Author Archives: Pontus Böckman

TheESP – Ep. #230 – Tinfoil hats against nonsense

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This week Europe has lost a star in the sky and we hear about how Louis Pasteur managed to create a rabies vaccine back in 1885 (NB: he wasn’t even a medical doctor). Pope Francis seizes even more control about the Vatican’s finances and appoints an “extraordinary commissioner” to raid the entity looking after St Peter’s Basilica. Apparently, someone has been cooking the books.
In the news this week:
– After a new outbreak the German authorities suggest people stay at home for vacation
– Was SARS-CoV-2 really present in Barcelona in March 2019?
– WHO stops Hydroxychloroquine tests
– WHO launches new podcast – Health in Europe
– High risk for polio outbreak in Ukraine
– Russian disinformation operations revealed
– Swedish actor from “Fargo” creates documentary TV-series promoting bogus runestone in Minnesota
– What’s happening with Facebook?
– 5G towers burning in Limassol
– Climate change denier loses bet – has to pay up
– Hungarian National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition bans most homeopathic products from claiming specific therapeutic effects
– Our friend Holm Hümmler airs a documentary about conspiracy theories

To end the episode secondary school students in Germany get today’s Really Right Award for not backing down from their “tinfoil hat” project

Enjoy!

Segments:
Intro; Greetings; This Week; Pontus Pokes the Pope; News; Really Right; Quote and Farewell; Outro; Out-takes

Events Calendar: http://theesp.eu/events_in_europe

0:00:27 INTRO

0:00:53 GREETINGS

0:05:26 THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
Louis Pasteur, successfully demonstrated a working Rabies vaccine on 6 July 1885.

0:13:49 PONTUS POKES THE POPE – Frankie steps up the fight against financial corruption

0:13:28 NEWS

0:56:54 REALLY RIGHT
GERMANY: Secondary School students in Germany don’t back down from their “tinfoil hat” project

1:00:48 QUOTE AND FAREWELL
“I am utterly convinced that Science and Peace will triumph over Ignorance and War, that nations will eventually unite not to destroy but to edify, and that the future will belong to those who have done the most for the sake of suffering humanity.”
/ Louis Pasteur, French biologist, microbiologist and chemist. /

1:01:47 OUTRO

1:03:11 OUT-TAKES

TheESP – Ep. #227 – Thank you, Jelena!

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This week we first learn about how the 1854 cholera outbreak led to advances in the knowledge about diseases and outbreaks thanks to the clever and rigorous work by the physician John Snow, now regarded as one of the founders of modern epidemiology. Pope Francis is getting closer to his vision of “a poor church for the poor”, perhaps just a little bit faster than he bargained for as the pandemic is hitting the Catholic finances. Then Andras delves into how we can begin to measure the success of covid-19 related restrictions.
In the news this week:
– Swedish Snake Oil advertisement is struck down
– Archaeologist sentenced for faking Basque finds
– Climate more sensitive to CO2 emissions than thought?
– Who killed the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme?
– Szekesfehervar budget cuts – nonessential vaccines are first to go
– The Aspen Institute’s ‘Good10 – The Pandemic Issue’ discussing many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic
– The return of the Mayan calendar – some myths refuse to die
– University of Vienna found a way to inoculate medical students about SCAM
The prize for being Really Wrong goes to doctors in Northern Ireland that continue to obstruct abortions even after the recent legalization!

Enjoy!

Segments:
Intro; Greetings; This Week; Pontus Pokes the Pope; News; Really Wrong; Quote and Farewell; Outro; Out-takes

Events Calendar: http://theesp.eu/events_in_europe

0:00:26 INTRO

0:00:49 GREETINGS

0:06:36 THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
John Snow, the father of modern epidemiology, died on 16 June 1858. He is famous for tracking down the source of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak in London.

