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The Association for Skeptical Enquiry

Casting a critical eye over suspect science, dubious claims and bizarre beliefs


Welcome to the ASKE website

ASKE was founded in 1997 in the UK by a small group of people from different professional backgrounds who were opposed to the promotion of irrational ideas and practices and the misrepresentation of science for purposes that deceive the public. The association is mainly funded by membership subscriptions and donations from people who support its Aims and principles.

What is skepticism?

Perhaps the first thing to notice is the spelling of the word, which in the UK is usually 'scepticism' (similarly, sceptic and sceptical). In the USA it's spelt 'skeptic', etc. and this spelling has become universal in the present context. Whatever the spelling, in everyday usage saying that you're skeptical about something means that you're not convinced...
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The European Council of Skeptical Organisations

There are quite a number of European countries with national skeptical organisations, some of which, as in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Belgian and the Netherlands, are very substantial. Like ASKE, many of these organisations are affiliated to the European Council of Skeptical Organisations (ECSO)...
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Come and Join Us!

ASKE relies on annual subscriptions of just £10 and voluntary donations from people who share its aims and principles. But we also like our members to be involved in any of our activities, including contributing to this website and writing for the Skeptical Intelligencer. If you would like to join us or provide a donation, please go to our Membership and donations page.

What does ASKE do?

ASKE is a small organisation compared to national skeptical groups in other countries, but a number of its members are themselves very active in the skeptical arena (see details of some of these at Being a skeptical activist). The activities of ASKE itself are .....
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Being a skeptical activist

Many people from all walks of life are now actively involved in some way in what has become known as The Skeptical Movement .....
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SKEPTICAL NEWS

Skeptics in the Pub Online

While the current pandemic restrictions are in force, there are no live Skeptics in the Pub meetings being held anywhere as far as we know. Skeptics in the Pub Online is the result of the collaborative efforts of several SitP groups and hosts Thursday evening talks present by authoritative speakers on topics of skeptical interest. Regularly check their Facebook page for upcoming talks.

Stop press: Things are on the move again and some live meetings are now being held. Check with your local group.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

'Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) has decided to exclude four Chinese companies due to what is described as an unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to serious environmental damage, Norway's giant sovereign wealth Fund states. ….These companies are engaged in traditional Chinese medicine, and also use parts from endangered species in production, such as pangolins, musk deer and leopards.'

Clinical Trials Registration

'Clinical trials run in the UK will be automatically registered from 2022, the country's Health Research Authority announced today. The new system seeks to ensure that every single clinical trial will be listed on a trial registry from the outset. UK researchers have been formally required to register trials since 2013, but that rule was never enforced, and many trials remained unregistered.' Also see this report.

Man Suing Psychic

'A California man is suing a "psychic love specialist" who allegedly promised to remove a curse placed on him by an ex-girlfriend-provided he paid her $5,100. According to a Fox 11 report on Tuesday, a fraud suit filed by Mauro Restrepo with Torrance Superior Court says psychic Sophia Adams said she could save his marriage provided he paid the necessary fee to exorcise the spell. She also allegedly warned Restrepo he and his family would be "unhappy and in danger" unless the curse was lifted.'

'UFO' sighting in Wales

'Panic-buying aliens were among the online quips after a strange cone-shaped light was seen in the night skies above north east Wales. …. Scores of people witnessed the soundless light hovering overhead, descending slowly and, in some cases, "shooting off northwards". "Space ship, deffo," said one person. … The object was soon revealed to be an Atlas V rocket, carrying Nasa's Landsat-9 satellite, which launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base, USA, just after 7pm last Monday. Some two hours later it performed a reversing manoeuvre, releasing glowing clouds of vapour.'

Overprescribing

A UK Government-commissioned review 'estimates 10% of items dispensed in primary care are overprescribed with 15% of people taking 5 or more medicines a day, increasing the risk of adverse effects. Around 1 in 5 hospital admissions in over-65s are caused by the adverse effects of medicines. Ministers accept all recommendations including introducing a new national clinical director for prescribing, increased use of social prescribing and better handovers between hospitals and the community'.

Covid Vaccination: False but Viral Story

'False claims went viral on Friday about Air Force pilots and the Pentagon's Covid-19 vaccine mandate for members of the military. In a video monologue that has been viewed more than 1.1 million times on Twitter, a bodybuilder named Justin Y. O'Donnell claimed that "my dad just let me know" that the secretary of defense had sent a nighttime text message to all active members of the military demanding that they get a Covid-19 vaccination by 10 a.m. the next day or face a court martial. After receiving this text, O'Donnell claimed, "Twelve F-22 pilots, the most highly trained pilots in the world, walked off the job." He added that "16 crew members for B-52 bombers walked off the job." The viral story is thoroughly false. In fact, it originated on a misinformation website that publishes ridiculous fiction written to read like actual news.'

