U of T stands by health-studies course questioning efficacy/safety of vaccine - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 37 Old 07-07-2015, 11:05 AM - Thread Starter
 
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U of T stands by health-studies course questioning efficacy/safety of vaccine

Finally, the encouragement of critical thinking! None of the students complained about this course and all appeared to enjoy it as the course had been rated positively in the 2014-15 school year. Who doesn't appreciate the opportunity to apply critical thinking? I like the idea that another side of a controversial topic was presented.

The course apparently isn't going to be available anymore even though it was claimed to be balanced; however, would anyone here be opposed to having such a course available at colleges as long as the curriculum presented vaccine safety issues, efficacy issues, and all other flaws accurately? Why or why not?

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/...ticle25327336/
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#2 of 37 Old 07-07-2015, 12:37 PM
 
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Lol.

"Balanced"

As Orac put it :

"There is a course in medicine, specifically alternative medicine, being taught by a homeopath, and, worse than that, it’s featuring Joe Mercola interviewing Andrew Wakefield as a legitimate source of information on vaccines.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t object in concept to a course that looks at the antivaccine movement and its arguments, but such a course must be rooted in science and show why antivaccine misinformation is not supported by science. Instead, we get this:

Required Readings/ Viewings for this week:

VIDEO: Interview with Andrew Wakefield: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/ar...interview.aspx
VIDEO: Shedding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKSeiAs_A4w[/url] (new addition to syllabus)
VIDEO: Vaccine’s Safety A Crime Against Humanity, [url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N3oHLe80O4
Dissolving Illusions, Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History, pp vii-xvi, 445-479
Optional Reading:

Vaccination, Social Violence and Criminality; The Medical Assault on the American Brain, Harris Coulter – Ch. 7 (Medical Hubris and Its Consequences), Ch 3 (The Post-Encephalitic Syndrome)
ARTICLE: http://www.collective-evolution.com/...-cause-autism/
ARTICLE: http://www.collective-evolution.com/...ning-vaccines/
96 Research Papers Autism/ Vaccination. http://www.scribd.com/doc/220807175/...ne-Autism-Link
This Physician’s Assessment of Flu Vaccines in Pregnancy http://www.safeminds.org/blog/2014/0...nes-pregnancy/


Safeminds? Collective Evolution? Joe Mercola? Andrew Wakefield? These are not reliable sources on vaccines. They represent the underbelly of the antivaccine movement. Hell, why not include the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism as a legitimate source while you’re at it? Notice also how there isn’t the “other side” of this “controversy” offered, as in information on vaccines from the CDC, vaccine scientists, and legitimate sources. It’s all one-sided—the antivaccine side."

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/20...ot-unbalanced/

Also, looks like she's gone.

"A University of Toronto lecturer accused of basing her course on non-scientific and discredited “anti-vaxxer” pseudoscience is no longer teaching.

Beth Landau-Halpern, a homeopath, came under fire last year when the source materials for her course on alternative medicine at U of T Scarborough were made public. They included YouTube links and other non-academic sources.

A spokesperson for the university confirmed on Monday that Landau-Halpern’s course will not be offered this summer or next year, and she is no longer on staff.

The most recent controversy concerning Landau-Halpern began shortly after the investigation.

In late March, about 30 scientists and U of T faculty members wrote a joint letter to university president Meric Gertler, complaining that Landau-Halpern was using quantum physics to “inaccurately explain the alleged effects of alternative healthcare” and thus “undermining the scientific endeavor.”

Landau-Halpern’s course outline said students would learn how quantum mechanics “offers clear explanations as to why homeopathic remedies with seemingly no chemical trace of the original substance are able to resolve chronic diseases.”

That’s not quantum mechanics, it’s “quantum mysticism,” the scientists wrote." http://metronews.ca/news/toronto/141...ing-at-u-of-t/

Thank goodness for that.

