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

The Joy of Skepticism – 18th European Skeptics Congress

August 30th – September 1st, Ghent, Belgium

Every other year skeptics from all over Europe come together to meet at the European Skeptics Congress. 
They listen to talks about a variety of subjects, participate in debates, 
exchange experiences with colleagues from abroad while having a great time together. 
This year we are meeting in Ghent, one of the great historical cities of Belgium, 
home to one of its main universities, with a pre-program ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ event in the center of Brussels. 
Come and join us for 3-4 days of fun and learning with Edzard Ernst and Kavin Senapathy, 
and don’t forget to sample Belgium’s fine beers and chocolates while you’re here. 
All information on www.esc2019.be
 
 
Register on our website. 
Special discounts for members of skeptical organizations and students.



Join the banquet on Saturday night in the company of the finest selection of skeptics in Europe (separate ticket).
 

 

Teaching critical thinking

Michael Marshall Project Director of UK’s Good Thinking recently visited King Alfred’s Academy in Oxfordshire on an unusual mission: to highlight proofs that the Earth is actually flat, and to encourage students to question the shape of their world. The goal of the talk was actually to encourage critical thinking, and to get students to question what sources they can trust and what arguments can be taken as credible.

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National clinical trial transparency strategy

A national clinical trial transparency strategy will be published before the end of this year, the UK government has announced. The statement marks a significant step towards ensuring that all clinical trials conducted in Britain are registered and publish their results. The new strategy is expected to include central monitoring of all clinical trials conducted in the UK to check if they were registered and reported.

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QED, Manchester, October 2018

An account of the QED meeting that was held in Manchester in October 2018 has now appeared in the Observer newspaper. This includes interviews with Michael Marshall, Chris French, Jonathan Jarry, and Deborah Hyde.

Swedish Skeptics Awards for 2018

The Swedish Skeptics (a.k.a VoF or Vetenskap och Folkbildning) announced the winners of their 2018 awards on 2 Jan.

Winner of “Enlightener of the Year” award was “Fråga Lund” (“Ask Lund”) which is a popular TV show where viewers submits questions to a panel of professors, researchers and experts. Fråga Lund, which was revived in 2016 after an hiatus since 2000, has had a great outreach with over a million viewers per episode.

Winner of the ironic “‘Bewilderer’ of the Year” award was the author and public speaker Thomas Erikson, for his book “Omgiven av idioter” (“Surrounded by Idiots”). The book and its sequels are based on the DISC / DISA personality inventory theory and claim to teach you how to divide people into red, yellow, green and blue personality types and how to best handle them based on their colour. The theory has no scientific support and Thomas Erikson has gained a big following with the books selling up towards a million copies, despite having no grounds in proven theory.

Date: 6th January 2019

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The Skeptical Circle of Spain announces winners of the Pepe Cervera and the José Carlos Pérez Cobo prize.

The well-known paediatrician and media commentator Lucía Galán has been awarded by the members of the Skeptical Circle of Spain with the Pepe Cervera Award for the promotion of critical thinking in the media and digital media for her constant defence of scientific evidence-based medicine against the pseudo-therapies and anti-vaccine movement.

Lucía Galán is a champion of the effectiveness of vaccines and science. “I cannot remain silent when I hear in the media that vaccines produce autism or that homoeopathy cures. I cannot. And I speak, of course, I speak. And I will continue talking with the authority that my training and my profession gives me, “said the winner.

The recently deceased palaeontologist Pepe Cervera (1964-2018) was known for promoting science and knowledge through social media.

Lucia Galán, known as ‘Lucia, my paediatrician’ uses the social networking platforms as well as mainstream media to combat misinformation. In her blog, Instagram and Twitter, and in her interventions on radio and television, she firmly confronts pseudoscience.

The third edition of the José Carlos Pérez Cobo Prize for journalism and critical thinking has been awarded to journalist Marta Ley Barnuevo for her article “The most expensive placebo in the world,” published in the newspaper El Mundo, part of a special on pseudoscience coordinated by Virginia Hernández.

The award-winning article reviews the history of homoeopathy in Spain, from its introduction in the 19th century to the current situation. Focusing on the peculiar legal situation of this pseudoscience and doing an exhaustive study of how this pseudoscience considers the different colleges of Physicians, Pharmacists and the different Health Departments.

The jury was composed by the journalist Ángela Bernardo as the winner of the previous edition, the journalists Manuel Rey and Olga Pereda and the members of the Skeptic Circle Cesar García-Perez and Manuel F. Herrador.

The prizes will be awarded on December 19, 2018.

The event will also include the appointment of a new honorary member of the Skeptical Circle.

 

Date: 11th December 2018

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Roger Scotford

The latest Newsletter of the British False Memory Society (see link) conveys the sad news of the death of Roger Scotford. Roger founded the BFMS in 1993 amidst concern about the growing number of families in North America, Europe, Australasia and elsewhere who had been torn apart by accusations of historical sexual abuse against a parent and sometimes other relatives and even neighbours. These accusations, sincerely held to be true by the those making them, were solely based on ‘memories’ of the alleged events uncovered during psychotherapy. Often the information thus elicited was extensive and elaborately detailed, and would become increasingly so as the therapy proceeded. Roger had his own personal experience of this and with his colleagues at the BFMS he worked tirelessly to bring this dreadful scandal into public awareness and to provide help and guidance to many people in the UK whose lives had been ruined by such allegations.

Despite there being no other evidence to back up the accusations, and even contrary evidence, the accused persons were sometimes charged, tried, convicted and sentenced. It may come as a surprise to some readers that miscarriages of justice are still happening, as the November 2018 BFMS Newsletter reveals. So let us remember Roger and continue to support his fight for justice and reparation for those unfortunate enough to be caught up in these terrible events.

Dr Ben Goldacre

Dr Ben Goldacre, author and head of the Evidence-Based Medicine DataLab in Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, has been appointed chair of the UK government’s new HealthTech Advisory Board. The appointment was announced in a speech by the health secretary at the NHS Expo in Manchester setting out ‘plans to make the NHS an ecosystem for the best available technology, including innovations in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning’. The HealthTech Advisory Board will report directly to the Secretary of State and ‘will highlight where change needs to happen, where best practice isn’t being followed, and be an ideas hub for how to transform the NHS to improve patient outcomes, patient experience, and to make the lives of NHS staff easier’.

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Fake news enquiry

A UK parliamentary committee has published a preliminary report highlighting what it describes as ‘significant concerns’ over the risks to ‘shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions’. It calls for ‘urgent action’ from government and regulatory bodies to ‘build resilience against misinformation and disinformation into our democratic system’: “People are increasingly finding out about what is happening in this country, in their local communities, and across the wider world, through social media, rather than through more traditional forms of communication, such as television, print media, or the radio. Social media has become hugely influential in our lives. Research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has shown that not only are huge numbers of people accessing news and information worldwide through Facebook, in particular, but also through social messaging software such as WhatsApp. When such media are used to spread rumours and ‘fake news’, the consequences can be devastating.”