over the downtrodden and the cast aside.

To convert their followers to skepticism, there’s no use in preaching, like Dawkins and Phil Plait, about the wonders of objective reality, however eloquently they may do it. Objective reality in a liberal democracy might well be wonderful if you’re a media personality or a tenured professor in a leafy college town. But for most people, reality sucks. And if they choose to reject it, I can’t blame them. Proselytising skeptics certainly offer them no incentive to change their minds. Skeptics ask society’s castaways to leave a reality in which they are good and valued people, and enter one in which they are pieces of warm garbage. Little wonder that so few take up the offer.

But as much as hocus-pocus is a comforter for the disenfranchised, skepticism is a comforter for nerds. Even the privileged need to be reassured in their ways; no one is too old or too grand to be tucked in at night with a conscience soother. For nerds, skepticism is the perfect self-justifying schema: a personal theology that validates their interests, their deeds, their prejudices and their politics. In this sense it’s markedly similar to one of skepticism’s favourite targets.

That skepticism is a religion is a idea frequently ridiculed and debunked on skeptic forums. As so often in the skeptic world, PZ Myers says it best (and here, by “the New Atheism”, he means more or less exactly what I understand by “skepticism”):

“[The ‘New Atheism’] is about taking a core set of principles that have proven themselves powerful and useful in the scientific world — you’ve probably noticed that many of these uppity atheists are coming out of a scientific background — and insisting that they also apply to everything else people do. These principles are a reliance on natural causes and demanding explanations in terms of the real world, with a documentary chain of evidence, that anyone can examine. The virtues are critical thinking, flexibility, openness, verification, and evidence. The sins are dogma, faith, tradition, revelation, superstition, and the supernatural. There is no holy writ, and a central idea is that everything must be open to rational, evidence-based criticism — it’s the opposite of fundamentalism.”

I’ve got a lot of time for Myers, but I can’t agree with his claim that dogma plays no role in skepticism. The skeptic dogma is, of course, the belief that “a core set of principles that have proven themselves powerful and useful in the scientific world also apply to everything else people do”. This belief is as simple and seductive as any of the claims that priests and mullahs and gurus have made over the millennia — and almost as wrong. While science in its material domain has worked miracles, in the social and emotional and political domains its achievements are highly questionable, to say the least.

But if the skeptic dogma sustains you through the day, I can’t blame you: most of us here are just trying to get by, with as much comfort and dignity as we can scrape together. And indeed, skepticism was once a faith I found comfort in myself. And as long as it does no harm to them and others, I wouldn’t want to disabuse anyone of their faith, or deprive them of their warming blanket. While ultimately I believe the world would be better without religions of any kind, faith can still motivate people for good. Skeptics follow a faith with fundamentally well-meaning principles; not all of them are kneejerk science fans; some of them make a decent and positive contribution to the world through their skepticism. I’m not going to dismiss them personally just because their creed is even more discredited than Christianity.


“Positivism” is not a word you see often in skeptic circles, which is odd, because it’s basically the old name for skepticism. The positivist movement in philosophy, which began in the mid-19th century, involved a loose collection of thinkers who to some extent or other believed in the primacy of reason and the scientific method, and set about trying to establish the basis of human knowledge on those terms.

One reason you don’t hear about positivism often in skeptic circles is that skeptics have no time for philosophy; many skeptics hate and fear it. It’s the skeptic Kryptonite. As a fundamental, rigorous, intellectually respectable but defiantly non-scientific discipline, philosophy makes a lot of skeptics feel threatened. Skeptics are like a naval fortress, with weapons fixed to sea; while they regard themselves invulnerable against fleets of art grads, paranormalists, and true believers, they know that philosophers can strike them freely in their defenceless rear. Little wonder that philosophers bring out their inferiority complex. Some skeptics would love to dismiss philosophy, all philosophy, in the same way they dismiss religion, but they’d be afraid of appearing stupid or attracting ridicule in doing so. If anything, they’re afraid philosophers already find them ridiculous.

