European Skeptics Congress 2019
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Speakers

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Norbert Aust

Norbert Aust is a writer, speaker and publicist. He is elected member of the scientific board of the Gesellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften (GWUP).

Title of presentation

Informationsnetzwerk Homöopathie

Abstract

Informationsnetzwerk Homöopathie (Information Network Homeopathy, INH) is a working group of the German skeptics organization GWUP and is currently the most popular group of critics of homeopathy in the German speaking countries. Coverage in the leading media is excellent, and we think we contributed a lot to the increasing discussion on homeopathy - and the critical position some politicians assumed in recent time.

As such INH is the most successful venture of GWUP over the past years. This presentation is to give some history of INH from its beginning in 2016. I will present our targets and our strategies how we set about to reach them. What websites we run, how we handle social media, what projects did we realize, who are the key persons and the key success factors - and how the winds have turned against homeopathy in its last European stronghold.

Biographical information

  • Holds a doctor’s degree in mechanical engineering

  • Held various responsible positions in R&D and Quality Management in the compressor industry

  • Triggered by some personal experience in 2010, after an early retirement, started to tackle homeopathy, the claims, tenets, methods and evidence from a science point of view.

  • Published a book, started a blog to present the results in 2013.

  • Joined GWUP in 2013

  • Published a few articles and letters to the editors of medical journals.

  • Initiated Informationsnetzwerk Homöopathie in 2016, being one of the three speakers

  • Was elected member of the scientific board of GWUP in 2019

  • Currently doing many presentations on homeopathy, joining discussions, publishing blog articles and other activities in this direction.

Mathijs Beckers

Mathijs Beckers

Mathijs Beckers

Mathijs Beckers is an independent writer/film maker and contributor to The Nuclear Humanist (YouTube).

Title of presentation

How skepticism helped me become pro-nuclear

Abstract

In a world where strong positions are held, substantiation is key. As a skeptic I take tentative positions based on evidence and evidence alone. Both in the Climate Change discussion as the discussion surrounding Nuclear Energy many claims are made. But whose claims are true, and whose claims are false. After years of following and partaking in debates I’ve concluded that the evidence in support for climate change is overwhelming; If Climate Change is true the corollary questions is: “What should we do about it?” and that’s where my adventure truly began. Can we power the world using wind and solar? Or do we need extra technologies to solve the climate change conundrum?

Biographical information

Mathijs Beckers was born and lives in Holland. He studied information technology in Maastricht, and after that worked for several companies, before becoming an independent writer/film maker. He wrote 4 books about climate change, and made the documentary ‘Climate Zero Hour’.

copyright Gwenny Cooman

copyright Gwenny Cooman

Johan Braeckman

Johan Braeckman is Professor of Philosophy at Ghent University, Belgium.

Title of presentation

Con men in the art world

Abstract

"Con men" are people with a special talent to gain other people's trust and confidence, in order to trick them into something, deceive them, steal from them or abuse them in some other way. A con men often pretends to be someone he is not, e.g. a pilot, a surgeon or an academic. More often than not, they'll get away with it. Most people,  no matter what their level of education or intelligence might be, seem to be vulnerable for the way experienced con men operate. In this lecture, we explore the modus operandi of con men specialized in creating and selling fake art. Studying the way they manage to fool people, is a very interesting case study in critical thinking and skeptical investigation.

Biographical information

Johan Braeckman (°August 3, 1965 – Wetteren (BE)) studied Philosophy and Environmental History at the universities of Ghent, Brussels and Santa Barbara, California. He wrote a PhD on the philosophical aspects of Darwin's evolutionary theory. At Ghent University (Belgium), he teaches courses on the history of philosophy and the history of science. Formerly, he taught courses on philosophical anthropology and bio-ethics at Ghent University and the University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands). He published books on Darwin; on cultural aspects of the natural sciences; on critical thinking and on the history of philosophy. He is an active member of the Belgian Skeptical movement and regularly gives lectures on a variety of topics.

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Vanessa Charland

Vanessa Charland is a neuropsychologist and FNRS research fellow in medical sciences working at the Coma Science Group, which is part of the Cyclotron Research Centre at the University of Liège and the Neurology Department at Liège University Hospital (CHU).

