Skeptical Thoughts

2021

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
  • March 17, 2021

  • Builders Of The Adytum

    On Sunday I finally made it to the Builders Of The Adytum, a strange group whose beliefs combine Kabbalah and Tarot into an unusual, but enjoyable, philosophy.

    3 min read, 482 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Religion

  • Should we be worried about blood clots?

    The AstraZeneca vaccine has made the news recently, as several European countries have halted its rollout temporarily due to reports of blood clots. These issues are real, but it’s important to look at how many incidences of this issue there are, and how that compares to other vaccines. It turns out that not only is the incidence of reported clotting similar to that seen with other COVID vaccines, but it’s also similar to what you’d expect from a population that haven’t received any medical interventions. Both deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism levels for the millions of people who have taken the vaccine are about what would be expected of a random selection of people in their day to day lives. Sadly some people just get blood clots at times, and people can have exacerbating medical conditions that mean they’re more susceptible to this issue.

    1 min read, 201 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Vaccines, AstraZeneca

  • Football Index is just a Ponzi Scheme

    A UK company, Football Index, has financially collapsed over the last as its users have realised that the entire thing is nothing more than a pack of cards.

    6 min read, 1094 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Scam, Ponzi Scheme

  • The Luck of the Cantabrians

    Rebecca Booth, from Fairlie in the South Island, recently found a seven leaf clover. The Stuff article about this find mentioned that this is not the first clover-related find Rebecca has had. Apparently earlier this year, in January, she found both four and five leaf clovers.

    2 min read, 271 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Luck, Superstition

  • Christchurch massacre conspiracy theories

    We’ve just had the second anniversary of the horrific Christchurch massacre, and as skeptics it’s sad to have seen over the last two years those in our country who have posted content denying that the attack was real, or claiming that it was a “false flag” operation. It’s been hard enough over the last 20 years watching high profile conspiracy theorists, such as Alex Jones, engage in denial in the US for events such as the Sandy Hook massacre and the 9/11 attacks. But to see this kind of wrong headed thinking at home somehow feels worse. I guess we’ve been able to rest on our laurels watching America suffer from a spread of the conspiracy mindset, and at least for me it seemed implausible that the problem would ever reach our fair shores. I guess I was just too naive.

    4 min read, 697 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy

  • An Open Letter to Plan B

    A new group called FACT (Fight Against Conspiracy Theories) has published an open letter to Plan B about their connection with Voices for Freedom. The letter calls on Plan B to distance themselves from Voices for Freedom and the groups anti-science stance on COVID related issues:

    2 min read, 325 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: COVID, Vaccines

  • QAnon 2.0?

    A group who monitor extreme Right Wing groups, Hope Not Hate, have published an article detailing a weird attempt to hijack the QAnon conspiracy. The new conspiracy theory, called Sabmyk, has been creating new channels on Telegram, Gab and BitChute in an attempt to entice those who have become disillusioned with QAnon since Trump left office and the promises of QAnon fell through. Why not Facebook and Twitter? Probably because many right wing activists have been driven off of those platforms in the last few months as admins have removed thousands of accounts for posting hate and misinformation. Telegram offers a modicum of anonymity, and Gab and Bitchute are a social network and video hosting site respectively that are less regulated and more welcoming to extreme views than the mainstream social media sites, claiming that they’re pro free speech.

    2 min read, 228 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Sabmyk, QAnon

  • Beware of Scientologists Bearing Gifts

    At a meeting last night I was made aware of a conversational English course offered on the MeetUp website that someone had attended, and when they arrived they found out that the course was being run by Scientologists. This type of bait and switch sneakiness is about what we’d expect from Scientology, so I decided to search google and find the course.

    2 min read, 375 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Scientology, Cult

  • March 10, 2021

  • Cat Buttons

    Videos have been making their way around the internet this week showing a vet communicating with her cat via a set of large buttons placed on the floor. Each button speaks a word or two when pressed, and in this case both the cat (Billi) and owner (Kendra) press the buttons to communicate with each other. At first glance, it appears that the cat is engaging in meaningful communication with its owner, conveying complex thoughts.

    4 min read, 725 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, Cat

  • March 8, 2021

  • Worried about 5G? There’s a pill for that!

