Freethought for the Small Towns: Case Study


Liberty University in the United States closed down its philosophy department, recently. The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy over sex abuse lawsuits. “Nones” became part of common academic discourse. Movement atheism rose, failed, has begun to change, to adapt internal pressures, and incorporate wider needs and represents another part of a common trend in the hobby-ing of religion in our societies. Canada comes out no different. The fear discourse towards the formally, institutionally non-religious continues apace and the surrounding magical thinking, gullibility, superstition, pseudoscience, fake medicine, and more, co-exists with us, nonetheless. I note a mutual reinforcement, too. If magic can happen from the pulpit, why not from a local clinic or a home remedy sold on the shelf? It would harbour more a sensibility of humour if not for the tragically awful impacts derived in some domains on so many people’s lives. Liberty University’s replica, in part, can be found in the largest fundamentalist Evangelical Christian university in Canada called Trinity Western University with some controversy in its history and in the formulation of community culture in the Township of Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Those students live in its surrounding Fort Langley environment in reasonable numbers. Some times falsely advertised by Trinity Western University marketing as the Trinity Western University village or town, as if an official designation, as in the YouTube clip entitled “This is Fort Langley – TWU’s university town.” That’s a lie. It’s a National Historic Site.

Small towns all over Canada mirror many of the dynamics, magical thinking, and reliance on false or pseudo-medicines in place of (actual) or efficacious medicine. Among the local churches in the area, (e.g., Fort Langley Evangelical Free Church, Living Waters Church, Fraser Point Church – Meeting Place, St George’s Anglican Church, United Churches of Langley – St. Andrew’s Chapel, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Fraser Point Church Offices, Jubilee Church, and Fellowship Pacific) different interpretations of the Gospels may be taught, but the community retains its Christian ‘spirit’ – in spite of a scuffed, mind you, rainbow crosswalk one can find the in the town business center – with many of the 100+ local businesses hiring many, many Trinity Western University students. The economy is integrated with the institution, in other words. It’s an expensive private Evangelical Christian university with extensive fees, where students pay international student prices as domestic students. Students need to make their way through education without substantial governmental assistance, somehow. In this context, highly educated and well-to-do fundamentalist Christian culture and a local town converge into a strange admixture. A town with a large number of community organizations including ​Kwantlen First Nations​, Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group​, Fort Langley Youth Rowing Society​, Fort Langley Community Rowing Club​, Fort Langley Canoe Club​, History of Fort Langley​, History of the Albion Ferry, The BEST of Fort Langley​, Langley Weavers and Spinners GuildBiodegradeables ~ Organic Recycling​, Fort Langley Community Association, Langley Heritage Association​, and Fort Langley BIA​.​ Indeed, many towns across the country replicate this with different inputs and similar outcomes.

In its recent history, as a starter example, there has been some predictable commentary flowing in the pens and notifications. One from Derek Bisset exhibited a particularly interesting article entitled “There Are Atheists in the Church” as recent as August 4, 2015. Not necessarily a rare view, it’s more a common sentiment based on the trend line of history and the adaptations for the modern world with Liberal Theology and the tenuous status of some foundational tenets with the continual onslaughts of modern empiricism. This was formulated around a somewhat critical commentary about the welcoming-everyone attitude of the church to the general membership of The United Church of Canada. He stated:

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that after years of saying “All are welcome in this place” that the result is a range of views within the church about the existence of God, especially as we seem to live in a society becoming ever more secular and inclining to require evidence for what we are willing to believe.  

I suppose a space journey through emptiness four and a half hours away at the speed of light should have some bearing in putting early concepts of the Heavens to rest. Now I think we will have to stick with a range of ideas about a God who is here on Earth, interventionist or metaphorical, according to our personal views about what we need as individuals or what is needed to make the world a better place for all.   

These amount to intriguing propositions about the reasons in which evolution for the church ideology become necessities within a secularizing/de-churching culture rather than true rebukes. The reason for the theological changes come from the empirical revolutions and educational improvements with the churches harbouring less tenable propositions about the nature of the world. Many propositions some deem outmoded, comical, or equivalent to others requiring fewer personal sacrifices of individual and communal wellbeing. The implication of a rejection of the modern views would be a return to more primitive mental constructs, models of the world. Is the concern the truth or the retaining of members? As it turns out, the “most worrying” development came not from a more reality-based church, but the loss of a member to a rival church. This tells the tale of the tribe.

Indeed, the reasons provided for leaving the local church from the member who left: the hot-wax nature of the beliefs rather than the rigid stone pillar faith. Probably, a rigid faith where men have a defined active role. Women have a defined passive role. God intervenes in the world. Prayer can aid in healing ailments. Homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is the literal truth, God-breathed Word of the Lord. And Jesus rose from the dead after 3 days. And evolution is the work of He down Below. If one wants to move back the civilizational lens in the West several centuries, I suppose one could ‘upgrade’ or, rather, retrograde the theology and the worldview. Of course, the personality focus for the critical examination of a local United Church of Canada congregation came around some of the beginning of the controversy for Rev. Gretta Vosper. Bisset continued:

When a minister of the United Church of Canada declares herself for atheism in the Church and still retains her position with her own church and a sizeable congregation things appear to be coming to a head. That Gretta Vosper has changed the practicing of religion in her church drastically and has been on a personal speaking crusade to persuade Christians that more change is needed has brought her into conflict with those responsible for allowing her to act as a United Church minister. She may require to be defrocked and no longer allowed to preach her heretical doctrine…

