Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

Posts Tagged ‘Anti-vax’

RFT Ep 247 – Crimean War 2014 Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on March 25, 2014

Download the episode here! 


Don’s Harangue :


Don’s harangue  restated the argument against the anti-vax rhetoric and makes a case for the criminalization of such speech.


Crimean War 2014


We take another look the growing tension in the Ukraine as well as point out the similarities between the revolution in Kiev to that in Crimea. As well as making parallels to Putin’s claims to the Crimea and Hitler’s to the Sudetenland.


Web Wisdom

A Series of vids from CGP Grey explaining our electoral system and its limitations.

First, the ills of first past the post voting system we currently enjoy…

Pros and cons of First Past The Post

The case for The arguments against
It’s simple to understand and thus doesn’t cost much to administer and doesn’t alienate people who can’t count. Representatives can get elected on tiny amounts of public support as it does not matter by how much they win, only that they get more votes than other candidates.
It doesn’t take very long to count all the votes and work out who’s won, meaning results can be declared a handful of hours after polls close. It encourages tactical voting, as voters vote not for the candidate they most prefer, but against the candidate they most dislike.
The voter can clearly express a view on which party they think should form the next government. FPTP in effect wastes huge numbers of votes, as votes cast in a constituency for losing candidates, or for the winning candidate above the level they need to win that seat, count for nothing.
It tends to produce a two-party system which in turn tends to produce single-party governments, which don’t have to rely on support from other parties to pass legislation. FPTP severely restricts voter choice. Parties are coalitions of many different viewpoints. If the preferred-party candidate in your constituency has views with which you don’t agree, you don’t have a means of saying so at the ballot box.
It encourages ‘broad-church’ centrist policies. Rather than allocating seats in line with actual support, FPTP rewards parties with ‘lumpy’ support, i.e. with just enough votes to win in each particular area. Thus, losing 4,000 votes in one area can be a good idea if it means you pick up 400 votes in another. With smaller parties, this works in favour of those with centralised support.
. With relatively small constituency sizes, the way boundaries are drawn can have important effects on the election result, which encourages attempts at gerrymandering.
  Small constituencies also lead to a proliferation of safe seats, where the same party is all but guaranteed re-election at each election. This not only in effect disenfranchises a region’s voters, but it leads to these areas being ignored when it comes to framing policy.
  If large areas of the country are electoral deserts for a particular party, not only is the area ignored by that party, but also ambitious politicians from the area have to move away from their homeland if they want to have influence within their party.
  Because FPTP restricts a constituency’s choice of candidates, representation of minorities and women suffers from ‘most broadly acceptable candidate syndrome’, where the ‘safest’ looking candidate is the most likely to be offered a chance to stand for election
  Encouraging two-party politics can be an advantage, but in a multi-party culture, third parties with significant support can be greatly disadvantaged.

Gerrymandering explained, or why we really really cannot rely on FPTP voting


Definition: the dividing of a state, county, etc., into electiondistricts so as to give one political party a majority in many districts while concentrating the voting strength of the otherparty into as few districts as possible.

Origin: 1812,  Americanism; after E. Gerry (governor of Massachusetts,whose party redistricted the
state in 1812) + 
(sala)mander,  from the fancied resemblance of the map of Essex County, Mass., to this
animal, after the redistricting.

And that leads nicely into The Alternative Vote…

Pros and cons of the Alternative Vote

The case for AV The arguments against
All MPs would have the support of a majority of their voters. Following the 2010 General Election, two thirds of the MPs elected lacked majority support, the highest figure in British political history. AV is not proportional representation and in certain electoral conditions, such as landslides, can produce a more disproportional result than First Past the Post (FPTP)
It retains the same constituencies, meaning no need to redraw boundaries, and no overt erosion of the constituency-MP link. In close three-way races the “compromise” candidate could be defeated in the first round even though they may be more broadly acceptable to the electorate than the top two candidates.
It penalises extremist parties, who are unlikely to gain many second-preference votes. Lower preferences can potentially throw up a “lowest common denominator” winner without much positive support of their own.
It encourages candidates to chase second- and third-preferences, which lessens the need for negative campaigning (one doesn’t want to alienate the supporters of another candidate whose second preferences one wants) and rewards broad-church policies. A voting system that allows voters to rank candidates is prone to so-called ‘Donkey voting’, where voters vote for candidates in the order they appear on the ballot
It reduces the need for tactical voting. Electors can vote for their first-choice candidate without fear of wasting their vote.
It reduces the number of “safe seats” where the election result is a forgone conclusion

And of course perhaps the best alternative…Mixed-Member Proportional Representation

Find out more:


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Radio Freethinker Episode 209 – BC Beliefs Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on April 30, 2013


This week:
– Zipper hits 100,
– Rubber Ducking Fluoridation,

– Are state religions good for atheism
, and
– The Humanist Report – Polling BC’s Beliefs,

Download the episode here!


