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“Healthy Lifestyle” Expo and the “Great” “Debate”.

Update: It appears Aspect Caloundra have pulled out as sponsors as their logo and name no longer appear on the Expo’s list of sponsors or ongoing sponsor list, but did appear back in February.

Update 2: Clarification from the Expo that they were just slow in updating the list of sponsors and that Aspect Caloundra weren’t asked this year. Meanwhile, I wonder if the remaining sponsors including WIN TV are aware that the celebrity “psychic” thinks that the ability to wiggle a certain part of her anatomy (video not exactly safe for work) proves that mind over matter is possible. Clue to Shé: when people say “mind over matter” they don’t usually refer to the conventional nerve cell – muscle cell interaction.

An open letter to Mrs Dorey regarding her blog surrounding the “Great Debate” on vaccination.

I would like to clear up a few misconceptions that Mrs Dorey is spreading regarding me and Dr Dunlop.

First, Mrs Dorey seems, like Ms Robinson (a.k.a. Annie Infinite), to insinuate that I subscribed Ms Robinson’s email address to a number of pornographic sites.

I certainly did not do this, and at the time I repudiated it and strongly encouraged Ms Robinson to take the matter to the police. I believe in having a civilised debate.

What was on offer from The Healthy Lifestyle, or “You Can Heal Yourself” Expo was not a scientific debate, as I make clear in the correspondence below, where I declined to participate. The leading questions put as topics by the Expo leave a lot to be desired too. Another factor not discussed previously in my refusal to attend is that, unlike Mrs Dorey who puts a roof over her head through donations to the AVSN and selling misinformation, I have a regular job with commitments here in Wollongong. I am using up my leave to take my children back to China to visit their grandparents later this year.

Wayne,

There is no genuine debate when one side ignores scientific evidence. Relatedly, there is no dichotomy between science and natural therapies. Either there is scientific evidence of efficacy and safety or is there is not. The evidence on vaccination is clearly in favour of vaccination except for genuine medical exceptions, and not false concerns about autism [1, 2], etc. of the sort that the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVSN) raise.
Regardless of any statements on government sites (and Google returns no hits for the quote you provided without citing a source for), there is no constitutional or other legislative blanket protection of speech, and speech on medical topics is regulated across Australia. The HCCC is currently investing the AVSN and has been preparing a warning for which I have attached the draft (not the first one they have released) – and the full draft report can be found here.
It’s disingenuous to state that the t-shirts are acceptable whilst ignoring the rest of the HCCC enquiry. Further, I wouldn’t call ignoring scientific evidence that can save lives to be loving children. It’s also disingenuous for you to claim you have no opinion on Black Salve when you have previously and illegally run advertisements and a YCHY Expo organiser has expressed her opinions.
I decline to enter into a debate for the following reasons:
*) Whilst I am qualified to speak on the statistics of risk around vaccination and vaccine-preventable diseases I am no more qualified than Mrs Dorey to speak on the detailed medical matters, and
*) False balance debates can send unhelpful messages by presenting a false view of the balance of risks. [3]
If you choose to go ahead with hosting Mrs Dorey, given her lack of scientific qualifications and evidence, in any form, then responsibility rests with you, as it does for any other medical misinformation provided in any form at the Expo.
Regards,
Dr Matthew Berryman
[1] Gerber JS, Offit PA (2009). “Vaccines and autism: a tale of shifting hypotheses”. Clin Infect Dis 48 (4): 456–61.
[2] Demicheli V, Rivetti A, Debalini MG, Di Pietrantonj C (2012). “Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children”. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2: CD004407.
[3] Dixon, Graham, and Christopher Clarke. “The effect of falsely balanced reporting of the autism–vaccine controversy on vaccine safety perceptions and behavioral intentions.” Health education research 28.2 (2013): 352-359.

 

This correspondence followed (below, sent on the 25th of March) to a number of the Expo’s sponsors, suggesting that they examine their financial support of the Expo as a whole (to which the phrase “the event” most clearly refers to), given Mrs Dorey’s attendance and other misleading health information routinely provided. This is also irrespective of whether the Expo was in turn funding her (as they mentioned to me later, they claim they are not), or whether she is running a stall or “debating”, or running a seminar. Furthermore, I noted past advertising and promotion by Ms Robinson of a stall illegally selling black salve. Mrs Dorey also repeats the defamatory remarks by the conference organisers that I resort to name calling, without providing any evidence.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I understand that [Name of Sponsor] is a sponsor of the ‘Healthy’ Lifestyle Expo 2014, also known as the ‘You Can Heal Yourself Expo’, to be held on the Sunshine Coast in May.

