Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Andrew Bolt: Smarter folk are more likely to be (climate change) sceptics

In Responses to the media, Science on October 6, 2011 at 11:40 PM

This article was originally posted at jaysondcooke.com

It’s hard to ignore the heated (pardon the pun) debate regarding climate change. Whether it’s the impact humans are having on our climate (if any), whether our climate is actually changing at all, or whether the consequences (again, if any) are positive or negative overall, certain sections of the Australian media are adamant there is very, very good reason to doubt the actual experts.

While there do appear to be very clear ideological and political disparities between those of us that accept the evidence that humans are indeed causing our climate to change for the worse and at greater speed than ever before in recorded history, and those that call themselves climate sceptics, today I learned of one more important difference.

Smarter folk are more likely to be sceptics.

Shocking I know, but that was just the title of the ‘research‘ that then went on to say that

The less you know about science, the more likely you are to believe man is warming the planet dangerously.

Now I’m no scientist, and it’s hard to gauge how much I ‘know about science’ compared to the next person, but in this case the next person is Andrew Bolt, prolific media contributor with regular columns in five Australian newspapers, a heavily trafficked blog as well as duties as a talk-back radio pundit, television personality and star of the Bolt Report and, like myself, a non-scientist. Still if the above claim is true, then I guess this means that Andrew Bolt is smarter and more scientifically literate than almost every single scientist currently walking the earth!

Yet we don’t have to be scientists to read other peoples research, and Andrew has provided an abstract to back up the claim he obviously made on purely scientific grounds.

 The conventional explanation for controversy over climate change emphasizes impediments to public understanding: Limited popular knowledge of science, the inability of ordinary citizens to assess technical information, and the resulting widespread use of unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk. A large survey of U.S. adults (N = 1540) found little support for this account. On the whole, the most scientifically literate and numerate subjects were slightly less likely, not more, to see climate change as a serious threat than the least scientifically literate and numerate ones.

Now if you’re thinking that doesn’t look like an entire abstract you’re right! Andrew must of been in a rush and forgot to paste the remainder which reads:

 More importantly, greater scientific literacy and numeracy were associated with greater cultural polarization: Respondents predisposed by their values to dismiss climate change evidence became more dismissive, and those predisposed by their values to credit such evidence more concerned, as science literacy and numeracy increased. We suggest that this evidence reflects a conflict between two levels of rationality: The individual level, which is characterized by citizens’ effective use of their knowledge and reasoning capacities to form risk perceptions that express their cultural commitments; and the collective level, which is characterized by citizens’ failure to converge on the best available scientific evidence on how to promote their common welfare. Dispelling this, “tragedy of the risk-perception commons,” we argue, should be understood as the central aim of the science of science communication.

 To me this doesn’t at all indicate that “smarter folk are more likely to be sceptics”, but then I also believe man is warming the planet dangerously so what would I know, I’m not only no scientist, but more importantly I’m no Andrew Bolt.

 

Jayson D Cooke

Advertisements

September features the hugest month of great events yet for Reason Australia

In Embiggen Books, GUSSF Events!, Helping our community., Homeopathy Awareness Week, Modern Day Witchcraft, Responses to the media, Science on August 31, 2011 at 6:59 PM

In the lead up to our much anticipated official launch, Reason Australia are compiling a one-stop calendar of events nationwide that may be of interest to our members, supporters and friends.

If you are hosting or are aware of an event that is not yet featured on the Reason Australia events page, please contact our media and community relations manager via the following email address:

If you are holding or know of an event that is not yet featured on the Reason Australia events page, please contact our media and community relations manager via the following email address:

jayson.cooke@reasonaustralia.org

Please feel free to provide feedback via the above contact as well.

Jayson D Cooke

Know your Measles symptoms if you’re heading to the Gold Coast

In Helping our community., Responses to the media, Science on May 9, 2011 at 11:06 PM

The recent spike in measles cases across the Gold Coast this month once again highlights the importance of immunisation. With three confirmed cases of the highly infectious disease all acquired locally, health authorities are urging the public to check their vaccinations are up-to-date.

