In this Edition of Critical Links:

Dates of Interest
  • AIDS Awareness, Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, International Human Rights Day, Winter Solstice, and Halley's Comet

CFIC News and Events
  • Just for Fun: 10 Logical Fallacies
  • A Very Special Living Without Religion
  • Celebrating One of Our Own: Jeffrey Rosenthal Author Event

Science Check
  • Truth in Advertising: Naturopath Edition
  • Chickenpox Outbreak Linked to High Rates of Religious Exemptions for Vaccination
  • It’s Time to Quit Lettuce

Secular Check
  • Acquitted: Justice for Asia Bibi?
  • Prayer in Legislature: Does Appreciation of Public Service Depend on Belief in God?

Think Check
  • Antisemitism and the Pittsburgh Shooting
  • How to be a Healthy Skeptic About Your Healthcare
  • Ontario P.C. Party’s Gender Identity Motion
  • Brazil’s new Government a Blow to Environmental Protection and Human Rights
  • If it Seems too Good to be True … it Probably is!

Dates of Interest

December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women , in memory of the 1989 killing of 14 female engineering students at École Polytechnique.

Awesome: This year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70!
December 10 is International Human Rights Day
Cool: December 21 is the Winter Solstice . Yes, the weather will still be getting colder. But keep in mind: As hard as it might be to believe, the days will start getting longer! 

Also cool: December 25 (aka Christmas) is the 260th anniversary of Johann Georg Palitzsch's observation of the predicted return of Comet Halley — the first comet to be recognized as periodic .

If you celebrate any of these, please drop us a line or send us a picture to [email protected].

CFI News & Events
Just for Fun: Ten Logical Fallacies
Looking for an alternative to traditional Christmas carols? You can sing this to the tune of Twelve Days of Christmas:

In the first bad argument, there was a fallacy: A false dichotomy.

In the second bad argument, there was a fallacy: Tu quoque, and a false dichotomy.

In the third bad argument, there was a fallacy: Three straw men, tu quoque, and a false dichotomy.

In the fourth bad argument, there was a fallacy: Ad hominem, three straw men, tu quoque, and a false dichotomy.

In the fifth bad argument, there was a fallacy: Red herring!
              Ad hominem, three straw men, tu quoque, and a false dichotomy.

In the sixth bad argument, there was a fallacy: Begging the question...
              Red herring!
              Ad hominem, three straw men, tu quoque, and a false dichotomy.

In the seventh bad argument, there was a fallacy: Slippery slope, begging the question...
              Red herring!
              Ad hominem, three straw men, tu quoque, and a false dichotomy.

In the eighth bad argument, there was a fallacy: No true Scotsman, slippery slope, begging the question…
               Red herring!
               Ad hominem, three straw men, tu quoque, and a false dichotomy.

In the ninth bad argument, there was a fallacy: Moving the goal posts, no true Scotsman, slippery slope, begging the question…
               Red herring!
               Ad hominem, three straw men, tu quoque, and a false dichotomy.

In the tenth bad argument, there was a fallacy: Special pleading, moving the goal posts, no true Scotsman, slippery slope, begging the question…
               Red herring!
               Ad hominem, three straw men, tu quoque, and a false dichotomy.
A Very Special Living Without Religion
November 15 saw the relaunch of the Toronto branch’s Living Without Religion support group. We had interesting and supportive discussions, as expected.
Always the third Thursday of the month, our next meeting will be December 20, at the same venue (Swansea Town Hall, Hague Room, 7-9pm). Given the closeness to Christmas and other such things, we thought it might be nice to encourage for this meet that participants feel free to bring snacks, finger foods, festive (or un -festive!) cookies, cakes, etc., to add a holiday feel to the meeting. Anything is welcome. (Keep in mind, however, that the Hague Room doesn’t have a microwave. Maybe rethink the vegan lasagne.)
Our meetup page is here:
Celebrating One of Our Own: Jeffrey Rosenthal Author Event

CFIC's very own Jeffrey S. Rosenthal has just released a stellar new book called Knock on Wood: Luck, Chance, and the Meaning of Everything.

