Call: “What do we want?”
Response: “Evidence-based decision-making.”
Call: “When do we want it?”
Response: “After peer review.”
That was the rallying cry on Parliament Hill Monday as Canadian scientists fought back against being muzzled by the government, cuts to funding and the commercialization of scientific research.
Gotta love geek humour. But while some of their methods may have been a bit awkward and lame, their message certainly was not.
Science is not perfect, but at any given point in history, the best available science and evidence is the best chance we have to make reasonable decisions.
That is why Stephen Harper’s three-fold strategy for undermining science and scientists is so insidious.
First, cut funding for fundamental research. Second, shift resources to commercialization of research. Third, prevent scientists from informing the public about their research.
I’ve never been a big advocate of the Stephen Harper “hidden agenda” conspiracy theory, largely because I don’t think it’s all that hidden, but one has to wonder why he, and his government, is so antagonistic toward science in general and environmental research in particular.
The answer may lie in Harper’s religious affiliation. Unknown to most Canadians, the Prime Minister belongs to a radically right-wing evangelical church called the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which views free market capitalism as divinely inspired.
Harper has always refused to answer any questions about his faith, which is, without question, his right, but if he wants to continue to be our leader, I think it is time we start challenging him to tell us what he truly believes.
Not a good mention
I always cringe a little bit when Canada gets a mention on my favourite podcast. With all the anti-science craziness in the United States, where The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe originates, any time they turn their skeptical gaze northward, it’s usually not a good thing.
This week’s episode was just such a case when they reported on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recent report that 30 cases of measles have been reported this year, more than five times the number reported all of last year.
This, of course, brought up the subject of Health Canada licencing homeopathic vaccines (nosodes) for sale in Canada.
I have written extensively about this in this column and won’t rehash now all the evidence proving the ineffectiveness of nosodes and why Health Canada should not be approving them for sale and, by extension, lending credibility to their efficacy.
One thing I missed along the way, however, was that even homeopaths are starting to turn away from this particular remedy.
In April, in response to the resurgence of measles, whooping cough and even polio in pockets around the world, the British Homeopathic Associaton (BHA) issued a statement that traditional vaccination is the only way to reduce transmission of these previously virtually eradicated infectious diseases.
A spokesperson for the BHA even went as far as to tell The Guardian there “is no evidence to suggest homeopathic vaccinations can protect against contagious diseases. We recommend people seek out the conventional treatments.”
If even homeopaths recognize the ineffectiveness of nosodes, what the hell is Health Canada thinking? This organization is becoming a national embarrassment.