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No, you’re not entitled to your opinion

Every year, I try to do at least two things with my students at least once. First, I make a point of addressing them as “philosophers” – a bit cheesy, but hopefully it encourages active learning. Secondly…

The ABC’s popular Q And A show revolves around opinion. But not all opinions are of equal value. ABC TV

Every year, I try to do at least two things with my students at least once. First, I make a point of addressing them as “philosophers” – a bit cheesy, but hopefully it encourages active learning.

Secondly, I say something like this: “I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself, maybe to head off an argument or bring one to a close. Well, as soon as you walk into this room, it’s no longer true. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.”

A bit harsh? Perhaps, but philosophy teachers owe it to our students to teach them how to construct and defend an argument – and to recognize when a belief has become indefensible.

The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” – and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.

Firstly, what’s an opinion?

Plato distinguished between opinion or common belief (doxa) and certain knowledge, and that’s still a workable distinction today: unlike “1+1=2” or “there are no square circles,” an opinion has a degree of subjectivity and uncertainty to it. But “opinion” ranges from tastes or preferences, through views about questions that concern most people such as prudence or politics, to views grounded in technical expertise, such as legal or scientific opinions.

You can’t really argue about the first kind of opinion. I’d be silly to insist that you’re wrong to think strawberry ice cream is better than chocolate. The problem is that sometimes we implicitly seem to take opinions of the second and even the third sort to be unarguable in the way questions of taste are. Perhaps that’s one reason (no doubt there are others) why enthusiastic amateurs think they’re entitled to disagree with climate scientists and immunologists and have their views “respected.”

Meryl Dorey is the leader of the Australian Vaccination Network, which despite the name is vehemently anti-vaccine. Ms. Dorey has no medical qualifications, but argues that if Bob Brown is allowed to comment on nuclear power despite not being a scientist, she should be allowed to comment on vaccines. But no-one assumes Dr. Brown is an authority on the physics of nuclear fission; his job is to comment on the policy responses to the science, not the science itself.

So what does it mean to be “entitled” to an opinion?

If “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion” just means no-one has the right to stop people thinking and saying whatever they want, then the statement is true, but fairly trivial. No one can stop you saying that vaccines cause autism, no matter how many times that claim has been disproven.

But if ‘entitled to an opinion’ means ‘entitled to have your views treated as serious candidates for the truth’ then it’s pretty clearly false. And this too is a distinction that tends to get blurred.

On Monday, the ABC’s Mediawatch program took WIN-TV Wollongong to task for running a story on a measles outbreak which included comment from – you guessed it – Meryl Dorey. In a response to a viewer complaint, WIN said that the story was “accurate, fair and balanced and presented the views of the medical practitioners and of the choice groups.” But this implies an equal right to be heard on a matter in which only one of the two parties has the relevant expertise. Again, if this was about policy responses to science, this would be reasonable. But the so-called “debate” here is about the science itself, and the “choice groups” simply don’t have a claim on air time if that’s where the disagreement is supposed to lie.

Mediawatch host Jonathan Holmes was considerably more blunt: “there’s evidence, and there’s bulldust,” and it’s no part of a reporter’s job to give bulldust equal time with serious expertise.

The response from anti-vaccination voices was predictable. On the Mediawatch site, Ms. Dorey accused the ABC of “openly calling for censorship of a scientific debate.” This response confuses not having your views taken seriously with not being allowed to hold or express those views at all – or to borrow a phrase from Andrew Brown, it “confuses losing an argument with losing the right to argue.” Again, two senses of “entitlement” to an opinion are being conflated here.

So next time you hear someone declare they’re entitled to their opinion, ask them why they think that. Chances are, if nothing else, you’ll end up having a more enjoyable conversation that way.

Read more from Patrick Stokes: The ethics of bravery

Join the conversation

415 Comments sorted by

  1. Keith Thomas

    Retired

    If everyone followed Patrick Stokes' suggestion, we would still believe stress caused stomach ulcers, that miasma spread disease, that the universe is Ptolemeic and a host of other conventional, mainstream, orthodox science.

    Very often valid dissenting views come from quite separate disciplines from those holding the orthodox position.

    I know where Patrick is coming from, and I don't want to see homeopathy, crystal healing and astrology given equal time in discussion of disease treatment and Medicare funding. However, not all "bulldust" retains that status as science advances and paradigms are overturned.

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    1. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      The article suggests not everyone has 'an equal right to be heard'. It's not really clear what that means in practical terms.

      Most agree the anti-vaccination case is spurious. That's really a red herring. The issue is how we - laypeople, the media, academia, government - respond to dodgy ideas.

      Going by the last paragraph, I think Patrick is simply saying we should challenge bad arguments. However the name of the article (chosen by an editor?) suggests people should be prevented from expressing illogical thoughts. It's a little unclear.

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    2. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Geoffrey Edwards, you say that, "all opinions must be weighed using the tools we have to hand - the inductive, deductive and adductive capacities. Scientific methdology and valid inference."

      But who is to determine the validity of the scientific methodology used? What you seem to be inferring is that only those who are 'scientifically qualified' are able to determine the truth of an argument and therefore, these same 'scientists' should be able to block what those less well-informed can and cannot…

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    3. Joe Gartner

      Tilter

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      I might suggest, Meryl, to make this a level playing field; and to remove all suggestion that that science is a form of priveleged obscurism, that you enrol for a Bachelors in Medical Science. Your dissenting opinion may be regarded with more gravity should it be backed with evidence.

      http://www.rmit.edu.au/healthmedical?gclid=CPrulPm86LICFbBUpgodgiwA8g

      http://www.latrobe.edu.au/courses/health-sciences?gclid=CLPK5fq86LICFYZgpQodXAYAhw

      http://sydney.edu.au/science/fstudent/undergrad/course/bmedical.shtml

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    4. Joe Gartner

      Tilter

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      I think to take the article to its conclusion those in the media who are responsible for framing debates should have sufficient critical faculties to realise the relative expertise and worth of those on opposing ends of the debate. Media Watch's point is that it is irresponsible for the media to represent a fringe element has having an equally valid argument as the vast body of science. That filter should already be applied by a reporter versed in medical science (which is why some media have science reporters).
      This is the responsibility of the media, I would think, as the vast proportion of the audience are not versed in discriminating between science, pseudo-science, flat-earthers and con-jobs. I include you, me and probably all contributors to this site; as cognitive biases are the norm not the exception and it's a rare person indeed who can think critically all of the time.

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    5. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Dear David (I hope you don't mind if I call you David?).

      You have made a broad statement - "To date, no evidence has supported the claims of the Australian Vaccination Network." Would you mind being more specific. Can you please cite one claim that either our organisation or myself personally have made which you believe is not backed by scientific evidence? That will give me an opportunity to provide you with my evidence which, you can either agree or disagree with, but at least it will show…

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    6. Scott Hansen

      Web developer

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Meryl, the thing is - you have no education in any of the sciences in order to be able to make a qualified opinion on anything.

      As I mentioned earlier, you rely on pseudoscience and misinterpretations of actual science to bolster your insane case.

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    7. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      And Joe, if I graduated with my Bacherlors Degree in Medical Science and still held to my views on vaccination, you would simply say that my qualifications were not good enough and I would need a PhD. There are thousands and thousands of doctors, specialists and research scientists who agree with me on vaccination. But science is not a beauty contest nor is it a test of numbers (except for the numbers used to determine results in studies). Science is about the evidence and I have a great deal of evidence to back up my concerns about vaccine safety and effectiveness. We are not talking about opinions here - we are talking about evidence. And you are saying that somehow, evidence changes based on the qualifications of the individual discussing it. Think about it for a while, Joe. I think you will agree that is a ridiculous assertion.

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    8. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      There are not "thousands and thousands" of trained medical professionals that agree with you at all. If I am wrong, then please compile a list, include their profession and qualifications, and put it on your website. I think you'll find there are very few in comparison to the majority that definitely disagree with you. If there are thousands, then there are hundreds of thousands that disagree.

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    9. Scott Hansen

      Web developer

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      If you graduated with any medical qualification, and were honest about the evidence - you wouldn't be the frothing anti vaxer you are at the moment.

      Why?

      Evidence.

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    10. Peter Tierney

      Health Worker

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Ms Dorey says: "Can you please cite one claim that either our organisation or myself personally have made which you believe is not backed by scientific evidence?"

      How about "…the child that died a couple of years ago, in New South Wales, was the first death from Whooping Cough, in over a decade, um, in Australia…", made even after being corrected months before.

      http://reasonablehank.com/2012/03/24/meryl-doreys-other-pertussis-lie/

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    11. Meryl Dorey

      Public Officer at Australian Vaccination Network, Inc.

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Scott,

      You don't know me. You have no idea of what my education is and to be honest with you, this is irrelevant.

      Stop making personal comments about me and deal with the issue. I asked you to show me something that I have said which you can prove is scientifically not correct. If you can't do so, then stop making aspersions about any qualifications I may or may not have. You don't need a science degree to understand science any more than possession of a degree will guarantee your understanding.

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    12. Scott Hansen

      Web developer

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Remarking on your lack of qualifications is hardly irrelevant (considering the topic of the article). No, I do not know you personally (I am thankful for that). However, we do know that you do not hold any qualifications in immunology, microbiology, virology or medicine.

      When your dog got bitten by a snake, you gave him homeopathic treatments. If that doesn't say something about your overall knowledge of medicine and science, I do not know what does.

      "You don't need a science degree to understand…

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    13. Candice Lea

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Its not just the degrees Meryl, its about being involved as well.
      You have NO clue how to interpret the data correctly because you are not part of the full conversation, just the bits you want.

      An example for you. My area of work is hospital data. Morbidity and mortality from injury and external causes.
      Now, you could read my report and make all kinds of statements based on it. But without being part of the conversation (ie in the field) you really cant make quality judgements on the data…

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    14. Rowan Lewis

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Maybe if you had the tools to properly evaluate reality you wouldn't be such a crackpot. Get an education, nobody really cares if it's official and you've got a silly piece of paper to prove it.

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    15. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Your education is not that of the medical experts, so you're right, your education is irrelevant. "I have a brain" is not a qualification, because the qualified people have brains too, and they use theirs a lot better than you. The thing is, you want us to stop making personal comments about you and deal with the issue, but you are the issue, Meryl. You're the one spreading junk science and demonstrating why we require credentials of our medical professionals in the first place. Sure, you don't need…

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    16. Jo Alabaster

      Layperson and Cat Herder

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Hi Meryl,

      As I asked above, why have you decided against undertaking any formal studies in science over the past twenty years that you have spent researching vaccine safety and efficacy?

      If I wanted to devote myself to campaigning for something I felt strongly about, I would do what I could to obtain the best education on the topic as possible. In your case, attending university could give you insights into how researchers operate, a solid background in biomedical science and an opportunity to be involved in discourse with professionals in the field.

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    17. Biotic Factor

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      "I asked you to show me something that I have said which you can prove is scientifically not correct."

      People have already done so (Peter Tierney, Dennis Alexander, Katie Brockie) 5 days before you wrote this comment. They await your replies.

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    18. Biotic Factor

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      "But who is to determine the validity of the scientific methodology used?"

      Well anyone can, provided they understand the principles of fair testing, the differences between correlation and causation, the factors that comprise a valid design of a scientific investigation, what sample size is reasonable to make more general conclusions from, statistical analysis and the significance of various parameters that accompany any trends in the data such as r values, how to account for variables that cannot…

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    19. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Meryl

      "But who is to determine the validity of the scientific methodology used? "

      Thousands of years of international efforts by millions of philosophers, mathematicians, engineers, and general scientists who have debated, devised, challenged, overturned and where necessary, reinstated, a plethora of options to define, measure, assess and understand evidence.

      The door will always be open to question the methods and develop more accurate kinds. The day that stops, science is dead.

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    20. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      May I also add concerning:

      "That makes these self-appointed arbiters no better then the priests in the middle ages who preached in Latin so the common folk wouldn't understand what they were saying and would just have to take it as read that the clergy were telling the truth as though spoken by God. "

      The over-reliance on jargon can give that impression, however, at the same time jargon has developed in response to requiring clear language for increasingly subtle and specific concepts.

      Also…

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    21. Stephen Coles

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Not at all, his argument is;
      If you have an opinion that differs from the currently accepted reason, supply the relevant evidence and explain to me why the evidence you supply over-rides the evidence that exists to support the currently accepted reason.
      And that's exactly what happened in the case of all you examples!

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    22. Justin Kaylor

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Meryl,

      What I find most concerning is not that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, but you're actually a detriment to humanity. To every parent who falls for your disinformation, you risk their child becoming seriously ill, or even dying.

      I hope your misguided grief for your son is only amplified by knowing how many other parents will suffer similar fates, because of your lies.

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    23. Helen Minns

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      the court of public opinion would seem to be a great forum for miscarriage of justice .. I would think

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    24. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      "Are you entitled to your opinion?" is of course a trick question. The trick being the world of difference between having an opinion and to what degree you are entitled to 'express' that opinion. The answer to the real question "To what degree are you entitled to express your opinion?" in capitalist society, as far as your dollar can spread it, fact.

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    25. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      or whatever he deems illogical thoughts....he seems to feel he is a supreme intelligence and no one should dare to have a thout without him checking with so called latest views to see if he can give us permission! free thoughts for all, i say!

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    26. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      the idea about autism came about when some mothers on an autim site found their kids got it after their multi immunisations. this could have happened due to coincidence, but i can understand their reluctance to risk their childs health. when scientists then proclaimed that as being a stupid load of rubbish,cos after all what would some dim housewives know,then they weren't inclined to fall into their arms , crying yes! we were only dumb mothers !how could we doubt you! we should have realised you are always right, and so much smarter than us!

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    27. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      he seems to believe that no one but him thinks out their position. and that the reason they hold their ideas is because they are getting them from wrong sources. he believes he is always right. too!

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    28. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      it does most of the time, which is lucky for us , but not all the time, it is not the new god!

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    29. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      i bet you dont even believe in public voting! after all, a fair few of the public would have muddled ideas or complete blanks for minds!bet you're a born to rule libreral!

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    30. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      tell us the facts? how did you find out she has no qualifications in any scientific area? do you have any? web developers are usually guys who would like to be , but are actually unemployed. you would make a good troll if you keep practicing.

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    31. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      they didnt have it 30 yrs ago. more has been added to it over the yrs.it was the newer vaccinations that were suspected

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    32. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      I refer to neonates dying of diseases to which they're exposed before they're old enough to be immunised, and Lee Hatfield requests Australian statistics.

      Well, I don't have statistics, but I have heard personal accounts from nursing staff.

      Anyway, every time a new born dies, there's a waste of taxpayer funds in obstretic and maternal support. So to minimise that waste, minimising the population disease load through immunisation makes dollars and cents sense.

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    33. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Ms Dorey,

      I suggest that you and your organisation agitate for public schools in major urban areas that accept enrolments only from children who have not been vaccinated.

      This will demonstrate, once and for all, any and all superiority of outcomes for non-vaccinated children.

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    34. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Mr Arthur,

      I would suggest that instead of asking for a ghetto to be formed for the unvaccinated, you agitate with the federal government to do a scientific study comparing the overall health of the fully vaccinated vs the fully unvaccinated. A study we have been asking for since 2003 and one which would be easy to do considering the fact that we have the ACIR which is linked with our medicare database.

      This will demonstrate, once and for all, any and all superiority of outcomes for vaccinated children.

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    35. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      David Arthur, you have no statistics but have 'heard personal accounts'. Hmmmm. Sounds like anecdotal information to me and since those statistics do exist (the number of neonates who die in Australia from infectious diseases), I would suggest you find them before arguing further. This IS science, after all.

      Also, since no vaccination can prevent a person - even a fully vaccinated person - from carrying and transmitted pathogenic viruses and bacteria, where is your evidence that neonates are less likely to die if everyone around them was vaccinated? Just wondering since you are making assertions but not providing any evidence. That's an opinion - and Patrick Stokes says you're not entitled to it.

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    36. John Cunningham

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Meryl,

      Do you mean something like this study?

      http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa021134
      “There was no increase in the risk of autistic disorder or other autistic-spectrum disorders among vaccinated children as compared with unvaccinated children (adjusted relative risk of autistic disorder, 0.92; 95% confidence interval, 0.68 to 1.24; adjusted relative risk of other autistic-spectrum disorders, 0.83; 95% confidence interval, 0.65 to 1.07).”

      Maybe you hadn't seen it, since it was published in 2002.

      Regards,

      John "bad cop" Cunningham

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    37. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Far from ghetto, Ms Dorey, such a self-selecting experiment is exactly what's required for unambiguous results.

      My understanding is that your organisation is prominent among those which raise concerns about precisely the sort of trials you propose as alternative to my idea.

