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

Dutch Defence Minister amongst quack award nominees

Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert is a nominee.

During its 1 October symposium, the Dutch Society against Quackery, Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij, will announce who has won this year’s Master Quack Award (Meester Kackadorisprijs). Nominated are:

  1. The Donders Institute at Radboud University Nijmegen
    Because of a bad dissertation on acupuncture. See also
    Acupunctuurpromotie RU: niet meer dan placebo-effect volgens promotor Coenen (Dutch)
  2. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Minister of Defence
    Military personnel has, without their knowledge, been given a health insurance, where alternative care has been included in basic care.
  3. Dutch Royal Society for Veterinary Medicine (KNMvD)
    The organisation lets alternatively operating vets, united in the Study Group for Complementarily Operating Vets, practice freely. Nominated for the third time.
  4. André Rouvoet, chair of VEKTIS
    VEKTIS registers alternative healthcare providers, which they require in order to be eligible for compensation by health insurance companies. According to the Society, VEKTIS’ assessment procedure is a farce.
  5. Huub Savelkoul, professor at Wageningen University
    Nominated for a second time, this year for his cooperation to a course on ‘orthomolecular dietetics’.

The prize is meant for the institute, person or enterprise that has contributed most to the spread of quackery in the Netherlands last year by means of act, word or writing. On skeptical blog, you can vote for whom you think should receive the 2016 ironic award until Friday 16:00 CET.

Dutch physicians: vaccinate against rotavirus

The Dutch Health Council (Gezondheidsraad) is letting babies and their parents down in the fight against rotavirus, medical experts say. While all surrounding countries have adopted a vaccination policy against the diarrhoeal disease, that annually kills up to half a million young children around the world, the Netherlands are yet to develop an immunisation programme.

In 2010, the Health Council, which advises the government on medical matters, actually held a majority vote in favour of adopting the rota vaccine, but it wasn’t carried out. The minority, who held that the consequences weren’t severe enough and the project too expensive, had their way. Emeritus professor in child medicine Ronald de Groot adds that ‘there are fears of rising opposition to vaccination in society. But you simply need to inform people well. (…) [Since 2010] we’ve added to the record dozens of dead children and thousands of hospitalisations that could have been prevented.’

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Skeptics in the pub – Madrid

If you are in Madrid on Saturday 24th September at 19:00 you can enjoy the first talk of this season “The Hyper credulous mind or the brain that doesn’t search for the truth” at Moe Club.

Giving the talk is Manuel Martín-Loeches, Professor of Psychology at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid and responsible for the Cognitive Neuroscience section at the Mixed Centre UCM-ISCIII of Evolution and Human Behaviour.

Date: 16th September 2016

Original news: link

Ask for Evidence to hold Meeting in UK Parliament

The Ask for Evidence Campaign has been making the case to politicians and civil servants in the UK that evidence matters when it comes to policy-making.  The Speaker of the House of Commons has now agreed to make his rooms in Parliament available for a meeting on November 1st at 12.30.  Ask for Evidence is calling for people to send in their reasons why evidence matters to them, in preparation for the meeting, and to come to the meeting to discuss this with politicians and civil servants.

Skeptics in the pub Barcelona – cancelled

The ARP – SAPC (Spanish Skeptics) is sorry to announce that the Skeptics in the Pub session due to take place on the 17th September in Barcelona has had to be cancelled. Due to the recent, tragic loss of his brother Sergio (see previous post), Alfonso López Borgoñoz is unable to give the previously planned talk.

Alfonso and all their family and friends are in our thoughts at this difficult time.

Date: 15th September 2016

Original news: link

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.

In memoriam: Sergio López Borgoñoz

It is with the greatest sorrow that we must report the loss of one of the longest standing and much loved members of the ARP-SAPC (Spanish Skeptics).

Sergio López Borgoñoz passed away as the result of a traffic accident on the 12th September 2016. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.

Sergio will be missed and remembered by us all.


Date: 14th September 2016

Original news: link

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Skeptics in the pub – Valencia

This season in Valencia kicks off with “Science in the Shadows-forensic Investigation; science and fiction”.

Want to hear about how a body decomposes or if DNA is infallible? Then come along to Ben’s Inn on the 22nd September at 20:00 to hear this talk by chemist and science communicator J M Mulet.

Date: 14th September 2016

Original news: link

Skepsis Congres 22 October 2016: ‘Unconvinced by Science’

The Dutch skeptics foundation, Stichting Skepsis, will hold its annual congress on 22 October 2016 at De Eenhoorn in Amersfoort. This year, four pairs of speakers will jointly give a presentation, and then discuss the topic with each other and the audience:

  • Maarten Boudry (philosopher UGent, SKEPP)
    & Massimo Pugliucci (prof. Philosophy CUNY, Rationally Speaking podcast):
    ‘Why do people cling to unproven ideas?’ (keynote session, in English)
  • Peter Jan Margry (prof. Ethnology UvA)
    & Cees Renckens (gynaecologist, former VtdK chair):
    ‘Alternative treatments’ (in Dutch)
  • Brecht Decoene (ethicist UGent, SKEPP)
    & Leo Polak 
    (popular science journalist):
    ‘Conspiracy theories’ (in Dutch)
  • Martijn van Calmthout (Volkskrant science journalist)
    & Patricia Osseweijer (prof. Science Communication TU Delft):
    ‘Science Communication’ (in Dutch)