For centuries, people around the world have prayed for good luck and warded against bad. Every language features a good luck greeting. Sailors have long looked for an albatross on the horizon as a symbol of good fortune. Jade, clovers, rabbits’ feet, wishbones: These items have lined the pockets of those seeking good fortune. For some, it’s bad luck to walk under a ladder, to enter and leave a home through different doors, or to say “Macbeth” in a theatre. But is there such a thing as luck, or does luck often just explain common sense?

Don’t walk under a ladder because, well, that’s just dangerous. You won the lottery not because of any supernatural force but because a random number generator selected the same numbers that you picked out at the corner store. You run into a neighbour from your street on the other side of the world: random chance or pure fate? (Or does it depend on how much you like your neighbour?)

In Knock on Wood, Rosenthal, with great humour and irreverence, defines the world of luck, fate, and chance, putting his considerable scientific acumen to the test in deducing whether luck is real or the mere stuff of superstition.

Jeffrey S. Rosenthal is a professor of statistics at the University of Toronto. He received his BSc in mathematics, physics, and computer science from the University of Toronto at the age of 20; his PhD in mathematics from Harvard University at the age of 24; and tenure at the age of 29. He has received teaching awards at both Harvard and U of T. Rosenthal’s first book, Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, was a national bestseller in Canada and was published in 14 countries and in 10 languages.

Jeffrey will be talking about his new book at a CFIC Toronto Event on December 4th at 6pm at 485 Queen Street West Toronto, ON. Come out and join the discussion!

Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance on Eventbrite.

FREE for CFIC members
$5 for non-members
$30 for CFIC membership + admission

You can also purchase a copy of Jeffrey’s book at the links below.

Science Check
Truth in Advertising: Naturopathy Edition
Beverly Carter
Recently the CBC 1 published an opinion piece on naturopaths. The article covered such topics as misrepresentation of training and credentials and the role of governing bodies in sanctioning such behaviour. Naturopaths across Canada have on occasion, with the passive but verifiable consent of their governing body, stated that they are graduates of medical school and have almost identical training as family physicians. These statements are of course untrue. There is a vast difference between the levels of training required by each of these professions.
This is not a new issue. Similar complaints have arisen from individual physicians in British Columbia, Ontario, and New Brunswick over the last several years. Right now, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick is bringing legal action against individual naturopaths who participate in the above described deception. Internationally, this issue has also been raised, even by naturopaths (or former naturopaths) themselves. 2
Healthcare workers who use the terms "naturopathic" and "medical" as if they are interchangeable are attempting to mislead Canadian consumers . P atients shouldn't be required to review and critically assess any healthcare provider's background. If patients don’t have the appropriate information about the level of training of a healthcare provider, they cannot give informed consent, a basic patient right.
CFIC supports evidence-based decision-making about healthcare decisions and patient autonomy.

Chickenpox Outbreak Linked to High Rates of Religious Exemptions for Vaccination
Andrea Palmieri

The anti-vaccine movement strikes again this year. October’s CL issue covered the deadly measles outbreak across Europe, which is fortunately on the decline, according to the European Centres for Disease Control’s latest monthly surveillance report . Now, another vaccine-preventable disease outbreak is making headlines: The varicella-zoster virus, also known as chickenpox, has infected around 36 students at Asheville Waldorf private school in North Carolina and is expected to grow due to extremely low vaccination rates.

This outbreak has been deemed the state’s worst since 1995 — when the vaccine first became available — and the increase in parents’ decision to take advantage of an exemption clause allowing them to opt out of vaccination based on religious reasons is largely to blame. In fact, the school has one of the highest rates of religious exemptions for vaccination in the state, with 110 out of 152 students being unvaccinated against the virus in the 2017-2018 school year. Because of this exemption clause, which only requires parents to provide their objection in writing, this massive breakdown of herd immunity poses a risk to those students as well as the surrounding community.

Contracting chickenpox as a child was very common before 1995, with most memories of extremely itchy blisters, soothing calamine lotion, and baking soda baths. It was a highly contagious infection that was viewed as inevitable and benign to many — indeed, many still do believe this. However, many people also suffered from severe problems that required hospitalization such as pneumonia, encephalitis, bleeding problems, and even death. It is not only the vulnerable populations (infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals) that are at a higher risk of developing complications; rather, even healthy adolescents and adults can experience them. According to the CDC , “Some deaths from chickenpox continue to occur in healthy, unvaccinated children and adults. Many of the healthy adults who died from chickenpox contracted the disease from their unvaccinated children.”

