Consumer wins 2nd Bent Spoon

25/08/2012

Consumer magazine has the dubious honour of winning its second Bent Spoon award from the NZ Skeptics for continuing to promote homeopathic products as a viable alternative to evidence-based medical treatments.

In its September 11 2011 review of anti-snoring products, Consumer consulted a medical herbalist who was quoted as saying that “all homeopathic remedies may work wonders for one person and do nothing for another” and that “homeopathy is best prescribed on an individual basis, after extensive consultation”.

Homeopathy is known to exploit the well-recognised placebo effect where the body heals itself in many cases. Any “wonders” worked can be attributed to that effect, as homeopathic solutions are made up solely of water – a fact not known by 94% of New Zealanders purchasing such products.

“Yet again Consumer has failed to point out that there are no active ingredients in a standard homeopathic product,” says Skeptics media spokesperson Vicki Hyde. “Surely this should raise consumer protection alarm bells, akin to someone buying a microwave and receiving a cardboard box which they´re told will heat food via the cosmic power of the universe if you think hard enough…”

Consumer did note that another expert had pointed out that “the efficacy of homeopathic remedies had not been demonstrated convincingly in evidence-based medicine.” This caveat was not adequate as far as the NZ Skeptics were concerned, particularly as the homeopathic products had a prominent place at the head of the list.

“We´ve seen the homeopathic industry use selective quotes as part of their marketing and advertising strategy to get unwitting customers to pay $10 for a teaspoon of water. No doubt Consumer´s inclusion of homeopathic products will be used to boost business, despite the admission by the NZ Homeopathic Council that homeopathic products have no active ingredients. Disturbingly, Consumer´s expert doesn´t seem to be aware of this admission, stating that `extra´ active ingredients could help.”

A number of people had raised concerns about Consumer´s willingness to feature such dubious products, with one nominator saying that the article had “destroyed Consumer NZ’s reputation as a organisation New Zealanders can trust”. . .

Skeptics also awarded a couple of  bouquets:

* Margo White, for her health columns in the New Zealand Listener

“It´s great to see informed writing on health issues, based on research and evidence, rather than the large amount of low-grade items we usually get based on press releases and thinly disguised advertorial material,” says Hyde. . .

* Whanganui District Health Board member Clive Solomon, for supporting evidence-based medicine as the core focus for hospital care . . .

Skeptics’ website is here.

 


Earthquake prediction reporting another nominee for Bent Spoon

29/08/2011

NZ Skeptics awarded their 2011 Bent Spoon for journalistic gullibility to all media outlets and personalities who took Ken Ring’s earthquake predictions seriously.

The Bent Spoon was awarded telepathically by those gathered for the annual NZ Skeptics Conference which, appropriately given the winner was held in Christchurch at the weekend.

And there’s already another nominee for the next award. TV3 is reporting Ring’s predicting another big earthquake for Christchurch at the end of September.

He does qualify the prediction:

On his website, he says there is a “potent” lunar alignment in the last week of September, same as the one that existed at the time of the September 4, 2010 quake.

“Indeed, it may not happen, and we all hope not, but the main players will be in position,” he says. “For example we might observe that Dan Carter and Ritchie McCaw are on the field, but that does not guarantee a win.”

And the report does include this:

A 3 News analysis of Mr Ring’s predictions earlier this year failed to show any evidence he was able to accurately predict earthquakes, and even his long-range weather forecasts did no better than chance.

Given that, why bother reporting this latest prediction? There is no news value in further predictions from someone whose predictions have been proved inaccuarte and even with the qualifications giving the prediction coverage is taking it seriously.

The Herald report is even worse, it doesn’t bother to report the unreliability of his previous predictions.

All media should ignore his predictions as the unscientific guess-work they are and anyone with any doubts should read, or re-read, David Winter’s scientific evaluation of the predictions.


Denis Dutton has died

29/12/2010

Philosophy professor, internet entrepreneur and media commentator Denis Dutton died yesterday.

The announcement of his death in Arts and Letters Daily which he founded has resulted in  tributes  from readers.

Blake Eskin wrote in the New Yorker:

Through Arts & Letters Daily, Denis helped prove that the Web could be a platform not only for fast-paced celebrity gossip and pictures of cute animals but for long and serious writing and the exchange of complex ideas. Denis died today, but his site and his vision will endure.

Although best known for ALD, Dutton also founded New Zealand Skeptics – the NZ committee for the scientific investigation of claims of the paranormal.

I knew him only through his voice on the radio and writing in papers and on the internet. In all of those media he came across as  an intelligent, articulate man who was passionate about his beliefs, including public radio.


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