Vice President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Dr Steve Hambleton advises that measles is highly infectious and amongst those susceptible can spread exceedingly quickly.

“The low vaccination rates of northern NSW and South East Queensland create the potential for a sustained spread of the measles virus. Measles is a very nasty disease, people think it’s mild but it’s not and there are long term consequences. We all worry about pandemic influenza, yet measles is at least 10 times more infections. It’s very serious and can result in long term brain damage, short term death, pneumonia and complications including slow congenital changes in the brain, so it’s just not true to say that it’s a benign disease,”

Gold Coast Public Health Medical Officer, Dr Don Staines, said symptoms usually started around 10 days after infection but sometimes longer.

“The initial symptoms are fever, lethargy, runny nose, moist cough and sore and red eyes, followed a few days later by a blotchy red rash. The rash starts on the face then becomes widespread. Anyone who develops measles-like symptoms should contact their GP for advice,”

“They should call the medical practice first to say they could have measles, so staff can take precautions to avoid spreading the disease to others”,

Queensland Health recommends anyone born during or since 1966, who has not had two documented doses of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine or had proven measles, should visit their local GP for a free extra vaccination.

10:23 Queensland Event this coming Saturday 05/02/11

In 10:23, GUSSF Events!, Helping our community., Homepathy, Responses to the media, Science on January 31, 2011 at 11:36 AM

This coming Saturday 05/02/11 at 10:23am we will be staging our mass ‘overdose’ of Homeopathic products as part of the International 10:23 Challenge 2011.

The goal of this international campaign is to raise awareness of the fact that Homeopathic preparations contain no active ingredients and have been repeatedly shown by the best available evidence to be no more effective than placebos. We aim to discuss this with passers-by in a friendly and approachable way with the goal of aiding consumers to make an informed choice..

We will be meeting up at 9.30am at the two large metal spheres between the Treasury Casino and the Brisbane Library across George Street from the Queen Street Mall. We’re meeting early in order to set up our homeopathic preparations as well as to hand out amongst participants the information sheets and flyers for interested passers-by, and prepare for the arrival of the media. The event will climax with the mass ‘overdose’ at 10:23am were volunteers will consume ridiculous amounts of pre-vetted homeopathic products in front of onlookers, the gathered media, and our own cameras for video to be promptly uploaded online.

I will have limited copies of the official 10:23 leaflet as well as printed copies of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) official position statement on Homeopathy, and a Guardian article by Edzard Ernst.

If everyone else would like to print out and bring along copies of the above to hand out then that would be very much appreciated!

For any media representatives I have prepared a small press kit of information including both the previously mentioned articles as well as Edzard Ernst’s Systematic Review of the Cochrane Database.

Volunteer’s are required to BYO Homeopathic products for the ‘overdose and remember safety first!

Please only use homeopathic products manufactured by a reputable pharmaceutical company and please don’t participate if you have any underlying health concerns.

There are a few cautions when it comes to the pills:
Lactose intolerance/diabetes – some participants may suffer ill effects of the pills, due to underlying illnesses. The amount of sugar in the tablets is quite low, about a teaspoonful, if that, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Clean homeopathy; be cautious, some homeopaths provide pills which are tainted or spiked with other ingredients. Minimise risk by using 30c ‘potency’ tablets. Investigate the pills ahead of time. If you can’t be 100% sure they’re safe, DON’T RISK IT.

Also could we need volunteers to provide:
a. Filming equipment that can be easily uploaded online
b. Someone willing and able to film and upload later that day.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at jayson.d.cooke@gmail.com

And I hope to see you all this coming Saturday.

Jayson D Cooke

What you can do to inform Gold Coast parents, & protect children from ‘Body Brilliant Chiropractic’?

