Cork Skeptics

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

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Dr Paul Deane

On January 17th last, we had the pleasure of hosting Dr Paul Deane to talk about Ireland’s energy futures.

Paul’s talked about nuclear energy, classical fossil energy and renewable energy, and what decisions lie in store for Ireland in the coming decades.

As Paul was eager to point out, there are no silver bullets. Even a best case scenario will not rid us of fossil fuels entirely, but there is an imperative to reduce our dependence on fossils fuels, given the dire impacts on health and the environment.

Paul is a passionate speaker and it was a terrific talk all round. Our thanks again to Paul for enlightening us.

Paul has graciously shared his slides with us. I am attaching the slides here, along with some photos from the meeting.

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The Baloney Detection Kit returns to DeBarras

West Cork Skeptics return to DeBarra’s Folk Club, Clonakilty this month to discuss a current issue from the perspective of scientific skepticism. This month’s presentation ‘The Baloney Detection Kit’ by Colm Ryan.

In a wide-ranging talk, Colm explores the world of strange beliefs and discusses some ways to distinguish between good and bad ideas.

The meeting takes place this Wednesday, October 17th, at 8pm.

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Homeopathy in Organic Farming

Name a country where the Law prioritises Homeopathy over Medicine?

Answer: Ireland (and the UK … and everywhere else in the EU.)

European Council Regulation 834/2007 (Organic Production) Article 14 Clause 1 (e) (ii) states

‘disease shall be treated immediately to avoid suffering to the animal; chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products including antibiotics may be used where necessary and under strict conditions, when the use of phytotherapeutic, homeopathic and other products is inappropriate. In particular restrictions with respect to courses of treatment and withdrawal periods shall be defined;’

This Regulation requires that ‘phytotherapeutic (plant remedies), homeopathic (like cures like) and other products (insert whatever takes your fancy)’ must be used by Organic Farmers in the first instance and thereafter, unless they are ‘inappropriate’. Presumably, only when they have failed may medicinal products be applied though it is especially nonsensical to try to determine when homeopathy, etc becomes ‘inappropriate’ for an animal.

Anyone seeking training in the use Homeopathy on Organic Farms could sign up for the 4-day European Advanced Course on ‘Quantum Agriculture’ currently promoted by Ireland’s National Organic Training Skillnet. In addition to homeopathy this course also covers biodynamics (the incorporation of astrological and spiritual principles into farming) and radionics (disease can be diagnosed and treated using ‘energy’/’frequencies’).  Fortunately, the €460 course fees (along with full board €90/day) is 25% subsidised by Skillnets, funded from the National Training Fund (NTF), funded through a levy on Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI).

A few thoughts ….

1. Why was Organic Farming singled out by the EU for this special measure as Homeopathy and Organic are not related?

2. How was Homeopathy levered into the EU Organic Farming Regulations?

3. If this is such a good idea then why should Non-Organic Farmers not be subject to a similar stipulation?

4. On observing symptoms of Tuberculosis (TB) in cattle should Organic Farmers apply a homeopathic remedy such as Tuberculinum (C12 should do it, no need to go mad!) and wait for it to take effect?

5. What pseudoscience is being contemplated for the next revision of the Regulations?

Author: Vic.

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Help needed: Proposed bill to crack down on fake cancer treatments

Irish patients have completely inadequate legal protection from fake cancer treatments or quack “cures”. Many people have fallen foul of snake-oil peddlers and alternative medicine healers, promising to cure them of their ailments in a “natural” or “side effect free” manner. Such promises rarely work, and vulnerable patients can be diverted down costly blind-alleys, while time ticks away on their treatment options.

Ireland is a hotbed of phoney healers luring vulnerable people into alternative medicine

A new bill is being proposed by Kate O’Connell TD to address this problem. She is getting a huge amount of push-back from various alternative medicine lobby groups, who are  raising all kinds of spurious objections to the proposed bill. Some of the methods used verge on intimidation and bullying. They are clearly worried.

TD says she has received ‘stratospheric’ levels of online abuse after new law proposal

For instance, we have heard that Claire Byrne Live will be discussing the new proposed anti-quack bill tomorrow (Monday) night on RTE1 at 1030pm. We have learned that the Irish Society of Homeopaths are appealing to their members to attend the show and to tweet during the show, so as to make it seem that homeopathy is a legitimate treatment, when it is nothing of the sort. We are asking our skeptically minded friends to please see if they can attend in person or if they can tweet during it to show support for evidence based medicine and a degree of legal protection that may help to alleviate the pressures that affect people with cancer.

Alternatively, please call or email your TD or local representative to show your support for this proposed bill.

Please feel free to share this message. While alternative cancer-cure practitioners have many supporters in Ireland, they work under loose or non-existent regulatory regimes. We are also aware that many people’s lives have been turned upside-down by the actions of unscrupulous healers and alternative practitioners. Now is a chance to take action and to address the imbalance this has caused.

Claire Byrne Live contact details:

  • To book your seat….. CALL the office on 01-2083494 or E-MAIL us on
  • Web page :
  • Twitter:




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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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


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

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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