EDMONTON (AB) — Regulation to ensure safety is a good goal, but Albertans should be concerned by the recent announcement by the Alberta Government regarding naturopathy. The July 25 release about the regulation and recognition of states, “… Albertans can be assured they are receiving safe, effective services from qualified professionals,” yet they refer to treatments that have been shown to be unsafe and ineffectual.
“The government is legitimizing forms of medicine that, after repeated studies, have not been shown to work — grounds to consider it ineffective medicine,” says Greater Edmonton Skeptics Society spokesperson Marc-Julien Objois.
Naturopathy largely consists of treatments that have not demonstrated efficacy in scientific trials. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a US government agency, has spent more than $2.5 billion researching these treatments, with only ginger showing efficacy — an expense not worth the return — yet treatments continue worldwide.
Moreover, while some treatments are outright harmful, even those not directly harmful often cause patients to forgo seeking proper treatment — potentially leading to serious harm or death.
Lending legitimacy to ineffective forms of treatment is not the right move for our government, and is bad for average Albertans trying to navigate the vast, often complicated field of healthcare. While true that many swear by these treatments, the impression that they work can be more psychological than physical. The placebo effect, combined with cognitive biases in both practitioners and patients, can all-too-easily lead people to the wrong conclusions. Our government has a duty to assist Albertans seeking care by promoting the right treatments. This announcement displays a concerning lack of judgement for the future of our healthcare.
“This could be a stepping stone to tax money going toward ineffective treatment.” Objois says. “It also increases the likelihood that Albertans will seek out ineffective treatments over effective ones.”
One aspect in particular that should be alarming is the naturopathic use of chelation therapy. The FDA’s research on the naturopathic / alternative use of chelation therapy is a chilling read when considered in the light of the Alberta Government’s apparent stance.
“There are serious safety issues associated with chelation products, which can alter the levels of certain substances in the blood,” the FDA says. “Even when used under medical supervision, these products can cause serious harm, including dehydration, kidney failure, and death.”
To help keep Albertans on the right track when it comes to healthcare, our government should take a more realistic, unbiased look at naturopathy and reconsider this action.
“We as a group hope to bring this to the attention of Albertans so they can inform themselves and contact their government officials.” Objois says, “The mere fact that the government of Alberta is legitimizing practices that seem ineffective should be of concern to Albertans. Citizens should be free to choose even ineffective medical practices, but our governing bodies should act in the best interest of the public.”
Get your skeptic and secular holiday spirit on at Snowed In, the official joint winter social hosted by the Greater Edmonton Skeptic Society, the Society of Edmonton Atheists, CFI Edmonton, and the University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics.
Swing by Accent Lounge on Friday, November 25, 2011 anytime after 8pm to mix and mingle with science enthusiasts, skeptical thinkers and atheists from all across Edmonton and the surrounding areas. Accent Lounge is providing us with food, wine and draft beer specials for the evening, and while there is no door charge to get into the event, we do encourage all attendees to bring Edmonton Food Bank items.
There will be a “photo booth” at Accent all night long with a box full of seasonal props, so come and get your holiday photo taken as a souvenir of the festivities for a loonie a photo. The premier entertainment for the evening will be the Trivializing Christmas Trivia Contest, the winner of which will earn the reward of picking a charity to receive all proceeds from the photo booth. We encourage all attendees to bring a cash donation at the door, and come ready to win for their charity of choice!
When: Friday, November 25, 2011
Where: Accent Lounge, 8223 – 104 Street
What Time: 8:00pm to Midnight
If you liked our SkeptiCamp, you’ll love LogiCON: a day-long all-ages event celebrating science and logic including presentations on alternative medicine, vaccinations, psychic abilities and other pseudosciences. Think critically about everyday life in workshops and discussions. LogiCON will take place on April 9th, 2011 at the Telus World of Science.
This event will feature a variety of speakers, with a keynote from Daniel Loxton, editor of Junior Skeptic.
LogiCON will be targeted to skeptics, kids, and the general public, and will feature workshops as well as talks. Check the LogiCON schedule for more information and a list of speakers / topics.
The event will be free to attend, but you must pay admission to the Telus World of Science. Register for LogiCON to reserve your free lunch before it fills up.
The first SkeptiCamp Alberta took place at the University of Alberta on July 24. Organized by a volunteer committee of the Greater Edmonton Skeptics Society, the inaugural SkeptiCamp Alberta was attended by over 50 local skeptics and critical thinkers who spent the day listening to talks presented by their peers on science and skeptical topics ranging from skeptical activism to myths about cell phone radiation. It was great to see both familiar and new faces in attendance.
One of the talks was from local University of Alberta professor Marc MacKenzie, who spoke about the myths and misunderstandings of cell phone and power line radiation. He shared the facts about how these pieces of technology work, what kinds of radiation they emit, how much, and cut through the media hype and misinformation to explain what the actual effects of these transmitters and receivers are.
Hans Machel, a geologist professor at the University of Alberta, used his expertise to deconstruct Young Earth Creationist claims such as the age of the Earth. He extended the talk to include another Biblical story which is sometimes taken to be literally true: Noah’s Ark. Dr. Machel also applied geology to claims made by proponents of crystal power.
Local Skeptically Speaking host Desiree Schell teamed up with Trevor Zimmerman to talk about skeptical activism and how to go about getting our voices heard and our points across in media and in politics. One of the more controversial topics that arose throughout the day was the idea of buying homeopathic remedies from local pharmacies or stores, and then returning them opened and demanding a refund when they don’t work. Some people thought this was a great way of pressuring businesses to remove ineffective cures from their shelves, but others questioned the integrity of such acts and thought it was unfair to target owners in the pocketbook.
There was also a panel conversation in response to Bad Astronomer Phil Plait’s controversial “don’t be a dick” TAM 8 talk on tone including local skeptics Brent Kelly, Marc-Julien Objois and Sean Ouimet which was led by Ryan Bromsgrove. Several points were brought up during this panel on attitude and tone that speak to both sides of the argument. How do you deal with hard-nosed believers who will interpret any tone — including genuinely polite ones — as attacks? Aren’t there some believers whose brains are impossible to logic our way into, and thus impossible to win over? How does peer-pressure work when it comes to believer versus skeptical thought, and how best should be use this to our advantage to change minds?
We would like to thank all of our excellent speakers who came prepared to present at SkeptiCamp: without your willingness to share your passion about science and critical thinking, this event couldn’t have been a success. Speakers included Mark MacKenzie, John Woolley, Hans Machel, Twyla Gill, Brian Dupuis, Brent Kelly, Michael Harrison, SkepDad Brad Salomons, Desiree Schell, Trevor Zimmerman, Ryan Bromsgrove, Marc-Julien Objois and Sean Ouimet.
We would also like to thank Reed Esau for creating and sharing the SkeptiCamp model, and Joe Anderson for sending us the SkeptiCamp banners. Their great SkeptiCamp Wiki resource that should be a first-stop for any skeptical group looking to organize a SkeptiCamp of their own.
A special thank you to those who donated money to fund SkeptiCamp Alberta, including Gordon Wolters and another local skeptic who prefers to remain anonymous: without your generous donation, we would not have been able to provide lunch free of charge, which allowed us to keep everyone on location and encourage networking and conversation.
A very special thank you goes out to the University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics, our partner for this event.
Thank you as well to all those who provided various pieces of equipment used throughout the day, including projectors and camera equipment from Redman Technologies and our ever talented photographer and videographer Marc-Julien Objois.
And finally, thank you to all who attended and made SkeptiCamp Alberta a success: without your interest, we wouldn’t have an event at all.
The second SkeptiCamp Alberta is tentatively being planned for March 2011, so stay tuned and start thinking about what you might want to talk about!
With Skepticamp Alberta nearly a week away we’re putting the final touches on some of our marketing and communication efforts. Please check back in the next few days for news regarding confirmed topics and speakers, presentation tips and revised details within our schedule, including the free lunch. Attendance is capped at 150, so please remember to RSVP.
Want to help us get the word out about Skepticamp? If so please feel free to print out the PDFs of any of the posters below for distribution around your office, school, local pharmacy, etc. We also suggest inviting friends, family, and your best-Twitter-or-Facebook-friends; this event is broad in focus and will appeal to anybody with an interest in science, critical thinking, or with any sort of skeptical inklings (even if they aren’t always so skeptical about some other things.)
*Speaking of helping out: the Skepticamp organizing team would like to thank Rachelle Saunders for putting together these fantastic posters.