Zipper hits 100

zipper3Look between your legs and give a salute, the Zipper has its 100th birthday. We talk about its history, trivia and how it may be the most dangerous piece of clothing ever invented!

Find out more:

Rubber Ducking Fluoridation

Unholy_threeFluoridation is being attacked in Portland. We discuss the science and the fear-mongering around the issue. Is anti-fluoridation proponents using the same rubber duck tactics as the anti-vax movement?

Find out more:

Are state religions good for atheism

722184_525_380_wIts a paradox that nations like Norway have some of the highest church membership while simultaneously also have the highest number of atheist. One article proposed that atheist should not fight state religion but promote it, it worked in Norway…or did it?

We discuss the article and the paradox.

Find out more:

The Humanist Report – Polling BC’s Beliefs

Ian Bushfield from the BC Humanist Association drops by again to tell us the result the association got from polling it sponsored about the beliefs of BCers.


BC Secular Values BC Humanist Info Graphics bc-non-religious


Skeptic Highlights

Tubes and Exchanges: Discovering the Real Places of the Internet

Journalist Andrew Blum explores the Internet’s physical evolution over time and how centralized hubs called Internet Exchanges are making it faster and more affordable for everyone in the cities where they operate.

The talk is based upon his book “Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet” and he’s done a TED talk.

When: Thursday, MAY 02, 2013, 7 PM
Where: SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver
Cost: Free
Link: Register here

2013 B.C. Election: The Missing News

With the mainstream press increasingly preoccupied with the election horserace, it’s often left up to independent and alternative media organizations to tell the real stories and cover the real issues. This is especially true in BC, where our corporate media landscape is one of the most highly concentrated in the country. What can our province’s independent media outlets offer and what role will they play once the writ drops on April 16?

Panel discussion featuring the Wilderness Committee’s Gwen Barlee, Newswatch Canada’s Bob Hackett,’s Jarrah Hodge, and’s Derrick O’Keefe.

When: Friday, MAY 03, 2013, 7pm
Where: SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver, Vancouver
Cost: Free
Link: Register here

BC Humanist Association

Donate and join

Link: here

Imagine no Religion 3

The annual atheist skeptic conference in Kamloops is happening this May. It features a line up of speakers including Dan Dennett, Richard Carrier, Chris DiCarlo, Taslima Nasreen and more. I encourage you to register now.

When: May 17 to 19
Where: Kamloops Coast Hotel and Convention Centre, Kamloops
Cost: $349.00
LinkEvent Link Here

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The Case for Censoring the Anti-Vax Movement

Posted by Don McLenaghen on March 15, 2013


Okay, now I have been in some lively discussions about my push to censor the Anti-Vax movement because of the health dangers they pose to the community. I have equated them to yelling Fire in a crowded theater, but perhaps that was not the best analogy.

First, when I say directly responsible, some may confuse direct with proximal…or immediate cause. I am not saying that a speaker at this conference are going out and killing babies with their hands…and that is why the fire analogy was a poor choice on my part.

But I still claim, at least for some, a direct causal link from their talk to the deaths of children.  I think a better analogy is hate-speech…perhaps comparing them to Holocaust deniers would be, if not equivalent in magnitude, similar in form.

So, hate-speech works on the principle if a person says something that is demonstrably false, which actually or likely will inspire others to act, that because of these actions a group of vulnerable people will suffer.

Do they fit this bill? Yes and no.

Can you guess which one was vaccinated?

Can you guess which one was vaccinated?

These speakers are talking to a group of people who will, by not getting their children vaccinated, directly result in the suffering and possible death of their children and put others at risk in the community. I think there is a direct link, but is what they are saying demonstrably false?

First, the idea they truly believe it is not a defence. I suspect many a racist has a firm and honest belief in the inferiority of other races.

Is what they are saying demonstrably false…to the point any reasonable person would know so? And I accept the onus is on me and it’s a high bar I must reach.

