The Unbalance Sheet

H/T An Englishman’s Castle for a link to John Brignell’s The Unbalance Sheet, from which I’ve learned two new words:

Obreption is seeking to gain advantage by misstatement, i.e. lying. Subreption is trying to do it by concealing part of the truth.

He goes on to say:

The modern masters of obreption are the USA EPA. For example, they frequently state that some target “poison” has no lower limit of dose for lethality. They do this without adducing any evidence, even in statements made directly to members of Congress.


The modern masters of subreption are the promoters of global warming catastrophism. With the aid of their numerous fellow travellers in the establishment media they propagate grossly one sided accounts of various phenomena: e.g. glaciers retreating (when many are advancing), “record” loss of Arctic ice coverage (when there is a simultaneous record gain in the Antarctic) and most notorious of all Hiding The Decline in the notorious Climategate e-mails

He goes on to deal with light bulbs, the NHS, greenhouse gases, and diets.

Most of these cases of subreption depend upon a love triangle, a three-cornered conspiracy of selective silence between three parties – the zealots, the media and the political class. Consider the case of the hug-a-husky stunt. A politician seeking to raise his public profile arranges a highly choreographed sledge trek, accompanied by reporters and photographers, to view a retreating glacier. Any unbiased journalist worth his salt would have checked whether this phenomenon was the norm. Perhaps some did, but there was no mention in the media that he could have visited several other glaciers in the same country that are advancing, as are many throughout the world. The media, however, had their scare story, the politician got his splash and the climate scaremongers got their propaganda coup.

The date of the essay – October 2012 – indicates the Numberwatch author is currently in good form. In recent years, frequently unwell, he has published relatively little, with the result that I’ve hardly ever visited his site. Perhaps I should check it out a bit more frequently. And add it to my blogroll.

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15 Responses to The Unbalance Sheet

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    From your listing Frank and interesting:

    Written out of history!
    Another of those Orwellian moments! Remember Winston Smith? He was the protagonist in Nineteen Eighty-four, a humble clerk whose job at the Ministry of Truth was to rewrite history to match the current party line. Well his successors have been hard at it this month. Sir Austin Bradford Hill now officially never existed. His great scientific creation, the prospective study on the effects of smoking on a cohort of doctors has reached the stage of fifty years from its first publication. He it was who established the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. The party line now, however, is that he never existed. After the indignity of having his rigorous criteria for an epidemiological study given the Animal Farm treatment of reversal by addition (see The Big Liars) the only further thing they could do to him was to expunge him from the pages of history. All over the world, from the Telegraph in London to the Washington Times, there are celebrations in the media of the achievement of Sir Richard Doll in founding this study. Hill is only notable by his absence. In fact Doll was Hill’s assistant who simply carried out the experiment designed by the great man.

    Even more ironically, the limelight is shared by Sir Richard Peto. Doll and Peto wrote the book The causes of cancer which was a travesty of the rigorous epidemiology laid down by Hill and marked the final decline of the whole discipline into sophistry and fraud. There is no doubt that Hill would have been horrified at the way his protégé cast aside his rigorous approach, for he spent much of his later life in bewailing the rise of poorly controlled studies. There is a full account of Hill’s contribution and Doll’s subsequent reneging in The Epidemiologists.


    • harleyrider1978 says:

      The big liars

      The divorce between the BMA and real science is now complete. The decline of modern medicine, as so cogently reported in James Le Fanu’s remarkable book, has brought it to an impasse in which it is reduced to admonitory quackery. The BMA has come out with a “report” on Smoking and reproductive life, designed to hit the headlines, which it did most successfully. It is a long document, available on the web, and is nothing less than a celebratory festival of junk science.

      Here are just a few quotations from it. Remember the normal scientific standards for significance of relative risks and watch out for the weasel words (our emphasis).


      • harleyrider1978 says:

        But of all the trashy science in this tawdry document, it is the appendix that is truly –


        Appendix A: Assessment of causality

        Assessment of the relationship between and exposure and a particular outcome is made on the balance of all the available evidence. Sir Austin Bradford-Hill proposed several considerations to be taken into account, which have been widely used and adapted. Some key considerations follow.

        Strength of the association

        Strong associations are more likely to be causal than weak ones. Weak associations are more likely to be explained by undetected biases. However, this does not rule out the possibility of a weak association being causal.

