Cork Skeptics

Promoting Reason, Science & Critical Thinking in Cork City & Beyond


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Who are the Family Hope Center?

Yesterday, George Hook hosted an interesting discussion on Newstalk Radio. His guests were Michelle McKeever, a mother from Northern Ireland, and Terence Cosgrave, a PR professional based in Dublin. Michelle spoke about her son, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. She described how her experience with the Irish Health Services Executive was unsatisfactory, then she talked about a US based group who had helped her. This group is the Family Hope Center

Following her interview, Hook then spoke to Cosgrave. Cosgrave also talked  forcefully about the dysfunction of the HSE. He referred to the Family Hope Center as an option for parents in such circumstances. 

I have some questions. 

Who are the Family Hope Center? What do they offer? Why was yesterday chosen to come on the programme? And what was a PR consultant doing sitting in on a piece about childhood autism?

Let’s answer the last question first. I looked up Cosgrave’s LinkedIn page. His clients include the Family Hope Center and he has an article from the Wexford People about the Family Hope Center and how they can achieve ‘real, measurable results in children with brain disorders or impairments’. So, there’s that. Cosgrave has a business connection with the Family Hope Center. It would have been good if Hook had mentioned this explicitly on the radio show. Full disclosure, etc.


Who are the Family Hope Center? Well, from their webpage, they offer ‘a practical scientific approach’, striving to ‘educate and help parents promote functional improvement improvement in their children’. Sounds great. They say they can help with a large number of ailments, from ADD to Autism to Down’s Syndrome. 

They describe a Scandinavian observational study “Important Real World Evidence of Neurological Development in Disabled Children” the aim of which is to show that their methods are making an improvement with children with moderate or severe learning problems. Given no details about controls, correlations or methods used to avoid bias, no peer review and no submission to any international journals, it’s hard to draw any conclusions from this at all. It’s strange. 

They detail big improvements along the WeeFIM scale compared to national results, but it’s unclear how they determined this or whether this was validated by an independent agency. I would love a doctor’s opinion on this in terms of how meaningful these improvements are. They don’t seem to corellate much with the above  Scandinavian study.

The Meet Our Team section is also interesting. The director Matthew Newell has years of experience in this field, but I couldn’t find any relevant medical qualifications. The International Academy for Child Brain Development is mentioned, but it appears defunct. Carol Newell has a certification as a nursery nurse, but how this translates into an international lecturer in all phases of development and brain neuroplasticity is unclear.
Kristin Clague Reihman is a certified medical doctor, with a diplomate in Integrative medicine plus training in acupuncture. She also has published material on Facebook promoting Kerri Rivera and her Chlorine Dioxide protocols. This is the  MMS bleach product that has hit the news in multiple countries, easily one of the great alt-med scandals of recent years. For a medical doctor to be associated with this in any way is surprising and disappointing, to say the least.

Barry Gillespie is a periodontist with a keen interest in cranio sacral therapy and fascial therapy – how this translates to working with severe childhood development disorders is anyone’s guess.

Maybe there’s something I’m missing here, but it seems that the Family Hope Center are somewhat ill-equipped for the challenge of tackling major childhood brain disorders. If, as was said on the George Hook show, they are an option for parents who cannot get satisfaction through conventional approaches, then they have a pretty enormous burden of proof on their shoulders. This is not a burden that website testimonials and “success stories” will adequately address.

And why was Cosgrave on the show yesterday? It wouldn’t be because the Family Hope Center are in Kilkenny over the weekend? 


According to some blogs, the costs of these seminars are pretty expensive, so you would need to be sure you are making the right decision and that the evidence is there. From what I have seen, this evidence is thin on the ground. Buyer beware.

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Believe ET Or Not

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BELIEVE E.T. OR NOT

Colm Ryan of Cork Skeptics will discuss some of the stranger stories arising from our love affair with the cosmos.

Colm will take a sceptical look at astrology, the UFO phenomenon, and the popular conspiracy theories of our culture. In contrast to these are real, scientific quests to find life on planets and moons beyond the Earth.

Lastly, Colm will introduce a baloney detector kit, which may help distinguish outlandish claims from rational scientific discovery.

This talk is part of the Space On The Road! series of events taking place throughout Cork County Libraries this summer, and is one of many events comprising the Summer of Space at Blackrock Castle Observatory. For more information visit www.bco.ie/events or www.ssp17.ie  You can also follow along on social media using #SummerOfSpace #SSP17 #OurSpaceOurTime


This talk takes place in Youghal County Library, Cork at 6:30pm on Thursday 27th July. Admission is free and all are welcome to attend.