To answer this question, I checked out what they are going to talk about. The topics include: Vaccines cause Autism, Heavy Metal poisoning from vaccines, Vaccines are unphysiological, Disease (at least the measles) is good for building the immune system, and Aluminum builds up in the body causing brain damage.

Life before vaccination

Life before vaccination

So, willful ignorance causing suffering and death….The claim that vaccines cause autism has been researched extensively by groups both in the ‘big Pharma’ camp and out. Statistical analysis shows NO link, every mechanism claimed by the anti-Vax movement has been debunked. This is a lie, and they know it or should know it.

Heavy Metal poisoning from vaccines? Well, it’s true you can be poisoned by heavy metals in sufficient quantities. The heavy metal they are referencing is Aluminum.

First, it’s not aluminum proper but aluminum hydroxide…think of the difference between rust and steel.

AntiVaccineFraudThere is no evidence that it is toxic in the blood stream, there is very controversial evidence that when applied directly to brain cells there is a toxic effect, but one could say that if you applied salt directly to a brain cell it would have adverse effects.

Some dubious studies show a correlation between aluminum build up and Alzheimer’s but this is no longer seen as likely.

That said, the amount of aluminum required for this to be a factor is orders of magnitudes greater than that found in all the vaccinations a child is exposed to.

Again, willfully false.

They also try to discredit vaccinations with ‘research’ proportion “The whole basis for vaccinations is unphysiological. The vast majority of infections enter the body through the nasal passages & Gastro-Intestinal Tract.”

nandsTrying to make the case that it does not target the right area therefore cannot illicit an good immune response and that by injecting directly into the muscle you are poisoning the brain with aluminum and actually giving the disease to the child by circumventing that “80% of the body’s immune system is situated at these junctures”.

To be fair this is so much Gish-Galloping and plopping down of disconnected comments, claims and circular referencing it’s hard to condemn this as anything other than paranoid ranting.

Table 1 The impact of vaccines on disease burden in the US[1]


Max. no. cases


Cases in 2001

Reduction in disease (%)

































Haemophilus influenzae type-b





Still, willful or at least dangerously delusional.

Just to give an idea of how out there this group is, they are propagating the conspiracy that AIDS was created and distributed by the World Health Organization as part of some United Nations plot. Their comments quote research into the H1N1 vaccine….well let me quote:

Some of the crazy anti-vax propaganda

Some of the crazy anti-vax propaganda

Documents “implicating the CDC, WHO, numerous Vaccine manufacturers along with Government Agencies in collusion with The Rockefeller Trust, Rupert Murdoch & other Media, Real Estate & Medical Industry moguls – in a genocidal plot to use vaccines, in particular the H1N1 flu vaccine as a bio-weapon to deliberately sicken & depopulate the planet”

It is ironic that they are ignoring some real issues about vaccination that are important. The possible link discovered between the H1N1 vaccines and people with a genetic predisposition to narcolepsy. The idea that mandatory flu vaccinations can be only 60-70% effective.

The idea of doing clinical trials on which vaccines and methods work best; at present this cannot be done because it’s deemed unethical to deny a patient the ‘best treatment of the time’.

bfw_530This is equivalent to a hate group that is causing real harm and deaths. There is no sense of responsibility and they are willfully propagating falsehoods and lies.

They, at least this particular group, should be banned from public speech, vilified by society, most notably in this case at SFU. If this was Ernest Zundle, I doubt SFU would allow his rant nor hide behind free speech rights to defend it.

Free speech should only be denied in rare and extreme cases…I believe this is one of those cases.

Further Reading – The Good:

The Bad:

And the Criminal:

[1] ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LIFE SCIENCES & 2007, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

How vaccines work

From Jenner to Wakefield: The long shadow of the anti-vaccination movement

Posted in Don's Blogs | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Radio Freethinker Episode 202 – Stompin’ Tom Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on March 12, 2013


This week:
– Stompin’ Tom Connors,

– Censoring the Vaccine Awareness Network,and
– Atheist Churches?

Download the episode here!


Stompin’ Tom Connors

imageStompin’ Tom Connors is a Canadian icon, a true patriot, and a musical ambassador for our great nation. His contributions to Canadian culture, patriotism, and international goodwill on behalf of Canada are of great significance to Canadians at home and abroad. We discuss the man and his legacy.

