Georgian cancels homeopathy plans!
Last month we told you about plans to include a homeopathy program at Georgian College. Evidently there were many others who shared our concern. Enough that Georgian College bowed to public pressure and cancelled the program. You can read more about it here. Only by combining our voices will we influence public opinion enough to change practice.
Thank you to everyone who lends their voice to CFIC.
Me Too:
As an organization committed to humanism, CFI Canada condemns sexual abuse and harassment in all its forms.  Many of you are aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct recently brought against physicist Lawrence Krauss ( https://www.buzzfeed.com/peteraldhous/lawrence-krauss-sexual-harassment-allegations ). 
Lawrence Krauss has been a guest speaker at a number of events that CFI Canada has presented and/or sponsored. CFI Canada is not aware of any unresolved incidents of sexual misconduct or other forms of harassment (sexual or otherwise) that have taken place at any events that CFIC has presented or sponsored. That being said, we would like to invite anyone who has experienced harassment or abuse at any of our events to let us know, with the assurance that confidentiality will be protected.   CFIC staff and volunteers are committed to the terms laid out in our Code of Conduct ( http://centreforinquiry.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Centre-For-Inquiry-Canada-Code-of-Conduct_nov2016.pdf )
Thanks to our subscribers who wrote in after our interim publication in which we first acknowledged the link between #metoo and CFIC. We received a scathing criticism from one reader who believes that the reports are unsubstantiated rumors and allegations that do not bear repeating and from one reader who felt we were protecting a perpetrator of sexual harassment. We also received a letter thanking us for confronting today’s realities head on. (Regardless of the opinion, CFIC always wants to hear from our readers.)

CFIC’s Board of Directors is strongly in support of feminism. We are appalled when we learn of misogyny within our ranks or associated with the secular or skeptic communities to which we belong. We recognize that the “me too” movement will be a catalyst for broad changes which will improve the safety, opportunity and lives of women and girls.
As an organization committed to education in rationalism and critical thinking, CFIC believes that for all controversial issues, respectful dialogue is the key to exploring our differences and understanding what is happening in society.  We would like to offer an opportunity for people to discuss questions regarding:

  • the rationale behind CFI Canada’s position on #metoo in general and Lawrence Krauss in particular
  •  how to address the prevalent culture of misogyny in the world in general and in the humanist/atheist/skeptic movement in particular
  • how best to prevent harassment, and how best to respond if/when it happens
We do acknowledge that our members have diverse views on the matter, and we will be taking steps to ensure that the dialogue remains respectful, even in the face of disagreement.  Please visit our website discussion and tell us what you think.
See also:

Branch Events
CFIC Volunteers welcome!

All of our branches are volunteer driven and constantly on the look out for great new volunteers to join their team. If you have some time and energy to spare and wonder where you might be of use, please check in with us at: Info@centreforinquiry.ca

CFIC Toronto is going to be very active in 2018 and are looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help put on events and expand the reach of their terrific community.
If you have a few hours a week and are looking to be more involved with spreading the critical thinking and secularism, CFI Toronto needs you. The following roles are available:
* Hosting book talks and lectures
* Working with University groups
* Posting on Social Media
* Designing creative campaigns and merchandise
If you would like to get more involved, please email toronto@centreforinquiry.ca to get started! Let them know what area you would like to help out in.

CFI Canada is looking for someone to take over the position of Halifax branch manager, as the current branch manager, Shawn, leaves to focus his energies with another non-profit. This is a fantastic opportunity for a skeptically-minded individual to become a key volunteer with one of Canada's premiere skeptical and secular organizations. Shawn is available to answer questions from any interested parties and to ease the transition. For more information, contact halifax@cficanada.ca .

Congratulations Victoria:
Congratulations to CFI Victoria. Their membership is slowly but steadily increasing. They are only 9 months old and already have a reach of 93 people. Welcome to each of you!
Research before you Research - Predatory Journals

As an amateur skeptic, I have viewed the content of Facebook pages and Internet publications with a solid level of skepticism. I have scorned people who retweet or share obviously bogus news and attempted to do my own on-line research, to confirm or refute suspect claims. However, I now believe that in many cases I have been duped by information in what I believed to be reputable journals.

Quick quiz:
Which of the following is a reputable source of information?

Please keep reading for the answer.