0:13:49 PONTUS POKES THE POPE – “The poor Church for the poor”

0:16:25 COVID-19 UPDATE

0:24:27 NEWS

1:00:58 REALLY WRONG
NORTHERN IRELAND: Doctors sabotaging legal abortions

1:04:28 QUOTE AND FAREWELL
“Critical thinking is the only weapon and the only defense that the human being has against the dangers of life. Because if I do not think critically, I will be subject to all influences, to all suggestions, to all errors and to all the lies that are spread, and with which I have been indoctrinated since childhood.”
/ Erich Seligmann Fromm, social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. /

Thank you Jelena, we miss you already!

1:10:05 OUTRO

1:11:21 OUT-TAKES

TheESP – Ep. #213 – Double feature – Lithuanian Skeptics plus Parlia.com

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This week we have no less than two separate interviews, both of which we’ve been looking forward to for some time.

First, we talk to Šarūnas Bačiliūnas, the founder of the rather new “Lithuanian Skeptic Youth” Organisation. Started from scratch in 2018 they organize events, workshops international exchanges and educate both the public and even teachers on critical thinking. Impressively they have already had the Lithuanian health minister as speaker on one of their skeptics in the pub and on top of that they are also doing charity work and are setting up a play about Polish-Lithuanian 17th century atheist Kazimieras Leščinskas (aka Kazimierz Łyszczyński), perhaps the first enlightenment man in Europe.

In our second interview we catch up again with Turi Munthe, founder of Parlia, “the Encyclopedia of Opinion”. Formerly known as Parli (see episode #154), Parlia is a wiki-type of database and website which aims to cover all existing opinions and all arguments for and against those opinions. During the Brexit debate, Turi came to the realization that the actual number of pros and cons to a position is surprisingly few and it is quite possible to map all of them in a structured way. The website is fully in place and all that is needed now is to increase the number of contributors and moderators to form a large enough community to create and maintain the content.

Enjoy!

Segments:
Intro; Greetings; Interview with Šarūnas Bačiliūnas; Interview with Turi Munthe; Farewell; Outro; Out-takes

Events Calendar: http://theesp.eu/events_in_europe

0:00:34 INTRO

0:00:55 GREETINGS

0:02:45 INTERVIEW – LITHUANIAN SKEPTIC YOUTH with SARUNAS BASCILIUNAS 

0:28:18 INTERVIEW – PARLIA with TURI MUNTHE

0:52:22 FAREWELL

0:52:33 OUTRO

0:53:48 OUT-TAKES

TheESP – Ep. #212 – Corona Corona Corona

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This week it cannot be helped that a lot of the episode is about different aspects on the Coronavirus and Covid-19. But we also want to remind everyone about our SkepKon raffle where we have one ticket to hand out to the conference in Berlin 21 – 23 May! Just send us an email to participate.

After the greetings we hear about holocaust denier David Irving, who was declared bankrupt This Week in History in 2002, after he sued a writer for libel and lost the subsequent trial. Pontus Pokes the Pope and tells about the new “papal task force” that will try to get all local and national Catholic organizations to handle sex abuse scandals better.

In the news, nonsense Coronavirus information is peddled by Hungarian authorities, a TV channel in Norway says that you will be protected if you donate to them while in other places, homeopaths think empty sugar pills are better. We discuss how the outbreak is a breeding ground for conspiracy theories and hear that in the UK, the PSA reaccredits the Society of Homeopaths but under strict conditions. Further on the subject, a German court says homeopathy may be totally ineffective, but that is not their concern.

We finish with another Corona related item and hand out a Really Wrong award to Durek Verrett, the self-proclaimed shaman and the boyfriend of the Norwegian Princess Märtha Louise. He recently published a homemade “cure” for the covid-19 disease. Spoiler: the vodka is optional!

Enjoy!

Segments:
Intro; Greetings; This Week; Pontus Pokes the Pope; News; Really Wrong; Quote and Farewell; Outro; Out-takes

Events Calendar: http://theesp.eu/events_in_europe

0:00:27 INTRO

0:00:50 GREETINGS

Coronavirus update, plus a reminder that the SkepKon 2020 raffle is still on. Email us to win a ticket! And we got a shout-out on TRC, the Reality Check podcast.