Find out more:

 Censoring the Vaccine Awareness Network

hatespeech-WDon makes his case that the Anti-Vax-ers or at least the Vaccine Awareness Network should be banned from the public forum for community health reasons. Censorship should be rare and require a high-bar, but he thinks they reach it.

Find out more:

Further Reading – The good:

The Bad:

And the criminal:

Atheist Churches

Web-Banner-2What are there, why are they and what does it mean to the atheist/skeptic community?

Find out more:


Skeptical Highlights:

Distinguished Neuroethics Lecture

Scott Kim, associate professor of psychitry and the co-director for the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan, will talk about the ethics of research with impaired adults who cannot consent.

When: March 13, 2013 @ 4:00

Where: Brain Research Centre @ UBC – Vancouver

Cost: Free

Provincial Elections

Get your civics on and get a job making democracy work. The provinical election is coming up and Elections BC is hiring Elections officers, clerks, supervisors and information helpers. Its at least one day, good pay and you can say you did your part keeping what shreds of democracy we have left alive.


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Radio Freethinker Episode 189 – The End of Coffee Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on November 13, 2012

This week:
– Coffee plant soon to be extinct,
– Talking Elephants, 

– Tyson find Superman’s home planet,
– Autism ‘links’ to the flu
– Mandatory Flu Vaccination – why doctors resist

Download the episode here!

Coffee plant soon to be extinct

According to scientist, coffee in the ‘wild’ will be extinct before the century is out. Its human destruction of habitat and climate change to blame. What impact will this have on our cup-of-Joe at the bux? Hint: did you know the commercial banana went extinct 100 years ago but we had the wild variety to ‘re-create’ a new commercial crop.

Find out more:

Talking Elephants

We respond to reports about a Korean Elephant that has learnt to ‘talk’ to its trainers. We compare this to other reports of talking animals and the idea that ‘this class’ of animal can ‘communicate’ as we do at all. What does ‘communicate’ even mean to an ‘alien’ species…like an elephant or whale?

Find out more:

Tyson find Superman’s home planet

When DC comics ask Neil De Grass Tyson to do a cameo in an upcoming edition of Superman, little did they realize they would be getting a big side order of science to go in as well. Listen to find out where Kryton really could have been.

Find out more:

Autism ‘links’ to the flu

In the past, we have talked about how major news agencies often misrepresent science. We have talked about how Autism discussion in the media often parrot the ‘anti-vax’ position as ‘fair and balanced’. This week we talk about a report in NBC that got most of it right. Science was hyped but in the end it trashed the Anti-vax position about vaccination and urged pregnant women to get the flu shot.

Find out more:

Mandatory Flu Vaccination – why doctors resist

It is flu season again and the usual push to get every one, especially vulnerable groups, vaccinated. Doesn’t vaccination give permanent immunity? Then why an annual shot? How do the great the vaccine and is it effective? We answer these question and more with the help of special guest Dr. Rob Tarzwell.

We also talk to Rob about the apparent paradox as to why the most medically informed population (health care providers) seem to be so reluctant to get the annual flu shot. We confront the recent announcement that flu vaccination will become mandatory for healthcare providers and how the medical community is responding to this announcement.

Find out more:

Skeptical Highlights:

Philosophers’ Café

Fear as a tool for governance? For repression? For entertainment?

On an individual level we tend to seek out fear. One just needs to look at the success of writers such as Stephen King and the plethora of “scary movies”. On a societal or collective level, fear may have remained a constant tool in the hands of the powerful. Has fear become a crucial element in our Faustian quest for security?

Date: Monday, Nov 19, 2012, 7:30 pm

Location: Caffe Amici, Commercial Drive at Kitchener, Vancouver

Admission: Free

Moderator: Zahid Makhdoom speaks and writes extensively on the issues of justice, peace and human rights, and is currently engaged as a humble public servant.

If plants are sentient beings, should we eat them?

Recent discoveries indicate that plants may be as sentient as other natural beings. If a plant can feel and has some form of consciousness, should we still eat them? How should vegetarians respond to this notion?

Date: Wednesday, Nov 14, 2012, 7 pm

Location: Nature’s Garden Organic Deli, University High Street, Burnaby

Admission: Free

Moderator: Jason Carreiro,  a PhD candidate and instructor in philosophical and social issues in education at Simon Fraser University.

