Saturday, July 18, 2015

Scathing attack on anti-science curriculum at the U. of Toronto

Posted by Gil Ross @ the American Council on Science and Health Web Site

In a piece dripping with sardonic disgust, Toronto Globe and Mail columnist Tabatha Southey took on the new curriculum at the august University of Toronto recently. Entitled “Anti-vaccine course brings U of T one step closer to offering a masters of pseudoscience,” Ms. Southey takes note of the recently-released official report of the approval of a course called “Alternative Health: Practice and Theory,” to be taught (so to speak) by the well-known homeopath Beth Landau-Halpern.

On her website, Ms. Landau-Halpern makes this claim, or admission:

“I am a homeopath in Toronto and specialize in treating children with ADHD as well as their families. Homeopathy, combined with other natural approaches to ADHD, can help children surmount the limitations of this disorder and can help families with the inevitable stresses and strains of having an ADHD child — resulting in happier, healthier families.”

It should be noted that Canada’s main media outlet, CBC, did an exposé of five homeopaths who advised (undercover reporters posing as) young mothers with infants to choose homeopathic sugar pills instead of vaccines to prevent childhood infectious diseases: Landau-Halpern was one of them. Also possibly relevant: she is married to the dean of the UT – Scarborough campus.

The Southey column can’t be topped for incisive wit while skewering this moronic plan:

Perhaps institutions selling diplomas on the backs of matchbooks are feeling the crunch these days, what with everyone vaping, and University of Toronto, the place where stem cells and insulin were discovered, is determined to level the playing field.

That’s the most charitable spin I can put on the university’s just released report – a document that gives an all-clear, or at least all-clear-enough, to an anti-vaccine course taught by homeopath Beth Landau-Halpern at U of T’s Scarborough campus’s department of anthropology, as part of the health studies program offered there.

She adds that this course would “…attempt to explain why ‘meditation alone can … reduce the size of cancerous tumors,’ and that vaccines are dangerous – in part, according to Ms. Landau-Halpern, because illnesses are what make children grow bigger.

‘Normal childhood illnesses like measles and chickenpox are almost always followed by massive developmental spurts,’ [Landau-Halpern] wrote on the website for her homeopathic practice.’”

“I think this passage takes the cake — although it is a difficult choice:

‘Students were also required to watch a two-hour interview with the thoroughly discredited Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Citing the work of Dr. Wakefield – the data falsifier behind the entirely debunked autism/vaccination link – in a course that covers vaccine safety is like using Hitler’s diaries as the primary text for World War II in East-Central Europe. But not to worry, says [UT’s VP of research and innovation, Vivek] Goel, students taking the course were ‘in their final year of study.’ Offering that credit said, ‘You’re about to graduate with a degree in physics, but before you do, here’s a course on the invisible devils that pull us toward the earth.’”

“I’d say that after all these years and all the calumny heaped, richly-deserved, on Andrew Wakefield thanks to his fraud which led to a major decline in vaccination rates in the EU and here, who would have expected a university to offer advice from him on vaccine science, without apparent irony? The University of Toronto should be greatly ashamed and embarrassed.”

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