Vicki Hyde presents the year 2000 chair-entity’s Report

I’m pleased that we all appear to have survived the Millennium melt-down and will have to wait another thousand years for the sky to fall in. Apart from the pre-millennial party at the beginning of the year, the past 12 months have seen “business as usual” on the skeptical front.

Alternative treatments continue to get highly positive and highly uninformed media coverage. The Minister of Health has announced a study into alternative treatments and their efficacy. As more and more of these enter the public health system, apparently in response to public demand, I urge you to make your public voice heard. Please write to the minister or your local MP expressing your concerns.

At least one can see a ray of light in the prosecution of the company touting Lyprinol mussel extract as a cancer cure; though one has to note that they were fined $5000 and reports had sales of $1.2 million in the first few frenzied days of product release. Of course had TVNZ had a journalist with science training on the job, it would have been a non-starter and certainly wouldn’t have got the extended lead story coverage it did get.

It’s not just TVNZ though. TV3 had the documentary Gabrielle’s Choice, regarding a woman’s decision to try the alternative route in treating a suspected cancer. It came to the appalling conclusion that, having made the choice to undergo 17 weeks of Rife radio frequency treatment, oxygen therapy, multi-vitamin and herbal dosages etc, the reason these things didn’t work in reducing the lump was because Gabrielle didn’t believe hard enough. It was all her fault.

Fault-finding is an interesting past-time, if somewhat arbitrary. I see that the religious Samoan family who took their 14-year-old out of cancer treatment are now on trial for his manslaughter. No tear-jerking coverage on Holmes for them.

Our criticism of the Wellington’s healing touch “therapy” hit a raw nerve with Holmes. His outburst about the Skeptics being a bunch of “white-skinned, chardonnay-sipping elitists who should crawl back to the Arts Centre and get a life” was shortly followed by the announcement that he was taking extended leave to undergo conventional treatment for his own cancer. It should be noted ratings rose 10% in his absence.

We didn’t get asked back on to Holmes to examine our track record in the psychic-skeptic predictions made at the beginning of 1999. Regarding those, I take full responsibility for the All Blacks’ loss to France in the World Cup semi-finals, as I obviously jinxed the team. It would have been nice to know if the psychics had come up with an equally stunning prediction.

The primer continues to provide a useful teaching tool, and I have hopes for two more projects I would like to ask your support for. One is a small resource for libraries to encourage them to think about their book collection and cataloguing. Do they really need 174 books on astrology? That’s grown out of a presentation I made to the librarians at Canterbury Library, one of whom came up with the rather innovative idea of cataloguing the books under “fiction, non-fiction and crap”.

The other project is for you to consider a Web-based database of the NZ Skeptic, so we can all easily find material that has been published over the past 10 years and have fast reference to discussions of all the topics that come up time and time again. It would certainly make my life easier, and I suspect would be a very useful resource for all of us.

Your chair-entity,
Vicki Hyde

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