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A Hillsinger writes (3/3/2007)
Every now and then I receive a spate of letters complaining about my opinion of Hillsong, a local "church" seemingly devoted to the worship of money and wealth. The pastor of this "church" has actually written a book named You Need More Money, subtitled "Discovering God's amazing financial plan for your life". A couple more letters rolled in this week, and here is one of them with my response.
From: "David Anson"
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2007 12:11:54 +0800
I have watched one of your videos, regarding Hillsong Church. Why would you make a movie/mockery of Hillsong Church? I was deeply upset to see that you could make a film that would cause so much pain to other people, and to think that you could not even hold your opinions to yourself/refrain yourself from hurting other people, is it possible that you could answer these questions & reply to them?
I can certainly answer questions, but the first thing I will answer is not a question but an implication. I have never made a film or video in my life about Hillsong or anything else. I can only assume that the "one of my videos" that you refer to is the clip from the ABC program The Chaser's War on Everything. I would like to think that I could make something this good, but it is actually the work of someone else.
And why make fun of tithing? Example- The people that go to hillsong church work 5 days a week, and on sundays they want somewhere to go to praise/worship the lord in a fantastic atmosphere and they want someone to preach to them, someone that is available during the week at the church, so they appoint a pastor.
You appoint the pastor? How is this done - by election? Who stood against Brian Houston in the last election? When was the election held?
and during the service people are happy to contribute a small percentage of their money into the church- because they want the church but cannot run it themselves so they appoint a leader- who will run the church. Not to mention that 60% of that money goes into charities & the bible tells us to give into the church- by giving in our tithes & offerings we are obeying what god has got for us.
I am not sure what you mean by "obeying what god has got for us". Remember that tithing by itself is not enough, for as Jesus said in Matthew 23:23 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone". That was just after he had said (Matthew 22:21) "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's". When can we expect to see the various limited and proprietary limited companies in the Hillsong group start paying corporate income tax, which is what Jesus meant when He referred to "the things which are Caesar's"?
60% of the income goes to charity? That's not what I've heard, but you can clear it up very quickly by providing a copy of the accounts.
Let me ask you a question- Do you believe in God? - because if you do, then you must believe in the bible, without the bible there is no god.
Pardon? Are you suggesting that God did not exist before the Bible was written? If that is the case and there is only one God, then God must be a creation of whoever wrote the Bible. Surely God would continue to exist even if every Bible in the world was destroyed. In fact, the very first line of the Bible, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth", seems to quite explicitly imply that God can exist independently of anything else, including the Bible.
And going to church, getting your prayers answered and listening to what is being preached how is this bad? You may not necessarily agree with the church but that is your opinion- keep it to yourself. Would you like christians to make movies about you & your family, exposing them in every way, making a mokery of them & you, of how the bible teaches us that by not having a relationship with god, when we die, we ultimatly go to hell, would you likes us to do that to you??? Certanly not!! let people keep their opinions to themselves,
Christianity is a proselytising religion, which means that one of its aims is to convert non-believers. I have no problem with this, and any Christians who "keep their opinions to themselves" must surely be ignoring Jesus' command to "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 21:19) You are perfectly entitled to express your opinions, and all I ask is that I be accorded the same courtesy. In any case, if your faith is challenged by my opinions then it can't be a very strong faith to begin with.
that is why religion seems to be having such an impact in todays society- because we have immoral people such as yourselves making a fool of religion as it is some sort of joke.
You don't know me at all, yet you make judgements about my morality. I'm sorry to keep harping on about Matthew, but it is the first book that most people read in the Christian part of the Bible. "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1)
I look forward to hearing from you
And what is the offending video? I can only assume that it is this one.
What the ...? (3/3/2007)
I'm not sure what I did to deserve this, but obviously I have touched a nerve somewhere. I will have to seriously reconsider my behaviour.
From: "Cathy van Miert"
Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2007 17:55:18 +1300
I feel sorry for you.