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The Importance Of Being Ernst

Cork Skeptics Proudly Present … An Evening With Edzard Ernst
Friday 21 July • 8:00pm • Blackrock Castle Observatory

–> TICKET REQUIRED • BOOK NOW! <–


About the Talk:  Edzard Ernst is an academic tour de force within the skeptic movement.

Starting his career as a medical doctor, he became interested in alternative medicine and eventually became Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, conducting a number of studies into the effectiveness and safety of many common alternative approaches. Finding little evidence supporting the claims made, he has become an outspoken critic of the alternative medicine industry.

As well as over 700 scholarly articles, he co-wrote the bestselling book “Trick or Treatment” with Simon Singh. He retired from academia in 2013, following a dispute with Prince Charles’ Foundation for Integrated Health. Through blogs, newspaper columns and public lectures, he remains actively involved in combatting medical misinformation to the present day.

In 2015, he was awarded the John Maddox Prize for “standing up for science”.

Edzard’s latest book, A Scientist in Wonderland: A Memoir of Searching for Truth and Finding Trouble is available now.


Please Note: While admission is free, this is a ticketed event. We anticipate high demand, so to avoid disappointment, book your ticket now at:
https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/an-evening-with-edzard-ernst-tickets-35303175749


The talk will start at 8.00pm on Friday 21 July at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork. It is free to attend, though tickets are required (see above), and we welcome anyone with an interest in the topic to come along on the night. For directions to Blackrock Castle, see our Skeptics In The Castle information page.

We look forward to seeing you there!


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The Baloney Detection Kit – Further Reading

Thanks to everyone who sat in on one of the talks last night in Blackrock Castle. Here are links to the resources mentioned.

Cork Skeptics

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Colm here! I think I must have spoken to over 200 people last night over the 4 hours. Thanks to everyone for coming along. I hope you found it interesting.

Attached are some links for further reading:

Logical Fallacies

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A core skill in critical thinking is identifying logical fallacies when they occur. Logical fallacies are poor arguments that are used to convince people of your point of view. You might be telling the truth, but such arguments, by themselves, will not make your viewpoint true. They often serve only to mislead others or to allow emotions to override your sense of reason. The website “Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies” gives an introduction to the most common fallacies. A more in-depth description can be found at logicalfallacies.info.

Human Biases

Our brains, while remarkable, contain pretty serious flaws that affect how we absorb experiences, process information and remember things accurately. Optical Illusions show that our brains…

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Here we go again.

Another outbreak of measles in Cork.

In a small number of cases, measles can cause permanent health complications. In extreme cases, it can kill.

Very small babies and immunocompromised children depend on the rest of us being vaccinated in order to avoid contracting the disease.

People who don’t vaccinate their kids put their kids and other children at unnecessary risk. 
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/warning-over-adult-measles-outbreak-in-co-cork-1.2757125


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Anti-vaxxers. No science, but plenty of threats.

Autism campaigner Fiona O’Leary gets threatened by US Film Studio linked to Andrew Wakefield.

Passive Impressions

It takes an extraordinary person to go after a global pseudoscience network and dismantle it, piece by piece. The network involved is the Genesis II cult, whose schtick has been to promise “miracle” cures to parents of autistic children. If they would only drink bleach, or have it forced up their rectums, their children would be cured of autism. These people have made their fortunes by selling industrial bleach to vulnerable parents. They couldn’t care less who got hurt in the process. Despite negative publicity and widespread condemnation, they seemed unstoppable. Business is business, right?

Then someone – a parent of autistic children – took them on. Working with concerned parents in other countries, she got the media to take note. By contacting the papers, independent journalists, TV stations, radio stations and networks, she brought the church’s tactics into the light. Documentaries were commissioned, special investigations produced, exposing Genesis II for who they…

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Rethinking Psychology with Professor Brian Hughes

About the Talk:  Attempts to explain the workings of the human mind have persisted as a popular cultural fascination for centuries. This has led to the emergence of scientific psychology, a modern empirical enterprise that uses scientific methods to resolve uncertainties in our understanding of people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

Nonetheless, psychology attracts significant attention from people who hold deeply negative views about science, and is often studied by students and researchers who lack true scientific rigour. This lecture examines psychology’s relationship with science and pseudoscience. It explores the nature of scientific reasoning, the contrasting way fringe scientists study the mind, and the creep of pseudoscientific practices into mainstream psychology.

It also considers the peculiar biases impeding psychologists from being truly rigorous, and argues that pseudoscience not only damages psychology, but threatens the coherence — and dignity — of humanity at large.

 

About the Speaker: Brian Hughes is Professor in Psychology at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He can be found on Twitter and maintains a blog at thesciencebit.net

His book ‘Rethinking Psychology’ is available now.


This talk begins at 8:00pm on Thursday 2 June. The venue is Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork.

It is free to attend and all are welcome—we look forward to seeing you there!