This email is notice of the NZ Skeptics Annual General Meeting
This email is notice of the NZ Skeptics Annual General Meeting
Sad news of the passing of James Randi.
With Labour in, conversion “therapy” is on the way out, we are saddened by the passing of James Randi, and reflect on the murder of Samuel Paty.
An update about your NZ Skeptics membership
Submission relating to proposals by the Pharmacy Council to alter Clause 6.9 of the code of Ethics
I am Edward Linney a consumer with an active interest in evidence based medicine.
I do not support the intent of clause 6.9b to avoid a requirement of credible evidence of efficacy for complementary therapy or other healthcare products.
Extract from consultation document
Proposed supplementary wording – two distinct parts – clause 6.9
6.9a “Only supply or promote any medicine or herbal remedy where there is no reason to doubt its quality or safety and when there is credible evidence of efficacy.”
6.9b “Only supply any complementary therapy or other healthcare product where there is no reason to doubt its quality or safety and when sufficient information about the product can be provided in order for thepurchaser to make an informed choice with regard to the risks and benefits of all the available treatment options.”
The addition of 6.9b explicitly avoids any requirement for there to be credible evidence of efficacy. It moves the roles of evaluation of scientific evidence from the scientists to the consumer. This is bizarre, we all understand that the patient purchasing the homeopathic remedy for example is a believer and is most unlikely to be able to make an informed decision in the complex task of selecting the best products to treat themselves with.
Pharmacies are businesses BUT they are run by scientifically qualified people and they trade on this image. They are the only place where the public can purchase prescribed pharmaceuticals. Pharmacists enjoy a very privileged position in that regard. In my view the public expects you to sell and promote products which are shown in appropriate testing to perform better than a placebo, in short evidence based products.
The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia ( The Government if you will) published an unqualified opinion in March 2015 after wide public consultation and a meta analysis of many trials that homeopathy is no more effective than placebo in treating humans. It comes as no surprise to me that when the credibility of these products which are actively promoted and sold in all my local pharmacies is vanishing that the Council proposed to avoid the requirement for efficacy in the sale of these to the public by pharmacies.
I believe there is a connection between the growing awareness that homeopathic remedies are placebos and the intention to explicitly avoid efficacy in the code of ethics in relation to their sale in pharmacies. It is a business protection step taken now to ensure that members of the public cannot take pharmacies to task for breaches of their code of ethics.
I submit it is totally unethical for the Council to put in place a provision whereby a scientifically trained seller uses that credibility to then sell known placebos as if they have efficacy. It is a betrayal of the science that trained them and a cynical exploitation of their status as health professionals. I wonder if pharmacists will have a warning label on these products which states they have NO active ingredients and they are no more effective than placebos. Perhaps the Council, if it wishes to see pharmacists selling these products should insist on a step like this, that would be the truth and assist the informed choice you are advocating. It was not so long ago that the pharmacies used to say “the health professional you see most often”, sadly you cannot make this claim today given current practice in selling known placebos.
It is telling that the consultation document suggests not promoting or recommending products which lack efficacy but is unwilling to take the ethical step of including efficacy explicitly in the code. It is simply duplicitous and puts commercial gain ahead of evidence based operations in patient and public outcomes.
The Council should retain the requirement at all times when selling products that claim to assist medical situations that there MUST be credible evidence of efficacy. Not to do so is in breach of the duty of Council to promote good practice and protect the public by being complicit in the public opting for remedies which are placebos and thereby not using genuinely efficacious products that have been proven by proper trials. The patient outcomes are likely worsened if a placebo is used in place of the best treatment.
Pharmacies seek to be taken seriously and want to expand on their offering in the evidence based market by adding things like Wharferin testing for example. They cannot have it both ways they are either just a peddler of anything the public wants or are serious health professionals. Your decisions in this matter will answer that question.
Graeme Hill’s Weekend Variety Wireless radio show on RadioLive is a Sunday night fixture where two prominent skeptics, Siouxsie Wiles and Mark Honeychurch chat about current skeptical topics and events.