This event routinely promotes dangerous medical advice:

  • At last year’s expo there was a stall selling Black Salve, promoted as a do-it-yourself cancer cure; this has a strong risk of causing damage in addition to the risk that it fails to remove all the cancer, which can then spread. I have enclosed a public health warning from the Therapeutic Goods Administration about Black Salve with more information about it.
  • This year’s expo features a seminar by Mrs Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network, well known for providing anti-vaccination misinformation (with potentially fatal consequences), and currently subject to an investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (draft warning enclosed), in addition to investigations by other government agencies for fraud.

I strongly urge you to support public health by withdrawing your sponsorship of this event.

Regards,

Dr Matthew Berryman

Last but not least, surrounding Mrs Dorey’s mention of Dr Dunlop, I note:

  • The Expo did not email Dr Dunlop an invitation prior to her name being mentioned as a possible debater. 10177473_10152381465720229_7787428432987499745_nPerhaps it was a case of poor communication between Expo organisers, although it’s highly suspicious that another proposed debater also did not receive an invitation:Screenshot 2014-04-11 13.00.38
  • Dr Dunlop declined to participate on the 9th of April, which is not surpising given her views on false debates.

 On 9 Apr 2014, at 14:04, Rachael Dunlop wrote:

Dear Wayne,

No thank you. Please either remove my name from the site or indicate I have declined the invitation to participate.

Kind regards

Rachael

  • I am not sure why Mrs Dorey persisted with this incorrect information well after Dr Dunlop’s email, though we cannot rule out a delay between the Expo receiving Dr Dunlop’s refusal and their subsequently informing Mrs Dorey.

Regards,

Doctor Berryman, BSc. (Maths & Comp. Sci.), BEng. (Comp. Sys. Eng.) Hons. I, PhD (Complex Systems).

 

On racism and “intellectual” game playing

I like (Ok, maybe not quite the right word for) the following description of responses to today’s racial abuse—& yes, I acknowledge the full details and that underling this is a general hatred issue someone has—is copied with permission from an “In the News” thread on Whirlpool.), in response to posts like this one quoted below. Note that quotes from others this poster is replying to are indicated by quote marks within this block quote.

Matt writes: “I hope everyone here would challenge any form of abuse, rather than poring over their dictionary. Over and out.”

Well in a point he (Jeremy Fernandez) and I are doing so in challenging the abuse Australians get by being labelled racist based on abuse such as in this article.

The abuse wasn’t racially motivated nor does it illustrate the view of the majority of Australians.

Heliotic writes… “It wasn’t a racist attack it was only a verbal attack using racist terms.”

How is calling someone black a racist term?

1. Someone posts article outlining racist feral bogans being… racist feral bogans

2. Chorus of blinkered responses ignoring the problem, missing the point or both:
a) Just cause one person is racist doesnt mean that everyone is racist, therefore there is no problem
b) THATS NOT TECHNICALLY RACIST ITS BIGOTRY/XENOPHOBIC/RELIGIOUSIST/ETC
c) Well, go to China! They are HEAPS more racist than us! Therefore, we dont have a problem!
d) I am a middleclass white male betweent he ages of 16 and 45 and one time someone called me a skip! Everyone else is racist, not white people! WHEN IS WHITE HISTORY MONTH?!
e) Racism is bullcrap, man. How come they can call each other the n-word, but I can’t say it?!
f) A variety of offtopic standard rants, such as vague ‘out of touch magistrate judges soft on crime’, some kind of random ‘stop teh boatz’ argument
g) Someone says something along the lines of ‘if you hate Straya and Freedom so much, why don’t you just get out of mah country!’. Because if you don’t think Australia is perfect, you are an unAustralian traitor attacking the Anzacs and Bindi Irwin.

3. Ten pages of followup wherein people argue over petty semantics, new posters blunder in and spit out the same thing that someone else has said every second page.