In GUSSF Events!, Helping our community., Responses to the media, Science, Uncategorized on December 5, 2010 at 1:33 PM

At the end of my last post I asked what else we can do about the proliferation of dangerous, erroneous, and pseudoscientific claims that Body Brilliant Chiropractic are successfully pushing in Childcare Centre’s and media aimed directly at Gold Coast parents.

We’ve managed to come up with some suggestions that are not at all time consuming and require no specific expertise! I encourage anyone who finds anything on the Body Brilliant Chiropractic website, that contradicts properly controlled studies and research from medical science (some of which is linked to in my post, but also check out http://www.healthinformation.com.au/ which links to the terrific
Cochrane Collaboration, and PubMed.) to lodge a complaint with the following bodies:

http://www.health.qld.gov.au/quality/consumer_complaints/complaints.asp

http://www.hqcc.qld.gov.au/home/default.aspx

http://www.scamwatch.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/693900

http://www.fairtrading.qld.gov.au/

http://www.tga.gov.au/cm/cm.htm

http://www.chiropracticboard.gov.au/

http://www.caaq.com.au/


http://www.ahpra.gov.au/Notifications-and-Outcomes/Notification-Process.aspx

Also please contact the ‘media’, for instance,

ACA: http://aca.ninemsn.com.au/feedback.aspx
Today Tonight: http://au.todaytonight.yahoo.com/contactform/suggest-story
Prime Gold Coast News:
http://goldcoast.iprime.com.au/index.php/news?sem=google&KNC-Google&cmpid=37129
The Gold Coast Bulletin:
http://www.goldcoast.com.au/gold-coast-bulletin/contact-us.html
The Tweed Daily News: http://www.tweednews.com.au/contactus/
http://www.tweednews.com.au/contact/feedback/

And contact your local Member of Parliament!

This list is far from exhaustive and I’d be very happy to add to it!

It shouldn’t be up to us to do this, but it is so we may as well try to be as effective as possible in raising awareness amongst both the general public & those with the power to regulate.

Jayson D Cooke

Body Brilliant Chiropractic: #1 at Manipulation?

In Helping our community., Human Rights, Modern Day Witchcraft, Science on December 4, 2010 at 1:02 AM

In April 2008 best selling UK author Dr Simon Singh wrote an opinion piece in the Guardian newspaper regarding chiropractic treatments that contained the following paragraph:

“The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.”

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) promptly threatened to sue Dr Singh personally, claiming he had defamed their reputation. Despite the Guardian Newspaper offering an opportunity for the BCA to author a 500 word response to be published in The Guardian, allowing the BCA to present its evidence in conjunction with a clarification in the “Corrections and Clarifications” column, these offers were rejected by the BCA and legal action commenced. The resulting 2 year ordeal ended abruptly when the BCA served a Notice of Discontinuance on April 15, 2010 bringing an end to any claim of libel.

Perhaps it’s nothing more than coincidence that the very next month the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), a UK-wide statutory body with regulatory powers, published a position statement related to subluxation (the ironic backbone of many contentious chiropractic claims) which read:

“The chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex is an historical concept but it remains a theoretical model. It is not supported by any clinical research evidence that would allow claims to be made that it is the cause of disease or health concerns.”

In October this year New Zealand medical researchers Professor Shaun Holt and Andrew Gilbey issued a strong warning against taking children to chiropractors for any reason.

In regards to spinal manipulation in infants and children, for conditions ranging from ear infections, colic and asthma to ADHD and even cancer, Professor Holt was quoted as saying

“There is no plausible explanation why high-velocity manipulation of the spine can help children with these medical conditions, it is an extraordinary claim”

“Given that this is a multibillion dollar industry, the lack of good research that has been undertaken is staggering. There is also evidence that many chiropractors advise against routine childhood immunizations, which is irresponsible.”