Jeffrey Beall is a librarian and an associate Professor at the University of Colorado. Beall became concerned about the low quality of articles published in open access journals. An open access journal is a journal that is available to readers on-line at no cost. In other words, the journals that I typically use to research information. As a result, in 2010, Beall began to publish Beall’s List, a list of predatory publishers.

“Predatory publishers” are journals that charge scientists a fee to publish their research papers, and that do not peer review these articles prior to publication. Unfortunately, Beall removed his list in 2017 without explanation; which, has led to seemingly unsubstantiated rumors about the reasons for its removal. Thankfully, archived and cached copies still exist. A new website, Stop Predatory Journals has extracted an archived copy of Beall’s list and will be updating the list. Stop predatory journals claims that Beall removed his list due to harassment and threats, and, as a result, the new site will maintain the anonymity of contributors.

CFIC science chair Blythe Nilson confirms the need to confirm the legitimacy of journal articles before quoting them. She acknowledges that while it is relatively easy for a scientist to identify the journals that are legitimate in their field, this is much more difficult for a lay person. She offers the following suggestions for people questioning the legitimacy of a journal article:
1.        Check an archived version of Beall’s List – if it’s there, its predatory
2.        Check a “white list” of reputable journals such as PubMed or Web of Science .
3.        Google the journal name with “scam” in your search engine and see what comes up.

Think, Check, Submit also offers the following red flags:
* Many journals all starting up at the same time with few to no issues out;
* Journals with titles indicating an excessively broad mandate (e.g. The International Journal of
Business, Humanities and Technology)
* Inconsistent formatting of author names and/or titles; a suspicious number of spelling and/or
grammatical errors;
* Mismatch between the location in the journal title and where the journal is based. Or journal titles
indicating they are international but the entire editorial board is located in a single country;
* Promise of a suspiciously short turnaround time for papers submitted to its journals. A peer review
typically takes many months.
Dr. Nilson adds to watch out for journals that charge to publish or promise to publish pretty much anything.

Back to our quiz. It was a bit of a trick question. All of these journals are listed on Beall’s list and believed to be predatory in nature. It seems that we need to do research on where we do our research if we want to accurately check facts. And CFIC strongly encourages fact checking to ensure that the skeptics don’t become part of the fake news problem.
Can Canadian Newspapers be Saved by Philanthropy?
It seems that in the era of Twitter, Facebook and on-line media, our most traditional source of news, the old-fashioned newspaper is on the decline. The 2018 Federal budget (Chapter 4 ) signals the need for government intervention to ensure the survival of unbiased, factual reporting. The budget proposed a 5-year, $50 million investment beginning in 2018-19 to support local journalism in underserved communities. Additionally, the government will be considering models that will enable Canadian newspapers to receive charitable status for providing non-profit journalism.  CFIC applauds all efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of news in Canada.
Science in the News
News Headlines Promise Too Much
 When is a true story, not quite true? Sometimes a news story, which contains true information may lead people to incorrect conclusions. This is especially true when the story offers an easy solution to a complex problem. CFIC would like to see writing that does not hold out false hope.

One area that this is particularly true is in the fight to cure cancer. Anyone with a loved one suffering with cancer is forever vigilant for news of a cure. And many of these cures are clearly hoaxes.
However, when I heard about nanorobots that shrank tumors by cutting off their blood supply, I dug a little deeper. I found that the article A DNA nanorobot functions as a cancer therapeutic in response to a molecular trigger in vivo was published in “Nature Biotechnology” which did not appear on Beall’s list. So far, so good!

However, another consultation with CFIC Science Chair provided a less optimistic result. Dr. Nilson confirms that a large amount of work has been done in this field (nanorobotics) in the last ten years, however these highly technical “magic bullets” (magic bots?) require years of human safety trials and are generally unlikely to get early approval for use. So, while the research continues and offers long term hope, it is just too early to believe that this will be the solution for people currently experiencing a Cancer diagnosis.
Vaccines and autism – the lie that never goes away
It is fascinating how widespread the anti-vaccination movement is, given that it is entirely based on a single, very flawed research article published in 1998 which was later retracted by the journal that published it. Since 1998, the question of a potential link between vaccination and autism has been studied countless times with not a single piece of evidence to support this link. Despite this, 20 years later, many parents are still opting out of having their children vaccinated. 

