Thursday, April 14, 2011

Do Not Vote for the Anti-Science Green Party


There is no party platform that perfectly reflects my views on all issues. However, there is one thing I look for when deciding to support a political party and that's how they arrive at a particular policy. Is it scientific? Does the policy depend on evidence, healthy skepticism, and rational thinking?

The Green Party of Canada has outlined their platform in a document called Vision Green. Here's what they say in the introduction ...
Vision Green presents a well-researched analysis of critical environmental, economic and social challenges facing Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and presents practical solutions that can be achieved if there is the political will and leadership to take forward-looking action. It was developed by our Green Cabinet and was informed by experts, activists and citizens who participated in policy workshops held across Canada. Our vision is based on policies approved by the membership of the Green Party.
Sound promising. They don't actually say that their policies are based on sound scientific reasoning but it sounds like "well-researched" might be a synonym for "good science."

As you scan this document you encounter many positions that seem somewhat dogmatic and considerably beyond what the scientific evidence actually says. The Green Party is opposed to genetically engineered organisms, for example, and they propose to, "Phase out the use of genetically modified food products and ‘terminator’ seeds" (p. 74).

The Green Party is opposed to nuclear power and advocates a ban on new nuclear power plants and a shut-down of existing ones. The party proposes to ban uranium mining and refining. While some of their arguments are valid, the overall tone does not sound scientific.

But the real give-away comes when the document discusses health care. Here's one of the promises from page 70.
Provide funds to expand provincial health insurance to cover proven alternative therapies that are less expensive and invasive such as chiropractic, massage, acupuncture.
It is simply not true that these "alternative therapies" are proven in any scientific sense. What this tells me is that the Green Party platform is not based on scientific reasoning.

That's disappointing.

Everybody wants to promote good health. It's a motherhood issue. What's important is whether a political party has a realistic policy to achieve this goal. Most don't but the Green Party actually makes things worse ...
Health promotion is about more than health care or health education. It is about recognizing the profound health impacts of determinants of health outside the formal healthcare system and working with many stakeholders (policy-makers, NGOs, health agencies, multiple levels of government, the private sector, and most important, affected communities themselves) to reduce, eliminate, or overcome those factors that harm health or act as barriers to health enhancement, and to promote those factors that enhance the health, well-being and quality of life of all Canadians.

We will promote complimentary health care – through support of chiropractic, naturopathic, homeopathic, and other non-western practices. The Green Party of Canada recognizes the value of good health as a fundamental human right, and also the key to the most vibrant, inclusive and sustainable Canadian society possible.
I will never vote for a political party that promotes naturopathy and homeopathy in such a prominent manner. Naturopathy and homeopathy are examples of anti-science quack medicine. The fact that the leaders of the party would even include this in their platform tells me that scientific thinking is not part of their worldview and it calls into question their positions on everything else.

The Green Party wants to use my tax dollars to support these quacks.
Expand healthcare coverage to include qualified complementary/alternative health professionals such as naturopaths, acupuncturists, homeopaths, licensed massage therapists, chiropractors, and dietitians.
This is very wrong.

Do not vote for the Green Party. If you want to cast a protest vote then spoil your ballot or vote for some other party that cannot be elected in your riding. Every vote for the Green Party is a vote against science.


[Hat Tips: Zak at Canadian Atheist: The Green Party Platform and Mitchell Gerskup at Skeptic North: Voting Green? Read This.]

41 comments :

  1. Yep, that kills the Greens for me. I'm as environmentalist as the next hippy, but not if they're diving full into all the ooey-gooey-wooey crap.

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  2. It's a problem with the Green Party in the UK too. I have voted for them at times in the past, in local elections, but their frequently anti-science views are a significant worry. Here's a summary (which does note some positive progress at least):

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/apr/29/green-party-science

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  3. Thanks for the heads up! I had considered voting green, but this is just too much. Any party that promotes superstition and magic over science loses my vote, no matter how well-meaning its intentions are.

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    Replies
    1. The placebo effect occurs with both "conventional" and complementary/alternative treatment.

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  4. Lots of people go into natural medicine because they can't get into actual medical school. If the green party ensures these people get a job when they graduate, I'm all for it...thanks for giving me another reason to vote green ;)

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  5. From the green party budget overview:

    Cancel federal support for AECL research.

