News headlines from Europe about skeptical activism, mythbusting, science related policy decisions, consumer protection, frauds, health scams, alternative medicine, bad scientific practices, pseudoscience etc.
In recent years, Romania’s vaccination rates for MMR have dropped dramatically. The causes for this are multifactorial, however, one of the main reasons is parents refusing vaccinations under the influence of antivaccine propaganda. Other issues include lack of access to medical services and lack of vaccines (though not relevant for MMR)
As a consequence, a measles epidemic has broken out in 2016 and last week it reached almost 5000 cases. There have also been 21 deaths, all of them in unvaccinated children.
Following multiple years of work, the Health Ministry has now proposed a new Vaccination Law which tries to cover multiple issues facing the country.
The law would make vaccination mandatory for school access, it would guarantee that the Ministry of Health buys sufficient doses of vaccines for 1 year of stock and it would also compensate in cases of vaccine injury. It also creates commissions where those that refuse vaccinations could go and discuss their decision with medical doctors.
The law is currently in the public debate part of the process, it will then follow the parliamentary course of review and vote before being signed into law by the president.
Responding to concerns that NHS England’s plans to stop prescribing some medicines as part of cost-cutting measures, but still spends £4 million on homeopathic medicine, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 31.3.17 that homeopathic medicine is ‘placebo at best’ and it is ‘absurd’ for doctors to prescribe it. The online recording of the interview is available for the next month on Radio 4’s website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08k1b4s).
On the 1st April 2017, at the University of Malaga, the researcher Enrique Viguera will give a talk about the gene editing technique CRISPR under the title “Is the limit in ethics?
This is part of a series of talks called UCIENCIA that are aimed at the general public and, in this case, is timed to coincide with the annual general meeting of ARP-Sociedad para el Avance del Pensamiento Critico (Spanish Skeptics).
Princess Anne has said genetically-modified crops have important benefits for providing food and she would be open to growing them on her own land. She told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today “we have to accept” the process could help production and livestock health. Her brother, the Prince of Wales, has previously warned GM crops could cause an environmental disaster. But Princess Anne said: “To say we mustn’t go there ‘just in case’ is probably not a practical argument.”
Teaching children according to their individual “learning style” does not achieve better results and should be ditched by schools in favour of evidence-based practice, according to leading scientists. Thirty eminent academics from the worlds of neuroscience, education and psychology have signed a letter to the Guardian voicing their concern about the popularity of the learning style approach among some teachers. They say it is ineffective, a waste of resources and potentially even damaging as it can lead to a fixed approach that could impair pupils’ potential to apply or adapt themselves to different ways of learning.
The CIVIO Foundation, an organization dedicated to data transparency as a means to strengthen democracy, has produced a highly detailed and accessible web page with quality information about vaccination called MEDICAMENTALIA.
Available in both Spanish and English this is a great resource available to everyone.
Black swan events are highly improbable events that have great, negative impact. Conspiracy theories are coping mechanisms for black swan events: They try to explain them. However, conspiracy theories are epistemologically defective because they mistake the very low probability of black swan events as impossibility, and thus, a conspiracy as the only possible explanation.
Investigative journalism platform Investico, reporting in newspaper Trouw, discovered that during its November 2016 congress, a majority of the Dutch conservative liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) members approved an amendment to their election programme, submitted by a climate change denier. The sentence that climate change leads to ‘rising sea levels and heavy rainfalls‘ was taken out, because according to the submitter ‘it isn’t all that bad’, claiming levels only rose 1.8 mm annually, and that they’ve done so consistently for the past 500 years.
Climate scientist Reinier van den Berg responded with disgust: ‘This is scandalous, toe-curling and outrageous. There is a gigantic acceleration of sea level rises, right now at 3.45 mm a year. We can provide evidence for it everywhere: it’s already causing a lot of water damage. We cannot afford to let this happen to everything that lives on Earth, and generations after ours; we need to take serious action now.’
The chairman of Liberal Green, an environmentalist faction within the party, disagreed with Investico’s conclusions, saying the VVD is clear about the urgency of the consequences of climate change, and the necessity of the Paris Climate Agreement, and that the amendment’s submitter was just a ‘lone climate sceptic’. The question remains why a majority of party members then agreed with a proposal that would violate the VVD’s supposed ‘green core’. With parliamentary elections in the Netherlands coming up in two weeks, Van den Berg concluded: ‘A party that denies such important problems, does not deserve even one vote.’
When it comes to debates and reasoning, alternative medicine proponents used to refer to popularity and customer choice issues (instead of efficacy). However there are several thorough surveys that seems to show that the use of alternative medicine is not at all so widespread. Does everyone speak about it but only a few using it?