Skeptical Thoughts

2020

Here are the topics I chose to talk about on RadioLive for the year. Some of them may not have been mentioned on the radio due to a lack of time.


Show
  • August 18, 2020

  • Medical Myths

    Here are some common medical myths that are easy to dispel:

    9 min read, 1720 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Medicine, Myths

  • October 19, 2020

  • Election Special

    I’ve been keeping a close eye on some of the more fringe political parties in New Zealand's election, and it’s been great to see that not many kiwis have been swayed by their radical ideas. In case you were too focused on whether the Greens were going to get a seat at the table, or if this is the last we’ll see of Winston Peters, here’s a summary of three of the more extreme parties, all of whom appear to have little respect for evidence:

    8 min read, 1480 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Politics, AdvanceNZ

  • December 21, 2020

  • Crystal Healing that works?

    In one of our Facebook groups this week there was a recent discussion started by Donald Pettitt about his visit to a “crystal healer” to help with issues he’s been having with his balance:

    3 min read, 550 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Alternative Medicine, Crystals

  • Does anyone know what Dark DNA is?

    Retraction Watch have written a nice summary of the year in retractions for The Scientist magazine. Unsurprisingly many of the scientific articles that have been retracted this year are on the topic of COVID-19, but there was one that caught my eye from the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences titled:

    4 min read, 756 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Mystery, DNA, Dark Matter

  • Glittery Just Desserts

    As Skeptics we're not very fond of scammers, and we often try to protect the public from those who would rip them off with dodgy devices and ineffective products. The video below documents a feat of engineering, a device that targets the problem in the US of people who steal people's parcels - and it targets them in a pretty funny way. Although theft is not really a scam, it's still enjoyable to see unethical people get their comeuppance - and it's mentioned later on in the video that this device has also recently been used against scammers. And to be honest, I needed a good excuse to share this video!

    1 min read, 115 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Scam, Glitter

  • We have our own Monolith

    In the news this morning, it’s been reported that our very own New Zealand monolith has appeared at Adventure Park in Christchurch. I’d love to think that this monolith could stay until I get a chance to visit it, but given that the original monolith mysteriously disappeared, and that a bunch of young Christians destroyed a similar monolith in California and replaced it with a cross, I worry that our version may not last long.

    1 min read, 140 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Mystery, Monolith

  • A Sikh Visit

    I mentioned three weeks ago that I was going to visit the Ancient Mystical Order of Rosicrucians, and I can report that I survived the meeting intact. My friend Tim and I had a great chat with three of the group’s members about their beliefs, and about the history of the organisation. Much of what we heard sounded very familiar, with an organisational structure that reminded me of Scientology (making your way up the “Bridge”) and a belief in visualisation that was akin to Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret”, where if you imagine something enough it will come true for you.

    2 min read, 258 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Religion, Sikhism, Evangelicals

  • November 30, 2020

  • A visit to AMORC

    Tonight I’m off to a meeting of AMORC - the Ancient Mystical Order of Rosae Crucis. It occurred to me the other day that there’s an old idea which might be appropriate here. I’m sure many of you have heard of the guideline that the more a country’s name stresses that it is democratic, the less likely it is to actually resemble a democracy. Take the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) or the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) as examples. I wonder whether the same rule might hold for cult groups. For example, the Order of Oriental Templars (OTO) is not related to either the Orient or Templars (it was invented in the 20th century by German occultists), The Church of Scientology is not really a church (it’s just a tax dodge) and the Unification Church (Moonies) didn’t unify the Christian church. So I have a sneaking suspicion that the Ancient Mystical Order of Rosae Crucis is probably going to turn out to be neither Ancient nor Mystical.

    2 min read, 235 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Cult, AMORC, Rosicrucians

  • Billy TK’s Religious Influences

    There’s an interesting article published by Dr Deane Galbraithe this week about Billy Te Kakiha’s evangelical influence, and how this may explain his adoption of so many conspiracy theories in his talks. For those who don’t remember, Billy TK started a political party earlier this year, the Public Party, with a platform based on conspiracies and other unscientific nonsense. Deane has been talking in our Facebook group about his article, and, although it’s not mentioned in the article itself, on Facebook he’s talked about someone who has messaged him to let him know that Billy TK has a history with the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement.