    Stop federally funded GMO research (Cut all federal biotech funding to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada and 10% of funding (amount going to GMO biotech) from NSERC and NRC.)

    ***

    In Canada, you'd not be allowed to study certain subjects with NSERC grants. Virtually all university science relies on those grants. And much of the rest of study goes on at federal labs, which would also be cancelled.

    Preventing people from studying what they want, by subverting the grants process, is just evil. It's what is done in rapidly authoritarian countries, like the China, or the old Soviet Union.

    It is no different, intellectually, of preventing federally funded arts councils from giving money to artists who write politically incorrect books, or who paint naked people. It's not different from blowing up buddhas, by arguing mohammed didn't want people idolizing other religious figures.

    The Green party wants you to stop thinking about GMO and nuclear energy. Those subjects will be turned into a federally sponsored religion, and removed from scientific study.

    Intellectually, all you can say is that this party is run by pea-headed idiots. Mob rule is not democracy.

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    Replies
    1. Provincial governments have the option of funding research which the federal government is opposed to funding, which would be consistent with the preference of decentralized decision-making.

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  6. I think its fantastic that the Green Party is in favour of extending health care to cover chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy, licensed massage therapy, and dietitians! What a great idea. They've got my vote!

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  7. Well, that's disappointing. I have supported the Greens with my donations in previous years and have voted for them both Federally and Provincially. I am pro-nuclear and generally pro-GMO and have had to hold my nose while voting for the Greens, thinking they best represented my concerns for promoting environmentalism, biodiversity, etc. despite my disagreement with them on certain issues.

    Their stand on alt-med though is a deal killer. As a science grad student, I can't possibly support any stand that is anti-science or pro-pseudo-science.

    It's a sad day for me. I guess I will have to vote Libs to dethrone the theocrats we have running the country today.

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    Replies
    1. The placebo effect is documented with alternative medicine. The Liberals also have a religious fraction, as evidence by the votes on gay marriage or abortion.

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  8. Any party that promotes superstition and magic

    Don't all major political parties promote superstition and magic? Certainly in the realm of economy...

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  9. Thanks for the link to their platform Dr. Moran.
    Also, I'm looking forward to your talk tomorrow night.

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  10. "We will promote complimentary health care – through support of chiropractic, naturopathic, homeopathic, and other non-western practices."

    I don't know about naturopathic, but since when are chiropractic and homeopathic not-western?

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  11. Ok Dr. Moran, the Green party's policies are clear. But it's a bit unfair to only pick on one party.

    What about the other three (four, if you consider the Bloc) party platforms?
    Which are anti-science, pro-science, or indifferent?

    Take the next step, please.

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  12. The Australian Greens also have a soft gooey center like a chocolate eclair. They have a number of antiscience threads, not least the way they talk about nuclear energy as if it is worse than all other forms of energy production (it isn't), and how "renewable energy can solve our problems, which it can't unless the laws of thermodynamics change sometime soon.

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    Replies
    1. If the direct cost to the consumer of electricity were to increase, renewable energy would become more competitive, resulting in greater stability of the electrical grid and greater incentive to conserve energy.

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  13. @DK Don't all major political parties promote superstition and magic? Certainly in the realm of economy...

    They are just catering to the electorate.

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  14. @steve oberski:
    They are just catering to the electorate.

    Democracy is a wonderful thing.

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  15. Yeah, I'd like to vote for the NDP but in this climate it feels like a wasted vote (splitting the left to the benefit of the Tories)... but the Green Party? Okay, I'm glad they're around playing the role of a conscience, but the kind of woo-woo crap so many of these people seem to believe has no more business in government than Tories who think The Flintstones was a documentary (but it doesn't mention Jesus enough!) should be running the science portfolio.

    Why is it that both extremes, right and left, find it so easy to embrace the imaginary as a guide for living?

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    Replies
    1. The left-right divide does not exist, as each side is authoritarian on certain issues, libertarian on other issues. It is speculation that those who vote for the third and fourth parties would vote in sufficient numbers (or at all) for the second-place candidate to result in the Tories to lose. It is more a problem of voter turnout, and the fact that the two "status quo" federal parties are opposed to proportional representation.

