So who gets the award of “Skeptic of the year”? In fact, a more interesting question might be to ask who gives out such an award and how do they determine who is and is not skeptical, how do you actually measure that, because when it comes to such awards, well, I’m skeptical … in fact I was once so skeptical, I doubted that a skeptical community actually existed? :-)
OK, don’t take that opening sentence too seriously, I’m not really going to embark upon a long meaningless ramble through the definition of the word “skeptic”, that’s just my (lack of) a sense of humour playing out. Yes yes, I know, you are now skeptical regarding my claim to have any sort of a sense of humour.
Anyway … enough of that.
The actual news is that each year the Australian Skeptics give out a “Skeptic of the Year” award to the individual or group that has done the most for skepticism in Australia during the year, and this year it has been bestowed upon Professor Simon Chapman.
It is about here that some might now exclaim “who” and also “why”.
Well “Crikey” reports the details…
“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.”
And here is an expanded response from Simon:
“I was just bowled over to get this award. My inexorable slide into skepticism started when I read Bertrand Russell’s Why I am not a Christian when I was very young. In public health, having a skeptical orientation to the Niagara of claims that are made about particularly complementary medicine, but also a depressingly large number of dubious claims made about mainstream medicine is fundamental. My recent work has been on exploring the Old Testament-like number of claims being made about the alleged ill health effects of wind turbine exposure. Here’s a collection of 232 problems that I’ve put together, http://tobacco.health.usyd.edu.au/assets/pdfs/publications/DiseaseListIntro.pdf.”
That last link is worth checking out.
Now least you are in some distress right now because they passed over your favourite skeptic, worry not, because this award is only given to skeptics who live in Australia.
That aside, even if restricted to folks who live in Australia, it is still well-deserved, so many congratulations Professor Simon Chapman.
As for Simon, well he was quite bowled over to be granted the award, it truly did come as a complete surprise to him …