A woman on a “personal speaking crusade to persuade Christians” who has been “brought… into conflict” and “may require to be defrocked and no longer allowed to preach her heretical doctrine.” Although, the bias is obvious. The larger, more interesting point is the focus on having to snuff out dissent and retain membership. It’s not about the ideas, except as derivative, inasmuch as it is about the numbers of the followers, the flock, for which the local church is bound to shepherd. This is relatively marginal and isolated talk or idle public conversation within an individual church. Behind the closed doors of home & hearth, and church on Sundays, the discussions, rumours, and insinuation & innuendo will be much the same. Only some retain the gumption to speak in this manner in public. He leaves off a nice skeptical note, “After all, if you can’t have a good argument about religious beliefs within the Church, where is there a better place to have it,” and deserves kudos for it. In general, though, the undercurrent probably replicates in events with different churches and similar phenomena. Demographic decline and theological liberalization – seen as watering down – concern significant sections of 2/3rds of the population of Canada.

As noted in Issue 48 of the Fort Langley Evangelical Free Church from 2017, they describe an event with The Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation. An organization – The Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation, akin to the Templeton Foundation, devoted to strange attempts at bridging religion and science. Although, the Templeton Foundation comes with a huge cash prize. That’s motivation enough for some. The Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation focuses on science and a “life-giving Christian tradition” with a statement of faith (common in Christian organizations throughout the country):

  • We confess the Triune God affirmed in the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds which we accept as brief, faithful statements of Christian doctrine based upon Scripture.
  • We accept the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and conduct.
  • We believe that in creating and preserving the universe God has endowed it with contingent order and intelligibility, the basis of scientific investigation.
  • We recognize our responsibility, as stewards of God’s creation, to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world.
  • These four statements of faith spell out the distinctive character of the CSCA, and we uphold them in every activity and publication of the Affiliation.

As implicitly admitted in the “Commission on Creation” of the American Scientific Affiliation taken by The Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation for presentation to its national public, some members of the affiliation will adhere to a “Young-Earth (Recent Creation) View,” “Old-Earth (Progressive Creation) View,” “Theistic Evolution (Continuous Creation, Evolutionary Creation) View,” or “Intelligent Design View.” There’s the problem right there. Only one real game in town, evolution via natural selection. This becomes four wrong views plus one right position with the four incorrect views bad in different ways or to different degrees, i.e., four theological views and one scientific view. In other words, the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation, by its own claims and standards, amounts to a theological affiliation, not a “Scientific” affiliation. It’s false advertising if not outright lying by title and content.

Anyway, the Issue 48 newsletter of the Fort Langley Evangelical Free Church presented the event entitled “Science, Religion, & the New Atheism,” by Dr. Stephen Snobelen, who is an Associate Professor of the History of Science and Technology Programme at University of King’s College, Halifax. This is common too. This is, based on extensive research in “Canadians’ and Others’ Convictions to Divine Interventionism in the Matters of the Origins and Evolution,” the trend for years now. (Any commentary considerations for creationism and Intelligent Design can be considered there, as the rest would be repetition.)[1] In short, the only places, or the vast majority of places, to present these ideas are churches and religious institutions. Outside of those, these theological hypotheses posed as scientific aren’t taken seriously or, generally, are seen as a hysterical joke when posed as science rather than theology. Some, like Zak Graham in “Atheism is simply a lack of belief,” get the point published in The Langley Times. That seems like an uncommon stance in the wider community.

As Brad Warner notes in a short confessional post in Fellowship Pacific, he came to the Christian religion in university. It’s a sweet confession, which tells a sociological tale. The personalities are landmarks or guideposts, so largely irrelevant, not the main points in this article. Either someone is indoctrinated into faith or religion with specific thou shalts and thou shalt nots before critical thinking becomes a real possibility, or the individuals, typically, attend a Christian or private university and become suffused within a Christian ethos in a vastly dominated-by-Christianity culture in Canadian society with 2/3rds of the general population identifying as Christian. Even in some indications of the counselling professionals in the area, as an individual case study, statements emerge as in Alex Kwee, Ph.D., R.Psych. stating, “A distinctive of my approach lies in the fact that I am a Christian. The practice of psychotherapy is never value-neutral; even the most ostensibly ‘objective’ of counsellors must possess certain irreducible value propositions—even atheism or secular humanism are value systems that cannot be proven ‘right’ one way or another.” Note, he makes Christianity or Christian identity as part of the approach, as I am certain of the same for countless others in the area and around the country. Also, the conflation or dual-linkage between atheism and secular humanism alongside value systems. It’s a quaint proposition and half-false. In the instance of atheism, it does not posit values, but it proposes a lack of belief in gods – not values. (Hence, “half-wrong,” Q.E.D.) Coming from a Christian worldview with the good coming from God, the denial of such can only seem as if this. It’s not. What does propose values? Secular humanism, certainly, proposes values; Christianity asserts values too. Why bring atheist and secular humanism into the equation? Does this come from a pre-emptive defensive posture for the inevitable conflict of professional ethics and the introduction of theological constructs into psychotherapeutic processes with clients? Indeed, the potentially inevitable, seemingly incurable prejudice and bias in practitioners bringing their religious faiths with supernatural structures may bleed into the therapeutic process. Mr. Kwee states:

As a Christian, I contextualize my approach and strategies within a spiritual and faith-affirming framework, which is important for many of the Christian clients with whom I work. I firmly believe that therapy cannot be done in an existential or spiritual vacuum, but that the most effective therapy contextualizes evidence-based techniques to a client’s system of personal meaning to help them to create a life that is rich with meaning and purpose, not just devoid of psychological pain. Because most people are in search of greater meaning and appreciate a more “ultimate” frame of reference, I find that clients of many walks and backgrounds are comfortable working with me even if they do not share my worldview.

