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Feb 23, 2015

Chapman: sorry, Gerard, I actually am an authority on health

University of Sydney Professor of Public Health Simon Chapman hits back at his fans in The Australian.


Over the weekend and this morning, The Australian’s Gerard Henderson and Simon King spent a lot of ink explaining to readers that I have “as much authority to discuss health affairs as I [Henderson] do. Namely, Zip.”

Their readers needed to be told this because last week Media Watch tipped a very rancorous bucket over The Australian’s reportage of a “study” from Victoria by acoustic engineer Steven Cooper that involved just three households of altogether six long-time complainants about the local wind farm. There was no control group. Here and here are critiques of the many manifest inadequacies of his report.

I was one of four people quoted by Media Watch in the program, and this got our Gerard very excited. He wrote to the program:

Media Watch’s decision to associate Professor Chapman with the words ‘expert’ and ‘scientific’ gave a clear impression that he is qualified to assess scientific research. However, Paul Barry neglected to advise Media Watch viewers that Simon Chapman had no scientific or engineering or medical qualifications. He has a BA (Hons) from the University of New South Wales and a Ph.D. from Sydney University. Dr Chapman’s Ph.D. is in Sociology. In other words, Simon Chapman has no qualifications to assess the research of the acoustic engineer Steven Cooper … Media Watch misled its viewers last Monday by implying that Professor Simon Chapman is an ‘expert’ who is ‘scientifically’ qualified to assess the heath effect on humans of wind farms. The fact is that Simon Chapman has no formal qualifications in science or medicine or engineering.”

This morning Simon King went one better with his discovery that “He does not have a PhD in Medicine”. In fact, I do have a PhD in medicine. Here’s a list of 14 of us who graduated in 1986 with … wait for it … a “PhD in medicine”, as King could have read if he’d checked my CV (line 1, page 3) or asked me.

I did my PhD in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine (that M word again). The duffers on the Order of Australia committee also seem to know that I contribute to health and medical research. My citation reads “for distinguished service to medical research as an academic and author”.

King and Henderson appear to know nothing about the nature of contemporary expertise and how nearly all complex problems in health and medicine today involve researchers from different disciplines working together. In my school in the faculty of medicine there are staff who are biostatisticians, historians, psychologists, ethicists, economists, epidemiologists, and social scientists. Only some — probably a minority — have undergraduate degrees in medicine. Henderson’s primitive understanding of expertise begins and ends with the possession of an undergraduate degree. It is rare these days for research grants to be submitted by people all from only one discipline. My university’s massive new investment in obesity and chronic disease research, the Charles Perkins Centre, epitomises the importance of trans-disciplinary research.

There are many fools other than those at Media Watch who have also fallen for my fake expertise about wind farms and health. They include the nincompoop editors of the specialised research journals Noise and Health, the International Journal of Acoustics and Vibration, and Energy Policy, who asked me to review research submissions for them last year; the editors and reviewers of these papers here, here, here, here and here that I’ve published on wind farms and health; the National Health and Medical Research Council, which appointed me as an expert reviewer of its 2010 rapid review of the evidence on wind farms; and the dazed incompetents running the Australian Acoustical Society, the Australasian College of Toxicology and Risk Assessment and the Clean Air Society of Australian and New Zealand, who asked me to give keynote talks to their scientific meetings recently.

Steven Cooper, whose CV has no mention of any PhD or undergraduate degree in medicine, until recently referred to himself as “Dr Cooper” on his home page. I look forward to The Australian covering this.

In 2011 Henderson asked me to talk on plain packaging of cigarettes at his portentous-sounding Sydney Institute. I had little idea what to expect. I assumed I would walk into some well appointed auditorium and be speaking to social policy scholars. Instead, you speak in the tatty living room of a terrace house to about 20-30 superannuated types who have driven their Daimlers over from Mosman for a nice talk and a few ports. One knowingly asked me something like “Don’t you think that all this warning about tobacco might be having the opposite effect on young people … after all, there are so many of them smoking.” Actually, smoking by young people is the lowest ever recorded.

Henderson’s smearing of me belongs to the same pathetic, out-of-touch world. Time, gentlemen.


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35 thoughts on “Chapman: sorry, Gerard, I actually am an authority on health

  1. paddy

    Sometimes, it’s necessary to deliver a serious slapdown to the likes of Gerard & co.
    Bravo Dr Chapman.

