Investigating pseudo-science and the paranormal from a responsible scientific viewpoint

Chiropractors win joint Bent Spoon

The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia AND the Chiropractic Board of Australia are the joint winners of the 2013 Australian Skeptics’ Bent Spoon award.

Three Australian Skeptics’ awards – the Bent Spoon and the much more sought-after Skeptic-of-the-Year and Thornett awards – were announced at a dinner on Saturday, November 23, as part of the Skeptics convention, which this year was held in Canberra.

“The Bent Spoon is the least sought-after award in Australia”, says Richard Saunders, president of Australian Skeptics Inc. “It’s issued each year at the Skeptics annual convention to the ‘perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle’.”

The CAA is the largest body of professional chiropractors in Australia, and the CBA is the body that regulates the industry by developing standards, codes and guidelines. But while both bodies make statements that discourage or prohibit certain unfounded claims about efficacy, particularly on the wide range of health conditions that chiropractors can supposedly treat, many practitioners still continue to state that they can treat such conditions as asthma, ADHD, even bed wetting and ear infections. Some also continue to use the debunked theory that all diseases stem from a ‘misaligned’ nervous system, something which the president of the CAA has said was dropped a hundred years ago.

“We are therefore giving the Bent Spoon to both the CBA and the CAA which have largely been ineffective in the face of unacceptable conduct by some of its members … even members who are on the Board of the CAA itself!

“While the number of members behaving unacceptably might be a minority of the total membership, there has been enough unacceptable conduct to warrant firm and definitive corrective action by both organisations, but that has not been done,” Saunders says.

Skeptic of the Year

On a more positive note, the Skeptics issued their Skeptic of the Year award to Professor Simon Chapman.

The Skeptic of the Year goes to the individual or group that has done the most for skepticism in Australia during the last year.

Prof Chapman, who is Professor of Public Health, Associate Dean Communications, Public Health, School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, has undertaken extensive research into the media’s communication of public health issues and demonstrated great concern through his efforts to improve the public understanding of important public health issues, including tobacco control, alcohol, swine flu, anti-vaccination beliefs and more.

In particular for 2013, he was nominated for his recent research investigating the claims of so-called ‘wind-turbine syndrome’ and his activities to educate the public about the psychogenic aspects of the syndrome which have been clearly discounted.

His activities include strong countering of spurious claims made by Sarah Laurie and the Waubra Foundation, an anti-wind farm organisation that uses totally unsupported claims that wind farms are damaging local residents’ health. There is a complete lack of any scientific support for the Foundation’s claims. The fact that citizens of the town of Waubra, after which the Foundation is named, have asked for the Foundation to change its name, is further indication of a lack of support for the organisation.

Saunders says that “The Waubra Foundation itself was another close contender for the Bent Spoon.”

A third award, the Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason, goes to an individual, outside of the formal skeptical community, who has contributed in a meaningful way to the encouragement of rationality and critical thinking among the wider population. This year the award went to film producer Sonya Pemberton for her documentary Jabbed, a dramatic presentation on the impact of delaying or refusing immunisation.

All of the awards were resoundingly welcomed by those present at the ceremony.

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