0:07:55 THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
David Irving, famous holocaust denier, was declared bankrupt on 4 March 2002, after losing a libel suit against a writer who published a book about his “research”..

0:13:49 PONTUS POKES THE POPE – Nobody Expects the Papal Task Force!

0:18:41 NEWS

0:45:53 REALLY WRONG
NORWAY: Norwegian Shaman and Boyfriend to the Princess, Durek Verrett, Publishes a “Cure” for Covid-19

0:51:53 QUOTE AND FAREWELL
“People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive”
/ Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian /

0:54:22 OUTRO

0:55:37 OUT-TAKES

TheESP – Ep. #211 – Dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden

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This week we talk about the John Maddox Prize, the BBC’s new show series about Greta Thunberg and about Darren Brown, born on this day in 1971. Pontus Pokes the Pope and finally we get Francis’ take on celibacy in the Amazon (or do we?), and of course the highlights from the latest sex abuse scandals.
In the news we hear the latest regarding the CoViD-19 Coronavirus, more details about dangerous measles complications and check how much of the climate change debate that are driven by twitter-bots. The latest mass shooting in Germany shows that conspiracy theories are not something to take lightly, the Hungarian government sponsors creationist nonsense, Jeff Bezos finally announces some philanthropic activity and Scandinavian tele company Telenor launches HiperSchool in Hungary, a tool to teach young people how to handle Internet misinformation.
We end by handing a Really Right Award to the DA! art competition, arranged by Giordano Bruno Foundation and Natalie Grams.
Enjoy!

Segments:
Intro; Greetings; This Week; Pontus Pokes the Pope; News; Really Right; Quote and Farewell; Outro; Out-takes

Events Calendar: http://theesp.eu/events_in_europe

0:00:27 INTRO

0:00:51 GREETINGS

Nominations for the John Maddox Prize open soon, Greta Thunberg gets her ‘own’ TV show on the BBC.

0:11:18 THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
Derren Brown was borne on 27 February 1971.

0:15:44 PONTUS POKES THE POPE – No Hanky-panky in the Jungle Please, We’re Catholic
Frankie did in the end not dare to let go of the celibacy rules in the Amazon. Also, Jean Varnier, founder of Catholic charity l’Arche abused at least six different women and de-frocked Cardinal McCarrick sent almost $1 million to a cult known for sex abuse (and no one knows where he is now).

0:31:14 NEWS

1:02:10 REALLY RIGHT
GERMANY: DA! art Prize Focusing on Pseudoscience with this Year’s Patron – Natalie Grams

1:08:06 QUOTE AND FAREWELL
“If nature leads us to mathematical forms of great simplicity and beauty—by forms I am referring to coherent systems of hypothesis, axioms, etc.—to forms that no one has previously encountered, we cannot help thinking that they are “true,” that they reveal a genuine feature of nature…”
/ Werner Karl Heisenberg, German physicist, Nobel laureate, and one of the founders of the field of quantum mechanics /

1:09:50 OUTRO

1:11:05 OUT-TAKES

TheESP – Ep. #209 – Heart-o-puncture™

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This week before we get into the meat of the show, we talk Corona, Greta Thunberg and look forward to Adam Rutherford’s new book, “How to Argue with a Racist”. We also have two good news for our German friends: Natalie Grams have launched her podcast “Grams’ Sprechstunde” and we have a ticket raffle for SkepKon 2020 in Berlin. Tune in to find out how you can win a free ticket!
In this week in history we celebrate Charles Darwin who was born on 12 February 1809. Pontus Pokes the Pope for hypocritically telling others how to reduce poverty when he personally has misplaced tens of millions of Euro from the Peters’ Pence charity. Also Cardinal Barbarin get off scot-free for covering up a child molester.
In the news we report that the BBC launches “My World”, a show to teach young audiences to spot fake news, that the WHO fights the “Infodemic” of fake Coronavirus rumours and that they get help from Factcheck.org and Fullfact.org.
Climate change reaches new heights with the warmest January on record for Europe and Ryan Air hypocritically wants us to believe that their flights are carbon friendly (we don’t buy it).
We end by given a Really Wrong Award to the Swedish legal system which allows acupuncturists to ram needles into the hearts of cancer patients. That’s right, heart-o-puncture™ is apparently legal.
Enjoy!