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#3 of 37 Old 07-07-2015, 01:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I appreciate your analysis @teacozy but my question was would anyone be opposed to a college course that presents the effficacy and safety issues of vaccines as long as they are presented accurately. I was not particularly speaking in general about that particular course in my OP, since I did not attend that course personally and could not vowge for it either way. I am impressed, however, that the university applauds and is encouraging critical thinking, which honestly we don't see as much of these days. There are many issues with vaccines and I can name a few recent past threads that identifies such issues, mishandling, administration errors, safety concerns, efficacy issues of specific vaccines which enable outbreaks to continue, the occurrence of vaccine injuries and from which vaccines, the impact of media sensationalism, etc. Would you feel comfortable with students learning about these issues on a wider scale, providing them with more means to create a true risk vs. benefit analysis, as long as it presents the information accurately, in addition to providing alternative methods against disease. When in college I would have appreciated being taught all I needed to know about vaccines, good, bad, and the ugly. Then again, critical thinking is something I have always enjoyed. I don't agree with people being spoon fed information and being required to act on that spoon-fed information without first giving them the tools to think critically about the issue at hand, allowing them to make their own decisions and come up with their own conclusions.

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#4 of 37 Old 07-07-2015, 02:29 PM
 
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Teacozy, you are really getting upset these days that people are refusing to believe what you believe.

You posted "Required Readings/ Viewings for this week:"
What about the other 11 weeks? Easy to judge a class based on one week of required readings.

Besides, when you talk about a topic for a college class that week's readings are usually all about that specific topic. Looks like that week was about vaccine critics. This is a valid topic for research and study.

Poor woman was trying to get her students to actual compare this information to the normally accepted beliefs and studies to see if there was a difference in methods, results, implications, etc. Too see how they differed in logic, assumptions, etc. It's really quite an exquisite example of a college class.

It's unfortunate that book burners still exist. Freedom of literature, language, and science unfortunately doesn't just mean agreeing with whatever is considered true according to 1. the government, 2. religion, 3. the medical establishment, 4. your family, 5. etc.

The purpose of a college education is to read things you may or may not agree with and to learn to handle them - to critically analyze, to interpret, to read between the lines. If you believe that this woman had no right to teach something that you disagree with then you have other issues relating to freedom of speech and education. I wonder if you ever had to read and study something you didn't agree with? It's terribly valuable for cognition.

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#5 of 37 Old 07-07-2015, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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@Nemi27 . Thank you very much. Very well said.
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#6 of 37 Old 07-07-2015, 06:29 PM
 
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When in college I would have appreciated being taught all I needed to know about vaccines, good, bad, and the ugly. Then again, critical thinking is something I have always enjoyed.
Perhaps an optional vaccination course can be created titled: "Vaccines: The good, the bad and the ugly"

It seems that that they don't want vaccines questioned, nor evolution questioned etc.:
44 Doctor-Bashing Arguments ...and Their Rebuttals
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#7 of 37 Old 07-07-2015, 07:09 PM
 
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I do wish the pro-vaccine would stop trying to protect people from misinformation, especially by quoting Orac. Or Skeptical Raptor.

The irony. It burns.

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#8 of 37 Old 07-07-2015, 07:36 PM
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I do wish the pro-vaccine would stop trying to protect people from misinformation, especially by quoting Orac. Or Skeptical Raptor.

The irony. It burns.
What ever do you mean?!

I see "scientists" uses Orac & Raptor as "amazing" sources of higher knowledge!

Facts, references, citations, etc be damn!

Oh the irony is contagious! I have no fear a vaccine is in development for those of us that down see this light!
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#9 of 37 Old 07-07-2015, 08:37 PM
 
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I do wish the pro-vaccine would stop trying to protect people from misinformation, especially by quoting Orac. Or Skeptical Raptor.
At first I didn't know what/who 'Orac' was - so I looked it up and found this: https://www.facebook.com/ExposingDrDavidHGorskiAkaOrac

He is not only wrong about many things. He is also obnoxious about it. In comparison those that he would call 'anti-vaccine' tend to be much more polite when stating their position.

