When Jenny McCarthy was fired from The View last year, The Scrapbook let out a sigh of relief. Her position on the ABC gabfest meant the former Playboy model could preach her antivaccination gospel to an audience of millions, five days a week. Now we fear deadly but preventable diseases like measles and tetanus will continue to spread—because it turns out not even venerable institutions of higher learning are immune to this pernicious propaganda.
Officials at the University of Toronto are defending a course with a syllabus less serious than the bibliography of a Jenny McCarthy book. For the last two years, Beth Landau-Halpern, a homeopath, taught “Alternative Health: Practice and Theory,” a course in UT-Scarborough’s health studies program that, in her words, presented an alternative to the “scientific, drug-based approach to health.” Except when science—read pseudoscience—suited her, that is. “Quantum physics,” she declared in the course description, “offers clear explanations as to why homeopathic remedies . . . are able to resolve chronic diseases, why acupuncture can offer patients enough pain relief to undergo surgery without anesthesia, why meditation alone can, in some instances, reduce the size of cancerous tumors.”
One class, entitled “Vaccination—the King of Controversy,” sparked the most outrage. (Note that the unqualified Landau-Halpern is the wife of UT-Scarborough’s dean.) The “required reading/viewing” for that week consisted, in its entirety, of 30-some pages of a self-published book and three YouTube videos, including an interview with Andrew Wakefield, the long-discredited researcher who spawned a movement with his falsified work claiming a link between vaccination and autism. Landau-Halpern assigned no readings on vaccination’s life-saving successes or the mountains of evidence there’s no connection between it and autism. But that was fine with Vivek Goel, the University of Toronto’s vice president of research and innovation, whose confidential report on the course came out this month. “The instructor reports that she provides these readings as the students have already seen the other side in previous courses,” he wrote. “As a result, I do not find that the instructor’s approach in this class has been, or would have reasonably been perceived to be unbalanced.” The school gave the same glib response to a group of University of Toronto scientists and faculty members—some experts in quantum physics—who had written the school’s president “concerned about the way the scientific method is portrayed in the course.”
The University of Toronto, columnist Tabatha Southey noted in the national newspaper the Globe and Mail, is “the place where stem cells and insulin were discovered.” Maybe researchers there should start working on a new cure for whooping cough.