|Founders||Bernard Howard, David Marks, Denis Dutton, Gordon Hewitt, Jim Woolnough, Kerry Chamberlain, Ray Carr|
|Legal status||Incorporated Society, Registered Charity|
|New Zealand Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal|
The NZ Skeptics is a New Zealand incorporated society created in 1986, with the aim of promoting critical thinking. The main areas of interest to the NZ Skeptics are claims of psychic abilities, alternative medicine, creationism and other pseudoscientific claims. At its founding in 1986, it was known as the New Zealand Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (NZCSICOP). In 2007 the name was formally changed to NZ Skeptics Incorporated.
The NZ Skeptics was co-founded (as the New Zealand Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) by David Marks, Denis Dutton, Bernard Howard, Gordon Hewitt, Jim Woolnough, Ray Carr and Kerry Chamberlain in 1986. Other similar organisations exist in the USA (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry), Australia (Australian Skeptics) and India (Indian CSICOP). Denis Dutton was the first chair. Vicki Hyde took over as the first chair-entity (a title devised by Hugh Young both to be all-inclusive and to parody inclusiveness) from 1997–2010. Gold (his only name), who founded the New Zealand Skeptics in the Pub, was chair-entity from 2010–2014. Mark Honeychurch is the current chair. Vicki Hyde continues in the society as a media spokesperson. The English spelling of the word "skeptic" was chosen over the British spelling "sceptic" to more closely associate with the American organisation, and to avoid negative connotations of "being cynical and negative". In 2007 the committee decided to formally change the name to NZ Skeptics Incorporated (NZSI).
The society does not address the topic of religion, not only because there are other organisations better equipped to deal with it, but also because religion is not testable unless the supporter makes a specific claim. The founders felt that people with religious beliefs could also be skeptical of claims of the paranormal and did not want to exclude them.
Due to a concern that the word "skeptic" was being confused by the public and media with respect to climate change NZSI made the following statement in 2014:
The New Zealand Skeptics Society supports the scientific consensus on Climate Change. There is an abundance of evidence demonstrating global mean temperatures are rising, and that humans have had a considerable impact on the natural rate of change. The Society will adjust its position with the scientific consensus.
In 1989 after its first conference NZI had 80 members; by 1999 there were over 500 members. Some notable skeptics such as James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Susan Blackmore, Ian Plimer and John Maddox had visited in that time.
|“||When people ask me who the Skeptics are, I reply “We’re the guys that say the Emperor’s not wearing any clothes and how come no-one else has noticed.”||”|
|— Vicki Hyde 1995|
The NZ Skeptics hold an annual conference during the New Zealand summer. Conferences generally alternate between the three major New Zealand cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with other cities hosting as and when there is sufficient interest.
The NZ Skeptics produce a quarterly journal, called The New Zealand Skeptic, which they send out to all members. The journal has been produced continuously since 1986; shortly after the society's inception.
On 30 January 2010, members in Christchurch participated in a mass overdose, a protest against the selling of homeopathic remedies in pharmacies. The protest was in line with similar activities held on the same day by the 10:23 campaign in the UK.
Skeptics in the Pub events are held throughout New Zealand in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Sensing Murder psychic Sue Nicholson spoke at the 2013 Wellington conference about her 21 years of experiences as a psychic medium. Organiser Vicki Hyde applauded Nicholson's willingness to speak at the conference, saying "many people working in this profession are very reluctant to expose themselves to any critical scrutiny.” Hyde is quick to add that “critical” in this case "involves a spirit of genuine interest and inquiry", even if proof of spirits from the after-life continues to be elusive.
Nicholson stated that her friends told her not to attend the conference, but she said, “I believe in healthy discussion, and we all have our opinions and that’s great. I’m not here to prove anything. I’m not here to convince you. We all have our thoughts, we all have our ideas and that’s how the world goes around.”
3 News attended Nicholson's lecture and wrote, "But despite a colourful performance from Ms Nicholson, this lot remains unconvinced." Nicholson agreed to talk at the conference with the stipulation that the $500 speakers fee would be donated to a Women's Refuge."