He reminds one of the prime quack Stephen Barrett who works on his so-called quack watch, from a basement, apparently.

Maybe Orac is also blogging from a basement. Maybe should rename his blog from scienceblogs to basement_blogging and he could work with Stephen Barrett.
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#10 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 03:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes. It would be nice to get actual original thoughts on this than quotes from someone named Orac, whoever that is. This is a thread about critical thinking, after all :-)
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#11 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 04:23 AM
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Yes. It would be nice to get actual original thoughts on this than quotes from someone named Orac, whoever that is. This is a thread about critical thinking, after all :-)
I find this happening so often in many threads - ask for an opinion and end up with quotes from O or SR! Sounds like one is taking marching orders and not deviating from the agenda.

Also ever notice how a thread like this starts and "magically" a day or two later Orac does a post on the exact subject? Must be Magic!

IMO talking and or critically thinking seems to not make it due to money - influence money doesn't seem to want it and in the end one can't have endowment money falling off! I see MONEY, money, money as the talker here!
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#12 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 05:34 AM
 
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Also ever notice how a thread like this starts and "magically" a day or two later Orac does a post on the exact subject? Must be Magic!
My view? The pro-vaccine like to all talk about the same small group of news stories, mostly having to do with vaccine related illnesses. No, not illnesses due to being vaccinated, that topic is forbidden (see Denmark, Japan, Gardasil, censored) but illnesses that can be connected by however attenuated a connection, to someone who refused to vaccinate. So it isn't at all surprising that someone here has an Orac column to quote.

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#13 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 05:47 AM
 
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First, I don't know how many actually read through the entire article. But, this woman is married to the dean. Does that conflict of interest bother anyone? I for one believe that is the #1 reason that this course was found to be okay and exonerated. I also know that if an author of a study that found vaccines safe and effective was married to an executive at the pharmaceutical company, the claims of impropriety and conflicts of interest would be loud. And if someone was teaching a course on the greatness of vaccines and their spouse was a dean, that would also be discussed as a conflict of interest. How is this different? Why does that HUGE conflict of interest not come into play?

As for the original question
"would anyone here be opposed to having such a course available at colleges as long as the curriculum presented vaccine safety issues, efficacy issues, and all other flaws accurately? Why or why not?"

I would not have a problem with this described course being taught in health studies courses. And the course described in this question likely IS being taught. The key words here are accurately. This course was not accurate. And if it is being taught in science courses, it needs to adhere to the scientific process and present scientific information, not youtube videos from the internet as this course was doing.

This course, has no business being taught in a health studies curriculum, or any science curriculum. To be honest, I have no problem with this course being taught in a college either, as long as it is being taught in a philosophy curriculum. that is a great place for discussions and sources like what she was using. I also would want it taught by someone with protections of tenure not an adjunct (to allow for academic freedom and appropriate protections for the prof), and taught by someone not married to a dean at the college it is being taught at.
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#14 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 06:33 AM
 
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Here is a syllabus for the course, lest anyone think that silly sources like youtube were only presented that one week.

Just scanning through, I saw the websites themindunleashed.org, safeminds.org, collective-evolution.com, greenmedinfo.com, body-equilibrium.com etc etc among other numerous blogs and youtube videos throughout the syllabus presented as sources for this course.

Absolutely ridiculous.

That members here would actually defend these being used in a science course as sources of information speaks volumes...

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#15 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 06:46 AM
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First, I don't know how many actually read through the entire article. But, this woman is married to the dean. Does that conflict of interest bother anyone?

Since when does "conflict of interest" come into play?!

As someone who did read it, I find a PRO vaccine interest in "conflict of interest" a joke!

NEVER do we hear that when a study is brought up than's funded by the same BIG Pharma company who made the vaccine, a "conflict of interest" - that's OK, but this isn't?

