Extensive (New) Interview with Tim Mendham – Executive Officer & Editor, Australian Skeptics Inc.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Tim Mendham is the Executive Officer & Editor for Australian Skeptics Inc. Here we talk about some recent activities.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What has the Australian Skeptics been up to, lately?

Tim Mendham: The Skeptics started off dealing mostly with the paranormal areas almost 40 years ago. UFOs, psychics, and those sorts of areas, with the growth of alternative medicine as another area. We have grown into consumer protection areas if you like, but always from that scientific perspective.

It has raised a lot more activists. It has made it even more increasingly so. Gradually, we are moving into social justice areas. The issue there is that our basis has always been scientific investigation. So, we are not approaching or overtly approaching those areas, social justice areas, from a rationalist or a humanist perspective, but from a scientific point of view.

We did a report on gay marriage, which was the big gay marriage debate in Australia a few years ago. Gay marriage passed. Gay marriage is now legal with all other forms of marriage. We did a report on that. We looked at the evidence put forward by the pro-gay marriage and the anti-gay marriage lobbies, and assessed how much evidence there was to support their claims.

As it turned out, the anti-gay marriage claims were highly unsupported and really came down to religious objection.

Jacobsen: What religions?

Mendham: Mainly Christian, Australia is largely a Christian country. Islamic in Australia is quite small. It would mainly be religion of all sorts, Catholic. Anglican is a bit softer. Catholics in that area have trouble with gay marriage at the same time as they have trouble with the priesthood, where they do everywhere in the world at the moment.

But the gay marriage debate was very much sided in favour of marriage. It was a given, really, for years. It was being largely fought by the Christian right that had, at that stage, had a big influence in the political scene. It still does to a certain extent, but it fluctuates.

But the people largely, not always, came down in favour of gay marriage. The politicians who are on the Right had to accept it. A lot of those when they finally had to ratify the vote. It was a non-compulsory vote. It didn’t have political or legal regulatory powers.

But it, certainly, indicated to the politicians that these were the ways that people were viewing it. They vote overwhelmingly in favour on both sides of politics, except for a few from the Right – as you would understand from the Canadian system, the Westminster system.

They didn’t vote. They didn’t even enter into the House to vote.

Jacobsen:  Were statements put forward by politicians who abstained or rejected it?

Mendham: There were some politicians. The vote was tallied on the basis on electorates. Each politician knew how his electorate voted. Given the progressive nature of the electorates – some, obviously, aren’t, some electorates had 55% against gay marriage and 45% for it.

Those politicians were in a dilemma. If they agreed with gay marriage, their personal views were against their electorate views. Some of them said that their electorate were wrong and said, “Ok, I will vote in favour.”

Some said, “I agree with the gay marriage thing, but I will follow my electorate.” Others said, “My electorate was for it. But from a moral and religious stance, I can’t vote in favour. So, they did not vote at all.”

In other words, the people of their electorate. The vote wasn’t based purley on electorate, but it was indicative of how people were thinking. Some of them voted against how their electorate voted. But the only ones who abstained were a small number, a handful.

They didn’t enter the Parliament at all. They didn’t show their hand, which was pretty cowardly. Another small handful did sit at the Parliament and did vote against it. They were open about being anti-gay marriage. You’re talking 95% of the politicians who were for it, eventually.

It was a no-brainer. Like I said, we didn’t investigate the rationalist, humanist, or purely religious-based points of view. Because they are, from our point of view, not entirely scientifically assessable. But we did look at the argument being put forward and found that the argument being put forth against gay marriage that gay parents, same-sex parents are not good parents.

The children do not have a role model, and so on. The evidence did not show that this was correct at all. We looked at that. More recently, we looked at a more specific area around gay conversion therapy, which is looking at the religious groups trying to convince their gay members to be un-gay [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: It is through Pavlovian responses mainly. We did look again. But the science is untenable, apart from being morally untenable. We said, “The evidence shows gay conversion therapy was more dangerous than helpful.”