        Consistency of the association

        An association is more likely to be causal when a number of similar results emerge from different studies done in different populations. Lack of consistency, however, does not rule out a causal association.


        For an exposure to cause an outcome, it must precede the effect.


        Is there a biologically plausible mechanism by which the exposure could cause the outcome? The existence of a plausible mechanism may strengthen the evidence for causality; however, lack of such a mechanism may simply reflect limitations in the current state of knowledge.

        Biological gradient

        The observation that an increasing dose of an exposure increases the risk of an outcome strengthens the evidence for causality. Again, however, absence of a dose-response, does not rule out a causal association.


        Coherence implies that the association does not conflict with current knowledge about the outcome.

        Experimental evidence

        Experimental studies in which changing the level of an exposure is found to change the risk of an outcome provide strong evidence for causality. Such studies may not, however, always be possible, for practical or ethical reasons.

        Any woman who takes any drug while pregnant is guilty of inflicting it on another innocent individual, unforgivable, but that does not justify this arrogant, mendacious, tract of unscientific rubbish. The emphasised words are all additions to the great man’s rules that actually completely reverse their meaning. The defilement of Hill’s precepts, mainly by use of the logical fallacy argumentum ad ignorantiam, is an unprecedented disgrace, which in a just world would result in the authors being drummed out of their profession.

    • Frank Davis says:

      His great scientific creation, the prospective study on the effects of smoking on a cohort of doctors has reached the stage of fifty years from its first publication. He it was who established the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

      Certainly Hill actually did more or less vanish. But I can’t see that the British Doctor’s study was a “great scientific creation”. The problem with the earlier London Hospitals study was that 98% of the patients were smokers, and so it was only to be expected that 98% of patients suffering from any disease would be smokers. The British Doctor’s study suffers from the same problem, since 87% of the doctors were smokers.

      Furthermore, I’ve never found very much work done by Hill before or after these two studies. And his statistician colleague Sir Ronald Fisher was strong critical of the London Hospitals study. Perhaps it was his own poorly controlled studies that he ended up bewailing?

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        You know Frank its to bad we dont have the total truth yet,but its becoming fastly apparent the fraudsters run to the bone and out the otherside. When its all over and it will come to an end. Will anyone write a book and set down for history the fraud and deceptions that were used to seduce the world into believing a lie so big that it can never be used again aginst the free peoples of the world. That is the posterity we need to leave the generations to come…………

      • margo says:

        I think Hill did do lots of other work, including the Criteria (how data should be interpreted) that’s in this link Harleyrider’s found. The irony seems to be that the smoking studies don’t adhere to his famous Criteria. I wonder if he dissassociated himself from them. I did read that, unlike Doll, he didn’t immediately give up smoking – so maybe he felt a lot less sure about the findings? I’d like to know more about his whole relationship with Doll.

        • Frank Davis says:

          Doll actually gave up smoking before the study had been completed. He couldn’t wait for the rest of the data to come in. Clearly he didn’t need the completed study in order to make up his mind.

          He jumped to his own conclusion.

  2. harleyrider1978 says:

    The assesment of causailty. They added in their own blantant add ons to make low statistical RRs now have a causal effect! Thats the secxond hand smoke JUNK SCIENCE all the way down the line. Then we have Sir richard ”FRAUD” Peto’s new mathimatical sampling junk the ‘peto’s odds ratio” he came up with to make those loww RRs in shs/ets studies get pumped up with a nice dose of steroidal Fraud thru manipulation…………So complete is the Fraud this man exposed it right down to the BONE!

  3. Frank Davis says:

    Much to my surprise, I received an email from John Brignell today, thanking me for this post, and providing a link to his November entries., which I’m sure he would also like people to read.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Epidemiologists Vote to Keep Doing Junk Science
      Epidemiologists Vote to Keep Doing Junk Science

      Epidemiology Monitor (October 1997)

      An estimated 300 attendees a recent meeting of the American College of
      Epidemiology voted approximately 2 to 1 to keep doing junk science!

      Specifically, the attending epidemiologists voted against a motion
      proposed in an Oxford-style debate that “risk factor” epidemiology is
      placing the field of epidemiology at risk of losing its credibility.

      Risk factor epidemiology focuses on specific cause-and-effect
      relationships–like heavy coffee drinking increases heart attack risk. A
      different approach to epidemiology might take a broader
      perspective–placing heart attack risk in the context of more than just
      one risk factor, including social factors.

