News headlines from Europe about skeptical activism, mythbusting, science related policy decisions, consumer protection, frauds, health scams, alternative medicine, bad scientific practices, pseudoscience etc.
While spending his summer in Poland, someone brought an interesting article to Dutch physicist and skeptic Martin Bier’s attention. It has now been scientifically proven that making the sign of the cross over an amount of water significantly diminishes the amount of bacterial pathogens in that water. Is the making of the sign of the cross a matter of antibacterial hygiene just as much as it is a matter of piety? Bier decided to inquire…
Between 10-12 August the Hungarian Skeptic Society organized programs again at the international Sziget Festival in Budapest. Participants from all over the World were invited for discussions, see interesting demonstrations and for checking their knowledge via tests on controversial topics.
A sexual hype from America has crossed the Atlantic and is finding fertile ground in European countries such as the Netherlands. The so-called ‘orgasm injection’ is claimed to increase sexual excitement, deliver better orgasms, give women a tighter vagina and men a larger penis, prevent incontinence and solve erectile dysfunction. The first clinic on Dutch soil, Artz Medical in Rotterdam, is run by physician Olivier Groh, who says it ‘really works’. However, at €1000,- per treatment it’s not exactly cheap, and effects are said to last only temporary. Moreover, these amazing promises are not backed by any scientific evidence, according to many critical physicians and sexologists.
The Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (Dutch Society against Quackery) is skeptical. “It makes no sense at all”, says Cees Renckens, a former gynaecologist and board member of the society. “It takes blood, tinkers a bit with it and then injects it back in. And that is supposed to make your penis longer and your vagina more flexible? It’s quackery, I’m convinced of that.”
He calls it ‘absolutely repulsive’ that the clinic is making boatloads of money off a treatment which hasn’t been demonstrated scientifically to work. “It’s a scandal that this man is still a GP. He should know better than to trick people out of their money with false hope. There is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to sexual dysfunctions and complaints, those often involve complex problems. This treatment cannot be distinguished from fraud. The Health Care Inspectorate should take measures against the clinic.”
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