Ironic!
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Since when does "conflict of interest" come into play?!

As someone who did read it, I find a PRO vaccine interest in "conflict of interest" a joke!

NEVER do we hear that when a study is brought up than's funded by the same BIG Pharma company who made the vaccine, a "conflict of interest" - that's OK, but this isn't?

Ironic!

If you would have quoted the entire paragraph, you would see the irony is exactly what I am pointing out. I hear constantly from those critical/skeptical of vaccines, that their are conflicts of interest yet, no mention of it here because this woman adheres to their perspective.
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If you would have quoted the entire paragraph, you would see the irony is exactly what I am pointing out. I hear constantly from those critical/skeptical of vaccines, that their are conflicts of interest yet, no mention of it here because this woman adheres to their perspective.
I stand by what I said - any time a PRO operative sees "conflict of interest" but can't in other areas related to vaccines it's irony!

Where I live, it's not uncommon for spouse to work for the same institution or even in the same department. With other subjects it's not viewed as a "conflict of interest". I don't see it in this case either. I see grasping at what ever one can to push an agenda and to diminish any talk not inline with the PRO agenda!
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I stand by an internal review of someones course when the persons spouse is in a leadership position of the organization conducting the internal review is not worth anything.

I am glad the course isn't being taught anymore It doesn't belong in a health science curriculum. If she wishes to teach this course, after reading the syllabus which includes personal reflection and writing a letter to the editor, it belongs in a philosophy or humanities department.
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#19 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 07:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Here is a syllabus for the course, lest anyone think that silly sources like youtube were only presented that one week.

Just scanning through, I saw the websites themindunleashed.org, safeminds.org, collective-evolution.com, greenmedinfo.com, body-equilibrium.com etc etc among other numerous blogs and youtube videos throughout the syllabus presented as sources for this course.

Absolutely ridiculous.

That members here would actually defend these being used in a science course as sources of information...
Since we're speaking about critical thinking, and we know vaccines can and do have negative effects and consequences, how would you present the other not-so-appealing side of vaccines to others, to enable critical thinking? (And we all know there are not-so-appealing sides. To deny that would be ridiculous.). To objectively view vaccines realistically, "objectively" being the operative word here, you can't just study the preferred view point. That is not critical thinking, and we'd certainly want to encourage our children of next generations to think critically about vaccines, wouldn't we? Or no?

This may be pointless to discuss anyway because if the goal of that is to enforce vaccination and mandate them for all over time, leaving barely any choice, any and all critical thinking about medical decisions such as vaccines goes out the window and it'll come down to simply submissively complying, which is sad.
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#20 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 07:54 AM
 
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Yes. It would be nice to get actual original thoughts on this than quotes from someone named Orac, whoever that is. This is a thread about critical thinking, after all :-)
Don't waste your breath... if the debates in this forums were happening live without internet access, the pro side would not have a representative...
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I agree. I don't think critical thinking factors into maintaining the status quo, which is what these "skeptics" really want.

If the content on those websites is such absolute bunkum, it would be laughably easy to refute.

But we don't hear laughing from the "skeptics", just whinging.
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#22 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 07:59 AM
 
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Since we're speaking about critical thinking, and we know vaccines can and do have negative effects and consequences, how would you present the other not-so-appealing side of vaccines to others, to enable critical thinking? (And we all know there are not-so-appealing sides. To deny that would be ridiculous.)
To encourage critical thinking about vaccines, I would set forth the various hypotheses and ideas that are circulating in the public and the scientific community regarding vaccine safety and efficacy, and then I'd teach students how to read and critically evaluate the primary scientific literature to determine whether, how, and to what extent it has addressed those hypotheses.

To encourage fair representations of multiple sides of a controversial matter, I might assign different students to different sides of a debate, with each side charged with making their best possible case for their "side," and have them engage in a formal or informal debate, followed by a class discussion about the strength of the arguments used and the reliability of the sources used.