Title of presentation

Near-death experiences: actual considerations

Abstract

The notion that death represents a passing to an afterlife, where we are reunited with loved ones and live eternally in a utopian paradise, is common in the anecdotal reports of people who have encountered a “Near-Death Experience” (NDE). These experiences are usually portrayed as being extremely pleasant including features such as a feeling of peacefulness, the vision of a dark tunnel leading to a brilliant light, the sensation of leaving the body, or the experience of a life-review. NDEs are increasingly being reported as a clearly identifiable physiological and psychological reality of clinical and scientific significance. The definition and causes of the phenomenon as well as the identification of NDE experiencers is still a matter of debate. The phenomenon has been thoroughly portrayed by the media but the science of NDEs is rather recent and still lacking of rigorous experimental data and reproducible controlled experiments. It seems that the most appropriate theories to explain the phenomenon tend to integrate both psychological and neurobiological mechanisms. The paradoxical dissociation between the richness and intensity of the memory, probably occurring during a moment of brain dysfunction, offers a unique opportunity to better understand the neural correlates of consciousness.

Biographical information

I am from Montreal in Canada, I studied for my bachelor in psychology at University of Montreal then moved to Liege Belgium to work on neurosciences and did my master in Neurosciences and PhD degree in medical sciences at the GIGA Consciousness lab at the University Hospital of Liege. I am also a clinical psychologist working with hospitalized patients at that same hospital. My fields of interest and current work involve traumatic brain injury, neuropsychological assessment of cognitive functions after brain damage, psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders in hospitalized patients. I am married and have one son of nearly two years old and expecting a daughter in January.

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Ovidiu Covaciu

Ovidiu Covaciu is the president of the Romanian Rationalist Society and has been involved in the skeptical movement since 2009.

Title of presentation

The antivaccination activists, misinformation and the damage done

Abstract

Europe is facing a resurgence of preventable disease as anti-vaccine movements from across the continent are growing This talk will focus on the tactics the AV movement uses to gain influence, followers and political power. It will also discuss how to approach, counteract and fight against the AV movement, how to recruit experts by your side, turn the tide and save lives.

Biographical information

Ovidiu Covaciu is the president of the Romanian Rationalist Society and has been involved in the skeptical movement since 2009.

His projects include the podcast Sceptici in Romania, the Vaccinuri and Vaccinare group (the biggest pro-vaccine group in the world) and the infographics page Healthy Romania Coalition.

All projects have focused extensively on education and critical thinking and have been appreciated by the local Ministry of Health, the WHO and medical professionals involved in public health.

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Edzard Ernst

Emeritus Professor at the University of Exeter

Title of presentation

The battle against SCAM. Are we winning?

Abstract

What do governments and health organisations like WHO do against quackery?

Given the common use of quackery in virtually all countries, one would expect that governments and international organisations like the WHO would have developed effective strategies to limit its prevalence and minimise the harm quackery unquestionably does. Sadly, very few such initiatives seem to exist. Those organisations that actively fight quackery tend not to be run by governments but rely on private, altruistic initiatives. The WHO even has been responsible for several actions that arguably are not fighting but promoting quackery. This lecture will review several recent examples. It is concluded that governments and the WHO have, in the past, turned a blind eye to quackery. In the interest of public health, this situation has to change.

Biographical information

Professor Ernst qualified as a physician in Germany where he also completed his MD and PhD theses. He was Professor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) at Hannover Medical School (Germany) and Head of the PMR Department at the University of Vienna (Austria). He came to the University of Exeter in 1993 to establish the first Chair in Complementary Medicine. Since 2012, he is Emeritus Professor at the University of Exeter and now lives in Cambridge, UK.

He is/was founder/Editor-in-Chief of three medical journals (Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, European Journal of Physical medicine and Rehabilitation and Perfusion).

His work has been awarded with 17 scientific awards (most recent: John Maddox Prize 2015 and Ockham Award 2017) and two Visiting Professorships (Canada and USA). He served on the Medicines Commission of the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (1994 2005). In 1999, he took British nationality.

Publications: >1000 papers in the peer-reviewed medical literature (H-Index>80), 51 books, translated into over a dozen languages (most recent: More harm than good? The moral maze of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Springer 2018), >100 book-chapters, > 700 invited lectures worldwide, supervision of >50 MD and PhD theses.