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    38. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Err, I'm not so time-rich as to be botherd, Ms Dorey. Instead, how about your organisation finds those statistics, and publicises them?

      After all, such evidence would go a long way to advancing your cause - so I'll assume that should there be no such publication of neonate infection rates, that my assertion is not refuted by statistics.

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    39. John Cunningham

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Here's another Meryl,

      http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/ijlink?linkType=ABST&journalCode=pediatrics&resid=112/5/1039

      "In the United States, using the Vaccine Safety Data Link, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined 140,887 US children born during 1991–1999, including >200 children with autism. The researchers found no relationship between receipt of thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism."

      No link between autism and thimerosal.

      John

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    40. John Cunningham

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      And then of course there's the German study
      http://www.aerzteblatt.de/int/archive/article?id=80869
      "Evaluable data on vaccinations were available for 13 453 subjects aged 1–17 years from non-immigrant families. 0.7% of them... were not vaccinated. The lifetime prevalence of diseases preventable by vaccination was markedly higher in unvaccinated than in vaccinated subjects. Unvaccinated children aged 1–5 years had a median number of 3.3 (2.1–4.6) infectious diseases in the past year, compared to 4.2 (4.1–4.4) in vaccinated children. Among 11- to 17-year-olds, the corresponding figures were 1.9 (1.0–2.8) (unvaccinated) versus 2.2 (2.1–2.3) (vaccinated)."

      What more possible information would you want by repeating this study Meryl? The only difference found, after looking at over 13,000 children, is that the unvaccinated get more illnesses by vaccine preventable diseases.

      It's not rocket science Meryl.

      John

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    41. Shelley Stocken

      Writer

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Don't forget this one, which suggests vaccinated kids in the Phillippines do better on cognitive tests than their unvaccinated counterparts:

      http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/pgda/WorkingPapers/2011/PGDA_WP_69.pdf (PDF file)

      "We find no effect of vaccination on later height or weight, but full childhood vaccination for measles, polio, TB, and DPT significantly increases cognitive test scores relative to matched children who received no vaccinations. The size of the effect is large, raising test scores, on average, by about half a standard deviation."

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    42. John Cunningham

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      And the Philipino one:
      http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00036846.2011.566203?journalCode=raec20#.UvMhnnnT3V0

      "We find no effect of vaccination on later height or weight, but full childhood vaccination for measles, polio, Tuberculosis (TB), Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus (DPT) significantly increases cognitive test scores relative to matched children who received no vaccinations. The size of the effect is large, raising test scores, on average, by about half an SD."

      So the vaccinated population show higher cognitive scores. You could argue this is selection bias, but otherwise you could claim that they are just more clever to get vaccinated.

      What else would your proposed study show, Meryl?

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    43. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Oh no, John and Shelley: neither of those studies exist. Anti-vaxxers keep telling me so.

      That's why we apparently need a study using the Medicare data, i.e. using frequency of doctor visits as a proxy measure for health. Such a study would "demonstrate once and for all" that *drumroll* parents who distrust the medical profession so much that they refuse to vaccinate also don't take their kids to the GP. I wouldn't be making room on the mantle for that Nobel on that basis.

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    44. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Patrick - you keep calling people anti-vaxxers as if that actually meant anything. It doesn't. There are those who accept what they are told about this medical issue and those who are sceptical and require better information. You are in the first group - I am in the second.

      The ACIR links with the medicare database and all illnesses which are charged through Medicare are coded. So we have 3 groups - those who are fully vaccinated - those who are completely unvaccinated - and those who are partially…

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    45. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      And again, how do you plan to correct for parents who just plain don't take their kids to the doctor and/or don't present at the doctor for certain things? How do you expect this data to evaluate the health of a cohort whose parents have an aversion to interacting with the very data-collection system you're relying on?

      I don't have any problem with people who are "sceptical and require better information." That, after all, is how the collective knowledge of our species progresses. I do, however, have a problem with people who don't accept the limits of what they are and are not capable of evaluating on their own.

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    46. Shelley Stocken

      Writer

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Meryl - you keep calling yourself "sceptical" as if it means you evaluate available evidence to make a reasoned decision about vaccination and want to align yourself with a group that is already respected by government and media in Australia.

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    47. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Is this the perfect way to catch every single child who has a health problem? No, of course it's not. But is it basic science that will give a very good indication of whether or not there is a difference (positive or negative) between these three cohorts? Yes, it is. And it is basic science that has never been done and really needs to be studied. And Patrick - believe it or not, just because you might say no to vaccines, it does not necessarily mean you never see doctors. I don't believe you know much about this cohort of families. So while many parents may not take their children for medical treatment if they have a cold or flu, I think it's fair to say that most if not all of them would seek out a medical opinion for cancer, asthma or diabetes. So this would be a very valid study indeed.

      Also, how dare you try to evaluate what others (most of whom you don't know and have never met) are capable of evaluating? That is not only arrogant - it is ignorant as well. And rude.

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    48. John Cunningham

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      So Meryl, what about the studies that have already been done? What's wrong with them? Please address the studies you claim don't exist.

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    49. Shelley Stocken

      Writer

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Here is Meryl Dorey trying to evaluate what others (most of whom she doesn't know and has never met) are capable of evaluating:

      "“It is true that oftentimes, our information will contradict the conclusions or summaries of the studies. This is because, as opposed to most doctors and government officials, we actually read the studies and frequently, the summary and conclusion does not agree with the raw data itself…"

      From here: http://scepticsbook.com/2010/10/05/hypocrites-much/

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    50. Dan Chubb

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Meryl, the study you suggest doing (using medicare data to make a comparison between groups that quite clearly access health care differently) is grossly flawed due to a problem known as selection bias.

      Your inability to grasp this concept when it is pointed out to you demonstrates that you, simply put, don't understand some of the simplest concepts of study design.

      We don't need your lack of qualifications as a demonstration that you don't know what you are talking about. Your suggestions prove that in spectacular fashion.

      By the way, I pointed out that German study for you a while back, and you *still* claimed today that such a study didn't exist. Is this dishonesty, or is your memory really that short?

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    51. Rachael Dunlop

      Post-doctoral fellow at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Meryl, for someone who has apparently done 20+ years of research on vaccination, and been reminded multiple times that these studies exist, I remain surprised that you still don't appear to know they have been done. Are you pretending they don't exist because you are simply not happy with the results?

      If indeed this is the case, then may I suggest you conduct your own research? (and no, I don't mean "Googling"). After all, you have in the past collected money (some reports suggest tens of thousands over the years), some of which was for the express purpose of conducting vaccine studies, no? What happened to those funds? What happened to the money you collected to examine the levels of heavy metals in vaccines? Are you still planning on doing this?

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    52. John Cunningham

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Meryl,
      Above are more than enough large studies comparing vaccinated to unvaccinated, and autistic to non-autistic children. They found no link between vaccination and autism.
      More than that though, as you asked, the largest studies have found that vaccinated children suffer less disease, and score better on cognitive scores. Why would you want to repeat this study? What on earth do you think you'll find?
      John

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    53. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      "I think it's fair to say that most if not all of them would seek out a medical opinion for cancer, asthma or diabetes. So this would be a very valid study indeed."

      - Given (as I understand it) Medicare data doesn't actually record diagnoses, I'd be very interested to know how your study is going to derive e.g. 'has asthma' from 'saw the doctor twice.' Your study couldn't tell us anything beyond how regularly vaccinated and unvaccinated kids go to the doctor, which, given its dependent upon parental…

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    54. Dan Buzzard

      IT Consultant

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Are you saying that a community of anti-vaxxers would be a ghetto?

      I agree.

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    55. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      how do new borns get these diseases? they never get immunised right away ,anyway , but usually spend their time until then not interacting with the general public, overseas migrants have seldom vaccinated their kids. they would be a bigger problem than the odd person who doesnt vaccinate....people who thought it caused autism did believe in vaccination, just not in having them all together ! a lot of you shoulde work out what you are talking about before trolling people!

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    56. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      How do new-borns get these diseases? They contract them from an infected other person, for which there may not need to be direct physical contact between the two.

      To minimise risk of newborn contracting the disease, as close to uniform vaccination coverage as can be achieved seems to be effective.

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    57. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      newborns are never given the vaccination! they have to be a few months old .that means there has always been a gap../.. newborns dont go out much and when they do they dont interact very much .they are sposed to have immunity from their mums for the first couple of months.unless members of the family haven't been immunised.... and even then they shouldn't be vulnerable! they have usually been done by the time they become vulnerable. it seems like you are making things up to keep up your argument !

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    58. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      Ms Hatfield, my argument is SOMETHING THAT I HAVE BEEN TOLD.

      Until and unless someone such as Ms Dorey refers data to confirm that incidence of disease in children too young to be vaccinated is COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT of immunisation rates in older children, then argument through incredulity is insufficient.

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    59. Joe Gartner

      Tilter

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      It appears that you are confused as to what vaccines are for. A truer test of the utility of vaccines is to compare the rates of contracted disease (and/or severity of such disease) from a vaccinated cohort to an unvaccinated cohort. A second test is to compare the rate and severity of adverse reactions compared to the the death/morbidity rate of the unvaccinated.

      These tests were first done back in the days of the first vaccines and, unsurprisingly, it has been found that it vaccines are successful in reducing the incidence and severity of disease and that the rates of adverse effects (including, sadly death) is far, far less than the risk to the unvaccinated.

      The only tangible risk to society from vaccination is to the sensibilities of those in the AVN, or whatever it is that you are forced to call yourselves these days.

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    1. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Louise Baur

      Louise, I agree, of course some so-called arguments are bulldust.

      But the interesting question is what do 'we' do about bulldust arguments.

      Is it just about me saying 'That's rubbish, I'm not going to listen' to an acquaintance? Or should tutors prevent students from speaking in tutorials? Or should the ABC not air a view that a certain percentage of scientists disagree with?

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Louise Baur

      I assume journalists all have these smart phone things. These could be configured to afford the journalist with ready access to considered expert advice which they could present to interviewees?

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    3. Justin King

      PhD Candidate (The University of Melbourne)

      In reply to Louise Baur

      I think the best course of action is to make clear that what is being aired is indeed a subjective opinion by a person or persons without expertise in the subject matter. This would be appropriate in the vaccination example (and in fact I suspect if that point is to be made clear, I expect the media outlet would seriously reconsider airing the view at all).

      In the case of something a certain amount of scientists disagree with, this is a different matter. The view by group A and group B can both be aired as long as both are views by people qualified to take part. So for example in the climate science debate, that would mean climate scientists taking part in either side of the debate, not bloggers, social commentators or politicians (as mentioned in the article, the politicians can stick to arguing the policies not the science).

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    4. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Louise Baur

      scientists are not always right, and have a tendency to go with the most popular theories....well, at least be influenced by them. we should not treat them as gods ,take ideas on mental health for instance. and admit that sometimes the public can have a good idea.i can remember reading womens mags in the early 60s. we were told mental illness could not be inherited . neither could cancer. they were dispelling the old wives tales that were common in the general public. it has since been proved that these things can be inherited through having certain genes. the public had noticed that some diseases recurred in some families. the scientists jumped on the bandwagon of there being no mechanism by which this could happen, just because they didn't know any better and refused to believe the public could possibly know anything!

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Louise Baur

      No you're right Lee scientists are not always right but they are never - never - proved wrong by myths and superstition and fantasies - they are proved wrong by better science.

      Now sometimes we can indeed find some elements of truth in "old wives tales" as you put it ... but again these truths if they exist are proved by scientific inquiry and assessment - not by beliefs and hopes of the faithful.

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    6. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Louise Baur

      while there are ideas about that are so far fetched that they are the product of a diseased mind, most religious ideas being among them, there are lots of ones that were gained from the experiences of the general public . before there were scientists people had worked out a lot of things by experimentation and observance. such as safe and poisonous foods,etc. later the first so called experts prescribed weird cures on what seemed to be no informarion, such as bleeding and curing temperatures by heating…

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  2. Meryl Dorey

    logged in via Facebook

    For a philosopher like Patrick Stokes to claim that people are not entitled to express an opinion (or even to reference that opinion with published, scientific evidence) is tantamount to censorship.

    ABC’s Media Watch program, presented a hatchet job piece called False Balance Leads to Confusion, attacking WIN Television for presenting both sides of the vaccination issue in a recent report on a measles outbreak in NSW. Because the interview contained information from both a medical community spokesperson…

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    1. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Geoffrey Edwards - you say - "Thanks for the astro-turfing, Meryl!"

      I believe you need to look up the definition for astroturfing - it's possible you may have used it incorrectly here, at least according to my reading.

      And a debate using the scientific literature is the one I am and have been asking for. My peer-reviewed references vs yours. Are you volunteering to debate me, Geoffrey? That would be wonderful! Please let me know and we can get together and set a time, date and place.

      Thanks,
      Meryl

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    2. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Hi Robin -
      Are you saying that I see four lights or five lights? :-)
      Meryl

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    3. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      "Yes, but science is not a debate about competing value claims. If the evidence doesn't support your premise their is nothing to debate."

      Who are you to determine what is valuable to debate and what is not? Are you omnipotent or do you feel that your opinion is so much more valid then someone else's and that validity entitles you to censor a debate? I cannot interpret what you've said in any other way but would love to hear your alternative explanation.

      "Wow. Moral grandstanding. You challenge…

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    4. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      "Are you omnipotent or do you feel that your opinion is so much more valid then someone else's and that validity entitles you to censor a debate?"

      - Yes, I feel that my opinion is significantly more valid than yours. In the same way that you feel that your opinions are more valid than mine. If you didn't feel this way you would not be spamming this discussion.

      I am not censoring debate - I am declining to participate because I deem that particular debate to have no merit and, just like you…

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    5. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Patrick, in your response to Meryl Dorey you say: “Now, here’s where you and I *are* entitled to have opinions, and to have those opinions taken seriously: we’re citizens, and as such policy responses to science are very much our business.”
      Yes, policy responses to science are very much our business, and it’s the duty of our political representatives to respond to citizens’ questions in this regard.
      By way of example, in June this year I forwarded a detailed letter to the Federal Health Minister…

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    6. Scott Hansen

      Web developer

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Science is not done via debate Meryl. All you are doing here is showing the world just how ignorant you are of the scientific process.

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    7. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      omnipotent? Censor a debate? Lol, as soon as you don't get your way, you're always being "censored" or "bullied", aren't you, Meryl? When are you just going to face the fact that actual academics, and the people that are smarter than you, consider you and your "opinion" a waste of time that could be better spent making more scientific discoveries, such as the REAL cause of autism?

      All you're doing is asking for a debate on an issue that, in regular circles, has already been debated, and decided upon. In other words, the conversation you want to have.... we had that one long ago. It's just like if you asked to debate someone on the merits of heliocentricity - you would be laughed out of academia.

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    8. Candice Lea

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Elizabeth, if it is your opinion that the NIP 'arbitrarily' has two doses of MMR in the schedule - do you honestly think the addition of a second dose to the schedule (at incredible cost and resource cost) *hasn't* been thoroughly debated by the subject matter experts?

      On a slightly different note, you claim in your letter that the emphasis should be on getting everyone vaccinated with one dose.
      Surely you understand the basic logistics of getting *every* child in Australia vaccinated with only one-dose on the schedule is pretty darn hard to do - combine that with the one-dose 5% failure to confer immunity and the vaccination coverage for one-dose on the schedule for MMR in Australia would be well below what is needed for herd immunity.

      Adding a second dose to the schedule *is* maximising one-dose MMR coverage, it's ensuring the most opportunity for children to get at LEAST one-dose.

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    9. Peter Tierney

      Health Worker

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Patrick says: "My only qualification on that topic is that I have a brain, and that’s not qualification enough to tell scientists they’re wrong about science."

      Peter says: "oh snap"

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    10. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Further to my previous comment, I also forwarded my letter querying the arbitrary second dose of the MMR vaccine to Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network, Paul Arthur of the US National Vaccination Information Center, and John Stone of the Age of Autism. None of these people have responded to my letter either.
      It appears the argument I have put forward in my letter doesn’t fit the mindset of the Minister’s office, nor that of those who are perceived as the ‘anti-vaccination’ brigade. As a result, I suspect parents are not being informed that there is an option of serological testing to verify a response to MMR vaccination for their child, i.e. evidence based medicine. I understand serological testing costs around $50, and suggest there may be some parents who might prefer to pay for this option rather than have an arbitrary revaccination for their child. But how many parents are informed about this?

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    11. Rosco Hamilton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Peter correct me if I am wrong, but it isnt expertise that is most relevant to an argument, it is evidence?
      My education is in medical sciences yet I understand your article and have raised such points in arguments before (just think of every time you have discussed climate change with a 'non believer'). Yet my lack of an education in philosophy does not make me wrong?