You claim you "question" things in your life - starting in childhood, but you actually don't. You can only see the world from a narrow paradigm, and have not questioned that paradigm itself. You charge others who do not believe as you do as ignorant, while remaining ignorant yourself. You are filled with hatred and bile that cannot be good for you, or your family. This for of vitriol is so damaging. If you cared about your family you would drop it.
A strategic withdrawal (3/3/2007)
In early 2004 I wrote some words about a real doctor who had gone over to the dark side and was promoting unproven fad diets and other forms of quackery. The things which annoyed me most were that this doctor used a medical degree she didn't have to promote her books and she claimed on one web site to have received her medical qualifications from a university which has never had a medical school. (On another site she gave her correct qualifications from the university which really did grant her her degrees.) Her supporters told me that she did all this for marketing purposes, to which I replied that this was not a good enough excuse for not being truthful. One of them contacted her and invited her to publicly debate me, but she never turned up in the relevant forum. Now, three years later, she has decided to become offended. Following the form of some others who don't like what I have to say, she didn't bother to contact me to complain but instead sent a whine to the organisation hosting this site.
As she no longer uses the fake degree and has changed her web site to tell the truth about where she obtained her qualifications I consider that a victory for me and I am not going to waste any time or money arguing with her in court. And by the way, her name is actually trademarked but there is no Australian trademark registration for "Dr xxxxx", so I guess that she still thinks that she can say things which are not strictly true and nobody will bother to check.
Perhaps I should register my name as a trademark, and then I could threaten people who threaten me.
A song (3/3/2007)
I had never heard of singer and actor Tim Minchin until a few days ago, but based on hearing his song If You Open Your Mind Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out (Take My Wife) from the album So Rock, I think I might like his work.
Listen to Tim
While you are at it, you should also visit Tim's web site.
Happy Birthday, Ron (10/3/2007)
The web site XenuDay (apparently now defunct - PB 15/9/07) seems to suggest that March 10 is the date to celebrate the birthday of L Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. On the official Scientology Ron biography page it says that he was born on March 13. While there is a real temptation to regard the Scientologists as being wrong whenever they disagree with anyone, this is one case where what the cult says could be seen as authoritative. Whatever, sometime this week would have been Ron's 96th birthday, so I have a couple of presents for him.
The first is a nice video about Elli Perkins. This is a very appropriate birthday present for Ron, because it was on his birthday in 2003 that Elli's son Jeremy stabbed his mother to death. Jeremy was (and still is) schizophrenic, but he was denied treatment because his family were Scientologists. To illustrate one of the tragedies of cult thinking, Elli's husband still refuses to admit that proper treatment for his son might have prevented the death of his wife.
The second present is an article I have written for the Skeptic, the journal of Australian Skeptics. Last September I reported on a dinner I had attended where the speaker presented the Scientology line on psychiatry to an unwitting audience. The speaker published an expanded version of his talk in the Skeptic and I have written an expanded response. You can read The Myth of "The Myth of Mental Illness" here.
Some housekeeping (10/3/2007)
Some time ago I made some changes to this site to reduce the possibility that being mentioned in The Millenium Project would help sites that I don't like get better recognition in search engines and higher placing in search results. The specific problem related to Google's PageRank system, but it also affected the way other search engines work. Unfortunately, the method I was advised to use introduced the possibility that pages within this site itself might be ignored by the search engine spidering programs, a result which would be familiar to all our grandmothers under the general rubric of "cutting off the nose to spite the face". I have now fixed this, and while some of the fixing was made easy by the tools I use to build and maintain the site, I still had to manually examine and change a large number of the hundred and something pages containing commentaries. Still, it's not as if I had anything else to do.
The other change to the site is to add links to every page so that visitors can easily add pages from this site to the collections at Digg and Del.icio.us. I might add other social networks later, but these seem to be the two big ones at the moment. (Yes, I know about MySpace, but I am still waiting to see a web page there on which I would want to be mentioned.)
