Episode 18: WiFi, Mobile Phones, and Electrosensitivity

Episode 18: WiFi, Mobile Phones, and Electrosensitivity

Life, the Universe & Everything ElseIn this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem Newman, Richelle McCullough, Javier Hernandez-Melgar, and Mark Forkheim discuss recent attempts to ban WiFi in several Canadian schools and the scientific merits of health claims made about WiFi, cellphones, and other sources of electromagnetic radiation.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

News: Imagine No Religion 2 Conference | Altona Parents Protest LGBTQ Pledge (Initial Coverage, Response from Rev. Dr. Lesley Fox, Follow-up) | Catholic Teachers Urge WiFi Ban (Globe & Mail, CBC/Canadian Press) | Homeless Hotspots

Links: Illustration of the EMF Spectrum | National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet: Cell Phones and Cancer Risk | WHO Warns Cellphone Use is ‘Possibly Carcinogenic’ | The Not-So-Dangerous Truth Behind Microwaves | Elizabeth May on EFM (SkepticNorth, Winnipeg Skeptics) | Evaluating The Evidence for Cell Phones and WiFi | “Dirty Electricity” | Electrosensitivity in Sweden | Skeptics’ Guide 5×5 on WiFi | Skeptoid on Electrosensitivity | Lakehead University WiFi Ban (Ban, Repeal)

Also on this episode, the first instalment of our new segment …and That’s Why You’re Wrong. This week, we discuss the Cosmological Argument, and its increasingly popular cousin, the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

The Cosmological Argument
1. Everything has a cause.
2. A causal loop cannot exist, and a causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
3. Therefore, a First Cause must exist. (We call this cause “God”.)

The Kalam Cosmological Argument
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The Universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the Universe had a cause.

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Correction: On this episode I made an offhand remark about gamma radiation turning a person into a member of the X-Men. I obviously should have said a member of the Avengers (more specifically, the Incredible Hulk). I apologise in advance to any of my fellow Marvel nerds who are offended by this gross misstatement of comic book fact.

Oh, Elizabeth May…

Now, I’ve criticised the Green Party before for basing their policies on ideology rather than on sound science. I’ve also criticised journalists who should know better for swallowing outlandish fear-mongering about EMF without a hint of skepticism.

Now all the threads are coming together.

Elizabeth May, the leader of Canada’s Green Party and the first Green candidate to be elected to federal office, recently took to Twitter to criticise BC Hydro’s Smart Meters, pausing only to take a swipe at WiFi in schools.

Honestly, I’m getting really tired of fighting this fight, and I’m starting to understand what Randi means when he talks about “unsinkable rubber ducks”. Science writer Brian Dunning (of the award-winning Skeptoid podcast) addresses some of May’s claims directly in today’s Ottawa Citizen:

For a politician to be frightened of a tiny, low-voltage device that generates a shadow of nature’s everyday state, at a natural frequency, betrays an unacceptable level of disdain for basic science and knowledge of nature. There are reasons that we chose radio as a means for delivering information. It’s natural, it’s easy, and it’s the way our environment works. One can try to argue that radio is used because it’s cheap and profits can be easily made, with a reckless disregard for health, but claims of health effects rapidly disintegrate under even the simplest of scientific scrutiny.

Dr. Steven Novella has also addressed the issue of health concerns over EMF several times in the past. From one of his recent posts on the subject:

To give a quick summary, there is no convincing data to link cell phone use and brain cancer. Epidemiological studies have not found an increase in the incidence of brain cancer following the widespread adoption of cell phones in the mid 1990s – as one would expect if there were a causal relationship. Further, large scale studies have not found any consistent correlation between cell phone use and brain cancer.

And finally, one last LOL-worthy tidbid via reddit:

Tips o’ the hat to Eric Davies and Tim Herd.