An example of this kind of thing being done right now is below. (Vaccines are not the focus, though one of the topics is vaccine related.)

http://noble.gs.washington.edu/~wnoble/genome475/
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To encourage critical thinking about vaccines, I would set forth the various hypotheses and ideas that are circulating in the public and the scientific community regarding vaccine safety and efficacy, and then I'd teach students how to read and critically evaluate the primary scientific literature to determine whether, how, and to what extent it has addressed those hypotheses.

To encourage fair representations of multiple sides of a controversial matter, I might assign different students to different sides of a debate, with each side charged with making their best possible case for their "side," and have them engage in a formal or informal debate, followed by a class discussion about the strength of the arguments used and the reliability of the sources used.

An example of this kind of thing being done right now is below. (Vaccines are not the focus, though one of the topics is vaccine related.)

http://noble.gs.washington.edu/~wnoble/genome475/
That sounds great.

But I would wager the "skeptics" would find fault with that set up.

Paul Offit et al have been steadfast in their refusals to debate anyone on this topic. Which is so perplexing given that most people would love to walk into a debate they know they are going to win because there is a plethora of un-refutable scientific evidence to back their position. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to show up their opposition?
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#24 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 09:04 AM
 
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First, I don't know how many actually read through the entire article. But, this woman is married to the dean. Does that conflict of interest bother anyone? I for one believe that is the #1 reason that this course was found to be okay and exonerated.


This course, has no business being taught in a health studies curriculum, or any science curriculum. To be honest, I have no problem with this course being taught in a college either, as long as it is being taught in a philosophy curriculum. that is a great place for discussions and sources like what she was using. I also would want it taught by someone with protections of tenure not an adjunct (to allow for academic freedom and appropriate protections for the prof), and taught by someone not married to a dean at the college it is being taught at.
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Here is a syllabus for the course, lest anyone think that silly sources like youtube were only presented that one week.

Just scanning through, I saw the websites themindunleashed.org, safeminds.org, collective-evolution.com, greenmedinfo.com, body-equilibrium.com etc etc among other numerous blogs and youtube videos throughout the syllabus presented as sources for this course.
I do not think it is an obvious conflict of interest. Professor are married to each other fairly often, and it does not seem all that odd for me to have a Dean be married to a professor. That being said, given it is a somewhat controversial topic, it might have been better for the class to be taught by a tenured professor who was not married to the dean (thus removing a hint of conflict of interest or nepotism).

I have no issue with the vaccine-critical POV being presented in the classroom - including in a science class. There is science against vaccination - as is evident by the many, many pubmed, Cochrane, CDC links posted here regularly by vaccine critics. To suggest that only scientific dogma or "consensus science" (not saying you are suggesting this) should be presented in a university class is an insult to both science and university.

I am going to take a look at the Syllabus. If it is only as Tea presented, then that is problematic. University course should use good, often primary sources. None of the source tea listed really fit the bill. They are secondary sources by biased groups. They have as much place in a university science class as Orac or raptor would.

So - nay for obvious conflict of interest, yeah for teaching the class, including in a science course, nay for how it was taught if the syllabus is accurate.
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#25 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 09:15 AM
 
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That sounds great.

But I would wager the "skeptics" would find fault with that set up.

Paul Offit et al have been steadfast in their refusals to debate anyone on this topic. Which is so perplexing given that most people would love to walk into a debate they know they are going to win because there is a plethora of un-refutable scientific evidence to back their position. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to show up their opposition?
Ok, but who cares what the "skeptics" think? The point is that critical thinking about vaccines (and GMOs, and antibiotics, etc.)can happen, and is happening, in a university setting, and in a much more effective (IMHO) way than what was described in the U of T syllabus.