We have calmed down a bit. One thing quite controversially, which is science-based. We put out a strong statement being pro-climate change. That it is happening, created by man, and is an emergency situation

We had people, even within the skeptic community, who have criticized us for doing it. One person has written us out of his will. There are a fair number of people out there, even in the skeptical community who do not accept climate change.

We see the scientific evidence is overwhelming. But most people who are anti-climate change are almost manipulating the evidence to fit their political and financial perspective. We have lost members over it. However, it was a stance that we needed to take.

But again, the vast majority of skeptics accept climate change. That wasn’t too hard on our position. Better still, the vast majority of our work is in the anti-science movements, pseudoscience movements. That means, in Australia, all of the alternative medicine areas through chiropractic, homeopathic, anti-vaccine areas.

Increasingly, we are seeing a bit of a growth in psychics, which brings us back to some of our original areas [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: More organized than they used to be, more professional than they used to be. We are seeing a rise everywhere of ghost hunting and talking to the dead. It has been quite strong lately. We are turning to that as a subject area.

Jacobsen: They phrase it as “talking to” not just “talking at” the dead.

Mendham: “Talking with” or “getting instructions from,” I went to a presentation not long ago on psychics. You always have to put psychics in virtual quotes (‘psychics’). “I am getting a message from Bob, Billy, Michael. What’s his name?” There is always someone to pick on in the audience.

The usual generic topics, there was only one person who had anything close to a detailed response. You got the indication that they might be a current client, the person in the audience might have been a current client. It was unimpressive, very vague, usual cold reading techniques.

From that point of view, they’re really not that much of a challenge, but, from a public point of view, it is a minority. But it is a fair amount who believe in psychic powers and talking to the dead are a thing. It can be done. It can be tapped into.

That’s what amuses me, how readily they can tap into someone’s relative out of the billions of people that have died. It is a bit like Godel. They are quick in their searches to find someone. They happened to find someone in the audience who matches up to them.

It is an area that we are looking at closely.

Jacobsen: What areas seem benign, comical, and simply wastes of financial resources of an individual? What ones seem more sinister of other forms of resources – emotional, intellectual, and so on?

Mendham: There are some alternative medicine areas. The line about alternative medicine. Some of it will not do any harm because it won’t do you any good.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: But if you’re taking away proper science and scientific diagnosis, then it becomes dangerous because you’re not taking advantage of things that can actually help you. That has a benign and a malignant side to it. Most psychics are just a fun thing.

The one who wears a scarf and flips the cards over. In most cases, it is a pretty harmless form of entertainment. But in places where people are taking it seriously, that can financially be an issue, as well as personal spiritual, or even a life decision danger.

There are aspects to that as well. Most of these things have a bit of a two-edged sword. Anti-vaccination has absolutely no good side to it, ever. That is a danger. As we see around the world, it is an increase in the cases of Measles. Australia is Measles-free, supposedly. But we are having cases of people from overseas bringing Measles with them.

Now, doctors who are seeing Measles who never saw Measles before. I am of an age when Measles were common. But it has been removed from most people’s awareness. It is the same for Mumps and that sort of thing. The anti-vax is one movement.

The pseudoscience movements are benign, a lot of them. We still get a lot of perpetual motion machines and free energy machines.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] really? Those ones seem like curveballs to me.

Mendham: What’s a curveball in cricket?

Jacobsen: Something out of expectation.

Mendham: Cricket is a reliable sport. We are still covering some of those pseudoscience movements and investigate them. It is painfully obvious the people putting them forward have no sense of physics. One thing in Australia is dowsing, being a very dry country. It is very agricultural based. Certainly, a long time in its history.

Dowsing is, not wide but, used a lot in certain areas. We have done a number of tests over the years of dowsers, haven’t found any that can do their or show their skill under scientific conditions.

Jacobsen: Quelle surprise [Laughing].