No Evidence that Ivermectin is Effective against Covid-19

'An Ohio judge has reversed a court order that forced a local hospital to treat a Covid-19 patient with the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin. On Monday, Judge Michael Oster of Butler county issued an order that sided with West Chester Hospital, citing a lack of "convincing evidence" that the drug - used in small doses in humans against external parasites such as headlice, and in larger doses for animals including cows and horses - could significantly improve the patient's condition. The patient, Jeffrey Smith, was admitted to intensive care on 15 July. He has been on a ventilator since 1 August. At a hearing on Thursday, Julie Smith, his wife, testified that neither she nor her husband were vaccinated against Covid-19.'

When is a New Hospital a New Hospital?

A communications 'playbook' for the government's NHS building programme instructs that major refurbishments and new wings/units by trusts 'must always be referred to as a new hospital'. The instructions also state that trusts should reiterate ministers' commitment to open '48 new hospitals by the end of the decade'. Questions have been raised about how many new hospitals will be delivered in reality, and the fact that many of those planned are not full hospital builds. Sajid Javid has been criticised for describing the Northern Centre for Cancer Care - which is part of the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and the first of the 48 schemes to open - as 'a new hospital'. Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust did not describe it as a hospital. Listen to the Health Service Journal podcast.

Havana Syndrome

'US Vice-president Kamala Harris's tour of Asia was impacted by reports of Havana syndrome on 24.8.21. A trip from Singapore to Vietnam was delayed by several hours amid an investigation into two possible cases in Hanoi, administration officials said….Havana syndrome is the name for a series of mysterious health claims first reported by American diplomats and other government employees in the Cuban capital in 2016. Some reported hearing a loud piercing sound and feeling intense pressure in the face. Pain, nausea, and dizziness sometimes followed. Similar, unexplained ailments have since been reported by Americans in other countries, including Germany, Austria, Russia and China. A number of theories have been floated to explain it, including targeted microwave or sonic attacks, perhaps as part of an espionage or hacking effort.'

Satanic abuse

'A gang of people kidnapped a child after one of them believed the infant had been the victim of satanic abuse. Three people have been found guilty of conspiracy to kidnap the child on Anglesey in November 2020 while three others admitted the charge.'

Myalgic Encephelomyelitis

'Doctors will be told this week to stop recommending two controversial treatments for the debilitating condition myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) in a move which will provoke an angry backlash from the medical profession. The Times has learnt that new guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will say graded exercise therapy (Get) should no longer be offered to people with ME. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a talking therapy previously seen as having a curative role, should only be offered to support patients in dealing with the anxiety of being ill.'

Stop press: On August 17, NICE took the decision to pause publication of its updated guidelines after the resignation of four members of the guideline development committee. However, on October 20 NICE announced that it will publish the guideline following a meeting of its Guidance Executive

Society of Homeopaths

From the Newsletter of the campaigning organisations Good Thinking, August 2021. 'The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has announced new Standards for voluntary registers of healthcare providers, causing the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) to withdraw from the accreditation scheme. According to the PSA, the SoH's failings in this regard "led to risks to the public from homeopathy being offered as an alternative for serious conditions such as depression, arthritis and autoimmune conditions that require medical supervision." The PSA - the government body which oversees and accredits healthcare bodies - has included in their new Standards a 'public interest' test, which will weigh up whether the evidence for the benefits of a treatment covered by a register outweigh any risks. The new Standards come after a public consultation on the scope of the Accredited Registers programme.'

Cancer Quackery

'The incredible true story of the cancer patient who didn't have cancer: At an integrative medicine seminar she had won a special blood test as a door prize. Thinking of having some bloods done anyway, she had taken advantage of the free offer, only to receive a call telling her she had cancer. It was only after an expensive course of intravenous vitamins that her sceptical cousin asked why no one had at least ordered a CT scan to find the cancer. She convinced her GP to order the scan, which detected two tiny lung nodules. The GP sent her to a surgeon who ordered a different scan, by which time the benign nodules had disappeared. The surgeon told her she did not have cancer but she did not believe him.'

Traditional Medicine Fraud

'A claim has been shared in multiple social media posts that Sri Lankan regulators have purportedly approved a brand of traditional medication as treatment for Covid-19. But this claim is false: an official told AFP no traditional medication has been approved as treatment for Covid-19 as of July 7, 2021; and warned against using unproven remedies for the disease.'

Unidentified Aerial Phenomena

The long-awaited 'preliminary' report on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs or UFOs) commissioned by the US Congress has now been released. This does not dismiss outright the idea that some UAPs could be extraterrestrial in origin.

Vitamin D and COVID-19

'Early in the pandemic some research suggested a link between vitamin D deficiency and severe COVID-19 disease. Some contend that if we simply gave people vitamin D supplements, there would be no need for lockdowns, masks or vaccines because we would effectively eliminate coronavirus and its impact on our lives. If that were true, vitamin D would have saved us all a lot of pain and heartache. Unfortunately it is not.' Conclusion of research at McGill University, Montreal.