      It may be Meryl Dorey's lack of scientific education that leads her to her indefensible beliefs, but it is really her lack of evidence that makes her wrong.

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    12. Meryl Dorey

      Public Officer at Australian Vaccination Network, Inc.

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Rosco Hamilton, you say:

      "It may be Meryl Dorey's lack of scientific education that leads her to her indefensible beliefs, but it is really her lack of evidence that makes her wrong."

      Evidence of what? You have made a very broad statement there, claiming that I have no evidence...but we need to be specific because otherwise, it just sounds like you have no evidence of my lack of evidence, if you take my point.

      So please cite one particular thing which you think I have no evidence for and I can then provide you with evidence.

      And this takes me back to the issue of a public debate. If you and everyone else here is so sure that I have no evidence to back up what I've been saying for the last 20 years or so, then accept the challenge to debate me in public - my references against yours. By not accepting this, you are saying that you can't possible oppose my evidence and that is an admission that you have none.

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    13. In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Comment removed by moderator.

    14. Mike Mayfield

      Science Fan

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      "By not accepting this, you are saying that you can't possible oppose my evidence and that is an admission that you have none."

      Good grief, Meryl. Do you seriously think for just one moment that an unwillingness to attend a "public debate" by default is an admission that someone has no references or cannot oppose your evidence? This is like saying that the refusal of most credible scientists to debate creationists is a tacit admission that the scientific evidence shows the Earth really is only 6000 years old and puffed into existence over 7 days.

      No, it simply means that your views are so fringe-dwelling that they're not considered worthy of genuine debate.

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    15. Scott Hansen

      Web developer

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Meryl, just because someone does not want to debate you, does not mean that you are correct. How many NASA scientists do you see debating idiots that believe that the moon landings didn't happen? How many geologists do you see debating "flat Earthers"?

      None.

      Why give someone like you a platform alongside actual experts?

      You are a frothing fringe dweller. The only difference between your opinion and those of a flat Earther is that your views are dangerous to our society.

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    16. Meryl Dorey

      Public Officer at Australian Vaccination Network, Inc.

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Scott,

      That is one of the most ridiculous arguments I've ever heard. So because you and many within the mainstream medical professions don't agree with my data - most of which is sourced from within the mainstream medical profession, there is no need to debate. You have a monopoly on the truth - end of story - no need to look any further or to use science at all because you know the answer to every question.

      The only thing that is dangerous here Scott is your assertion that there are no valid…

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    17. Scott Hansen

      Web developer

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Meryl, you lack the qualifications/education in any of the sciences to be able to accurately read and interpret the studies you claim back your ridiculous stance.

      All of the studies you have provided in the past week have already been thoroughly debunked by others much more qualified than yourself.

      You are a fringe dweller (even though you clearly don't see yourself as one). Your opinion on vaccination is as valid as a flat Earther.

      Again - science is not decided by debate. It is decided…

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    18. Rohan James Gaiswinkler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      "Who are you to determine what is valuable to debate and what is not? Are you omnipotent or do you feel that your opinion is so much more valid then someone else's and that validity entitles you to censor a debate? I cannot interpret what you've said in any other way but would love to hear your alternative explanation."

      There you go again Meryl using that word "censorship" again. Censorship has nothing to do with this. The issue is fraud. You pretend to run a legitimate vaccination information service. You don't. You pretend to know what you are talking about with regard to; immunology, interpretation of scientific papers, correlation & causality, health statistics and logical reasoning. You don't. As an immunology expert / public commentator Meryl, you fail. You lack the knowledge, skills, qualifications, intelligence - and as much as anything else - the humility to be taken in any way seriously on the topic of vaccination health. Go and farm your nuts.

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    19. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Now before you pair come to fisticuffs we are lucky. We can easily get first hand eyeball to eyeball experience of a non-vaccinated population. No shortage of them in fact. A sort of "Go back to where you came from" doco of a tour package to a few virally challenged communities. Heaps of unvaccinated populations in Africa, India, South America ... An live experiment, in fact.

      Not often one can do such an experiment. Who's up for that?

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    20. Mike Mayfield

      Science Fan

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      "So because you and many within the mainstream medical professions don't agree with my data - most of which is sourced from within the mainstream medical profession...."

      It's not "your" data Meryl. It's *their* data. You are not the one who conducts the trials, the investigations, the lab research. You are not the one who studies disease-causing pathogens using an electron microscope. You are not the one who takes the lab notes. You are not the one processing blood samples through a centrifuge…

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    21. John Cunningham

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Meryl,
      Time and time again I've accepted your challenge to a debate on your own terms, on your own website, with your own moderator, and each and every time you've backed away like a coward. Every time you've been shown to be making false claims you've found some excuse to withdraw.
      It shows you have nothing. Your evidence? I claim you have nothing. Why? Because otherwise real scientists would be agreeing with you. and they don't.
      John

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    22. Meryl Dorey

      Public Officer at Australian Vaccination Network, Inc.

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      John Cunningham - I can smell something burning and I think it's your pants. You know perfectly well (and if you've forgotten, I have the documentary evidence to prove this) that my offer has always been for a live debate in front of an audience so the parents can hear and participate. YOU are the one who has always refused this even though I've offered an independent moderator, to pay for the venue myself, to share questions and references in advance so there won't be any surprises...but even though this is so fair, you have consistently refused. So if there is anyone running scared here John, it's you.

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    23. Scott Hansen

      Web developer

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Meryl, you are the one that consistently lies and tries to change tack every time you face John in comment. I hardly think that someone that has an *actual* grounding in science, more importantly medicine - has anything to fear from someone that lives on the fringes of pseudoscience and dangerous woo.

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    24. John Cunningham

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Dear Meryl,
      Thanks so much for your mature and considerate reply. You set up the website, and you chose the moderator. What could be more public than a website, where people can read the debate, do their own research, and assess the claims of the debaters? What could lead to a better understanding of the issues than a place where your claims can be investigated, in each person's own time? I'm all for it Meryl, but you're the one that always finds an excuse not to take part. I can't blame you though. I would prefer a town hall argument too after your last efforts on the debate site. Town halls are good for politics, good for the "sound bite", but not good for education and science Meryl.
      You know where you'll find me.
      John

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    25. Alex Presgrave

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Meryl. Your stupid. It burns. Geoffrey perfectly sums it up
      " No, Meryl. The evidence is the evidence. Again, you don't understand. Fact's do not negate other fact's. Logical inference is the issue. The same evidence can be interpreted in different ways to a given conclusion P. P is either true or false. P is the item of debate, not the evidence"
      You seem to have no grasp of the scientific method whatsoever. That in itself is worrying enough, because you seem to hold something of an influential position. Moreover, the fact that you blatantly disregard study after study that disproves the fact that autism is related to vaccinations is more worrying. It is willful ignorance and cannot be tolerated. By entering yourself into a scientific debate with a complete lack of qualifications or a scientific foundation is akin to bringing a knife to a gun fight. Things won't go well for you..

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    26. Keith Thomas

      Retired

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Alex, I don't think we can say yet we have disproven the fact that autism is related to vaccinations. There is a significant number of parents with children who have ASD symptoms who believe that their child's symptoms arose or increased following a vaccination experience. That's a fact.

      I'll give you another fact: the more we are learning about mammalian physiology, the more we realize how much we just can't yet explain. I hold open the possibility that, if science continues to advance at its…

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    27. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      The ture issue of diagreement here arises NOT from these facts about vaccination but rather the psychological fact that people in general have a tendancy that sometimes works against logic. That is- when two thinks happen together in time, especially if they are somehow linked together in time for many people - everybody had the inclination to believe that those two things MUST be causally linked. They are not.

      It is just like when a phobia arises when a child is stomping their foot and ligthning strikes. Those two things cannot be scientifically linked but try telling that kid that.

      One of my own twin sons got a call to tell him he had won a bike just as he was carving an apple. To him now, apples are lucky. Right.

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    28. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Keith Thomas - there is now more information suggesting there is NO causative link between ASDs and autism than in many other areas of health.

      Ironically, the de-bunking of Wakefield's methodology led to a huge focus on this area, and a lot of subsequent research. (Many would say that it took time and dollars away from more fruitful areas of research). Here is yet another recent paper in the Journal Paediatrics:
      "Recurrence Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium…

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    29. Vanda Hamilton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Meryl, I only know what I read in the popular press about scientific matters, but my reading of history and current affairs is pretty good. And what that would tell me is that people in our country used to die from diseases that we never see now.

      And I also know that measles, simple measles, is one of the biggest killers of children world wide. That polio is still around. That TB is still an enormous problem.

      I sometimes wonder how someone like you would be received if you stood up to defend…

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    30. Guy Taylor

      IT Professional

      In reply to Meryl Dorey

      Debating nonsense gives it credibility. That's why no one wants to have the debate.

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  3. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    Entitlements. Seems to be the word for the week doesn't it? Those who heard David Murray denouncing our "addiction to welfare entitlements" on TV last week might notice that this entitlement to fact-free opinions was not one of his complaints.

    This notion that the opinions of the ignorant, the delusional, the paranoid and the self-interested have equal validity and weight to those with an informed perspective is rather new. I blame the interweb. And post-modernism relativism of course. And the mass meeja.

    This idea that opinions are equal to facts, that we can find "facts" on-line to fit our opinions like a sock - or that we can invent our own facts to suit - seems to be a product of the media age and the era of celebrity.

    I wonder what Kim Kardassian thinks about global warming. That'll do me.

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    1. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "I blame the interweb" - you're more right than you think, it is the internet.

      the web is the biggest change in the under-pinning technology of civilization since phoenician phonetic literacy displaced the archaic oral culture of homer & the poets, replacing it with the classical, visual world of plato, aristotle, the academy - the beginnings of rational thinking and its institutional & technological support systems. bigger than gutenberg's moveable type invention & the unemployment of scribes…

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Precisely Mr V.

      I've never trusted electricity myself - I am suspicious of anything I cannot see.

      Speaking of not seeing things - I not with alarum that you seem to have dispensed with capital letters, apostophes and have even been driven to amphersands. I trust this is a technical failing of fingers or keyboard rather than some statement of new age principle. What next phonetic spelling????

      There is also another factor in the decline of public thinking - the flimsy aluminium foil imported from the likes of China over recent years, and the declining market share of good thick Australian made Alfoil. I have a sneaking suspicion - most of my suspicions sneak actually - that this tinsel is totally ineffectual in keeping out those messages being beamed into the minds of our more unstable citizens by the forces of darkness.

      Between that and the interweb, we have unleashed a demon.

      Come on Ms Plibersek - put Alfoil on the PBS now.

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    3. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      e.e.cummings rules ok ! (i get enough mixed case at work ) the ampersand is from william blake. -a.v.

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    4. Lee Hatfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      no one said they are equally valid, just that they have the right to say them! and people have the right to judge.....it's like voting . you work out who is the most sensible!

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  4. Mat Hardy

    Lecturer in Middle East Studies at Deakin University

    Good article, Patrick.

    In my line of work, the equivalent analogy is "The US Government planned and executed the 9/11 attacks". Always backed up by the same YouTube clips and claims from "scientific experts". Usually someone who has a degree in paleo-biology claiming how the Twin Towers showed signs of man-made demolition activity.

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    1. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mat Hardy

      Gotta love the "troofers". They're more nuts than antivaxers... but at least they're relatively harmless in comparison.

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  5. Elizabeth Hart

    Independent Vaccine Investigator

    It’s interesting to consider the way the media is used to polarise discussion on vaccination. On the one hand we have the avidly pro-vaccination medical and scientific establishment, ‘the voice of reason’, on the other we have people such as Meryl Dorey and Judy Wilyman who are characterised as ‘anti-vaccination nutters’.
    Whose interests does this polarisation serve? I suggest it serves the vaccine industry very well, as it creates a climate in which it is very difficult to raise legitimate…

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    1. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Further to my previous comment… Citizens are entitled to ask well-founded questions about vaccination when it appears powerful vested interests are pressing questionable lucrative medical interventions upon healthy people. In my opinion the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine being urged upon 12/13 girls and boys is questionable. I am currently participating in an argument about this matter on The Conversation’s “Study should dispel HPV vaccine myths” discussion thread: https://theconversation.edu.au/study-should-dispel-hpv-vaccine-myths-9914 Discussion has also previously taken place on an article by Ian Frazer, the co-inventor of the technology enabling the HPV vaccines, i.e. “Catch cancer? No thanks, I’d rather have a shot!”: https://theconversation.edu.au/catch-cancer-no-thanks-id-rather-have-a-shot-7568

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    2. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      right/wrong. i do not think that there is more of a polar opposite than that, Elizabeth unless it is LIFE/Death and it is.

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    3. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      "Citizens are entitled to ask well-founded questions about vaccination."

      They most certainly are. However, a problem arises due to our tendency to deny well founded science that disagrees with our particular predilictions.

      I'm a determinist. Quantum Physics gives me the willies!

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      You raise a good point about the transparency of the approval process for vaccines. It is important that the bona fides of people with responsibility for approving therapeutic goods be publicly demonstrated, for example.

      Is the evidence on which their decisions are made also publicly accessible? Surely is is even more important to be able to review the evidence rather than just knowing where the people live.

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    5. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Absolutely Elizabeth!

      And when pharmaceutical companies, medical authorities and government health officials are noted as being the only 'stakeholders' on this issue, we know there is a problem.

      Independent research into vaccination should be a given - but it's not.

      Double-blind, placebo controlled trials (using a true placebo - not a vaccine adjuvant, another vaccine or a vaccine solute) funded by our government which budgets hundreds of millions of dollars a year to vaccination without…

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    6. Katie Brockie

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Meryl,
      until you learn what a placebo is, when it comes to drug trials, I don't think you can comment on vaccine safety trials. And I'm not censoring you. I just think it helps to have a scientific discussion if one understands what the terms involved mean.

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    7. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      FYI, pharmaceutical companies make a lot more money off cosmetics then they do vaccines. Vaccination is not as lucrative as you've been mislead to believe.

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    8. Jo Alabaster

      Layperson and Cat Herder

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Hi Elizabeth,

      "Citizens are entitled to ask well-founded questions about vaccination..."

      I agree wholeheartedly and encourage such. I question though, whether some citizens are willing to accept answers which are not in alignment with their views on the matter. I have come across many cases in which anti-vaccinationists have requested evidence for the safety and efficacy of vaccines or insights into the way phaemecutical trials work or public health decisions are made, only to ignore or dismiss…

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    9. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Jo, are you characterising me as 'anti-vaccination'? On what basis? For the record, based on my current knowledge, my position is for minimal, evidence-based vaccination.

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    10. Jo Alabaster

      Layperson and Cat Herder

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Hi Elizabeth,

      No, I'm not - I'm not familiar with you at all and I made no assumptions as to your stance, nor was I implying that you fitted any of the characters I described above. I apologise if that was not clear.

      My point was that I wholeheartedly support enquiry, but am frustrated when I see that enquiry clouded by bias, or encounter those promoting an anti-vaccination agenda masquerading as somebody merely questioning vaccine safety and efficacy. I did not mean to imply that you were either biased or anti-vaccination and I am sorry if it came across as such.

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    11. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Dear Elizabeth, we have all been straight forward and clear about our beliefs and position. ONly those who are happy to play games are pretending or hiding where they stand and in such an important debate that seems reasonalbe. So no more game playing- scientists are rigorously schooled to avoid assumptions- not so the other side- please just declare yourself rather than playing peek a boo. These are all busy professional people and a tiny bit of respect for their time and effort is not unwarranted.

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    12. Biotic Factor

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Meryl,

      "there is very little evidence that those who call themselves scientists and wish to be considered the arbiters of this information care a whit for anything but defending their own biases at the expense of freedom of choice"

      You appear to put very little stock in what scientists do and have to say on this issue, while basically implying that no scientists, researchers, doctors or nurses care about anything other than being right. That's a pretty bold claim, a fairly black view of the human condition, and, quite frankly, incredibly insulting, not to mention hypocritical.

      By what method do you propose these double-blind, placebo controlled trials be carried out, if not a scientific one?

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  6. Tim Niven
    Tim Niven is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Student at Tzu Chi University

    Nice one, Patrick.

    I can have whatever opinion I want, but there's no garuantee it will be respectable and not liable to merciless ridicule. And in some kind of "social regulatory" way, I hope ridiculous beliefs are mercilessly ridiculed - that's how I learned when I was a youngster (mis)educated in postmodern philosophy. I found like minded people in my classes easy to talk to, but as soon as I had to argue in the broader world I all of a sudden found people saying "what you're saying gives…

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  7. Joseph Callingham

    Student of Astrophysics at University of Sydney

    Excellent article but we have to be careful. Who is to decide if an argument is bulldust? It is obvious in cases of vaccinations and astrology but when the issue becomes more contentious, who is to dictate which side gets to present their view?