See him speak (10/3/2007)
On Monday, April 2, I will be taking part in a debate at the Springwood Winmalee Anglican Church. The topic will be "God is a Delusion", and my opponent will be Dr Barry Newman, scientist, committed Christian, educator and regular contributor to evangelical Christian publications. Members of Australian Skeptics have been regular participants in the SWAC Easter debate for some years and we keep getting invited back so we can't be offending too many people. My position has always been that I don't have any fight with religion while it is providing comfort to people and not causing any harm, and debates like this are a good opportunity to show that skeptics are not necessarily representatives of the Anti-Christ. I don't expect to convince many of the parishioners to convert to atheism, and I don't expect that I will experience any epiphany on the night either. But, as a good skeptic, I allow for the possibility that I might be wrong on both points.
If you live outside Sydney it might be a bit of a stretch to get there, but I would certainly appreciate at least a few people on my side in the audience. Tickets are $5 and you can book through the Church's web site.
Most purveyors of quack cancer cures stick to one modality, and while they refuse to criticise any other "cures" (professional courtesy) they always claim to have the one, single cure that really works. It is refreshing, therefore, to see a company which applies a variety of "cures" in order to broaden the chance of something actually working. None of them do work, of course, but having a range allows for the possibility that if something doesn't work, more money can be extracted for alternative alternatives. It also allows the loophole that the patient died because they hadn't got around to the correct treatment yet. The company I am talking about is NuEra, which promotes something called "The RANA System". Well, They did promote it before the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission dragged them into court. You can see the ACCC media releases here, but the part I really like is this. Is there any form of quackery they have left out? And notice the price.
The RANA System was described as "..an alternative approach to cancer care which offers HOPE to cancer sufferers". The RANA System was provided through programs costing up to $35,000. The RANA System offered a variety of products and services including, vitamin and mineral supplements, laetrile (also known as vitamin B 17), Cesium or high PH therapy, devices called parasite/energy zappers, Zen Chi Massages, Magnetic Pulsers, coffee enemas, ozone therapy, diets described as eating according to blood type, live blood analysis and thermal imaging.
Incisive emails of the week (10/3/2007)
I am always pleased when people point out faults in my thinking, because it is only by recognising error that progress can be made. Here are two examples from this week's mailbox.
Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2007 02:55:17 +1000
Subject: Ian Pllimer was right?? LOL.
You gotta be kidding me. I read that logically fallacious piece on the web and I could not believe my eyes. Creationists lie for God? How about anti-creationists make things up, create straw men ex nihilo, and lie for their unbelief. I think that is a much better description of the facts in the case.
It's hard to tell, but I think Mr Daniels was objecting to this.
Date: Fri, 09 Mar 2007 10:34:14 +1000
Just wanted to say that the article I read on parents allowing their children to contract chicken pocks being child abuse is the most riddiculous thing I have ever heard in my life!
It was nothing but shit stirring, as if any parent is going to take on the words of some deluded moron!
Unfortunately, some parents are only too ready "to take on the words of some deluded moron", which is why they are deceived by the anti-vaccination liars. Many of the liars, however, while being morons, are not deluded - they are venally and deliberately evil.
If I was you I would just give up and stop being such a dickhead!!!
There was no update on the weekend of March 17.
A weekend of decisions
I am exposed to some real science (24/3/2007)
This shattering revelation of the plausibility of homeopathy fell into my inbox this week.
Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2007 01:14:12 -0700
From: Malcolm Wright
I thought I would send you a link to an interesting article, relevant to the articles you have ranting against homeopathy on your site.
I don't use homeopathy, but I found that your derisive approach to the principles of it was pompous and motivated by an inflated ego rather than a desire to help people. As is often the case, diatribes concerned with beating one's chest rather than with the pursuit of truth expose one to ridicule: and I found this New Scientist article provides a satisfying dose of truly scientific behaviour in relation to homeopathy.
Although this does not rightfully consititute 'hate' mail, I do hope you include it on your site.
