Brian Martin is Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong and fancies himself as a champion of whistleblowers. When the whistle-blowing is legitimate, that’s a fine and honourable pursuit. But, when someone in a position of authority can’t tell the difference between whistleblowers and conspiracy theorists it’s cause for concern. When those conspiracy theorists actively endanger lives, it’s cause for alarm.
Professor Martin has been a staunch defender of Meryl Dorey and her appalling Australian [anti] Vaccination Network. He is the PhD Supervisor for anti-vax campaigner Judy Wilyman. Wilyman’s Masters degree is currently the subject of investigation for academic misconduct.
But Professor Martin claims he has no ‘strong views’ about vaccination; that his interest in the anti-vaccination debate is all about free speech.
Free speech is all very well. But, when propaganda and misinformation from uneducated rabble-rousers endangers the lives of children and vulnerable people, I think we can rightly argue free speech must have limits.
Whether or not Professor Martin is an anti-vaxxer himself, his work enables these anti-science, numb-skulled conspiracy theorists. The connection with Professor Martin and the University of Wollongong lends credibility to them while tainting him, and more importantly, the university that supports his and (by association) their work.
Dr Matthew Berryman, author of the complexitydaemon blog, is appalled by Professor Martin’s involvement with some of this country’s most prominent anti-vaccination propagandists. Dr Berryman is an academic at the University of Wollongong. His degrees are in science, mathematics, computer engineering and systems analysis.
Berryman is the co-author of the 2013 paper “Answering human papillomavirus vaccine concerns; a matter of science and time“, published in Infection Agents and Cancer, an open access, peer-reviewed online journal.
In an interview with the Illawarra Mercury in 2012 regarding Judy Wilyman’s PhD candidature, Dr Berryman said:
“While I’m a big supporter of academic freedom, I somehow don’t think that academic freedom extends to … making unscientific claims discouraging people from seeking appropriate preventative measures for life-threatening diseases.”
In a blog post, published today, Dr Berryman draws our attention to a book chapter written by Dr Martin in Nonviolence Unbound. Martin’s chapter deals specifically with the clash between the Australian [anti] Vaccination Network and Stop the AVN, a Facebook-based citizens group which doggedly opposed and exposed the AVN for years, effectively bringing it to its knees – for now.
That this was all achieved legally, backed by decisions against the AVN’s dodgy practices by various Australian health and regulatory authorities, does not seem to deter Professor Martin one iota. Instead, in Chapter 8 of Nonviolence Unbound he suggests a number of strategies the AVN might use to circumvent the Australian laws which have so constrained them.
You can read all about it on Dr Berryman’s blog:
The AVN fought the law and the law won: AVN stopped
The University of Wollongong must be so proud that one of its academics can, so cavalierly, aid and abet an organisation which actively compromises the health and lives of Australian children. Stay classy, U of W.
PS: Ms WIlyman thinks very highly of me, too.
It is a difficult matter to ban what we feel is false. Somebody has to decide what is false. That means we have to give that authority and power to an agency with the ability to ban it. I think the virgin birth, God and many other matters that many people believe is absolute rubbish. However, I would not give any government the power to ban these ideas. In a democratic society we combat error with truth and reason not with banning. In doing so we take the risk that people will fall into error. That is a risk we have to take to preserve freedom. The anti-vaxxers have to be allowed to rave on..
Who said ban David?
We can certainly ask universities, with a reputation to uphold, to look at the evidence and take action on the side of good science. The university can refuse to lend their prestige and authority to cranks. All without banning anything.
Long time no hear Good on you Chrys Glen ________________________________________
I recently fell out with a good friend over this issue! She’s an anti vaxxer & I vaccinate.
When I asked her why she doesn’t vax, she garbled some conspiracy theory, I couldn’t quite grasp. I told her that whilst it’s her choice not to vaccinate, it is also her children who will become unnecessarily ill. It didn’t go down well.
I don’t think people realise just how deadly & awful those old vaccinated illnesses are. Educating people about the consequences of their choices is the way to go & some people just don’t want to know. Some just pray to god for protection.
I heard a wise old saying that “god” helps those that helps themselves…
The science is in. Vaccinate.
It is not only their own children they put at risk, it is other people’s children and other people who for legitimate reasons cannot be vaccinated or whose immune systems are compromised.
I didn’t think the issue was to vaccinate or not vaccinate. There seems to be no question. It makes sense to vaccinate. The issue is whether to allow the anti-vaxxers to make their wrongful propaganda. I think, like Thomas Jefferson, that expression of error must be tolerated for the sake of truth. If we give government or other authority the power to suppress error they also have the power to suppress truth.
David, this issue is not about suppressing error. It is about exposing error that is attempting to hide and disguise itself within an acedemic institution.
In the end the issue is the behaviour of people not vaccinating because of that error sneaking around not being highlighted. About parents fooling themselves into thinking not vaccinating is ok with the help of the conspiracy theorists.
Unfortunately that’s true. I’ve yet to figure out how I feel about the government desire to not financially support people who don’t vaccinate. Australia is such a privileged country, there is so much we take for granted. I love how we subscribe to some amazing & almost grandiose ideals and then have such dilemmas when humans act as they invariably will. I don’t know where the balance lays.
“The connection with Professor Martin and the University of Wollongong lends credibility to them while tainting him” – I think should read ” The connection with Professor Martin and the University of Wollongong lends credibility to HIM while tainting THEM”.
No. It reads exactly as intended.