My skeptical teeth were cut on religious claims – I got into the skeptical blogosphere (and learned the resulting jargon and necessary facts) as a direct result of my wrangling with my own newly-recognized atheism. I rather quickly and seamlessly migrated from there to my discussions of race and social justice, but there was a serious in-between time when I spent a lot of time learning the ways of skep-fu in the alt-med school. I am, in that sense, a pretty bad skeptic because despite getting my start there, I spend comparatively little time talking about the ‘hard science’ stuff that is probably most closely suited to my professional training.
Mea culpa, folks. I don’t have an agenda with this site – I just kinda write what I feel.
Luckily, I have a few colleagues/friends here in Vancouver who are on it big time:
Bad Science Watch is an independent non-profit activist organization dedicated to improving the lives of Canadians by countering bad science. We are driven by a vision of a safer, healthier, and more prosperous Canada where critical thinking and sound science are paramount in the making of important societal decisions.
Every day Canadians make choices. Whether we’re considering health care or breakfast cereals we all want to make the right decisions for ourselves and our families. We all want access to the best information to help us decide how we spend our money, and keep ourselves safe and healthy.
Unfortunately, in an increasingly technological and complex world it can be hard to understand our options. Worse, there are people who are happy to exploit this difficulty and use bad science to take advantage of us, promising easy answers or unrealistic results. Bad science is being used every day in advertising, by politicians, and by special interest groups. This is a major problem, and it affects all of us and the choices we make.
Warning: gross gushy personal stuff approaching.
I am personally familiar with director Jamie Williams and board member Dr. Rob Tarzwell (as well as having had some professional interactions with board chair Michael Kruse). If I was going to put together a Canadian skeptical ‘dream team’, they’d absolutely be on it. These folks are smart and dedicated, and I’m really looking forward to seeing this endeavour become successful.
Okay, gush over.
Today they’re launching their first official campaign, and it’s a doozy:
Today, the new Canadian science advocacy group Bad Science Watch announced plans to convince Health Canada to de-register homeopathic health products that are offered as unproven replacements for childhood vaccinations. This project will combat the anti-vaccine camps within homeopathy that offer these so-called “nosodes”; the sale of which directly contradicts Health Canada’s own efforts to promote childhood vaccinations.
Nosodes are ultra-dilute homeopathic remedies prepared using diseased tissue, such as blood, pus, and saliva, that are based on the unsupportable “like-cures-like” hypothesis where you give someone a very low dose of the offending substance to then cure or prevent the disease in question.
Homeopaths in Canada are offering these nosodes for a variety of childhood diseases, like pertussis, or whooping cough, a deadly disease that is currently afflicting more Canadian children, mostly infants, than it has in the past 50 years. The anti-vaccine messages spread by homeopaths have caused parents to needlessly question the usefulness and safety of vaccines and as a result the level of vaccination in Canadian communities has dropped to as low as 62%. A level of 80% or higher is needed to have proper protection from pertussis in the community.
You may remember that the skeptics group here in Vancouver have taken on the homeopaths before, and we even made it on national television. That action opened up a whole can of worms (and hopefully some whoop-ass as well) on the way in which Canada handles homeopathy. For the federal government to endorse (at least by implication) the sale of magic water as a method of preventing serious infectious disease goes beyond merely incompetent and borders on criminal. We’ve had outbreaks of infectious disease in Canada recently, so being asleep at the switch is inexcusable.
Bad Science Watch is funded entirely by individual donations. If you’re of the mind to, consider donating. If you’d like more information about the group, check them out online or sign up for their newsletter.
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