It’s disappointing to see that the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation has selected Jenny McCarthy to headline their fundraising Bust a Move event this year. Jenny McCarthy is a deeply controversial figure with anti-scientific and anti-health views on vaccination and autism, and is a very poor choice to represent ORCF.
The chair of the event said McCarthy was not chosen for her views, and that she’d be surprised if people were upset by the choice. But of course people are upset – and with good reason.
McCarthy has claimed for years that vaccines cause autism, a wholly unsupportable position. She and the organisation she fronts, Generation Rescue, discourage vaccinations and promote dangerous and evidence-free “cures” such as chelation therapy for autism. Like it or not, her views carry weight with the general public; a study from the University of Michigan found 24% of parents placed “some trust” in information provided by people like Jenny McCarthy. Her belief that the MMR vaccine causes autism has likely contributed to the decline in childhood immunisations for measles, mumps, and rubella, diseases which have seen a tragically unnecessary resurgence in recent years. Vaccination rates are now in decline across North America.
So what about the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation? They work to improve cancer survivorship, helping “patients and families live and thrive with cancer”, working “to improve the odds and experience of cancer survivorship.” Many Ottawans will have passed by their Cancer Survivors Park at Riverside and Industrial. They do good and important work, but whoever made the decision to book Jenny McCarthy has done this organisation no favours at all.
The backlash should have been entirely predictable. McCarthy has been an outspoken critic of demonstrably proven and effective science and medicine for so long that it’s inevitable people will be outraged by her selection to headline a cancer charity fundraiser. McCarthy’s goals and that of the ORCF are clearly in conflict: for example, rates of HPV-associated oropharyngeal and anal cancers, both preventable with the HPV vaccine, continue to rise, even as uptake of the vaccine remains low. They should not be giving a platform to someone who has done so much to lower vaccination rates and reduce herd immunity – especially when cancer survival, for the immunocompromised, can depend upon it– and when higher rates of HPV vaccination could prevent certain cancers from even forming.
Vaccines work. McCarthy is a public health menace for saying otherwise and their association with her brings ORCF into disrepute. When you have a PR problem, first fix the problem and the PR can fix itself. There’s a lot of goodwill out there for ORCF; they need to cancel this booking and find someone else for Bust a Move Ottawa. It’s the right decision and one for which they will be applauded. I’ll personally donate a hundred dollars if they do.
A Skepticamp follows the unconference model of being driven by the participants. All speakers are people who have something interesting to say about something they find interesting. The event will consist of around 12 presentations, each lasting 10-15 minutes with 5 minutes for questions (so a 20 minute time slot per person).
This year we will be at the awesome Shopify Lounge!
Sign up here if you are interested in giving a talk or want to help organise this event.
When: Sunday, February 24th, 2013, 12:00 PM To
Where: Shopify Lounge, 126 York Street, Ottawa
And don’t forget to check out the wiki page for this event, where the current list of talks can be found.
The Ottawa Skeptics proudly present another edition of our Science-Based Pub Quiz, this time presented by Steve and Seanna.
Match wits and celebrate science, skepticism, and general geekery in this British-style pub quiz. No sports questions, we promise.
Compete for prizes (maybe) in teams of three or four!
First time at the Ottawa Skeptics? Never been to an event before? This is a great way to meet and mingle, so come on out!
If you don’t have a team, don’t worry. Just join up with other folks after you arrive. Nobody will be without a team.
When: Sunday, January 13, 2013, 6.00 pm
Where: Burgers on Main (343 Somerset St. West, Ottawa).
RSVP at meetup.com, or just turn up. Everyone welcome!
Dave Green will be talking about the Freemen on the Land movement.
This movement is an interesting amalgamation of several Conspiracy Theories that concludes that the entire basis of our legal system is a fraud, and teaches means by which individuals may “opt out” of things like obeying laws, paying taxes, and even paying their bills.
Sunday, December 16, 2012, 7:00 PM at the Canal Royal Oak.
RSVP at meetup.com, or just show up. Everyone welcome!
P.Z. Myers, biology professor and author of Pharyngula, critic of superstition, pseudoscience, and creationism, will be speaking about “Chance in Evolution” this Saturday December 1st at The Canadian Museum of Nature.
Tickets cost $50 ($40 for CFI members) for the talk, reception, and access to the Fossil Gallery and Earth Gallery.
6:00 pm – Reception
7:30 pm – Talk: Chance in Evolution by Dr. P.Z. Myers
9:00 pm–1:00 am – Gala (food included; cash bar available) with exclusive access to the Fossil Gallery and Earth Gallery and the chance to mix and mingle with PZ Myers and other Eschaton2012 speakers.
P.Z. Myers works with zebrafish in the field of evolutionary developmental biology. In 2006 Pharyngula was listed by Nature as the top ranked blog written by a scientist. He is the recipient of the 2009 Humanist of the Year award and the International Humanist Award in 2011.
This event is part of Eschaton 2012, the Ottawa conference celebrating reason at the end of the world. For more information visit www.eschaton2012.ca.