It’s the end of the Universe and I feel fine

Staff Astronomer, Raminder Samra will guide the audience on an tour of how astronomers believe that one day the Earth will meet its end — starting from the Big Bang, then progressing to the formation of our Solar System, and finally, to how our Earth will end and what is to be expected to happen to our Universe in the far future.

Date: Saturday, Nov 17, 2012, 8 pm

Location: H.R. MacMillan Space Centre

Admission: by donation

Moderator: Raminder Samra — UBC graduate student of astronomy and astrophysics.

Café Inquiry: How to do Cold Readings

Saturday, November 17, 2012
SFU Harbour Centre Room 2290 (West Fraser Timber Conference Room)

Café Inquiry is a monthly casual discussion group run by CFI Vancouver. Come along and enjoy afternoon tea and stimulating discussion with fellow freethinkers on a variety of topics.

Our presenter, Michael Glenister, is a both a professional magician and a high school science and mathematics teacher.This months Café is on how to do cold readings. Cold reading is a series of techniques used by magicians, illusionists and so called psychics or fortune-tellers to determine or express details about another person, often in order to convince them that the reader knows much more about a subject than they actually do. It is a common practice by “psychics” to convince people of their supernatural powers.

Check out the FaceBook Event

Science of Harm Reduction Drug Policy by Dr. Thomas Kerr

Friday, November 30, 2012
Room A102 of Buchanan Building, Block A, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver

Dr. Thomas Kerr is Co-Director of the Urban Health Research Initiative at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), and an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of AIDS at the University of British Columbia.

Harm reduction drug policy has become a politically polarizing issue, which often leaves the science behind the rhetoric. With recent court challenges over Vancouver’s safe injection site, Insite; society must become scientifically informed on what strategies are effective in treating addiction and improving public health.

This talk will take place in room A102 of Buchanan building block A at UBC. There is a suggested donation of $5 to $10.

Check out the FaceBook Event

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Radio Freethinker Episode 184 – Free Speech Hypocrisy Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on October 2, 2012

This week:

– Poor data from voluntary census,
– Funding cuts and beef recall,
– The almost Montreal Yom Kippur controversy
– The sometimes hypocrisy of free speech
– Narcolepsy and the Flu
, and
– Our review of the 2012 Ig Noble Prizes

Download the episode here!

Poor data from voluntary census

We discuss new data from StatsCan on the 2010 Canadian census shows communities of need are under represented in the data. We predicted this when the Conservative government arbitration decreed that the mandatory census become voluntary in spite of the vocal resistance from the head of StatsCan, social scientist and the majority of Canadian population.

Find out more:

Funding cuts and beef recall

We briefly talk about the potentially deadly delay of Canadian Food Inspection Agency at issuing a recall on beef products in the light of US officially issuing a recall weeks prior. We ask the question – to what degree are spending cuts responsible?

Find out more:

The almost Montreal Yom Kippur controversy

A potential controversy about religious accommodation in Montreal was averted but a lack of business. When a city counsellor raised the question that Montreal citizens would be better serves if city council did not adjourn for Yom Kippur but simply allow members to be excused for religious observance they were criticize as anti-Semitic. The meeting in question finished its agenda prior to the start of the Jewish holiday so the controversy was averted.

Ethan asks the question though if Quebec and Montreal are a secular governments  to what degree should they provide religious accommodation for beliefs?

Find out more:

The sometimes hypocrisy of free speech

Don brings up an article he read at by William Saletan which was inspired by the resent global uproar over the Innocence of Islam vid on YouTube. The article presented a binary choice between free speech and hate laws.

We discussed the logical fallacy of this opposition, the difference between offensive and hate speech, and the social context that leads to the inconsistent way hate speech is legislated around the world. We talk about how German’s history has resulted in a larger set of ‘speech crimes’, why blasphemy law are not intended to curb hate but promote social agendas and how Canada’s own Oakes Test provides a mechanism define the board between free speech and hate crime.

Find out more:

Narcolepsy and the Flu

Since early 2011 there has been a known correlation between the H1N1 vaccine and narcolepsy  used during the Swine Flu Pandemic used in some countries in 2009-10. We discuss how this case may be an excellent example of correlation NOT being causation as a link between genetics and respiratory infection (the flu) seems to be the cause according to recent research published on an H1N1 out break in China.

