That’s an interesting way to lose tenure


Michael Palmer was an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Waterloo who was promoting some seriously cranky conspiracy theories. Here he is explaining that the pandemic was fake, that the virus was artificial and was supposed to be more lethal, that the tests were all fake, the vaccines are toxic, and that the entire scientific/medical literature has been corrupted. He’s a loon.

But, you know, professors are allowed to spout nonsense — it’s all part of the principle of academic freedom. Sure what he’s saying is complete bullshit, but you can’t get fired over that.

On the other hand, announcing that you will not follow any of the safety regulations set by the university is substantive grounds for concern.

This letter is to inform you that I categorically refuse to comply with any of the COVID vaccine-related mandates imposed on its employees by the University of Waterloo:

  1. I will not declare my COVID vaccination status, although you may be able to guess (see also point 3 below).
  2. I will not attend any of the virtual COVID re-education camps organized by UW’s or the province’s quack doctors and public health shamans in-chief. As an MD with board certification in medical microbiology, I consider myself sufficiently informed on the subject.
  3. I will not let myself be injected with any of the ineffective and poisonous concoctions that are misrepresented to the public as COVID vaccines.
  4. I will not ask for any “accommodation” or “exemption,” because doing so would only legitimize the lawless measures imposed by UW officials.
  5. I will not play for time by asking for medical leave due to distress or anxiety. I thankfully am in good health and retain my usual capacity for work.

I fully expect that my decision will result in sanctions against me, as spelled out in the weekly reminder so thoughtfully sent out by “UW Communications:”

Expectations met: he has been fired. Good riddance!

Also, an interesting addition from Jeffrey Shallit:

Palmer wrote a whole book on it, which you can read online. I don’t understand why it would have been faked, since we clearly had the technology, horrible as it is, and the US had clearly shown no hesitation in creating massive civilian casualties. I skipped to the end of his book to find his rationale…and it’s all a gigantic failed conspiracy to create one world government, just like the 9/11 attacks, which, by the way, were actually perpetrated by the CIA and Mossad. Did you know Oppenheimer came from a Jewish family, but he seems to have been preoccupied with oriental religious ideas? Also, Japan colluded in the effort to fake the atomic bomb.

Firing Palmer was clearly a win:win for the University of Waterloo. Again, you can’t fire a tenured professor for writing a schlocky book about an imaginary conspiracy theory, but when you proudly announce that will flout all health precautions, it’s goodbye Michael. He’s not going to get another job as a chemist anywhere, but at least he has now achieved martyrdom and will be hopping on the grifter’s gravy train.

Comments

  1. raven says

    …and will be hopping on the grifter’s gravy train.

    He is an antivaxxer.

    He could well do what tens of thousands of antivaxxers have done.
    Which is get the imaginary Fake Covid-19 virus and die from it. In the ICUs these days, 95% of the Covid-19 virus patients are antivaxxers.

  2. raven says

    He’s not going to get another job as a chemist anywhere,…

    Right.

    As an MD with board certification in medical microbiology,…

    He is claiming to be an MD. He won’t starve.
    There is a small number of antivaxxer MDs that are making huge amounts of money pandering to the antivaxxer segment of the population. He can make a lot of money prescribing hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin to the antivaxxers over the internet.

  3. ardipithecus says

    @2 raven

    If the disease is fake then the cure needs to be fake. That’s basic homeopathy 101.

  4. says

    Getting himself fired was an auto-motive – the crank got the shaft.

    It boggles my mind when people who have the education to know better (or in his case, the qualifications to be an expert on COVID-19) and choose to do worse. Noticeably, U of Waterloo has already scrubbed him from their website.

  5. richardh says

    As an MD with board certification in medical microbiology,…

    He is claiming to be an MD. He won’t starve.

    Doesn’t that certifying board have the power (and even a duty?) to strike him off, for flouting basic rules of public health? That’s what would happen here in the UK: (a random example picked by googling “antivaxxer struck off”)

  6. moarscienceplz says

    @#5 Reginald Selkirk
    Yep, I’ve been listening on NPR to as much of the KBJ witch trials as I can, and one of the things which struck me was how much the Gross Old Patriarcy senators are upset about “unenumerated rights”. They seem to be terrified that we citizens might get rights that they did not personally endow to us. Funny that, since their voters are always whining about how The Gummint is always trying to take away peoples’ rights. Which is is, GOP, do We The People have too many rights, or too few?

