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Tag Archives: Calgary

I haven’t posted in some time. It hasn’t been because I haven’t anything to say, but because I have starte actually saying it. My brother B and I had been wanting to start up a podcast for some time, but with the arrival of my niece and nephew things got put on the back burner. I didn’t want to start things up on my own, but when a new homeopathy store opened up and started advertising on Facebook, I could no longer wait.

It was at this time that I put out a cattle all to my Center for Inquiry friends and was pleasantly surprised to receive numerous requests to be involved. We made our first recording a little after Xmas and we’re getting set to record our eighth episode tomorrow evening.

So what’s the podcast about? Well, the vision I have is quite broad. Essentially, it involves discussing topics anywhere that evidence-based thinking can be applied. This can involve public policy, woo woo, religion, science, education, etc. There are many great podcasts out there about atheism (The Non-Prophets, for example) or applied skepticism which exclude religious claims (e.g., The Skeptics Guide to the Universe), but almost none that make no distinction where critical thinking gets applied. (The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Skeptics with a K.)

As I like to say, I am an atheist for the same reason that I am a-reiki, a-homeopathic, a-yeti, or a-quantum healing. I see no difference in any of these claims or the requirements they need to meet before acceptance is justified. However, religion is a big component of the podcast for the simple reason that it pervades so much of society. I wouldn’t give a tinker’s damn about it except for one thing: Beliefs inform actions and believing in things without the requisite evidence often lead to harm, not to mention that it is an impoverished way of living. The universe is amazing enough without diminishing it by making up far less interesting stuff about it.

A case in point (which I would like to make into a podcast topic): a recent crime bill passed here in Canada increases prison time and takes funding away from programs which may help make inmates productive members of society when released. There is not one shred of evidence that increasing prison time makes society any safer or better off. Quite the opposite, in fact. But such thinking arises from and panders to an electorate with a religious conservative point of view that is demonstrably false. This is not how public policy should be created and does real harm to society.

The topics we discuss are as relevant to the Canadian prairies as possible (or at least nationally). There are already podcasts out there which ably cover the tribulations south of the 49th parallel. But topics which are of interst to everyone are covered as well, though we give them a decidedly local flavor.

In the first seven episodes we have talked about Xerion Homoeopathie (a Calgary purveyor of magic sugar pills) and their dissemination of anti-vaccination nonsense, the effectiveness so-called ‘liberation’ therapy as a proposed treatment of multiple sclerosis (which has a very high incidence in the prairie provinces), the absence of secular education in the town of Morinville (just north of Edmonton), and in the episode we are recording tomorrow we have an interview with rock star cosmologist Lawrence Krauss about science education and why the non-religious are labeled “strident” (or worse) just for daring to question religious claims. His new book A Universe From Nothing (which I guiltlessly plug here) is a great companion to the viral YouTube video of the same name.

Come visit us at the Legion of Reason and give us a listen, or you can find us on iTunes.


Finally. And we’re hoping to have a photo op set up Wednesday. We really wanted one for right when the first bus rolled out, but it seems that this was not possible. Cliff Erasmus, who spearheads the initiative, is being inundated with requests for interviews by the media.

Religious groups are planning a counter campaign, but just don’t get it obviously. The object was solely to demonstrate that atheism is a valid world view and deserves the same respect (more, in my opinion) that religious world views already enjoy. If my atheism and (more to the point) the open expression of my atheism offends anyone, I have just one thing to say: Deal. I have every right to my unbelief. I have every right to express my unbelief. I have every right to defend secularism in the public arena. I have every right to defend science and medicine from quacks and those whose sole agenda is to slip a fictitious deity into intellectual realms which have tirelessly sought to expel that same dogmatic nonsense.

Go Calgary!

We’re not sure if it will be Monday or Tuesday, but the ads are being made now and will be put on the buses this weekend. The message will be the same as for similar projects in other cities: “There’s probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the sheep begin! (C’mon! If you are offended by such a mild message, how strong can your faith at all be?)

I’ve blogged before on the ‘good bishop’ and his edict that the HPV vaccine Gardasil not be offered to students in Catholic schools. Only about 20% of these students had parents responsible enough to get their daughters vaccinated.

Many anti-vaccine nay-sayers out there point to adverse reactions and death. The CDC last year released the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)  report. The highlites include:

  • 13.5 million doses given in the US in 2006-2007;
  • < 8,000 adverse reactions (7% of which were considered serious, about half of what most other vaccines produce);
  • 15 deaths reported, 10 of which could be further investigated (NOTE: no link was found between HPV vaccination and death in ANY of these cases);
  • 31 reported cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a neurological condition that results in temporary but often total body paralysis (10 cases confirmed);
  • In Canada, 1,300 women will contract HPV this year and perpetually live in fear of developing cervical cancer;
  • 400 women will die from cervical cancer this year.

While the antivaccination nuts will focus on the truly tragic cases of GBS, what do they say to the many, many more who would have otherwise never developed cervical cancer? I have yet to hear an answer to this. There are risks associated with any medical procedure, including vaccination. Measles (MMR) vaccination has a GBS incidence of about 0.62 per 100,000 immunized children1 , and in both the HPV and MMR vaccination the risk of serious complication is far, far lower than the incidence of the diseases they are designed to prevent.

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Here we go again. From the local CTV affiliate….

HPV vaccine nixed in local Catholic schools

Updated: Wed Sep. 24 2008 22:53:00

The Calgary Catholic School District passed a motion Wednesday night to refuse to offer the HPV vaccine in its schools, making it the second school board in Alberta to do so.

Six out of seven board trustees voted in favour of opting out of giving the controversial vaccine to its grade five female students. The board says it’s following the Alberta Bishop’s spiritual guidance on the issue.

Last Friday Alberta Catholic School trustees met with one Bishop to talk about the vaccine which offers protection against sexually transmitted disease.

The Chair of the Calgary Catholic Board, Margaret Belcourt told CTV News parents will receive two letters, one from the Bishop stating his position and one from Alberta Health officials informing them about the vaccine.

‘The Bishop felt it was a moral issue and that might make schools, Catholic schools appear to be condoning pre-marital sex. We are saying, if parents felt that it’s a health issue and not a moral issue, then the parents can make that decision.’, says Belcourt.

The decision will affect grade five students in 83 schools within the Calgary Catholic School District.

The St.Thomas Aquinas school board near Edmonton is the first to refuse to offer the vaccine to its students.

CTV News spoke with Alberta Health officials Wednesday; they say any school board can opt out of providing the HPV vaccine.

Health officials are looking at other ways to make the vaccine available to students.

If someone would actually show me the data that HPV vaccinations promote premarital sex, I’d shut up. But then we’re dealing with an institution that recklessly claims (again without presenting any data whatsoever) that condoms are ineffective in the fight against AIDS. This is ONLY a health issue. Honestly, the only moral issue I see was created artificially by this demonstration of wanton disregard for their children’s health and welfare. I find it incomprehensible that the Catholic School Board would abrogate their responsibilities to the welfare of their wards because some bishop is worried how giving their students the HPV vaccination will look. I think they should be far more worried about how this needless risk-taking will appear to the public. Some trustees they are!

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