Balancing Debates – opinions of Diagnose-Funk and myself

In November 2012 I received an invitation to participate in the: 

“…workshop “Ethics of Interpretation in Research” organized by the Science Forum EMF (WF-EMF). The workshop is highlighting critical issues regarding conflicting interpretations of the same data as a source of controversy about the potential risks of RF and ELF EMF. This 2-day workshop will be held on April 18-19, 2013 in Berlin. It would be a great if you would be able to present  your view  on interpreting  high throughput data in genomics on this workshop….”

To the invitation was attached a preliminary program of the workshop (Workshop_EthicsofInterpretation).

I agreed to participate in this event. Its program sounded interesting and timely.

Later on I received the final program of the workshop and here started my doubts whether I should participate in the workshop with such “selected” list of speakers (Program 26.03.13).

After long deliberations with myself, knowing that it will cause some logistical problem for the organizers, I sent yesterday a message where I informed that I will not come to Berlin.

My primary reason for not coming to Berlin was “easy” in justification. Since I returned from Australia I am on sick leave (4.03.13 – 16.04.13) and what will happen after 16.04. I do not know yet.

However, I informed also the organizers of the workshop about my program-related concerns in two separate e-mail messages.

Message #1 (selected text)

“…the final composition of the speakers list is in my opinion very unbalanced and scientists with view differing from the “ICNIRP dogma” are only two (Kundi & myself) out of the long list of the speakers. To me it means that the debate will not represent the current status of the opinions about the possible effects of cell phone radiation. It will be an unbalanced, one-sided, pro-ICNIRP-dogma debate…”

Message #2 (selected text)

“…I knew the program for some time and for some time I was a bit “uneasy” about it. Round-table is needed but it does not look for me that participants of the Berlin meeting see such a need. Many of them are “ICNIRP people” and ICNIRP, as you know, does not see any need for the round-table. So, although the program of the meeting is not the primary reason for my absence, I wanted, however, to let you know what “worried” me – that the debate will be one-sided and that my opinion will be expectedly overwhelmed by the crowd of the opposite opinions. Not that the “crowd” would be always correct but someone might get wrong impression…”

Coincidently, I received a copy of the letter sent by the Diagnose-Funk to the workshop organizers. Diagnose-Funk was also invited to participate in the workshop and refused to do so.

The letter from the Diagnose-Funk I am publishing here with the explicit permission that I received today: “Published with permission of Diagnose-Funk e.V., 06. April 2013“. Otherwise, as readers of this letter will notice, in the end of the letter is a clause that does not permit publication of this letter. In this place I would like to thank Diagnose-Funk for the permission to publish their letter.

The long and very critical letter from Diagnose-Funk to the workshop organizers:

Justification provided by the Diagnose-Funk is very similar to my opinion: the list of speakers does not provide balanced platform for debate.

Although the topics of the workshop in Berlin are interesting, the debate will represent a one-sided opinion. This is not good development. Pro-ICNIRP scientists will present their pro-ICNIRP views to other pro-ICNIRP scientists. Likely they will agree, not disagree.

What good will come of such workshop? Nothing much – just a continuation of the divisions that already exist and further entrenchment of opinions.

Final Conclusion:

IN ANY MEANINGFUL DEBATE THE LIST OF SPEAKERS HAS TO BE BALANCED

 

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Balancing Debates – opinions of Diagnose-Funk and myself

  1. Dariusz: I can understand your argument, but I still think you should have accepted if nothing else than to raise hell in the henhouse.

    Concerned. I also agree with you to a certain point, only I do not think they should be renamed, the should be labelled “Surplus to requirement” and disbanded as they do not deliver what is in their job subscription, so why waste taxpayers cash on a self-satisfied quango who are Only in it to get a decent retirement income at our expence.

    And, Henrik.
    So right you are . The conference Will be a “Talking to you is like talking to myself” backslapping by the Usual Suspects, as always. It is all just a disgraceful theatre for the public gallery.
    Just remember the “Interphone” “”Study”” which, because there were Critical Elements on the Panel it got put into the Cooler for years before it got published “In a Modified Mode” and remember discredited “The Danish Cohort” not to mention the discredited UK “Essex Study”

    But what can we expect, and I mean this with great regret, as it could have, and was meant to be for the good for all the peoples of the world.

