Meetings and Social Networking
The New Zealand Skeptics is a national body with no formal branches. However, from time to time, local meetings are organised to bring members together, and these and other events are noted in the NZ Skeptic journal or via the Email News Alert.
These informal gatherings are for socially-orientated skeptics in various cities. The events are organised independently of NZ Skeptics, although many of the attendees are members and they are sometimes organised in conjunction with NZ Skeptics activities such as lectures.
The NZ Skeptics make regular submissions on regulatory matters which relate to our areas of interest. Here are some of our more recent ones:
Change to the Pharmacy Council Code of Ethics
The Pharmacy Council proposed a change to their Code of Ethics that would do away with the requirement for evidence of efficacy for supplying both complementary therapies and healthcare products other than medicines and herbal remedies. In its place, the proposed code says that pharmacists should be able to provide “sufficient information about the product” to allow “the purchaser to make an informed choice”. We believe that this is a bad move, and said as much in our submission.
Should Traditional Chinese Medicine Be Regulated?
The TCM industry wants to be included under the Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Act, the NZ Skeptics believe that this would give the industry a spurious legitimacy misleading to the general public. We argue that TCM is largely a culturally driven patchwork of products and services, rather than an evidence-based set of health practices and, as such, should not be included under the Act.
The Royal Society of New Zealand’s submission has been lambasted by Pharyngula columnist PZ Myers for failing to ask whether TCM works or not and recommending registration to try to reduce the harm that can occur from recognising TCM as a valid health practice.
Should Natural Health Products Get a Free Ride?
We think New Zealanders deserve better consumer protection and greater oversight in the fast-gorwing area of natural health products and services, particularly with regard to health/therapeutic claims and misleading or deceptive labelling and advertising. Read our submission on the proposed Natural Health Products Bill.
And other jurisdictions are becoming concerned. See how the EU are rejecting 80% of unsupported health claims made by the industry. And the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities Position Statement states that Canadian pharmacists are obliged to hold the health and safety of the public or patient as their first and foremost consideration. When selling drugs, natural health products and homeopathic products, NAPRA has reminded it members that pharmacists should ensure the products they sell have been properly and formally checked for safety, efficacy and quality. In the US, herbal supplement sellers have been found to be dispensing dangerous advice and false claims.
What Do We Do Next?
The annual conference is one of the most entertaining and educational meetings around, usually covering a broad range of topics and with a number of interesting or amusing social activities (such as firewalks, trivia quizzes, magic shows). It is usually held in August or September and tends to alternate between North Island and South Island venues.
Check out this year’s conference.
Each year the New Zealand Skeptics announces the Bent Spoon Award for the New Zealand organisation which has shown the most egregious gullibility or lack of critical thinking in public coverage of, or commentary on, a science-related issue.
We can all think of publications which run ridiculous and unbelievable stories as a regular part of their material. These are not Bent Spoon candidates. Instead we look for organisations and media outlets that tend to command credibility in the mind of the public, and who should have an accurate approach to information gathering and distribution. They are the ones who are rapped over the knuckles with the Bent Spoon when their professional standards lapse.
It’s not all negative! We are also pleased to recognise excellence where it does occur, with our annual Bravo Awards. Each year the New Zealand Skeptics recognise a number of media professionals and those with a high public profile who have provided food for thought, critical analysis and important information on topics of relevance to our interests.
The Denis Dutton Award for New Zealand Skeptic of the Year is given to the skeptic who has had the most impact within New Zealand skepticism. The award comes with a year’s free membership to the NZ Skeptics and $100 prize money.
Nominations are welcome from everyone, preferably accompanied by a clipping or video where appropriate so that those committee members not familiar with the material have a chance to check it out.
To make your nomination, contact us today!