Stricter vaccine policy measures are needed to help “fence-sitting” families understand the importance of vaccines as well as combat misinformation that runs rampant in small community echo chambers like Asheville. Perhaps North Carolina should take a page out of Ontario’s book and require those who request for a religious exemption from immunization complete an education session covering vaccine safety. This new strategy was implemented in September 2017 as a way to strengthen immunization compliance rates. Data has yet to be gathered and analyzed for the current school year to elucidate whether this strategy is working, but I believe it is a step in the right dire ction.

Chickenpox may not be as dangerous as measles or the other vaccine-preventable diseases, but its regrettable spread in North Carolina is a stark reminder of how sudden infectious diseases can spread when most of a population is not immunized.
It’s Time to Quit Lettuce
Blythe Nilson
Raw leafy greens have been off my shopping list and off my plate for quite some time so the current romaine recall doesn’t affect me, but it’s having quite an impact on stores and restaurants across the country. It’s time more Canadians realized that eating raw lettuce is a dangerous waste of money and resources. Lettuce grows close to the ground, often near contaminated water, is difficult to wash, and is eaten raw!
Compounding the problem is that many Canadians believe that raw lettuce is an environmentally sound and nutritious salad option. They are willing to pay dearly for it in the winter. But consider that raw lettuce is more than 90% water — you are paying for (possibly dirty) water to be shipped by truck from California. Growing lettuce also requires a large amount of water — that is not environmentally helpful. Tamar Haspel made a solid case for giving up lettuce in a 2015 Washington Post article that is even more relevant today and I encourage you to give the article a read.
A bowl of raw lettuce has barely any nutrition to speak of. It’s mostly just a vehicle for dressing and other less noble accoutrements, which is a shame because there are so many other more nutritious choices available (e.g., kale, arugula, bok choy, etc.). It is also worth noting that lettuce from commercial sources might have even less nutrition and more water than the leaves you pick fresh from your back yard in summer, because large-scale agriculture will naturally use the minimum amount of fertilizer and care required to get plants ready for market.
In the winter, most of our iceberg and romaine lettuce comes from California and Arizona. Farming practices there may not be as tightly regulated as we would like, and lettuce crops are sometimes grown near cattle feed lots. Runoff containing contaminated bovine fecal matter may accidentally spill over into the fields or even be deliberately used for irrigation. In some cases the water used to wash lettuce is contaminated, so don’t blindly trust those “power-washed” claims. Romaine and iceberg have weak cell walls and little defence against E. coli , the most common source of lettuce-delivered food poisoning. Kale, which is rarely recalled for bacterial contamination, has much hardier cell walls, is more resistant to the bacteria, and can stand up to stronger washing. Kale is even safer and more nutritious when it is lightly cooked so try some today.
Most strains of E. coli are relatively benign and some live unnoticed in our own guts. Other strains, however, can be deadly for humans. The most notorious is the O157:H7 strain, the cause of most recalls of lettuce and spinach in North America. It secretes Shiga toxin, a protein that enters and damages cells in ways similar to ricin. If you are infected with the 0157:H7 strain, it is difficult to treat because antibiotics are not recommended , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What is truly shocking is that the CDC and Health Canada both recommend that consumers can avoid E. coli poisoning by simply washing the lettuce or choosing lettuce that has been commercially washed. That’s pure hogwash according to University of Guelph microbiologist Keith Warriner. Washing lettuce cannot remove all of these persistent and very sticky bacteria.
Professor Warriner does not eat lettuce.

Secular Check
Acquitted: Justice for Asia Bibi?
Edan Tasca

In October, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani, of blasphemy. The acquittal was based on insufficient evidence. Bibi had been sentenced to death by hanging in 2010, and spent the next eight years on death row for allegedly insulting Islam. Her acquittal should be a cause for celebration. Instead, it has potentially put her in even more peril.

