In the News:
Georgian College to begin Teaching Homeopathy
"This is a sad day for Canadian Education" Blythe Nilson CFIC Science Chair
As of 2018, Georgian College has begun offering a course in homeopathy. According to Georgian's website, the 3-year diploma teaches students "the theoretical knowledge, clinical skills and professional competencies to become a regulated health professional." The skeptical community sees this as a step in the wrong direction not only for Georgian College, but for Canadian healthcare as a whole. Beyond wasting students' time and money, Georgian will be guilty of teaching students pseudoscience that will be peddled to credulous and/or desperate people suffering from conditions that require medical interventions.
Blythe Nilson, Associate Professor of Biology at UBC, and CFI's Science Chair explains the problem: "As Health Canada finally begins to regulate homeopathic 'medicines', addressing the fact that homeopathy is a pseudoscientific waste of money, Georgian is poised to offer a degree in homeopathy that will set Canadian healthcare back several steps. Great Britain has recently removed homeopathy from NHS funding and the U.S. is cracking down on false claims made by homeopathic labels. Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council declared homeopathy 'ineffective' in 2014. Canadian universities should join them by embracing modern science-based medicine, not 18th century debunked quackery."
Unfortunately, Georgian isn't alone in offering courses in magic-based healing. For the most part, such programs are rare. However, because of the marketing success of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM), they seem to be on the rise. Many schools in Canada offer CAM curricula, including courses in "integrative energy healing" at Langara College in BC, a course in Complementary and Alternative Therapies (including aroma therapy, Native healing, chelation, iridology) at Athabasca University, and much of the curricula at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.
Even the University of Toronto has a Centre for Integrative Medicine, as part of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, which is affiliated with The Scarborough Hospital. Though part of the centre's mission is to achieve "the best possible quality of life and health through the integration of evidence-informed complementary therapies with
conventional health care," it nevertheless touts acupuncture, reiki, chiropractic, as well as Chinese and aboriginal healing traditions.
Until recently, most of these "therapies" have been taught in their own, tightly guarded silos of secrecy; institutions which teach only a single subject. The skeptical community has been unable to get a satisfying sample of teaching resources, textbooks, syllabi, etc., from such courses. Our fear is that, increasingly, post-secondary institutes are getting into the business of pseudoscience to lure students and their money, while forgetting or ignoring that their first priority should be offering evidenced-based learning.
New Stories about Vaccination: Horror vs Happy Ending
I read it on Facebook, so it must be true...right? It seems shocking that in 2018 people are unable to discern the difference between news and fiction. Most recently, yournewswire.com published a story "
CDC Doctor: 'Disastrous' Flu Shot Is Causing Deadly Flu Outbreak
." Facebook lit up as people attempted to save their loved ones from the disaster of this year's "deadly" flu shot. So, how is one to know what is true and what is sensationalism?
In this article, the doctor who is quoted (and reported to be completely fictional) is never named. He is simply "a CDC doctor."
Let's also consider the plausibility. Would the Centre for Disease Control continue to produce and distribute the flu vaccine if it did no good; or worse, one that actually had the negative consequences that are reported.
Finally, consider the source. While the amount of research and verification that goes into any news story can be less than we would desire and can be biased, this on-line publication is not well-known or reputable. The tagline that includes "unfiltered" may suggest "unsubstantiated;" and the inclusion of an entire section on "conspiracies" seals the deal. This is quite simply, fake, sensational news, intended to generate clicks rather than convey factual information. Evidently, the writers are unconcerned about the fact that their reporting will lead to deaths among people who should be immunized and will not.
End Polio Now
. This is the good news story of the near eradication of Polio. When the anti-vaccination movement speaks, do they ever mention the fact that vaccines have ensured that no Canadian ever fears this infliction that causes a lifetime of disability and even death? How many people today still remember the fear of polio striking their family. It is easy to become complacent and righteous when one no longer must live in fear.
The truth about polio is that we are very close to never having another case in the entire world. The other truth is, that until polio is gone completely, we all are in danger. And, as long as people publish fake news about vaccinations, we risk undoing the magnificent work that has reduced the number of polio cases to 17 in 2017.
Another story with a happy ending is that of smallpox. The World Health Organization declared that smallpox was eradicated - wiped from the face of the earth - in 1980. This was the result of a worldwide vaccination program.
Spread the good news. Vaccines cause happy endings.
Book of the Month:
Have you read a great book lately that you believe other CFIC members would enjoy? Why not consider submitting a book review to Critical Links? Email your review (please be sure to include a link to the book) to
A Review of Post Secular
The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff."
CFI Canada's mission is, in part, to provide education to Canadians on secularism. A great way to do this is to highlight the work of Marc Schaus, a Canadian author and research specialist, who has much to teach us. Schaus' work has appeared in The Huffington Post, Patheos, Free Inquiry. Post Secular: Science, Humanism and the Future of Faith, is his book detailing the growth of secularism and religious nonbelief around the world.
Post Secular is an excellent first stop on the road to understanding secularism and the values behind CFIC's mission. It explores how modernity is changing the very nature of faith and how we are well on the way to situating ourselves and human meaning within an empirical understanding of the cosmos. This is the most fascinating contribution Schaus makes. He explores new scientific findings in genetics and neuroscience and develops a coherent outline of what we can expect 'faith' to look like in the not so distant future. As we continue to rely less on 'leaps of faith' and 'supernatural' in the face of the unknown or yet to be understood, we homo sapiens are instead committing ourselves to the real marvels of the universe. "We are", as Sagan said, "made of starstuff" and know it. We are the universe conscious of itself and that is pretty cool!
We can look forward to continue to be inspired by Schaus and learn from his work. He is currently writing,
This World First, a book that will involve contributions from almost two dozen of the world's leading experts on secular issues - each offering regional insight on the progress we have made so far and the progress still to come. I'm looking forward to this new book but first will treat myself to a reread of Post Secular.