Our current chair, Mark Honeychurch, has been filling in for Siouxsie Wiles recently on Graeme Hill’s Weekend Variety Wireless show on RadioLive. He’s had fun chatting with Graeme on the Skeptical Thoughts segment, and has talked about rugby injuries, therapeutic paint, the igNobels and the Republican Primary, amongst other topics.
Here are links to the recordings:
Keep an ear out – he may be returning to the radio soon!
Until recently, the NZ Skeptics steered clear of participation as an organisation in the climate change debate. This was partly because there have been varying opinions within the membership. Also, the issue was seen as a science versus science debate, rather than science versus pseudoscience. Nevertheless , over a number of years there has been vigorous debate among members as individuals.
By 2014 the science had become increasingly settled, and there is now an overwhelming consensus among appropriately qualified scientists that human-induced climate change is real and is a serious problem that demands urgent and concerted action. Also, there was increasing concern among the NZ Skeptics membership that we were being confused in the public mind with the community of climate change doubters and deniers who dub themselves as sceptics. Accordingly, in 2014 the NZ Skeptics committee agreed to issue a position statement to clarify the society’s views. It was:
The New Zealand Skeptics Society supports the scientific consensus on Climate Change. There is an abundance of evidence demonstrating global mean temperatures are rising, and that humans have had a considerable impact on the natural rate of change. The Society will adjust its position with the scientific consensus.
Inevitably, there were some within the organisation that felt that the statement was too weak while others questioned the right of the committee to take such action on behalf of the membership as a whole.
In this short article, it is not possible to traverse all the scientific arguments supporting the reality of human-induced climate change. Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97% of peer-reviewed scientific literature agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities. Most of the leading scientific organisations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. Moreover, this consensus among climate scientists is reinforced by findings in various other scientific disciplines.
The hypothesis that greenhouse gases could cause global warming was first mooted in the 19th Century, and it has been several decades since scientists first issued warnings that warming was occurring and could cause widespread climate change and trigger severe weather events.
Usually, when scientists develop a hypothesis, the scientific method demands that they run experiments to test it. In this case, that was obviously impossible, and the world had to wait to see whether the climate change hypothesis was correct. With the passage of time, the remarkable foresight of those early scientists has become apparent, as people in various parts of the globe become affected by the growing frequency and severity of extreme weather events. The validity of the scientific method and the scientific consensus is increasingly being demonstrated in ways that non-scientists can appreciate.
This raises the question of whether extreme weather events are caused by climate change or whether they would have occurred regardless. The most rational answer is that the changes to the global atmospheric and ocean environments in which weather occurs mean that all extreme weather events are different to what they would have been without climate change.
Over the last decade or so, the arguments put forward by the climate change doubters and deniers have changed. At first, many completely denied that warming existed at all, and in fact there are still some extreme deniers, particularly among talkback hosts and right-wing politicians, who maintain that climate change is some sort of huge global conspiracy or hoax. However, most of the doubter community has moved to a position of accepting that warming exists and that it is at least partly caused by human actions.
The arguments now put forward by the more rational end of the doubter community tend to revolve around doubts that the impacts of climate change will be as serious as is predicted and doubts that the potentially disastrous feedback loops forecast by some scientists will actually occur. This is often accompanied by an optimistic view that mankind has the technological ability to adapt to the changes that will come. On this last point of the ability to adapt, it is perhaps important to note that climate change is forecast to cause global and fundamental changes to global weather and sea levels. While mankind has shown the ability to adapt to many circumstances, the fact remains that we have never been able to truly cope with the more extreme events that nature throws at us, such as earthquakes, eruptions, tsunami, floods and tornadoes. There must be real doubt that we can cope with the sort of global consequences that climate change will bring.