I decided to go beyond the New Scientist article, so I had a look at the paper itself. Elsevier wanted $30 for me to read the whole thing, so I only looked at the abstract:
Thermoluminescence of ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride
Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Volume 323 , 15 May 2003, Pages 67-74
Ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride (10−30 gcm−3) have been irradiated by X- and γ-rays at 77 K, then progressively rewarmed to room temperature. During that phase, their thermoluminescence has been studied and it was found that, despite their dilution beyond the Avogadro number, the emitted light was specific of the original salts dissolved initially.
Here are some observations:
I'm not going to suspend my disbelief in the violations of physics, chemistry and logic necessary for homeopathy to make sense (let alone actually work) until I see some real research. By real I mean replicated, double-blinded, and carried out by people who don't have a pre-existing belief in magic. N-rays, anyone?
Jack's back! (24/3/2007)
In November 2002 I received what could very well be the greatest piece of hate mail ever sent to anybody on the Internet. When I showed it around, one person commented "Whatever you are doing to him, do more of it". It came from Jack Shulman, and you can read it here. Jack also published it on a web site, and I have just found out that he has updated the site to make threats of legal action against me. As these threats were made in May 2003 I'm not too worried. Jack has now put knuckles to spittle-flecked keyboard to send me another message:
Subject: Actually, your website should be called "mybarfbag.com"
Date: Sat, 24 Mar 2007 00:26:16 -0400
FYI, it was Edwin Black in the book "IBM and the Holocaust" who identified IBM's role in WWII. http://www.ibmandtheholocaust.com. Why don't you publish its contents on "ratbags.com" and call Edwin Black a "Quintessence of the Loon", Bowditch? Afraid?
Not at all. I have no dispute with Black's historical analysis of IBM's involvement with governments during WW2, however fantastic it is. As far as I know, Black isn't claiming that transistors were brought to Earth by little green men. If he starts saying that IBM helped the Nazis because alien overlords told them to do so then I will have something to say about him.
I found the enclosed story on another website, an interview by Jeff Rense. Fascinating material. Not entirely accurate, but fascinating.
You found a story reporting on your idiotic idea that transistors came from a spaceship that crashed on Earth. Wow! How serendipitous.
And Stanton Friedman, whom I spoke with by phone a few days ago, appears to be continuing to make his appearances, he was at a show at Johns Hopkins a week ago, his webmaster is a customer. I still find his information and that of Phillip Corso, fascinating. But I pay little attention to Jeff Rense anymore.
Wise move. Paying attention to Jeff Rense can lead to trouble interpreting reality.
You do appear to suffer from a singular lack of a sense of humor. And stupid...
I have a very good sense of humour. I laugh at jokes, which is why I laugh at you.
What was it you called me, a "name dropper"...?
A search of all pages on the RatbagsDotCom site did not produce any page with the word "dropper" on it. Are you still consuming those chemicals that made you think that transistors came from Mars?
I'd apply the description "brainless, libeling coward hiding behind a doofie website" to you, but you wouldn't publish that, would you, a/k/a Peter Bowditch?
I just did.
Like I told you once before to your "face": your ultimate destiny is to be doomed to exposure. Remember those words.
You must be a very troubled man to write all the puke that covers your "barfbag" of a website.
Jack A. Shulman
<snip remaining insanity about how someone went on Jeff Rense's show and said that Jack knew where transistors came from>
And here's Jack blowing a valve on the latest incarnation of his web site about me:
FURTHERMORE, YOU BELIEVE I WON'T SUE YOU FOR MISREPRESENTATION OF FACT. IF YOU WEREN'T SO TOTALLY ABSURD AND DISPROVABLE IN YOUR WEBSITE, I WOULD HAVE SUED YOU, AS I'D SUED AND TAKEN JUDGMENTS AGAINST LAN LAMPHERE, GERALD HAUSER, AND MIKE RANNEY IN THE NOT SO DISTANT PAST. THE RESULT IN THOSE SUITS: ABOUT $600,000 IN JUDGMENTS, AND NOT IN THEIR FAVOR EITHER.