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Farah Focqaert

Prof. Dr. Farah Focquaert is affiliated to the Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences at Ghent University.

Title of meeting

How con men operate

Role

Farah Focquaert will be chairing this meeting

Biographical information

Prof. Dr. Farah Focquaert (Ghent University) has expertise in philosophical anthropology, the ethics of neuromodulation, the philosophy of free will and punishment and the philosophy of psychiatry. She was Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience (Dartmouth College), visiting scholar at the Department of Criminology and the Center for Neuroscience and Society (UPenn), and visiting scholar at the Department of Bioethics (National Institutes of Health, US). She is co-director of the international Justice without Retribution network and vice chair of the ethics committee at the Forensic Psychiatric Center (FPC) Ghent/Antwerp. She is first editor of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy and Science of Punishment.

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André Fougeroux

André Fougeroux is an agronomist specialized in crop protection and agricultural entomology.

Title of presentation

Is it still possible to rationally address modern agriculture ?

Abstract

Due to some issues such as mad cow disease, water pollution, food safety, a lot of technical or scientific discussions regarding modern agriculture, such as about GMOs, neonicotinoids or glyphosate, were held in the media, political bodies and the public . These discussions very often forget scientific evidence, to focus on a dogmatic point of view regarding safety, environment or quality of life. All these arguments to justify a return to the past, also forget how old ways of farming were difficult and unsafe.

My talk will more or less address the following points:

  • 3 decades which changed public perception of agriculture

  • Idealized agriculture vs real agriculture

  • Rejected innovation in agriculture: science and dogmatism

  • Some proposals to reconcile modern agriculture and society’s needs

Biographical information

Born in 1954, André Fougeroux is an agronomist specialized in crop protection and agricultural entomology. He has held positions in the plant protection department (SPV) of the Ministry of Agriculture and then in the Agricultural Technical Coordination Association (ACTA) before being in charge of the insecticides and seed protection portfolio at Syngenta ( Europe, Africa, Middle East) and to be national sustainable agriculture manager in France. He is the author of numerous reference books, articles and technical papers. He is a member of the Academy of Agriculture of France and of AFIS, and associated teacher at the Paris Sud Saclay University

As a hobby, A. Fougeroux is a beekeeper, 60km South of Paris.

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Lieven Gheysen (aka. Gili)

Comedian-Mentalist, honorary member of SKEPP.

Organiser of Fun Welcome Evening (Thu, Aug 29, 2019 8:00 PM) at Muziekcafé Charlatan

Biographical information

Comedian-Mentalist Gili (aka Lieven Gheysen) launched his carreer as Belgium’s best known magician and mentalist with a theater show “Iedereen Paranormaal” (Everybody Paranormal), as a reaction to the media-tsunami about the paranormal TV show “Het Zesde Zintuig” (the sixth sense). His next show "CTRL: Alles onder controle" (CTRL: Everything under control) sent whole audiences home in confusion, doubting their senses.

Gili uses his five senses so well that he appears to have a sixth sense: this has become his trademark, by which he makes fun of presumed psychics and clairvoyants.

The Netherlands and France as well fell for his charms, in talk shows and on stage. This spring he presented shows in the famous Apollo theater in Paris, and for one month this summer he was a guest at the theater festival of Avignon.

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Michael Heap

Michael Heap is a retired clinical and forensic psychologist from Sheffield, UK and chairman of the Association for Skeptical Enquiry (ASKE). Michael is honorary member of SKEPP.

Title of presentation

Anomalistic Psychology in the Classroom

Michael has generously accepted to replace Chris French, who had to cancel his participation in our program.


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Inge Jeandarme

Prof. Dr. Inge Jeandarme (Catholic University Leuven) is a forensic psychiatrist and criminologist. Her main expertise lies in forensic psychiatry. She is medical director in the recently opened high security facility in Antwerp, where mentally ill offenders are treated. Main research topics involve risk assessment and risk management.