We point out the need to be informed and ‘on top of the issue’ because the possible manipulation of this incident by the Anti-Vax movement. Reference: Fatality of H1N1 0.03% – odds of Narcolepsy 0.004%

Find out more:

Our review of the 2012 Ig Noble Prizes

The Ig Noble prizes are awarded to scientific research that ‘first makes you laugh, then makes you think’. We give you are take on this years winners.


  • PSYCHOLOGY – Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller”
  • PEACE – converting old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.
  • ACOUSTICS – SpeechJammer — a machine that disrupts a person’s speech, by making them hear their own spoken words at a very slight delay.
  • NEUROSCIENCE – demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.
  • CHEMISTRY – the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden, people’s hair turned green. – It was copper
  • LITERATURE – a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.
  • PHYSICS – calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.
  • FLUID DYNAMICS – studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee
  • ANATOMY – discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.
  • MEDICINE – advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.

Skeptical Highlights:

Face Blindness

Prosopagnosia, also called face blindness, is a disorder of face perception where the ability to recognize faces is impaired, while the ability to recognize other objects may be relatively intact.Don recently took several face blindness test and discovered that he can see ‘generic’ faces quite well but confirmed what he already knew; he has extreme difficulty recognizing particular faces (lowest percentile).
Check your self out here, and find out more here.

Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves
A new book about Thomas Jefferson, was Jefferson a benevolent slave owner? Not according to this book. It alleges that generations of historians had been covering up Jefferson’s dark side: he wasn’t the lenient, soft-hearted, reluctant slave owner that he’d been made out to be.
The book by Henry Wiencek is available nowsounds interesting.

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Radio Freethinker Episode 176 – Olympic Cyborg Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on July 31, 2012

This week:

– Olympic Cyborg Sprinter,

– Olympic Measles Pandemic?,

– Politics, Religion and Economics at the Olympics, and

– Naturopaths conquer Alberta

Download the episode here!


Olympic Cyborg Sprinter,

For the first time in Olympic history a cyborg…part human part machine…will competing at the Olympics. Or put another way, for the first time in Olympic history a disabled sprinter will compete in the regular Olympics with the aid of prosthetics legs. Good or bad?

Find out more:

Olympic Measles Pandemic?

The recent front page of the Georgia Straight warns Canadians about the imminent and probably deadly threat to our lives from the nuclear fallow from the Fukushima reactor accident arriving in the form of radioactive fish. Don takes a critical eye to this story and exposed its bias and unscientific slant.  

Find out more:

Politics, Religion and Economics at the Olympics

Saudi Arabia is sending women for the first time to the Olympics, but may pull out because the women will not be able to compete with their traditional hijab.
Lebanese athletes refuse to train in the same area as Israeli athletes because of the ‘crimes’ Israel has done to Lebanon.
London seems dressed down compared to the Queen’s jubilee thanks to the sponsorship police, who has ensured NO one but sponsors are allowed to ‘raise the rings’.

We discuss these issues and whether the Olympics should be above these topics or used as a means of global communications on issues.

Find out more:

Naturopaths conquer Alberta

We discuss the recent decision by the Alberta Ministry of Health to give the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta the same regulator, accreditation and self-governance powers as College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta. Thus providing Naturopaths the same legitimacy as real doctors.
Find out more:

Skeptical Highlights:

SO you want to be an Astrobiologist!

The University of Edinburgh is offering a free online five week course called “Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life”

Over two thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks wondered if other worlds were habitable. In the coming years this question will be experimentally tested. This course is an introduction to astrobiology. It explores the origin and evolution of life on the Earth and its potential to exist elsewhere. Astrobiology addresses compelling questions of wide interest such as: How did life originate on the Earth? Is this an inevitable process and is life common across the Universe? Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary science that bridges fields as diverse as astrophysics, biology, geosciences and chemistry.

In this course one will explore what we know about life’s ability to live in extreme environments on the Earth…look at different hypotheses for how it originated. You will look at some of the missions to search for life in our own Solar System and on planets orbiting distant stars. Discuss some of the extreme environments on the Earth that help us understand the limits of life and how life has adapted to cope with extremes. Explore the possibility of intelligent alien life and some of the implications of its detection. The course will provide a foundation in astrobiology and introduce students to concepts in a diversity of scientific fields.

Have I got you hooked? Well, you can sign up now but you will have some time to do prep work; classes start in Jan 2013. Assuming we survive the Mayan apocalypse of course.