CARE TO JOIN THE GROWING CROWD OF LOSING DEFENDANTS, OR DOES THE THOUGHT THAT AUSTRALIA GIVES YOU SHELTER SEEM TO GIVE YOU A RISING TIDE OF COURAGE? DON'T WORRY: IT DOESN'T! I NOTICE YOU ARE VERY QUICK TO TRY AND EVOKE FOREIGN DOMINION, AS IF THAT ABSOLVES YOU FROM LIABILITY HERE IN THE STATES. DON'T COUNT ON IT. TICK SOMEONE OFF ENOUGH WHO ACTUALLY TAKES YOU SERIOUSLY AND YOU'LL FIND YOURSELF IN A UNITED STATES COURT, OR LOSING YOUR SHORTS AND YOUR LUNCH IN SOME AUSTRALIAN ENFORCEMENT ACTION, LONG ARM UNDER THE RULES OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LAW OR THE VIENNA CONVENTION. YOU'D BE SURPRISED HOW MEAN A HUNGRY ATTORNEY CAN GET WHEN OFFERED A 30% STAKE IN A MULTIMILLION DOLLAR JUDGMENT, EVEN IF YOU TRIED HIDING OUT IN WALKABOUT CREEK. THEN I'D JUST HIRE A DONK.
Hey, Jack - you called me "GRADE A NAZI, SCHEISS-MEISTER OF THE ART OF WEB TERRORISM" and suggested that I bugger young boys. Sue me any time you feel like losing your house. And I just had to quote this bit:
ONE THING, HOWEVER: KINDLY STOP ELECTRONICALLY STALKING ME, AND CEASE USING MY NAME IN ANY MANNER FOR PURPOSES THAT I HAVEN'T AGREED TO EXPRESSLY IN WRITING. AND I HAVEN'T AGREED TO ANY USAGE OF ANY KIND.
Anti-vaccinators hit the spot (24/3/2007)
The new vaccine against human papilloma virus has the anti-vaccination liars in a frenzy of mouth-foam. They can't claim that it causes autism because it is not given to children young enough. Well, they can't claim this yet, but give them time ... . Their strategy so far has been to suggest that as HPV is transmitted sexually, giving the vaccine to pre-pubescent girls will be giving the girls licences for promiscuity and licentiousness. A piece of drivel circulating over the 'net in the last few weeks has offered a new twist - the vaccine is unnecessary because cervical cancer is not caused by the virus. Here is the amazing news:
There's also no discussion of the one pharmaceutical merchandise (i.e.: feminine hygiene products) that is the most likely cause of this cancer.
I love it! The most comprehensively understood cancer in the world, where scientists can point to the specific gene locations, and all this time it was caused by tampons! One fact puzzles me, however - there is a lot of cervical cancer in India where "feminine hygiene products" are used on a very limited basis. I haven't heard anybody explain this phenomenon. This is another instance, like the spurious vaccination-autism link, of deliberately lying about correlation and pretending that it proves causation - a large number of women with cervical cancer have used tampons, pads and douches, so these things must have caused the cancer. This sort of idiocy would be funny if it didn't kill people.
A new reference source (24/3/2007)
Andy Schlafly is the son of Phyllis Schlafly, head of the Eagle Forum whose web site holds the current record for the number of categories in which it is listed in The Millenium Project, but it is not fair to judge a person by the actions of his parents. Andy Schlafly is a lawyer, a trade which usually indicates a more-than-passing familiarity with the use and nuances of language, but he is one of the people who have accused me of not knowing how to spell "millennium". When it was pointed out to him by several people (none of them me) that a clear explanation of the etymology of the word "millenium" as used on this site was and is displayed on the front page of the site he carefully considered the situation and then said that he understood but that I still didn't know how to spell "millennium". While an intellect like that serves a useful purpose by ensuring that the left-hand half of the graph of intelligence distribution doesn't distort the overall bell shape of the curve, it is unfair to judge a person harshly just because they don't seem smart enough to know how (or why) to tie shoelaces.