One can come as a non-religious person, but one should be wary – as has been commonly reported by prominent secular therapists as Dr. Darrel Ray of Recovering From Religion and the Secular Therapy Project. Furthermore, some of the peer-reviewed research presented on the professional website for Mr. Kwee amounts to assertions of sexual addiction or sex addiction. This is a pseudoscientific view or a theological assertion, not a psychological construct viewpoint. Take a counselling psychologist, Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson, in an interview with me entitled “Ask Dr. Robertson 13 — A Hawk’s Eye on Counsellors’ Professional Ethics and Morals,” stated:

When an ideology or religion is used to modify terms like “psychology,” “counselling” or “psychotherapy,” I become wary. For example, how does “Christian Counselling” differ from counselling? Christian counsellors I have talked to define their religion as having certain superior attributes with respect to love and spiritual fulfillment. But a secular counsellor, on finding that a client believed in prayer, for example, might invite the client to pray as part of his or her therapeutic plan. A difference might be that if the prayer does not work to the client’s satisfaction, the secular counsellor might be more willing to explore other alternatives while the Christian counsellor might be more prone engage in self-limiting platitudes such as, “Maybe God does not want this for you.” Counsellors employed by Catholic Family Services are routinely required to sign a statement stating they will respect the Church’s beliefs regarding “the sanctity of life.” This is regularly interpreted to mean that counsellors in their employ may not explore the option of abortion with pregnant clients, and if a client chooses that option, she will do so without the support of her counsellor or therapist. Counsellors from a variety of Christian denominations actively discourage people who are non-heterosexual. A particularly unethical practice is encapsulated in the oxymoron “Conversion Therapy.” Conversion implies a template outside of the individual to which the individual converts. It is, therefore, the opposite of therapy where the client defines his own template. Overall, Christian counselling does not add to the professional practice but is subtractive, limiting the options permitted clients.

The notion of limiting psychology’s ability to increase to individual choice and volition is pervasive…

… Scott, you asked me about professional codes of ethics. Codes of ethics are written by those with the power to do so. Conversion Therapy as practiced by some Christian groups has been ruled unethical. The feminist version has not. I believe that freedom of conscience involves a duty to conduct oneself to a higher ethic, and in my case that ethic involves supporting individual volitional empowerment. Individual volition operates within the constraint that there is a reality outside ourselves and if we stray too far from that reality we will harm ourselves and others. We cannot gain empowerment by feeding a delusion.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-5 or the DSM-5 rejected sex addiction for inclusion in 2013. There’s no such thing as sex addiction as a formal psychological construct; sex addiction is a theological construct, i.e., a pseudoscientific and worldview construct posed as psychological. This seems like bad science and, thus, leading to the potential for a bad theoretical foundation for praxis, for practice. Could purity culture from Christian doctrine and worldview be influencing this particular academic output? Could these views influence the “meaning and purpose” of those coming to the Kwees of psychotherapy or counselling psychology? It’s an open question; I leave this to clientele, while I intend this as a case study of a larger issue within the therapeutic practice culture. As Dr. Darrel Ray in “Extensive Interview with Dr. Darrel Ray on Secular Therapy and Recovering From Religion” stated:

So, #2 behind the fear of hell are issues around their sexuality and things like, “I know it’s not wrong to masturbate, but I still feel guilty,” “I am a sex addict because I look at porn.” There’s tons of evidence that the most religious people self-identify the most as “sex addicts.” Not to mind, there is no such thing as sex addiction. There’s no way to define it. I have argued with atheists that have been atheists for 20 years who say that they are sex addicts. Help me understand, how did you get that diagnosis? “My mother-in-law diagnosed me” [Laughing]. “I look at porn once or twice a week.” I do not care if you look at porn once or twice an hour. You are still not a sex addict. So, get over that. You may have other issues. You may have some compulsions. You may have some fear of driving the issue. But it almost always comes down to early childhood religious training, as we spoke about earlier. So, people are simply responding to the programming. Even though, they are atheist, secular, agnostic. I do not care what you call yourself. You are still dealing with the programming. Sometimes, you can go an entire lifetime with a guilt, a shame, a fear, rooted in religion.

If you do not believe in the Christian influence on the research and views, please review the articles in the most superficial of ways with articles entitled “Theologically-Informed Education about Masturbation: A Male Sexual Health Perspective,” “Sexual Addiction: Diagnosis and Treatment,” “Sexual Addiction and Christian College Men: Conceptual, Assessment and Treatment Challenges,” “Constructing Addiction from Experience and Context: Peele and Brodsky’s Love and Addiction Revisited,” and even a society entitled Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH). It’s like this on issue and after issue. Fundamentalist Christian universities and theological beliefs in areas infect towns, attract similarly minded individuals from around the fundamentalist Christian diaspora, and reduce the amount of proper science in professional lives and the critical thinking in the public. People are part of the culture in some framings. Then these connect to academic formalities around pseudoscientific views with societies and groups built around them too, e.g., SASH, as the “Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) was founded in 1987 by Patrick Carnes, Richard Santorini and Ed Armstrong, SASH began as a membership organization for people concerned with sexual addiction problems.” [Emphasis added.]