In 1988 NZCSICOP member Trevor Reeves wrote a series of letters about psychic Shona Saxon and sent them to the editor of the Dunedin Star Midweek paper, to the Citizens Advice service, to the Dunedin police, and to social welfare. Saxon sued Reeves for malice, claiming embarrassment, humiliation and loss. According to Saxon, Reeves stated that she was "misleading people", "persuading people to go off their prescribed medications" and "upsetting disturbed people... on welfare benefits". The high court judge ruled in favor of Saxon. "[e]ssentially because he did not believe that Ms Saxon had deliberately set out to deceive clients". The judge held that Reeves' "statements were actuated by malice... by gratuitously attack[ing] Ms Saxon's personal integrity." Saxon was awarded a total of $12,000 damages, $6.000 against Reeves and $6000 against Allied Press Ltd. Reeves appealed to the High Court and the damages awarded against him were reduced to $4,500.
Because of the way the NZCSICOP public statements were worded, they were not a party to this action, and escaped what could have been a crippling penalty. The constitution provides suspension or expulsion of any member who brings the society into disrepute. Reeves left NZCSICOP shortly after the judgment was made. The case is recorded as Saxon v Reeves High Court Dunedin A39/87.
Conferences and awards
Each year at the conference the NZ Skeptics hear from a wide range of local and International speakers. A number of awards are presented at the annual conference dinner, notably the 'Bravo Award' for "critical thinking in the public arena", the 'Bent Spoon Award' for "the most gullible or naive reporting in the paranormal or pseudo-science area" and the 'Skeptic of the Year Award' (created in 2014). The name "Bent Spoon" is a reference to the psychic power claimed by Uri Geller.
|Dates||Location||Speakers||Themes and notes|
|August 8–10, 1986||Dunedin||"What is Pseudoscience?" and "Psychics, Clairvoyants and Cold Reading" by Denis Dutton, "Creationism and the Misuse of Biology" by Gordon Hewitt, "The Australia-New Zealand Stop-over for International Psychics" by Mark Plummer (Founding Chairman, Australian Skeptics), "Psychics I Have Known" by David Marks||First conference held at the University of Otago. Registration $5–$10.|
|1992||Wellington||"UFO update" by Felke de Bock, "E-Meter" by Eric Geiringer, "The Placebo Effect" by Bill Morris|
|September 3–5, 1993||Christchurch||"Police Use of Psychics" by detective Ian Holyoake, "Naturally Skeptical" by Margaret Mahy, "Satanic Panics" by Michael Hill, "Maori Science" by Mike Dickison, "The Manna Machine" by Feike de Bock||Membership moves to over 300 persons.|
|1994||unknown||Dave Wilson, "Grand Interplanetary Hoax of 1952" by John Scott|
|1995||Auckland||"Active Skepticism" by Vicki Hyde, "Pseudo-medicine" by John Scott|
|1996||Hamilton||Malcolm Carr, Big Muffin Serious Band||Held at the Chanel Conference Centre|
|1997||Vicki Hyde, "Political Correctness at the Supermarket" by Jay Mann, Denis Dutton, Mike Bradstock, Alan Clarke, David Novitz, Debra Nation, George Balani|
|1998||Wellington||"Satan’s Excellent Adventure in the Antipodes" by Michael Hill, "Can Sharks Save the Human Race?" by Paul Davis, "Real Memories of False Facts" by Maryanne Garry||John Welch opened conference with "do-it-yourself acupuncture". Conference attendees over 140.|
|1999||Auckland||"Hedgehogs, Counselling and the End of the World" by Annette Taylor, "The Danger of Absolute Safety" by Felicity Goodyear-Smith, "The Global Messenger Hoax And The Misinformation Economy" by John Scott, “Reading Cats’ Paws” by Ken Ring, "Philosophical Skepticism Based on the Work of David Hume" by James Allen||"You Are Not Alone" Conference title "From ERA to EAV, the Sorry Saga of the Black Box" by David Cole|
|2000||Dunedin||Ian Plimer, David Marks, Bill Peddie, Barbara Benson, Warwick Don, "Kaikoura UFOs" by Bill Ireland, Richard Mullen||Theme Evolution, Creationism and Education|