    I do not mind someone presenting both sides of the argument of vaccinations as long as the journalist states that there is no peer reviewed data that support their claim etc. Leaves it to the audience to make their minds up for which argument is the strongest, removing an arbiter of public debate.

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    1. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Joseph Callingham

      "...who is to dictate which side gets to present their view?'

      I think Patrick's position is not so much about dictating who gets to present a view. It is about what views are deserving of our respect.

      It is the shift to pragmatic relativism in which all opinions are "equal"

      I say that Soctrate's mortality leads us to conclude that all humans are mortal. You say that Socrates humanity leads us to conclude that Socrates is mortal.

      One is valid, the other is not. I can state my case, but I cannot claim that my case should be respected just because it is my case when it is clearly not the case.

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    2. Felicity Jensen

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Joseph Callingham

      Great article.

      I agree Joseph that we should not dictate debate but unfortunately I don't think the public and "current affair" shows such as Today Tonight would ever present both sides nor state that there is no scrap of peer reviewed data for one side of the debate because that wouldn't be sensational enough or draw a crowd. (Plus a lot of people wouldn't know what a peer review entails or how important real evidence is).

      The problem with vaccination though is that there was once a debate…

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  8. Valli Jones

    logged in via Facebook

    I think in all the hype, the fundamental argument here is whether parents have the right to choose to vaccinate, or not vaccinate, their children. And the fundamental goal of the AVN is to ensure freedom of information and freedom of choice. Somewhere along the way this has been lost.

    Well educated, well informed, people aren't getting caught up in this politically and financially motivated lunacy surrounding the vaccination debate. They're doing their research, and making the best choices they can for themselves with the information they are able to access. Maybe the time, media, and money being wasted on these fruitless arguments could be better use to fund private research on the safety and efficacy of the present vaccine schedule. I'm sure many parents would appreciate research that was funded by an entity not associated with the pharmaceutical industry.

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    1. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Valli Jones

      Valli, surely it is the role of the educated and of the media to yell FOWL! at the top of our lungs when FALSE information which made its way into the mainstream is killing people, NO?

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Valli Jones

      As the very proud carer for a small group of delightful Wyandotte chooks I fear I must protest. My chickens have simple wants and needs. They do not deceive and present me with nothing but an earthy factual realism. Not to mention very nice eggs.

      Let us cry out FOUL instead - which would be far more pertinent.

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    3. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Valli Jones

      Thank you so much, Peter, I stand not only corrected but improved by your efforts.

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    4. Linda Hilton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Valli Jones

      Valli Jones - the fundamental issue here is not about vaccination at all. The AVN and Meryl Dorey only appeared in Patrick Stoke's article as an example. The issue here is about opinions. If Patrick had used the issue of what brand of football to use in the AFL as an example we would not be debating footballs. As usual however, whenever the issue of vaccination is mentioned the AVN President and her minions flock to the comments to beat the anti vax drum. It is all getting rather old and tired.

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    5. Dave The :-) Singer

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Valli Jones

      > the fundamental goal of the AVN is to ensure freedom of information and freedom of choice

      Then the committee should consider whether Meryl Dorey, who spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in 'expenses' whilst making the AVN look like a bunch of crazed anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, is really effective in achieving that goal.

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  9. Craig Minns

    Self-employed

    Interesting article.

    I think there is a very fine line between "not having your views taken seriously [and] not being allowed to hold or express those views at all"

    There is a disturbing tendency in some circles to try to silence discussion by encouraging people not to respond to particular views, rather than simply putting their reasons for disagreeing.

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    1. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Craig Minns

      I agree with you, Craig Minns. And appeals to authority are not the same as evidence of safety and effectiveness. This is science we are talking about here - not religion - let's treat it as such.

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    2. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Craig, you make an interesting point but what panics people like me is when the author of the study that all the lies are based on admits that it was FALSE and no one listens. People continue to build on that information as though it were true. The children are being injured and the parents who are desperate to understand why their child has autism put their own lives virtually on the line to defend this crazy lie someone surely must say ENOUGH. Truth must prevail. Why is no one asking what the liars are gaining?

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    3. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Science requires falsifiability, which requires reproducibility.

      I have no great knowledge of the vaccination topic, but I do have a sense that the good outweighs the bad, mostly because I have confidence that those who have done the research have done their best to falsify their hypotheses and that their results are reproducible.

      It's the scientific method I have confidence in, and that leads me to have confidence in the results that it produces.

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    4. Meryl Dorey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Again Craig, I agree with you. And I was always under the impression that those who had gone before had done their best to make sure that any evidence of dangers or ineffectiveness had been thoroughly investigated and that we would never use products on our children (or adults) which had been shown to have a benefits:risk ratio which was skewed towards the risks. Unfortunately, my research has shown that for a significant minority, the risks of vaccination far outweigh their benefits and those benefits…

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    5. Jo Alabaster

      BSc student

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Meryl, if I may, I have a question for you.

      Why have you decided against undertaking any formal studies in science over the past twenty years that you have spent researching vaccine safety and efficacy?

      I suggest that just undertaking a foundation unit through Open University would be of great value to you. SSK18, Rocket Science: Academic Skills for Science Students (http://www.open.edu.au/courses/arts/murdoch-university-rocket-science-academic-skills-for-science-students--ssk18-2012) covers basic statistical literacy, introduces skills in critical thought including assessing bias and outlines what science is and is not. It would be a fantastic starting point for you to begin to equip yourself with the skills and understanding to assess your information and argue your case from a more credible position.

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    6. In reply to Craig Minns

      Comment removed by moderator.

    7. In reply to Craig Minns

      Comment removed by moderator.

    8. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Craig Minns

      If you have spent 23 years studying and researching the topic, then you have had more than enough time to get your credentials. You say the studies aren't open to interpretation, but you then proceed to claim how the conclusions of many studies are wrong, and you re-interpret them yourself. Make up your mind maybe?

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    9. Stephanie Buydens

      Student

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Desperate parents are a gold mine. They will send themselves into debt and beg for donations from their community on the faint hope of curing their child. Who else can you convince to spend so much on useless junk?

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    10. Biotic Factor

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Craig Minns

      "If antibodies don't equal immunity (and we know that they do not), then how are vaccines meant to prevent infection?"

      Ummm, Meryl - nobody has ever claimed that vaccines prevent infection. They prevent the development of disease subsequent to an infection. The difference between infection and disease is significant (have you heard of lag time?). Similarly, it is not the presence of antibodies that is said to confer immunity, but the presence of memory B cells. The difference between proteins and cells is also significant.

      It's surprising that in 20+ years of reading around the issue, you would make these elementary mistakes. Unless, of course, you have not understood what you have read.

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  10. Russell Walton
    Russell Walton is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired

    We're not all learned philosophers, or philosophy students, members of the public are entitled to their opinions because of the possibility that their opinions might indeed be correct.

    That said, the possibility that the opinions of unqualified climate change sceptics or anti-vaccinators might be valid, is very small. "To each his own trade." There's certainly no obligation to give fringe opinions publicity, I'm certainly irritated when lawyers, economists and scientists with irrelevant qualifications pontificate on climate change. The real problem is not that people express looney opinions but that they are taken seriously by significant sections of the public--that's a failure of our education system.

    Commercial 'news' services are not in the business of disseminating facts or reasoned opinions.

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    1. Christopher Chen
      Christopher Chen is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Russell Walton

      "We're not all learned philosophers, or philosophy students, members of the public are entitled to their opinions because of the possibility that their opinions might indeed be correct."

      If I'm reading Stokes's post correctly, he would agree that members of the public are all absolutely "allowed-to-say"-entitled to have their opinions, full stop. (And they're "entitled"-entitled to have opinions, but only some of the time, depending on how well they can vouch for them.)

      I'm vaguely miffed that he's introduced two definitions for the same phrase. It makes it impossible to tell whether commenters on this article are talking at cross purposes :(

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  11. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ian Donald Lowe

      this isn't about 9/11, first of all, it wasn't an "inside job", squares are not circles, otherwise they'd be called circles, and the only time 1+1 doesn't = 2 is when it is in binary and it equals 10, which in binary, is still 2.

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    2. Helen Westerman

      Deputy Managing Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Ian Donald Lowe

      The comment has been removed as it contravened our community standards policy.

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  12. Adam Lehmann

    Student

    Absolutely brilliant point there. I would love to argue my points/opinions/theories with you at some part in my life. Whether over a social network or in person (though the latter is preferable). At the moment I am reading into religious theories and arguements. If you are willing to have a debate or two then send me an e-mail at darktarthefirst@gmail.com

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  13. Rory Cahill

    Editor at The Conversation

    Dear all,

    This is a robust discussion of the kind we encourage and value at The Conversation.

    However threats of violence, or even intimations that violence should be used, towards other commentors is in clear contravention of our community standards and will not be tolerated. Repeated breaches of the standards may see posting privileges revoked.

    Anyway, ball up, play on.

    Best,

    Rory

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    1. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Rory Cahill

      Hey, I love that line, 'Ball up, play on'

      Gerard Dean

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  14. Peter Bowditch

    IT consultant and teacher

    I would love to comment extensively on this article, but due to an ongoing court case I have to be careful about what I say in public about certain matters. The court case is about my right to express an opinion which is contrary to someone else's opinion, an opinion which I think is wrong. The person taking the action against me claims to be in favour of free speech and is even on record as saying that they encourage people to disagree with them and have never tried to suppress contrary opinion…

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    1. Scott Hansen

      Web developer

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      Indeed. For someone that bangs on about censorship, she sure does being a complete and utter hypocrite.

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    2. Meryl Dorey

      Public Officer at Australian Vaccination Network, Inc.

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      For everyone else here who would like to make this a debate about me personally, I will not be participating. The issue raised in this article is - do people who are critical of a belief held by the mainstream establishment have a right to express their side of the vaccination issue. I believe that they do - if they can provide evidence to back up their assertions. I can provide evidence - it's just that 'science' as it is practised today - does not like to examine evidence contrary to currently-held dogma.

      So perhaps the question isn't - do those who are critical of vaccination have a right to express their opinions and present their evidence in public. Instead, the question should be - are scientists mature enough to examine evidence when it is presented to them - even if that evidence flies in the face of what they believed to be true.

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    3. Euan Reavie

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      Meryl; your comment suggests you have not actually spoken to many scientists, or you decided to simply ignore the predominant findings of peer-reviewed research. I hear this nonsense about how scientists "do not like to examine evidence contrary to currently-held dogma" all the time on media outlets. As a scientist, I have never known a colleague to act this way. Yes, fraud and bias have rarely occurred. But you base your argument on your belief that there is resounding scientific bias. If you actually integrated yourself into the lives of scientists you would quickly learn that this is not true.

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    4. Meryl Dorey

      Public Officer at Australian Vaccination Network, Inc.

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      Euan: I think you are presuming too much. To the best of my knowledge, we've never met or spoken. You don't know me and therefore, you can't possibly know who I've spoken with, what I've studied or what knowledge I've gained over my 23 years of research into this subject.

      You said that my comments suggest to you that I have not actually spoken with many scientists and then, continue on to the absolutely gob-smacking statement that "fraud and bias have rarely occurred". I will be kind and assume…

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    5. Linda Hilton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      Meryl I have read all your comments on here and other fora in which you have posted. You question how people can know what you have studied or to whom you have spoken. I think that the bottom line here is that you don't have any paper qualifications. Having a brain is simply not enough. Having read alt med websites and publications for 23 years, is not enough. Despite what you might say to your critics, in order to have your opinion about vaccination and other health issues taken seriously, you…

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    6. Candice Lea

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      "The fact is that this article wants us all to defer to the greater knowledge and expertise of doctors who - the author claims - are the REAL experts when it comes to vaccination. But I have spoken with literally hundreds of doctors who are totally clueless on this subject - and that includes immunologists, paediatricians, rheumatologists and other specialists.

      As opposed to the opinion of many people here and in the greater community, a degree in medicine does not give one any 'magical' powers…

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    7. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      Funny, calling out the "fraud and bias" in scientific journals... when you've happily defended frauds such as Andrew Wakefield.

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    8. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      And honestly.... I know high schoolers with a better grasp on vaccines and medical matters than you

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    9. Annette Bannon

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      You claim Meryl..." Doctors are not trained in research and in fact, that majority of their information about drugs and vaccines comes directly from the manufacturers of those same products."......
      NO
      Pharmaceutical Reps are not qulaified to train Dr's in medicine.The role in Pharmacuetical medicines, of a Representative, is the content of the PI, which is very important, the TGA indication and PBS listing. The role extends for those who work in Specialist medicine is to discuss ( not write!) peer reviewed articles on a disease state, or new information on a drug that has an approved indication.
      How to evaluate a patient is nothing to do with Pharma.
      You make this false statement regulary!

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    10. Stephanie Buydens

      Student

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      "Having a brain is simply not enough. Having read alt med websites and publications for 23 years, is not enough. Despite what you might say to your critics, in order to have your opinion about vaccination and other health issues taken seriously, you need paper qualifications."

      Although I agree with the rest, I strongly disagree with this statement.

      As a homeschooled teenager, I developed an interest in genetics. I used to spend hours hanging out in the Health Sciences library, reading American…

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    11. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      "Self-taught people can be quite knowledgable, if they put enough time and effort into learning."

      Stephanie - of course it is possible to learn a great deal by reading - many interested amateurs know a lot more of the theory about their specific area of interest than professionals who are not specialists in that area.

      There is a huge gap, however, between knowing theory on a topic and actually practising a profession or making policy decisions where you are responsible for health outcomes…

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    12. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      Ms Dorey makes these proclamations while having no idea what doctors are trained in - either in medical school or during life-long ongoing education.

      She names a couple of American paediatricians: the first is a general paediatrician who has no scientifc publications in the area of vaccination - nor in any other area.

      Dr Fouad Yazbak (not "Foad Yabak") was a co-author on papers about the impact of rubella on pregnancies in the 1960's. Accuracy is important.

      IN the meantime, the overwhelming majority of paediatricians understand and promote the enormous benefits of vaccination, while acknowledging the small incidence of significant side-effects.

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    13. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      The trouble is Sue, that if you happen to be the parent of a child who suffers one of those side-effects it's a pretty big deal.

      While the incidence may be small, if it is non-zero then they have a reasonable point in saying they don't regard population health as sufficient a motivation to take that risk.

      As I said, I don't agree, but simply reiterating the same thing won't make their point go away.

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    14. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      Most people understand that human life involves non-zero risk, Craig.

      Wearing seat-belts and having vehicle air-bags also entails non-zero risk, but our cooperative society has agreed that these tiny risks should be systematically borne for the much larger benefits. The risks and benefits have been studied and quantified - as they have been with vaccination.

      I don't ignore a non-zero-risk - I live with it, as does all of humanity.

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    15. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      I ride a motorcycle Sue and I've had more than one incident involving serious injury. The rewards I get from riding the motorcycle are sufficient in my mind to make the risk worthwhile. I work with someone who has just sold his motorcycle because he had a slight skid in the wet and came to the conclusion that the risk was too great for the benefit he gains. He may be right, but he's not me.

      The anti-vaxers believe that the benefits associated with vaccination are not sufficient to justify the risk they perceive as being associated with the process.

      I agree that this is entirely subjective, but that's the way it is. For some people no amount of avoidable risk is acceptable, while for others risk is part of life.

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    16. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      The issue remains this- Craig- that if you knowingly choose to accept the risks of riding a motorcylce- it is your skin and bone and brain tissue or those of your knowling passenger that remain like skid marks on Australia's roadways where as when you choose not to vaccinate your child- you choose danger for everyone who intersects with your child's life and they never consciously assumed that risk.

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    17. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      Craig - I see two issues with that argument:

      First, the risks and benefits of both motorcycle riding and infectious diseases are quantifiable - in objective numbers (incidence, hospitalisations, deaths etc). The risks of infectious diseases are significant, those of vaccination are tiny in comparison.

      Second, both people who are sick with infectious diseases and those who ride motorcycles in traffic interact with the general community - their behaviour or condition impacts on others, and they…

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    18. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      I couldn't agree more Sue. My point was that all that rationality doesn't matter when you're trying to convince people who hold an irrational viewpoint. By any objective rational measure riding a bike is crazy, yet I still do it, irrationally. Sure, I take the usual self-protective measures, but I know from personal experience they don't work especially well.

      I suspect the same applies to anti-vaxers. They place high weightings on aspects of their decision-making that by any object and rational…

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    19. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      I take your point, but I don't think the anti-vaxers will find it convincing. From their point of view by insisting on vaccination you are risking a great harm to their child in order to avert a small harm to someone else.