Again, the point isn’t the individuals inasmuch as trends in culture with representative case studies as important for this. In those cases of the Bissets with a marginally skeptical view, it’s not about factual accounts of the world. It is about maintenance of numbers. In the cases of the Kwees, it’s not about factual and empirical all the time, but it’s about selective factual-and-empirical, and buttressed and warped by theological pseudoscience (by the most up-to-date standards of the professional diagnostic and statistical manual for psychologists or the DSM-5 with lack of inclusion on one theological theory of sexual dysfunction in “sex addiction”). It should be noted. In the United States of America under the American Psychological Association, any imposition by an American-trained counselling psychologist can be called out on ethics violations. Slippery language should not be a basis upon which for a tacit claim for circumnavigation of A.4.b. Personal Values of the ethics code for American counsellors, which stipulates, “Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours. Counsellors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counsellor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature.” However, this is in Canada. If one sees presentations crossing the line in an explicit manner in a local or national context, one can express appropriate concerns with formal channels to act on it, whether non-Christians in general or the non-religious in particular. I doubt in this case on some levels, though, as the statements are reasonably carefully worded – and is grounded in psychotherapy as opposed to counselling psychology.

Fort Langley culture follows from the culture of Trinity Western University on a number of qualitative-observational metrics. A university that failed to attain a law school status based on the bias and prejudice stemming from a Community Covenant with statements deemed repeatedly and nearly unequivocally as biased and prejudiced against members of the LGBTI community. They overwhelmingly lost the law school case 7-2 in the Supreme Court of Canada with denial of status as a law school as “reasonable” by the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada. It was June 15, 2018; the decision where the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the British Columbia and Ontario law societies in a 7-2 collective decision for Trinity Western University v Law Society of Upper Canada and Law Society of British Columbia v Trinity Western University.Shortly thereafter, they retracted the mandatory nature of the Community Covenant for the students, but, as I have been told, not for staff, faculty, and administrators. A faith needing community legislation appears weaker than one strong enough as written on the heart and lived out in one’s life. Bearing in mind, Christ never wrote anything down on paper. Perhaps, there has been some wisdom in this fact worth retaining in this case. Dissenting views exist on the campus and in the community. One TWU is one LGBTI community group around campus without formal affiliation (“*We are run completely independently from and bare no formal affiliation with Trinity Western University”), though small, for individual students who may be struggling on or around campus. While others outside the formal TWU community, and in the extended fundamentalist Christian community, and taking the idea of “think differently” differently – as in “think the same, as always,” Richard Peachey is as fast as proclaiming the literal Word of God Almighty with homosexuality as an affront to God and fundamentally a sin in His sight. In spite of this, at one time or another, based on Canadian reportage and some names in the current listings, Matthew Wigmore, Bryan Sandberg, and David Evans-Carlson (co-founders of One TWU), and Nate/Nathan Froelich, Kelsey Tiffin, Robynne Healey, and others in the current crop – Kieran Wear, Elisabeth Browning, Queenie Rabanes, and Micah Bron – stand firm against some former mandatory community covenant standards either as supports for themselves or as allies who have been negatively impacted by the Community Covenant. A minority gender and sexual identity is completely healthy and normal. If the theology rejects this, then the theology is at odds with reality, not the students’ sense of themselves, who they love, and their identities, or the science. I agree with them and stand far more with them. When the Community Covenant was dropped as a mandatory requirement for students, many were excited and thrilled. Although, some questions arise about the reaction of excitement and thrill about some who left the university and see the change in the mandatory nature of the Community Covenant.

Why excitement? Why thrill? Aren’t some of these students gone? Wouldn’t this leave the concerns behind them? Aren’t others graduated at this point? Haven’t others already signed and suffered in the past? In short, isn’t it history? Insofar as I can discern, it’s a grounding of common suffering across academic cohorts at Trinity Western University for compassion and empathy for a sense of “no more” and “not to you, too” in the community of the fundamentalist faithful. These students, many of them, went through hell by the attitudes and behaviours reflected in a Community Covenant and selective literalist reading of purported sacred scripture of a larger sex and gender identity majority who, sometimes, treated them with suspicion, pity, or contempt grounded in theology and legislated in the Community Covenant. I feel a similar sentiment around the denial of same-sex marriage by some fundamentalist Evangelical Christians. The proportional response: I don’t believe in heterosexual marriage between a man and a woman for those particular fundamentalist Evangelical Christians. It sounds absurd because the former is outlandish, too.