    I’m guessing that Jami-Lee Ross, head of the failed conspiracy themed political party Advance NZ, has run out of money. Why else would he be planning to flog useless anti-5G pills to us?

    2 min read, 369 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, 5G

  • An unexpected endorsement for the COVID vaccine

    I’ve recently read calls for high profile figures in New Zealand to endorse the new COVID vaccines, as a way to reassure the portion of the public who currently feel unsure about the vaccines’ safety. It’s been suggested that public figures such as Jacinda Ardern, Ashley Bloomfield and others might want to allow the media to record them being **immunised **against COVID. Personally I think that, at least for those who are conspiracy minded, watching those who are supposedly a part of the conspiracy be injected is probably not going to be very convincing.

    2 min read, 310 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: COVID, Vaccines

  • Skeptics 0, Ken Ring 1

    After last week’s nocturnal earthquake, Ken Ring has been on Facebook proving how right he is. He’s pointed out that he **predicted **the earthquake in his 2021 almanac:

    6 min read, 1014 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience

  • February 22, 2021

  • Billy Te Kahika has Quit

    Or, at the very least he’s apparently quit politics. This one was a bit of a surprise to me, as Billy had only just announced that he was re-naming his Public Party to the Freedom Party. Maybe he just quit because he realised that there had already been a Freedom Party in NZ, and that all the most obvious domain names had already been taken? Alternatively, it might be that recent accusations of financial mis-management and fraud are making life in the limelight a little too uncomfortable for Billy at the moment.

    1 min read, 183 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Politics

  • Grant Robertson has Had Enough

    MP Grant Robertson was on Peter Williams’ Magic Talk radio show this week when he was asked about the “Great Reset”. His immediate reaction was to quit the interview early. He has subsequently let Magic Talk know that he won’t be returning for his regular weekly slot with Williams. So, what’s going on in this drama that’s of interest to skeptics?

    3 min read, 403 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Politics

  • A local Psychic has Guessed Wrong

    Lockdown timing predictions from a Hamilton based psychic, Sarah King, have been unearthed and posted to our Facebook group this week:

    1 min read, 201 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Psychic

  • Rush Limbaugh has Died

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Politics

  • Conspiracy spam

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Spam

  • February 1, 2021

  • Jewish space laser

    I wish I was making this news story up - partially because it’s getting a little bit tiresome writing about US politics. However, the recently elected Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who likes to ride on the QAnon conspiracy carriage of the Trump Train, has been put through the wringer in the last week. Journalists have been poring over her social media history and documenting her words, shares and likes - some of which are so weird and wonderful it doesn’t take much to debunk them.

    2 min read, 363 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Antisemitism

  • Ngaire McCarthy

    Last week I attended, online, the funeral of Ngaire McCarthy, who died just over a week ago from cancer. Ngaire was an outspoken Māori atheist, humanist and rationalist who spoke to the NZ Skeptics at our 2014 conference in Auckland. She told us about how the census shows comparable rates of dis-belief amongst Māori and Pākehā in New Zealand, and how Christianity had imposed itself on Māori culture, merging in a way that makes it hard to pick them apart today.

    2 min read, 358 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Atheism, Obituary

  • Reiki is here to save us all

    Or at least that’s what NewsHub would have us believe, with an article published on Tuesday about the benefits of Reiki, an energy healing technique that involves the practitioner manipulating your “energy field” by waving their hands around your body.

    4 min read, 733 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Alternative Medicine, Reiki

  • January 17, 2021

  • Lockdown Protests

    Last weekend Billy TK organised a protest against lockdown in Auckland, and followed it up with a second rally in **Wellington **on Thursday. As soon as I heard about the Wellington rally, during my lunch break in the office, I dropped my sandwich and headed to **parliament **to mingle with those who have a very different worldview to mine. Police presence was near non-existent when I arrived, although the media were there in force - ready to report in case Billy ordered his minions to storm the Beehive.

    7 min read, 1311 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, Protesters, Lockdown

  • Psychic Predictions

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Psychic, Predictions

  • January 11, 2021

  • A Faraday Cage to protect you from WiFi

    On the popular tech news YouTube channel Linus Tech Tips, Linus has evaluated a couple of small faraday cages that are sold in the US as a way to protect home users from the harmful radiation coming from their WiFi base stations. At around NZ$120 a piece I’m not sure which of the findings I think is the funnier - that they do a really bad job of blocking WiFi, or that they turn out to just be repurposed wire paper trays with a couple of modifications to allow wires to be inserted, and that they cost less than NZ$10 each to buy from China.