Burping Babies

'Though a seemingly worldwide practice, there is little plausibility and no evidence to support burping infants before, during, or after feeds. And it doesn't have anything to do with SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome).'

Father loses High Court battle to stop cancer doctors giving his sick 11-year-old daughter chemotherapy to treat her leukaemiae

'A man who objected to his sick 11-year-old daughter being given further conventional cancer treatments has lost a High Court fight. The man disagreed with a treatment plan put forward by specialists. He said he was worried about side-effects and wanted to explore homeopathic and natural therapies. His estranged wife favoured a conventional approach.'

Anti-Vax Nurse Struck off for Claiming the Pandemic is a Hoax

From the Nursing Times 3.6.21: 'The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has made the decision to permanently remove a conspiracy theorist and anti-vaxxer Kate Shemirani from their register. A registered nurse, non-medical prescriber and aesthetic practitioner at the time, Ms Shemirani developed a cult-like following over the past year due to her controversial views on vaccinations and lockdown. She dubbed the current world health crisis a "scamdemic plandemic" in numerous YouTube videos before she was banned from the platform.'

Death of Eminent Astronomer and Skeptic

The death has been announced of Professor Cornelis ('Kees') de Jager shortly following his 100th birthday. Professor de Jager was a Dutch astronomer who specialized in predicting solar variation to assess the Sun's impact on future climate. He was a former director of the observatory at Utrecht and from 1960 to 1986 was a professor at Utrecht University. In 1981, de Jager became a founding member of the World Cultural Council. He was a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the first chairman of the Dutch skeptical society, Stichting Skepsis, from 1987 to 1998. He was also the first chairman of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations from 1994 to 2001.

Science and Politicians

'The Biden administration (has) announced the formal launch of its Scientific Integrity Task Force which will review the federal government's scientific policies to ensure they are free from inappropriate political influence. The 46 members come from across the federal government and will meet for the first time on Friday. The review comes after several former Trump administration officials have said they felt political pressures while doing their jobs during the pandemic.'

Covid-19 and 5G Conspiracy Theory

The Department of Telecommunications in India has warned people not to believe fake messages claiming 5G network and spread of Covid-19 are linked. The department also points out that 5G network testing has not begun anywhere in India. Meanwhile, a band of anti-5G activists left an area of Glastonbury without broadband after targeting what they mistakenly thought was a 5G transmitter but was actually a 5GHz broadband box.

Cancer Prevention and Vitamins

'Evidence lacking for use of vitamins for CVD, cancer prevention: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concludes that evidence is currently insufficient for determining the benefits and harms of most single or paired and multivitamin supplements but recommends against use of beta-carotene and vitamin E for prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer.'

Weight-loss Supplements

'Researchers have recently presented the results of the first global analysis in 19 years of clinical trials for weight loss supplements. Drawing on two literature reviews, they found insufficient evidence to warrant the recommendation of supplements for weight loss. The study's authors drew their conclusions from 121 clinical trials involving nearly 10,000 participants.'

Covid Conspiracy Theorist's Case Thrown Out

'A conspiracy theorist has had his lawsuit against the government of British Columbia (BC), Canada, dropped by the courts. Makhan "Mak" Parhar was arrested in November 2020 and spent four days in jail for allegedly breaching the terms of a government COVID Quarantine Act. Police said he had "refused to comply" with the rules and had left his home despite being told to self-isolate. According to videos and statements made on his Facebook page, Parhar is a supporter of the flat Earth movement and critic of COVID regulations. … Following his arrest, Parhar argued that he had been "kidnapped" and harmed and was looking for justice via "common law".'

Withdrawal of Humanist of the Year award to Richard Dawkins

'...the AHA Board has concluded that Richard Dawkins is no longer deserving of being honored by the (American Humanist Association), and (the AHA) has voted to withdraw, effective immediately, the 1996 Humanist of the Year award.'

The Declaration to Improve Health Research

'We are an international group of researchers and patients who believe that:

  • it is ethically untenable to remain complicit in the crises that undermine science,
  • there are simple measures which can improve the quality and openness, and
  • the public and patients have a right to full access of the research they fund

'It is extraordinary that we tolerate a situation in which most research activity is wasted. Research findings are mostly wrong and riddled with biases including inadequate or absent reporting and hidden conflicts of interest.

'On 27th April 2021, the Declaration to Improve Health Research and the Center for Open Science will be hosting a Hackathon event on Registered Reports.

'Registered Reports are a publication format whereby the methods for manuscripts are peer-reviewed before results are known. … Over 250 journals have adopted this publication route, but few are in medical and health sciences.

'We will be asking participants to join in writing to medical and health journals asking them to allow authors to use the Registered Report publication format to increase the quality and transparency of research. If you are interested in helping health research change for the better and would like to take part in the Hackathon, please book your place here. The event will start at 3pm (UK time).

'If you would like to find out more about the hackathon please get in touch by email.'