Islamist factions in Pakistan, where secularism is not overwhelmingly popular, have been enraged by the acquittal. As a result, Bibi has not been released from prison. Though there was a report earlier this month that she had been flown to the Netherlands, Pakistant’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs alleges that she is still in Pakistan, though no longer in the prison in which she was serving her sentence.

Such secrecy is required because the government cannot guarantee her safety from potential violent mobs who continue to demand her execution. In particular, one Muslim cleric has announced a bounty of 500,000 rupees for anyone who succeeds in killing her. Vigilante violence in Pakistan has been responsible for over 60 murders, and dozens of other violent episodes, over alleged blasphemous offenses, often against Christian minorities.

The EU, Italy, and Canada have been vocal in their support of Bibi. Her case inspired a 2013 memoir entitled Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death Over a Cup of Water, written by a French journalist who communicated with Bibi through family. The memoir then inspired a 2015 documentary called Freedom for Asia Bibi.

Read a thorough breakdown of the issue here.
Prayer in Legislatures: Does Appreciating Public Service Depend on a Belief in God?

Whether God or prayer are required as part of legislative meetings has long been debated, and has earned new interest recently in Saskatchewan. This past October, the issue was once again brought into the public eye when the Fall Legislative Session opened with an Islamic prayer. Though this prayer was not replacing the daily Anglican prayer, it was viewed by some as a way of addressing the government’s existing preferential treatment of a single religion. To be truly fair, one wonders how many prayers it would take to represent Canada’s diversity of faiths. Should it just be removed altogether?

Many of the faithful, like Regina's Anglican Canon, Michael Jackson, firmly believe that if prayer is removed from the Saskatchewan legislature, something powerful — a sense of the gravity of public service — would be lost. Others disagree. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled that the municipal council in the Quebec town of Saguenay can no longer open its meetings with a prayer.

In the aftermath of the ruling, many held fast. For example, when asked about the implications of the SCC decision on holding prayers in the Saskatchewan legislature, then-Premier Brad Wall stated that his two primary reasons for not discontinuing the practice were that the SCC’s ruling only referred to municipal government bodies and did not expressly state that it included provincial legislatures, and that he had received no complaints. Following that justification, a petition was initiated to address the second part of the Premier’s reasoning, and in May of 2016, the petition was presented to the government.

Though not initiated by CFIC, the petition had our support as well as that of both provincial branches. David Richards (now CFIC Regina branch leader) was spokesperson for the group requesting the abolition of government-sponsored prayers. In response, the government dismissed the issue without consultation. Though individual members of the Opposition caucus were supportive, the acting Leader of the Opposition gave direction to his Members of the Legislative Assembly not to pursue the complaint in any official capacity (though they unofficially supported any action that CFIC or individual Saskatchewan citizens might choose to take in pursuing the issue).

Think Check
Antisemitism and the Pittsburgh Shooting
Sophie Shulman

CFIC asked my comment on the following topic:

“A number of atheists/humanists wonder about how to respond to this terrible occurrence [synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh]. How to explain to others why, even though [one] is a humanist and atheist, [one] still feels a personal connection to this event?”

Below are a few of my personal thoughts.

What's to wonder? The atheists/humanists by definition are the very last to wonder and the very first to denounce and act against this crime against humanity. It is not about a religious schism. It is about violent tribal intolerance and blind homicidal hatred that exists simply because one is different; it is about the prehistoric 'cave mentality' of us-versus-them; it is the very core of the bigotries like antisemitism, centuries-long and devastating religious wars, and unending Sunni/Shiah bloodbaths.

Historically, antisemitism was based on fear, hence hatred, that the Church had of Judaism as a competing mass religion. Jews were made by the Church to look inherently evil and to be perennial scapegoats, conveniently responsible for any natural or social calamity. Further, antisemitism has dramatically evolved over centuries.

In his 1961 volume, The Destruction of the European Jews, Raul Hilberg illustrates: “Since the fourth century after Christ, there have been three anti-Jewish policies: conversion, expulsion, and annihilation. The Nazi destruction process did not come out of a void. The missionaries of Christianity had said, in effect, ‘You have no right to live among us as Jews’ (conversion). The secular rulers who followed had proclaimed, ‘You have no right to live among us’ (expulsion). The Nazis at last decreed, ‘You have no right to live’ (annihilation).”