  2. pritu

    Unfortunately, Paddy, it would be water off a duck ‘s back. They are without conscience. Or self respect.

  3. Simon Mansfield

    A priceless moment in taking out the garbage. Never forget, Henderson is not a journalist, a commentator or an analyst – he’s just grumpy old lobbyist.

  4. klewso

    Speaking of “smears”, poor old “Dobby” Henderson – remember the good old days when the monarch had a “Groom of the Stool”, now it seems even Toady, the court jester, has one or two?

  5. thelorikeet

    Henderson is an expert in being an expert.
    It is the shallow world of comment as substitute for analysis (or accuracy).
    Syrely even the Sydney Institute must see it time – oh, wait – forgot they’d have to get rid of both the Executive Director and his Deputy (wife) …
    Ah! The joy of “privately funded” institutions- nepotism does not count

  6. Pippa Tandy

    Henderson is also owed a slapdown for his churlish and spiteful comments at the conclusion of Insiders yesterday. Throughout the programme he looked like a man who has realised that his time is over but is going to flail away anyhow, and so he makes an infantile gesture to confirm that all he has left is a little spit of very venomous poison.

  7. KennyB

    He always look to me like he’s just shat in his pants.

    Maybe he has?

  8. Coaltopia

    Old man yells out cloud, or maybe the chem-trails created by a wind turbine. #Tinfoilers

  9. David Hand

    I eagerly await the next three weeks of exchanges of correspondence regarding your expertise, doctor.

    By the way, just so I get what this is about, are wind farms destroying nearby residents’ health or not?

  10. Rosemary Stanton

    Thanks for not only being a voice of reason in many areas of medical research but also for being one of the most diligent researchers I’ve ever come across. The world owes you for your long-standing efforts in successfully reducing smoking rates in this country.

  11. Electric Lardyland

    It seems to me, that the role of The Australian is to endlessly pander to the political prejudices of bitter old men. The sort of bitter old men, who don’t seem to realise that the main source of their bitterness, is their political prejudices.

  12. leon knight

    Poor old Gerard, he looked so miserable on Insiders on Sunday – what a wonderful hang-dog look to go with his over-inflated ego. Have to give him a few brownie points for turning up when his team is performing so woefully that he knows he will be on a hiding to nothing – but I would give him a couple more if his opinions could ever display a hint of fairness and honesty..!!

  13. leon knight

    PS it makes you proud to be a lefty-luvvie when someone of Henderson’s calibre attacks you..!!

  14. tonysee

    @ Simon Mansfield: I think ‘grumpy’ is good but surely he’s the living embodiment of ‘dour’? I did see him smile on Insiders yesterday, but it was fleeting.

    @ Pippa Tandy: Yes, even for Gerard, who does bend over backwards to be ‘serious’ that ‘take away’ from yesterday was not only weak as the proverbial but seem to capture how some on the conservative side are so p**** off (to continue the metaphor) that David Hicks isn’t still rotting away in prison because ‘he was up to no good you know’.

  15. The Pav

    Dear Simon,

    La Gerard is always ready correcting others but do not hold your breath waiting for a correction or a retraction let alone an apology.

    We would be loath to lose you in such a manner

  16. Neil Summers

    Thank you Simon and thank you Crikey. I get so sick of listening DOG…Dear Old Gerard slandering the ABC, Media Watch and the dreadful lefties or “lovies” as he so charmingly puts down the non-right wing of the world.

  17. Miowarra Tomokatu

    “King and Henderson appear to know nothing about the nature of contemporary expertise and how nearly all complex problems in health and medicine today involve researchers from different disciplines working together.”

    This sentence would have been perfectly accurate, Dr Chapman, had you placed a fullstop immediately after the word “nothing”.

  18. Liamj

    Its no good relying on Murdochs mupppets for journalistic integrity, we need a real Press Council that would make News Corpse pay damages or a fine & print a pg1 correction.

    But please folks, lets leave Gerry some shred of dignity, however imaginary. It is essential that he still be wheeled out as a luminary of the Right, a priceless cautionary example.

  19. David Bromfield

    Well done Professor Chapman and thank you. Cheer up!

    This is how liberals function, especially the current, miserable lot of desperately paranoid sociopaths. They believe that if repeat their vicious personal slanders often enough to each other they will become acceptable truths on which to base policy for the rest of us.