Anyhow, continuing, why make others experience hell here-and-now in the belief of one’s personal near guarantee to hypothetical heaven there-and-then when one’s corpse is ash, ice, or six feet under, regardless? Does it matter? That is to ask, if God has a Divine Will and is the source of the Moral Law, the Good, and all in, of, and under Creation, why not let Him deal with it, not you? It’s obvious as to the implications here. All this is not due to the Devil, to demonic forces, to non-literalist Christians, to secular humanists, to atheists. This is entirely mundane. It is due to community attitudes and beliefs leading to actions making vulnerable members of the community feel wrong by nature, not of what they believe or their moral character but because, of who they are; that which they cannot change and are born with as human beings with minority sexual and gender identities. That’s bigotry. A nativist sensibility for the negative presumption of an individual based on, more or less, inborn characteristics with thin disguises in the form of “don’t hate the sinner, hate the sin.” Does anyone seriously buy this outside of the informationally, emotionally, and theologically confined and constricted fundamentalist walls where “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”? These are human, all-too-human, follies and foibles wrought forth on the lives of the few by the many in the hallowed halls of the largest Christian university in the country. The relief felt was less for themselves and more for others who would not have to endure as much next time around. I consider freedom of religion, belief, and conscience important for a secular democratic and pluralistic state. Thus, the students may feel healthier in a non-Christian or public university. However, if they choose a Christian university, or if they are pressured into this by parents, community, friends, church, and theology, then they have personal respect to choose, and in making the choice, to me, because, based on the readings, the reactions, and the sensibilities expressed, they’re entering hostile territory.

Congratulations for making it this far, but freethought extends into other areas too, of the local culture, as with hundreds of towns in this country, whether colonics/colonhydrotherapy, aromatherapy, chiropractory, acupuncture, reflexology, naturopathy/naturopathic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, or simply a culture of praying for help with an ailment (which is one overlap with the religious fundamentalist community and the reduced capacity for critical thought). Colonics/colonhydrotherapy is marginally practiced within some of the town in Fort Langley Colonics. Dr. Stephen Barrett, M.D. in “Gastrointestinal Quackery: Colonics, Laxatives, and More” stated rather starkly:

Colonic irrigation, which also can be expensive, has considerable potential for harm. The process can be very uncomfortable, since the presence of the tube can induce severe cramps and pain. If the equipment is not adequately sterilized between treatments, disease germs from one person’s large intestine can be transmitted to others. Several outbreaks of serious infections have been reported, including one in which contaminated equipment caused amebiasis in 36 people, 6 of whom died following bowel perforation. Cases of heart failure (from excessive fluid absorption into the bloodstream) and electrolyte imbalance have also been reported. Direct rectal perforation has also been reported. Yet no license or training is required to operate a colonic-irrigation device. In 1985, a California judge ruled that colonic irrigation is an invasive medical procedure that may not be performed by chiropractors and the California Health Department’s Infectious Disease Branch stated: “The practice of colonic irrigation by chiropractors, physical therapists, or physicians should cease. Colonic irrigation can do no good, only harm.” The National Council Against Health Fraud agrees.

In 2009, Dr. Edzard Ernst tabulated the therapeutic claims he found on the Web sites of six “professional organizations of colonic irrigations.” The themes he found included detoxification, normailzation [sic] of intestinal function, treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, and weight loss. He also found claims elated to asthma, menstrual irregularities, circulatory disorders, skin problems, and improvements in energy levels. Searching Medline and Embase, he was unable to find a single controlled clinical trial that substantiated [sic] any of these claims.

On aromatherapy, this one is a softball. One can find this in the True Aromatherapy Products and Spa (TAP) store. As William H. London, in an article entitled “Essential Considerations About Aromatherapy” in Skeptical Inquirer, describes the foundations of aromatherapy as follows, “The practice of administering plant-derived essential oils on the skin, via inhalation of vapors, or internally via ingestion for supposed healing power is commonly called aromatherapy. The oils for aromatherapy are described as ‘essential’ to refer to the volatile, aromatic components that some people describe as the ‘essence’ of the plant source, which represents the plant’s ‘life force,’ ‘spirit,’ or soul. Aromatherapy is thus rooted in vitalism…”  RationalWiki states:

Like most woo, aromatherapy starts with observable, real effects of smells on humans, and extrapolates and exaggerates into a whole range of treatments from the effective, to the banal, to the outright ridiculous…

As well as the inherent problematic practice of wasting money on useless medicine and potentially substituting useless concoctions in place of conventional medicine, the essential oils in aromatherapy may be a skin irritant. It is also poorly regulated, as the claims that scents having any beneficial effects are regulated as a cosmetic claim, and it thus does not require FDA approval. Combined with the lack of evidence it really is a waste, but for you, not for those that sell the products. According to Quackwatch, Health Foods Business estimated that the total of aromatherapy products sold through health-food stores was about $59 million in 1995 and $105 million in 1996.

To chiropractory, it is widely regarded as a pseudoscience with either no efficacy or negative effects on the patient or the client. Fort Family Chiropractic and Evergreen Chiropractic are the two main businesses devoted to some practice of chiropractory. As Science-Based Medicine in its “Chiropractic” entry states:

Chiropractic was invented by D. D. Palmer, Sep 18, 1895 when he adjusted the spine of a deaf man and allegedly restored his hearing (a claim that is highly implausible based on what we know of anatomy). Based on this one case, Palmer decided that all disease was due to subluxation: 95% to subluxations of the spine and 5% to subluxations of other bones.

The rationale for chiropractic hinges on three postulates:

  1. Bones are out of place
  2. Bony displacements cause nerve interference
  3. Manipulating the spine replaces the bones, removing the nerve interference and allowing Innate (a vitalistic life force) to restore health.