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  16. Look, the Greens have two candidates who are homeopaths.

    http://greenparty.ca/search/node/homeopathic

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  17. Vote Liberal pleeeeease! Don't split the liberal vote. Hold your breath as you vote for the Liberals if you must. Or else be prepared to turn the West into a vast wasteland as shale mining ramps up.
    Truti

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    Replies
    1. The Liberals do not support proportional representation, ensuring perpetual tug-of-war between the two status quo parties.

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  18. Oliver writes:

    Lots of people go into natural medicine because they can't get into actual medical school. If the green party ensures these people get a job when they graduate, I'm all for it...thanks for giving me another reason to vote green

    So as long as they have jobs, that's all that matters? The possibility that they might be promoting things that are useless to actively harmful is irrelevant?

    Glad to hear it! As for me, I like to kill people. I couldn't get into the army, but if I can find a party that supports hitmen, I can count on your vote, right? A job's a job, after all.

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  19. If you're under 45, whom you vote for doesn't really matter.

    Over the next 20 years the Canadian gov has an unfunded liability for our social programs of $2.8 trillion. When you take into account that between the retirement of the boomers and the demographics of the remaining Canadians + immigrates, government income (as %GDP) is going to shrink over that same period of time. Meaning he only way to pay that deficit is an immediate 16-19% cut in government spending.

    And yet every major party is proposing to increase spending.

    So no matter whom you vote for the effect is the same - a nice retirement for the boomers. a government without the financial means to provide basic services for the rest of us once those boomers die.

    Great for Larry, pretty shitty deal for most of his blog readers.

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    Replies
    1. The federal government has the option of increasing immigration. There are lots of areas of investment by the federal government which have a low or negative rate of return on the investment, or investing in areas which are municipal or provincial responsibilities.

      Delete
  20. Bryan says,

    Great for Larry, pretty shitty deal for most of his blog readers.

    Pretty sneaky, eh? It's a vast conspiracy among baby boomers. What we do is vote.

    We know that the two generations behind us don't vote so we get everything we want.

    Don't tell anyone about this plan. It would be so easy to thwart it if the echo-boomers ever woke up to what was happening instead of just whining about how unfair life is for them.

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  21. Bryan, you are on to something very important. But may I suggest you make an important distinction between young boomers and old boomers.
    The old boomers who are in retirement now will get all the goodies.
    The young boomers will find a different political situation when they wish to retire.
    By that time, the younger people will have awakened and they will drastically scale back the benefits for the young (wanting to retire) boomers. They will have to - the economy will be broke.

    You will see this. Mark my words.

    By the way, I am an old boomer.

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  22. @ qetzal

    qetzal said...

    Glad to hear it! As for me, I like to kill people. I couldn't get into the army, but if I can find a party that supports hitmen, I can count on your vote, right? A job's a job, after all


    The legality of 'hitmen' isn't really an issue I'm concerned about, so no, you can't count on my vote.

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  23. @ Oliver,

    I see. You're willing to support jobs that involve deceit and fraud, taking people's money for 'treatments' that don't (and cannot) work as claimed, but you don't support jobs that involve intentional killing?

    Well I'm glad you have at least some standards.

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  24. Pretty sneaky, eh? It's a vast conspiracy among baby boomers. What we do is vote.
    I vote too, but political parties are not idiots and realize that if they want power, they need to pander to the largest voter block - AKA the boomers. Unfortunatly, an overly-large portion of the boomers are either ignorant of, or don't care about, the long-term costs of these policies.

    I had the "fortune" of having both my NDP (Olivia Chow) and liberal (Christine Innes) candidates on Sunday. I raised the issue with both, and both said "we have plans to balance the budget". When I pointed out that balancing the budget today doesn't do shit all in terms of paying these costs in 10+ years, I got nothing but vague claims that the problem will be dealt with.

    make an important distinction between young boomers and old boomers.
    The old boomers who are in retirement now will get all the goodies. The young boomers will find a different political situation when they wish to retire.


    So long as they comprise a significant voter block, they'll get what they want. by the time enough of them die to give other voter blocks a share of the power, it'll be far too late.

    Keep in mind the unfunded commitments are 2 trillion over the next 20 years. Most of the boomers will still be alive then, and still comprise a huge voter block.

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  25. qetzal said...