Mr Schlafly has now made a grab for great fame by starting a web site named Conservapedia. This has been established to counter the extreme left-liberal, evolutionist and atheist bias in Wikipedia which apparently prevents the truth from appearing there. I have my own critical opinion of the value of Wikipedia, but I have to say that I haven't seen any real evidence of Jimmy Wales being a reincarnation of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx or Vladimir Lenin or of the anonymous writers, editors and arbitrators being members of The Great Left Wing Conspiracy. (A comment from an anonymous person: McDonalds is where you go when you are hungry but don't care about the quality of the food you get. Wikipedia is where you go when you are curious but don't care about the quality of the information you get. But I digress ...)
I like to see a diversity of opinions, and Conservapedia goes beyond that to present a diversity of facts. I wish the site well and I hope that it will evolve (if I can use that word) into a useful repository of crackpottery and misinformation. An example of the high quality of information in this encyclopaedia can be found in the definition of "Beef". Here it is in its entirety at the time of writing:
Beef is the meat of cows. Hindus do not eat beef. Vegetarians also do not eat beef.
Why I do this (24/3/2007)
I often get asked why I bother with this web site, the implication (and sometimes the outright accusation) being that I can't expect to make a difference. Then I get an email like this and I know that my time hasn't been completely wasted.
I was considering Mannatech, and enjoyed reading all your comments. Thank you, and keep up the good work. Yes, it does sound like a 'pocketbook' drain, and I want to make sure the benefit is there before getting into it. Now that I have heard both sides, I am convinced it is not for me!
But not everyone is happy (24/3/2007)
The writer doesn't quite explain what bothers her, but at least she took the time to look around and then put fingers to keyboard.
From: "Linda Adamson"
Subject: Comment on The Millenium Project
Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2007 10:21:44 -1000
Reading through your writings on this website has been a shock. I have never seen so much uneducated, biased thinking in my life. You say you won't read more then 300 words at a time (your quote), but you claim to understand so many things.
Actually, my real quote is "As the Gettysburg Address contains only 278 words and therefore sets a plausible upper limit on the expression of a single thought, I try not to read any paragraph containing more than 300 words". (It is expressed slightly differently in various places, but all are paraphrases of this.) Of course, if what I am reading is interesting I keep on reading.
Your mind is not just ill-informed, it is frozen. You, my friend, are the monster produced by the "sleep of reason".
Thank you for your comments, although I am not quite sure what it is that upsets you so. Thank you also for keeping to the word limit. It's easy if you try.
And while we're talking about emails ...
I would like to publicly thank everyone who wrote to me expressing their kind thoughts about the hospitalised family member whom I mentioned last week. The reason for admission is well under control, but a routine check showed that an unrelated pre-existing condition is now much more serious than it was a year ago. I'm now in the strange situation where I hope it's a telemarketer when the phone rings.
Last year there was outrage in the Australian literary community when the Australian Broadcasting Corporation cancelled publication at the last minute of a book about Alan Jones, the country's highest-paid and (some say) most influential radio personality. Jones has a radio audience of such a size that politicians almost climb over each other to be interviewed. The book contract wasn't cancelled because the author didn't know what he was talking about or it might have been inaccurate. (Chris Masters is probably Australia's best investigative journalist and his record of research is impeccable). The problem was that the ABC thought that they might be sued. The author kept his considerable advance and the book was published by Allen & Unwin. Jones may well have lawyered up, but the book was a best seller and as of yesterday was on prominent display in at least three large Sydney bookshops.
You might think then that Allen & Unwin would be just the publisher to take on a church, especially as they had been the Australian publisher for the drivel of The Da Vinci Code which offended a lot of Catholics with its fantasies about how the church works. Well, you might think that.
In late 2004, Allen & Unwin commissioned a book about my local money magnet, Hillsong. The author had been a member of the church and knew the management well. Hillsong has been aware of the book for a long time but declined to participate in any way, even going as far as to ban the author from entering church property. (This could be difficult, as Hillsong is reputed to be a rather substantial landlord in the area surrounding the theatre that they use for "worship".) In 2006, Allen & Unwin promoted the book, People in Glass Houses, to European book sellers at trade fairs. I was in line to get an advance copy so that I could have a review ready to publish here when the book came out in March 2007. I never got that review copy, because Allen & Unwin abandoned publication of the book in February. The excuse given was that they were afraid of being sued. One wonders why they didn't worry about this sooner, especially as they had told the author that they had good legal advice that the book was not a target for defamation action and they had had the final manuscript since last October.
