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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Health, Wealth and Stealth Continued: Religion vs Knowledge

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

When the scientific community discovered that our science minister Gary Goodyear did not believe in evolution, they were in shock, as were most Canadians. How could a man who did not believe in science, be our science minister? It boggled the mind.

And then to add insult to injury, another Harper MP stood up in the House of Commons to deliver the knockout punch.
Armed with the knowledge that exists today, Charles Darwin may not have written the theory of evolution, Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney told the House of Commons this week. "Any scientist who declares that the theory of evolution is a fact has already abandoned the foundations of science," Lunney said in the House on Thursday. Given what is known today, he added: "Darwin would be willing to re-examine his assumptions." (1)
Any scientist who accepts fact as fact, is not a scientist? What just happened here?

An American scientist picked up the story and posted a reply: "Not so smug now, are you Canada."

I confess, we residents of the USA sometimes have a bit of an inferiority complex when we compare our citizenry to those of other nations of the world — we look like such a collection of idiots next to places like Iceland and Australia and New Zealand and Germany and England and Canada ... Of course, none of those other countries are entirely exempt from having dumbasses pontificating on science, so we can still occasionally take a cheap, desperate shot at some furrin' loon.

... Mr Lunney's choices of objections, reveal that he has read the erroneous creationist literature, but has never examined the scientific debunkings of his claims. I have heard this claim that creationists use the same evidence to argue for creation. It is not true. They select a narrow subset of the evidence that superficially supports their claims, and then ignore the broader array of evidence that completely undermines them. (2)
I know I'm not so smug now. We were a laughing stock. But this brings up the question, if someone believes something, do you have to respect that belief, even when it is proven to be untrue? Even when it's absolutely ludicrous?

Lunney went from a virtually unknown backbencher to a media sensation overnight, but not in a positive way. He is a member of our government and he had just stood up to go on record as claiming to believe in a myth. He's allowed to believe in that myth. I have no problem with that. But he is not allowed to publicly announce that myth as fact when he is representing a country whose residents don't share in his myth. It simply makes us look bad, but more importantly, alarms everyone in the scientific field, from researchers to science teachers.

However, what I have since discovered about Lunney, is that his belief in creationism over science, is only a tip of the iceberg. This man is also heavily involved in the quackery industry. And no not because he's a chiropractor. Chiropractors are not quacks. But this one is.

The Case of Lana Dale Lewis

In 1996, Lana Dale Lewis went to see a chiropractor about migraines and had a neck alignment. Two weeks later she died of a stroke and the coroner determined that the cause of her death was a tear in the artery at the back of her neck. (3)

After the decision, the lawyer for the family, Amani Oakley, was asked to appear on the Michael Coren show to discuss the findings. The show's producers also invited an expert to join her. That expert was chiropractor James Lunney, Conservative member of Parliament for Nanaimo - Alberni.

After attacking the deceased, and suggesting that she caused her own stroke because of her lifestyle, he made a shocking claim. Her death could have been prevented if it were not for Health Canada, and it's attack on herbal medicines, and that all strokes could be prevented with the use of folic acid.

After the interview, CTS, a faith-based studio that airs the Coren show, refused to release any videos or transcripts of the interview, since it would clearly have been the end of the good doctor's career.

But it turns out that Dr. Lunney's attack on Health Canada in favour of quack medicine was nothing new. He represents the worst of the herbal medicine industry, making outrageous claims about miracle cures for everything from blindness to hair loss. To put it bluntly, the man is a nut.

"I Can Make the Blind See"

In 2001, James Lunney, then Alliance party Health Critic, stated that "a 'parallel' system of private health care services should be available to take pressure off the public system and reduce waiting lists." (4)

By parallel he clearly meant the quackery industry; an industry to which he is a card carrying member. This is not to say that all herbal medicines are bad, but what Lunney promotes is nonsense, mixed with just enough religious fervour, to make believers of innocent victims.

... this product can grow back brain cells, and because the Creator is a lot smarter than scientists, 90% of poor health would disappear ... Will it help everyone? YES IT WILL....”It's a God given answer!” (5)
In 2003, Health Canada raided the offices of Truecorp, a company selling supplements without government approval:

RCMP officers and Health Canada investigators raided the offices of a Raymond-based health product company, alleging it has been selling a nutritional supplement to the mentally ill without government approval.

About a dozen armed officers surprised employees of Truehope Nutritional Support Ltd. at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday when they swept in and demanded everyone in the call centre stop working and back away from their computers. Mounties from Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal then began downloading information from hard drives and rifling through filing cabinets. Officers also backed up vans to the building's doors and prepared to take stacks of documents away. (6)

The news here is not the supplement's claims, which many in the medical profession debunk, but the fact that the company was breaking the law. The stuff being sold as a miracle cure had not undergone adequate testing and was not approved by Health Canada.

So what did James Lunney do about these law breakers? He attacked Health Canada. On letterhead from his Parliamentary office:

War on Natural Health Products Escalates, "What’s next from Health Canada’s Keystone Cops?"
NANAIMO—Dr. James Lunney, MP for Nanaimo-Alberni, reacted with outrage to Tuesdays RCMP/ Health Canada raid on a Natural Health Products company in Raymond, Alberta.
"Health Canada’s latest attack on the freedom of Canadians to make their own health choices is intolerable. They have resorted to extreme, unwarranted measures to prevent promising, low risk products from reaching Canadians who require them. This bureaucratic interference is out of control; it is contrary to science and to the public interest."
The public interest would be to make sure that a drug is safe to use before it is sold. Lunney instead backed up the industry that was breaking the law. But the story of Lunney and quackery is very complex, so I'm covering it in a separate post.

Coming up Next.


1. Darwin would think again, Lunney tells House of Commons: MP says theorist might draw different conclusions if he had today's information, By Darrell Bellaart, The Daily News, April 04, 2009

2. Not so smug now, are you, Canada? By P.Z. Myers, April 3, 2009

3. Chiropractic patient died 'by accident': jury, By News Staff, January 17, 2004

4. "That should be a no-brainer, shouldn't it?", Vancouver Sun, February 21, 2001.

5. Truehope Conference in Shiloh, Ohio, Founders David Hardy and Anthony Stephan presentation, September 16, 2009.

6. RCMP shuts down supplement firm, By David Heyman, Calgary Herald, July 16, 2003

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