Next came the eighteenth-century theological conceptualization that automatically associated everything Jewish with everything evil; and, finally, there was the rise in the nineteenth century of racial ideas that transformed the anti-Jewish concept from a theological to a biological one, opening the gates for pogroms, mass executions, and the “final solution” of the Holocaust. “Justification” by the fundamentalist normative religion all the way down to the incineration ovens was then complete. “All Jews must die!”, the rallying cry of the Pittsburgh shooter, was its inescapable malignant outgrowth.

In 2006’s The War of the World, Niall Ferguson points out that anti-Jewish propaganda in the twentieth century spared nothing, demonizing the Jews with “...lurid allegations that Jews played a leading part in the organization of [the slave trade], prostitution…seduction of women…spread of degenerative diseases,” and so on and so forth. Sweden’s largest leftist daily, Aftonbladet, went so far as to quote a Palestinian family, who allegedly claimed that the organs of their dead child were stolen by the Israeli military, even though the cited Palestinian family publicly denied ever having made such a claim.

It is no wonder that relentless malicious anti-Jewish propaganda has been a nearly unbearable burden on the collective psyche of Jews — a sense of burning injustice, which all Jews have had to carry throughout their lifetime, a perennial nightmarish fear of persecution, exile, and violent non-acceptance for merely daring to be different. The result is a sense that Israel is the only tiny place where those uniquely vulnerable people are safely home. The Pittsburgh attack and any like it magnify by many orders this sense of unsafety.

Consider the chilling headlines:

“American Jews always believed the U.S. was exceptional. We were wrong” (Washington Post, November 4)

“The Pittsburgh shooter didn’t hate ‘religion,’ he hated Jews” (Washington Post, November 4)

“We thought anti-Semitism was finished. We were wrong” (National Post, November 4).

In The Algemeiner, Mitchell Bard comments: “Over the course of 48 hours on November 9-10, 1938 — now known as Kristallnacht — 96 Jews were killed, 1,300 synagogues and 7,500 businesses were destroyed, and 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps. And now, almost exactly 80 years later, even Jews in America are not safe.”

It is no wonder that the beast of today, antisemitism, has been changing its spots again: It is increasingly common now to hear, “I'm not anti-Jew; I'm anti-Israel.” Yes, Israel is far from infallible; its fair critique is necessary. However, similar critiques can be applied to Russia, China, Latin America, Africa, and other places. And yet, have you ever heard anyone proudly proclaim, “I'm anti-China” or “I’m anti-Latin America”?

Students from Iran, for example, are not to be ostracized on U.S. campuses just because someone dislikes the Iranian ayatollahs. Why then is it okay to ostracize Jewish students because someone dislikes Netanyahu? Why the double standard? Being “anti-Israel” is just a new makeup for the same dehumanizing millennia-long genocidal antisemitism.

Hence, there is no contradiction whatsoever between being an atheist/humanist and feeling a personal connection to this massacre. To the contrary: Secular humanism is incompatible with antisemitism, racism, or any homophobic intolerance and inequality; the humanists’ role is front and centre in fighting them all.

My late husband Boris and I thought that our entire self-identification as Jews was based on absolute all-consuming solidarity, forever against this abysmal injustice of antisemitism. It was this, not the religion of Judaism, that was the unbreakable bond, the glue that sealed our Jewish identity. Otherwise, we felt cosmopolitan.

“Do not misunderstand me: I feel totally Jewish, all right.” Boris would grin. “Is my solidarity with Jews not based on unconditional compassion, empathy to those who have groundlessly suffered most and longest? Was it not that same bond of empathy that Jesus proclaimed with the disadvantaged — his ultimate call for love? Is it then not the same recognizably Jewish trait in us both — Jesus and me — or what?” And we both laughed.
How to be a Healthy Skeptic About Your Healthcare
Zack Dumont

It was discovered about a decade ago that PubMed, a search engine that archives biomedical articles, surpassed 25,000 articles being added annually 1. That may sound like an impossible amount of new information to take in, and it is. It’s been increasing sharply for decades. Going back to 1992, one journal (American College of Physicians Journal Club) attempted to provide synopses on some of these articles, specifically for internal medicine physicians, and came to the conclusion that any one specialist healthcare provider (HCP) would need to read 17 articles per day to keep up 2,3. Have you met an HCP that has time to read 17 articles a day? And that was in 1992, not 2018!