    So, What is the ICNIRP? (and the WHO for that matter) (Mike Repacholi is just one of the things they have in common, but it explains much more than we would wish for.)

    But neither institutions are anything but International Quango´s manned by “Fully Paid Civil Servants” approved by their Governments because they are prepared to follow the instructions of interests of the these countries Treasury´s, and disregard the principle they were ideologically set up for, Namely the Health and Interests of the worlds populations.
    And they seem to be free to accept remuneration from both Governments, these institutions and the Industries which interests they were supposed to monitor and protect civil populations against.
    So, We will just have to wait for a while untill the Local papers will announce that this Comedy is ” Coming to a Theatre Near you”
    Best rgards.
    Agnes Ingvarsdottir.
    http://www.mast-victims.org

  2. Dariusz, I very rarely enter blog debates but scanning the above, following your email about having to pull out of the Berlin workshop, tempts me to comment, especially as someone mentioned my name. I shall miss you at the workshop, not only because I have not met you yet but because I will be interested in hearing your views about the “ethics and credibility of Evaluating Evidence” which is the topic of the workshop. I was belatedly invited to the Berlin workshop because I expressed interest in the topic after hearing it mentioned by Wiedermann at the recent EU SANCO meeting , which, incidentally, did have a number of independently minded people, such as Alex Swinkels and Eileen O’Connor. (Eileen gave us a lovely phrase that sums up the EEA’s reports on “Late Lessons from Early Warnings”, vol1,2001: Vol 2,2013 : “learn from history or live with regret” which I now use when presenting these reports).
    By the way, Vol 1 has the history of X rays, from the first early warning in 1896 to 2000; and vol 2 has the history of tobacco industry opposition to the hazards of environmental tobacco smoke, by Lix Bero,which has lessons for the current dispute/demolition job on the IARC “B classification of RF; and a chapter on “Mobile phones and brain tumour risk: early warnings, early actions?” by Lennart Hardell, Michael Carlberg, and myself. All 34 case chapters from both volumes, plus the 9 horizontal chapters from Vol 2 ,on,for example the Costs of Inaction, are easily downloadable from the EEA website.
    I don’t know many of the names of the Berlin workshop participants as I don’t follow the debates that closely but they will probably be recognisable by what they say. (
    One of the reasons for going to the workshop is to hear both you and Michael Kundi talk about the workshop issues, which I think are rarely debated. Certainly my EEA workshop on “Evaluating evidence : towards Transparency and Consistency” in 2008 seemed to have been a first in that we took the Chairs etc from two opposing committee evaluations of the “same” evidence in 4 case studies (RF,ELF,BPA and Pesticides spray drift) and got them to ignore the “truth” and tell us how they managed to interpret the “same” evidence so differently.
    Nobody fought anybody but we all got to see which key paradigms and assumptions underlay their approaches to the problem ; which broad or narrow scientific disciplines and “minds” were on the Committees; which questions were addressed; which scientific and statistical methods were chosen and to what extent did they err on the side of generating “false positives” (harm inferred but not harmful really ) and “false negatives” (harm not inferred but harmful really), as most scientific methods err on the side of generating false negatives in order to avoid the greater scientific “sin” of false positives, which is the opposite of what one expects public health authorities to want ,where false negatives means much harm; which arguments and rationales were used to accept /reject some evidence and not others; what weight is put on different types of evidence: animal, cellular, human evidence, lay and local knowledge, especially when they conflict; what weight is put on model results compared to monitoring results, especially when they conflict; who was getting the benefit of the scientific doubt, the inanimate chemical/ product or the potential victims of harm; what strength of evidence were chosen to justify exposure reduction actions (“convincing” or “scientific suspicion” from amongst the 6/7 available to choose from; ); who considered the consequences and associated costs of being wrong, in both directions; and how would such costs be distributed in society.
    Consequential questions also arise which should (an ethical choice!) be addressed including what measures might be in place to maximise the incentives on the hazard generators to reduce the likelihood of harm: currently they have little because society by and large “decides” to allow harm perpetrators to dump these costs onto victims and taxpayers via what the economists call the “externalisation” of such costs: climate change ,for example has been called by top CC economic expert, Lord Stern, as the “biggest market failure ever”; and what up front liability bonds or similar measures could be in place to at least partially compensate any future victims for their suffering. , etc. (See the Late Lessons vol 2 chapter on “Protecting early warners and late victims” by Carl Cranor)
    Whilst the last questions do not formally enter evaluations of scientific evidence they do arise when considering the costs of being wrong with such evaluations of hazards.
    The answers to the above questions explain most of the divergent evaluations of the “same ” evidence: all of them involve ethically based choices even if most of the scientists involved do not (or choose not to ) recognise these choices. Policy and other decision makers, the media ,and the public are generally not made aware of these ethical choices, mainly because they are intransparent, buried within the “risk assessments”, but partly because words are used in different ways, eg “causality” or “possible carcinogen”, which causes confusion. Saracci, for example, used the label “oracular sentences” when commenting on how the long delayed results of the Interphone study had to be reported “facing two ways” in order to satisfy both campsite ie “there is/is not a hazard detected”. Those two opposing and oracular concluding sentences of Interphone then maximised media confusion, with ,for example the BBC and the UK Daily Telegraph reporting opposite conclusions (“mobile phones do/do not cause cancer”) on the same day when reporting the Interphone study results. So the question of terminology also arises.
    More work needs to be done on this issue of the ethics and credibility of evidence evaluation and communication which is why I want to go to the workshop to see how others deal with these issues. I don’t expect closed minds to be changed by the workshop deliberations but I do hope that some minds will be opened up to the implications of the choices they make in doing science and evaluating it. But I mainly want to be able to better see where the ethical choices are made so as to make them more transparent for the public ,media ,and desicion makers.
    The workshop is going to be “interesting”, in the Chinese sense, in that the first para of the workshop Intro talks about “truth”; and after explaining the workshop title/objectives there is no mention of ethics or credibility in the workshop overview!
    And from what you all say there will now be just two musketeers and not three, Dariusz! Get well soon.
    PS Its my birthday on April 18th so you can see how keen I am to engage on these issues…sad .some might say…
    PPS In doing this response I have done 95% of my abstract which I have to do today: so thanks to all for the inspiration.