    They do not care who they damage or consider the consequences for others.

    Henderson has been a public disgrace for some time now. He should apologise to Professor Chapman and the ABC immediately and then resign from all his posts and directorships

    His malign attitudes and his supercilious slanders are now absolutely surplus to requirements

    Straynger Cat

  20. Gael Jennings

    Well said, Simon!! Honestly, WTF?? What I don’t understand is- how are these loathsome hatemongers still allowed to operate?
    They are incorrect about just about everyone and everything they target- why aren’t they sued?

  21. old greybeard

    Simon Chapman will never be forgiven for damaging Big Tobacco. Lots of Liberals(Yeah right) there eg Greiner of British Tobacco. Henderson in his last days at the SMH was just writing such utter twaddle that I assumed he had retired; but the venomous old blatherer is still writing it. In NSW the separation for a wind farm is greater than an open pit coal mine. WTF indeed

  22. David Carson

    Well I hope someone here is a medical doctor, because several people just suffered some very nasty burns.

  23. Darren

    DR Chapman,
    Rarely have I read a rebuttal that so thoroughly rips an critic to shreds with such eloquence and sheer hilarity!
    You had me rolling around the couch giggling like a schoolboy who has discovered fart jokes!
    Well Done.

  24. zut alors

    Simon Chapman has done a splendid job on G Henderson. Usually it’s Rundle who prompts such hearty laughter.

    I’m picturing Gerard meticulously combing through the above piece word by word, monocle fixed firmly to his beady eye, as he searches for a misplaced comma.

  25. Graham R

    A great spray, Simon. Especially the last paragraph.

  26. The Old Bill

    Just printed this one off and sent it to the only two people I know who haven’t cancelled their News Ltd subscriptions

  27. Riany Vokisoto

    The Liberals are in real trouble. Here in Central Victoria even the members of their own party know that the Waubra fiasco was a stunt. The old adage that while you can fool some people some of the time etc. Losing credibility within your own side is serious…the Sydney Institute need to know that. Sara Henderson needs to know that particularly given her narrow margin.

  28. Irfan Yusuf

    Someone I know extremely well is at USyd’s School of Medicine. The bloke is a demographer and has had papers published in the Medical Journal of Australia. You don’t need a stethoscope to work in a medical faculty.

  29. DJS

    I was going to write here how wonderful it is to hear that the Sydney Institute is just a pompous, puffed up group of self important irrelevant types, but I thought I’d check out the website first. On its homepage though, there are rolling photographs of people with their quotes extolling the virtues of the Institute. Some of them are people whose views I respect – people like Anne Summers, Clive James, Quentin Bryce, Linda Jaivin, Hillary Charlesworth, Frank Brennan, Michael Kirby….

    So now I’m confused. Whilst Gerard Henderson is, in my view, simply a card carrying member of, and megaphone for, the ultra conservative forces in Australia, whose view of the Sydney Institute do I believe? I want it to be Simon Chapman’s. Can someone who really knows enlighten me?

  30. AR

    Neatly done, Simon, not a wasted word. One of the saddest sights on TV is Gerontius slumped into himself on Inciters, the very picture of mental dyspepsia and constipated EQ.

  31. Ghostwriter

    Sadly, the sycophants at Stop These Things are greedily swallowing every rancorous epithet Gerard and co can ejaculate on this topic. Would love to see the Parrot have the minerals to debate Dr Chapman on this issue….

  32. Richard

    Can I just add to the chorus: this is a thing of beauty.

    Love that Rundle appropriated it the next day:

    “With the exception of Sheridan, who’s in love, and utterly counter-productive, the only two water-carriers willing to bail Tony out are the Bolter and Gollum Henderson. Gollum, he of the Ratty Room In A Terrace House Institute…”

  33. Rhona Eastment

    So pleased to read this rebuttal. I am really tired of these old, fossil fuel investors, supporters, IPA members, trying to destroy any renewable energy, but particularly wind farms Dick Warburton Abbott’s Climate Denying Business Adviser, is involved with Landscape Guardians, a known anti-wind farm group which applies false and dodgy so-called science and uses scare tactics to turn communities against having wind farms.

    Read this: https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/the-ugly-landscape-of-the-guardians,3549

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