    1 min read, 109 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Scam, Faraday Cage, Technology

  • Beware of JP Sears

    I’m sure many skeptics have enjoyed JP Sears’ parody videos of the wellness industry, such as How to Become Gluten Intolerant and How to be Ultra Spiritual. It was a surprise to me, just before Christmas, to read that despite poking fun, JP Sears has for a long time been a seller of nonsense. An article from the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Canada details JP Sears’ history of selling unregulated therapy sessions and useless supplements, and sadly also his recent descent into COVID-19 science denial.

    1 min read, 163 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, JP Sears

  • Musical Vaccine

    An image that has been making its way round the internet recently purports to be a circuit diagram for a 5G chip which is inside COVID vaccines. However, those who are technically musical minded have pointed out that the image is actually that of a guitar effects pedal called Metal Zone from company Boss.

    2 min read, 260 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, Vaccines

  • Auckland Lockdown Protest

    Billy TK held an anti-lockdown rally in Auckland on Saturday. The rally was accompanied by a variety of interesting flags, signs and chants:

    4 min read, 638 words. Continue Reading...

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

  • January 1, 2021

  • 2020 In Review

    Looking back at 2020 from a skeptical viewpoint, it was interesting that things got weirder as the year went on.

    14 min read, 2642 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Review, 2020

  • April 28, 2021

  • Accelerated Christian Education - ugh

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Religion

  • Influential Biologist in New Zealand

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience

  • Essential Oils may not be so essential after all

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Alternative Medicine, Essential Oils

  • TV Psychic didn’t see it coming

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Psychic

  • Miami School quarantines vaccinated staff members

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, COVID

  • April 21, 2021

  • The Exclusive Brethren are spying on ex members

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, COVID

  • Another credulous alt-med article from a Stuff journalist

    An article was published by Stuff the other day about cosmetic acupuncture - a discredited idea that sticking needles in your face can be an alternative to paying for a face lift. Half way through reading the article it started to feel really familiar, like I’d already read it but on the topic of a different unproven therapy. Sure enough, a quick search for the reporter’s previous work turned up a recent article in stuff about reiki - a “therapy” where someone heals you by holding their hands near you.

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

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, COVID

  • Are thousands dying from COVID vaccines?

    There’s been a lot of talk recently in “alternative” circles about vaccine deaths. This has been prompted by the massive global rollout of several different types of COVID vaccines - mRNA (Pfizer, Moderna), Viral Vector (AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson), Inactivated (CoronaVac, Covaxin), and others.

    5 min read, 915 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, COVID

  • Are Christian men worried about their penis size?

    A friend sent me an article about a paper published recently in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion called:

    2 min read, 348 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience

  • April 14, 2021

  • New COVID misinformation pamphlet

    Kyle Chapman, ex head of the New Zealand National Front, is planning to distribute leaflets about the COVID vaccine in New Zealand:

    2 min read, 314 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, COVID

  • How to help those who have lost their way

    A work colleague reached out to me the other day with an interesting question. One of his close family members has fallen down a conspiracy rabbit hole, and now spends a lot of time talking about QAnon, the “Deep State”, etc. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with these kinds of rabbit holes, it’s not entirely benign - the family member has now branched into COVID vaccine denial, which has a real chance of negatively impacting on their health.

    5 min read, 872 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy

  • The Prince Philip Movement

    On the news of Prince Philip’s death, my thoughts go out not just to the British Royal Family, but also to the members of the Prince Philip Movement in Vanuatu. This movement, a very small religious group, believe that Prince Philip is the son of a local mountain god who traveled overseas and married a powerful woman. The group has been described as a cargo cult, and there’s even a suggestion that Philip was John Frum’s brother - John Frum is a mythical American military man, around which a cargo cult religion started in the late 1930s.