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    @7 The Bill of Rights is pretty clear on the subject.

    Amendment IX
    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    source

  8. raven says

    Funny that, since their voters are always whining about how The Gummint is always trying to take away peoples’ rights.

    Yeah, we have all noticed that.

    The right wingnuts/GOP whine endlessly about their rights.
    And also spend all their time trying to take away our rights.

    These days they are pushing female slavery and forced birthing for women by prohibiting abortion. They have a war going to try to disappear Trans people in general and Trans children in particular. They burn books, ban books wherever they can, and have prohibited the teaching of CRT, despite that fact that they have no idea what it is or that it isn’t actually taught much of anywhere outside of universities. Their latest attempt at slavery is to try to prohibit people in Red states from traveling outside for medical care.

  9. moarscienceplz says

    @#6 richardh
    “Doesn’t that certifying board have the power (and even a duty?) to strike him off, for flouting basic rules of public health?”
    From what I’ve observed, the American Medical Association seems to regard itself more as a labor union for physicians and less as a guardian of the health of the American people.

  10. quotetheunquote says

    Good dog, that’s my alma mater, it used to have a fairly reputable science faculty – how the h-e-double-toothpicks did they end up hiring a loon like that? Is there a worldwide shortage of chemistry PhDs?

    RE: the atom bomb conspiracy nonsense; looks like he’s been reading too much hand-wavy thriller fiction (see, esp., Edwin Corley’s The Jesus Factor), and has become convinced that it’s actual history. Given what he believes about COVID and vaccines, though, his confusion about the nature of reality vs. fantasy shouldn’t surprise me.

  11. richardh says

    moarsciencplz@10

    the American Medical Association seems to regard itself more as a labor union for physicians and less as a guardian of the health of the American people

    which is why we have both the British Medical Association (union) and the General Medical Council (regulator).

  12. PaulBC says

    “Did you know…”

    It’s true and very well known that Oppenheimer was Jewish (with secular parents according to Wikipedia) and also that he taught himself Sanskrit and had a lifelong interest in the Bhagavad Gita. He was a brilliant man. Weird to see this as some kind of insinuation. Actually, he got enough real life grief over having had friends in the US communist party, which he never officially joined.

    Maybe we need some new biopics about those who worked on the Manhattan Project. This was big in the 70s and 80s, and I wonder if we’re in danger of losing cultural awareness of that time, of the peace efforts of at least some of the principals, and of their harassment under McCarthyism.

  13. Pierce R. Butler says

    … the ineffective and poisonous concoctions that are misrepresented to the public as COVID vaccines.

    Just think, if he’d kept his head low and gone into the laboratory to measure and verify that assertion, he’d be a world hero!

  14. andrei613 says

    From ratemyprofessors:

    He is not a good lecturer or professor. All his students are miserable. It is sad this let this monster stay in the University. I highly recommend taking his courses since they are valuable subjects, but do NOT recommend talking to this professor outside of class for help or research. You will be so disappointed and put down. Don’t let him do this.(2013)

    Avoid taking his class if possible. He is arrogant and has a really twisted sense of humor. I don’t think he enjoys teaching and really seems to put people down a lot. He will ruin the true undergrad experience for you, which is to enjoy learning, development key interests, and to stay motivated in pursuing your dreams. (2013)

    So, he’s been an utter ass for a very long time.

  15. jenorafeuer says

    moarscienceplz@#10:

    From what I’ve observed, the American Medical Association seems to regard itself more as a labor union for physicians and less as a guardian of the health of the American people.

    Perhaps true, but this was in Canada (and Ontario in particular) so the AMA isn’t an issue. Granted, this is one of those cases where Canada falls into the ‘not as much better as we like to tell ourselves’ category.

    quotetheunquote@#11:
    Waterloo is my alma mater too. And I remember back when I was there in the late 1980s, discovering that one of the big name professors in the Chemical Engineering department was a full-on creationist, and in fact had written letters to the newspaper explaining this. This was well before I’d even heard of the Salem Hypothesis.