In many ways, the debate about climate change has parallels with the debate about evolution. When Charles Darwin put forward his hypothesis about evolution by natural selection in the mid-19th Century, it met a storm of protest from vested interests, as has occurred 100 years later with the climate change debate. In the case of evolution, the protest was led by the churches, whereas for climate change, the charge has been led by big business. However, it is interesting to note that, in the USA at least, the main political opposition in both cases has come from the fundamentalist right.
In both cases, the tactics have been somewhat similar, including cherry-picking of the science and radical claims about world takeovers and conspiracies.
Following the decades of debate, the NZ Skeptics now feel confident in agreeing with the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real, with human activity being a major contributing factor. We are satisfied that the problem is already sufficiently real and serious that urgent worldwide action is required. Nevertheless, we accept that precise predictions about the future course of events and the future ability of mankind to adapt might be subject to change as the evidence accumulates. That is the nature of the scientific method.
Last week our chair, Mark Honeychurch, chatted with Richard Saunders on episode 334 of the Australian Skeptics’ “Skeptic Zone” podcast (Aired March 15). Richard pre-emptively introduced Mark with statements like “yes those New Zealanders are just as skeptical as…anybody else”. Richard asked Mark about the history of the movement in New Zealand and “what’s going on in the land of the long white cloud in skepticism”, and of course there was an obligatory comparison of our countries’ skeptical histories and successes.
Mark talked about our new look logo, journal and website, and also about debunking Uncensored magazine’s U.F.O. conspiracy theories, Shuzi bands and what New Zealand has to offer in the way of cryptozoological creatures (during which it was decided that there are worse ways to spend a weekend than searching for moa!). All round it was a great flying of our skeptical flag by Mark, ending in Richard expressing positive enthusiasm for a Skeptics in the Pub crawl and moa hunt combined. The Skeptic Zone is a podcast that is well worth a listen, being Australasian we share a lot of the issues they discuss and we have cultural similarities as well.
The latest issue of the NZ Skeptic is heading to the letterboxes of financial members, packed full of the intriguing, the informative and the infuriating. It’s a whole new look for the journal, along with our new website and brand-new logo.
Now is the time to subscribe or renew your subscription to the Society. It’s quick and easy to do online (or use the handy form in the journal).
If you don’t see the Journal in the next week or so, it’s because your subscription hasn’t come through. Either join up now, or contact the secretary to check your current status.
The NZ magazine Uncensored is standing by its claim to have released real footage of aliens at Roswell, despite clear evidence that the film was part of a B-grade movie released in 2006. See our side-by-side comparison.
What will Uncensored reveal next? This amazing story perhaps:
We’ll award a virtual chocolate fish to the best breathless headline and image pairing you can come up with, Send your ideas to the Chair.
If the debate over the colour of that dress got you flummoxed, here are some more neat ways the brain can be fooled.
Lee Traynor is doing the rounds at Skeptics in the Pub locations, and will be giving a talk titled “The skeptic’s dilemma – on changing your mind”. He’s in Wellington on Friday, March 6th (6pm, Kitty O’Shea’s), followed by Palmerston North on Saturday (7pm, venue TBC) and Hamilton on Sunday (The Bank, 7pm).
Felicity Goodyear-Smith is giving a talk at Auckland Skeptics in the Pub on Monday, 9th of March. Shared idée fixe – “The case of murder that wasn’t” starts at 7pm at the Juice Bar at Windsor Castle.
Future Alert emails will be coming from our new address of [email protected], so if you’re currently whitelisting our Skeptic Alert emails, please add this new address to your list to continue receiving our alerts.
Media Spokesperson, NZ Skeptics
NZ’s Uncensored Magazine has proclaimed “ROSWELL ORIGINAL FOOTAGE OF DEAD ALIEN REDISCOVERED BY UNCENSORED EDITOR”:
The NZ Skeptics heard that it was actually just footage from an Ant and Dec movie, so we decided to put together a side by side comparison.
Hear Stephen Meyer’s “evidence” for Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Biologist Alison Campbell’s reply to his assertions that God Dunnit.