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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.

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.'

Loveworld and Covid-19

'An Ofcom investigation has found that coronavirus coverage on the religious satellite television channel Loveworld breached broadcasting rules for a third time. During two episodes of a current affairs programme, Full Disclosure, presenters made a number of materially misleading and potentially harmful statements about the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines, which were made without scientific or other credible basis, and which went without sufficient context or challenge.'

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.'

Near-Death Experiences

Professor Chris French is currently writing a popular science book on anomalistic psychology. He writes:'I will soon be starting the chapter dealing with out-of-body and near-death experiences. I firmly believe that interesting first-hand accounts really bring such subjects to life and so I am appealing to anyone out there who has experienced either or both of these to consider sending me an account for possible inclusion in my chapter. Needless to say, anyone who contributes an account would have the final say on whether or not it is included and whether or not it should be anonymised. Also, space will be limited, so there is no guarantee that I will be able to include your account even if you are kind enough to send me one but I'll certainly read it and say thank you!' Contact ASKE for details

5G: No evidence for biological effects

A meta-analysis reported in the journal Nature of studies of 5G technology has failed to confirm any biological effects of low-level MMWs (radiofrequency radiation, mainly in the millimetre wave band).

Middlesex University parts company with homeopathy

'Middlesex University is cutting its ties with the UK's biggest provider of homeopathy training after it peddled vaccine misinformation and encouraged the use of potions made with phlegm to protect against and treat Covid-19. The Bloomsbury-based Centre for Homeopathic Education (CHE) has been criticised for its "actively anti-scientific teaching". NHS England has repeatedly warned that homeopathic remedies for Covid are ineffective and that taking them leaves patients at risk.'

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation have recently issued an advance copy of a report on 'Levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station' that occurred on 11.3.2011. Regarding effects on public health in the region, they have concluded the following:

'No adverse health effects among Fukushima residents have been documented that are directly attributable to radiation exposure from the FDNPS accident. The Committee's revised estimates of dose are such that future radiation-associated health effects are unlikely to be discernible. The Committee believes that, on the balance of available evidence, the large increase, relative to that expected, in the number of thyroid cancers detected among exposed children is not the result of radiation exposure. Rather, they are the result of ultrasensitive screening procedures that have revealed the prevalence of thyroid abnormalities in the population not previously recognized. An increase in the incidence of cancers is unlikely to be discernible in workers for leukaemia, total solid cancers or thyroid cancer. The Committee has insufficient information to reach an informed judgement on the risk of cataracts.'

Alternative medicine and conspiracy theories

A study by researchers at the Colorado School of Medicine suggests that advocates of homeopathy and alternative therapies generally are more likely to accept fake news and conspiracy theories about medical conditions that are circulating on social media. The results have been published in the journal Health Psychology.

Matthew Syed

Matthew Syed, journalist, author, broadcaster and Olympic Games table tennis player now has a series running on Radio 4 called Sideways, which explores 'ideas that shape our lives with stories of seeing the world differently'. Recordings of these episodes are freely available and are of great interest to skeptics. The first episode is a critical account of the supposed 'disorder' Stockholm Syndrome and the second covers how the misunderstanding and misuse of statistics can have harmful and even tragic consequences, as in the case of the late Sally Clark, falsely convicted of murder after the deaths of her two children. I think skeptics will find these episodes very useful.

Neil O'Brian MP

It isn't often that praise and support for our politicians is forthcoming from the skeptical community. So, step up to the platform Mr Neil O'Brien (@NeilDotObrien), Member of Parliament for Harborough, Oadby and Wigston (party irrelevant). According to the Sunday Times (14.2.21) 'the MP has become a virtual superhero in the fight against conspiracy theorists, hunting out lockdown sceptics on social media and destroying them with a barrage of facts. … He is dogged in his pursuit of guilty parties and has taken to keeping charge sheets against them-records of deleted tweets and in accuracies he bombards them with'. Individuals whom he regularly has in his sights include 'contrarian journalists' such as Toby Young and Allison Pearson, and 'maverick scientists' search as Sunetra Gupta, Carl Heneghan and Claire Craig. Claire Craig has deleted all her tweets from 2020 but unfortunately for her Google has cached them. Mr O'Brien reminds us that 'On 18 October she claimed in a now-deleted tweet: "No-one is going to die of it (only with it). Flu diagnoses have been replaced by COVID. This happens when you overtest people dying of respiratory failure until you get the result you are looking for"'. Why doesn't she just say, 'Sorry, I was wrong' (Ask a silly question-Ed.).