Mendham: [Laughing] we have a $100,000 challenge for anyone who can prove any paranormal skill. We have done this for a long time and probably tested more than 200 people. More than half of them have been dowsers. They are nice people.

They are probably genuine people believing they can do what they say can do. You might wonder why they can have any success in the field. But in all of their tests, none of them have indicated anything else other than chance in what they can do.

That crops up from time to time. I am on the frontline, of course. I am Executive Officer of the skeptics here. It is a paid profession, believer it or not. I am a professional skeptic.

Jacobsen: Huzzah.

Mendham: I am a professional skeptic, which is pretty unusual in the world, actually, these days.

Jacobsen: We need more of you.

Mendham: I will claim myself. Yes, we are paid for by a skeptical group in Australia. So, it is not through donations to podcasts or anything like that. The Australian Skeptics have had some decent bequests, which have allowed us to get grants for good work and to support other skeptical groups, and challenge of course, and to pay people to do the grunt work if you like.

So, I am Executive Officer from bookkeeping to interviews to putting out a magazine. We also have a part-time social media manager.

Jacobsen: That’s helpful.

Mendham: It is. It is very helpful with the whole skeptical movement changing from when I initially joined, which was the magazine only and the meetings to more people involved than ever before. But not necessarily in a formal sense.

So, social media is a vital component of what we do in promoting the skeptical cause and communicating with other skeptics. Other areas of activity, I get questions about astrology, UFOs, and other things. They’re largely benign.

Most people regard astrology as a bit of an amusement. The unknown animals, apart from a few people who are obsessed by them, are amusing entertainments. The strongest areas these days are the pseudomedicine.

That’s certainly the area with the strongest malignant aspects to it, very few benign ones.

Jacobsen: What about areas important for the next generations of biological scientists and medical scientists? By which I mean, the ideas of young earth creationism, old earth creationism, etc., trying to be forced into the public schools.

I mean, the Americans have a very long history there. There have been some issues in Canada. I could run through them.

Mendham: Yes, run through them, I would be interested to know.

Jacobsen: There is an association for all of British Columbia. There is an association for all of Alberta. There is an association for all of Saskatchewan. There is a small one, not quite formal and no website, for Manitoba. There’s another for Quebec. They have speakers.

They have events, usually at churches. They have presenters. They have articles that they publish. Usually, they’re done by a select group of men. So, the one in British Columbia was founded in 1967. And that ran through until about 1995/96 when things came to head in one city’s school district with a court case [Ed. the associations still exist.].

This was in British Columbia. It was in Abbotsford, which is known for a Sikh community, the Mennonite Brethren community, and the Dutch Reformed Church communities. Trinity Western University, which seemed like an equivalent to the Liberty University in the United States as the main and largest Christian university, in particular, Evangelical university, in Canada, one man who was on the school board.

I think the chair during this flare-up of young earth creationism attempting to be imposed in the Abbotsford school system was from Trinity Western. So, it was an admixture, within British Columbia, which was a hotbed of it, of Langley and Abbotsford cities or townships. Abbotsford, in particular, that ended up not going through, of course, properly. In particular, it ended up as a ban in the province.

This is the only province in which this has been done, or territories because it was such an egregious case, likely. So, there are a number of other small individuals running various museums. They are nothing akin to the Petersburg, Kentucky museum by Ken Ham with the $100 million, $120 million, or $150 million, depending on the reportage, Ark [Ed. public taxpayer money as far as I know], where they got the team from Jurassic Park to build animatronic dinosaurs with saddles, as you know.

Mendham: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: There is the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are partially covered up because it is immodest. There is one travelling museum in Canada. They go around and give lectures. Again, these often function through churches. There is another guy who was, and is, a lifelong member of Mensa Canada.

He somehow hornswoggled Mensa International through their need for social interest groups to create a social interest group for “Creation Science,” which is short for just creationism. It attempts to put a veneer of scientific respectability to it.

Mendham: Yes.