      Risk factor epidemiology is nothing more than a perpetual junk science machine.

      But as NIEHS epidemiologist Marilyn Tseng said “It’s hard to be an
      epidemiologist and vote that what most of us are doing is actually harmful
      to epidemiology.”

      But who really cares about what they’re doing to epidemiology. I thought
      it was public health that mattered!

      we have seen the “SELECTIVE” blindness disease that
      Scientist have practiced over the past ten years. Seems the only color they
      see is GREEN BACKS, it’s a very infectious disease that has spread through
      the Scientific community with the same speed that any infectious disease
      would spread. And has affected the T(thinking) Cells as well as sight.

      Seems their eyes see only what their paid to see. To be honest, I feel
      after the Agent Orange Ranch Hand Study, and the Slutz and Nutz Implant
      Study, they have cast a dark shadow over their profession of being anything
      other than traveling professional witnesses for corporate hire with a lack
      of moral concern to their obligation of science and truth.

      The true “Risk Factor” is a question of ; will they ever be able to earn
      back the respect of their profession as an Oath to Science, instead of
      corporate paid witnesses with selective vision?
      Oh, if this seems way harsh, it’s nothing compared to the damage of peoples
      lives that selective blindness has caused!

      The rise of a pseudo-scientific links lobby

      Every day there seems to be a new study making a link between food, chemicals or lifestyle and ill-health. None of them has any link with reality.

  4. Tony says:

    I can thoroughly recommend John Brignell’s books: ‘Sorry Wrong Number(2000)’ and ‘The Epidemiologists(2004)’. I hesitated for years before buying them because I thought I already knew enough about the abuse of numbers. I was wrong and the books were a joy to read.

    He may still have some copies available for sale via his website but if not then ‘Sorry Wrong Number’ can be bought second-hand from Although published earlier it is the better of the two.

    I do think his praise for Bradford-Hill was misplaced though.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I bought The Epidemiologists a few years back, via his website. But not Sorry Wrong Number. I thought the Epidemiologists was a very good book, although like you I thought he was wrong about Hill.

  5. garyk30 says:

    Obreption is seeking to gain advantage by misstatement, i.e. lying. Subreption is trying to do it by concealing part of the truth.

    Antis claim that the air in a smoky tavern can contain 500ug/m3.

    That is, there can be 500 micrograms(ug/mcg) of SHS per cubic meter of air in a smoky tavern.

    Is that a huge amount, as the antis make it sound?

    500 mcg is an amount that is equal to 1/2,000th of a gram.

    A cubic meter of air will weigh about 1,250 grams.

    With that amount of SHS, a cubic meter of air will weigh about 1,250 grams + 1/2,000th of a gram.

    By weight, the SHS amounts to 1 part in 2,500,000,000. That is, 1 part in 2.5 billion.

    That is the same as, 1 pound to 1,250 tonnes.

    Imagine, 1 pound of butter compared to 1,250 one ton trucks.

    In America, OSHA sets the indoor safety air standards.

    OSHA’s permissible limit for fine material that can be breathed deep into the lungs is 5,000 mcg/m3.

    500 mcg/m3 of SHS is ONLY 1/10th of OSHA’s permissible exposure level.

  6. junican says:

    Bradford Hill was born 1897. He retired in 1961 (age 64/65). He died 1991 age 94.
    He published his well-known criteria for possible causation 1965. I haven’t seen much activity from him after that – perhaps he preferred to play golf and have fun. It is interesting to note that he only gave up his pipe in 1954 at age 57 – six years after commencement of the Doctors Study. But did he give up his pipe permanently? Who knows? He certainly does not seem to have been a Zealot/Eugenicist like Doll. His interests were more in the area of industrial diseases.

    It would certainly not surprise me if, in his mind, he disassociated himself form Doll. He might even have privately told people that Doll was a crazy bastard for all we know.

  7. junican says:

    Forgot to mention. Here is a quote from Bradford Hill:

    On fair evidence we might take action on what appears to be an occupational hazard, e.g. we might change from a probably carcinogenic oil to a non-carcinogenic oil in a limited environment and without too much injustice if we are wrong. But we should need very strong evidence before we made people burn a fuel in their homes that they do not like or stop smoking the cigarettes and eating the fats and sugar that they do like.

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