News headlines from Europe about skeptical activism, mythbusting, science related policy decisions, consumer protection, frauds, health scams, alternative medicine, bad scientific practices, pseudoscience etc.
“Não se deixe enganar” – in english “Do not be fooled” – is the first book published by COMCEPT, the Portuguese Skeptics Community. Written as a practical guide on how to survive in the modern world, the book covers such diverse topics as alternative therapies, anti-vax movements, psychics, ideomotor effect, ancient astronauts, conspiracy theories, science in the media, or the concept of post truth, among others.
The authors – Diana Barbosa, João Monteiro, Leonor Abrantes and Marco Filipe – not only criticize pseudoscience, but also analyze what is wrong in the scientific process, pointing solutions to correct it. In the end, to relax, they leave the suggestion of how to play the “Bingo of Pseudoscience”. The reader may find that this is a book which looks to serious subjects with a little of humor.
The book has had a good reception in the Media, and the authors have been interviewed by more than a dozen newspapers, magazines and radio programs.
‘A cancer patient nearly died from cyanide poisoning because of his burning passion for apricot kernel extract. The unidentified man, 67, consumed two teaspoons of the ‘complementary medicine’ each day, in the belief it would keep him in remission. He was also taking three tablets of Novodalin – a commercially made herbal fruit kernel supplement daily for the same reason. But his habit eventually caught up with him, a case study reveals. He was beginning to become starved of oxygen – which is how cyanide kills. Doctors found him to have 25 times above the safe limit of the toxin in his body – an amount that can have serious side effects.’
This August, the German skeptics conducted their annual psi-tests. We tested two dowsers and a person claiming to have psychokinetic powers. The first dowser wanted to detect whether an electric cable was plugged in or not. We gave him 50 cables, randomly plugged in or not. The chance expectation obviously is 50/50, that is, 25 hits. His test yielded 26 hits. We required 40 to pass the test.
The second dowser was unable to do any indoor tests due to various “energetic disturbances”. We agreed to test him outdoors if he managed to find an area containing only one “water vein”, while the rest of the area was “clean”. Finding such a place on the surrounding lawn was surprisingly easy for him. We marked the “vein” with sticks. He was then blindfolded and walked around for disorientation (guided by a supervisor). He then had to cross the “water vein” from different vantage points and distances. He was also informed that in some cases he will be asked to walk without crossing the vein. In this case his dowsing rod should not move. The dowser did not have a single correct hit or non-hit in 15 trials.
The third claimant hoped to rotate, just by his psychokinetic powers, a 3 x 3 cm piece of tinfoil balancing on a needle. The needle with the foil was placed under a glass vase to prevent blowing or movements from natural air convection. During the pre-test phase it was obvious that the foil was only moving when he put his hands on the glass, probably causing air convection in the vase. When he kept his hands away from the glass, as he was supposed to in the actual test, nothing moved. And so there was no result in the real test either. -mm-
At a time when the availability of homeopathy in the UK’s National Health Service is diminishing we now have an assault on its use (and the use of other alternative medical procedures) with animals. No Way to Treat a Friend: Lifting the Lid on Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine by Niall Taylor and Alex Gough “is an informative and readable exposé of CAVM. Written in an accessible style and illustrated with stories and cases from veterinary practice about real animals, this book is a counterweight to the mass of ‘pro’ literature in existence which uncritically promotes CAVM without consideration of whether or not it works or could even be harmful to our animal companions”. The book is due out in October and may now be ordered online.
Thanks to Adam Kumiszcza, TheESP now has it’s own Wikipedia page! The European Skeptics Podcast (TheESP) is a weekly podcast hosted by three skeptics representig several European skeptic organisations in Europe: András G Pintér from Hungary, Jelena Levin from Latvia and Pontus Böckman from Sweden. The main goal of the podcast is to support European level actions within the skeptical movement.
The Comité Para convened its annual general assembly in Brussels last June. For a long time, the French-speaking Belgian association strived to get younger members and wanted to renew its board. And, finally, the general assembly has elected four new critical thinkers at its head. Jérémy Royaux has been elected president, Dorian Neerdael vice-president, Thomas Guiot secretary- treasurer and Emmanuel Marseille has become the assistant secretary.
They plan to give the Comité Para a new fresh start and they give themselves one year to revive the Comité. –See you soon
This July the National Health Service in England published a report with the title ‘Items which should not routinely be prescribed in primary care: A Consultation on guidance for CCGs’. The report lists a range of treatments currently prescribed within the NHS without sufficient justification. To the delight of skeptics these include homeopathy and herbal remedies, which the report considered to be of no proven efficacy. Until October 21st people will have the opportunity to give their views on these proposals using an online form.
As skeptics we are constantly on the lookout for Logical Fallacies both within our own reasoning and in wider society. Here you can find a series of cartoons illustrating different fallacies ready for distribution on your social networks. Laugh, learn & share.
Rupert Matthews – described by one Conservative MP as ‘mad as a box of snakes’ – has been automatically made a Member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands this week after the sitting MEP won a seat at for the UK Parliament in the June general election. Mr Matthews is ‘an expert on the paranormal’. As well as his work with the International Metaphysical University, he the author of a range of parapsychology books including titles such as Paranormal Surrey and A History of Alien Activity from Sightings to Abductions to Global Threat. He also has a theory that the Lisbon Treaty gives the European Commission the power to invade Britain. He believes that ‘They could go to the German government and say please send us a Panzer division, and if the German government said yes, then the European Commission could send that Panzer division to London and there is nothing the British government could do about it’.
James Randi will be back to Italy and will attend CICAP-Fest in Cesena from September 29 to October 01.
Randi will also be a special guest at the magic workshop held at CICAP-Fest, giving people the opportunity to learn from him how to create and investigate “paranormal” effects.
James Randi is a retired stage magician and a scientific skeptic, co-founder of Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). He has extensively challenged paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.