    2 min read, 225 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Religion

  • The Pope is a hologram

    I’m a bit late to the party with this one, but there is footage on YouTube from last year where the pope gives a blessing from an upper floor window. After the blessing the pope turns around and starts walking away from the window. After a couple of steps, he suddenly just pops out of existence - disappears into thin air. Some people have taken this as evidence that the pope was never actually physically at the window, but instead had been replaced with a hologram - and that this hologram had been turned off prematurely, before it had moved out of sight. Maybe a decision was taken not to risk the pope’s health during a pandemic. Maybe the pope is a lie? It does look pretty weird.

    2 min read, 332 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Religion, Conspiracy

  • Sue Grey update

    After talking about Sue Grey’s threat to sue the government last week, I found out that Sue was planning to give a talk on the steps of parliament the next day. So during my lunch break last Thursday I wandered up to the Beehive, to see more about why Sue thinks the government’s rollout of the COVID vaccine needs to be stopped.

    3 min read, 403 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Politics, COVID

  • UFOs over Melbourne?

    Disappointingly, despite the excitement, I’m sure many listeners will already have figured out what the rational explanation for this string of lights in the sky over Melbourne was: Elon Musk’s Starlink, a company that is providing satellite based internet - with a few tens of thousands of satellites planned to be deployed over the next few years. There are valid questions about whether these devices are damaging to astronomy, and have the potential to clutter earth’s orbit, but they’re definitely not visiting aliens. If you are able to get out and see these satellites as they maneuver themselves into their operational orbits, I’d definitely recommend it. I saw them late last year, and it was an impressive sight - a real testament to modern technology.

    1 min read, 128 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: UFO

  • April 7, 2021

  • Evergreen’s sins go beyond blocking the Suez Canal

    The Outdoors Party's health spokesperson recently shared a video clip from the TV show Dexter, showing a scene where the serial killer protagonist of the show remembers being rescued as a child from a shipping container - and, as you might have guessed, the container has EVERGREEN written down the side. Coincidence? Apparently not, if you’re one of the many people who believe that the Ever Given, which was recently freed from the Suez Canal, was transporting children as part of a child sex trade run by Hillary Clinton.

    2 min read, 302 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy

  • Homeopathic Hippo Sweat Sun Block

    Honestly, I don’t think I could make up something this daft if I tried. Thanks to an astute member of the NZ Skeptics Facebook group, I now know about a New Zealand company - Hippo Health - who are marketing a fascinating sun block for animals.

    3 min read, 473 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Alternative Medicine, Homeopathy, Sun Screen, Hippo

  • A timely reminder for schools

    The Secular Education Network, a group of parents and others who are passionate about ensuring the Education Act’s promise of secular education in schools is realised, have just released a document reminding schools of their new obligations after the law was changed last year:

    9 min read, 1702 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Schools, Secularism

  • Sue Grey is threatening to sue the Government

    Sue Grey, for those who are not aware, is a Nelson based lawyer who also holds a degree in biochemistry, so on the face of it it would make sense to think that she would be a force for good in the world. However, Sue’s world is one of paranoia and scaremongering, where the government is out to take away our freedoms.

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

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Politics, COVID

  • March 31, 2021

  • Is BitCoin like a Ponzi Scheme?

    Bitcoin is a digital currency that allows people to transfer money to other bitcoin users anonymously and securely (although there are ways of tracking unsuspecting users if they don’t know how to cover their tracks properly). There are two main pieces of technology that allow Bitcoin to work.

    5 min read, 925 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: BitCoin, CryptoCurrency, Ponzi Scheme, Scam

  • A BitCoin Primer

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: BitCoin, CryptoCurrency

  • March 24, 2021

  • Should we worry about LED bulbs?

    Stuff published an article recently about the dangers of LED light bulbs, arguing that the blue light from LED bulbs disturbs our circadian rhythm and disrupts our sleep, with wide ranging knock-on effects to our health. My skeptical radar beeped at reading this, as I’ve looked into this issue in the past and found much speculation and very little actual science, even though every digital device these days seems to have a night mode for reducing blue light emission from the screen.

    3 min read, 525 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, LED

  • Oumuamua probably isn’t aliens

    A new astronomy paper suggests that the strange object named Oumuamua that passed through our solar system a couple of years ago was probably a thin disc of planetary matter, and not a piece of alien technology.

    2 min read, 388 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Aliens

  • Prayers @ Parliament

    On Thursday evening last week I visited Parliament to pray for the future of our country. Now I’m not a Christian, so I’m pretty sure my prayers aren’t going to make a difference, but it’s interesting to see what influential Christians think about what is wrong with our country and how it should be fixed.

