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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 was mainly funded by annual membership subscriptions and donations from people who support its Aims and principles. Its main activity was the circulation of a magazine, the Skeptical Intelligencer which ran from 1996/7 to 2023, and a newsletter, the Skeptical Adversia, which ran from 2000 to 2012, when it was amalgamated with the Skeptical Intelligencer. ASKE ceased collecting membership subscriptions at the end of 2023. However, this website remains active and now serves the following purposes:

New material

By arrangement, you may contribute material to this website, and even have a webpage for your own contributions. Please email ASKE for further information. At present we have one regular contributor (see below).

Skeptical Linguistics: Mark Newbrook's Webpage

Mark Newbrook continues his regular column on skepticism in linguistics on this website. For many years this appeared, along with other papers and reviews by Mark, in the Skeptical Intelligencer (back copies here) under the title 'Language on the Fringe'.

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...
Read more...

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 .....
Read more....

Practical guides for skeptics

Are you intending consulting 'a psychic'? Or perhaps you are considering testing someone who claims to have paranormal powers. Are you a journalist preparing a newspaper article on a sensational new treatment outside of mainstream medicine or science? Would you like to devise your own quack remedy and set up a successful paractice, even though there is no evidence that it works? Would you like to learn how to be a dowser? The articles in Practical guides for skeptics provide instructions and advice on how to do all of these things. And Other organisations and websites lists many online organisations and individual websites of skeptical interest.

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Donate to support the ASKE website

ASKE no longer has a subscribing membership but you are more than welcome
to make a donation to the annual cost of this website by PayPal or credit/ debit card.
Please go to the Donations page.

SKEPTICAL NEWS

UK Medicines Regulator

'The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on pandemic response and recovery has raised "serious patient safety concerns" about the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), along with other aspects of a system that, "far from protecting patients, continues to put them at serious risk".'

Covid Vaccines

' Largest Covid vaccine study ever finds shots are linked to small increased risk of neurological, blood and heart disorders - but they are still extremely rare.'

Skepticism

Thoughtful piece by Ted Griffith in International Policy Digest: 'During my forty-year career as a communications adviser to governments, corporations, non-profits, and individuals, I have never experienced a time when so many people and organizations were not only lying but were also repeating the lies of others. I understand the reason for lies in general, each born of enlightened self-interest. But why do so many of us believe these lies, so much so that we allow them to influence what we put in our bodies (or don't), how we vote, and perhaps most importantly, how we feel about other people (including friends, family, and foreigners)?'

Russian Geneticist Dismissed

'Russia's Ministry of Science and Higher Education has removed the head of a prestigious genetics institute, Alexander Kudryavtsev, who stirred controversy by asserting that ancient humans lived for centuries, and the reduced lifespan of modern humans is a result of ancestral sins.'

'Ear Seeds'

'Dragons' Den has been accused of a pattern of featuring "extravagant claims" about controversial products without subjecting them to proper scrutiny.' Concerns have been raised by Good Thinking Society, a pro-science group founded by science writer Simon Singh, whose campaigning project manager Michael Marshall is well known to skeptics worldwide. The most recent complaint concerns the recent appearance of Giselle Boxer, an entrepreneur who claimed that her "Acu Seeds" (which are placed on the patient's ears) aided her recovery from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) within 12 months. She received a £50,000 investment, despite there being no proven benefits of these products for ME. Outrage has also been expressed by academics and medical practitioners and the campaigning group Action for ME. 'Days after it was revealed the corporation had removed the recent episode from streaming platform BBC iPlayer, the instalment ....has been reinstated, but with a disclaimer.'

Caroline Richmond

Caroline Richmond, 'Determined medical journalist known for her campaigning zeal against health misinformation' died on December 24, 2023. In 1988, 'convinced that the UK needed an organisation to call out health misinformation', she helped launch the Campaign Against Health Fraud (CAHF), later renamed HealthWatch and now HealthSense.

Measles Update

'Health experts have warned "we must act now" as measles cases have soared across the country amid an increase in unvaccinated children. There were 1,603 suspected cases of measles in England and Wales in 2023, new statistics from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show. MMR cases have increased significantly in the last two years - in 2022, there were 735 cases, and just 360 the year before.'

Synagogue Church of all Nations

'British members of a global evangelical church … have spoken out amid claims its leader raped and tortured followers, forcing some to undergo abortions. Dozens of former members of the Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN) - five of whom are British - claim that its leader, the late Temitope Balogun Joshua, known as TB Joshua, who had hundreds of millions of followers around the world, ran a "cult" which enabled his campaign of abuse.'