    (So the ‘possible exception’ of chemical engineers in the RationalWiki article turns out not to be entirely true in my experience.)

  16. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    So he’s… finally facing his Waterloo?

    /puts on sparkly jump suit, dances off stage

  17. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 raven
    He is claiming to be an MD. He won’t starve.
    Looks like a German degree. He may not be licensed in Canada.

    @ 4 Intransitive\
    U of Waterloo has already scrubbed him from their website.

    I noticed that too. One might think they were happy to see him go. I assume the exorcism and ritual purification of the office and labs are over.

    @ 11 quotetheunquote
    I was there too though though in the Chem department.

    it used to have a fairly reputable science faculty

    Picked up a Nobel in astrophysics a couple of years ago. I heard an interview on CBC about her work a few months ago.

    Some academics go a bit—well a lot—nutty over time. Look at Luc Montagnier or to a lessor extent, Linus Pauling. Usually termed emeratus syndrome. Palmer and Jordan Peterson seem to be suffering from premature emeratus syndrome.

    Of course both Montagnier and Pauling suffered from the more aggressive for of the syndrome called Nobelitis.

  18. quotetheunquote says

    @jenorafeuer. Small world! I was a science student (first of two u/g stints there, what can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment) in the early to mid-eighties; spent a lot of time walking through the Engineering buildings to get to lectures in ESC or MC, to avoid the bloody cold. So, may have passed the nutty professor you refer to many times and not known it. (Ah, my salad days, when I didn’t know that there were people – actual adults! – who took Genesis literally. What a sweet, innocent time it was).

    @jkrideau. Double small world! I never met the nobel laureate you mention (Dr. D. Strickland), she was “since my time.” But yes, I remember the big news when she won, it was a big deal for us! Alas, the work she won for was completed at U. or Rochester, which dilutes it a bit…

  19. chrislawson says

    Some quick observations:

    The American Medical Association is not a certifying medical board (nor should it be!).

    Having an MD doesn’t guarantee right of practice. You still need to be registered, and there are many reasons why he may not have registration.

    Even if he is registered, he would not be allowed to practice outside his scope. Being a microbiologist doesn’t mean he can book a theatre and perform neurosurgery.

    Medical microbiologists have a crucial role in the health system, but they work in labs. The clinical equivalent would be an infectious diseases physician — these are vastly different jobs and skill sets, and he might find that his state board would not take kindly to him acting like a clinician and prescribing drugs.

    It is extremely odd that a microbiologist with an MD would hold an A/Prof position in a chemistry department. Are we sure about his credentials?

    Medical boards are mostly reactive. They have a few active surveillance roles, such as making sure doctors keep up their CPD, etc. But mostly they can only act in response to complaints. So until such time as someone submits a formal complaint, they can’t act.

    Most medical boards are reluctant to revoke licenses for doctors with fringe beliefs due to concerns about suppressing dissent (the list of historical medical advances that were heavily suppressed is long and dispiriting!). However, there is a limit. In Australia, for instance, several anti-vax doctors and nurses have landed in trouble with the board, but it has usually been for things that are demonstrably unethical such as faking medical exemption certificates for patients who didn’t meet the criteria or for issuing immunisation certificates when no immunisation was given — that is, it wasn’t the anti-vax beliefs that got them deregistered, it was the fraud.

  20. rietpluim says

    Re: tenure

    I am not an academic, and I wonder how to prevent academic freedom from misuse by conspiracy theorists and other nonsense.

  21. davidw says

    The man certainly puts the woo in W(aterl)oo…

    Several posters point out that this is in Canada. If he were in the US, he’s make a perfect addition to a certain political party and would be yelling “muh RIGHTS! muh RIGHTS!” Some people love their privileges (i.e. academic freedom) but won’t accept responsibility for/consequences of their actions.

  22. dianne says

    How did this dude even get tenure in the first place? His scholarly activity appears to be, shall we say, less than impressive, he can’t teach, and I doubt he has done much in the way of service to the community/field.

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