    2 min read, 389 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Religion, Politics

  • Freedom Rally

    On Saturday I attended one of several Freedom Rallies around the country. In Wellington, the rally was set for midday at the train station. It was a fairly low key affair, with flyers being handed out saying that masks and the vaccine are both ineffective.

    3 min read, 460 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, COVID

  • June 23, 2021

  • Petition for a Military Coup in NZ

    Someone called Daryl Trask has recently placed a petition on change.org asking people to sign their support for an overthrow of our government. The petition says:

    4 min read, 707 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Coup

  • US Senator has novel plan to combat climate change

    US Senator Louie Gohmert, from Texas, has recently asked the country’s Forestry Service if they can look into a thought he’s had about how to combat climate change:

    3 min read, 552 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Climate Change

  • Proof of UFOs is “just around the corner”...

    Now that I’ve found out about Rebel Wisdom, I’m hooked. I usually have to go hunting for my nonsense, but the Rebel Wisdom website has everything in one place: Rupert Sheldrake (who has silly ideas about supernatural mental powers), Alan Watts (who has silly ideas about religion and philosophy) and Jordan Peterson (who has silly ideas about all sorts of things) are all featured.

    5 min read, 926 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: UFOs

  • June 2, 2021

  • The Theosophical Society

    Last night I visited the Theosophical Society’s building in Wellington to hear their National President, John Vorstermans, give a talk titled “The Ageless Wisdom”. The Society has a great little building on Marion Street, with a comfortable library of esoteric mystical books at the front, and a large main room with lots of wood and painted mystical symbols, and a particularly Masonic feel to it.

    3 min read, 466 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Religion

  • Voltex can save 90% on your power bill

    I’ve seen adverts pop up recently on news sites, such as NewsHub and YouTube, that are selling a device which claims to be able to cut your power bill by 90%. Now, wouldn’t that be nice - if it were true!

    4 min read, 800 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Scam, Pseudoscience

  • May 26, 2021

  • Does the COVID vaccine contain a microchip?

    I’ve watched a few videos from a recent panic where people show themselves sticking a magnet to their arm at the injection site of their COVID vaccine. The same magnet pushed against other parts of the arm will fall off and not stick. Could this be proof that there’s a metallic microchip in the vaccine?

    4 min read, 789 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, Conspiracy, COVID

  • Christian Science - neither Christian nor Scientific

    For a long time now I’ve been promising to take a friend of mine to a Christian Science church service. He’s been interested in doing this because he was brought up in the church in America, but hasn’t been back since he was a child. Finally, last weekend, the stars aligned and we managed to arrange a visit.

    4 min read, 743 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Religion, Christian Science

  • UFO sighted in Hawkes Bay

    Apparently a UFO was seen in Hawkes Bay late last week. Several people reported seeing a large rectangular shaped object in the sky at dusk, with green and red lights, moving strangely.

    4 min read, 693 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: UFOs

  • May 19, 2021

  • Herbs for weight loss don’t work

    A recent major report into herbs and supplements for weight loss has concluded that they don’t work, and that not enough is known about their safety. Erica Bessell, the lead author from the University of Sydney, points out that in many countries no evidence is needed that these products actually work, and of course many companies are happy to exploit that failing and sell a wide variety of unproven products to buyers who hope for a simple solution to the hard problem of controlling their weight.

    3 min read, 479 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Alternative Medicine, Herbal Remedies

  • Sue Grey may have had a valid point

    Sue Grey, Nelson lawyer and co-leader of The Outdoors Party (an anti-vax, anti-5g, anti-1080 political party), had her day in court last week, taking the government to court over their COVID vaccine rollout. Although I was not able to spare the time to spend the day in court, I did manage to briefly visit the outside of the High Court in the morning, and when I got there Billy TK, who had decided to join the circus, was arguing outside with security guards. It turns out he had been kicked out of the court foyer for filming in a prohibited area, and of course his being removed was just proof that the system is corrupt. Go Billy!

    4 min read, 749 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, COVID

  • WTF is Vortex Water?