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    20. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      Thanks Craig, this is actually helpful dialogue but here is where i am as an individual. I will work to ensure that people in general begin to understand that those who willfully choose the path of the antivaxers are antisocial, that it has astoudning consequences for society in general and for those who are exposed to these people in particular so that they will not blindly encourage such madness. There is a huge difference between informed concent and playing along and it is beginning to cost innocent and formerly uninformed lives.

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    21. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Peter Bowditch

      By all means do so, Debra. It's a worthwhile thing to do, although I'd suggest that for some people no amount of good argument will be convincing.

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  15. Scott Hansen

    Web developer

    Of course, if one wanted to see just what kind of an organisation Meryl Dorey runs, lets see how she makes money off of those she has helped convince that her opinion is more valid than reality:

    http://www.antivaxxers.com/?p=4486

    This details everything in regards to the AVN and it's ongoing scam in regards to magazine subscriptions.

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  16. Elizabeth Hart

    Independent Vaccine Investigator

    Patrick, The Conversation’s comments thread on “Measles outbreak calls for vaccination vigilance” was arbitrarily shut down today, preventing me from responding to Sue Ieraci’s query about my definition of “paternalistic experts”: https://theconversation.edu.au/measles-outbreak-calls-for-vaccination-vigilance-10042
    As my response is pertinent to the Mediawatch story on a measles outbreak mentioned in your article, and provides a practical example of what you call “a policy response to science…

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I think the answer to your questions would largely depend on the relative costs, coverage, and safety of one-dose vs. two-dose vaccination schedules. I'm not in a position to assess those factors, so can't really comment further. However I note Candice Harris' comments about coverage above.

      Thanks,
      Patrick

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    2. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      You’re a Lecturer in Philosophy Patrick, and that’s the best you can do?
      Crikey…

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    3. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      This is fascinating. Are you aware that the world is or might be observing? To diminish someone in this manner is way beyond the normal rules of discourse but some of you seem to feel that personal attacks are warranted and as long as you do not generally stand behind them or suggest that the other is a blood sucking entity who refuses to lie down when dead- it is all OK.

      Man, this is normally exciting but I hope you wait while I put my boots on!

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    4. Ken McLeod

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Elizabeth, am I correct in surmising that you have no tertiary degrees in immunology? If I have read Patrick correctly, I think he is saying that without the appropriate qualifications and experience, people who pose as experts are not entitled to have their opinions respected.

      "Elizabeth is a Research Officer, with a degree majoring in
      politics and philosophy. This background has assisted her in
      researching and lobbying on this subject. The ethical aspects
      are of particular interest to her.
      She is working with other concerned pet owners, Bea Mies
      and Pat Styles, who have also been campaigning on this issue
      since they strongly suspect their dogs were also adversely
      affected by unnecessary vaccination."

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    5. Candice Lea

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Thank you Patrick - seems Elizabeth is only concerned about her own say and not reading the comments people put in reply to it. So I'll quote myself here for Elizabeth's benefit.

      There are some things in health policy that are about the bigger picture Elizabeth.

      "

      Elizabeth, if it is your opinion that the NIP 'arbitrarily' has two doses of MMR in the schedule - do you honestly think the addition of a second dose to the schedule (at incredible cost and resource cost) *hasn't* been thoroughly…

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    6. Keith Thomas

      Retired

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      I apologise if I am complicit in letting the topic stray into the MMR debate, but I have a question about MMR. Some of the criticism of MMR is because the triple vaccine is a "triple whammy" and so it may have a greater impact on infants than would three separated vaccinations. Is there a medical reason why separate vaccinations are not routinely available? I may be wrong, but I get the impression that many people who oppose MMR are not opposed to all or even most vaccinations, just this one particular "king hit".

      There is a second issue: some parents would like to see their children tested and shown to be healthy enough to withstand the special impact of each vaccine before it's administered. I don't want to get into the medical arguments here, but I mention it because I want to point out that people opposed to MMR are not all dogmatic anti-vaccination zealots.

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    7. Candice Lea

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      some parts of your arguement are outside the scope of my expertise.
      "Is there a medical reason why separate vaccinations are not routinely available?"
      there will always be *some* reason why people who oppose vaccination will have issue with any vaccine.
      However. Sure, entertain the idea of giving a baby of 12months *3* seperate needles when they dont need too, just because the mummy warrior feels she knows more than every immunologist etc etc.
      These developments and approvals are NOT taken lightly…

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    8. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Thank you Ken for this clarification. I think it is a basic tenet in most disciplines that one CANNOT generalize from animals to human beings. If you are an expert in D|OGS I think you are probably needed in that field.

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    9. Keith Thomas

      Retired

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Humans are animals. Every single one of us. We are animals, mammals, primates. Extrapolation is a separate issue and will vary according to the parameters in question, but please be clear about the place of Homo sapiens in the animal kingdom, or we are not going to get anywhere.

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    10. Keith Thomas

      Retired

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      OK, I'll try your "better question" (though I am not sure it is a better question).

      What is the benefit in combining these particular three vaccines? Is the benefit medical (for the child), epidemiological (for the population as a whole) or logistical (for the delivery agency)? Or is there some other benefit?

      It is not true that "no anti vaxxer has suggested what to actually test for". I am not an anti vaxxer, yet I can suggest appropriate tests. But to go into that issue here would be straying too far from Patrick Stokes' article.

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    11. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      3 points to Keith for that astute observation, however what happens in other species is NOT exactly what happens in humans and while we can gain cues from that research we have to do human research and rely on human research to reach any conclusions. Human beings have proven to be diverse enough as recent DNA studies and calamities like the Vioxx drug have proven.

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    12. Candice Lea

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Is it bad that it is all of those things combined? or does it need to be 'pure' for you to accept it?
      The child receives ONE needle instead fo three. Epidemiologically there is 3 diseases done in one go. Logistically there are 3 diseases done in one go. This is also financially beneficial too, on a delivery level (storage, delivery costs, time to administer 3 needles to already upset child etc)

      You can suggest appropriate tests to measure 'health enough for vaccination' I'd be hoping you have…

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    13. Keith Thomas

      Retired

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      I'll be careful with this reply as I don't want to tread further on Patrick's patience or The Conversation's generosity.

      I did not say I knew what tests would ensure we will not get anaphylaxis from vaccination. All I said was I could suggest appropriate tests. And I meant - but did not say, sorry - that, surely, such tests would be prudent, understood in the context of patient history, as a means of identifying children who were at greater or lesser risk of suffering ill effects from vaccination…

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    14. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Ms Hart - since this thread is still open, and you apparently wanted to answer my question (though didn't do so before), I'll re-post it for you here:

      "Elizabeth Hart, when you refer to "paternalistic 'experts' ", do you mean immunologists, padiatricians, infectious diseases experts, epidemiologists, early chidlhood nurses, or NICU nurses and doctors?

      All these people research and promote vaccination. Which of them do you find "paternalistic" or not to hold expertise?"

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    15. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Keith Thomas - vaccine policy is a combination of immunology and public health practice. The reasons for the timing of the various vaccines include:
      - Age at which the child is able to mount an effective immune response
      - Age at which the condition being vaccinated for is most prevalent
      - Age at which the child is most exposed to other children (eg pre-school)

      Most anti-vaccinationists are less concerned about the antigens in the vaccines so much as the fluid they are carried in and the preservatives…

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    16. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Mr Thomas - on what basis would you choose tests to be "healthy enough to withstand the special impact of each vaccine before it's administered."?

      Do you mean whether they have a normal immune system and are therefore able to mount an immune response, or do you mean whether they might have an egg allergy and react to some components of some vaccines? If they are not "healthy", don't they need immunisation all the more, as they might not be able to withstand the actual infections?

      I wonder why…

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    17. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Sue, refer to my recent detailed and referenced response to Patrick Stokes.
      In your role as a public hospital clinician, I have some questions for you that may help provide more illustration. Bearing in mind Aesculapian authority:
      1. Is it acceptable that parents of young children are not informed of the reportedly high response rate to the first MMR live vaccine, and arbitrarily ordered to have a second MMR vaccine for their children?
      2. Is it acceptable that the Australian government demands…

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    18. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      All the way over here in Canada we have learned an Australian expression - "Fair Dinkum"- which we love because it says so much so rightly.

      Have I got it wrong in believing that it is only 'Fair Dinkum" for one person to answer the questions posed to her before expecting to ask and have their own questions responded to?

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    19. Stephanie Buydens

      Student

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      "I apologise if I am complicit in letting the topic stray into the MMR debate, but I have a question about MMR. Some of the criticism of MMR is because the triple vaccine is a "triple whammy" and so it may have a greater impact on infants than would three separated vaccinations. Is there a medical reason why separate vaccinations are not routinely available? I may be wrong, but I get the impression that many people who oppose MMR are not opposed to all or even most vaccinations, just this one particular "king hit"."

      I am not an expert in immunology, but from what I understand, the reason why they give all three together is to have earlier immunity. If you gave them separately, the kid would spend several more months susceptible to one or two of the trio of illnesses that vaccine defends against.

      Unless you're proposing just having separate injections for each, which would accomplish nothing apart from giving the kid a bit more pain.

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    20. Stephanie Buydens

      Student

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Yes, you can't always generalize from animals to humans, just like you can't generalize between different species of animals. For example, rabbits are one of the few species that don't have birth defects from prenatal exposure to thalidomide. Rats, for example (http://www.nature.com/pr/journal/v52/n4/abs/pr2002225a.html), have pretty much the same reaction to thalidomide as humans do.

      We're not special. Every species has its unique quirks. Good use of animal models involves testing multiple species…

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    21. Candice Lea

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      *exactly* Debra - one way conversation for Ms Hart. Something makes me believe she wouldn't pay attention if the answers are not what she wants to hear. She's already ignored my responses, twice.

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    22. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Patrick, as intimated earlier, I was astonished by your offhand reply to my comment about unnecessary vaccination with the MMR second dose, and the lack of response to my letter to Health Minister Tanya Plibersek. It was obvious from the speed of your reply that you gave barely any thought to my detailed and referenced comment.
      Please note there is an important principle at stake here. We are in very dangerous territory when 'experts' and governments demand that citizens/children have questionable…

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    23. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I apologise if I came across as abrupt in my earlier response. It certainly wasn't my intention to offend. However, as indicated, all the questions you raised ultimately turn on matters on which I, not being a scientist working in the relevant area, can’t really comment on. As I say, the answers to your questions would depend on the relative costs and benefits of one-dose vs. two-dose schedules. I don’t know what those costs/benefits are (obviously that’s a technical question well…

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    24. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Ken, I don’t claim to be an expert in anything…least of all immunology, that’s why I’m careful to cite references to support the arguments I make in my documents and comments.
      As you have discovered, my interest in vaccination was initiated after my eight year old dog Sasha became inexplicably ill, and was put down after an (unnecessary) vaccination. I subsequently discovered that veterinarians in Australia were ignoring international dog and cat vaccination guidelines that recommended reducing…

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    25. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Elizabeth, please do not think that people do not respect your experience. IT IS THE UNWARRANTED GENERALIZATION OF IT THAT WE FEAR AND FIGHT.

      Your experience is compelling- for you-a one off that you seem to fear for the general population. Let me give you a hypothetical equivalent.

      Last December I went in for a benign tumour in my spine. I had my friend drop me off at the front door in perfect health (besides that annoying tumour that threatened my lower half) and the surgeon told me the only…

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    26. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Patrick, re your flourishing of the ‘peer-reviewed research’ card…
      I suggest this piece by Frank Furedi is relevant i.e.: “Turning peer review into modern-day holy scripture – The treatment of peer-reviewed science as an unquestionable form of authority is corrupting the peer-review system and damaging public debate”: http://www.frankfuredi.com/index.php/site/article/378/
      A quote: “Increasingly, peer review has been turned into a quasi-holy institution, which apparently signifies that a certain…

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    27. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      So what alternative to peer review do you propose then, Elizabeth?

      Your quotes from Furedi are actually not that far off the mark: peer-review is the best method we have available to us for telling us which findings meet the appropriate scholarly standards, such that we don't have any particularly compelling reason to take anything non peer-reviewed seriously. Is it a perfect system? Of course not. (Says the guy who's revising two papers for resubmission at the moment...). Is it open to corruption…

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    28. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      As a self-described "research officer", I'm surprised Elizabeth Hart doesn't understand the dynamics and significance of "peer-review" a bit better.

      The purpose of placing research into the public domain is for an informed audience to critique the methodology and assess whether the conclusions made by the authors bear any merit. The peer review that occurs before publication is only a way of checking whether that paper appears to be suitable for publication in that particular journal. It has to…

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    29. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Elizabeth - I haven't found any answer to my previous question in any of your posts, so I'll post it for you again here:

      ""Elizabeth Hart, when you refer to "paternalistic 'experts' ", do you mean immunologists, padiatricians, infectious diseases experts, epidemiologists, early chidlhood nurses, or NICU nurses and doctors?

      All these people research and promote vaccination. Which of them do you find "paternalistic" or not to hold expertise?"

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    30. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Well there's peer-review and "peer-review", Ms Sue.

      Sometimes one must examine the fine print.

      Take for example the peer reviewed journal where one local climate expert claimed he'd had his research published. Well, according to the editor of Energy & Environment, it is a peer-reviewed journal - one of the biggest anti-warming journals in the world actually - but not all of it is peer reviewed. Folks of "like minds" can get a paper pubished in the short article section without even basic…

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    31. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      "I did not say I knew what tests would ensure we will not get anaphylaxis from vaccination. All I said was I could suggest appropriate tests. And I meant - but did not say, sorry - that, surely, such tests would be prudent, understood in the context of patient history, as a means of identifying children who were at greater or lesser risk of suffering ill effects from vaccination at a particular time."

      But Mr Thomas - it is the hypersensitivity reactions (such as to egg protein) that are easy to test for. What other tests for what other "ill effects" did you have in mind?

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    32. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Ah - now we finally understand what Elizabeth Hart means by "research officer". Not that she actually conducts research, but that she reads stuff.

      On the basis that your dog died, Ms Hart, you want to deny young children immunity to measles, mumps and rubella?

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  17. Doug McNabb

    Engineer

    Don't confuse a good argument for truth. A good argument is useful for being more effective. But, winning an argument only loosely correlates with knowing the truth. Whenever I'm arguing with someone, I (try to) consider that they may be right - even if they don't know _why_ they are right.

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  18. Rodrigo Alves Vieira

    logged in via Facebook

    Agreed but man, strawberry ice cream is DEFINITELY better than chocolate.

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Rodrigo Alves Vieira

      Strawberry ice cream is better than chocolate? BLASPHEMY!! This insult against the very prince of ice cream flavours shall not stand!

      (I did say it would be silly to assert this; I did not say that I am not silly).

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Rodrigo Alves Vieira

      I can just see those multinational Big Gelato companies lining up to provide sponsorship, corrupt the investigators and skew the results. Whatever methods you use, I won't believe the results!

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    3. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Rodrigo Alves Vieira

      Is this the crux of the argument from that side? PLEASE.

      Scientist are not likely to want to and no ethics committee will approve an experiment that knowingly allows people to die (exept in rare drug trial where the people are already in end stage and know it and choose to make their end count for others).

      Scientists appear to have a very high regard for LIFE and this is the crux of the provaccination side.

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  19. Guy Curtis

    Senior Lecturer at School of Psychology and Exercise Science, Murdoch University

    Hi Patrick, when I first read this piece a few days ago comments were disabled and I see they are back on now. At the time I was itching to just write a quick not to tell you how fantastic I think this is and now I have the chance. This is a great piece and I hope this link stays accessible for a long time because I will be recommending it to many of my students and to many other people. You have very clearly articulated a very important point about how arguments should proceed that is topical inasmuch…

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Guy Curtis

      Thanks for the kind words on the article, Guy, they're very much appreciated.

      That is just bizarre - did they give any reason why she still blamed the carbon tax? Was she so upset by the carbon tax she had to turn on every fan in the house to cheer herself up? Did the carbon tax make her buy a rock tumbler or something?

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    2. Guy Curtis

      Senior Lecturer at School of Psychology and Exercise Science, Murdoch University

      In reply to Guy Curtis

      Yes, It was truly silly. The story I read said: "The bill from power firm Synergy also clearly stated that bills were going up by about 9.13 per cent because of the carbon tax." ..."Mrs Verolme believed the increase in her bill due to the carbon tax was more like 20 per cent ""I did the calculation this morning and it looks something like 19 point something, nearly or 20 per cent.""

      So there you have it, she did her own maths (who knows how because she'd not have had access to all the necessary variables) and came up with a different figure than what is stated on the bill and believes her own calculation is more believable than the black-and-white figure on her bill. And, this gets reported as news! The headline was "Pensioner backs Abbott", it could easily have been "Pensioner disputes fact but fails to demonstrate how she's correct to do so".

