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

“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)

Evidence-based education

Nick Gibbs MP, one of UK’s Education Ministers, spoke on ‘the importance of an evidence-informed profession’ on February 16th at the University of Buckingham.

“Debunking the neuro-myths that surround teaching is an important endeavour as, unchecked, they can pervade classrooms throughout the country, damaging educational achievement. A decade ago, the neuro-myth of Brain Gym was prevalent in England’s schools. In schools afflicted by Brain Gym, pupils were instructed to activate their brains by rubbing so-called ‘brain buttons’, located in different areas of the body. By having pupils rub their clavicle, various regions of the brain would light up – so went the theory. In the oddest cases, pupils were instructed to slowly sip water in the hope that water would be absorbed into the brain via the roof of the mouth, thus hydrating the brain!”

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Polish Skeptics Club – Darwin Days in Wroclaw

In just a few days Wroclaw (Poland) will host annual festival of science and reason co-organised by Polish Society of Rationalists with University of Wroclaw. Polish Skeptics Club will be represented as well during Darwin Days 2017.

Polish Skeptics Club (Klub Sceptyków Polskich, KSP) will be represented by Dr Tomasz Witkowski who will give a lecture titled Evolution of gods in our minds. Tomasz will try to answer a series of intriguing questions, such as: what does computer virus and God have in common? How Punch (a puppet) became a god? What can children teach adults about evolution of gods? Was Dr Pangloss right? Is Santa any different to God? Are we born as creationists?

Second KSP lecturer – Dr Łukasz Budzicz – will present a lecture entitled “Evolutionists guide to culture”.

Among other guests we will also hear from Dr Bartosz Borczyk, Kasper Hlebowicz, Sidey

Source: Polish Skeptics Club
(article in polish)