Skeptic News: Ring, Reiki and Natural Medicine

NZ Skeptics Newsletter

Hi there

A big portion of this week’s newsletter content was contributed by NZ Skeptics Committee member - Jonathan Harper.

Craig Shearer

Back in lockdown again

As everybody no doubt knows we’re back in lockdown again - level 3 for Auckland and level 2 for the rest of the country. 

While the inconvenience is disappointing, as we’ve seen it is for the best. 

At this stage, it seems that there’s been some potential community transmission possibly due to people not isolating as they should have done. But the solution to this isn’t to attack those individuals but to come together to support each other and to work through the problem. 

The virus is difficult to manage, and contract tracing is extremely important. As usual, Siouxsie Wiles explains it well.

The people we should be angry with are those that are spreading misinformation, often for self-serving purposes. 

Ken Ring’s Weather Predictions

Ken Ring is back selling his unproven weather, gardening, and best fishing predictions. You can also get his books on the global warming hoax, anxiety therapy, better parenting, and more on his predict weather website.

There was a lull after 2016 when his Facebook page announced “Sadly Ken has been unwell and unable to contribute to this page ... Thanks for all the well wishes."

If you want more background on Ken Ring, you can find an article on our website that looks at Ring’s accuracy. The NZ-based Silly Beliefs site also has a great article on Ken Ring. I have had some interesting face-to-face discussions about Ring and other matters with the Silly Beliefs site’s main writer (who prefers to remain anonymous), reminding me: 

there is no evidence whatsoever that his predictions are even remotely reliable. It is a scam, and by advertising his bogus weather predictions they were helping spread misinformation, and regarding earthquakes, fear. [ people left their homes needlessly in one case]

Ken Ring emailed me last year and described something about his personal circumstances. You can see the same on his website. But we are best to keep away from personal issues with any woo peddler for several good reasons. We do not want to be seen to be prying unnecessarily; nor do we want to give any impression we are applying invalid argumentum ad hominem arguments. I have some genuine personal sympathies with Ring, which were well received. At the same time, I think his prediction business is misguided.

I came across Ring’s Predict Weather forecasts in two publications: The Fringe and Ponsonby News.

I phoned Bevis - the editor at The Fringe. He admitted he didn’t think the predictions were reliable. However, as “some people like to read them”, he will continue publishing them.

Ring’s predictions aren’t just isolated to New Zealand, He’s also popular in Australia and Ireland. Ring’s website sells a book that predicts the Australian weather for the next decade, and a book that predicts the Irish weather for the next year.

We would be interested in hearing from readers who encounter Ring’s writing in places other than those mentioned here. Oh, and if you’re on Twitter, the Ken Ring Weather Check Twitter account regularly reviews Ring’s predictions and finds them wanting.

Reiki

Mark Honeychurch recently covered a Newshub story by Sarah Templeton in our newsletter (Reiki is Here To Save Us All) about a visit to a Reiki person by the reporter. (Practitioner, in my humble opinion, is probably the wrong word). 

Committee member Russell and I contacted Newshub expressing our obvious concerns about it being a free promotion that omitted to tell readers what Reiki is, and the lack of evidence for efficacy. As a result, they decided to add a mention that the writer had not paid for the session she reported on. 

I received a reply from Dianne Martin who is the Broadcasting Standards manager at Discovery NZ (US owned) which recently bought Mediaworks, the owner of Newshub. She said:

The article was based on one person's experience of a Reiki treatment and it was not intended to be a discussion of the two sides of the debate about its efficacy. Once the disclaimer was added to the Article, the Committee maintains readers could judge the merits of Reiki treatments and the Article for themselves, taking into consideration that the treatment was gifted for the purpose of review.

This could be a breach of the principle of accuracy, but we may be best to consider the change they did make as a win, and leave it at that.

I was disappointed to learn from Ms Martin that:

The Media Council has previously determined that 'the debate over alternative remedies is sufficiently well known not to require balancing comment in every story about them. The subject falls within the exception to the principle of balance for issues of enduring public discussion.'  The Committee is satisfied that balance was not required in this Article.

Unfortunately that seems to be the reality of the situation. The media are likely to continue to publish such pieces, which seem to fall into the category of “advertorial content”. But it’s great to point out when it’s not apparent from the article that journalistic integrity might be at stake!

The New Zealand Journal of Natural Medicine 

After some investigation it seems that this magazine (it’s a stretch to call it a journal, a title which should be reserved for scientific publications) is being purchased by at least one public library (Titirangi). 

 The New Zealand Journal of Natural Medicine (J Nat Med) is very familiar to my friends at the Society for Science Based Healthcare (SBH). It came back on our radar after I spotted it in my local library, then the local Postshop bookshop and a supermarket where it’s sold in a plastic wrap (perhaps to prevent prying eyes from seeing the content without buying).

Not long after spotting this egregious pseudoscientific publication, I received an online survey from the library. So I took that opportunity to suggest they stop stocking this misleading publication.

It would be great if readers could check out their local libraries to see whether this magazine is being carried, and report back to us.

The content of the magazine is of concern with articles suggesting vaccines don’t work and that homeopathy might cure cancer. (And, from the picture of the latest edition, it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic is being milked for all it's worth!) Unfortunately, the magazine is not registered with the NZ Media Council, so a complaint cannot be made to them.

It is disappointing that libraries would be subscribing to this magazine. Libraries always have a balancing act as to what content to provide, seemingly erring on the side of providing what people want to read, even if it contains dangerous misinformation. The question would be where is the line drawn?

Joke of the week

I can’t say we’ll be having this every week, but I found this amusing little joke on social media this week:

 

Q: How many conspiracy theorists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Do your own research!
 

Thanks to those who’ve recently joined us!

If you’re a regular reader of our newsletter, you’ll know that we’re publicising annual membership of NZ Skeptics, which is extremely attractively priced being only $40, or $20 if you’re unwaged.

We’ve recently had quite a few new members join us - a warm welcome to you if you’re one of them - if you’ve not yet joined us, you can still do so by going to our membership page.

As a special bonus, if you join before the end of March we’ll send you a bona fide “Card Carrying Skeptic” business card with your name and membership number - it’s great to show to friends when they comment about how you’re always so damn skeptical. (All existing members who are paid up by the end of March will also be mailed the card.) 

It’s not yet been scientifically proven, but we feel that just carrying the card on your person will have a protective effect against all sorts of woo that you may be exposed to. :)

If you have any news or thoughts you would like to see published in this newsletter, send it to:
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