Segments:
Intro; Greetings; This Week; Pontus Pokes the Pope; News; Really Wrong; Quote and Farewell; Outro; Out-takes

Events Calendar: http://theesp.eu/events_in_europe

0:00:27 INTRO

0:00:50 GREETINGS

We talk about Corona, Greta Thunberg and Adam Rutherford’s new book, “How to Argue with a Racist”. Good news for our German friends: Natalie Grams have launched her podcast “Grams’ Sprechstunde” and we have a ticket raffle for SkepKon 2020 in Berlin! You can win!.

0:18:43 THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
Charles Robert Darwin was borne on 12 February 1809.

0:24:15 PONTUS POKES THE POPE – Holier than Thou – Should Francis Lecture Others on the Poverty Gap?
Francis takes on the issue of poverty with total lack of self-awareness and in other news, France’s top Catholic cleric, Cardinal Barbarin, gets cleared of abuse cover-up although he definitely knew what was going on.

0:29:22 NEWS

0:51:17 REALLY WRONG
SWEDEN: Acupuncturist Freed of Manslaughter Charges

1:04:52 QUOTE AND FAREWELL
“I think that the appetite for mystery, the enthusiasm for that which we do not understand, is healthy and to be fostered. It is the same appetite which drives the best of true science, and it is an appetite which true science is best qualified to satisfy.”
/ Richard Dawkins, British evolutionary biologist, author, from “Science Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder”, John Brockman, Edge.org, 1.2.97 /

1:05:48 OUTRO

1:07:03 OUT-TAKES

TheESP – Ep. #208 – The Nuclear Option with Iida Ruishalme

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This week we interview Finnish activist Iida Ruishalme to talk about nuclear power and green energy. Iida is a biologist specialised in biomedical research, an environmentalist, a writer and a science communicator. She also a mum, taking the future of her children very seriously. She blogs at Thoughtscapism.com.
We first met her at the 2019 European Skeptics Congress in Ghent where she gave a fascinating talk about the importance of critical thinking when it comes to green energy and decarbonisation.
Enjoy!

Segments:
Intro; Greetings; Interview; Farewell; Outro; Out-takes

Events Calendar: http://theesp.eu/events_in_europe

0:00:27 INTRO

0:00:52 GREETINGS

We start with reflecting a little bit on the on-going Wuhan coronavirus epidemic before we introduce our guest.

0:12:39 INTERVIEW – IIDA RUISHALME OF THOUGHTSCAPISM

1:03:51 FAREWELL

1:05:34 OUTRO

1:06:49 OUT-TAKES

TheESP – Ep. #207 – Coronavirus Misinformation

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This week we first get the record straight and correct our position on Ocean Cleanup – while we appreciate the sentiment, the whole idea is both damaging and unscientific. Two great Skeptical events are coming up this spring: Skepkon 2020 in Berlin 21 – 23 May and the 4th Conference on Science and Pseudoscience 13 -14 March in Alicante.
In this week in history we hear about Russia’s own Roswell incident, the Height 611 UFO crash. Pontus Pokes the Pope and gives us the latest on the celibacy controversy, the first female high-ranking appointment in the Vatican and how Father Robert, aka the Digital Jesuit, invited Francis for a D&D session in the crypt.
All news sources are full of Coronavirus stories at the moment, but how does one separate the facts from fiction? Swedish Schools keeps patronizing known Scientology organisations and the Spanish Manifesto against Pseudotherapies gets momentum abroad.
Greenpeace wants a piece of the action on the Green party’s recent success in the Hungarian election, but they are more ideologically driven than they should be. Can we afford to mitigate climate change effects? In fact, it is uneconomical NOT to do so, according to a new study and again we point out that homeopathy of course cannot replace antibiotics.
We end by shaming Corriere Della Sera for promoting pseudoscience and hand them a Really Wrong Award.
Enjoy!