    There’s a website in New Zealand promoting “Vortex Water”. The front page of the site starts by saying:

    3 min read, 455 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience

  • May 12, 2021

  • Evorich - where con, cult and crypto collide

    Earlier this week I opened the LinkedIn app on my phone, and noticed a comment on a post that was made by someone who was an EvoRich consultant. His profile didn’t seem to match what I’d expect from a consultant, so I had a quick search for EvoRich to see what it was - with the suspicion that it might be a Multi Level Marketing scheme.

    5 min read, 830 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Scam, Cryptocurrency

  • The fastest hands in Russia?

    A video from “LADbible” has been doing the rounds recently, showing members of a Russian fitness group performing feats of amazing speed. The video shows several clips of them punching something or someone so quickly that you barely see any movement, punching in circles in front of their body with a speed that makes their arms blur, and repeatedly punching something in front of them at an unbelievable rate.

    3 min read, 588 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Trickery

  • Simon Bridges for Jesus for NZ

    On Monday night I visited parliament, where a group called Jesus for NZ had been invited by National MP Simon Bridges to hold a church service called the Power of One.

    3 min read, 576 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Religion

  • June 16, 2021

  • New Freeland

    There’s a lawyer called Liz Lambert who thinks she has hit upon a legal loophole that allows her to claim any piece of land as her own. As background, there are two main forms of land ownership in many countries - Fee Simple and Allodial. Fee simple is the type of land ownership you or I have access to. Archaic legal terms, Fee in this case means ownership, and Simple means without any kind of time limit (freehold rather than leasehold). Governments, on the other hand, usually have Allodial ownership of land, which is more of an absolute ownership without a requirement to pay anyone rates, etc (although in some cases there may be private allodial ownership, such as church land in some european countries). So, in New Zealand’s case, the Crown has Allodial Title over New Zealand, and we citizens can then purchase a Fee Simple Title to part of that land. It still belongs to the Crown under their allodial title, but we’ve purchased a right to live on it forever (barring certain circumstances like compulsory acquisition).

    5 min read, 860 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, Sovereign Citizen

  • How not to handle a COVID outbreak

    Obviously India has been through the wringer recently with a huge increase in the number of COVID cases, and deaths, in the country. Thankfully the number of active cases is dropping, but at its peak around four and a half thousand people were dying per day, and there have been over three hundred and eighty thousand reported deaths so far - although many experts fear the real total is likely to be much higher.

    4 min read, 625 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Alternative Medicine, COVID

  • German psychic solves yet another case

    (In)famous German psychic Michael Schneider made the news this week when he claimed to know the exact coordinates of Madeleine McCann’s body. Madeleine’s case hit headlines many years ago when her parents in Spain left her in their resort apartment for the evening, returning from over the road to find that she had gone missing. Despite several leads (and many psychics making predictions) over the years, there’s been no definitive answer so far as to what happened to Madeleine (although there is one likely suspect).

    5 min read, 888 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Psychic

  • May 5, 2021

  • Buy your own Get Out of Jail Free card for only $50

    The website of an organisation called the Maori Ranger Security Division is currently selling ID cards that they claim can help you avoid being arrested by police, protect you from Child Services, make you exempt from fisheries quotas, and may even let you travel without a passport - and all for the low, low price of $50.

    5 min read, 821 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, Sovereign Citizen

  • Christchurch health clinic bans vaccinated customers

    Late last week, an “alternative” health clinic in Christchurch, which specialises in colonic irrigation and coffee enemas, announced online that it will not treat anyone who has been vaccinated within the last 30 days.

    3 min read, 443 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, COVID

  • Lies, Damned Lies and shonky Statistics

    A recent article from Radio NZ did a great job of pointing out just how useless online polls are, and raising concerns about how often New Zealand media outlets, including Newshub, the AM Show and the Herald, rely on them as source material for news articles.

    3 min read, 457 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Media, Statistics

  • Conspiracy Theorists are Going Underground

    I’ve noticed an interesting, and worrying, shift with some of the more extreme online communities recently. On the one hand it’s great to finally, and belatedly, see social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google hold people and organisations to account when they spread nonsense such as COVID vaccine misinformation. For example, just this week Advance NZ’s Facebook page has been temporarily removed. Local conspiracy theorists such as Damien DeMent, Lee Williams, Vinny Eastwood and Karen Brewer are currently concerned over suspension of their social media profiles, because they are perpetuating dangerous untruths. Of course, most of these people also have multiple social media accounts, and although they lose much of their audience when one account is banned from social media, they don’t always disappear altogether.