|September 21–23, 2001||Hamilton||Bernard Howard, "Gulf War Syndrome" by John Welch, Nick Kim, Mike Clear, Raymond Richards, Doug Edmeades||Held at the Waikato Diocesan School for Girls|
|September 13–15, 2002||Christchurch||"How To Stop a Witch-Hunt" by Lynley Hood||Held at St. Andrews College|
|September 19–21, 2003||Wellington||"Science and Environmental Policy – Challenges and Opportunities" by Bruce Taylor||Held at the Victoria University|
|September 10–12, 2004||Christchurch||"The Mesmerisation of the Media" by David Mcloughlin, "Why are we crying into our beer?" by Owen McShane||Held at St. Andrews College|
|September 30 – October 2, 2005||Rotorua||"Skeptics and the environment" by Keith Garratt, Raymond Bradley, "Maria Duval scam" by Martin Craig, Harry Pert, Kinsley Logan, John Petrie, Hamish Campbell||Held at the Millennium Centre, Rotorua Boys High School|
|September 29 – October 1, 2006||Auckland||Jonathan McKeown-Green, Te Radar, Grant Christie, Judith Goodyear||Held at King's College; 20th Anniversary Celebration|
|September 21–23, 2007||Christchurch||Michael Woolf, Geoff Diggs, Mark Orton||Held at St. Andrews College|
|September 26–28, 2008||Hamilton||Matthew Dentith, Nikos Petousis, Felicity Goodyear-Smith, Alison Campbell, Nathan Grange, Kamya Kameshwar, Zachary Gravatt, Martin Wallace, Glynn Owens, Vincent Gray, Lisa Matisso-Smith||Held at Waikato Dioesan College|
|September 25–27, 2009||Wellington||Bernard Beckett, Matthew Dentith, John Robinson||Documentary Poisoning Paradise: Ecocide in New Zealand was shown and dissected by the Skeptics as a "political push to stop 1080 poisoning that isn’t based on sound scientific facts."|
|August 13–15, 2010||Auckland||Mental magic by Wayne Rogers||Firewalk on Friday the 13th, conference registration $60–80.|
|August 26–28, 2011||Christchurch||Mark Quigley, Kylie Sturgess, Michael Edmonds, Martin Bridgstock, Mark Ottley||150 in attendance|
|August 31 – Sept 2, 2012||Dunedin||Michael Edmonds, Nick Barbalich, David Winter, Richard Walter, Ewan Fordyce, Andrew Scott, Colin Gavaghan, Jean Fleming, Mark Ottley, Dave Veart||Held at Otago University|
|September 6–8, 2013||Wellington||Kylie Sturgess, Siouxsie Wiles, Martin Manning, Matt McCrudden, Pamela Gay, Aimee Whitcroft, David Bulger, Elf Eldridge, Sue Nicholson, Vicki Hyde, Peter Griffin, Loretta Marron||Keynote Pamela Gay Free conference registration for anyone using psychic powers revealing contents of a sealed envelope.|
|December 5–7, 2014||Auckland||George Hrab, Steven Novella, Rebecca Watson, Jay Novella, Bob Novella, Evan Bernstein, Helen Petousis-Harris, Steven Galbraith, Nicola Gaston, Michelle Dickinson, Toby Ricketts, Ben Albert, Ngaire McCarthy, Siouxsie Wiles, Vicki Hyde, Karen Toast Conger, Darcy Cowan, Mark Hanna||Pricing $195–155, live recording of the SGU podcast. SGU quiz show on Friday night run by George Hrab.|
|November 20–22, 2015||Christchurch||Siouxsie Wiles, Kim Socha, Mike Joy, Karl Haro von Mogel, Shaun Holt, Colin Gavaghan, Grant Jacobs, Douglas Campbell, Karen Healey, Vicki Hyde, The Nerd Degree podcast||Called "Apocalypse How?"|
|December 2–4, 2016||Queenstown||Richard Saunders, Loretta Marron, Susan Gerbic, Andrew Digby, Mark Hanna, Tania Lineham, Catherine Low, Mark Bryan, Scott Kennedy|
James Randi toured New Zealand in July 1993, visiting Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington. "However, those unable to see him in person had plenty of opportunity to see him on TV, hear him on radio and read about him in newspapers and magazines. He was tireless in submitting himself to the punishing round of interviews, etc, arranged by our enthusiastic Media Representative. Every interviewer wanted to see him bend spoons, and he left behind him a trail of bent and broken cutlery, the bill for which was not negligible."