Jacobsen: They have different terms for it: Creation Science, Creationism, Intelligent Design, Creation Ministries, etc. There is a connection between the regional, the international, and the national groups. The group that was set up for Mensa as a social interest group has a website from 2005 in the Summer.

It ended around July. So, it didn’t last long. It was present, though. So, it did happen. There are a number of areas of concern. However, I will give them one point. That point is openness. They are very transparent. They’re honest about presentation.

They state, ‘We believe…’ Then they will give their reasons. Almost all of them are based on holy texts, Christianity, etc. They are honest in their presentation of themselves as ‘this is what we believe.’ They become dishonest when they state, “Creation Science.”

They become honest when they state, “Creation Ministry.” Because if they are proposing a religious view based on x, y, and z principles, then it becomes a ministry and not a scientific process. I would only accept when they state creationism or creation ministries.

And it shows. They do the presentations in the churches. We can go on for some time on the issues.

Mendham: Yes.

Jacobsen: The problem is the quietness of Canadian society with regard to it. In recent surveys, about 21% of Canadians, about 1 in 5, will accept the Earth as under 10,000 years old and human beings created in their current form. It comes from religion.

These are standard, boilerplate interpretations of the book of Genesis. It becomes Christian mainly with a little bit of flavouring of, probably, some Muslim communities, but not as many because they are not as prominent as the Christian communities – as you noted in one response in Australia and the issue of gay marriage, same-sex marriage.

It is similar in Canada too. It passed in, probably, 2005. It was a similar issue. The objections would come from conservative-oriented people with the concerns oriented around conservative traditional religion, Christian religion.

So, that’s kind of a general idea of the creationism that we have in Canada. I would have to look it up to get more stuff off-hand.

Mendham: It’s interesting. I am a bit surprised. I thought Canada was a bit more rational. In Australia, they are fairly mild in their religious views. The people who identify as religious are the people who say they’re religious. They have always been religion.

There are churches with very, very low numbers, except in the case of the Pentecostal churches – which are doing well. They are experiencing a strong growth from a small base. I wouldn’t say Australians are apathetic towards religion, but they are certainly not a strong basis in society outside of things like the gay marriage and that sort of area.

As I said, the vast majority of people voted in favour of gay marriage. The religious dominance was not there in terms of the philosophy. The background of Australian Skeptics started in 1981. At that stage, we had a fairly conservative government in Queensland, which is our far north.

In America, you’d call it the deep south.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: A lot of people in country areas of conservativism. The premier of the state who was the then leader of the government was into teaching creation science in science classes, in high school. That was the first real strong activist movement that the skeptics did in Australia. We waged a major campaign.

We put out publications that the ‘science’ was garbage, pointing out the correct position of evolution via natural selection. We had serious academics in a whole range of areas on our side and contributing. It was hugely successful. It stopped the creation movement in Australian schools full stop.

There were a few trying to sneak it into the science classrooms, but it has never been particularly strong in Australia. Creationism in Australia is very, very fringe, as far as we know. You talk about some groups being overt. They do not run universities.

There are a couple of Catholic universities that are not fundamentalist universities. There will probably be some small creationist fundamentalist gatherings, but they are not a stronghold. We don’t have a museum of creationism. We do not have travelling exhibitions.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: There may be some preachers who espouse creationist views. Interestingly, after our big activism, we, actually, exported creationists; some of the people prominent in the creationist movement. They had a philosophical split. I have a scientific point of view on it.

A lot went overseas to America. Ken Ham is Australian. Some of the higher profile creationists in the U.S. are Australian. What seems to have happened, we exported creationists. We imported some anti-vaccinationists [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: I think we lost on the trade. I would rather have creationists than anti-vaccinationists. One woman named Meryl Dorey. She’s made a good product. She has a good talent for media. That is the most recent campaign, activist campaign, going on for a long time and the body for advocating for anti-vaccination in Australian is being wiped out.

