New Wikipedia biography about Dutch skeptic

Pepijn van Erp at the 2014 Skepsis Congres. (Vera de Kok CC-BY-SA 4.0)

In recent years, mathematician Pepijn van Erp has risen to prominence within the skeptical movement in the Netherlands. He started blogging about flawed application of statistics in both scientific and pseudoscientific articles, and got involved with Stichting Skepsis as a board member in 2012.

Nowadays he regularly writes articles on various dubious claims in an investigative journalistic style on skeptical blog (mostly in Dutch) and his own website (mostly in English). Van Erp is occasionally invited to give his expert opinion on radio shows about conspiracy theories, fake news and other topics that skeptics are concerned about. To him, skepticism is ‘interesting and funny’, but also a ‘civic duty’ to protect people from harm.

The team of Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia has written two new biographies about Van Erp, one in English and one in Dutch, to explain to the general public what his activism is about.

Skeptic Van Erp sued by Ruggero Santilli

Ruggero Santilli. (Photo: Globalreach1 at en.wikipedia)

It appears the legal threats of American–Italian fringe scientist Ruggero Santilli to Dutch skeptic Pepijn van Erp are not as empty as first thought. At a Florida court, Santilli has now officially sued both Van Erp, the company that hosts his website, and Frank Israel, president of the Dutch skeptics foundation Stichting Skepsis. He claims to have been ‘defamed’, and demands damages in excess of 15,000 dollar.

Van Erp is quite confident it will not lead to a conviction:

It’s an undeniable fact that Santilli is seen as a fringe scientist by mainstream scientists. And I think it’s a fair and justifiable question to ask about anyone who sells telescopes which simply cannot work as described, whether he does this out of a completely wrong understanding of science (“a mad professor”) or perhaps, more cynical, just to make money fully aware that what he states cannot be true (“a cunning scam artist”).

How dangerous is belief in conspiracy theories?

Dutch journalist Maarten Reijnders wrote a book about the currently most popular and (in)famous conspiracy theories and their proponents in the Netherlands. The book, titled Complotdenkers – Hoe gevaarlijk is het geloof in samenzweringstheorieën? (‘Conspiracists – How dangerous is belief in conspiracy theories?’) was deliberately published on 11 September 2016, because the 9/11 Truth movement is one of the most prominent of these phenomena in Western society at the moment. Skeptic Pepijn van Erp wrote a review; here is an excerpt:

Reijnders defines ‘conspiracists’ as people who believe in lots of different conspiracy theories at the same time, or draw rather far-reaching conclusions from such a conspiracy belief system. He calls a collective of such conspiracists a conspiracy church. That is a broad church, with many schisms. With liberals and literalists. With soft, kind and harmless believers, but also with some extremist fundamentalists. (…)

It can lead to contempt for innocent people and minorities, and we can still see enough suffering caused by that today. And we also know the example of the disastrous HIV/AIDS policy in South Africa under Mbeki, based on completely pseudoscientific ideas, that has led to an early death for an estimated 330,000 people.

Empty legal threats from Italian pseudoscientist to Dutch skeptic

Pepijn van Erp at the 2014 Skepsis Congres. (Vera de Kok CC-BY-SA 4.0).

Once again, American-Italian fringe scientist Ruggero Santilli, notorious for his rejection of the theories of Einstein, the Big Bang, redshift and his antisemitic conspiracy theories about everyone who disagrees with him, has sent empty threats to Dutch skeptical activist Pepijn van Erp, board member of Stichting Skepsis. Recently, Santillo claimed to have detected Invisible Terrestrial Entitites with his ‘antimatter-light‘ telescope (an idea that became quite popular on UFO/paranormal websites), but, to his chagrin, Van Erp challenged his findings.

According to Santilli, his attorney wrote a letter (which, curiously, contains the same kind of grammar and spelling errors Santilli himself regularly makes) to Van Erp telling him to rectify three kinds of statements that supposedly harm his reputation:

  1. Van Erp calls Santilli a “fringe scientist”, “a mad professor” and “a cunning scam artist”;
  2. Van Erp states that “the whole concept of antimatter is bullshit”;
  3. and Van Erp ‘defined’ Magnegas Corporation a “pyramid scheme”.

However, Van Erp corrects him that he said ‘antimatter-light’, not ‘antimatter’, explains that under Dutch law, his accusations against Santilli are not defamatory or libelous and thus not illegal, repeating what these claims are based on, and then goes on to defend his criticism of Magnegas. If this comes to a lawsuit, Santilli will have no leg to stand on.

“Iceman” Wim Hof’s Cold Trickery

Wim Hof during a cold endurance record attempt (Aad Villerius CC-BY-SA 4.0).

Dutchman Wim Hof earned his nickname ‘The Iceman’ for his world records involving the cold – standing for almost two hours in a crate full of ice cubes, that sort of things. But in recent years he is promoting the methods that he claims enabled him to achieve these records as a method for achieving better health as the ‘Wim Hof Method’. Lacking scientific evidence, Hof is careful not to claim explicitly that his method can cure diseases like cancer, but he definitely suggests that improving the immune system can achieve this. Already he has gained a lot of enthusiastic followers and he has been training many people to propagate his method. But how is it supposed to work, and does it? Skeptic Pepijn van Erp investigates…

Read article in English – Lees artikel in het Nederlands