Andrew Gilbey also relayed concerns that

“there are some serious safety concerns related to the unnecessary use of x-rays and the manipulation of childrens’ spines and so we advise parents to instead consult their family doctor who has been trained to recognize and treat a wide range of medical problems. In Canada, an undercover researcher reported that 4 out of 5 chiropractors found serious problems with the spine of a child and said that these required urgent chiropractic treatment, whereas an experienced pediatric orthopedic surgeon who also examined the girl found her to be perfectly healthy.”

Most likely my awareness of these and many other causes for concern regarding Chiropractic had kept me from any contact with it.

Until yesterday afternoon that is.

Picking my daughter up from childcare I couldn’t help but notice glossy leaflets in each family pigeon hole. Usually this is where receipts of payment, birthday invitations and Centre announcements are left for parents. What caught my eye this time however was a beautifully prepared 4 page newsletter style pamphlet entitled

“NEWS 4 LIFE”

subheading

“CHIRO4KIDS #1”

produced by Body Brilliant Chiropractic. I then read:

“Ear Infections, Colic, Reflux, ADHD, Postural Imbalances and so much more can be caused from Subluxations.”

The manager of the Centre happened to be nearby. She explained the unprecedented appearance of such material resulted from a favor to a former child fitness program employee who had just started at Body Brilliant Chiropractic. The staff had allowed this person to promote her new employers claims based on trust alone and had yet to look over the claims made in the document, a surprisingly easy mistake to make and one I don’t in any way begrudge them for (particularly as I’ve been assured it won’t happen again).

As soon as I voiced my concerns regarding the claims made, staff were instructed to remove the leaflets pending investigation.

We then went through the document together and noted that claims were also made that “Vertebral Subluxations” are at minimum correlated with Asthma, Wheezing and a host of other illnesses not related to the back, let alone spine.None of the numerous facts and figures put forward were referenced in any way, and there appeared to both of us to be a general tone of mistrust aimed at the medical establishment. I said I’d follow up the claims with a little research and bring in what I found the next day and thanked the management team for acting so promptly to remove the offending material.

I’ve since provided to the management and staff a fairly comprehensive summary of articles and peer-reviewed studies outlining controversy within the chiropractic community over the reality of “Subluxations” (described in the leaflet as the source of a range of illnesses at least 5 times) the ineffectiveness of pediatric chiropractic “treatments”, and the potential risks involved in undertaking such treatments. I have also filed a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission(ACCC) via their tremendously useful SCAMWatch site, The Queensland Office of Fair Trading as well as the Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA). The Management of the Childcare Centre have assured me they will be much more vigilant in future and also advised me that they contacted the woman who had delivered the leaflets and that she was not aware of any concerns but would look into it further.

I can’t help but dwell on the fact that if those leaflets had been delivered any day of the week apart from Thursday and Friday they would have escaped my notice, and that is more than enough to compel me to act. It’s also possible that the other parents at the Centre would not have the background knowledge on the topic to be concerned about the claims made, or to have been concerned enough to alert staff to the potential for harm to our children. I was considering this and wondering how many other Child Care Centres in our region also were either purposefully or unwittingly promoting such treatments when my partner passed me the Dec/Jan issue of ‘Kids on the Coast’ magazine, a free bi-monthly publication that circulates in many if not all childcare facilities across the Gold Coast.

The inside front cover features a full page advertisement for Body Brilliant Chiropractic.
Read the rest of this entry »

Qskeptics: The Queensland Skeptics Association Inc

In Embiggen Books, GUSSF Events!, Helping our community., Responses to the media, Science on December 1, 2010 at 5:17 AM

Some of you may not know already that as well as running the Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers, I’ve also been working more closely with the Queensland branch of the Australian Skeptics, Qskeptics.

As such I’ve proposed some new projects that once approved, should be unique and exciting, bringing lots of exposure as well as real world impact statewide and beyond. I can’t say much more on these as yet, but you’ll all be the first to know when we get the go ahead.

In the meantime our Qskeptics website is now being regularly updated with news and events, as well as a huge array of search-able resources. I’m planning on adding every event in Queensland that we’re hosting, investigating, or feel our members and friends may be interested in.

