2010 Skeptic North Awards!

We’re trying something new here at Skeptic North, and we want YOU, the readers to help us out!

Note:  For the 2010 season, there is no "Spookiest Ghost" award.  Sorry.

Skeptic North Awards may or may not look like this.

2010 has been an interesting year of science and skepticism in Canada, and we thought that it would be fun to have a little bit of an award ceremony, but without the ceremony.  Or the actual award.  Okay, we’re just going to say some funny things and hopefully have a little chuckle while discussing some pretty serious issues.

We’ve come up with a few nominations for those Canadians who best worked to promote critical thinking, and scientific skepticism in 2010.  And following the Australian example of the Bent Spoon Award, we’re also going to be giving an ‘award’ to the Canadian who least promoted critical thinking, and/or committed the most egregious offenses against science and reason.

We’ve got the nominations, but you do the voting! So lets get to it!

For the Canadian(s) who best promoted critical thinking and scientific skepticism in 2010, the nominees are (in alphabetical order):

  • Rob Breakenridge: Radio host of The Rob Breakenridge Show on Calgary’s AM 770, CHQR,  for excellent skeptical coverage on a regular basis, and for regularly presenting science issues in the light of science, not simply of populism.
  • Dan Gardner: Author, lecturer and journalist for the Ottawa Citizen, for furthering our understanding of law, policy, and the psychology of fear and risk assessment.
  • Jonathan Kay:  Contributor to the National Post for excellent dissection and discussion of conspiracy theory thinking.
  • Dr. Lorne Trottier:  For hosting the Lorne Trottier Symposium, which this year brought in Skeptical luminaries such as James Randi, Michael Shermer, and Ben Goldacre; and for co-authoring a study effectively debunking a flawed EMF health study.

And for the Canadian(s) who least contributed to science, critical thinking, and held back any hope of of a helpful dialogue, the nominees are (in alphabetical order):

Things to note / Disclaimer

Voting will commence immediately.  Polling will be closed on Dec 31 12:00 am PST.  Winners will be announced early in the new year.

Winners will be notified by email, twitter, Facebook, and public announcement (i.e. this blog), and pretty much any way we can get a hold of them.  We may even have a press release.  Because we’re grown ups, and press releases are the kind of things that grown ups do.

There were many people and organizations to choose from this year, and we truly would like to nominate them all.

The awards themselves are entirely virtual.  They carry no physical or financial benefits whatsoever, and cannot be exchanged for other skeptical awards.  Skeptic North is entirely owned and operated by volunteers, and no money exists within this organization, and no author receives payment for their work here.

Our making of these awards do not indicate that we are in any way responsible for any actions made possible by it.

In the event that an individual or organization cannot fulfill their obligations as award winners, it won’t make any difference because these awards carry no weight or responsibility whatsoever.  It’s simply our, and the readers’ way of saying “Thank You” or “Thanks for nothing”.

Now, get voting!

  • Dr. Lorne Trottier (38%, 34 Votes)
  • Rob Breakenridge (25%, 22 Votes)
  • Dan Gardner (24%, 21 Votes)
  • Jonathan Kay (13%, 12 Votes)
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  • Dr. Magda Havas (43%, 42 Votes)
  • Rodney Palmer (22%, 22 Votes)
  • Bryce Wylde (20%, 20 Votes)
  • The Toronto Whole Life Expo (15%, 14 Votes)
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8 Responses to “2010 Skeptic North Awards!”

  1. David says:

    I don’t know any of the Best Skeptic nominees here, but Rob Breakenridge struck me as being the most influential based on the links that were provided. He seems to cover a much wider variety of subjects than the other nominees do, and should therefore be pulling in a more “mainstream” audience.

  2. Ian says:

    Breakenridge immediately loses a vote for his dogmatic commitment to libertarianism. Similarly, there is too much doubt on the Whole Life Expo issue for me to know the whole story, so call me sceptical since I don’t completely accept your claims of harassment uncritically.

  3. DR says:

    Why is Harper not amongst the people who contributed the least to science? He is pretty much at the source of a lot of anti-science bunk, encouraging the fundies in their attacks on reason (not the least by hiring so many of them to work for him).

  4. Another vote for Harper and his attempts to filter what public funded science news gets out to the public, and for enabling noted wack-job Stockwell Day to remain gainfully employed.