      The article I was thinking of is here: http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/pensioner-backs-abbott-on-bill-20121011-27fau.html

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  20. Greg Beattie

    logged in via Facebook

    Patrick

    There's no escaping the fact that we're all entitled to an opinion, as you note in your article (despite the headline). But you suggest we should actively throttle some opinions because they enjoy more popularity than you would like to see. The arbiter here, you suggest, should be 'authority'. It strikes me as a curious appeal for a philosopher to make.

    We do need to carefully scrutinise arguments we (or others) find attractive. But to do so on the basis of authority is foolish. Science…

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    1. Rohan James Gaiswinkler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      "Remember, strong arguments don't need authority for their foundation".

      That's right Greg. As Patrick explained eloquently they need evidence. And where does this evidence come from? From science. And who practices this science, and relays its discoveries to society? Scientists. That's right Greg, EXPERTS in immunology do that. Can non-experts present counter evidence? There is non censorship against them trying. Will they be taken seriously? Only if the evidence is good. There is no conspiracy against the provision of good evidence here.

      You can pin your *argument from authority fallacy* tail on the evidence donkey all you like. It will fall off.

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    2. Rohan James Gaiswinkler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      "Someone who is expert in the field of immunology will likely know precious little about the practical value in a community of a vaccine."

      Lets test this claim by applying it in other domains:

      "Someone who is expert in the field of air traffic control will likely know precious little about the practical value in a community of radar."

      "Someone who is expert in the field of tourism / hospitality will likely know precious little about the practical value in a community of a hotel."

      "Someone who is expert in the field of information technology will likely know precious little about the practical value in a community of an internet connection."

      Epic fail, Greg.

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    3. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      Hi Greg,

      Sorry for the long and somewhat clunky line-by-line response that follows:

      1. “There's no escaping the fact that we're all entitled to an opinion, as you note in your article (despite the headline).”

      - In the relatively thin sense of ‘entitlement’ I identify in the article, yes, but not in the thick sense I discuss (hence the title, which I chose and for which I take full responsibility).

      2. “But you suggest we should actively throttle some opinions because they enjoy more popularity…

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    4. Linda Hilton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      Greg Beattie - you have just conclusively proven to me that you hold a strong bias against educated, knowledgeable and experienced people. Time and time again I have seen your attempts to take down people who are experts in their field, no matter what that field may be. I wonder what the psychology is of that behaviour? Is it education envy? Intellectual envy? Perhaps it is simply that you believe that you are more intelligent than these people be they nurses, doctors, immunologists or philosophers.

      You showed your true colours when you finished your post with the misogynist, sexist comment "I think your slip is showing". Is that where you had to go? Implying that Patrick was behaving like a woman and therefore his beliefs and arguments were not worthy of a man.

      You are all class Greg.

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    5. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      Greg Beattie says "Science is all about enabling valuable arguments to bubble to the top through robust discussion. "

      Not so, Mr Beattie - science is about testing "valuable arguments" rigorously, looking at the evidence, and rejecting or revising the "argument" on the basis of the findings.

      The arguments raised repeatedly by yourself, Ms Dorey and others have been examined and de-bunked, also repeatedly.

      People who are inexpert in the area the argue about frequently use the (derogatory) allegation 'experts'', as if having knowledge, training and experience in an specific area of practice somehow disqualifies you from commenting in your own area.

      What instead - prefer the views of the untrained and inexperienced because they are not 'experts'?

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    6. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      Dear Greg,
      I think we all know people who have become so open minded that their brains have fallen out.
      I repeat, it is entirely valid to dismiss arguments that have been proven wrong to our own safisfaction and when that happens- to feel that someone should have the good grace to stop repeating those things. It is not wrong- especially when the result of such inane stubborness is to harm unwitting people who think that they should be able to believe what is publically espouced.

      You, of course are free to allow such harm to you and yours, and all we can do is grieve BUT do not expect us to rejoice in ignorance nor celebrate its application. Some of us feel duty bound to humanity to tell the TRUTH.

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    7. Rohan James Gaiswinkler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      Annnnnnd your reply to Patrick, Greg?... [crickets]

      A typical antivax drive-by... Arrive with bluster and bravado... Disappear faster than Speedy Gonzales when your arguments have been slayed as comprehensively as the "twenty seconds to comply" scene from RoboCop.

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    8. Greg Beattie

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      Patrick

      Thanks for your friendly reply. I'll make this brief because I'm travelling and in and out of reception.

      You say an appeal to authority is not automatically fallacious. Sure, but take note: I didn't claim your argument was fallacious. I said it was weak, as it rested exclusively on the appeal. The same applies to your commenters who've joined you in the attack on Meryl.

      As for the thrust of your article, I don't accept that all you're trying to say is some opinions deserve more…

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    9. Greg Beattie

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      Patrick

      OK. Now to the question of who the 'experts' are. I understand you regard this as a straighforward question with a straightforward answer: namely doctors (and particularly immunologists). But as I said earlier, I suspect you don't know much about the 'issue'. I take a more careful approach and suggest we need to first consider what our questions are. Let's start with benefit. As consumers we're surely interested in evaluating this first to give us something against which to compare the…

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    10. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      I don't like the term "expert". I have worked with experts. It is not easy.

      By definition an expert has literally come to absorb a form of knowledge that only comes with deep familiarity. A "sense of smell" that is in essence innate. They can hear that something is wrong with the second injector in your old diesel, that that isn't running right, that there's a step missing, that the plan won't work.... but they can't actually tell you. Not without a major effort at unpacking assumptions, thoughts…

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    11. Keith Thomas

      Retired

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      ABC news today has an item on experts who promoted a Johnson and Johnson product - which has had catastrophic results for some women who were advised to use it:

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-15/johnson-26-johnson-facing-massive-class-action/4314346

      Note the line: "It has also cast fresh light on the system of approvals because the mesh was introduced without any pre-market testing, with surgeons leading the call for change."

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    12. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      Hi Greg,

      Sorry for the delayed reply; the dreaded marking monster is stirring again – and for that reason this reply will be a little truncated. Might have more to add later.

      I’m not saying Ms Dorey shouldn’t be taken seriously simply because she disagrees with the popular orthodoxy (by which I assume you mean the prevalent view among researchers and practitioners within the relevant disciplines). But there are two ways you could critique such orthodoxy. You can either make a case within the…

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    13. Greg Beattie

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      Patrick

      No need to apologise. We all have busy lives. Thanks for taking the time.

      1. You say we have two options if we wish to critique the orthodoxy: get 'training' then join the discussion, or discuss it from some other (I assume you mean non-scientific) paradigm. Some questions. For the first option, what is training? What about someone educated in statistics? Economics? Auditing? Or others. Is it only medical quals? Should GP's, who have no specialised training for our questions, bend…

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    14. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Greg Beattie

      Greg Beattie - your list of self-taught innovators shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the way scientific knowledge is built.

      There is no branch of science - be it astronomy, immunology, geophysics or botany - that is built on the theoriy of a single person.

      Yes, thinkers can develop revolutionary ideas. To be useful however, they need to be both feasible and demonstrable, measurable, repeatable. We don't treat stomach ulcers with anitbiotics just because someone thought it might be a good…

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  21. Craig Minns

    Self-employed

    Children, please!

    This is neither edifying or educative.It's not even entertaining.

    The questions being asked are legitimate.They may not be especially useful, but that doesn't justify the vitriol being sprayed about by people who are obviously capable of much better.

    If the science is clear, just say so and point to the research. If it's not, why are yu getting so hot under the collar? Just acknowledge there are gaps and perhaps seek some funding to close those gaps, or wait for the research…

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Craig Minns

      "What is the quantifiable risk of a negative deterministic event and what is the quantifiable individual benefit? I think the public health herd immunity argument is moot, given that the anti-vaxers are asking for an individual choice." - This is curious. You're saying that because someone refuses to accept that collective responsibility may outweigh individual autonomy in certain instances, we have to completely set aside the moral value of collective goods like herd immunity?

      I say this is…

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    2. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Craig Minns

      I must have been unclear. All I'm saying is that knowing what the stats are isn't much benefit if you are coming from the POV that no amount of risk to your child is acceptable.

      I agree completely with the public health argument and the common good, but unless the pro-vaxers can nominate a zero risk, I suspect the anti-vaxers will remain unconvinced. In that case, it comes down to whether the risk that they pose as unvaccinated potential hosts of the pathogen is sufficient to justify coercion.

      My own children were properly vaccinated with no ill-effects as far as can be discerned.

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    3. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Ah right, got it. Unfortunately there's simply no zero-risk option available here, so it's all about weighing competing risks - and as a species we don't seem terribly well equipped to assess probability on a first-personal level, as any casino owner can probably attest (while lighting his cigar on a burning Rembrandt and dining on roast unicorn). Asking us to put a reduced risk of an abstract future risk ahead of the very present and visceral fear of being injected with something is no doubt asking us to overcome a lot of evolutionary heritage. But for me and my kids it was a pretty simple decision.

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    4. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Craig Minns

      There's also the coercion aspect. How much increase in stochastic hazard justifies coercive intervention? Where does parental responsibility give way to state authority?

      It's a pretty vexed issue, really.

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    5. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Sir, coersion?

      Man, that position appears to me like worrying about a mosquito bite when a truck is bearing down on your child. We tend to get a bit vocal as communities when anyone is courting death and even more so when the death they are courting is not their own.

      The response to your assertions says it all in my own estimation and is quite indicative of this battle. The assessement you made was startling especially in light of the rude tactics emplyed by the anit-vaxxers as you call them…

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    6. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Craig Minns

      I think the coercion question is a valid one to consider. Sometimes we do have to compel people to fulfil their obligations to others, but it's always a serious business and must be well-justified. In this case I'd suggest the relative risks and benefits make the case for it pretty clear.

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    7. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Craig Minns

      I don't know enough about the subject to comment on whether coercion is justified, so I'll take your word for it.

      The anti-vaxers have some right on their side though, I think. They don't necessarily deserve ridicule.

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    8. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Hi Debra, you seem to be quite willing to require the coercion of others. I wonder if you'd be quite so keen on it if you were the one being compelled to do something you don't want to do, especially when the primary argument being used to justify the coercion is that it will be good for everybody, while you are of the view that it will be bad for you?

      It's easy to sit back and say with great gravitas "this is a noble cause, everybody must be made to go along with it", but I'd like to see how…

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    9. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Nice, Craig, I repeat who is abusing whom? You make assumptions no scientist would make.

      By the way, do you really think that you have out thought such committed people as are arguing for vaccinations and do you not think that the truth has been presented multiple times in every form? It has I assure you - to no avail for it is never information that is sought - rather it is another opportunity to put out false 'doctrine"- and raise more funds to keep such organizations afloat. Tantamount to killing…

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    10. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Debra, I was polite and assumed you were a person worthy of respect.

      Sorry about that.

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    11. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Craig, disingenuous apologies are not all that impactful when used as a way to stomp your feet when you do not get your way.
      No dice, the issue is far too serious for silly games.

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    12. Biotic Factor

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Craig Minns

      "The only thing that would be effective is showing that either the childhood diseases are themselves likely to be catastrophic and that they have a high risk of being contracted"

      Sometimes I wish anti-vaxxers would all collect together in one community and, in so doing, allow this evidence to be collected. It is already known that measles, for example, is extremely contagious, and infants (who can't develop immunity) can die from pertussis.

      It is only because vaccines have brought disease…

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  22. Vanda Hamilton

    logged in via Facebook

    Thank you Patrick. I am constantly trying to say this to people. As the time when I am constantly trying to say this is usually in a bar, I am nowhere near as articulate or logical as you.

    As a lawyer I am well used to being asked a legal question and, before I have even taken a breath to answer, the questioner launches into telling me what the legal position is. This is usually based on their one experience of getting a divorce/challenging a red light ticket/getting an intervention order etc…

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  23. Baz B

    Writer/Researcher at Them

    The article makes a statement which I believe is demonstrably false, namely that there is congruence within the ranks of suitably qualified immunologists on this topic, especially in regard to dismissing a proposed vaccine/autism causality.

    I have been in contact with immunologists from around the world, and where they are able to operate in an independent framework, they often contend similar things along the lines of minimal vaccine efficacy, and wide ranging adverse reactions.

    At the recent…

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    1. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Baz B

      Dear Baz,
      Thank you so much for this meaty and valuable response. I loved it and apologize for delaying my response.

      I cannot comment of your references until I have given the the respect of a thorough reading. Thank you, though for pushing my education forward in these matters.

      Initially, though I would remind both of us that there can be no conferences of merit without opposing views no matter how narrowly that expert is focused. On many mainstream issues, we have to look at minutia to continue…

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Baz B

      Baz Bardoe - you don't state your area of research, but it clearly isn't a clinical one.

      The references you cite re-appear on so many of the anti-vax sites. Tomljanovic and Shaw have no clinical credibility - they have posed a theoretical question from their roles within non-clinical ophthalmology research. They are frequently quoted by anti-vaxers.

      Blaylock is a retired neurosurgeon who is a "born again" anti-vaxer. He has no credibility in that specialist communities of immunology, infectious…

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    3. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Baz B

      Sue,

      I'm pro vaccination but I got to point out that resorting to the same tactic as an anti-vaxxer (appealing to authority or popularity or single cases) is not helping the rest of us.

      Why do those particular researchers lack credibility? Is it because they have consistently done shite research that has been disproven, is fraudulent or makes absolutely no sense? Or is it because they are being quoted by anti-vaxxers?

      The other thing too is although it would be unwise to trust an author…

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  24. Chris Sherley

    Researcher

    I've read many articles on this website and I sincerely love it. However, I have never been as perplexed by an article and its comments as this one.

    Everyone, absolutely everyone, is entitled to their opinion, no matter how crazy it may seem to you or I. I accept that there should be a level of credence given to scientific experts that is not extended to the lesser informed. However, let me remind everyone of the fallibilty of science:

    Thalidomide

    There are an infinite number of examples…

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    1. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Chris Sherley

      Chris, I honestly appreciate your input on this and surmise that there must be thousands of people out there who feel as you do and THAT is precisely why some of us are taking on this battle. How long after your premise is proven Wrong are you allowed to and enouraged to hold that perspective? (as long as that makes you feel good) or with your passionate or insincere self interest continue to spout what has been proven wrong??? What if it klls people? Sometimes it appears that lies look like truth…

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Chris Sherley

      Debra - you present a sound and reasoned point of view, but don't be misled into thinking that the references cited by Boz are "cutting edge" - they demonstrably are not. (see my other comments).

      This site is so prone to people quoting abstracts off the net back and forth - generally only having read the title and perhaps the spin summarised in the conclusion. There is a big difference between doing a Google search and re-posting a few abstracts as opposed to reading - and understanding - the actual study, its methodology, its data and its findings.

      We could improve the level of debate by citation by requiring anyone referring to a published paper to present a critical analysis - of the entire paper.

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Chris Sherley

      EEEEK! The Conversation's diligent editors are aquiver 'neath their desks at your suggestion Ms Sue....I have only just emerged from my security blanket myself. Encouraging critical analysis of academic papers !!!!? It's a conversation not a seminar.

      And the whole purpose is so that smart well-read characters like yourself can wade in and correct some of the misconceptions and mythology creeping about out here under the cloak of science. I know I certainly find your contributions most helpful…

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    4. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Chris Sherley

      Oh but I did mean it, Mr Peter - but perhaps not as you had envisioned.

      No powerpoint or even over-heads required (do the GenY's even know what overheads are?) - just succinct statements showing that one has read and understood the full paper that one cites.

      Let me illustrate:

      Baz Bardoe posts this:
      "The senior post doctoral researchers in vaccine safety at the Univeristy of British Columbia, Dr Lucija Tomijanovic and Professor Chris Shaw, contend that aluminium adjuvents are most probably…

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  25. Steven Liaros

    Town planner at PolisPlan - town planning and eco-village consultants

    Patrick,
    I appreciate that you are trying to elevate the debate but your argument, like Plato's is fundamentally flawed.
    Plato's purpose for distinguishing between opinion (doxa) and 'knowledge that is certain', was so that he could argue that 'Reason', by which we arrive at certainty, is superior to 'Opinion', which is always uncertain. Plato also argued that everything that is uncertain is striving towards certainty.

    The problem with his argument is that we come to regard Reason as somehow…

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Steven Liaros

      Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for a thoughtful reply – and I always appreciate a John Ralston Saul reference (I enjoyed his earlier books, particularly The Doubter’s Companion, but kind of lost the thread after On Equilibrium).

      I think it’s very important not to reify, let alone deify, reason. That’s precisely what Plato does, and that’s one of many reasons I don’t agree with his epistemology. I also agree that intuitions are an irreducible part of our moral, practical and theoretical experience (check…

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    2. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Steven Liaros

      Hi Patrick, this is a fair way from the subject of vaccinations as useful tool, but I find this concept of humility in the face of greater perceived authority a little troubling. Whilst I agree that those who have arrived at their views through proper application of the scientific method have a more strongly-based claim than someone who relies on intuition or a faulty application of reasoning alone, oftentimes it is a willingness to challenge accepted postulates that lead to the most interesting…

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    3. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Steven Liaros

      Hi Craig,

      Thanks for this very helpful comment.