Title of presentation

Dealing with psychopathy

Abstract

During the last 25 years, Dr. Jeandarme has been working with patients with a high degree of psychopathy. In her talk, she will share some of these experiences and will explain why psychopathy is a relevant concept in forensic psychiatry. In addition, she will discuss some of the myths with respect to psychopathy

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Catherine de Jong

Catherine de Jong is anesthesiologist, and addiction specialist. She is secretary of Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (Dutch Society Against Quackery), one of the oldest skeptical societies, in existence since 1881, and also boardmember ECSO. She is living in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Catherine de Jong will be chairperson for The never-ending struggle against quackery (session on alternative treatments, friday, August 30, 2019)





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Michel Naud

President de INNOVATION & PROGRES et de ABRA MECA INTERNATIONAL

Title of presentation

Science and decision: towards restoring scientific integrity in policy making

Abstract

50 years ago (November 1968) a journalist, Michel Rouzé, founded the French Agency for Scientific Information and began with publishing its notebooks.

Three decades later (1999) the magazine Science & pseudo-sciences was followed by some hundreds of subscribers and decision was taken, under the impulsion of the astrophysicist and member of the French Academy of Science Jean-Claude Pecker, to impulse the association towards a new dimension.

Today (2019), with roughly 1500 association members, 3000 magazine subscribers, and 25,000 printed copies of the magazine disseminated by the press networks, the Association Française pour l’Information Scientifique (AFIS) became the biggest organization in France of the scientific rationalism.

Scientific rationalism can be synthetized with two assertions. (1) There is no better method than the scientific method to apprehend reality with reliability. (2) Reason is the best tool that man has at his disposal to pose with relevance and successfully solve the problems that arise for him, individually and collectively.

In addition to the traditional matters of a skeptical organization (pseudo-therapies, astrology and other old or new unfounded beliefs, paranormal pretentions, …) AFIS and Science & pseudo-sciences work also to enlighten the advancement of science and the interface between technologies and society.

The context has moved since the end of the 60’s. At the beginning of the 21st century, the controversies that have developed at the interface between science, technology and society have become much more important in everyone's preoccupations.

The classical process should be well known. When it is relevant to get a political decision, the decider ask scientists to drive a fact based instruction and to report. Then, the decider takes in account these elements and add the other necessary dimensions (economics, ethics, politics, social acceptance, etc.) : Science says (what is true, what is false, what is uncertain) but does not dictate (what to do or not to do).

Even if science can describe us as well as possible the reality; even if it can anticipate as plausibly as we want on the possible consequences of our action or inaction; the need or the desirability of an action is not and cannot be a scientific deduction.

Nevertheless, it happens regularly on these controversial issues (GMOs, ionizing radiation, electromagnetic waves, new breeding technologies, plant protection, vaccination, public health, etc.) that a significant fraction of the opinion and of the policymakers, remains hermetic to the conclusions of scientific expertise.

Biographical information

Michel Naud was born in 1953. He is an engineer in the metallurgical and mechanical industry, auditor of the national institute of higher studies for science and technology (IHEST), entrepreneur, judge of commercial court, member of the board of the French association for scientific information (AFIS), and former president of AFIS.

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Jan Willem Nienhuys

Jan Willem Nienhuys is a mathematician and a skeptic. He is a board member (secretary) of the Dutch organisation ‘Skepsis’ and editor of its quarterly ‘Skepter’.

Title of presentation

Descent into one’s own illusion

Abstract

The astrological claims of French psychologist Michel Gauquelin date from 1955 onwards. One of his claims was that sports champions are born slight more often when Mars rises than chance would predict. This claim occupied skeptics between roughly 1967 and 1997. It seems to be an illusion, partially created by the desire to get as many as possible reliable data.

Biographical information

Jan Willem Nienhuys (1942) studied mathematics in the Netherlands and the USA. He teached mathematics at universities in Taiwan and, from 1973 onwards, at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. He is a free lance translator of popular science books, and writes frequently on subjects like pseudo-science and quackery.

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Geerdt Magiels

Geerdt Magiels is a biologist and philosopher of science. This background and a wide experience in different fields of science and society enables him to cover a broad range of subjects, from medicines to healthcare, from art to science, from brain physiology to culinaria.His published work includes books on the history of chemistry, a critical comparison of Freud vs. Darwin, a philosophical and historical reconstruction of the discovery of photosynthesis, books on mental health and mental health care and on recycling and on circular economy. He is currently working on a book about science and art together with Koen Vanmechelen. A book on euthanasia and mental suffering will appear soon.