Chinese funeral

Recently my Chinese grandmother-in-law passed away, while I was in China, so I got to experience a Chinese funeral, at least a fairly traditional Daoist one in the outskirts (semi-rural part) of Shanghai. Since my grandparents-in-law only had a tiny house (just a couple of small rooms) it wasn’t bit enough to hold all the family, which is huge, even my wife’s generation were before the one child policy (though this is now more relaxed than originally). Thus the event was at a location—a couple of spartan rooms plus an outdoor area with pitched tent—provided by the local government. The main mourning period lasts for three days, then often a fourth day, in lieu of an event (being China, this means a big meal) at the five weeks mark, and the full period is seven weeks, though the main focus is the first three days. One the first day the body is simply covered in sheets (red), and then on the second day it’s in a coffin, then on the third day the pall bearers carry the coffin out to a hearse (quite the procession, complete with a brass band, and big round paper constructs with names of family written on). I presume this was something else arranged through the local government. Music is a key feature of the period, with very aditional music using the erhu and dizi on the first and second days, along with the Daoist priests chanting on the first day. In the first week, we all had to wear a white sash around our waists, white being the colour associated with Chinese funerals, and also a black square pinned onto a jacket, which I think has some sort of Daoist significance. Not wanting to put a hole in my good jacket, I pinned it onto the baby sling instead, since I was for the most part carrying around (my youngest daughter) Anna-Rose while my wife took part in most of the ceremonies.

Burnt offerings of money and furniture are given for my grandmother-in-law’s afterlife (not that I believe, but the ritual is important). Everyone also goes to pray in Chinese style, involving hands clasped together and moved up and down, then prostrating oneself in front of the shrine (pictured, obviously not a Jewish or Muslim funeral), which has food and drink for the afterlife. I actually went in a second time to take the photo, and prayed again as I felt a bit awkward taking the photo, not knowing how sensitive people are to that, which I then felt bad about later as the children of the deceased, which includes my mother-in-law, have to do a plaintive cry every time someone prays. So much so, that between that, and keeping vigil over the body in this literally freezing cold location, sleeping on straw in one of the rooms, that my mother-in-law got quite ill. The food and drink aren’t wasted, this being China, and go on to be used for the living. The food eaten (aside from that on the shrine) also varies, from lots of tofu on the first day, with a bit of meat—a new development, this being modern China—to more regular Shanghai-style fare on the remaining days, including lots of pork and fish and rice and vegetables.

Shrine for my grandmother-in-law
Shrine for my grandmother-in-law.

One of the later events is where the ashes were interred, which featured a burnt offering in a drum just outside the very classic style-architecture cemetary building, complete with a ring of salt around it, washed away at the conclusion using alcohol. Chloe, my eldest daughter, didn’t want to pray—the whole thing being a bit scary and mostly meaningless to her, at age 3.5—so I prayed one extra time on her behalf.

The other even I went to was a lunch following transfer of ashes of other relatives to the nice cemetary—in the hope of family members on my mother-in-law’s sisters’ side of the family that this would bring them good fortune. At this lunch, I got to sit next to one of my great-grandfathers-in-law (the one who just lost his wife), who was looking rather frail—he ended up going in to hospital with pneumonia, and also type 2 diabetes was discovered in the tests.

He’s doing much better, frail but with the spark of life, still wearing wedding ring, and went home the other day. That was still, given frequency of visits here, possibly our last time to see him. At the hospital visit (pictured, along with my wife) I got to speak with him in Mandarin, the tiny bit of Wu (Shanghainese) I know, & Japanese—he learnt age 16 during the Japanese occupation of China; I learnt it when I was 16 in high school. He also knows Sudanese as he worked there for a couple of years. He’s always treated me and my daughters really well, despite the language barriers, and I’ll miss him too in due course.

Grandfather-in-law
My wife with my grandfather-in-law.

Journey by Train

Forest as it should be, deep, dark, moist, unperturbed. Even he sections with trails often have the trails disappear into the undergrowth. Natural stone obelisks in hidden locations, the sense that these are somehow spirit guardians, from the dreaming, or like the Shinto spirits in a Miyazaki film. Places like the forest in the hill in Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. You get the sense that this is how it was when Cook sailed up the coast. Imaging what it was like then, with no cities, everything strange and foreign. Then a tunnel, slammed under another piece of earth, ears suddenly struggling to hear the sound of the music. Then no more the forest one one side, but the coast, yellow bays of sand in between cliffs jutting out into the ocean. The knowledge that this is the largest body of water, nothing between here and the Americas. The rhythm of the rain and of the tabla. A buzz in my pocket as I get reception, and therefore an email. Back to work.