      I’d like to suggest that the attitude you’re describing here is actually not opposed to what I mean by intellectual humility. A “willingness to challenge accepted postulates,” and a preparedness to abandon models that aren’t supported by empirical data, would indeed seem to be essential for any kind of research. However, what you (I think quite rightly) call ‘good faith’ in that context will also involve being open to the possibility that one…

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    4. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Steven Liaros

      Patrick, I'm struggling to properly express this, so please excuse me for perhaps seeming obtuse.

      The issue of falsifiability relates to the questions being asked, not to the model that might result from the reasoning process. Confirmation bias is a problem that persists and can impact the most eminent scientific output. Few genuinely independent scientists exist, after all.

      New paradigms arise through rationalism informed by empiricism, or sometimes through cognitive leaps that have little…

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    5. Steven Liaros

      Town planner at PolisPlan - town planning and eco-village consultants

      In reply to Steven Liaros

      Patrick, thank you very much for engaging in this conversation... I also lost the thread after JRSaul's early works.
      I, like Craig, am troubled by the issue of humility before superior knowledge or expertise.

      I think we are experiencing a fundamental shift, both in the ways our minds work and consequently in the way in which we, collectively, perceive the world... as our perception changes, our understanding of the truth also changes.

      Most of our education systems have to date been based…

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  26. Bridget Apricot Hunt

    logged in via Facebook

    "I have spoken with literally hundreds of doctors who are totally clueless on this subject - and that includes immunologists, paediatricians, rheumatologists and other specialists.

    As opposed to the opinion of many people here and in the greater community, a degree in medicine does not give one any 'magical' powers to determine the truth or otherwise of scientific issues. Doctors are not trained in research and in fact, that majority of their information about drugs and vaccines comes directly…

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    1. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Bridget Apricot Hunt

      LOL It's also a bit like arguing that a mechanic doesn't know how your car works because you're the one driving it.

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  27. Emma Anderson

    Artist and Science Junkie

    On the specific issues of vaccination and gay marriage, most of the evidence supports having both as accepted features of contemporary life, with some caveats (see below).

    However, most the arguments, from all the angles I've seen thus far, including on this web-page, appeal to authority, popularity, are ad nauseum, ad hominem and generally lacking in the evidence. It's tiresome, achieves nothing and neither perspective is winning the fight because of it. Being berated by anyone on these issues…

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  28. Ian Donald Lowe

    Seeker of Truth

    What's the point of pulling out this old opinion piece for yet another run as a featured article? Is it to remind people that they are not entitled to an opinion on this site unless they have letters after their name?

    Well, my opinion hasn't changed. The author is still narrow minded and short sighted. The Conversation however, has changed into something less than what it was, even a couple of months ago. Maybe because members of the public are not encouraged to have an opinion here any more? Perhaps. Whatever, the Conversation has failed as now all it is, is a small group of like-minded academics talking to each other.

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Ian Donald Lowe

      You're right, Ian, I am a little short-sighted. Thanks to the wonders of modern optometry though it really doesn't bother me that much.

      As for narrow minded, well if thinking that people need to be able to back up what they're saying and that expertise matters makes me narrow-minded, I guess I'll have to live with that tag. I will say that two months and 290k+ views later, I am incredibly grateful for all the feedback, both positive and critical, people have offered on this article - people from all sorts of backgrounds and with all sorts of perspectives. The Conversation makes things like that possible. Sorry to hear you're not enjoying it.

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  29. Chris Buchli

    Music Tutor

    I'm in agreement with this article. It's fair to say that an assertion should be defensible. If what you assert cannot be defended it is irrational, by definition.

    I don't think there is a suggestion that only people with relevant degrees are entitled to opinions, that would be a fallacious argument from authority. It's the argument that is relevant, not the arguer. I don't care who is making the point, if it stands up to scrutiny then it does; if it doesn't, it doesn't.

    I have a student who recently said "you're the teacher, so you're probably right", I replied that I'm not right because I'm the teacher; I'm right AND I'm the teacher. My rightness had nothing to do with the fact that I am his teacher and everything to do with my assertions being backed by evidence.

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    1. Steven Liaros

      Town planner at PolisPlan - town planning and eco-village consultants

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      Chris Buchli
      Music Tutor

      It's also fair to say that music is not rational ... I would not assert that music is therefore irrational as you use that word (i.e. irrational = 'wrong'). As a music teacher I would hope you are showing students that the opposite of rational is intuitive and creative.

      Evidence only works in the rational sphere of our world view and new ideas and breakthroughs in knowledge actually challenge the existing rational world view... creativity is all about choosing not to pursue that rational path followed by others.

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  30. Chris Buchli

    Music Tutor

    Steven Liaros - There are actually many things about music that are perfectly rational. Certain intervals have perfect ratios between them, for example, two strings an octave apart are always in a ratio of 1:2. So, the theory behind music is rational.

    What you do with that rational process is not a question of rationality, but preference and value. This is irrelevant to the topic.

    You equate 'irrational' with 'wrong' but this is a problem. You could assert something that is right but for which you have no evidence. Until you have evidence, believing this assertion to be true is irrational, even though it is correct. God is a great example of this: there's no evidence for His existence, even though He might. To believe it is irrational which is why people need 'faith'.

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    1. Steven Liaros

      Town planner at PolisPlan - town planning and eco-village consultants

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      Chris,
      I agree that there is much that is rational about the theory and craft of music... and a teacher of music, as with all disciplines, can only teach the theory and craft. The creative/ artistic element of music is not rational, is far more than 'preference and value' and is the only part of music that we (non-musicians) value.

      As a teacher of any discipline (but especially music) you can only offer the building blocks, you can only teach the rules that a creative person will break in order…

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    2. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      I'm kind of torn between about whether or not the rational is independent from the emotional.

      But I think it's fair to say that the most fun in art making seems to come from accepting a fusion of spontaneous ideas and not giving a toss if there's a basis for it until later. Sounds rather irrational to me.

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    3. Chris Buchli

      Music Tutor

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      Steve,

      You're playing with a few words dishonestly, or you just don't know what they mean. I'm willing to grant the latter.

      First, You can't "agree" that much about the theory AND craft of music is rational because I only asserted that the theory of music is rational, not the craft, so this is not agreeing with me. I do agree that the creative/artistic element of music is not rational, but only in the sense that it is not a question of rationality. You say that it's not a matter of preference…

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    4. Chris Buchli

      Music Tutor

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      Emma Anderson - I agree that the most fun in art does come from improvisation and trying new things. It's not 'irrational' it just has nothing to do with rationality. Just as deciding to eat an orange instead of an apple has little to do with rationality.

      Those inclined, like myself, could delve into the issue of free will here, but I think I'll leave that for another day.

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    5. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      music you're talking about (i'm presuming) is grounded on a well tempered scale with 12 equal intervals between octaves. it is undeniably not a natural scale; it is a product of rationality. so too there's nothing irrational about instrument making, physics & acoustics constrain in favour of reason & the scale chosen.

      unless you're emulating anthony braxton or elliott carter you're beholden to a harmonic system which exerts influence on you whether you strain against it or align with it…

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    6. Chris Buchli

      Music Tutor

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      Alfred,

      I can kind of run with that on the basis you give. The creation of a sound and its ensuing effect are perfectly rational. The part I think that is based on value and preference is what led to the choice to want to create a particular sound in the first place. This could be argued to have a rational basis, but I'm not sure if research substantiates this. Anxiety sufferers, for example, often become musicians; It may help to centre and channel emotions better. So an anxiety sufferer's choice…

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    7. Steven Liaros

      Town planner at PolisPlan - town planning and eco-village consultants

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      Chris,
      I apologise if you feel that by challenging you and debating with you that I was dishonest and arrogant... perhaps amongst other things. Clearly you feel that I do not have the right to challenge you on the subject of music so I will not pursue those arguments.

      I would like to challenge your last paragraph, "On matters of fact, however, you should not make assertions that contradict facts without proof and evidence to back up those assertions. Is that so hard to understand?"
      This gets…

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    8. Chris Buchli

      Music Tutor

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      Steve,

      Here's what it comes down to. You certainly have the 'right' (although I don't believe in rights, but that's another matter) to express your opinion on matters that are not questions of fact, such as the non-rational component of any human endeavour.

      You're welcome to challenge me on anything relating to anything, I was merely suggesting that you're fighting as much of a losing battle doing so as I would be challenging a surgeon on matters of surgical procedure. This isn't to protect…

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    9. Steven Liaros

      Town planner at PolisPlan - town planning and eco-village consultants

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      Chris,
      Here is what it comes down to in my opinion.
      There is no such thing as the very Western idea of right or wrong. Like yin and yang in Chinese philosophy, black and white are simply two sides of the same thing (like day and night, light and dark... light is not 'good' and darkness 'evil'... they are just two parts of the whole.

      In the absence of right and wrong there is no rational truth as we interpret the idea of truth... ie. there is no collection of facts that will take you anywhere…

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    10. Chris Buchli

      Music Tutor

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      Steve,

      You'd be surprised to know that I agree with a lot of what you've said there. I think some of what you said in the middle there is waffle and I think you have little or no idea how the scientific method works, but I agree with you overall. I agree there's no right and wrong or good and evil (except insofar as people have labelled those things), but I think you are expecting 'fact' to equate to 'absolute truth' and this is a problem for you.

      To answer one thing directly: yes vaccinations…

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    11. Steven Liaros

      Town planner at PolisPlan - town planning and eco-village consultants

      In reply to Chris Buchli

      Chris,
      It has been interesting and challenging debating with you.
      As for my 'yin yang spiel' ... there is no short and sweet way of explaining it but if interested google "The Ecstasy of Yang" which is a paper I presented last year at a conference.

      I take your point about dead=no rights. Perhaps our idea of 'rights' is more about our hopes for the type of society we want to live in... so we label them as rights hoping that that will assist in achieving universal agreement... a rare and elusive…

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  31. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    Ms A,

    I suspect that down deep where it counts it is near impossible - even pointless - to try and disentangle the emotional from the rational. It's a blurry business.

    What we choose to accept, to take on trust, to find unacceptable, to regard as important ... are any of these devoid of an emotional resonance? We are not all that mechanical.

    Even at the pointiest end of great science - the most rational of mathematical speculations - there is always a leap - a guess - a hunch ... a bit…

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  32. Yoron Hamber

    Thinking

    Ah, but one mans saliva is another mans spit, isn't it so? So how to prove that just my definitions are the ones 'scientifically proven'? But yes peer reviewed science should have a higher value than someones mere opinions, but that demands also that this 'peer review' is made by his/hers peers, doesn't it? And allowing for politics and adapting yourself to some popular beliefs is not doing a peer review.

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  33. Simon Batterbury

    Associate Professor at University of Melbourne

    I am delighted to see Patrick's article featuring so prominently.

    I am not all that interested in the vaccination examples, which receive too much of an airing already (especially here). But on the conclusion, <i> 'So next time you hear someone declare they’re entitled to their opinion, ask them why they think that. Chances are, if nothing else, you’ll end up having a more enjoyable conversation that way.'<i/> I wondered how that might work in other areas.

    On skepicism about anthropogenic…

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  34. Elizabeth Hart

    Independent Vaccine Investigator

    Further to my previous comments on this discussion thread in relation to vaccination.
    Recently the Australian Academy of Science has entered the vaccination fray with its publication “The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers”: http://www.science.org.au/policy/documents/AAS_Immunisation_FINAL_LR_v3.pdf As the Australian Academy of Science has taken it upon itself to engage in this matter, it can expect to be held accountable.
    For example, I have recently forwarded an email to Sir…

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  35. Elizabeth Hart

    Independent Vaccine Investigator

    What is going on at The Conversation? Last night I left a comment on the “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion” thread, and today I discover that my comment has been curtailed, i.e. cutting off the link to my email to Sir Gus Nossal, Chair of the Oversight Committee for the Australian Academy of Science publication “The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers”. For the record, here again is the link to my email to Sir Gus Nossal, which also includes reference to discussion threads on…

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      Elizabeth: This is a bit odd, but a moment ago I could still see the link to your email to Nossal in your previous comment, though I had to click on the 'Read More' button. But now that I'm typing a comment I can't see the 'read more' button anymore. Not quite sure why, but does seem to be a technical glitch of some sort?

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    2. Keith Thomas

      Retired

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      It's all visible to me, too.

      My perception of The Conversation is that, as a topical website it does not have a responsibility to leave its items open indefinitely for comment. After about 10 days, only a few diehards, locked into their own rigid stances are left and there is no "conversation" going on at all, no fresh ideas, just sniping from entrenched positions from long and tedious posts including URLs (perhaps because the poster does not have the courtesy or the ability to summarize them…

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    3. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      A technical glitch do you think Patrick?
      See below my correspondence with Gus Gollings, Technical Director of The Conversation:
      From: Elizabeth Hart Date: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 8:45 AM
      Gus, re your sarcastic response below...
      If you had taken the time to look at the screenshots I sent you, you would have seen the [Read more] facility wasn't working.
      Using the read "Newest" comment option this morning, the [Read more] facility is still not working, see screenshot attached.
      What a coincidence…

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    4. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      As someone who regularly writes long, verbose, patience-testing comments here, I really don't see problem with putting long comments behind a 'jump'. It makes comments easier to scan and anyone who wants to read the whole comment can do so. So your letter to Nossal (here: bit.ly/U3ygHo) is perfectly visible for anyone who wants to read it. But you've clearly decided that everything is one big conspiracy, and have no qualms about insinuating the TC admins are up to something 'rotten,' so I doubt you'll be satisfied with that. (Also, if you want people like Nossal to listen to you, maybe don't call people like him "so-called 'experts'". People who have dedicated decades of their life to study and research kind of get offended when people who haven't done the hard yards insist their views are of equivalent standing. Can't imagine why).

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    5. Elizabeth Hart

      Independent Vaccine Investigator

      In reply to Elizabeth Hart

      On the subject of so-called ‘experts’, people who take it upon themselves to dictate poorly evidenced medical interventions can expect to be challenged. Experts/professionals in our society hold a privileged position as trusted advisors. They must be held to account if they abuse their position of trust, e.g. by failing to obtain ‘informed consent’ for medical interventions.
      For example, along with my colleague Bea Mies, I have been campaigning against over-vaccination of companion animals for…

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  36. Dania Ng

    Retired factory worker

    Patrick. This has been up for months now, and no doubt you'd be tickled pink because of the lively discussions it has sparked. Isn't it about time to write a piece on the importance of respect and tolerance, seeing that so much barely disguised cyberbullying and mobbing have been targeted on a couple of people dared to present their perspectives which, whether 'correct' or otherwise, dared to dissent here? I notice you are using your skills as a philosopher to set up such a situation, do you derive…

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dania Ng

      apologies for the bad prose, this doesn't let me edit.

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    2. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Hi Dania,

      Could you point to some of this "barely disguised cyberbullying and mobbing"? Are you referring to the discussion here, or elsewhere? Which comments here seem outside the normal cannons of civil debate to you? (Serious question).

      I've recently seen quite a few anti-vaxxers who are prepared to condemn whole swathes of people (up to and including the entire medical profession) of whom they know nothing as corrupt, greedy, and immoral, with no credible evidence to that effect, then…

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    3. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Patrick. Thanks for responding so swiftly. This forum is not your class. We are not in the student - lecturer mode. I have absolutely no problem with an article which outlines a method for how a good argument should be constructed. I have no problem either with a discussion on how one needs to provide a system of acceptable evidence to back ones argument with. What I do have a problem with is the incivility which these arguments have prompted toward those who dared to confront the consensus here…

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    4. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Ms Ng - you seem to be having a different discussion to the one many others are having on this thread.

      The premise of the article is that, if one is to present an opinion and have it seen as valid, it needs to be backed up with evidence,a nd the evidence needs to be credible.

      The author has used the example of Australian anti-vaccinationists, with Ms Dorey as (recently resigned) leader (since 1994). Certainly Ms Dorey appears to be reasonable in her tone on this particular thread, but many…

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    5. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Thanks for your opinion, Sue. What would you like me to do next? It seems that I need to say something that you approve of, and does not offend your personal sensibilities. If you'd kindly write it for me, I will be most happy to post it up as if it is something I wish to say. You're in control.