Geerdt Magiels is chairperson for the session on Anomalistic Psychology (saturday, August 31, 2019)



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Christine Mohr

Prof. Christine Mohr is a Full Professor in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Title of presentation

When using magicians to study how paranormal beliefs come about

Abstract

Humans belief, in many things. Popular are supernatural beliefs, hotly debated by believers and skeptics alike. Psychologists reported on various variables that correlate with such beliefs (e.g., appreciation of chance, more open to experiences). Yet, these latter studies are correlational unable to convey whether existing beliefs predict the appreciation of chance  (e.g., becoming more associative), or whether being more associative predicts the formation or reinforcement of paranormal beliefs. Over the last years, we performed several series in which we investigated the causality of belief change / reinforcement. In these studies, a magician performed a central event (e.g., a medium talking to a dead person, pseudo-scientific mind reading). Therefore, we could compare psychological variables we assessed before and after the event (tackling causality). Also, we could assess which pre-existing variables (e.g., paranormal beliefs, associative processing) predicted paranormal interpretations. Performing all studies in the classroom, we observed an overall high willingness to accept what the persons had just seen. In one study, around 65% considered that they had witnessed a genuine psychic event. Higher paranormal beliefs and affective reactions predicted a higher endorsement of a psychic explanation. Seeing how easily people are convinced by what they see, we are now starting to “debunking” participants in order to test which pre-performance information we have to provide to render participants more critical as to what is presented to their eyes. We assume that once the magician spells the beans, the belief in what one sees should be gone.

Biographical information

Prof. Christine Mohr is a Full Professor in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Before, she was a Lecturer und later a Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol, UK. She obtained her PhD from the University of Zürich, Switzerland. Before, she studied Psychology at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Today, her research focuses on two major domains (human belief, colour and affect). In the domain of human belief, she is studying the cognitive, neuropsychological, and personality correlates of magical and paranormal beliefs for many years. She performs studies in the laboratory aimed at determining the mechanisms that can explain, at least partially, the extent in which people vary in their beliefs. Over the last years, she developed a comprehensive research program with Dr. Gustav Kuhn (London) using magic. They are designing research paradigms that help us understand the causal mechanisms of human belief formation. Part of these studies will be presented here.

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Iida Ruishalme

Iida Ruishalme is a biologist specialised in biomedical research, an environmentalist, a writer, and a science communicator.

Title of presentation

Energy and decarbonisation

Abstract

Critical Thinking: Taking Green Energy Goals Seriously

 Scientific skepticism has an important role not only in recognition of real and pressing environmental threats, but also in assessing the best tools for tackling them. We must ensure that our environmentally motivated efforts are not merely symbolic, but that they translate to real and concrete effects in conserving nature and mitigating climate change.

The sincere wish to do good combined with a failure to fully assess the premises of our thinking in an evidence-based way, have lead to many institutional and popular sentiments that are seemingly environmental, but which end up interfering with environmental goals through strong ideological opposition to important options, like is the case with nuclear power, and easy acceptance of options that feel ‘greener,’ but where a skeptical assessment quickly reveals severe drawbacks, like with suggestions to dramatically ramp-up biomass production, or to build massive redundancies into land and resource-intensive solar, wind, and battery-installations.

All environmental harm should matter, and we should strive to minimise it over the board. The impacts of land use, resource use, and emissions all need to be taken into consideration – a small decrease in one area does not get us far if it drastically increases problems in other important aspects. There are few technologies where broad scientific assessments of such benefits and drawbacks are so much at odds with popular and political sentiments than it is with nuclear energy. If we do take the green energy goals seriously, however, this is highly concerning, because as the recent International Energy Agency reports underlines: nuclear can make a significant contribution to achieving sustainable energy goals and enhancing energy security.

Our energy policies are in dire need of scientific skepticism. We should look to countries that have come furthest with decarbonisation of their grids, learn from them, and look further still: we need to put the onus on how low-carbon energy can help with deep decarbonisation of our societies not only with regards to electricity, but also the sectors of heating and transportation. We need rapid advances in serious, science-based energy policy in order to conserve nature and protect human societies from the gravest effects of climate change.