On the topic of public debates: I don't know what Offit's reasoning is, but I will explain what mine would be. Assuming I had the time to prepare and the expertise to do it, I would LOVE to debate a specific issue of scientific controversy in a context like the debate class I linked to above--where I, my opponent, and our audience had a similar level of background understanding of the topic and where there was some motivation for both sides not to be misleading (e.g., a professor who could check our sources and reduce our grades). But I probably would NOT be willing to debate a similar issue in a public "debate." With a complicated topic, audience members with widely varying levels of background knowledge and scientific literacy, and limited time, I wouldn't feel able to dig into the issues in a very meaningful way. And there seems to me a good chance that either side could get away with being misleading.

A public debate might be do-able if the topic were something very, very specific (Does Vaccine X cause Outcome Y?), but not if it were something broad (Are vaccines safe?).

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#26 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 09:23 AM
 
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Ok, but who cares what the "skeptics" think? The point is that critical thinking about vaccines (and GMOs, and antibiotics, etc.)can happen, and is happening, in a university setting, and in a much more effective (IMHO) way than what was described in the U of T syllabus.
There are a few people on this forum who care a great deal about what the "skeptics" think. (because you did ask. )
I don't care what the "skeptics" think but my guess is that some of them are the ones making the complaints whenever a course even hints at something that does not toe the corporate/industry/status quo line.
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#27 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 09:28 AM
 
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I took a look at the syllabus. I am not thrilled with the required readings - I would have liked more primary documents. A bit more science. That being said, I think crying foul is over the top: The course outline clearly lays out what the course is about (it is in the syllabus - I would cut and paste but the formatting is funky). No one is being taught complementary medicine is the only "truth" (like revisionist history, as it were). It is clearly being presented as a alternate paradigm of health and healing that many consumers appreciate but that mainstream medicine is highly critical of.

These are adults taking the course. They can read the course outline and syllabus ahead of time, and decide whether it will be useful to them. It looks like a fun course, actually, although a little weak on science. I have no issue with it staying in the science department as long as the reading were a bit more scientific in nature. If the prof were unwilling to do that, then yes, perhaps it should be moved over to philosophy.

I am glad the U of T stood by it (although "standing by it" seems a little firmly worded. She isn't teaching next year, nor is the course being offered, so how much "standing by" really happened?) They ok'ed the course at some level, to launch a lynch party now would be hypocritical and kowtowing to skeptic lobbying.
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#28 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 09:31 AM
 
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I do not think it is an obvious conflict of interest. Professor are married to each other fairly often, and it does not seem all that odd for me to have a Dean be married to a professor. That being said, given it is a somewhat controversial topic, it might have been better for the class to be taught by a tenured professor who was not married to the dean (thus removing a hint of conflict of interest or nepotism). . . So - nay for obvious conflict of interest . . .
I don't think the conflict of interest is about having her teach the class; it's about how much stock to put in the university's review of the course after people objected to it.

If you're a university employee put in charge of evaluating allegations that a class was not being taught properly, and it just so happens that the course was taught by the Dean's wife, you might have some conflicting interests.

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#29 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 09:38 AM
 
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I don't think the conflict of interest isn't about having her teach the class; it's about how much stock to put in the university's review of the course after people objected to it.

If you're a university employee put in charge of evaluating allegations that a class was not being taught properly, and it just so happens that the course was taught by the Dean's wife, you might have some conflicting interests.
I would hope her husband (the Dean) was not on the review committee after complaints were made.

I also agreed (earlier) that for the professors own sake as well as the sake of perceived propriety, it would be better if a person married to the Dean (or any employee with a lot of power) did not teach classes that are highly controversial.

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#30 of 37 Old 07-08-2015, 09:41 AM
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Most people are quite clueless what goes on behind the works at most colleges and universities until something controversial comes to light.

Alumni make "policy" via donations and "influence" is rampant, even at state run places.

I think this is being made into something it's not.

I do feel some will look at this, like they are now looking MD that have ZERO hours spent on diet related subjects, and question why this isn't being addressed. Not only for those in the medical filed but for others in related fields.
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