    I see. You're willing to support jobs that involve deceit and fraud, taking people's money for 'treatments' that don't (and cannot) work as claimed, but you don't support jobs that involve intentional killing?


    Yes, I am willing to support them. It's important for people to make a living.

    Do I think all that homeopathy and naturopathy work? No, I don't. In case your interested, I also think cigarettes are bad...but when I see a friend smoking I don't berate them with condescending and sarcastic remarks. Instead, I let them do what they want and live with the choice they've made (I assume you lecture them about second hand smoke, and how if they like killing people the should become a hitmen and join the army instead of smoking).

    I also thank them for paying such a large tax on their cigarettes, and hope that the money falls in the hands of the green party.

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  26. No, Oliver, I don't routinely lecture smokers about the evils of second-hand smoke. That doesn't mean I would support a political party's efforts to promote smoking.

    You agree that homeopathy and naturopathy don't work. Yet you're in favor of paying for them with tax money, because that gives jobs to people who couldn't get into med school? Truly bizarre.

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  27. qetzal said....

    You agree that homeopathy and naturopathy don't work. Yet you're in favor of paying for them with tax money, because that gives jobs to people who couldn't get into med school? Truly bizarre.


    Yes, just because something doesn't work does not mean it's not worth funding. Some people enjoy homeopathy and naturopathy, much the same that some people enjoy roads, parks, and hockey areas that our government pays for. How do we decide to fund a skate boarding park - which is promoting skate boarding, something that can be incredibly dangerous - and not naturopathy? Does the concrete company deserve our tax dollars more than an educated naturopathic doctor trying to start up his/her business?

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  28. Does the concrete company deserve our tax dollars more than an educated naturopathic doctor trying to start up his/her business?

    If the ND's business is predicated on scientifically invalid 'treatments' then yes.

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  29. Bryan:

    "Over the next 20 years the Canadian gov has an unfunded liability for our social programs of $2.8 trillion."

    I don't necessarily dispute there's a problem, or the figure you cite... but I'd like to ask: according to whom? To be frank, this sounds like the kind of thing the Fraser Institute gets paid to say by special interest groups who really want nothing more than to be able to buy a bigger yacht next summer with money they've managed to keep out of the public purse.

    Can you tell us where this figure comes from?

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  30. Things can change. Hopefully the Canadian Greens will revise their policies the way we did in the Green Party of England and Wales, the health and science policy documents are no longer embarrassing.

    http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2011/03/another-step-forward-in-green-party-science-policy/
    http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/st
    http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/he

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  31. If the ND's business is predicated on scientifically invalid 'treatments' then yes

    Well then I wouldn't vote for green if I were you good sir or madam....unless your in a riding where green might win, in that case want to vote swap? ;)

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  32. Here's the BLOC QUEBECOIS:

    Le Bloc Québécois considère que les politiques énergétiques et environnementales
    doivent s’appuyer sur des faits solidement démontrés par la science plutôt que sur
    des idéologies à courte vue. Il mettra tout en œuvre pour que les scientifiques
    puissent communiquer directement avec les médias sans être censurés et sans risque
    de représailles.

    ***
    That isn't saying much, but at least it makes sense!

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  33. How do you figure that Dietitians, Chiropractors, and massage therapists have no basis in science??!? Dietitians require 4-year degrees in nutrition, Chiropractors get a DR. in front of their name because they study the human body for 7 years. Massage therapists study your muscular system... All of these professions have MORE than proven their worth to the scientific community time and again. I see more worth in seeing one of these people for my general health than seeing my family drug dealer...er...Doctor.

    I do agree with you on the stance that the Green party's foundation is not based on the scientific method, but don't bash qualified professionals as quacks until you know your facts about them.

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  34. I am personally no more supportive of complementary/alternative medicine as "conventional" medicine, but there is evidence that the placebo effect occurs with both treatments. Overall health should be of higher priority through changes to diet (through elimination of agricultural subsidies) and lifestyle (through shifting of taxation policy from productive activity, such as sales, income, buildings, toward unproductive activity, pollution, land speculation, and making it more profitable for builders to build upward rather than outward through changes to zoning, development charges, property taxes and land transfer taxes). Knowing that the green party has a policy of not whipping of votes, you would have to ask your particular candidate what their position is. Danny Handelman

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