Skeptical activism has several simultaneous goals - to educate skeptics to improve their expertise in critical thinking and the details of specific pseudosciences and uncritical claims, to educate the general public about science and skepticism, and to take specific action to protect consumers, fight against fraudsters, lobby for better regulation, and other good works. The latter goal is often the most difficult, but has the potential of being the most immediately satisfying.
The skeptical movement's social media infrastructure allows us to mobilize tens of thousands of critical thinkers to apply public pressure where necessary - to defend from attacks on free speech, to focus attention on a particular scoundrel, or to pressure politicians into doing the right thing. While such activity is a constant background in skeptical activism, there are moments when opportunities arise for a focused concerted effort. I believe we are at a critical point of one such opportunity.
Stanislaw Burzynski has been exploiting desperate cancer patients for 37 years with his dubious "antineoplaston" treatment. Why his treatment is dubious has been well covered by David Gorski in multiple posts at Science-Based Medicine. Essentially Burzynski is offering unapproved chemotherapy for cancer patients, claiming that it is "natural" and that he is curing cancer patients who are not responding to standard treatment. He has also moved into the "personalized cancer treatment" realm.
Martin Rundkvist, speaker at TAM 5.5, archaeologist and friend of the JREF, spent some time with Randi during his European tour. He reports:
I spent Tuesday in the charming company of James Randi and his assistant, journalist Brandon Thorp. Myself and P.J. Råsmark had taken it upon ourselves to act as native guides and gophers for Randi during his days in Stockholm at the invitation of the Swedish Skeptics. So in the morning we went cane shopping together, though none of the canes we found were sufficiently antique-looking for our guest, and he seemed to manage effortlessly without one. And then we checked out the Vasa 17th century warship museum, since this is Stockholm's one truly unique attraction as far as I'm aware. (You'll recognise my M.O. from Massimo Polidoro's and Manuel Paz-y-Mino's visit a year ago.) Randi uses the Vasa, which sunk on its maiden voyage due to unrealistic royal demands incorporated into its design, as one of the test cases in his upcoming book Wrong!. In the afternoon there were interviews with Lars Björkvall of Vetenskap & Historia and Christer Sturmark of Humanisten, the latter periodical being a publication of the Swedish Humanist Association.
Next week, We'll be mailing out Flim-Flam! bumper stickers as a special thank you to all the new monthly donors who took a stand with us. I hope that we'll be sending one of these bumper stickers to you.
If you're still thinking about joining our monthly donor program, now is the time to sign up and Take a Stand for Skepticism.
In an effort to make our extensive video library available online free of charge, The James Randi Educational Foundation is posting high quality digital video lectures and sessions from previous Amaz!ng Meetings and other events on randi.org. Check back often to see the latest video content.
Tim Farley of What's the Harm?offers plenty of practical advice for effectively using the internet to advance the message of skepticism in the Web 2.0 world in this talk presented at the Amaz!ng Meeting 6.
Do not wait! Tickets are selling fast and registration prices will increase after March 31. We are expecting over 1,000 attendees again this year and if we fill up will be forced to close registration.