In Europe, this has become a very serious issue as the incidence of measles almost quadrupled in 2017 with 21,000 cases.

In Texas, the situation is even more frightening. The author of that original flawed journal article, Andrew Wakefield, resides in Texas and is leading a campaign to make “vaccination by choice” a key issue in the upcoming Republican Primary in Houston.   https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/26/texas-vaccinations-safety-andrew-wakefield-fear-elections

Is it time to stop reading health and wellness news?
Anyone who’s tried to figure out the best way to eat has probably come to the conclusion that it’s virtually impossible to know how to optimize your diet because of how complicated everything seems. Butter and eggs are bad? Butter and eggs are good? Red meat? Fat? Multigrain bread? Fish is good … except for the mercury? All anyone seems to be able to agree on is that sugar is definitely bad. But wait, there’s lots of sugar in fruit. Isn’t fruit good?
Mediterranean? Atkins? Keto? Paleo? Gluten-free? Fasting?
Exercise can sometimes seem just as perplexing. Are you supposed to stretch before or after? Or at all? Should you do lots of reps at a low weight or fewer at a heavier weight? Cardio before weights or after? How bad for your knees is long-distance running? Are sprints better? Until what age? How much protein do you need to build muscles? How do gorillas and elephants have gigantic muscles despite eating leaves?
Does anyone know anything?
Maybe it’s not so surprising that so many people have terrible diets and don’t exercise enough. Maybe they’ve given up trying to find a magical formula and have decided they’d rather just eat what they enjoy and ignore the gym because trying to live healthily is so complicated. But is it?
Here’s a friendly suggestion from CFIC: Try to simplify by just sticking to the basics. Don’t stress over juicing, cleansing, or any other fad. These tend to have little to no scientific basis. Just have a balanced diet, without eating too much of any one thing. Eat real food: as few preservatives as possible. Eat fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables. Make it interesting by mixing it up.
As for exercise, whatever gets you moving. If you hate cardio, lift weights. If you hate lifting weights, run or swim. And if you’re hemming and hawing over whether judo or karate or kung fu is right for you, just pick the most convenient dojo and go. Once you get started and build some momentum, then you’ll be in a better position to micromanage, because you’ll have an idea of what works for you.
Secularism In the News
CFIC Applauds Summer Job Grant Decision:

Ordinarily not a source of controversy, the Canada Summer Jobs program is designed to subsidize employers that hire students for summer work. Ministers of parliament provide funding to groups in their ridings that hire students for summer jobs. However, in 2017, the Liberal government added a requirement that organizations applying for such grants adhere to an attestation that their core mandate and the job being filled not violate the rights of Canadians.
The attestation reads as follows: “Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
The inclusion of reproductive rights has fueled the controversy by creating a new venue for the abortion debate. Many religious groups have argued that this attestation represents an infringement on their right to conscience and religious freedom, given that their faiths often entail a conservative or restrictive take on abortion.

Liberals maintain the attestation is essential to ensuring that no federal grant money will be used to support organizations that discriminate against Canadians and propagate pro-life propaganda which runs contrary to government policy. CFI agrees, and we support the legislation. .
Book Review - Six Steps to Better Thinking: How to Disagree and Get Along
Six Steps to Better Thinking: How to Disagree and Get Along lays out the appropriate methodology for having a logical argument and continuing to be friends. The book is a must read at a time when people get their information from unreliable sources, express their personal biases as facts and repeat information which has never been verified.

Since reading the book I was confronted by an anti-vaxer proudly sharing the information that her four grandchildren were not immunized. Prior to reading the book, I might have been reluctant to question her information and motives in a social situation, for fear of creating discomfort for everyone. However, newly armed with some practical information about how to disagree and get along, I took the leap. I questioned her premises and her sources of information. The biggest challenge, however, was that she had not also read the book. She remained unconvinced and unaware of how flawed her argument was.

Perhaps, in light of the vast quantities of misinformation that spread like wildfire, our education system needs to reintroduce the art of the debate into secondary education. This book would make fabulous reading for that curriculum.

It is important to remember that we will never agree on everything. However, finding respectful ways to disagree and share information with resorting to bullying, name calling or downright lies is a valuable skill in the 21 st century.

You can purchase Six Steps to Better Thinking here .
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