News headlines from Europe about skeptical activism, mythbusting, science related policy decisions, consumer protection, frauds, health scams, alternative medicine, bad scientific practices, pseudoscience etc.

Talk in Malaga about CRISPR

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).

Keywords:

Princess Anne backs GM crops

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.”

“Learning styles” under attack

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.

 

MEDICAMENTALIA –Vaccine information

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.

 

Probability, black swan events and conspiratorial thinking

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.

Read Marko Kovic’s article Probability, black swan events and conspiratorial thinking on Skeptiker.

Climate denier amends Dutch Liberals election programme

Party logo of the Dutch Liberals (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy).

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.’

Is alternative medicine widespread but not widely used?

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?

Alternative medicine use in the UK

NatCen – Britain’s largest independent social research agency – launched a blog series where they plan to go through the European Social Survey data to know more.

Hungarian version of “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” magazine is launched

Hungarian version of quack magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You is launched this month. The March issue costs cca. 1.3 EUR, for the next ones one should pay 2.3 EUR.

What doctors dont tell you in Hungariann

Magyar Nemzet Online ran a critical article last Thursday, where the author discussed the original newspaper as well.

[Lecture 1.3.2017] Sanal Edamaruku: Lure of the Oriental Magic

On wednesday 1.3.2017, the legendary mythbuster, skeptic, atheist, Chairman and CEO of the Rationalist International, Mr. Sanal Edamaruku, lectures to Skepsis Finland about “Lure of the Oriental Magic”. Mr. Edamaruku will speak to Finnish Skeptics about yoga, meditation, pranic healing, reiki, feng shui, astrology, etc.

The event is free of charge and open to everyone interested. On behalf of the Finnish Skeptics, welcome!

Polish Health Minister denies smog is harmful to humans

Polish Minister of Health officially denied that smog poses a risk to health despite solid evidence saying otherwise. Konstanty Radziwill claimed that protecting members of public from air pollution is not a health priority and can virtually be ignored, as there are more pressing health issues.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that over 45,000 Poles die from air pollution each year – second highest number (per 1000 citizens) in Europe (after Bulgaria)