    2 min read, 349 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, Social Media

  • June 30, 2021

  • Lady Crown

    I wrote a couple of weeks ago about lawyer Liz Lambert’s effort to claim a small part of New Zealand - the Abel Tasman National Park - as her own property, which she’s called New Freeland. Well, it turns out that she’s worried about an organisation who have not just claimed Allodial Title over a piece of land, but have claimed sovereignty over the entirety of New Zealand. Liz has been warning anyone who will listen that this rival group, the Crown of the Mauri Nation, have secretly entered into an agreement with the government to hand over the keys to our country.

    4 min read, 701 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Sovereign Citizen

  • Earth 2

    I enjoy playing computer games, and own a gaming PC and a VR headset. So when I heard about an ambitious new game for PCs, VR and phones, it piqued my interest. The game is called Earth2, and is pipped to be a 1:1 copy of earth, with a faithful reproduction of the entire planet in software. Their website makes comparisons to the movies The Matrix and Ready Player One, both of which feature VR environments that are indistinguishable from reality. This sounds pretty ambitious, maybe too ambitious!

    4 min read, 782 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Scam, Gaming

  • Fun With Numbers!

    While trawling conspiracy websites and videos, as I tend to do for fun, I stumbled across a recommendation for a local kiwi numerologist. But the recommendation said that, unlike the usual mystical nonsense, this particular numerologist uses science and maths to find real patterns that are actually useful.

    6 min read, 1097 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Numerology

  • July 7, 2021

  • Birds aren’t real

    I’ve just learned about the absolutely fun conspiracy that is “birds aren’t real”. According to the theory, the CIA in the 1950s were trying to solve two hard problems. Firstly, they wanted to be able to secretly spy on the entire population of the United States. Secondly, they needed to stop birds pooping on their cars in the CIA headquarters car park. These two seemingly disconnected problems gave birth to the genius idea to replace all the birds in America with flying camera drones that look just like birds. As the Birds Aren’t Real twitter account states:

    3 min read, 445 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, Poe's Law

  • July 21, 2021

  • Conspiracy Farmers

    There is an increasingly vocal sub-set of farmers around the country who are buying into conspiracy theories. A group called the Agricultural Action Group - AAG - have been touring the country in recent months warning people about what they consider to be the real issues facing not just farmers but all citizens of our country:

    3 min read, 410 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy

  • Psychic Kelvin is on tour

    Sensing Murder psychic Kelvin Cruickshank is currently touring the country. He’s been down in the South Island recently, visiting Christchurch and a lot of smaller towns, and selling tickets at $65 a pop. Next month he’ll be touring the North Island.

    3 min read, 502 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Psychics

  • Famous actress jailed for her role in NXIVM

    Allison Mack was once famous for her role in the TV show Smallville, a spin-off show about Superman. However, a few years ago she joined a group called NXIVM (Nexium) who promised to help her on the path to enlightenment and happiness. The group pulled in more famous people, including other TV celebrities, the director of What the Bleep Do We Know, and the Bronfman sisters, heirs to the Seagram fortune.

    3 min read, 585 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Cults

  • When scientists go wrong

    Mahin Khatami looks at first blush to be a respectable scientist - she has a long history as a scientist spanning decades, used to work for the NIH (National Institutes for Health) in the US as a program director, and has not only been published in respectable peer reviewed journals but has also been a journal editor.

    2 min read, 361 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, Retraction

  • August 9, 2021

  • Hate Speech Submission

    The NZ Skeptics put together a submission for the Ministry of Justice in response to their new Hate Speech proposals. You can read the submission on our website, but I thought it would be fun to use EleutherAI's free online GPT-J-6G deep learning model to write a submission for us. I gave the software the first few paragraphs of our real submission, and then clicked the button to guess the next hundred or so words. I then fed the result back into the algorithm so that it could create the next block of text, and so on.

    7 min read, 1256 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Free Speech

  • QAnonsense

    Using an older algorithm, GPT-2, with a fairly small data set that it had been pre-trained on, I fine tuned this particular piece of software on the entire back catalogue of QAnon posts. Below are 6 QAnon posts - three are the genuine article, and three are fakes created by GPT-2. Can you figure out which is which?