I feel sorry for the author, who has put several years of her life into the book and now will receive nothing in exchange for the time and effort. I feel sorry for the people who might have read the book and been prepared for what they would find if their friends took them to a Hillsong hysteriafest. I feel sorry for the editors at Allen & Unwin who were startled by shadows. And I feel sorry for free speech.
(I tried to contact the author but, quite reasonably in the circumstances, she has made herself invisible and none of the email addresses I have for her work. If you are reading this, Tanya, or if someone reading it can get a message to her, I would love to get together for a coffee. And we won't be going to a coffee shop in that chain.)
Let's keep those cross-infection rates up (31/3/2007)
In an excellent example of how bureaucrats can do something good occasionally, my local health authorities have issued a policy which states that anyone working in the health industry (except those very few people who have no contact with patients, blood or clinical staff) must have current vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella and influenza, and must also be able to demonstrate that they have been screened for tuberculosis. (You can see more about the policy here.) As you can imagine, this has the anti-vaccination liars screaming blue murder, and they are moving the lying and hysteria into top gear. They have been trying (unsuccessfully) to get the nurses' union to treat this as some form of worker oppression and have even tried lying to the federal Minister for Health (who is a committed Catholic) about vaccines which "include tissue from aborted homan (sic) foetuses". (You can see what the Vatican had to say about this lie here.)
One tactic tried by the Australian Vaccination Network was an attempt to place the following advertisement in publications put out by the Australian Medical Association. Acting ethically, the AMA refused to run the advertisement, which has caused the AVN to start screeching about censorship and conspiracy and freedom of speech.
The Australian Vaccination Network has its own magazine rather hypocritically named Informed Voice, and I have decided to test their dedication to freedom of speech. In my capacity as Vice President of Australian Skeptics I have sent the following letter to the advertising sales person at Informed Voice. I may be misjudging them, but I do not expect a prompt reply. Or even any reply at all.
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 22:17:19 +1000
At Australian Skeptics we are looking at ways of promoting our views to a wider audience and reaching people who would not normally read our publications. As part of the process we are considering advertising in magazines and publications with diverse readerships. Someone suggested that a suitable place for us to run advertisements would be Informed Voice.
Unfortunately it seems that we have missed the deadline for booking for the next issue, so we would be looking at the Spring edition coming out in August. On the plus side, the proposed editorial content of that edition would make it highly suitable and relevant for us to run a full-page advertisement telling people of our work against cancer quackery and the useless, untested and unproven "treatments" offered to desperate people (and even treatments like laetrile which have been tested and found not to work).
As several members of the committee have not seen the magazine and might be resistant to advertising in it sight unseen, could you please forward copies of two recent editions to me at PO Box 1166, Parramatta NSW 2124.
Homeopathy redux (31/3/2007)
I would like to publicly thank all the readers who sent me copies of the paper I mentioned last week from Physica A which supposedly demonstrated that the theory behind homeopathy has some substance. The paper answered one of my questions - the water-only sample was diluted and succussed just like the active ingredient samples. The explanation for why heavy water was used instead of what homeopaths actually use was a little obscure, and seemed to be because D2O produces a larger effect in some circumstances. If this magnifies the effect to make differences easier to detect then it might have been a reasonable action, but I remain unconvinced. The experiment did not represent what is supposed to go on in a homeopathic factory. The paper was also ambiguous about who actually prepared the samples, and there is the real possibility that they were made by a manufacturer of homeopathic nostrums and the experimenters took the labels on trust. Regardless of who made the samples, the experimenters were not blinded and they knew what they were supposed to be testing at all times. René Blondlot would have felt quite at home in this laboratory.