Monthly Archives: November 2013

Universities UK endorses gender segregation in a blatant display of affection for religious privilege.

Right, so UCL ended up banning an organisation of Islamists from holding debates after they attempted to enforce gender segregation at an event they hosted using the university’s facilities http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/15/ucl-bans-islamic-group-over-segregation . Since then, Universities UK has come up with a judgement about segregation policies at universities, and shock horror they’ve shown all the cognitive abilities of anencephalic sea sponges.

I quote the petition page on Avaaz for some of the more alarming bits of the nonsense that has come to be espoused by them.

“Universities UK (UUK) has issued guidance on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.”

UUK add that universities should bear in mind that “concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system” and that if “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

I wonder if they’ll say the same about discrimination on racial lines; the fact there is no evidence to support that proposition but there is evidence to support the notion that they will endorse segregation by gender has well and truly been provided; that tells us everything we need to know – that it is ok to treat people differently by the fruits of their karyotypes but discrimination by skin colour is taboo. The case for me illustrates two major biases; sexism at first and secondly, religious privilege.

The rampant sexism involved in segregation by gender here is trivially simple to observe, the other point though has major problems associated with it and the implementation of the whole policy dreamt up in careless fashion by the powers-that-be at Universities UK is going to be quite tricky, even if in some parallel universe by dint of dictionary gymnastics it weren’t sexist;

I shall quote the relevant bits again;

“and that if “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

So just believing in a deity gives you the right to trample over the rights of those who don’t claim divine sanction for beliefs that are equally well grounded at the very least, and way better at best; I wonder what will happen if some of us turn up having had a spontaneous revelation of our own from the god of egalitarianism and being segregated would be an affront to our genuinely held “religious” beliefs. Do these people have any ability to think straight at all? What if someone had similarly strongly held religious beliefs calling for racial segregation, or homophobic segregation?

The insinuation is that somehow religious beliefs are to be privileged over non-religious ones. Of course, looking further at the quote; not only do they suggest that segregation is permissible, but also suggest that the provision of an unsegregated area is *also* at the discretion of the hosts, which would, even if there were some kind of religious right to segregation to be granted legitimately, would still trample over the rights of those that don’t want segregation just because the former is religiously motivated.

There is a petition going round on Avaaz calling for Universities UK to rescind their ill-conceived erroneous vomitings laden with the toxic fruits of religious bigotry and privilege, and if you care about pushing back I think you should sign it too,  here;

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Universities_UK_Rescind_endorsement_of_sex_segregation_at_UK_Universities/

*Update*

Update: Universities UK has come up a statement in its defence, saying they do not condone gender segregation, and the guidelines were part of a case study recommending how universities may, subject to their own autonomy, accommodate the wishes of sexist bigots should they end up speaking at universities while not getting into trouble with the law; the implications of this statement extend further than to Universities UK as a consequence – that the law privileges bigotry to the point that some of the feasible solutions proposed by UUK (i.e, the stuff mentioned above) are legally permissible or necessitated by the way British laws are. We’ve gone from a “UUK messes up” situation to a “legal loophole needs dealing with” situation; not sure if that makes things even worse.

The statement is to be found  here  http://blog.universitiesuk.ac.uk/2013/11/25/external-speakers-guidance-segregation/

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HPV vaccines, cervical cancer and conspiracy theories…

Right, thanks to a friend I had my attention drawn to this article http://www.feelguide.com/2013/07/16/lead-developer-of-hpv-vaccines-comes-clean-warns-parents-young-girls-its-all-a-giant-deadly-scam/

I fully intend to take apart the dubious claims made by the article and illuminate where those claims are grounded in plain ignorance. Regarding the report the report quotes, which follows below…

“Dr. Harper explained in her presentation that the cervical cancer risk in the U.S. is already extremely low, and that vaccinations are unlikely to have any effect upon the rate of cervical cancer in the United States.  In fact, 70% of all HPV infections resolve themselves without treatment in a year, and the number rises to well over 90% in two years.  Harper also mentioned the safety angle.  All trials of the vaccines were done on children aged 15 and above, despite them currently being marketed for 9-year-olds.  So far, 15,037 girls have reported adverse side effects from Gardasil™ alone to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), and this number only reflects parents who underwent the hurdles required for reporting adverse reactions.  At the time of writing, 44 girls are officially known to have died from these vaccines.  The reported side effects include Guillian Barré Syndrome (paralysis lasting for years, or permanently — sometimes eventually causing suffocation), lupus, seizures, blood clots, and brain inflammation.  Parents are usually not made aware of these risks.  Dr. Harper, the vaccine developer, claimed that she was speaking out, so that she might finally be able to sleep at night.  ’About eight in every ten women who have been sexually active will have HPV at some stage of their life,’ Harper says.  ’Normally there are no symptoms, and in 98 per cent of cases it clears itself.  But in those cases where it doesn’t, and isn’t treated, it can lead to pre-cancerous cells which may develop into cervical cancer”