There is still a strong formal movement. The group that had free reign for a long time has been severely curtailed by the skeptical movement and by people associated with the skeptical movement, generally. So, no, creationism is not really an issue.

It, certainly, is not proselytized very much in schools or anything. On the second level, because Australians’ religious background and history, there’s always been a teaching of religion in schools, in Australia, called Scripture Classes.

I am not quite sure if you have it in Canada. It is, basically, one period per week or an hour, if that, in which local religious people, whatever religion, come into scripture classes in primary schools, junior schools, and in high schools.

Over the last 10 or so years, there’s been a movement for non-scripture classes, where kids had to opt out of scripture classes. That’s been highly successful. A lot of those places with the schools hardly have anyone going to Scripture class.

But how serious one takes it, it makes a change from doing maths anyway. [Laughing] it is probably a lot more fun than maths. In high school, they haven’t had the opt-out system. My son went through primary school in this no scripture classes, so they brought in ethics classes.

In high schools, they still have scripture classes. Honestly, it is something that kids put up with and ask embarrassing questions by and large, which my son said he quite enjoyed it.

Jacobsen: [Laighing].

Mendham: He asked quite curly ones. One semi-permanent scripture teacher in the school was having a hard time finding all of the heathens in the school. Australian schools, especially in the public school system, are a-religious or non-religious.

There is a strong tendency of Catholic schools and Anglican schools in the independent school area, especially when the state limits resources to independent schools when the government is under pressure. The resources in the public schools is not always up to scratch.

The private schools, some of them are very, very high profile and expensive schools to attend. They tend to be religion based. They tend to be more Anglican. Protestant religion based rather than Catholic; Catholic are usually in poor areas and doing much the same stuff.

Again, you’re not finding creationism taught in those schools or intelligent design, or anything pretending to be creation science, in those other schools. So, it is not an issue, quite frankly, which is a good thing. We have. I know we have creationists who subscribe to our magazine.

A group called Creation Ministries International, which is one of the few creation science groups left in Australia. They look at ours. Why not? I look at theirs. They have a magazine called Creation, which is quite a glossy looking magazine.

It espouses creation science sides, points of view. I do not know how good the circulation is. But they still exist to a small extent in Australia. But judging by what you’re saying in the U.S., in Australia, it is a non-event.

Jacobsen: If you look at some of the events over the years, you can see some amusing items in the news. For instance, there will be items stating ‘Old earth creationists criticize flat earthers for taking the Bible too literally.’

Mendham: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: ‘Young earth creationists debating old creationists for taking the Bible too literally.’ Then you run down the list of theistic evolution, etc. That seems to be the trend. They try, if they’re more sophisticated, to pose this as a freedom of speech or freedom of expression, and open debates, notion found in a sort of John Stuart Mill mode. One who they reference.

They will try to take this as a point of superior intellectual practice to debate these ideas with the premise of them as different, valid views on the world, scientific views on the world. Not necessarily theological, but scientific views on the world, it seems like a huge waste of time to me, of their time. But it is theirs to use as they wish. But these sorts of things pop up.

Mendham: As I said, in Australia, there’s no doubt. In religious groups, in Pentecostal groups, I do not know how literally 6,000 years is a fundamentalist belief. The long earth, they try to blend in the billions of years with God creating the heavens the earth.

It would exist in a number of churches. But it nowhere near as organized or overt as you’re saying. The interesting thing about old earth creationists, which is one of the strangest phenomena of recent times. You look and say, “What?” [Laughing]. Where does this come from?

It is a bit of a fashion believing in flat earth.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: Like a lot of conspiracy theories. I had a recent article with a hollow earth criticizing flat earthers. They don’t understand the science [Ed. They said] [Laughing].

Jacobsen: I give up [Laughing]. I’m being facetious.

Mendham: I think the flat earthers are dying out a bit. It had its moment in the Sun. It will come back as most of these things do. I hadn’t heard much of it, because the people may have been made fun of, quite decidedly.