    2 min read, 349 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, QAnon

  • September 27, 2021

  • Wellness Influencers

    Dr Samantha Murton, president of the Royal NZ College of GPs, has spoken out about the problems of social media “influencers” who spread wellness misinformation online. Although many influential people on social media are followed because they have celebrity status - sports stats, TV celebrities, etc - many influencers have built their following purely based on their social media work, posting on topics that people want to read about, and pushing for people to “like and subscribe” using a variety of often dubious tactics.

    5 min read, 803 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: COVID, Conspiracy, Vaccines, Influencers

  • September 20, 2021

  • Conversion Conversation

    Following on from the NZ Skeptics' submission to the Justice Select Committee a couple of weeks ago on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill (outlawing Conversion Therapy), myself and Bronwyn Rideout from the NZ Skeptics committee gave an oral submission to some of the Justice Select Committee last week. I was surprised that oral submissions started so quickly after the deadline for written submissions, but thankfully in very little time we were able to put together an oral submission that was complementary to our written one, but different enough that we weren’t just boring the MPs with the same information they’d already read from us.

    2 min read, 362 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, Religion, Conversion Therapy

  • No, Steve from Blue’s Clues did not leave to join the Army

    I have three school age kids, and so I’m no stranger to Blue’s Clues. I’ve watched many episodes with both Steve (Steve Burns) and Joe (Donovan Patton) hosting the show alongside the animated dog Blue, following the clues each week. Steve left the show back in 2002, but he made the news recently when he released a feel-good video:

    4 min read, 675 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Conspiracy, Blue's Clues

  • August 22, 2021

  • Lockdown Bingo

    It feels like it was inevitable that some of the conspiracy theorists, or “freedom fighters” as they call themselves, would end up protesting our latest level 4 lockdown. I’m not surprised that their shared delusion that lockdown is just a ploy by the government to permanently remove our freedoms would cause them to risk the health of all of us. But it has been disappointing to see a few hundred people around the country gathering to protest at a time when we’ve all been told to stay at home to limit the spread of a deadly disease.

    7 min read, 1226 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: COVID, Lockdown, Arrests

  • An alternative legal opinion

    Of all the people who spoke publicly about this week’s lockdown protest arrests, Amy Benjamin, a senior lecturer of international law at AUT, was the most surprising to me.

    2 min read, 302 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: COVID, Lockdown

  • (Another) Psychic Failure

    This one’s a little light hearted, and not overly surprising - Kelvin Cruickshank, one of our most famous local psychics, appears to have failed to have been warned by the spirits about the impending lockdown. Kelvyn had booked a live event for Thursday in New Plymouth, in what turned out to be the second day of our national lockdown. David Chisholm, a member of our Facebook group, managed to take a great screenshot of the event being advertised under a large banner warning of event date changes due to our COVID lockdown.

    1 min read, 96 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: COVID, Lockdown

  • September 6, 2021

  • Don’t take Horse Dewormer

    Obviously as skeptics we’re pretty clued up on the idea of not using unproven therapies, especially when there’s positive evidence that they don’t work. It’s been apparent for a while now that the evidence for Ivermectin as a COVID treatment or preventative is not very good, and it’s been sad to see how many people don’t seem to care.

    4 min read, 685 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: COVID, Ivermectin

  • Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword

    During lockdown, the Wellington Skeptics in the Pub group have been meeting online every week. It’s been great to be able to continue our social meetings, but I also think it’s a really good way to keep us all sane! That connection of being able to chat and have a fun social time with others seems to be really good at helping with feelings of isolation and worry that lockdown can bring to some of us.

    3 min read, 422 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Skeptics in the Pub, Newton

  • The Satanists are doing god’s work

    Texas has recently introduced a draconian new abortion law, one that feels not only perverse (in that it allows for civil lawsuits where anyone can sue those who are involved in providing abortion services), but also seems to be yet another attempt to test the Supreme Court’s willingness to overturn Roe v Wade (the landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion that has allowed for legal abortions in the US for many years). And, so far, it seems that the Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, is willing to court this kind of testing of the waters.

    4 min read, 724 words. Continue Reading...

    Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Satanism, Secularism