There is no credible evidence to support any of these claims…

…In over a century, chiropractic research has produced no evidence to support the postulates of chiropractic theory and little evidence that chiropractic treatments provide objective benefits. Research on spinal manipulation is inherently difficult, because double blind studies are impossible and even single blind studies are problematic; a placebo response is hard to rule out…

…There is no acceptable evidence that chiropractic can improve the many other health problems it claims to benefit, from colic to asthma. There is no evidence to support the practice of adjusting the spines of newborns in the delivery room or providing repeated lifelong adjustments to maintain health or prevent disease.

Up to half of patients report short-term adverse effects from manipulation, such as increased local or radiating pain; and there is a rare but devastating complication of neck manipulation: it can injure the vertebrobasilar arteries and cause stroke, paralysis, and death. Some chiropractors do not accept the germ theory of disease and only about half of them support immunization. 

Acupuncture is another issue. Hardman Acupuncturist & TCMIntegrated Health Clinic, devote themselves, in part, to this. Dr. Steven Novella of Science-Based Medicine in “Acupuncture Doesn’t Work” stated:

…according to the usual standards of medicine, acupuncture does not work.

Let me explain what I mean by that. Clinical research can never prove that an intervention has an effect size of zero. Rather, clinical research assumes the null hypothesis, that the treatment does not work, and the burden of proof lies with demonstrating adequate evidence to reject the null hypothesis. So, when being technical, researchers will conclude that a negative study “fails to reject the null hypothesis.”

Further, negative studies do not demonstrate an effect size of zero, but rather that any possible effect is likely to be smaller than the power of existing research to detect. The greater the number and power of such studies, however, the closer this remaining possible effect size gets to zero. At some point the remaining possible effect becomes clinically insignificant.

In other words, clinical research may not be able to detect the difference between zero effect and a tiny effect, but at some point it becomes irrelevant.

What David and I have convincingly argued, in my opinion, is that after decades of research and more than 3000 trials, acupuncture researchers have failed to reject the null hypothesis, and any remaining possible specific effect from acupuncture is so tiny as to be clinically insignificant.

In layman’s terms, acupuncture does not work – for anything.

This has profound clinical, ethical, scientific, and practical implications. In my opinion humanity should not waste another penny, another moment, another patient – any further resources on this dead end. We should consider this a lesson learned, cut our losses, and move on.

Many of these practices are swimming in the, or have a foot in the, waters of pseudoscience practiced as if medically or physiologically feasible, but, in matter of fact, remain a drain on the public’s purse based on taking advantage of public confidence in medicine in Canada while having given zero benefit while failing to reject the null hypothesis.

Another issue practice is reflexology, as seen in Health Roots & Reflexology. Quackwatch concludes, “Reflexology is based on an absurd theory and has not been demonstrated to influence the course of any illness. Done gently, reflexology is a form of foot massage that may help people relax temporarily. Whether that is worth $35 to $100 per session or is more effective than ordinary (noncommercial) foot massage is a matter of individual choice. Claims that reflexology is effective for diagnosing or treating disease should be ignored. Such claims could lead to delay of necessary medical care or to unnecessary medical testing of people who are worried about reflexology findings.” Health Roots & Reflexology appears to be one business devoted to thus. As Dr. Harriet Hall in “Modern Reflexology: Still As Bogus As Pre-Modern Reflexology” said, “Reflexology is an alternative medicine system that claims to treat internal organs by pressing on designated spots on the feet and hands; there is no anatomical connection between those organs and those spots. Systematic reviews in 2009 and 2011 found no convincing evidence that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition. Quackwatch and the NCAHF agree that reflexology is a form of massage that may help patients relax and feel better temporarily, but that has no other health benefits. Our own Mark Crislip said, ‘The great majority of studies demonstrate reflexology had no effects that could not be replicated by picking fleas off your mate…And it has no anatomic or physiologic justification.’”

A larger concoction of bad science and medicine comes from the Integrated Health Clinic devoted, largely, to naturopathy/naturopathic medicine (based on a large number of naturopaths on staff) and traditional Chinese medicine with manifestations in IV/chelation therapy, neural therapy, detox, hormone balancing & thermography, anthroposophical medicine, LRHT/hyperthermia, Bowen technique, among others. We’ll run through those first two, as the references to them are available in the resources, in the manner before. Scott Gavura in “Naturopathy vs. Science: Facts edition” stated:

Naturopaths claim that they practice based on scientific principles. Yet examinations of naturopathic literature, practices and statements suggest a more ambivalent attitude. neatly illustrates the problem with naturopathy itself: Open antagonism to science-based medicine, and the risk of harm from “integrating” these practices into the practice of medicine. Unfortunately, the trend towards “integrating” naturopathy into medicine is both real and frightening. Because good medicine isn’t based on invented facts and pre-scientific beliefs – it must be grounded in science. And naturopathy, despite the claims, is anything but scientific.

The Skeptic’s Dictionary stated:

Naturopathy is often, if not always, practiced in combination with other forms of “alternative” health practices. Bastyr University, a leading school of naturopathy since 1978, offers instruction in such things as acupuncture and “spirituality.” Much of the advice of naturopaths is sound: exercise, quit smoking, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, practice good nutrition. Claims that these and practices such as colonic irrigation or coffee enemas “detoxify” the body or enhance the immune system or promote “homeostasis,” “harmony,” “balance,” “vitality,” and the like are exaggerated and not backed up by sound research.

