Annual Skeptics conference held in Auckland

  • 14/08/2010

By Lachlan Forsyth

The country's Skeptics are massing for the group’s annual conference in Auckland where they will discuss all matters crazy and questionable.

But far from light-hearted banter about black cats and Bigfoot, there is real concern at a lack of scrutiny given to public issues that can have very serious consequences.

The Skeptics are renowned for dismissing men on mars, laughing off claims of UFOs, and scotching rumours of the big black cat stalking the Canterbury countryside.

But they say that sort of skepticism should also be applied to more serious issues – such as the ongoing controversy over the vaccine for cervical cancer.

Conference speaker Theo Brandt says there are some interesting statistics around Gardasil.

“There's been over 50 million doses given worldwide and there has not been any death, not even one death attributed to it,” he says.

How about the demonisation of fat? Touted in some circles as being worse than cigarettes, is it as unpalatable as has been suggested?

Fellow Conference speaker Helen Petousis-Harris disagrees with the common thinking on fat.

“I think in that simple message we've lost track of the fact it's a major food group and there's some great value and fat is actually vital to our health,” she says.

It's all a far cry from smashing mirrors and happily walking underneath ladders, Skeptics chair Vicki Hyde says the members take it seriously.

“There is a serious side because ignorance has consequences and sometimes it can be dire,” she says.

Ms Hyde says often the trouble is that science isn't sexy, and people respond instead to the emotional.

“One child that has an adverse reaction to an immunisation programme will cancel out any number of millions of statistics we can provide to say that in fact it's a good idea to be vaccinated against polio,” she says.

She adds that the Skeptics don't claim to have any of the answers; they believe the questions are much more important.

“The Skeptics basically exists to encourage people to think a little more critically when people want you to put your money, your health, your family, your psyche on the line,” she says.

That's all serious stuff to cope with when we also have 'the end of the world' to worry about; that is the latest prediction from Hollywood – 2012.

Conference speaker Nik Warrensson is sceptical of that prediction.

“It has happened on many occasions, many people have said the end is nigh, and to date, they've never been right,” he says.

Still, there's always a first - or would it be last – time for everything.

3 News

source: newshub archive