Biographical information

I am a biologist specialised in biomedical research, an environmentalist, a writer, and a science communicator, and I blog at Thoughtscapism. I am a member of Finnish Ecomodernists, the German Ökomoderne, as well as the skeptic societies in Switzerland (Skeptiker Schweiz) and Germany (GWUP), and the European director of Mothers for Nuclear.

copyright Evelin Frerk

copyright Evelin Frerk

Amardeo Sarma

Amardeo Sarma was born in Kassel, Germany and grew up in India. He has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in electrical engineering from IIT Delhi and the Technical University of Darmstadt respectively. He is currently General Manager at NEC Laboratories Europe GmbH. Amardeo has been active in the skeptical movement for more than thirty years. He is the founder and Chairman of the German skeptics organisation GWUP and co-founder and Member of the Board of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations ECSO. Amardeo is keenly interested in evaluating pseudo-scientific claims and co-designed the first German dowsing test in 1991. His early interests centred around the Bermuda Triangle, the claims of Erich von Däniken, pseudo-medical claims, PSI, parapsychology and the Shroud of Turin. He has recently written and presented on topics around Global Warming and how to respond without dogma.

Amardeo Sarma is chairperson for the session on Green Skepticism (saturday, August 31, 2019)

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Kavin Senapathy

Kavin Senapathy is a writer and journalist

Title of presentation

GMOs, modern agriculture, and the People

Abstract

GMOs have become the lightning rod for concerns about the modern food system. What role does GMO play now, and how can GMO be part of a green future? Kavin Senapathy, will take the audience through the problems modern agriculture is trying to tackle, and what GMO has to do with it.

Biographical information

As a writer and journalist, Kavin covers science, health, medicine, agriculture, food, parenting, and their intersection. Her work appears at SELF Magazine, Slate, Forbes, SciShow, SciMoms, and her Woo Watch column at Skeptical Inquirer. She's also the co-host of Point of Inquiry, the podcast for the Center for Inquiry. She's a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and a founding member and contributing editor to SciMoms.com. 

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Lukas Stalpers

Lukas Stalpers, MD, PhD, (*1960) is professor of translational radiotherapy at the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

Title of presentation

Vitamin B12 clinics: An example of a hype that results in clinics with quackery

Abstract

In the late 1950s, Sir Bradford Hill, a British public health scientist defined nine criteria for causality in medicine, of which ‘experimental proof’ and ‘biological plausibility’ are two main criteria that distinguish straightforward quackery from evidence-based medicine. In recent years, some shrewd quacks have found a niche by prescribing drugs or technology which are being used in regular medicine under strict conditions, but which are now also prescribed beyond those strict conditions for which they have not been tested and not approved.

Vitamin B12 is such a drug: vitamin B12 or cobolamine is required for many metabolic processes, amongst others for the formation of red blood cells and nerves. Animal products (milk, eggs, meat) are rich natural sources of vit. B12. There are a few groups at risk for development of genuine Vit. B12 deficiency: Vit B12 is absorbed in the stomach, and patients who had a gastric bypass or removal of the stomach, who have atrophia of the gastric epithelium (pernicious anaemia) or who are severely malnourished or who follow a strict vegan diet may develop deficiency of vit. B12 with nervous problems and anaemia. These cases can easily be diagnosed by any family physician, -all have anaemia and a specific medical history-, and are for a few euros cured by vit. B12.

However, in recent years, an increasing number of persons without anaemia but with none-specific symptoms of chronic fatigue or nervous irritability is tested for serum vit. B12 levels (and related substrates methyl-malonic-acid and homocysteine); those with marginal low levels are then diagnosed with quasi-vitamin B12 deficiency and are recommended chronical parenteral vit. B12 in commercial vit. B12 clinics. Except for inciodental case studies, there is however not a single cohort  or case-control study in persons without anaemia or known medical cause of vit. B12, that has shown a cause-effect relation between marginal low vit B12 level (or low methylmalonic acid level) and symptoms, and the few randomized studies did not show benefit of more than physiological doses of vit. B12. Since many of the symptoms in patients with marginally low vit B12 are qualitative (fatigue, irritability, non-objective visual disturbances, lack of appetite, bad mood), a double-blind randomized trial is needed to test the efficacy of vit. B12 injections. Such a study has never been done and physicians of commercial Vitamin B12 Deficiency organizations have in the last 20 years not been successful to initiate such a study. For the time being: Parenteral Vit B12 treatment of marginally low Vit B12 without anaemia or known cause is pseudo-scientific abusive medical practice.