 

The aforementioned bits are by themselves accurate; HPV infections are exceedingly common and in most cases they resolve by themselves, where the article takes those facts and mangles them up while taking up cudgels against the vaccine and being utterly clueless is in the interpretation that follows.

 

“Although these two vaccines are marketed as protection against cervical cancer, this claim is purely hypothetical.  Studies have proven “there is no demonstrated relationship between the condition being vaccinated for and the rare cancers that the vaccine might prevent, but it is marketed to do that nonetheless.  In fact, there is no actual evidence that the vaccine can prevent any cancer.  From the manufacturers own admissions, the vaccine only works on 4 strains out of 40 for a specific venereal disease that dies on its own in a relatively short period, so the chance of it actually helping an individual is about about the same as the chance of her being struck by a meteorite.””

Time to take a look at the individual claims and to look at the evidence.

[1] Although these two vaccines are marketed as protection against cervical cancer, this claim is purely hypothetical.  Studies have proven “there is no demonstrated relationship between the condition being vaccinated for and the rare cancers that the vaccine might prevent, but it is marketed to do that nonetheless.  In fact, there is no actual evidence that the vaccine can prevent any cancer.

Bollocks – there is evidence to show that it eliminates HPV infection and the consequent integration that is dependent on HPV infection to happen. The evidence associating HPV with cervical cancer, and HPV integration with cervical cancer, is extremely strong. All that is required is evidence that it can stop HPV infections, and that will cut cervical cancer incidence greatly. There is indeed very good evidence from a large trial showing that a vaccine that targets HPV16 can cut down HPV infection significantly AND also reduce the occurrence of precancerous HPV-associated lesions when they do happen. So the assertion that there is no evidence that the vaccine can prevent any cancer is completely turgid wibble.

Cervical cancers aren’t “rare” because HPV infection is so common, and the perceived rarity of cervical cancer in the United States referred to in the article is the result of a very good screening programme; women get their cervix screened for precancerous lesions regularly and precancerous lesions are burnt or frozen away, preventing tumour progression. Globally, cervical cancer is, after breast adenocarcinoma, the leading cause of cancer deaths in women (ref – http://publications.cancerresearchuk.org/downloads/Product/CS_FS_WORLD_A4.pdf )

I can’t see how you can stop HPV infections and not stop cervical cancer from developing, unless you decide to irradiate women’s cervixes to compensate for the lack of mutational sources other than HPV.

The reference to demonstrate that HPV is strongly associated with cervical cancer is here ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10451482 ). The figure is something like 98-99%, which, given how many people suffer and die from it, is massive.

From the manufacturers own admissions, the vaccine only works on 4 strains out of 40 for a specific venereal disease .

 

Elementary mistake – that there are 40 strains of HPV doesn’t mean that all of them occur at similar frequencies or that they are equally capable of causing cancers. Indeed, the five strains covered by one of the two available HPV vaccines account for 80% of the global cervical cancer burden, i.e, a very.large.number).

 

so the chance of it actually helping an individual is about about the same as the chance of her being struck by a meteorite.

More utter rubbish and sensationalistic journalistic nonsense. The chance of it actually helping an individual is the same as the chance someone will get cervical cancer from HPV infection, and the number of people who have to deal with cervical cancer is probably several orders of magnitude greater than the number of people being struck by meteorites.

Indeed, the article totally does not talk about HPV induced head and neck cancers ( http://www.nature.com/news/hpv-sex-cancer-and-a-virus-1.14194 ), which are associated with significant mortality and morbidity, and for which screening programmes do not exist. In other words, I’d always expect more due diligence from anyone writing about topics of interest for the general public who may be mislead by utterly dodgy arguments like the ones I’ve just quoted.

</rant>.