As Dr. David Gorski, as quoted in RationalWiki, stated, “Naturopathy is a cornucopia of almost every quackery you can think of. Be it homeopathytraditional Chinese medicineAyurvedic medicineapplied kinesiologyanthroposophical medicinereflexologycraniosacral therapy, Bowen Technique, and pretty much any other form of unscientific or prescientific medicine that you can imagine, it’s hard to think of a single form of pseudoscientific medicine and quackery that naturopathy doesn’t embrace or at least tolerate.” The Massachusetts Medical Society stated similar terms, “Naturopathic medical school is not a medical school in anything but the appropriation of the word medical. Naturopathy is not a branch of medicine. It is a combination of nutritional advice, home remedies and discredited treatments… Naturopathic practices are unchanged by research and remain a large assortment of erroneous and potentially dangerous claims mixed with a sprinkling of non-controversial dietary and lifestyle advice.” This is the level of qualifications of most of the practitioners of the IHC or the Integrated Health Clinic.

Now, onto Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM, or Chinese Medicine or CM, also coming out of the Integrated Health Clinic, RationalWiki notes some of the dangerous, if not disgusting to a North American and Western European palette, ingredients:

CM ingredients can range from common plants, such as dandelion, persimmon, and mint, to weird or even dangerous stuff. Some of the more revolting (from a Western standpoint) things found in TCM include genitals of various animals (including dogs, tigers, seals, oxen, goats, and deer), bear bile (commonly obtained by means of slow, inhumane extraction methods), and (genuine) snake oil… Urinefecesplacenta and other human-derived medicines were traditionally used but some may no longer be in use.

Some of the dangerous ingredients include lead, calomel (mercurous chloride), cinnabar (red mercuric sulfide), asbestos (including asbestiform actinolite, sometimes erroneously called aconite) realgar (arsenic), and birthwort (Aristolochia spp.). Bloodletting is also practiced. Bizarrely, lead oxide, cinnabar, and calomel are said to be good for detoxification. Lead oxide is also supposed to help with ringworms, skin rashes, rosacea, eczema, sores, ulcers, and intestinal parasites, cinnabar allegedly helps you live longer, and asbestos…

Dr. Arthur Grollman, a professor of pharmacological science and medicine at Stony Brook University in New York, in an article entitled “Chinese medicine gains WHO acceptance but it has many critics” is quoted, on the case of TCM or CM acceptance at the World Health Organization, saying, “It will confer legitimacy on unproven therapies and add considerably to the costs of health care… Widespread consumption of Chinese herbals of unknown efficacy and potential toxicity will jeopardize the health of unsuspecting consumers worldwide.”  On case after case, we can find individual practices or collections of practices of dubious effect if not ill-effect in the town. Indeed, this follows from one of the earliest points about the infusion of supernatural thinking or pseudoscientific integration of praxis into the community, whether fear of liberal theology, encouragement of pseudobiology, prejudice and bigotry against the LGBTI members of community, pseudo-psychological diagnoses passed off as real psychological and behavioural issues while simply grounded in theological bias and false assertions as psychological constructs, or in the whole host of bad medical and science practices seen in “colonics/colonhydrotherapy, aromatherapy, chiropractory, acupuncture, reflexology, naturopathy/naturopathic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.”

This isn’t a declaration of “what to do,” but “if done, be, at least, informed about bad science, bad medicine, questionable theology, etc.” As noted about the right to freedom of belief, religion, and conscience (and expression and opinion), people are free to lose money on dubious treatments or otherwise. Freedom seen throughout Canada on the basis of “what people, in fact, do anyway”; whereas, at a minimum, the critical thinking of the culture should rise to the bare minimum standard of “if done, be, at least, informed about bad science, bad medicine, questionable theology, etc.”

[1] Canadians’ and Others’ Convictions to Divine Interventionism in the Matters of the Origins and Evolution states:

Canadian Mennonite University invited Professor Dennis Venema from Trinity Western University as the Scientist in Residence. Venema, at the time, stated, “I’m thrilled to be invited to be the Scientist in Residence at CMU for 2019. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for students, and I am honoured to join a prestigious group of prior participants… I hope that these conversations can help students along the path to embracing both God’s word and God’s world as a source of reliable revelation to us.” Venema defends the view of evolutionary theory within a framework of “evolutionary creationism,” which appears more a terminologically diplomatic stance than evolution via natural selection or the code language within some religious commentary as things like or almost identical to “atheistic evolution” or “atheistic evolutionism.” He provides education on the range of religious views on offer with a more enticing one directed at evolution via natural selection. The Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation provides a space for countering some of the young earth geologist and young earth creationist viewpoints, as with the advertisement of the Dr. Jonathan Baker’s lecture, or in pamphlets produced on geological (and other) sciences. 

He works in a tough area within a community not necessarily accepting of the evolution via natural selection view of human beings with a preference for special creation, creationism, or intelligent design. Much of the problems post-genetics as a proper discipline of scientific study and the discovery of evolution via natural selection comes from the evangelical Christian communities’ sub-cultures who insist on a literal and, hence, fundamentalist interpretation or reading of their scriptures or purported holy texts. Another small item of note. Other universities have writers in residence. A Mennonite university hosts a scientist in residence. Science becomes the abnorm rather than the norm. The King’s University contains one reference in the search results within a past conference. However, this may be a reference to “creation” rather than “creationism” as creation and more “creation” speaking to the theological interpretations of genesis without an attempt at an explicit scientific justification of mythology.