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    6. Darin Cairns

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dania I have spent a very entertaining hours reading this conversation. I have worked in the field of Autism and early intervention for 15 plus years. I have seen so much nonsense with no concern for outcome based data or at least rationale inform therapy based on scientific studies, pushed onto parents lacking the training in science to tell the difference. Often those pushing these therapies etc actively push parents away from proven approaches or at least those that collect data by dissing…

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    7. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Darin. Perhaps it may surprise you to hear this, but I don't actually attack science, I think you'll see from what I have written that I never do this, and that's simply because I believe science is an extremely useful method of making sense of our physical world. What I feel quite strongly about is the tendency for some scientists to use scientifically-derived knowledge for political ends, where they manipulate what is to be counted as legitimate knowledge. I have…

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    8. Debra Joan Smith

      Account Executive

      In reply to Dania Ng

      What a pile of poop that answer is, Dania- cowardly., in fact- lacking in grace and honesty.
      YOUR position was decimated by REALITY and Sue presented it politely. If you have a problem with FACTS this is likely NOT your playground.

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    9. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "What would you like me to do next?" Let's see....work on your blog?

      No need to seek my approval.

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    10. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Thank you so much. May I go now?

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    11. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Debra, thank you for your comment. You are obviously a graceful person who appreciates and tolerates a range of views. The Earth is so blessed to have rare individuals like yourself grace it's surface, who understand what facts and reality are. Please stay, don't return to Ursa Minor.

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    12. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Ignorant buffoon. Well done you for making her point for her so clearly.

      Dania, a conversation is, at it's best, a wide-ranging discussion of ideas. Similarly, a degree is meant to provide training in thinking usefully about ideas and situations one has not previously encountered. Sadly, in some cases this admirable intent produces instead narrow-minded, self-important fools, capable only of reiterating pre-digested ideas from "approved" sources.

      Sadly, the vast growth in tertiary education has produced far more of that type than the genuinely capable thinkers that is its express purpose. Those buffoons will be our next generation of leaders, when all they have learnt is how to follow.

      In my view, it is those people who Patrick Stokes should have directed his piece at, but by offering the dog-whistle of an "unapproved" viewpoint from Dorey, all he did was encourage a pack to form.

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  37. Theo Pertsinidis
    Theo Pertsinidis is a Friend of The Conversation.

    ALP voter

    Anger is like fuel. If you spray it around and somebody lights a match, you've got an inferno. But if we can put our anger inside an engine, it can drive us forward.

    Look at a persons profile and take an educated punt :-)

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  38. Vanda Hamilton

    logged in via Facebook

    Do you think it might be a good idea to shut these comments down? Whilst a good discussion is always welcome, this has just descended into name calling and totally irrational arguments. Nothing is going to be learnt here, and the usual suspects are doing their thing of attacking everyone who asks them to respond with facts, figures and an intelligent argument. This meat has been out in the sun too long and it's attracting disgusting things.

    I really don't know why people keep on responding to them. It's like probing a sore tooth with your tongue. You know what they're going to say. You know they are going to be personally abusive. You know they are irrational and pointless. Just leave them alone and they can crawl back to the usual forums to complain they have been picked on. I really see little point in this 'conversation' continuing.

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    1. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Vanda Hamilton

      Who are these "usual suspects" Vanda? the most recent posters are Sue Ieraci, Dania Ng, Debra Joan Smith and myself. Which of us are you referring to?

      I do take exception to your efforts to shut down a conversation you don't seem to have had any participation in for some months. If you don't want to read what's being said, then it's a simple matter for you to unsubscribe, which I recommend you do.

      However, I also agree with you that the discussion has run its course. It could have been a decent discussion about how we evaluate information and the sources it flows from, but because of Patrick's use of the Dorey woman as an example, it was swamped by self-righteousness and became a venue for spleen-venting and abuse by people who should know better.

      I'm taking my own advice and unsubscribing.

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    2. Vanda Hamilton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Vanda Hamilton

      I haven't taken part in it Craig, because it was clear which way it was heading. The anti vacc people in here proved the point of this article months ago. It was fun for a while watching them descend even further into gibbering moronhood, but really.....yawn.

      And I have now switched off the notifications. Gosh, thanks for the heads up Craig. Silly me would never have thought of that. Of course, initially I thought nothing of having them on because I didn't think things would go on this long. Guess it must be slow over in anti vacc land.

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  39. Liz Parker

    Researcher

    I find irony in the fact this article was written by a philosopher with an especial interest in Søren Kierkegaard! Was it not Kierkegaard who discussed subjectivity? He argued that doubt is an element of faith and that it is impossible to gain any objective certainty about the existence of God - the best one could do would be to believe the probability that religious doctrines are true, but believing such doctrines, only because they seem likely to be true, does not demonstrate genuine religious-ness…

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    1. Christopher Chen
      Christopher Chen is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Liz Parker

      Liz, is your comment in response to the article or in response to someone else's comment? (And if it's to the article, which part of Stokes' argument are you addressing?)

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    2. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Liz Parker

      Decent summary of Kierkegaard, Liz. The rest of your points have all been debunked elsewhere I'm afraid, but I'll leave it to someone with the relevant training to go through that.

      One point I can comment on though: "If God made us in His image, I would think our bodies were already designed perfectly to cope with whatever Nature had in store...The issue seems to be what Man makes and introduces..." Obviously that argument only works if one accepts that a) there's a God who's b) perfect and c…

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    3. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Liz Parker

      Apologise for jumping instead of Liz, but I can answer that, sort of.

      1. Reading in poor light.
      2. Fire

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    4. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Liz Parker

      The knees.

      As far as I know, Homo Habilis were using fire first. Fire was one of many steps that changed human culture and physiology to it's modern forms.

      Modern knees descend from that.

      It could also be said that because of fire.....we have reading in poor light, and thus, short-sightedness.

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    5. Christopher Chen
      Christopher Chen is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Liz Parker

      It's a bit of a leap to say that fire (and other early human inventions) caused us to evolve weaker legs. Even after we shifted from hunter-gatherer tribes into larger agricultural societies, we used our legs with the same kind of regularity and necessity up until perhaps the last century or so. (A couple of centuries seems hardly enough time to noticeably change human physiology.)

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    6. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Liz Parker

      On the contrary our knees are probably stronger but there hasn't been enough time for them to get strong enough to counter-act the effects of:

      1. Advancing life expectancy associated with not eating raw meat made possible with fire
      2. Changes in Vitamin D levels contributing to muscular and skeletal strength (reduction) associated with performing more activities at night and moving to colder climates made possible with fire.
      3. Changes in weight distribution associated with changes in food…

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  40. Charles Szmanda

    Patent Agent

    One comment I have on the above article is that we should we should reject arguments from authority. "This guy is an expert and he says X." Our job in such a discussion is to make sure that the "expert" has also gone through some sort of process, whether it is analysis of hard data or evidence, or logical analysis.

    In the States, during the influenza epidemic of 1918 and following, the Surgeon General advised that sufferers should take Aspirin and go to bed. The science behind the advice was not understood other than the aspirin lowered temperatures and, by going to bed, sufferers could avoid spreading the disease. Still, it was the right advice and saved many lives, despite the deaths caused by the high doses of aspirin prescribed at the time. In that case, the best guess of the "expert" was pretty good. There was at least something behind his opinion besides a guess.

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  41. Sandra Mornington

    Nurse

    At the risk of starting another fire, I could not fail to notice some interesting parallels between this debate and those surrounding another series of articles in The Conversation- the articles about biomedical research using animals.

    http://theconversation.com/scientific-research-on-primates-what-do-we-owe-animals-like-us-11673

    http://theconversation.com/the-elusive-ethics-of-animal-ethics-committees-10056

    I will not, on purpose, go into the more emotional aspects of this debate. However…

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Sandra Mornington

      Good point Sandra. I'd add though that the animal research debate is further complicated by the ethical issues involved, which also generates a fair bit of equivocation on the word 'necessary'. There's at least two senses of 'necessary' at work in those discussions: 'necessary' in the sense of "if we don't do x we won't be able to answer the question properly'' and necessary in the sense of "if we don't do x the moral consequences will be worse than if we do x." I can understand why many people on…

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    2. Sandra Mornington

      Nurse

      In reply to Sandra Mornington

      Hi Patrick

      Thanks for replying. This is exactly why I decided not to discuss what I referred to as "the more emotional aspects". The moral argument ("is a given piece of research worth the death and/ or suffering...") is someting I don't think we can hope to solve objectively, since the "moral imperative" argument is applied by both sides of that debate. It will always boil down to a person's subjective judgement of how many mice are worth the life of a person, and what if this person is a criminal…

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    3. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Sandra Mornington

      Thanks Sandra, very well-stated - and yes I think you're quite right about that. I'd probably be considerably more optimistic about the prospects for the moral argument, but then I'm a philosopher, I would say that :)

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  42. Garry Baker

    researcher

    Good article - however

    "" Mediawatch host Jonathan Holmes was considerably more blunt: “there’s evidence, and there’s bulldust,” and it’s no part of a reporter’s job to give bulldust equal time with serious expertise. ""

    The plain fact is, many years ago the western media adopted the firm stance of giving equal time to the bulldust. Insofar that it makes for more lasting controversial news, and importantly - sells better. Freedom of the press, and all that

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  43. Colleen van der Horst

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    Yes, Patrick. While everyone can have an opinion, if they expect others to listen, they need to provide informed argument. There is a trend toward blurring beliefs or preferences with evidence. You might hear people say "I don't believe in immunization; "I'm against fluoride in water" or "I don't believe in climate change," as though this of itself should stand. What is this but an expression of feeling, instinctive preference or prejudice? Talk back radio supplies plentiful evidence of this…

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  44. hitesh

    logged in via Twitter

    <a href="http://artmojo.co">Art Mojo</a>
    Money is tight for increasing education, the arts program is one of the first budget to be reviewed in order to reduce. The art program, proponents argue that despite the fact that it is measured in the standard test easily arts education, and provide a valuable learning experience for students.

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  45. Clancy Wilmott

    PhD Researcher

    While I understand and agree with the point being made by the author of this article, at the same time there needs to be a balance. The scientific community, though knowledgeable, is still schooled in particular ways of thinking which are dominated by particular approaches to research. Scientific reasoning, and even medicine, are still relatively new principles and have a tendency to become dogmatic and single-minded with regard to people (and this has been particularly prevalent in the history of…

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  46. Sabre truthtiger

    Truth teller

    Wow. this article is an overt propaganda piece.

    It starts off well describing how opinions on technical and science-based issues should be backed up by scientific, facts-based argumentation otherwise they're invalid.

    However it then talks about man made global warming skeptics and 'anti-vaccination' proponents as being characteristic of the uninformed and scientifically erroneous.

    In fact it tends to be completely the opposite.. You will note when it comes to man made global warming the…

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  47. Aslan Wolftalker

    Protector

    @Meryl Dorey

    For the inquiring mind, (both pro and con the issues) here are two links, (that have extensive references and sources to back up their claims) one regarding global warming:

    http://grist.org/series/skeptics/

    and the other regarding vaccination:

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2001/08/18/vaccine-myths.aspx

    Now, regarding this article by Stokes, it starts off great, then descends into a personal agenda/rant regarding vaccination. Nothing wrong with having…

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  48. Donald Higdon

    logged in via Facebook

    Maybe he can explain why we have a two-party political system

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  49. Tandra Lenley

    Engineer

    Does this article then suggest that religion is BS since there is very little evidence supporting it's incredible claims?

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  50. David Wright

    Electrician

    This guy is a thought police wannabe. Leave free speech alone, Patrick.

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to David Wright

      The article has nothing at all to do with free speech David, as it makes very clear. Having a right to speak (which everyone does) is not the same thing as having a right to be taken seriously in every conversation.

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    2. David Wright

      Electrician

      In reply to David Wright

      It's a rhetorical move to just dismiss people though without refuting them. Remember the chaser, when they accused Lord Monkton of trolling just because he had an opposing view. I think this sort of approach can lead to the suppression of unpopular speech, which is best left out in the open.

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    3. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to David Wright

      Someone like Monkton can say what he likes. But speech is a public act, and that also means we're responsible for what we say; and one of those responsibilities is not pretending to have expertise, or even competence, one does not in fact possess. And it also means caring about whether or not what you say is true (Frankfurt's distinction between 'lying' and 'bullshitting' is very helpful here - the bullshitter just doesn't care, or care enough, if what they say is valid). I don't think we should stop people saying things that aren't true, though we should call them out on it; but at some point when you continually violate these basic rules of discourse, you start to forfeit - perhaps only temporarily - the right to be taken seriously as an interlocutor. And pretending to expertise you don't have is surely such a violation.

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    4. David Wright

      Electrician

      In reply to David Wright

      What I am saying it that it takes judgement and expertise to perform the "de-legitimising move" from the assessment that the person in question is trolling, bullshitting, or lying.

      It must be done with the utmost caution and not for political, regulatory, religious or other reasons of motivation, but only with regard to the truth.

      I think that human beings probably can't live up to this standard. What you will have if you institute these rules of discourse is that you will in effect get a form of political censorship, the dominance of the view of the majority.

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    5. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David Wright

      David, "freedom of speech" is about the relationship between citizens and their state - completely irrelevant to a private house or university classroom.

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    6. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David Wright

      "But speech is a public act, and that also means we're responsible for what we say; and one of those responsibilities is not pretending to have expertise, or even competence, one does not in fact possess."
      Complete horsehit, and a stunniong admission of cluelessness about what "public speech" and "freedom of speech" mean.

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  51. Dave Satterthwaite

    logged in via Facebook

    Welcome to late-stage hyper consumer capitalism, where your information is governed by corporate interests and tabloid media.

    Where anti-vaccers, climate skeptics, chemtrail watchers and alien abductees get as much, nay more, time than scientific experts because it brings in the $$$ for media moguls.

    Where the public make their decisions about what to buy, what to think and how to vote based on sponsored messages piped directly to them by our oligarchical overlords.

    Welcome to the New Australia.

    It's Fair and Balanced.

    On a side note, I remember reading this kind of stuff as science fiction when I was a lad. Never thought I'd end up living it.

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  52. Anonimuss Person

    logged in via email @sbcglobal.net

    I believe that I AM entitled to my opinion! THIS IS COMMUNISM! People like this guy cause war. I wish Juus in the holicost had an opinion.

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  53. Richard Every

    logged in via Facebook

    I am happy that I was fortunate enough not to have to deal with someone like this (Patrick Stokes) at university... he cannot understand that he does not live up to his own "philosophy". He makes the statement that Meryl Dorey is not entitled to her opinion and he vaguely references "studies". What studies? Most of the "independent" studies on vaccines are sponsored by the companies that produce them.

    So Patrick, you're right, you should not be entitled to an opinion, let alone be unleashed on unsuspecting students...

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  54. Jena Zelezny

    research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

    If we accept that democracy and the privilege of free speech is not only an entitlement but a gift of that democracy, then everyone does have the 'equal' right to express an opinion.

    The quandary presents in the form of what is informed and what is not and the degree to which the information can be viewed as valid or expert. In the media there's the problem of who selects those with the valid or expert view? And does this selection process exclude those who have something important to contribute…

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      There are no 'experts' in a democracy. That's the whole point you see.

      I hope this helps.

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    2. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      TROLL WARNING - ANDY CAMERON

      You have a track record of targeted abuse and this is being reviewed by my lawyer.

      I advise caution Andy. Opinion is not abuse, but abuse is disregard for the privilege you have been given.

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    3. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Indeed my abuse might be targeted, but your's, madam, is everywhere like a mad woman's washing. Happy deconstricting dearie.

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    4. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      And as I have not solicited your *advice* - which you would be incapable of providing, as you are not a professional - you may place it where the sun don't shine.

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    5. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      As someone who studied Law, allow me to advise you, before you lawyer does, the High Court transcript will read, "and so, Mr. Cameron, is it true, that you advised the loony plaintiff that 'There are no 'experts' in a democracy. That's the whole point you see. I hope this helps.'"
      I will reply, "Yes, yes, you Honourness, I did".
      "Why'd ya do it son?"
      "Well your honour, she threatened me with violence"!
      "You enjoy the slapping around Andy and don't forget you challenged me. I have yet to hear anything to back up your claim that you can outsmart and outslap me. I want the thread closed down."
      His/Her Honour: "ROFLMAO. Case dismissed".

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    6. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      IF you studied law at all, it must have been some time ago and before legislation was introduced to curtail sexism, sexual harassment and homophobic abuse, i.e., hate speech. Hate speech is not free speech.

      You remarks (and I have many documented examples) are sexist. I note that you have not called any man here a "bimbo princess", a "genderist" and a "whore" (quote "you can lead a whore to water but you cannot make one drink")

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    7. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Bring. It. On you loony Bimbo Bogan who is also clueless about Foucault, especially HIS misogyny. ROFLMAO toots.

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    8. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      quote "you can lead a whore to water but you cannot make one drink"
      This is an outright defamatory llie. How DARE you make up such a lie, especially placing quotation marks around it!

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