Despite the firehose of new information, physicians and allied HCPs do an incredible job of staying up to date. The task may be no more challenging than for the community-based primary care providers, like a family doctor or nurse practitioner, who need to stay abreast of all potential topics they face in their workday — they need to know a lot, about a lot. And they do. But, considering that science and knowledge continue to advance, it’s no surprise that from time to time they might not have the absolute latest and greatest information on all possible topics. For that reason, patients need to stay engaged in their healthcare and ensure they are asking the right questions. Patients are well served when they ask questions about timing (e.g., “Do we have to make this intervention today?”), and when they start to think about healthcare like a healthy skeptic (e.g., “Do the benefits outweigh the risks?”).

Except for urgent and emergent situations, few medical interventions need to happen right away. You do want stat IV fluids if you’re extremely dehydrated, you do want a pain medication if your gout attack is keeping you up at night, and you do want your flu shot as soon as possible (because the flu season is short and aggressive); but rarely for chronic illnesses does one need a speedy intervention. If time permits, it’s great for patients to inquire about the real risks and benefits of interventions, and then make an informed decision. Part of the process to get informed starts in the clinic room with HCPs — asking what their impression of the risks and benefits are. If they know them well, it can be a quick conversation. If they need to do some updating of their knowledge in the area, that’s OK. Both HCPs and patients stand to benefit. Also, patients can do some of their own research from reputable websites like healthcare organizations (try MedlinePlus, for example), or calling their local health line or drug information service.

Ideally, the conversations and research are the richest when patients start to think and ask questions about what the evidence says, such as, “In well conducted studies, how much did this intervention reduce the risk of bad things happening? Are the ‘bad things’ actual bad things I care about like heart attacks and strokes, or just compelling lab test values? Were there any side effects and how many people out of 100 experience them?” Over time, practicing critical thinking like this will allow one to ask and seek answers to very specific questions, such as: “I’m 65; if I take vitamin D every day, sure, I’ll repair the vitamin levels in my blood, but more importantly I reduce my risk of fractures by [this much], increase my risk of high levels of calcium in my blood by [this much], all at a cost of [this much], per year.” These factual balancing activities can bring clarity to otherwise tough decisions.

In the spirit of engaging patients in conversations about their health, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada has partnered with several organizations to create a list commonly known as The 5 Questions to Ask (About Your Medications. These are a great starting point to nurture the inner skeptic in patients. Expanding these questions to medical tests and investigations is another step to take, and that’s where the Choosing Wisely Campaign comes in.

Tools like these will continue to be developed if they’re known to be helpful. Combined with collaboration – patients at the helm – health care teams will collectively make the best decisions to optimize benefit and minimize risk. You can do your part by initiating constructive conversations. Exercise healthy skepticism about your health care.

1 Bastian H, Glasziou P, Chalmers I. Seventy-Five Trials and Eleven Systematic Reviews a Day: How Will We Ever Keep Up? PLoS Medicine. September 2010; 7(9):1-6.
2 Haynes RB. Where's the meat in clinical journals? ACP Journal Club. 1993; 119:A23-4.
3 Davidoff F, Haynes B, Sackett D, Smith R. Evidence based medicine. BMJ. 1995 Apr 29;310(6987):1085–1086.
4 Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada. 5 Questions to Ask About Your Medications. 2016. Available from:


Ontario P.C. Party’s Gender Identify Motion
David Richards

On November 17, a group of Ontarians — many of whom believe in the inerrancy of a book that states whales are a kind of fish, bats are a kind of bird, and that homosexuality does not exist in nature other than in humans — brought forward a motion to the provincial Progressive Conservative membership that declared gender identity theory “unscientific.”