Slapping Therapy

Hongchi Xiao from Cloudbreak, California, has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of a 71-year-old diabetic patient who died on 20.10.16 during a 'slapping therapy' workshop he was running in Wiltshire in 2016. The workshop is understood to have involved paida lajin therapy, during which patients are repeatedly slapped, or slap themselves, until their skin turns red or bruised.

Reasons to be Cheerful

2023 was a depressing year in so many ways that have been extensively reported by our mainstream media. And the omens for 2024 don't read too well. But is there too much emphasis on the bad things that are happening? Are there good reasons for us to feel more hopeful and optimistic? Look at the facts, the evidence! The Sunday Times (1.1.24) lists '54 ways the world got more wonderful' in 2023. It's at this website and will cost you just £1 for a 4-month introductory subscription. And a new book by scientist Hannah Ritchie presents a much more positive outlook on the world's efforts to mitigate climate change than we are used to reading about ('Not the End of the World'). Meanwhile for long-term trends, visit the late great Hans Rosling's 'Gapminder' website.

ADHD

'Wellness firms are exploiting a national shortage of ADHD medication to push so-called "smart supplements" as an alternative to prescribed drugs. As patients struggle to get hold of medication - or face years-long waits for NHS assessments - companies are peddling unproved products as a "natural" treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In some cases the supplements are being marketed for use in children as young as three.'

King Charles

'The King's charity is being forced to return up to £110,000 to the Indian government after Charles fronted a deal for an NHS alternative medicine clinic that was never set up. In April 2018, Charles unveiled a plaque marking the "inauguration of a centre of excellence and research and Indian traditional medicine" at St Charles Hospital, an NHS centre in Kensington, west London, with Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister. Under the plans, local GPs were to refer patients for "Ayush" treatments. The term refers to practices including Ayurveda, the system of Indian traditional medicine, yoga, naturopathy and homeopathy.' And ...

'King Charles's appointment of a pro-homeopathy head of the royal medical household has been described as worrying and inappropriate by academics and campaigners. Dr Michael Dixon, who has championed faith healing and herbalism in his work as a GP, has quietly held the senior position for the last year, the Sunday Times reported. While Dixon, 71, is head of the royal medical household, for the first time the role is not combined with being the monarch's physician. Duties include having overall responsibility for the health of the king and the wider royal family - and even representing them in talks with government. Dixon, who has a penchant for bow ties and a long association with the king, worked in the NHS for almost half a century and is an outspoken advocate of complementary medicine.'

Antidepressants

'Politicians, experts, and patient representatives call for the UK government to reverse the rate of antidepressant prescribing. … Over the past decade, antidepressant prescriptions have almost doubled in England, rising from 47.3 million in 2011 to 85.6 million in 2022-23. Over 8.6 million adults in England are now prescribed them annually (nearly 20% of adults), with prescriptions set to rise over the next decade. In addition, the average duration of time for which a person takes an antidepressant has doubled between the mid-2000s and 2017, with around half of patients now classed as long term users. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have similar rates of antidepressant prescribing. …. Rising antidepressant prescribing is not associated with an improvement in mental health outcomes at the population level, which, according to some measures, have worsened as antidepressant prescribing has risen.'

Vaccination

From The New York Times: 'Disruptions to health systems during the Covid-19 pandemic have left more than 60 million children worldwide without a single dose of standard childhood vaccines, in turn resulting in large outbreaks of diseases that primarily kill children. Many who missed their shots have now aged out of routine immunization programs. Protecting them will require a costly vaccination blitz. By the numbers: By the midpoint of this year, 47 countries were reporting serious and deadly measles outbreaks, compared with 16 countries in June 2020. Twelve countries reported the polio virus was circulating. Nigeria is facing a major outbreak of diphtheria, with nearly 600 deaths so far.'

From Sense About Science

'We're thrilled to announce that Nancy Olivieri, a senior scientist at Toronto General Hospital, has been awarded the 2023 John Maddox Prize for courageously advancing public discourse with sound science, despite challenges or hostility. The judges commended Nancy for communicating the importance of being open with patients about medical research whilst withstanding great personal cost. The 2023 Early Career Award goes to Chelsea Polis, a senior scientist of epidemiology at the Population Council's Center for Biomedical Research, New York, for her courage in challenging false marketing claims made by medical device manufacturers.'

