Skeptic News: A challenge, a denial and a declaration of victory

NZ Skeptics Newsletter

A challenge, a denial and a declaration of victory

It was show weekend here in Canterbury. Another long weekend to squander in the garden and pottering about the house. I've also been thinking about why on the Xbox game Assassin's Creed Valhalla my son chose to stand up for the seemingly uninformed and offended peasant, rather than the man of medicine (aka warlock) who was bemoaning the general distrust in knowledge. Perhaps it was the jaunty animal skull head-piece the warlock was wearing that made him look more like the bad guy, or perhaps it was just the promise of better loot...

Jess Macfarlane

The case of the missing VHS - FOUND!

Good news! We have found someone who has a copy of the video (VHS tape) taken of James Randi speaking at Canterbury University back in 1993. Next steps will be to check if it’s good to digitise, and if so, we’ll look to publish it to our YouTube channel. Keep posted.

The Homeopathy Challenge

In Homeopathy news, Edzard Ernst, retired academic physician and specialist in complementary and alternative medicine (and skeptic hero) has created a “challenge for all homeopaths of the world”.  In a similar way to the James Randi Educational Foundation’s one million dollar paranormal challenge, Ernst has come up with a scientific way for homeopaths to “prove” their worth. What entrants need to do is identify the contents of 6 homeopathic solutions that they have chosen, but that have been transferred into containers marked 1 – 6 by a notary and sent back to them.
How do they identify which is which? By doing a homeopathic process called a “proving”.

A “proving” is a test where a healthy person (e.g. someone without insomnia), would take that a remedy intended for someone with insomnia (for example one containing Coffea which is caffeine) and then note down their symptoms. claims “These responses are temporary and vary from person to person, but the total information has a pattern unique to that substance and is used as the basis of treatment”.

The challenge also says the solutions should be potentised to least 12C, which means diluted to one part in a hundred, 12 times. Homeopaths claim the remedy is more powerful the more the ingredient it is put through the ‘succussion’ process, which is where the ingredient is diluted in alcohol or water, and then shaken to activate its ‘vital energy'.

So, we’ll be keeping an eye on this challenge to see if anyone bites. Share the challenge – we wouldn’t want any New Zealand homeopaths to miss out on the fun.

Car makers’ climate denial

Climate change denial is a big topic among skeptics. It is the NZ Skeptics Society view that the science is in, burning fossil fuels and releasing the carbon captured in those fuels into the atmosphere is causing the climate to change, it is a crisis, and we need to act. #StopBurningStuff

You probably already heard that Exxon knew about climate change back in the 70s and 80s, and chose to double down on the misinformation, but now, as an EV driver myself I was interested to learn the latest news to come out about climate change denial relating to big Auto, specifically Ford and GM. In the first part of an investigation by E&E News, we find out that the automakers were well aware that car emissions caused climate change 50 years ago. Their own scientists were telling top executives that emissions from the vehicles they were producing would lead to climate change.

Rather than do something at the time to mitigate the problem, or even do nothing and remain silent, they chose to donate money to think tanks promoting climate denial. They also joined the ‘Global Climate Coalition’ which was an organisation created to fight against attempts to reduce carbon emissions.

and the fake cancer cure

I've been binging on Netflix again and am looking forward to the next series of Ratched, a psychological thriller based on a character from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a book by Ken Kesey. Be warned, the fashions may be fabulous, but the skull crunching gore is pretty grim.

Skeptics may be interested to know, that in a sad turn of events, one character in the series learns she has cancer, and decides to try a new remedy based on mistletoe at a clinic in Mexico. A Christchurch woman with cancer was reported to have looked into receiving similar alternative care at a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, however the price tag seemed too high. Skeptics should know that it was Rudolph Steiner who came up with the idea for this supposed cancer cure made from mistletoe, based on the concept of like cures like. It was thought that because mistletoe grows on trees like a parasite, and eventually could kill the tree, that taking it as a remedy would cure cancer which grows on a human host in a similar way, like a parasite.

Edzard Ernst has done extensive research, looking at the rigor of multiple studies, finding most were not reliable, and came to the conclusion that there is no good evidence to support its use, and again, it’s a very expensive treatment aimed at vulnerable people based on false hope. Delaying effective treatment can cause real harm. Let’s hope, for the sake of cancer patients out there that the next series of Ratched exposes this money-making scam for what it is.

NZ Skeptics is hereby the most skeptical society

On 6th November this year, after the US president used the word ‘hereby’ to claim, without any evidence whatsoever, that he had won the state of Michigan in the US election, NZ Skeptics thought, to heck with empirical data, hereby is a magical word, how can we exploit its power?! The answer, a boldly worded tweet by @NZSkeptics: “I hereby declare the NZ Skeptics Society is the most skeptical society”.

The tweet was sent to a number of different skeptics societies around the world, to keep them in the loop about the new pecking order.

The Edinburgh Skeptics replied saying “New what? Never heard of you. It’s an obvious fake name. Zeal land? C’mon.”

To which we replied, in a reference to map-gate, “Ha ha ha ha ha. You may not find us on the map, we may not exist, but we still won.”

Skeptical Inquirer replied saying “We doubt it”, a tweet inexplicably liked by nearly a half-dozen random tweeters so far, and the wonderful Brian Dunning of Skeptoid podcast fame replied to say “Skeptics? So you’re the people think 9/11 was an inside job and global warming was a hoax?”.

We couldn’t let that go without comment so replied “Actually we're just skeptical of marmite sandwiches. Thinking face emoji. Wow, that election there Brian. Kia kaha. I'll just leave some snaps here of the day we supported a march in Christchurch for #ClimateAction That day was our 9/11, but with white supremacist terrorism instead. #March15

The subsequent tweets consisted of our @NZSkeptics and @BrianDunning bonding over a mutual appreciation of vegemite and cheese toasties.
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