At a recent skeptics convention, we phoned up and said, “We’re still here. We exist in Australia. We’re in a different time zone.” It’s a joke. I don’t think anyone here takes it very seriously. They had a convention, a flat earther convention. Nobody turned up [Laughing].

Jacobsen: It sounds like the ‘storm Area 51’ idea.

Mendham: Yes, I would agree with that.

Jacobsen: Now, what are some things coming online for Australian Skeptics now, in, basically, the new year?

Mendham: It is business as usual. As I said, as in many areas of skepticism, you feel as though you’re beating a head against the wall. Two steps forward, one step back, and so on, wat the skeptical movement over the years is forced a lot of proponents to get more serious about their claims, less totally flippant.

Not just entertainment value only, some deep justification for their causes is attempted. We continue to fight against that. Anything specific that is new. As I said, it is the social justice areas. Perhaps, looking at more of working on ethical areas per se, the humanist and rational movements in Australia are not particularly strong.

They tend to have an older clientele. We made a point in the skeptical movement of being more appealing to younger people, which I think we’ve done. The skeptic movement would be much more than the Australian skeptics and the magazine.

We act as an umbrella group and as a funding group. We have a strong group in what we’re doing. There is a lot of activity outside of the formal skeptic movement, which is a good thing in a way. So, the anti-vax movement is still strong.

So, that will continue to be a battle, even if it is less against some organized groups. In the region per se, it is not particularly strong. Certainly, not for our areas. The pseudoscience areas, the pseudomedicine areas, it is still strong.

We have a body in Australia designed to vet advertising by medical groups called Therapeutic Goods Association. It is fairly toothless. It does make announcements and does tell certain advertisers to cut all the supplies’ advertising when advertising a certain way.

But by and large, it is nowhere near as effective as it should be because it is nowhere near as effectively sourced as it should be. It doesn’t do testing of medical products. It is about the promotion of medical products.

It is not quite the equivalent of the FDA or something like that. It is a constant source of frustration when it is seen to be by, in a benign way, endorsing traditional Chinese medicine and other areas. If it is traditional, how do we argue against it?

We would argue, “Quite easily.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: In many cases, they’re avoiding the issue in some areas. For instance, they say that there are certain terms that you can use on packaging for products, “This can be used for blah blah blah.” A particular treatment or condition, some of the things allowed through in traditional Chinese areas is ridiculous and laughable: “Unleash the fluids of hope” or something like this.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: The yin and the yang, and the chi, and all this sort of stuff. You say, “Really? You really want people to say this on the packs of the products” [Laughing].

Jacobsen: “Unleash the fluids of hope” is two men drinking at the bar.

Mendham: [Laughing] I forget what some of the terminology was. There were some brilliant ones. Some absolutely brilliant ones, which we absolutely blasted. But they are a joke. Some of the ‘medical’ terminology used for these medical products, especially the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) end of it.

The TCM movement is probably is stronger here in Australia than creation science movement There is a bit of infiltration into medical areas. Things like that of complementary medicine being slipped in under the guise of science and scientific experiments.

There’s one particular body called the National Institute of Complementary Medicine, which is in a university in Sydney. It is largely funded by the complementary medicine industry, especially in the Chinese complementary medicine areas.

That is supposedly doing serious research, which, from our view, we would applaud. The research in these areas. But we think this is heavily weighted in favour of these areas and leaning towards them. A lot of universities, at the same time, are dropping complementary medicine and TCM courses.

Skeptics had a big campaign a couple of years ago showing the huge range of these courses in Australian universities who were not just doing research, which is fine, but actually teaching how to be practitioners of these things.

These had to be the inspiration for the creation of Friends of Science in Medicine that are against teaching the pseudosciences and pseudomedicines, especially in the universities.

Jacobsen: Good for them, thank you for their work.

Mendham: Of course, they’re a cabal being paid for by Big Pharma [Laughing], as we all are [Laughing]. I wish. I would have a lot more money if I was paid for by Big Pharma. I don’t know anybody receiving money from anybody, except in the case of volunteers or bequests.