George Hrab traveling to the North Island stopped in Wellington on December 1, 2014 for a special skeptics dinner event. Seating was limited to twelve, tickets were auctioned in a blind auction on the NZ skeptic website.
Denis Dutton Skeptic of the Year Award
A Founder of the New Zealand Skeptics, Denis Dutton was a "thought-provoking, good-humoured and inspirational critical thinker" which the group decided to honor with a yearly prize... "to the skeptic who has had the most impact within New Zealand skepticism. The award comes with a year’s free membership to the NZ Skeptics and $100 prize money."
|2014||Mark Hanna||For tirelessly battling pseudoscience via the ASA, MedSafe and many other means, and for creating the Society for Science Based Healthcare.|
|2015||Daniel Ryan||For his work as President of Making Sense Fluoride, including giving a presentation to Hutt City Council – as well as his efforts helping to run the Society for Science Based Healthcare, NZ Skeptics and the Skeptical Activism group in Wellington|
|2016||Siouxsie Wiles||For her continued efforts to bring skepticism to the media. This year alone she’s taken on MPs, anti-vaxxers and Mike Hosking, tackled topics such as e-cigarettes and the zika virus, and appeared in her regular radio slot “Skeptical Thoughts” with Graeme Hill on RadioLive.|
The New Zealand Skeptics recognises "media professionals and those with a high public profile who have provided food for thought, critical analysis and important information on topics of relevance to our interests." According to co-founder Bernard Howard, the Bravo award was meant to be a "carrot" to journalists to reward and encourage good critical thinking in their reporting.
|1995||Kim Hill, Maryanne Ahern, Heather Church||National Radio||Kaimanawa Wall critical coverage|
|1995||Simon Collins||City Voice||March 21, 1995 article on the “Tabaash phenomenon”, an investigation into a Wellington channeller|
|1995||David McLoughlin||Christchurch Civic Creche case TV documentary|
|1995||Mark McNeill||First Hand Productions||TV documentary on false memory syndrome|
|1996||TVNZ Assignment||For the shows The Doctor Who Cried Abuse and Ellis Through the Looking Glass|
|1996||Vincent Heeringa||Metro Magazine||Weird Science and Suppressed Inventions and other Discoveries|
|1996||Noel O'Hare||New Zealand Listener||For False Memory Syndrome|
|1997||Simon Sheppard||The Sunday Star-Times||Apocalypse Soon|
|1997||Jan Sinclair||The Sunday Star-Times||Loving the Aliens|
|1997||TVNZ's Fair Go||Psychics who give "lucky lotto numbers"|
|1998||Nick Smith||For working against psychics in the Olivia Hope and Ben Smart disappearance|
|1998||Angela Gregory||Northern Advocate||“0900 psychic hotlines”|
|1998||Noel O'Hare||New Zealand Listener||Health columnist|
|1998||Greenstone TV||The Mighty Moa|
|1999||Roderick Mulgan||Grace||Wellness column in Grace|
|1999||Pamela Stirling||New Zealand Listener||Article on Quantum Booster and on Cellasene|
|1999||Brian Rudman||The New Zealand Herald||Article on quantum radio frequency booster|
|2000||Michelle Hollis||consumer||Article on how to assess medical claims|
|2000||New Zealand Association of Rationalists & Humanists||For work with Ellen Greve "Jasmuheen"|
|2000||Kim Hill||National Radio||Interview of John Read|
|2000||Matt Philp||New Zealand Listener||God's Classroom|
|2001||Susan Wood||Fiordland moose interview|
|2001||T.W. Walker||Christchurch Press||Gardening column|
|2001||Denise Tutaki||Horowhenua-Kapiti Chronicle||Calling 0900 Psychic… Okay, now tell me something I don’t know|
|2001||Pippa MacKay||Commentaries on cancer remedies|
|2002||Lynley Hood||A City Possessed: the Christchurch Civic Creche Case|
|2002||Noel O'Hare||New Zealand Listener||Health columns including Silent Spring Fever and Get your snake oil here|
|2002||Diana Wichtel||A Monstrous, Lethal Arrogance|
|2002||Joe Bennett||Press columns|
|2003||Alan Pickmere||Alternative medicine claims in Northland|
|2003||Barry Colman||Publication of transcripts from the Christchurch Civic Creche case|
|2005||Rose Hipkins||Campbell Live, TV3||Comments regarding Intelligent Design|
|2005||Chris Barton||Mannatech’s sugar-coated moneymaker|
|2005||Tim Watkins||New Zealand Listener||Star Power|