Speaking of investigating, we hope to take a more active role in investigating apparent anomalous phenomena, paranormal and/or psuedoscientific claims from a responsible science based point of view.

I’m also in the early stages of getting an official Podcast of the Queensland Skeptics Association Inc and the
Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers organised but I’m taking my time to make sure we get it right.

You can also find us on Facebook and we have a Twitter account so follow us for further updates and please remember your input is greatly appreciated and we all want this to be as successful on as many fronts as possible!

Jayson D Cooke

The Mass Libel Reform Blog — Fight for Free Speech!

In Discrimination, Equality, GUSSF Events!, Helping our community., Human Rights, Responses to the media, Science, Superheroes, TAM Australia on November 21, 2010 at 9:06 PM

This is a message from Simon Singh:

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particular dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at http://www.libelreform.org/sign

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at http://www.libelreform.org/sign

“Why waste your time at gatherings of like-minded skeptics when you could be engaging with people who might actually benefit from what you have to say?”

In Discrimination, Ethics in Schools, GUSSF Events!, Helping our community., Responses to the media, Science, TAM Australia on October 27, 2010 at 5:13 PM

Why not do both?

The following (rant) was written in response to this posting by Alom Shaha on the Guardian Science Blog, and so without first reading Mr Shaha’s article, my response may make little to no sense although I’ll let you be the judge.

Alom,
Where does this plainly false dichotomy come from?

Have you considered that perhaps time spent at gatherings of like-minded skeptics is not a waste of time, or rather has the potential to not be, or that perhaps not all Skeptics in the Pub events are alike?

Have you considered that perhaps the time spent at such events does not equate to time not spent engaging with “the public”, particularly when such events are open, welcoming and/or even appreciated by the public?

Have you considered that I do not self describe as a ‘Skeptic” because I want to show off that I’m super smart and rational (the former couldn’t be further for the truth while the latter is an aim, not a guarantee due to my all too human brain).

I organise a Skeptics in the pub event that does not have a guest speaker as such, but is more of a round table discussion of recent news, activities, tactics, anecdotes, jokes and social drinking.

I assist in other Skeptics in the Pub events that host speakers from an impressively wide range of fields and specialties have extensive and sometimes heated Q & A’s after, and at not one of these events have I left the talk having not learned something new.

I definitely enjoy a few pints at each, but never have I gone home with ‘beliefs’ in how smart and rational I am confirmed or denied, rather I feel the satisfaction of learning something new and anticipate the further questions all new knowledge raises. The more I learn the more there is to learn, as I’m sure you can appreciate.

We have had “celebrities” at our events, such at Professor Ian Frazer, past Australian of the year and creator of the HPV vaccine speaking on the history of opposition to vaccination. I should point out that our events are open to and advertised to and for the public to attend, are informative, educating and entertaining events that would not exist were it not for the dedicated skeptics that volunteer to organize them.

Here in Australia we have one conference per year and this year we are fortunate enough to be hosting TAM Australia in conjunction with the Australian Skeptics Annual convention, and I am greatly looking forward to the talks of every single speaker, not to bolster my own ‘beliefs’ but to learn and share ideas. Between the lectures, I’ll be helping to manage a Freethought University Alliance stall that is being provided free of charge by the organizers of TAM Australia.

In comparing any event/conference/convention to a church, I do not understand what your goal may be or what you believe is achieved by the comparison?

May I humbly suggest that the divisive, misguided and cruel “Skeptic baiting” you refer to is based entirely on your own assumptions and generalizations, is a slap in the face of all the people who have worked bloody hard to organise such events, and is as far from constructive criticism as you can get.

If you see a genuine failure of the UK skeptic movement to fully engage with audiences which might really benefit from being exposed to the kind of ideas about critical thinking that skeptics espouse, don’t insult and complain about the very people to whom you are trying to get your message across!

