Science justice is a term I use to describe the type of activism that I pursue. As our most robust enterprise for determining what therapies and diagnostics are actually effective, the interpretation and regulation of scientific issues can often make the difference between healthcare and fraud, between valuable and useless, and between life and death.
Pseudoscience was never a topic I thought I would pursue. Younger and more naïve, I assumed that issues relating to pseudoscientific beliefs afflicted a minority of people and that the natural course of human development and scientific discovery would see these beliefs run their course. As I write this in the midst of a global pandemic (COVID-19), we can plainly see distrust and disbelief in the scientific establishment all around us; from anti-maskers to anti-vaxxers, prominent belief systems exist that do not help people make effective, science-based decisions to minimize their risk. Even worse, the very nature of contagious disease demonstrates how individual decisions can have significant impact on communities.
For me, my activism began after encountering a local chiropractor promoting services to treat and prevent cancer. I knew very little about the profession at the time, but I knew enough to recognize that these services were effectively a scam. As I pursued this issue, I came to shocking revelations about the state of regulated health professionals in Canada. Across the country, all professions are independently self-regulating in each province and virtually none of them have any scientific standards or requirements. As science is the foundation for determining which therapies and diagnostics actually work, this meant there was nothing protecting Canadians from false claims relating to services offered by regulated health professionals. Even worse, some professions harbored endemic pseudoscientific beliefs, which resulted in regulatory colleges acting to protect those beliefs and practices rather than fulfilling their mandate to protect the public.
As an activist, I hope to bring sound scientific standards to Canada’s regulators of health professionals and health products. I do not wish to restrict anyone’s access to their preferred treatment or therapy; rather, I simply want to ensure that those selling a service cannot lie or make false claims to their patients.
To be clear, I don’t take any money for my activism in this area. That said, if I offered my time freely to every cause, I would have no time left. If you wish to consult with me, or would like to request a presentation, I will kindly ask you to donate to Bad Science Watch. The organization is entirely volunteer-run, so virtually all funding goes directly to the organization’s purpose: “To create a safer, healthier, and more prosperous Canada through the establishment of the widespread use of critical thinking and sound science when making important societal decisions.“
Presentations, Events, Interviews, and Appearances
Remembered as the year of COVID-19. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of bad science. A primary issue I took on this year involved submitted regulatory complaints against chiropractors making false COVID-19 or “immune-boosting” claims.
- At Bad Science Watch, we published our investigation into illegal product claims for cancer among online Canadian retailers.
- I was interviewed by CTV for the Bad Science Watch report.
- My effort to target false immune and COVID claims was documented by the CBC, with a segment on The National.
- I was invited for a panel discussion on science at the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (CUPC).
- I delivered a presentation – Bad Science in Consumer Health Products and Services – for the Centre for Inquiry Canada. That talk is available on YouTube here.
- I was interviewed for a piece on pseudoscientific treatments performed on autistic children in Healthy Debate.
- My work was referenced in a Science-Based Medicine post on false COVID-19 claims.
I had a busy year of activism. It’s difficult to measure success in this space, but at least the issues had exposure. (Photo credit: Matteo Zamaria Photography)
- I delivered a presentation and took part in a panel for the McGill OSS 20th Anniversary Event: Talking Science in the Age of Fake News.
- I was interviewed for a National Post article on pediatric chiropractic. My interview was snipped on The Friendly Atheist. Also in The Chronicle Herald.
- I was interviewed for a piece about chiropractic treatment of autistic children.
- I appeared on the Body of Evidence podcast to discuss the regulation of pseudoscience in Canada.
- I appeared on the Noncompliant podcast to discuss issues with professional regulation in Canada.
- My activism was featured in an article exposing anti-vaccination chiropractors within the regulatory college.
- I was interviewed for an article on pediatric chiropractic by Global News.
- I was interviewed for a piece on “functional neurology” and “brain balancing” in the CBC.
- I was interviewed for a piece on censoring of science communication by the McGill OSS.
- A pseudoscience-promoting chiropractic organization identified me as attacking the profession. Of course, I’m fine with the profession, I just want it to have standards.
In 2018, I started to understand what it took to communicate important issues, mobilize people, and get the attention of the media.
- An investigative report published in the Globe and Mail highlighted my efforts against false and misleading claims within the chiropractic profession in Ontario. The article spawned a follow-up, as well as some thoughtful letters to the editor.
- The National Post quoted me in an article on chiropractic pediatrics. The CCA’s response to the article was published in the National Post, but my response to them was not. Dr. Clay Jones of Science-Based Medicine also wrote a rebuttal to the CCA.
- I appeared on The Body of Evidence podcast to discuss issues with the chiropractic profession in Canada.
- My entire website and some of my tweets were featured in a public meeting by the College of Chiropractors of Ontario.
- Skeptical-Science.com referenced a “Twitter Reaction”.
- I appeared on The Reality Check podcast to discuss my article regarding a dubious urine-based sex determination test.
- My work was referenced on the unfortunately now defunct Being Skeptical podcast.
- The CBC Marketplace investigated an implausible health product promoted on Dragons’ Den that I wrote about in November 2017.
- The CBC’s Second Opinion covered my fight against unethical and pseudoscientific chiropractic practices in Ontario.
- The CBC Radio’s Afternoon Drive hosted me for a discussion regarding my efforts to hold chiropractors in Ontario to a science-based standard.
- I was referenced in a Science-Based Medicine post on pediatric chiropractic.
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