|2005||Jeremy Wells||Eating Media Lunch||Article psychic and medium business|
|2006||David Russell||Consumer Institute||Leadership in critical thinking|
|2006||Linley Boniface||The Dominion Post||Clairvoyants dead wrong|
|2007||Tristram Clayton||3 News||Psych Addictive|
|2007||Annette King||Attempt to provide standards and accountability via the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill|
|2008||Kathryn Ryan||Interviews with psychic Deb Webber and Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy|
|2008||Royal Society of New Zealand||2008 Big Science Adventure video competition|
|2008||Raybon Kan||The Sunday Star-Times||The column I see dud people|
|2009||Colin Peacock and Jeremy Rose||Mediawatch on Radio New Zealand National||"Every week Colin and Jeremy cast a critical eye on New Zealand media."|
|2009||Rob Harley and Anna McKessar||TV One||Documentary The Worst That Could Happen|
|2009||Hannah Ockelford||Closeup||Filtering the Truth|
|2009||Rebecca Palmer||The Dominion Post||The Devil’s in the Details|
|2010||Kate Newton||The Dominion Post||Item on Victoria University’s embarrassment over the homeopathy course it was offering|
|2010||Jane Luscombe||3 News||A informative look at the belief that amber teething necklaces leach a substance to help babies with pain and depression.|
|2010||Linley Boniface||The Dominion Post||Column Why psychics should butt out of the Aisling Symes case|
|2011||Philip Matthews||Marlborough Express||Article on 1080|
|2011||Janna Sherman||Greymouth Star||Sceptics revel in Hokitika ‘earthquake’ non-event|
|2012||Margo White||New Zealand Listener||Health columns|
|2012||Clive Solomon||Whanganui District Health Board||Supporting evidence-based medicine as the core focus for hospital care|
|2013||Shelley Bridgeman||The New Zealand Herald||Article Can we communicate with dead people?|
|2013||Darcy Cowan||SciBlogs||Getting the Immunisation Awareness Society status corrected within the Charities Register|
|2014||Graeme Hill||Radio Live||Challenging of pseudoscience on Radio Live|
|2014||Russel Norman||Green Party|
|2014||TV One Breakfast Show||TV One||Coverage of the dangers of Miracle Mineral Solution.|
|2015||Ben Albert||University of Auckland||Excellent submission and submitting a letter to the Editor of the NZ Medical Journal|
|2015||Adam Smith||Massey University||Rebuttal in the Herald to TV3’s emotional 3D programme on Gardasil|
|2015||Rosanna Price||Stuff||Skeptical angle on All Black, Waisake Naholo’s “miracle” natural cure|
|2015||Simon Mitchell||University of Auckland||Rebuttal of claims made in an NZ Herald article entitled: Hope is in the air: Hyperbaric chambers – the real deal or a placebo?|
|2016||Lachlan Forsyth||Newshub||Writing pro-vaccine articles and publicly taking on the anti-vaxxers|
|2016||Jess Berentson-Shaw||The Spinoff||Skeptical parenting articles|
|2016||Laura Walters||Stuff||Article on 2016 New Zealand earthquakes providing scientific explanation for origin.|
|2016||Rachel Thomas||Stuff||Article debunking superfoods|
|2016||Mark Hanna & Mark Honeychurch||NZ Skeptics||Provided data to The New Zealand Medical Journal detailing scientific research into Chiropractic|
Bent Spoon Award
The Bent Spoon Award is "named in honour of Uri Geller". Throughout the year, selections are considered for the Bent Spoon award. Ideas are sent to the officers whom gather and retain all ideas until the committee reviews candidates. Those that are considered "truly ridiculous" and selections from outside New Zealand are usually not considered, typically a dozen nominees are selected and voted on by the executive officers. The announcement is usually made in few weeks before each conference in order to "help boost interest in the conference". Candidates considered must be "important enough to deserve attention" and by people who "should know better" ... and be "wilfully misleading with intent to profit." According to Chair-entityship Vicki Hyde in 1996, the group saw an increase in calls from the media which begin with '“We don’t want to get the Bent Spoon so we thought we’d better check with you guys…”' It is gratifying to note that such calls have increased over the past four years."