Isn’t the “skeptic movement” achieving definite and quantifiable results through achievements world wide, growth, and recognition internationally both within our community as well as externally through both the internet and traditional media. Our internal publics are growing, but our external publics are far from forgotten and are actually in some cases aware of our existence.

You met a skeptic who held what I would consider a racist attitude, and you’re not alone in thinking that people from ethnic minorities are under-represented in skeptic groups, however I don’t understand the relevance of these important issues to the “skeptic baiting” proceeding it. You say you “had to bite your tongue’ but the reality is you choose to bite your tongue in response to an ignorant statement that happened to be made by an individual at a Skeptical event. That was your choice, not the one I would have made, and the venue where this discussion took place is irrelevant as I’m sure you must know. Unless you are attempting to imply some sort of implicit or explicit racism within either critical thinking or scientific skepticism, I fail to see your point, assuming of course that there was one.

Every Skeptic event I have hosted, helped with and/or attended has been nothing if not inclusive. I have had members of my university group from all nationalities, ethnicities and backgrounds, but I’ve never considered this as an issue, rather I was pleased to have attendees at all and all our members were pleased to have a venue to speak freely, to discuss, to debate and to share knowledge as equals.
Skepticism (with a K to denote it as scientific skepticism rather than philosophical skepticism) is many things to many people. To me it has become evidence based social justice, activism, investigation, science communication and education, promotion of critical thinking, consumer advocacy and above all a methodological and informed way of thinking based on logic, reason and the scientific method.

Advocacy of quality science education and critical thinking programs in schools is not the exclusive domain of the Skeptical community although I’m sure the majority of members of said community support the application, assessment and improvement of both. For the reasons outlined in Daniel Loxton’s “Where Do We Go From Here” essay, I believe it should not be our primary concern, rather one of many causes we can support.

“If you’re poor or if you’re from a strictly religious family, like many of my students are, then it’s likely that school is the only place you might ever get to listen to and engage with someone like Richard Dawkins in person. So, instead of getting these brilliant people to go and talk in pubs or at conferences, where everybody already knows what they’re going to say, why not get them into schools where they might inspire a new generation of skeptics?”

This assertion that Skeptics in the Pub events are somehow detrimental to school children’s education is patently absurd. As I mentioned, I for one don’t arrogantly assume I know exactly what the speaker at such events is going to say, nor do I believe that holding open, public events aimed at educating members of skeptical groups as well as the wider public is somehow taking away opportunities from school children.
I share your admiration in

“the good work that many skeptics do, for example when they challenge the false advertising of “alternative” medicine and the inappropriate use of NHS funds, and expose the charlatans who make money by lying to the bereaved and desperate.”

However failing to acknowledge that Skeptics in the Pub events serve many functions that aid in creating and strengthening the communities that can co-ordinate to perform “good work” is a massive failing on your part. If you want to be involved, be involved, if you don’t, don’t, but if you really want to influence this movement then lead by example and do it from the inside, starting with self-criticism, a dash of humility and perhaps a helpful suggestion or two, otherwise your petty venting will appear to be just that.

Jayson D Cooke

Evolution vs. Creationism on ABC Southern Queensland

In Creationism/ Intelligent Design, Ethics in Schools, GUSSF Events!, Helping our community., Responses to the media, Science on October 20, 2010 at 11:43 AM

Yesterday an on air discussion was held between ABC Southern Queensland Morning presenter Robert Blackmore, Creation Ministries International’s Dr Don Batten and myself.

The topic was ‘Creation vs. Evolution’ with particular focus on The University of Southern Queensland’s recent decision to cancel a seminar based around this very topic at their Fraser Coast Campus.

The reason I was invited to participate was the letter I sent to academics and staff of the University of Southern Queensland informing them that a CMI event was to take place with what appeared for all intents and purposes to be support and endorsement of USQ.

Over the course of the interview it became apparent that I was being accused of stifling free speech or in someway being undemocratic in voicing my concerns.