Segments:
Intro; Greetings; This Week; Pontus Pokes the Pope; News; Really Wrong; Quote and Farewell; Outro; Out-takes

Events Calendar: http://theesp.eu/events_in_europe

0:00:27 INTRO

0:00:52 GREETINGS

Everyone gets it wrong sometimes and Jelena has had reason to revise her position on Ocean Cleanup from episode 204. But we are happy to see that both Skepkon 2020 in Berlin 21 – 23 May and the 4th Conference on Science and Pseudoscience 13 -1 4 March in Alicante have now been announced.

0:12:39 THIS WEEK IN SKEPTICISM
The Height 611 UFO incident, Russia’s own Roswell, happened on 29 January 1986.

0:21:18 PONTUS POKES THE POPE
Update on Celibacy Controversy, First Woman to Hold High Post in the Vatican and Father Robert Seems Like a Cool Guy.
Cardinal Robert Sarah digs in his heals regarding celibacy and insists that his former popeness Benedict agrees. Francis appoints Francesca Di Giovanni to the highest-ranking position ever for a woman in the Vatican, but we are not convinced. Also, Father Robert, aka the Digital Jesuit, seems to be a cool dude who is not too shy to invite Francis for a friendly game of D&D.

0:27:36 NEWS

0:58:14 REALLY WRONG
ITALY: Corriere Della Sera Sneakily Promotes Pseudotherapies

1:03:51 QUOTE AND FAREWELL
“The unspoken rule of democracy: three stupid ones will always outvote two smart ones.”
/ Ljupka Cvetanova, writer born in Kocani, North Macedonia /

1:05:34 OUTRO

1:06:49 OUT-TAKES

TheESP – Ep. #206 – From Peter’s Pence to Francis’ Pants

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This week we note that the Swedish Skeptics’ article from last week concerning Thomas Erikson’s nonsense personality book “Surrounded by Idiots” has gotten some attention from other skeptics, among other things Pontus was a guest on the last episode of the Skeptic Zone podcast to talk about it.
In history this week we talk about Desmond Morris and his role in the Aquatic Ape hypothesis and then Pontus Pokes the Pope about the fact that the two living popes are at odds regarding celibacy and also that the charity money from Peter’s Pence goes straight into the coffers of the Vatican.
In the news this week: Contrary to what you may have heard, Finland does not plan to go to a four-day working week, in Russia 800 science papers have been retracted and the Eurobarometer shows that EU citizens are concerned about climate change. Andrew Wakefield will screen the new film Vaxxed II at a public venue in Notting Hill, the Goop Lab will feature the Dutch “Iceman” Wim Hof, an Italian court has against scientific consensus ruled that mobile phones cause brain tumours and John Cook is publishing a comic book about climate change denial. We hope Skeptics will help translate it!
We end by handing a Really Wrong Award to the UK Home Office and the Ministry of Justice for believing in lie detectors.
Enjoy!

Segments:
Intro; Greetings; This Week; Pontus Pokes the Pope; News; Really Wrong; Quote and Farewell; Outro; Out-takes

Events Calendar: http://theesp.eu/events_in_europe

0:00:27 INTRO

0:00:50 GREETINGS

Our story from last week regarding the “Surrounded by…” books has been picked up by both the Skeptic Zone podcast and Steve Novella’s Neurologica blog. Check them out!.

0:08:48 THIS WEEK IN SKEPTICISM
Desmond Morris, British zoologist and anthropologist was born on 24 January 1928. He was instrumental in popularizing the Aquatic Ape hypothesis.