Which brings us to the other reason positivism isn’t mentioned in skeptic circles: it failed, badly, and became discredited, badly, to the extent that “positivism” is almost a swearword on many philosophy campuses, and “positivist” an all-purpose insult. As a philosophical movement, traditional positivism has been dead since the 1950s (though it lives on in the natural and human sciences in all but name). “Postpositivists” like Karl Popper have tried to salvage something from the carcass, but among philosophers, their work is widely seen as reactionary. (By contrast, Dawkins in The Devil’s Chaplain disdains them as he would disdain new age crystal merchants.)

But why did positivism fail, and why did it become discredited? Well, I’m no philosopher, but I was for some years unwittingly involved in one of the last holdouts of hardcore, balls-out, unabashed logical positivism in all academia. And having seen some of its contradictions and failures firsthand, I think I have a good idea of the answer. But that’s something I want to cover elsewhere at greater detail and from a different angle. Christ knows, this webpage is already long enough.


Philosophising won’t persuade anyone to change their views; we’re all epicureans, and we believe whatever gives us the biggest kicks. If one philosophy doesn’t do it for you, you can easily find one that does; there are plenty of fish in that sea.

The truth is, I became a skeptic for aesthetic reasons, and the truth is, its aesthetics now repel me. I increasingly find the core skeptical output monotonous and repetitive: there are only so many times you can debunk the same old junk, and I’ve had it up to here with science fanboyism. And when skeptics talk about subjects outside their domain of expertise, I’m struck by how irrelevant their comments are, and how ugly, shrill and trivial.

Dawkins was a big influence on me in my early 20s, so to repeatedly call him out feels a bit like patricide; but it must be said that this kind of stuff does not cast him or his followers in a good light. In the linked article, Dawkins uses Pat Robertson’s comments on the Haiti earthquake as a launching point for yet another rant about religion. It’s an unreadable screed, the ravings of an obsessive, in style and content hardly less repulsive than Robertson’s original. And it’s all too typical of Dawkins’ output lately.

It also must be said that on many topics, the best religious people have more of interest and insight to say than the best skeptics. Take this Christian response to the above Dawkins article, for example. Its author Doug Chaplin rightly criticises Dawkins’ explanation for the “catastrophe” in Haiti. It was not, as Dawkins says, due to tectonic plates colliding; that was simply the cause of the earthquake. Thecatastrophe was caused by the earthquake happening in a poverty-stricken, overcrowded nation which has been raped by imperial powers for its entire existence. Scientific facts alone give a completely inadequate picture; but you won’t find too many skeptics admitting that. Chaplin also astutely observes that Robertson and Dawkins are two sides of the same coin: both hide behind a shallow empiricism to justify their right-wing politics. When they come to pronounce on world events, they’re both equally ignorant and self-serving.

And Dawkins is far from the worst offender in the skeptic community. At least when he sticks to the science, he reliably brings an infectious passion and sense of wonder; I still have a lot of respect for him as a science communicator. A lot of the most prominent skeptics, though, are ugly all the time. Loudmouth libertarians like Penn Jillette, touchy-feely dorks like Randall Monroe, lazy comedy hacks like Robin Inceand Charlie Brooker, neoliberal thugs like Christopher Hitchens and David Aaronovitch, the sniggering philistines at reddit/atheism: no one I respect could hang out with this crowd. I feel a rush of self-loathing just browsing the same web forums.

And so I came to look at skepticism as I’d look at an old embarrassing album by a band whose work I’ve long since disavowed. Any time I found it taking up space on my mental shelf, I’d think “why is this crap still here?” And now that I’ve thrown it away, I feel much the better for it.

Posted in Anti Science, Atheism, Rejecting Skepticism, Richard Dawkins, Skepticism, Skeptics, Social Skepticism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greens leader supports skeptics and loses fight to introduce “offensive and disrespectful” changes for complementary medicines

Greens leader supports skeptics and loses fight to introduce “offensive and disrespectful” changes for complementary medicines

IN a major win, the Federal Government has ignored the Australian Greens and anti-complementary medicine activists like Doctor Ken Harvey, from Friends of Science in Medicine, and passed a reform package that protects traditional medicine.

The Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2017 Measures No. 1) Bill, which passed Parliament on February 15, supports positive claims for complementary medicines based on traditional evidence, and abolishes the current complaints system. A move, which according to a Your Health Your Choice Senate Submission will “remove a mechanism of influence for the anti-CM lobby”.

Greens voters were shocked to learn Greens Leader and General Practitioner, Senator Dr Richard Di Natale was aligned with skeptics, whose platform is: “There is no alternative to Medicine”.

A Senate submission states: “The Australian Greens concur with the concerns of stakeholders including … Friends of Science in Medicine (FOSM)…”

One of his “concerns” was that people were being “misled” by traditional claims about the effectiveness of complementary medicine. He, and the skeptics, wanted labels on complementary and traditional medicines to state: “This traditional indication is not in accordance with modern medical knowledge and there is no scientific evidence that this product is effective”.

The Minister for Rural Health, Senator Bridget McKenzie, told Di Natale:

“I think it is offensive and disrespectful to those who practice traditional medicine. It’s not consistent with the World Health Organisation.

“We as a country, have endorsed the World Health Organisation position on the role of complementary medicines in the national medicines framework, and this position acknowledges that traditional medicines do have a valid function in the modern medicinal framework,” she said.

“For some, particularly those using Chinese medicine, the history of practising in that traditional medicine paradigm goes back thousands of years. It’s been extensively refined, practised and documented and in many cases incorporated into mainstream medicine. So, a statement required by the Australian Government that the indication is not in accordance with modern medical knowledge and that there is no scientific evidence will be seen as arrogant and insensitive to those practising and using traditional Chinese medicines, Senator McKenzie said.

Here is what it means:

Informed choice protected

The Bill allows complementary medicines to continue to make traditional use claims (ie. what a particular complementary medicine has been traditionally used for).

For consumers, it means they’re able to continue making informed choices because complementary medicines will continue to carry claims such as “traditionally used to relieve muscle aches and pains”.

Skeptics had argued against the use of traditional claims saying it was an “endorsement of pseudoscience”. Skeptics wanted the Government to introduce mandatory disclaimers that complementary medicine products were “based on alternative health theories that have been discounted by modern medical science”.

New complaints system

As of June 30, the current Complaints Resolution Panel (CRP) which has included members of Friends of Science in Medicine and their supporters will be shut down. A Your Health Your Choice Senate submission argued by abolishing the existing Complaints Resolution Panel powerful skeptic groups would lose influence.

Australia’s medicines watchdog, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), will be responsible for a new complaints system as of July 1.

Fast-tracks approval of medical products and medical devices

The Bill allows the TGA to use the work of comparable overseas regulators in the course of making assessments.

For consumers, it can mean medical products can gain domestic market approval from the TGA in a shorter timeframe.

Tougher penalties for advertising breaches:

As part of the Bill advertisements for complementary medicines will no longer need pre-approval with tougher penalties being used as a deterrent.

In a desperate bid to try to stop the Bill high-profile skeptics such as Doctor Ken Harvey and highly influential decision makers launched a scaremongering campaign in the media claiming the change would put public safety at risk.

Ludicrous stories included claims like: “dangerous products falsely touted as cures for cancer” would be advertised on prime time TV if the Therapeutic Goods Amendment Bill was passed.

Anti-complimentary activist, Professor John Braithwaite was quoted as saying: “People could die in the period between the shutdown of pre-approval of advertisements and the post-marketing prosecutions replacing them”.

Advertising safeguards

The TGA says the Bill will improve consumer confidence when choosing self-selected medicines and advertising will be subject to the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission rules.


Posted in Australian Skeptics, Dr Ken Harvey, Dr Ken Harvey,, Friends in Science and Medicine, Richard Di Natale | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment