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Bill Nye the Science Guy vs Ken Ham the Young Earth Creationist

About 17 people in Ottawa got together for a group viewing of the Nye vs Ham debate. We ate bowtie pasta, pea soup with ham, black hole black bean dip, and we had a drinking game (using keywords like “kinds”, “creation”, “were you there”, mentions of numbers of years, etc).

Ham talked about how Christianity was crumbling because of people questioning the literal truths proclaimed in genesis. Nye talked about the scientific approach to knowledge used by people in “the outside world”. That one phrase encapsulates the brilliance of Nye`s approach. Someone like Dawkins would probably have used the phrase “the real world”, which both creationists and fence-sitters would have found insulting and demeaning. Nye’s term was rather more neutral (and also fed into the belief of many Christians that they are set apart as the people of God).

Here are the results of a poll from the UK evangelical Christian website, christiantoday.com

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Consensus in our group was also that Nye won. Ham preached sermons. Nye touched on Ham’s points somewhat, but for the most part he spent his time teaching science. He had a golden opportunity to reach a large audience of people who were anti-science and/or not scientifically literate, and he made the most of it.

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Free speech – good for 9/11 Truthers, but not atheists?

Ottawa buses are now carrying an ad produced by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Some people find it offensive, as they consider attaching ridiculous conspiracy theories to a terrible tragedy to be dishonoring of the dead. As a result, there are calls for a review of OC Transpo’s advertising policy. However, others are defending the ad on free-speech grounds:

Councillor Rainer Bloess…said he doesn’t subscribe to the “Re-think” group’s message but said he also thinks freedom of speech should be protected, within limits. “I do believe there’s nothing wrong with provoking a little thought in our residents,” said Bloess.

Hmmm. Four years ago, Councillor Bloess was among those voting against allowing the “There’s Probably No God” ads to run on Ottawa busses (Minutes here, search down for “MOTION NO. 62/10″).

Perhaps we should congratulate Bloess on his new-found wisdom.

(author: Steve Watson)

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Anti- AntiVaccination: The battle continues

#dropjenny: Tell ABC that Jenny McCarthy’s pseudoscience is not welcome on The View (@theviewtv)

Update 1: Ottawa public health reports a case of measles in an unimmunized child – the first since January 2011:

“The risk to the public is very limited,” said Dr. Lindy Samson, Chief of Infectious Diseases at CHEO. “Immunization is the best protection from measles. Everyone should ensure that their vaccines are up to date.”

The reported incidence of measles in Ottawa is very low as most of the population has been vaccinated. Despite the rarity of this disease in Ottawa, it is very important for all residents to keep their vaccinations up to date.

Update 2: Toronto public health weighs in, and provides an enlightening infographic.

In 1998 Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent paper linking autism to the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine. What followed was a growing movement of scared parents who began avoiding getting their kids vaccinated for fear that they would become autistic. For years scientists could not repeat the results found by Wakefield. Finally in 2004, Wakefield was found to have a conflict of interest in favour of finding a link between the vaccine and autism. In May of 2010, Andrew Wakefield was found guilty by the General Medical Council and was struck of the medical register and banned from practicing medicine. The rumour campaign against vaccines was picked up by Jenny McCarthy, an actress with no scientific or medical background. She became the mouthpiece for the supposed controversy, despite the fact that there was no scientific basis for any of the claims she made. Despite this, her fame allowed her greater publicity. She used her son’s supposed autism to gain sympathy, and to tug at the heartstrings of worried parents everywhere.

Hordes of new parents opted against vaccines. Not just the MMR, but others as well. Parents began sending pox pops to one another, and holding chicken pox parties. Adults who had previously had their vaccines, opted against getting their regular boosters. Since that time, the western world has seen a re-emergence of various diseases that before this time had been on their way to extinction: whooping cough, measles, mumps, and many more.  When confronted about their choice, many will answer:

“It’s my kids/my health, I’m not hurting anyone else”

But, the truth they don’t want to face is that it’s not themselves, or at least not just themselves, they are hurting. They are also hurting people whose immune systems have been compromised. People who have autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s or colitis, like lupus, diseases like HIV and AIDs, people on chemo or who have had an organ transplant, the elderly, and children. These are the people who will not only get sick, but are those most likely to suffer serious consequences like disability, even death as a result. They are the people who rely on group immunity: who for one reason or another could not get the vaccine. People who, even if they were vaccinated, may not have enough of an immune response to fight off the illness.

In February of 2013, the Ottawa Cancer Foundation invited Jenny McCarthy to paticipate in their “Bust A Move” fundraising drive.  The Ottawa Skeptics launched their #dropjenny campaign on twitter and social media, and as a result, the OCF cancelled McCarthy’s appearance.

Now,  ABC TV is looking to have Jenny McCarthy replace one of the hosts of the VIEW, which would give Jenny  a new platform from which to spout her dangerous anti-science and anti-medicine ideas.  It’s time to restart the #DropJenny campaign on twitter and help encourage ABC to reconsider their decision to give her a spot on their popular daytime TV show.

Help defend science, medicine, and reason, and those who cannot defend themselves. Tell @ABC @theviewtv to #DropJenny!

You can also sign a petition started by Voices for Vaccines here.

(More on the Ottawa #dropjenny campaign at Scribbles and Rants.)

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