|1992||Consumers' Institute||Alternative medicine article|
|1993||Country Calendar||Biodynamics as a serious pest control option|
|1994||TV3||Satanic Memories documentary|
|1995||Ministry of Justice||Hitting Home report on domestic violence.|
|1996||New Zealand Qualifications Authority||For seriously considering awarding a Bachelor of Science status for a course at Aoraki Polytech on naturopathy|
|1997||Correspondence School||Numerology lessons in maths class|
|1998||TV2||For misleading the public over the truthfulness of an alleged documentary on alien abductions|
|1999||Paul Holmes||Coverage given to the Liam Williams-Holloway case|
|2000||Wellington Hospital||Supporting healing hands therapy by its nurses|
|2001||TopShelf Production||Hallelujah Healing documentary on faith-healing|
|2002||Jeanette Fitzsimons||For supporting the concept of biodynamic’s “etheralised Cosmic-Astral influences” as a means of ridding New Zealand of possums|
|2003||Justice Minister Phil Goff||For refusing to open the can of worms that is the Christchurch Civic Creche case (Goff was awarded the first-ever Bent Can Opener Award from the New Zealand Skeptics)|
|2004||20/20||For reporter Melanie Reid’s August 22 segment “Back from the Dead” profiling Taranaki medium Jeanette Wilson|
|2005||Tertiary Education Commission||For identifying homeopathic training as a nationally important strategic priority for New Zealand|
|2006||Diana Burns||Come and Be Healed the article in the Listener on Brazilian medium and “miracle-worker” João de Deus|
|2007||TV3 news and Current Affairs and Carol Hirschfeld||For her August 31 interview with self-proclaimed energy healer and clairvoyant Simone Simmons, who claims to be visited regularly by the spirit of Diana, 10 years after the death of the Princess of Wales.|
|2008||Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy||For promoting psychics as “just another tool” in the investigative policing toolbox, helping the “exploitainment” show Sensing Murder|
|2009||Clyde and Steve Graf||For their documentary Poisoning Paradise – Ecocide in New Zealand which claims that 1080 kills large numbers of native birds, poisons soils, persists in water and interferes with human hormones.|
|2010||Rural Women New Zealand and Fonterra||For supporting homeopathic practices on the farm, thereby indicating an ignorance of basic science and a lack of concern for animal welfare.|
|2011||Gullible media outlets and personalities||For taking Ken Ring's earthquake prediction claims at face value|
|2012||Consumer magazine||For continuing to promote homeopathic products as a viable alternative to evidence-based medical treatments|
|2013||Hamilton City Council||For ignoring the evidence of the public health value of fluoridation|
|2014||Steffan Browning||For signing a petition that called on the World Health Organisation to “End the suffering of the Ebola crisis, by testing and distributing homeopathy as quickly as possible to contain the outbreaks.”|
|2015||Pharmacy Council||For suggesting, when faced with the fact that pharmacists were not complying with their Code of Ethics, that a viable solution was to change their Code of Ethics.|
|2016||The New Zealand Herald||For publishing a variety of pseudoscience articles presented as fact without refutation.|
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