  3. Dariusz, what a mess. Like Joern Gutbier from Diagnose Funk you need a lot of words for defending your decision not to come to Berlin. “Not balanced” is your main argument, right? I tell you what: as invited speaker I faced much worse ratios of opponents and supporters of new base stations in very, very heated debates, sometimes facing hundreds of faces full of hate and aggression. Yet, I didn’t take the easy route and fled. I am not a coward.

    Or has you decision to do with the “debunker from Germany” story?

    Take care,

    Alexander

    • Alexander, after you call me “coward” I do not feel compelled to respond to your abusive comment. I stated my reasons for not participating in the workshop and have nothing to add.

      • I didn’t call you “coward”, Dariusz! You seem to have some sort of problem with reading.

    • @Prof. Dr. Alexander Lerchl,
      If you applied your usual choice of language to the “hundreds of faces” then I’m not surprised about the “hate and aggression” part.

      I have to agree with Dariusz on the “not balanced” argument. It will be practically ICNIRP and their hiveminds talking to themselves. Of course, cognitive dissonance is a painful experience, which I’m sure Mr. Croft can lecture at length, so naturally some people do what they can to avoid it. They cocoon. It’s a luxury afforded by some until reality eventually bankrupts them.
      Now, I try to follow this subject closely. I’m not an “insider” but here’s what I see: ICNIRP is a “invitation only” party and I’d sure like to know who’s providing the Kool Aid they’re drinking. I see Mike Repacholi throwing around the word “science!” like he’s blissfully unaware that the situation has long progressed into a global environmental issue where waiting for absolute scientific certainty is simply reckless. Also, it’s like this closed party that is ICNIRP are happy to be blocking the Precautionary Principle – which is why seeing David Gee on the speaker list gives me a tiny blip of hope that there will be someone there to talk some sense about not sitting on your hands until the music stops. There are enough lessons in the past.

      And let’s not forget about you Sir “Debunker from Germany”. I’m still waiting for you to apply your Superior Powers of Paper Retraction to the Danish Cohort study …or would you rather be known as the Discriminating Debunker?