There are a number of reasons why this motion being passed by the P.C. membership is highly troubling. This motion flies in the face of actual scientific consensus on the topic. It is troubling for a political party to vote not just on a policy relating to scientific data but to vote for what is or isn’t scientific. Most importantly, declarations like this have been shown to cause real demonstrable harm to some of the most vulnerable Canadians.

While the authors of this motion attempt to frame gender identity theory as an ideological rejection of science, scientific consensus on the issue supports the polar opposite view. The Canadian Psychological Association, The Canadian Mental Health Association, and The Canadian Medical Association all have documented public policy statements outlining unequivocal support for personal determination of gender identity. In their 2010 statement, the Canadian Psychological Association stated, “[the association] affirms that all adolescent and adult persons have the right to define their own gender identity regardless of chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role. Moreover, all adolescent and adult persons have the right to free expression of their self-defined gender identity.” Similar consensus is found among equivalent American and global counterpart organizations. In addition to this consensus among medical and psychological experts, the same conclusions appear time and time again among Biologists, Social Scientists, and Anthropologists.

While in a free and open democracy it remains critically important for political parties to have debate and discussion over how laws and political directives should be shaped by the conclusions of scientific consensus, it is a dangerous path to walk to let the science itself be voted on. Whether it's GMO technology, vaccines, or anthropogenic climate change, political parties can, and should, have differing opinions on the best public policy decisions in response to the best information scientists can provide. That said, a vote won't alter whether GMOs are or aren't carcinogenic, make vaccines cause or not cause autism, or impact the levels by which carbon in the atmosphere affects global climate. Similarly, no vote on gender identity theory can reshape the reality of what scientists, medical professionals, and mental health professionals have been researching for over five decades since the term “gender identity” was first used.

If these Canadians were merely voting on a motion to put forward an unscientific assertion that had no impact on the world, it may have been harmless enough. That is not what they are doing. Politicians voting in favor of a policy arguing that it's impossible to subtract 5 from 2, because that's what they learned when they were learning subtraction in grade one, may seem harmless enough until you realize that policy will have real impact on a government responsible for creating budgets. This vote on gender identity theory has real impact on a government responsible for policies regarding health, education, and the safety of Canadians they are sworn to serve.

CFIC’s mission statement asserts, “The Centre for Inquiry Canada fosters a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.” This recent motion by the Ontario P.C. party stands in the way of CFIC's mission. It stands in the way of a society based on reason and science by ignoring the scientific consensus within every relevant field. It stands in the way of a secular society by implying that a vote based on religion has the power to dictate the conclusions of free scientific inquiry. It stands in the way of humanist values by attempting to erase the reality of countless lived experiences and doing real harm in the world.

Brazil’s new Government a Blow to Environmental Protection and Human Rights
Sandra Dunham

Jair Bolsonaro will be the next President of Brazil. According to The Guardian, “he is a known racist, sexist, homophobic advocate of torture”, and a climate-change denier. The Guardian points out that historically “when environments deteriorate, societies turn to supposed strongmen and religious zealots rather than smart, pragmatic leaders.”

The fear is that by the time the majority of voters are impacted by climate change, the damage will be irreversible. Currently, however, political campaigns around the world are funded by businesses that benefit from lax environmental laws. CFIC urges our readers to heed the advice of The Guardian’s global environmental editor, Jonathan Watts: “The best way to avoid climate and ecological collapse is by voting for leaders who make this a priority.”
If it Seems too Good to be True … it Probably is!
Sandra Dunham

I was shocked at the number of times this “deal” from Costco was shared on my Facebook feed. Often by people I know to be relatively intelligent. However, there are a few things that made this post seem highly unlikely to me.

There was no link to a legitimate Costco website. There was no minimum purchase amount to make the coupon valid. It seemed odd that a coupon would be valid in both the U.S. and in Canada.

The easiest way to check on this was to Google “Facebook Costco coupon.” Both Snopes and Hoax-Slayer let me know it was a scam. Folks, before you share: fact check!
Books and Authors

Have you read a good book lately? One that made you think more critically? One that changed your outlook? Something that used science to call into question misinformation? Critical Links is looking for book reviewers to share their thoughts on books that other members will enjoy.

If you would like more information on the type of book reviews we are interested in, please email: [email protected]
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