As the letter in question clearly states, my concerns were as follows;

• CMI are a religious organisation, not a scientific one, and while their membership does include some scientists, the organisation they represent has no standing in the scientific community and their stated goals are far from the advancement of the scientific enterprise.

• The primary aim of CMI is to promote its particular version of Young Earth Creationism and to undermine the theory of evolution wherever and whenever possible.

• That USQ appeared to be giving implicit endorsement to CMI allowing and encouraging them to distort, misuse and misapply science, to pursue a religious agenda that is both divisive and not representative of mainstream Theology.

Rather than offer my opinions alone, I provided a quotation from former Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane and Governor General of Australia, Peter Hollingworth, in which he stated that growing numbers of theologians and many other thoughtful Christians have found that there is no inevitable conflict between evolutionary theory and the belief that God created and continues with the creation of His universe. I also provided 19 position statements from premier scientific academies and organizations globally, none of which I hold any association with.

Dr Batten advised listeners that my assertion in the letter that

“neither of the speakers advertised have any professional credentials in Biology, Evolutionary Biology or Theology”

was untrue, yet on the CMI website, Dr Batten’s qualifications are listed as:
• 1969–72: B.Sc.Agr.(First Class Honours)—University of Sydney
• 1973–76: Ph.D.—University of Sydney, Department of Agronomy and Horticultural Science.
Thesis: Induction of adventitious root formation in mung bean (Vigna radiata (L.) Wilczek)

While his co-speaker at the event, Dr Tas Walker has the following qualifications listed:
• Bachelor of Engineering with first class honours (University of Queensland)
• Doctorate in mechanical engineering (U of Qld)
• Bachelor of Science majoring in Earth Science, followed by First Class Honours in 1998 (U of Qld)

So it is true that I could have been clearer that Dr Batten has studied specific aspects of plant biology, I was taking a broader view of biology. In hindsight I should have written:

“It may concern you to know that neither of the speakers advertised have any professional credentials in Evolutionary Biology or Theology. While Dr Batten has studied and consequently researched specific aspects of plant biology, his work with CMI extends beyond his professional specialization.”

It’s also important to note that at no time over the course of the interview did Dr Batten advise listeners that the event was still going ahead, now in the more appropriate venue of Fraser Coast Baptist Church. I encourage readers to inquire of Dr Batten himself why this seemingly important detail was emitted.

Despite the somewhat ironic labeling of a member of the public voicing legitimate concern in the form of a letter “un-democratic”, of equal concern was the uncritical acceptance of the tactic:

“Teach the controversy”

As has been written many times time before, equivalent arguments can and have been made by other fringe groups such as Holocaust deniers, Aids deniers, Flat Earth proponents, Anti-vaccination groups such as the Australian Vaccination Network, the list goes on. What all these groups have in common with Evolution deniers is that they do not work within scientific channels, using recognized scientific methods to accumulate evidence, make predictions or provide any testable and/or falsifiable hypothesis.

In other words they don’t ‘do’ science and any claim that despite lacking these essential attributes of any scientific enterprise, proponents of such fringe groups are performing ‘science’, is simply false.

In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a six week trial in which it was established that teaching “Intelligent Design”(a re-branding of Creationism), constituted teaching religion in public schools, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones ruled that what Dr Batten refers to as ‘science’;

“violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation”; it relies on “flawed and illogical” arguments; and its attacks on evolution “have been refuted by the scientific community.”

Judge Jones, himself a man of faith and churchgoer also stated:

“It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”

Judge Jones ruling matches my own thoughts on this issue and is mentioned for being established on the best available evidence.

I do not ‘believe’ in evolution as much as I accept the overwhelming evidence from an overwhelmingly diverse range of disciplines, all confirming the scientific validity of evolution by natural selection.

It is for this very reason alone that I and the overwhelming majority of experts do not accept CMI’s brand of pseudoscience, not due to any atheistic agenda as Dr Batten states during the interview.

Jayson D Cooke

Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers