News headlines from Europe about skeptical activism, mythbusting, science related policy decisions, consumer protection, frauds, health scams, alternative medicine, bad scientific practices, pseudoscience etc.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any crazier…. conspiracists are able to surprise you.
In Germany, some companies have started printing a horizontal bar through the barcodes of their products. According to a group of conspiracists, barcodes are a kind of radiation antennas, and the number ‘666’ is hidden in it. Scanning the barcode would also bundle negative energy, and influence the product in question. There are videos on YouTube of people who, using dowsing rods, are trying to demonstrate how a barcode affects one’s aura. Since 2013, the Lammsbräu firm has been printing a horizontal bar through the barcode of its mineral water to ‘undisrupt’ the water.
The alternative cancer treatment clinic of Klaus Ross in Bracht, Germany was recently closed after one Flemish and two Dutch cancer patients received fatal injections. Two Dutch women who were hospitalised are still recovering.
According to Menso Westerouen van Meeteren, former inspector at the Dutch Health Care Inspectorate and currently working for the Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (Dutch Society against Quackery), this and similar incidents involving German Heilpraktiker (alternative healers) could have been prevented if Germany had put more rigorous regulations on alternative medicine. The Netherlands passed strict laws on healers three years ago, in the wake of the tragic death of famous actress Sylvia Millecam. ‘For example, since then, alternative therapists are obliged to inform their patients if there is a better regular treatment, and if the patient rejects that treatment, they are forced to break off contact.’
In some European countries there is a common belief that calcium preparations have beneficial effect in curing allergic reactions of any origin. However there is no evidence-based data to justify this procedure. Now Hungarian doctor Dr. Hunor Novák – who is rather actively promoting evidence based medicine in wide range of media – launched an petition on his Facebook page against using calcium for these conditions. Many well known doctors and researchers joined so there is a good chance that this old will disappear soon in Hungary.
The Swiss skeptics have published their second discussion paper about CAM: “Evidence-based vs. complementary and alternative medicine: It’s about epistemology (not about evidence)”. In the document they present the argument that the problem with CAM is not a lack of evidence – but the defective epistemology of CAM.
This June/July, American alternative cancer healer Brian Clement is touring Europe to give talks about how cancer can be cured with diet and various other things. His venue has cancelled the booking in Stockholm after a major Swedish news paper today posted an article: “Allegedly fraudulent health speaker stopped”.
False ideas both historically and today, have in many cases led to disastrous consequences. To achieve a deeper knowledge of how Swedes today relate to these questions, VoF (aka the Swedish Skeptic Association) commissioned an opinion poll in the early summer of 2015. This survey covers a wide range of issues that are of interest from a skeptical point of view.
A PDF document (in English) can be downloaded from VoF’s web site here: The VoF-study 2015
Hungarian Society of Homeopaths (MHOE) launched a controversial TV advertisement campaign with testimonies of well known actors and actresses. This caused an uproar in the scientific community resulting several the publications of critical articles even in daily papers and on generally not so critical portals. Now the videos and related materials can’t be found on the MHOE home page and on their YouTube channel. Some copies had survived the cleaning however.
In 1943, David Karel de Jongh M.D. defended a Ph.D. dissertation on homeopathy, which he ended by concluding that homeopathy should be abolished. He based his judgment on his meticulous examination of many hundreds of articles and books and his experiences while working for quite some time in a homeopathic hospital in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The dissertation has been is digitised in its entirety by Stichting Skepsis, because, according to secretary Jan Willem Nienhuys, ‘de Jongh’s conclusions [on homeopathy] are still as valid as ever’. A summary of de Jongh’s research can be read in English here, in Dutch here and in German here.
Until March 2016 graphologists had been used as forensic experts in Hungary. Graphologists used their unproven methodologies even in serious cases. For example in a child abuse case based on the parents’ handwriting they established that those could not have committed crime. Graphologist claim that hand writing analysis can be used to detect lies and to determine personality trades. Now the online portal Index.hu reported that the Ministry of Justice had removed graphology as a method to be used in the court rooms.
Joralf Gjerstad is an alleged healer from Norway. In January of 2016 norwegian documentary movie maker Margreth Olin released a documentary about the ageing healer. The movie depicts Gjerstad apparently applying his abilities on several subjects.