    4 min read, 654 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Politics, Billy TK, Advance NZ

  • Colour Therapy

    For some of us who have attended the regular Skeptical Activism meetings in Wellington, Colour Therapy Manukau's egregious claims about colour therapy such as “incurable means curable from within” and “synthetic fibres have a frequency that is detrimental to our health and well being” are a familiar sight. Several of us have cut our teeth on their website, making Advertising Standards Authority complaints about lists of diseases that colour can therapy can supposedly cure, and pseudo-scientific claims about how coloured wool in a metal bowl can help you. These days, when you browse their website, instead of seeing those kinds of claims you read the following:

    2 min read, 235 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Alternative Medicine, Colour Therapy

  • Guerrilla Skeptics strike again

    The amazing members of the GSoW (Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia) group have struck again. In recent years the group have done some amazing work creating new Wikipedia articles and rewriting existing ones on topics of importance to skepticism, including quite a few that are related to New Zealand - including pages for skeptic Siouxsie Wiles, psychic Jeanette Wilson and even our organisation, the NZ Skeptics. We’ve also had Susan Gerbic, head of the project, come to New Zealand twice in the last few years to talk to us at our conferences about both the GSoW project and her work using sting operations to bust psychics.

    1 min read, 179 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Wikipedia, GSoW

  • 2020 - A Desert Odyssey

    I’m sure most people saw the intriguing news that a tall prism shaped metal structure, now known as the Utah Monolith, had been found by conservationists in the desert in the US, sticking out from the rock floor of a canyon. It’s been great to see sleuths figure out where the monolith is located, using flight plans and google maps satellite view (in a slot canyon in Lockhart Basin in San Juan County, Utah), approximately when it was placed, using historical satellite photos (between August 2015 and October 2016) and how it was made, with several people visiting the site (it’s hollow and made from riveted stainless steel sheets). However, the mystery of who put it there has still not been solved.

    3 min read, 475 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Mystery, Monolith

  • November 9, 2020

  • Can a jade amulet protect against COVID?

    The above title is my paraphrasing of a recent paper published in an Elsevier-owned scientific journal, Science of The Total Environment. The paper’s actual title is:

    3 min read, 486 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Election, Trump

  • NZ’s Luminate Festival is moving away from reality

    The Luminate festival, held each year outside of Nelson, has always been a little out of touch with science. But, as David Farrier shows, things appear to be getting worse. The festival has been flirting with conspiracy theories and woo peddlers, in a list they published on the Luminate website called the “13 Crystal Seeds of Positive Change”. The list included the names of people who have inspired the festival’s organisers. You get one point for each of the following names you recognise:

    2 min read, 370 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: NZ, Luminate

  • Not everyone loved Randi

    If the US election hasn’t caused you enough stress, you could read a recent “take down” of James Randi titled The man who destroyed skepticism, published soon after his death on the popular Boing Boing blog, that is sure to make your blood boil. I for one was very surprised and disappointed to see the Boing Boing website, which normally has a reputation for good quality reporting, hosting this hit piece written by Mitch Horowitz. Mitch is a believer in the spiritual realm, and his own website describes him as “a historian of alternative spirituality and one of today's most literate voices of esoterica, mysticism, and the occult”. The article includes such gems as:

    3 min read, 449 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Community, Randi

  • WWG1WGA

    I’m sure most people will have heard of QAnon by now - the anonymously named Q who posts online about shadowy organisations, and talks about how president Trump is fighting dark forces in the US. QAnon tends to use lots of code names and obscure references, including the oft used acronym as the title of this section - it means Where We Go 1, We Go All. Here are a couple of examples of QAnon messages:

    3 min read, 438 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Politics, QAnon