0:19:27 PONTUS POKES THE POPE
Celibacy Controversy Deepens, Francis Diverts Charity Millions to Cover Vatican Losses

0:27:22 NEWS

0:57:10 REALLY WRONG
UK: Lie Detector Tests for Convicted Terrorists as a Security Measure

1:02:39 QUOTE AND FAREWELL
“To spread healthy ideas among even the lowest classes of people, to remove men from the influence of prejudice and passion, to make reason the arbiter and supreme guide of public opinion; that is the essential goal of the sciences; that is how science will contribute to the advancement of civilization, and that is what deserves protection of governments who want to insure the stability of their power.”
/ Georges Cuvier, (23 August 1769 – 13 May 1832), French naturalist and zoologist, widely recognised as the father of comparative anatomy and paleontology – from Rapport historique sur les progrès des sciences naturelles (1810) /

1:03:50 OUTRO

1:05:05 OUT-TAKES

TheESP – Ep. #205 – Surrounded By Idiots

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This week we note that at the time of recording, American-Swedish astronaut Jessica Meir is busy preparing and conducting the second ever all-female spacewalk.
In history this week in 1964, Italian philosopher, author and skeptic Massimo Pigliucci was born, and we discuss some of his contributions and influences.
Pontus Pokes the Pope to note that old Benedict comes out of retirement to fight for celibacy, potentially creating a headache for poor Francis, who is supposed to say the final word on the matter shortly. In other papal news, disgraced former Archbishop Theodore McCarrick goes missing to avoid the wrath of the Holy See.
In the news, the Spanish Catholic Church inexplicably thinks that celibate priests constitute the best expertise in preparing young couples for marriage while Uri Geller reminds us that he’s no more crazy than the UK Government and so, applies for a job there.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s The Goop Lab is soon coming to a Netflix screen near you, trying to convince us that spending a fortune on utter bullshit is the way to female empowerment. Luckily the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia project (GSOW) with Susan Gerbic has already launched an excellent Wikipedia page pointing out the stupidity of that.
A Swedish MP spreads conspiracy theories on the Australian wildfires and we try to set the record straight. A Danish study shows what the harm really is with HPV anti-vaccination propaganda and the Swedish Skeptics (VoF) wants to alert the world about bogus personality tests that’s makes the rounds internationally. Beware of the book ‘Surrounded by Idiots’!
We end by handing a Really Wrong award to the College of Medicine that, backed by Prince Charles, wants to teach GPs and alt med quacks Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), despite that it clearly is pseudoscientific nonsense.
Enjoy!

Segments:
Intro; Greetings; This Week; Pontus Pokes the Pope; News; Really Wrong; Quote and Farewell; Outro; Out-takes

Events Calendar: http://theesp.eu/events_in_europe

0:00:27 INTRO

0:00:50 GREETINGS

We give a shoutout to American-Swedish astronaut Jessica Meir who right now with her colleague Cristina Koch continues to do all-female spacewalks.

0:03:06 THIS WEEK IN SKEPTICISM
Italian philosopher, author and skeptic Massimo Pigliucci was born on 16 January 1920.

0:08:41 PONTUS POKES THE POPE
It’s the Return of the Sith – Now Advocating Celibacy
Senator Palpatine
himself (aka Benedict XVI) breaks his promise to stay out of politics and publishes a book on the hottest catholic controversy right now – celibacy. Francis has no reason to be happy about it. In the meanwhile, Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop, known sex molester and alleged briber of popes, disappears as a thief in the night rather than facing Francis’ verdict.

0:13:25 NEWS

0:36:28 REALLY WRONG
College of Medicine and Integrated Health Offers Course in NLP

0:41:22 QUOTE AND FAREWELL
“What skeptics are about is to keep that candle lit and spread it as much as possible.”
/ Massimo Pigliucci, (16 January 1964 – ), Italian Professor of Philosophy /

0:41:58 OUTRO

0:43:13 OUT-TAKES