Jacobsen: It is not to say it doesn’t happen. It is just rare.

Mendham: Yes, I think it is very rare. There may be some researchers in universities who are getting grant funding by pharmaceutical groups. We fund research in universities. That could be see as being biased. But it is very hands off.

In fact, we insist on being hands off, getting the results, doing research of interest to us, it doesn’t necessarily align 100% with what we believe, but it is worth doing. There are no doubts that there are pharmaceutical companies funding research.

There are also complementary groups funding research. There are some complementary groups selling supplements and get funding, and celebrity endorsements.

Jacobsen: Even if we take the fundamental premise of taking those who would take the Big Pharma payoffs, to be fair, let’s say the people are paid off, the medical researchers are paid off. Thus, the research is biased.

But then, the alternative research is not done. Therefore, by their conclusion, the alternative research is more substantiated. All this means, to me, is the alternative research hasn’t been done. So, it’s also unsubstantiated at that same time.

Mendham: Yes. Someone said to me, who was a small supplier of alternative medicines and things, “All this demand for research. We cannot afford to do research.” I said, “You cannot also afford to say ‘It’s true.’”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: They say, “The other side is wrong. Therefore, we’re right.” The university should have a control over the research. The propriety of the research that they do. They are not seen to be just making steps to make the grant supplier happy.

Certainly, in this complementary medicine area, it is designed to influence and get the results, the imprimatur of science that they need to put out there to persuade people and, perhaps, even in the government areas.

We have a system in Australia, where we have private health insurance companies. The health system is free. Hospital is free – hospital and general medical. The things

Jacobsen: Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan set ours up in Canada.

Mendham: Ours was set up many years ago by a left wing government, by a Labour government in Australia. The Conservatives tried to diminish it. It was brought back stronger. Medicare is regarded as a very successful system.

Like the NHS, you still have private practitioners if you want to go to them and pay more – and you pay. So, that happens. But in the specialist areas, and hospital areas, people take out insurance if they want to – if they don’t want to go through the public system.

As under resourced in some areas, they may want a private practitioner. They can get a private insurer. But it is a bit expensive. It is a bit subsidized by the government a bit to take the pressure off the publics system.

What the government said recently, “We will not support any insurance that funds the following areas: homeopathy, Reiki,” and a whole bunch of alternative practices that they say, “Have no scientific foundation.” Therefore, they cannot fund those activities.

It is a pretty radical movement. It certainly put a lot of the practitioners of those things up in arms, saying, “It was a freedom of practice,” essentially. You can still get the treatments. But you have to pay for them yourself.

It is a gradual process to try and alert people and the authorities. These things do not have scientific validity, or, at least, a lot, for the claims in a lot of areas. Alternative practitioners keep saying, ‘We can cure cancer.” It is illegal to say that in Australia.

If you say that we have something that can cure cancer rather than treat cancer, then it is instantly jumped upon by the authorities, fined, and then debarred for saying so. There ain’t no such thing, unfortunately. That works in such a way. That is 100% successful.

There is a movement to control some of these more outlandish organizations or practices. There are a whole lot of other areas that are a whole lot more active. There is still chiropractic and a whole lot of others areas. In fact, the chiropractic movement was trying to portray itself as the primary healthcare movement.

You would go to a chiropractor to diagnose your problems and, perhaps, diagnose medication for it, which is a very dangerous proposal. That is pseudomedicine. It is still the biggest area that we will be looking at.

But it is a continuation of what we have always done. There is nothing particularly new on the horizon, except for the occasional thing that pops its head up in the “whack-a-mole approach” [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mendham: You hit it here. It pops up elsewhere. I do not know if there is a new thing down the tracks. Except, personally, I would like to ramp things up on the psychic industry because I see that as a danger.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, again, Tim.

Mendham: It’s okay, pleasure.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-booksfree or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican Atheists,American Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

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