A milestone passed today for the podcast The Reality Check: after four years and 216 episodes, the show reached one million downloads!
Check it out, if you haven’t already, at www.trcpodcast.com.
This Sunday October 14th at the Canal Royal Oak, 4 pm, join the Ottawa Skeptics and Eschaton 2012 speaker Ania Bula for another in our Skeptics in the Pub science talk series.
Evolution and Polyamory
Why is monogamy so hard?
The classic model of prehistoric human societies involves one which centers on a monogamous ideal. If any promiscuity exists it is on the part of the male who is motivated to “spread his seed” while enforcing strict monogamy from his mates to ensure that it is his genes which are passed on. It styles itself on the patriarchal chimp society where there exists one breeding alpha male and a harem of monogamous females.
Evidence suggests that a more promiscuous and polyamorous model may hold more truth. Join Ania Bula as she presents evidence from psychology, neurology, biology, and sociology to defend a newer social model for prehistoric society: one which lends itself to a greater understanding of the modern day and historical trends in sexual behaviour, divorce, and infidelity.
Ania Bula is an eclectic student of biomedical sciences, psychology, and English literature. She has a long term goal of pursuing medical school and a career in sexology with a double specialization in gynecology and psychiatry. She plans to take over the world and institute a universal policy of sex positivity, gender equality, and evidence based everything. She blogs at aniasworkinprogress.blogspot.ca and youtube.com/user/aniaonion and tweets as @dearania. Ania will be a speaker at Eschaton2012, the first annual CFI Canada eastern region conference.
Coming up this fall: Eschaton 2012, the conference that celebrates reason at the end of the world.
One popular reading of the Mayan calendar promises that the world will be ending this year, around about December 21st. To mark the occasion, right here in Canada’s capital, the Centre for Inquiry–Ottawa will be hosting a conference celebrating reason, skepticism and freethought (with cooperation and assistance from members of the Ottawa Skeptics).
The Eschaton 2012 conference will open on Friday night with a look at the historical relationship between humans and our apocalypses (including a skeptical look at that Mayan calendar).
Saturday morning and afternoon, we have parallel tracks: 1) Talks and panels on skepticism/science/science communication (including a live recording of the Ottawa Skeptics’ podcast, The Reality Check) and 2) “The Immaculate Convention” – talks and panels on religion from an academic and sociological perspective.
On Saturday evening there will be a reception at the outstanding Canadian Museum of Nature (around the corner from the hotel), followed by a talk from PZ Myers and access to some of the galleries and exhibits.
On Sunday the parallel tracks include panels and workshops on ethics, gender identity, parenting, and other exciting topics to be announced.
Speakers already booked include: P.Z. Myers, Ophelia Benson, Chris DiCarlo, Ian Cromwell, Natalie Reed, Udo Schuklenk, Eugenie Scott, Jim Linville, Sara Mayhew, and Larry Moran.
You don’t want to miss it: half the price of, certain, shall we say, Las Vegas-based skeptical conferences, and twice as friendly! Come enjoy Canadian hospitality, the beauty of Ottawa in late fall and winter, meet interesting people, and ride out the end of the world in style.
See you there!
The Reality Check, Canada’s weekly podcast exploring scientific controversies and curiosities, is getting its own website: you can find them at their new home, www.trcpodcast.com. Check it out for all new episodes, episode discussions, archives and more.
You can also subscribe by:
- Subscribing here for free with iTunes
- Using this link in your browser, or other podcatching software.
The Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS), part of the Centre for Inquiry Canada, has released a report auditing a climate change course at Carleton University in Ottawa.
The course “Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective” has been taught for the past few years by Tom Harris, an individual with a background in climate science denial. With that in mind, CASS undertook a detailed study of the course, identifying 142 claims that were either incorrect, misleading or otherwise in error. These include:
* Carbon dioxide is plant food.
* There is no scientific consensus about climate change causes.
* Prepare for global cooling.
* Climate science is changing quickly
* Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.
From the report:
“We describe a case in which noted climate change deniers have gained access to the Canadian higher education system through a course taught at Carleton University – Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective (ERTH2402). These academics are closely associated with a number of organisations that have involvement with the energy industry.
Carleton University teaches a range of courses on various aspects of climate change and the vast majority adhere to the highest academic standards. However, the content of this particular course is heavily biased against the scientific consensus concerning the anthropogenic causes of dangerous climate change.
This course is taught with little reference to the primary literature and is largely presented to non-science majors. We note that other courses at Carleton University teach the established science on climate change, with instructors who have been involved with the IPCC and sharing in the Nobel Peace Prize that that organisation was awarded.
We acknowledge the need for academic freedom and the promotion of multiple viewpoints on course material – particularly in such an important area as climate change. However, it is important to note that the unbalanced nature of the course, the lack of peer-reviewed literature cited, and the non-science audience mean that the course fails to constitute ‚promotion of debate‛ and instead merely presents a biased and inaccurate portrayal of contemporary climate science.
We present our report to highlight how one extreme of the climate change debate is being taught in higher education and where that teaching diverges from the contemporary scientific consensus.”
The press release and the report can be found here.