Biographical information

Lukas Stalpers, professor of translational radiotherapy at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), is specialized in treatment of women with gynaecological cancer. He studied medicine at the Radboud University, Nijmegen, NL (1978-1985) where he got his PhD-degree on ‘clinical decision making in oncology’ (1991), and his training in radiation oncology (1995). He was a junior researcher in epidemiology at Sunnybrook Health Siences Center, University of Toronto (1993), and did a fellowship in neuro-oncology at UCSF San Francisco (1994-1995). Since 1995, he his staff member in radiation oncology at the AmsterdamUMC, location AMC/University of Amsterdam, Department of Radiotherapy in Amsterdam, NL.

He further is chair of the AMC radiation residents training program, responsible for the training of seven residents. He is board member of the Dutch Society against Quackery (NVtdK); he is a non-smoker and an activist against the three main preventable causes of diseases and early deaths in The Netherlands: poverty, smoking and illiteracy.

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Tim Trachet

Tim Trachet (1958) is a journalist at Belgian Public Television. He is honorary chairman of SKEPP and vicepresident of ECSO.

He was one of the founding members of SKEPP (in 1990) and ECSO (in 1995). As a journalist he specialised in historical topics. He began his skeptical activities as an amateur astronomer. Later he became a qualified astronomer, with a critical study on astrology. Since then he published on a variety of skeptical domains.

Tim Trachet will be chairperson for the session on 30 Years of European Skepticism (friday, August 30, 2019)

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Dirk Vogelaers

Prof. Dr. Dirk Vogelaers is head of the General Internal Medicine Dept. of Ghent University Hospital and Professor at Ghent University at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Title of presentation

Lyme disease: An example of a real disease misused by quacks

Biographical information

Education:
• Medical doctor, 1980, Ghent University
• Specialist General Internal Medicine, 1989
• Doctor in Medical Science, 1995 “Integrated assessment of postischemic left ventricular dysfunction"

Professional career:
• Dept. of Intensive Care, Ghent University Hospital, 1985-1996
• Infectious Diseases Department, 1992-current
• Head of General Internal medicine Department, 2008-current

Teaching activities:
• Ghent University: various commitments in the courses for medicine, surgical dentistry, medico-social sciences, biomedical sciences.
• University College Ghent: various commitments in nursing education (bachelor-after-bachelor intensive and emergency care)

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Wietse Wiels

Dr. Wietse Wiels is a neurologist in training at the Brussels University Hospital (Centre for Neuroscience). Apart from his professional activity in the diagnosis and treatment of neuropsychiatric disease, he has a particular interest in medically unexplained symptoms and quackery as a working member and journal editor of SKEPP. 

Wietse Wiels will be co-chairing the session on alternative treatments (The never-ending struggle against quackery, friday, August 30, 2019)



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David Zaruk

David Zaruk, aka. the Risk-Monger, is a EU risk and science communications specialist, and professor at Odisee University College.

Title of presentation

Reason has left the building: How the emotional need for certainty and safety has handcuffed research and technology.

Biographical information

David Zaruk has been an EU risk and science communications specialist since 2000, active in EU policy events from REACH and SCALE to the Pesticides Directive, from Science in Society questions to the use of the Precautionary Principle. He was part of the team that set up GreenFacts to encourage a wider use of evidence-based decision-making in the EU on environmental health matters. He is also a professor at Odisee University College where he lectures on Communications, Marketing, EU Lobbying and PR


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Sophie van der Zee

Dr. Sophie van der Zee is an assistant professor in behavioral economics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

Title of presentation

How con men operate in cyberspace

Biographical information

Dr. Sophie van der Zee is an assistant professor in behavioral economics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. She holds a phd in forensic psychology and worked several years as a post-doctoral researcher in the computer science department of the university of Cambridge. She uses her multidisciplinary background to investigate digital (dis)honesty. Her research into technology based lie detection made it into a BBC Horizon documentary and an article series about her research on rental scammers just won a Dutch national media competition. She will cover this last topic in her talk today about the tactics of digital con man.