Covid

'Top science journal faced secret attacks from Covid conspiracy theory group: A conspiratorial group of extreme Brexit lobbyists mounted an extraordinary campaign against one of the world's most prestigious science journals - part of a series of joint investigations between Byline Times and Computer Weekly. ... The group attempted to have Nature and its staff put under surveillance and investigated by MI5, MI6, the CIA, Mossad, and Japanese and Australian intelligence agencies. They met Cabinet minister Michael Gove and later asked him to arrange phone taps and electronic surveillance. One member of the group led intrusive investigations into the intimate personal life and background circumstances of senior Nature staff the group suspected of "extreme Sinophile views".'

Cochrane

'Medical-evidence giant Cochrane battles funding cuts and closures. The group that helped to revolutionize medical practice has lost key funding and is reorganizing - moves that concern some researchers.'

'Traditional' Medicine

The World Health Organization has held its first summit on traditional medicine, with the group saying it was seeking to collect evidence and data to allow for the safe use of such treatments. However....'The World Health Organisation (WHO) is meant to implore us to ignore hearsay and folklore, and to follow the scientific evidence. So why is it now suddenly promoting the likes of herbal medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture?

Scientology

Actor Leah Remini is taking her fight against the Church of Scientology to court with a new lawsuit alleging that the church and its current leader, David Miscavige, are behind years of "mob-style tactics" used against her in a targeted campaign of harassment.'

Nessie: The Search to End all Searches (until the next time)

'What has been described as the biggest search for the Loch Ness Monster since the early 1970s is due to be held later this month. Drones fitted with infrared cameras are to be flown over the loch, and a hydrophone is to be used to detect unusual underwater sounds. Organisers said volunteers would also look for possible signs of a creature from safe vantage points on land. The search is to be held on 26 and 27 August.'

Medical Clinics Fake Reviews

'Consumer groups say fake reviews are a "significant and persistent problem" and have called on internet firms to do more to remove them and fine companies. Which? has warned it could be a serious issue if someone chooses a treatment clinic based on reading a fake review. The government said it was toughening the law to protect consumers, while Google said it removed fake reviews.'

The Berlin Lion

'Sheepish authorities in Germany have called off the hunt for a loose lioness after admitting the missing animal is actually a boar. Authorities determined on Friday that there is "no acute danger" to people in Kleinmachnow on the edge of Berlin where a potentially dangerous animal was spotted, saying they no longer believe that a lioness is at large and calling off the hunt. A search turned up no sign of such a predator and experts who analysed a video have concluded that it was likely a wild boar, they said.'

UFOs/UAPs

'In the US: 'A former US intelligence official told a Congress hearing on UFOs that "non-human biologics" were recovered from crash sites. He said he prefers to use the term "non-human" rather than alien.''

Clinical Trials

'Medicine is plagued by untrustworthy clinical trials. How many studies are faked or flawed? Investigations suggest that, in some fields, at least one-quarter of clinical trials might be problematic or even entirely made up, warn some researchers. They urge stronger scrutiny.'

Covid-19 Origin

In the US, a ' long-awaited report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence put the lie to the theory that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, leaked from a virology lab in Wuhan, China, where the disease was first detected in humans. The lab-leak conspiracists were certain that the report would validate their contentions, for which there has never been any valid scientific evidence. Instead it did just the opposite.'

Antivax GP Struck Off

'A GP has been erased from the medical register after an MPTS tribunal concluded today that her statements on vaccines amounted to misconduct. Dr Jayne Donegan, who no longer works as an NHS GP, was found by the tribunal to have encouraged parents to mislead healthcare professionals about their children's diet or immunisation history". The GMC brought several allegations against Dr Donegan, about statements made between 2019 and 2020, however the determination of impaired fitness to practise (FTP) and subsequent erasure was based solely on her suggestions to parents. The tribunal determined that her misconduct "posed an ongoing risk to patient safety given her lack of insight and lack of remediation" and that "public confidence would be undermined" if such a doctor was allowed to remain in practice. … Other GMC allegations, such as Dr Donegan's statements failing to "give balanced information on the risks and benefits of immunisation", were proved true by the tribunal but were not determined to be serious misconduct.'

UFOs/UAPs

On May 31st, a NASA panel held its first public meeting on its study of UFOs, or what the US government now terms UAPs ('unidentified anomalous phenomena'). The panel was set up last year and a report on its findings is due for release in July. Nasa define UAPs as 'observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena from a scientific perspective.' Its study is separate from the previous investigation by intelligence officials at the Pentagon. The 16-member panel said that scant high-quality data and a lingering stigma pose the greatest barriers to unravelling such mysteries.