  4. Dr. Leszczynski, I’m irritated and also a little bit disappointed about your decision. Now the EMF-workshop is, only with Dr. Kundi as a critical speaker, really “unbalanced”. And between Dr. Kundi and you, there is a further difference. You are the only scientist “who walk on the middle way”. But in the last time, my personal opinion is, you begin to left this middle way.

    What is different about your decision not to take part at this workshop and the argumentation of Cindy Sage and Rüdiger Matthes not to take part on the suggested “Round Table”?

    In my opinion, your participation would have been very important. I would not give up the hope, that you could be the “link” between the two sides in this debate.

    • Doris,

      The speakers list was unbalanced from the very beginning. If only two our of 20 speakers are of different opinion then there is serious imbalance.

      There is major difference between my decission and decisions of Cindy Sage and Rudiger Matthes. I asked them to come to the Round-Table, with an equal voice and debate science. There would be balanced representations of opinions from both sides of the debate.

      My concerns about the Berlin workshop were based on a serious imbalance. It is a big difference in resasons for declining.

      I am walking the middle way and seriously trying to provide a link that could help facilitate meaningful and balanced debate about interpretation of the available science.

      However, so far, both sides are unwilling to engage in such debate.

      Meetings like this in Berlin are needed. Topics are important and timely. Just the list of speakers should be more balanced and permit diverse opinions. As the program is planned for now, there will be no disagreements. Everyone will agre with everyone. It will be the “ICNIRP-way” of debate. If all participants have similar opinions then it is easy to get consensus. ICNIRP works this way and this meeting follows the same pattern.

  5. There is evidence of some very closed minds in these comments

    Dariusz has every right to decline to participate, of course, but the really bad attacks on integrity of ICNIRP people is not helping. They have a view, you disagree, fine. Keep it not personal or it looks like you are the bullies,.

    • Phil,

      You wrote “…of some very closed minds…”. It is the second time when in short period of time my “mind” is questioned. Kabat called me “small minded” you call me “close minded”.

      I entirely disagree and I am a bit surprised that such comments came from you.

      I did not insult integrity of ICNIRP people, unless callinf someone pro-ICNIRP scientist is an insult.

      I staed just the facts. I commented on the “private-club ICNIRP” in many of my blog and column posts. If you look at the list of speakers of the workshop you will see many names of current and past ICNIRP members. You also see several names of scientists who entirely agree with ICNIRP evaluation of the science.

      There were only 2 persons, out of some 20, with opinions differing from ICNIRP view.

      It certainly would be good to present my view but waht good would come out of it? My opinion would “sink” in the opinions of pro-ICNIRP opinions. There ould be no possibility to really debate opinions and even remotely attempt to get some balanced consensus.

      It would be yet another meetin that would present one-sided-opinion.

      We wasted enough time for such meetings. We need meetings with more balanced list of speakers if we ever wish to reach some consensus acceptable to both sides of the debate.

      Though, it might be “utopia”. As one friend of mine said in a recent e-mail: “…You tried to invite oil and water to mix. Given present state of affairs, one can only say: “time will tell”. A synallagmatic dialog of the two camps is practically impossible…”

      But I am still trying…

      • It wasn’t you I was referring to, Dariusz. You are right, I would not say such a thing about you. You know I don’t believe that of you.

        I meant some of the comments in response to your article.

      • Thanks Phil. Happy to hear that it was just misunderstanding.

  6. Hello, Dariusz, I am an activist in the US – mostly engaged in lobbying and legal advocacy work around RF issues related to cell phones specifically. I want to thank you for your courage and persistence in speaking the truth about the domination at the conference by the pro-ICNIRP scientists. Their closed-minded stance and refusal to seriously consider research showing that their assumptions may be obsolete is absolutely frightening.

    The FCC has recently circulated a formal inquiry which essentially asks, “Should we consider reviewing our 17 year old exposure standards given that they are essentially based upon the guidelines set by IEEE and ICNIRP and given that these are the top standards setting bodies in the world?”

    The FCC document mentions that ICNIRP (and IEEE) will soon be releasing a revision of its RF standard.

    Any information on this?

    Again, thank you for taking such a principled and courageous stand on behalf of human health around the world!

    Cynthia Franklin

  7. Methinks this one sums it up quite well:

    In a funny, almost magical way, it applies to context of both sides 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s