The German-speaking skeptical society GWUP nominated three people/institutions for “the most bizarre, most outrageous, brashest pseudoscientific nonsense contribution” in Germany, Austria and Switzerland of 2016: Ryke Geerd Hamer (founder of the dangerous Germanische Neue Medizin), Roland Düringer (comedian turned politician who spreads lots of conspiracy theories) and Krebszentrum Brüggen-Bracht (alternative cancer clinic of Heilpraktiker Klaus Ross). The award is called the ‘Golden Board in Front of the Face’, to rebuke purveyors of pseudoscience who don’t see the harm they’re doing.
The award ceremony was held on 11 October in Vienna, co-organised by the Viennese regional GWUP group Society for Critical Thinking (Gesellschaft für kritisches Denken) and the Freethinkers League of Austria (Freidenkerbund Österreich). A side-event was held in Hamburg Skeptics in the Pub with a livestream of the Viennese ceremony.
All three nominees were given an ironic laudation by an expert who had been following their recent activities, explaining their claims and the possible and perhaps actual dire consequences when these claims are or actually were put into practice.
Several days before the ceremony, the candidates were given a chance to defend themselves against the GWUP’s accusations; only Düringer decided to do so using a video response, which was broadcast just before the winner was announced.
At the evening’s climax, Florian Aigner finally revealed the Golden Board 2016 was won by Ryke Geerd Hamer. He claims you don’t need medicine to cure cancer, because that is just ‘the result of a traumatic experience’, and to recover, the patient has to resolve this ‘conflict’. Hamer already made a lot of victims, and has received prison sentences in multiple European countries, but still has an astonishingly large following. Aigner explains the jury’s choice:
Hamer met all our criteria, two in particular. First, the danger his theories pose. One cannot brush them aside as harmless ignorance or good business; it’s really about people’s health and lives here, and one has to loudly yell STOP.
The second criterion is also very important: his resistance to criticism. You’ve seen during the laudation for how long this man has been doing this, and how massively he’s been refuted. He hasn’t just been refuted by science and has ignored scientific facts, his physician’s licence has also been revoked, and he has been condemned by courts of law. He’s had plenty of damn opportunies to admit he’s wrong.
Talking nonsense isn’t necessarily a shame; it happens in science as well. But the point there is to change your opinion when you’re refuted. And Ryke Geerd Hamer has had enough chances to do so, but not taken them. And so he’s the rightful winner of the 2016 Golden Board in Front of the Face.