Google Labs

Google has set up an exhibitionist in the Science Museum in London. In true Google style it was not intent to have a ‘traditional’ display so they have combined the exhibition with Google Chrome to launch Google Web Lab. Where virtual visitors from around the world will be able to interact with the displays and perform 5 different experiments from the comfort of home. The exhibit includes: Universal Orchestra, Data Tracer, Sketchbots, Teleporter, and Lab Tag Explorer.

Google’s Web Lab website

NASA’s Curiosity rover will land on Aug. 5

Plan a landing party and enjoy what NASA is calling the most frightening 7 minutes in space exploration history.

Humanists in the Pride Parade

Join the BCHA for its third year marching in the Vancouver Pride Parade. For the past three years the BC Humanists have invited all local humanists, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and other freethinkers to march in the Vancouver Pride Parade. This year we hope to have a bigger and more fabulous entry than ever!

DETAILS — Marchers should plan to arrive by 12:30 PM. Our staging area is designated EN4 and will be on the North side of Robson Street between Burrard and Thurlow. You can only enter the staging area from Burrard Street. Please plan on walking/biking/transiting downtown as there is very limited parking and many road closures..

Humanists in the Pride Parade

Cafe Inquiry: Limits to Growth

Café Inquiry is a monthly casual discussion group run by CFI Vancouver. Come along and enjoy morning tea and stimulating discussion with fellow freethinkers on a variety of topics. Our speaker is Patrick Walden, and will discuss are there limits to growth, and will our endless drive to continually expand hit a wall? Will our civilization collapse in the 21st century? Pat Walden is a research scientist at TRIUMF Cyclotron laboratory at UBC.
Saturday August 18th at 11am at SFU Harbour centre (room tba)

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Radio Freethinker Episode 161 – Budget Busting Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on April 10, 2012

This week:

–       Largest feathered dinosaur discovered,

–       Donald Trump promoting the anti-vax movement,

–       Passover myths,

–       Cuts to the CBC and

–       How budget austerity hurts skepticism.

Download the episode here!


Paleontologist get their feathers ruffled in a big way!

Ethan takes umbrage at a recent story about the discovery of the largest feathered dinosaur. We talk about how poor science reporting clouds people’s understanding of real science. We also talk about the where and what was discovered and it’s implications.

Find out more:


Trump trumpets anti-vaxism

We talk about the recent verbal diarrhea from professional celebrity Donald Trump where he parrots the bad “science” of the anti-vax movement. We briefly debunk his claims and talk about the added ethical responsibilities of celebrities to ensure they do not harm their followers/fans by what they say.

Find out more:

Passover myths

Don uses the current ‘holiday’ celebration to revisit some of the cultural myths of Passover. We talk about did slaves build the pyramids, where the Jews/Israelites enslaved as a people in Egypt and lastly was the bible god as sadistic to Pharaoh as popular culture (South Park) leads us to believe.

Find out more:

CBC helps promote skepticism

We talk about how the recent budget cuts to the CBC will affect the skeptical community. We also discuss how important it is to skepticism to have a independent news/educational station in Canada.

Find out more:

How austerity in the Harper budget hurts skepticism

We talk about how the recent budget cuts to health, safety and regulatory agencies will affect the skeptical community. We also discuss how important it is to skepticism to have a government…and the agencies that make it up…we can trust. How in cutting funding to things like product/nutritional labeling enforcement makes it harder to have confidence in our food as well as providing fodder to “woo” conspiracy type.

Find out more:

Skeptical Highlights:

StatsCan making more data free and online.

In February, Statistics Canada made access to most of its data free, eliminating the previous charge of $3 plus HST for every series.

To let your inner geek or outer cynic free in the data head to CanSim were the data and a tutorial on how to use the site can be found.


Tracking food fraud

Now that the government has abdicated its responsibility to police food labeling, I found a site that may help. It’s a database created by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), a non-profit scientific organization that develops standards to help ensure the identity, quality and purity of food ingredients, dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals. The Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) compendium is a new database which provides baseline information to assist interested parties in assessing the risks of specific products. It includes a total of 1,305 records from scholars, media and the public. The vast majority though, 1,054, are from scholarly research.


Debating euthanasia

CFI Vancouver presents Dying With Dignity debate – featuring Wanda Morrisd

Executive Director of the Dying With Dignity foundation and in opposition to the notion of dying with dignity Dr. Will Johnston, Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, BC.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

7pm at Fletcher Theatre at Harbour Centre, Simon Fraser University

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