By far, the largest number of references to “creationism” came from the largest Christian, and evangelical Christian, university in the country located in Langley, British Columbia, Canada called Trinity Western University, which, given its proximity and student body population compared to the local town, makes Fort Langley – in one framing – and Trinity Western University the heart of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity in Canada. Trinity Western University teaches a “SCS 503 – Creationism & Christainity [sic] (Korean)” course and a “SCS 691 – Creationism Field Trip” course. They hosted a lecture on Stephen Hawking, science, and creation, as stated:

In light of Steven Hawking’s theories, is there enough reason for theists to believe in the existence of God and the creation of the world?

This lecture will respond to Hawking’s views and reflect on the relationship between science, philosophy and theology.

Speaker: Dr. Yonghua Ge, Director of Mandarin Theology Program at ACTS Seminaries (Ibid.)

They hosted another event on evolution and young earth creationism:

All are welcome to attend, Public Lecture, hosted by TWU’s ‘Science, Faith, and Human Flourishing: Conversations in Community“ Initiative, supported by Fuller Seminary, Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences, and the Canadian Scientific & Christian Affiliation, “Evolutionary and Young-Earth Creationism: Two Separate Lectures” (Darrel Falk, “Evolution, Creation and the God Who is Love” and Todd Wood, “The Quest: Understanding God’s Creation in Science and Scripture”)

Dirk Büchner, Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Western University, states an expertise in “Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac (grammar and syntax), Hellenistic Greek (grammar and lexicography), The Septuagint. Of more popular interest: The Bible and Social Justice, and Creationism, Scientism and the Bible: why there should be no conflict between mainstream science and Christian faith.” Professor Büchner holds an expert status in “creationism.” A non-conflict between mainstream science and the Christian faith would mean the significantly reduced status of the intervention of the divine in the ordinary life of Christians. He remains one locus of creationism in the Trinity Western University environment. Dr. Paul Yang’s biography states, “Paul Yang has over twenty years teaching experience, lecturing on physics and physics education, as well as Christian worldview and creationism. He has served as the director of the Vancouver Institute for Evangelical Wordlview [Sic] as well as the Director of the Christian.” Yang holds memberships or affiliations with the American Scientific Affiliation, Creation Research Society, and Korea Association of Creation Research. Dr. Alister McGrath and Dr. Michael Shermer had a dialogue moderated by a panel with Paul Chamberlain, Ph.D., Jaime Palmer-Hague, Ph.D., and Myron Penner, Ph.D. in 2017 at Trinity Western University.

All exist as probably Christian front organizations with the pretense as scientific and Christian organizations. One can see the patterns repeat themselves over and over again. Christian ‘science’ amounts to creationism, as noted before. Yang, with more than 20 years, exists as a pillar of creationist teaching, thinking, and researching within Canada and at Trinity Western University…

Other cases of the more sophisticated and newer brands of Christianity with a similar theology, but more evolutionary biology – proper – incorporated into them exist in some of the heart of parts of evangelical Christianity in Canada. Professor Dennis Venema of Trinity Western University and his colleague Dave Navarro (Pastor, South Langley Church) continued a conversation on something entitled “evolutionary creation,” not “creation science” or “intelligent design” as Venema’s orientation at Trinity Western University continues to focus on the ways in which the evolutionary science can mix with a more nuanced and informed Christian theological worldview within the Evangelical tradition. One can doubt the fundamental claim, not in the Bible but, about the Bible as the holy God-breathed or divinely inspired book of the creator of the cosmos, but one can understand the doubt about the base claim about the veracity of the Bible leading to doubt about the contents and claims in the Bible – fundamental and derivative…

…A more small-time politician, Dr. Darrell Furgason, ran for public office in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. Furgason lectured at Trinity Western University and earned a Ph.D. in Religious Studies. Dr. Furgason claims inclusivity for all while ignoring standard protocol in science, i.e., asserting religious views in written work, “Theistic evolution is a wrong view of Genesis, as well as history, and biology. Adam & Eve were real people….who lived in real history….around 6000 years ago.” ..

…The main fundamentalist Evangelical Christian postsecondary institution, university, found in Canadian society is Trinity Western University, where Professor Dennis Venema was the prominent individual referenced as the source of progress in the scientific discussions within intellectual and, in particular, formal academic discussions and teaching. Trinity Western University operates near Fort Langley, British Columbia, Canada in Langley. The main feature case for Story comes from a city near to Trinity Western University in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Story considers this the single most controversial case of creationism in the entire country…

…John Sutherland, of Trinity Western University, chaired the Abbotsford school board of the time, which, potentially, shows some relationship between the surrounding areas and the school curriculum and creationism axis – as you may recall Trinity Western University sits in Fort Langley, British Columbia, Canada, next to the city of Abbotsford, British Columbia as an evangelical Christian university. “The Minister agreed with Goodman and the Teachers’ Association and sent a letter requesting assurances from the board that they were adhering to the provincial curriculum…”, Story explained, “…The Minister’s requests were not directly acknowledged, but Sutherland was vocal about the issue in local media outlets. He accused the Minister of religious prejudice by attempting to remove creationism from the district.”

See “Canadians’ and Others’ Convictions to Divine Interventionism in the Matters of the Origins and Evolution”:

Photo by Krista Joy Montgomery on Unsplash


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