  5. Bruce Head says:

    So glad to see Havas on the dark list. She has done a lot of damage to critical thinking and science here in Peterborough, Ontario, and she continues to do it. Just the other day, I read a letter in the local paper where a person, who had attended a Havas-sponsored “public information session” on “industrial-strength Wi-Fi” in Peterborough, attributed all sorts of cancers and other diseases to non-ionizing radiation. I only wish I had the time and energy to take Havas on in public.

  6. I’m all in favour of giving a Havas a lifetime achievement award as a thorn in the side of sceptical thinking. Wherever there is someone bringing up the horrors of cell phones, cell towers, Wi Fi, or any sort of non-ionizing radiation, she is lurking right behind them.

    Individuals like Palmer would have no traction whatever without her support.

  7. Chris says:

    I’m curious as to what medical degree or scientific degree you have, Steve. You seem to be such an expert in biology. I notice you attended Trent. Hmmmn… You must have some connection to either James Burrett or the other immature physics professors who seem to have a bone to pick with Magda Havas.

    I hope, Mr. Thoms, that you are around in the next decade when the warnings that hundreds of scientists from around the world have been making about non-ionizing radiation come to fruition.

    I am reminded of the commercials in the 60′s that portrayed ‘Camels’ Cigarettes’ as being the cigarettes most recommended by doctors.
    It is people like you, Mr. Thoms, who are doing a grave disservice to society – not independently funded and respected scientists like Magda Havas.

    Now – go back to playing your flute or whatever else it is that you are an expert in.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      @ Chris:
      Why must I have some connection to Burrett or “the other immature physics professors”? In truth, I have no idea who Burrett is. It’s almost as if I can come to these conclusions on my own. Imagine that!

      The frequencies at which wifi and cellphones operate on have already been (and continue to be)studied for decades. Decades. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not a new science, and is older than I. But I’m touched that you hope that I will live long enough to see the next decade. So do I!

      You say that there are hundreds of scientists from around the world who are warning about non-ionizing radiation [emitted by wifi and cellphones]? Well, I know of several thousand that say otherwise. I may be a simple music teacher, but one thing I do know, is what number is bigger than another.

      It’s not always easy for a simpleton musician such as I to navigate the various scientific fields (I can barely muster enough of my caveman like brain to string three words together on a GOOD day!), and the best I can do is listen to what the scientific consensus says. If the vast majority of relevant scientists say that human activity is causing global warming, who am I to say otherwise?

      If the vast majority of scientists in a relevant field say that the pitifully low energies that are found in wifi and cellphone signals don’t harm human tissue (and certainly not at the level of sterilization and cancer-causing that Havas talks about), who am I to argue?

      As it turns out, the vast majority of scientists say exactly that. Here is a comprehensive list of the various health agencies and studies that have concluded as such (not compiled by a simpleton such as I). Note the sheer numbers. They’re more than “hundreds.”

      Being that Havas is in the minority, don’t you think it would be MORE dishonest of me to listen to her? After all, I’m a simple music teacher, and I can’t navigate the landscape on my own, so the very best option for me, stupid as I am, is to listen to what MOST scientists say…not the fringe.

      As for the Camels cigarettes comparison, your analogy works on a historical level only IF wifi is proven to be dangerous. It works as a great story, but I’m afraid that the physiology of lungs is quite different from non-ionizing radiation and wireless communication signals. Yes, cigarette companies once vouched for their safety because they had a lot to lose if otherwise was true (in much the same way that both wireless communication companies AND Magda Havas would both stand to lose if their opposing points were valid). But just because some people once said cigarettes were safe, is no reason to think that wifi is dangerous. That’s what we in the music teacher trade call “very very silly.”

      After all, people also once said that tooth paste, electricity, and elevators were safe…..and they still do!

      Until Havas can design a better study ( not one that involves 4 people, and gets false positive effects from the detection device rather than the subjects ), I can not seriously consider Havas a “respected” scientist, nor can I take your criticism of me seriously.

      I’m on the side of the vast majority of scientists. Whose side are you on?


  • Steve Thoms

    Steve is a professional music teacher living in Kitchener, Ontario. He studied recorded music production at Fanshawe College, and Political Studies/History at Trent University, where he specialized in political economy and global politics. He is an amateur astronomer, and an award-winning astro-photographer. Steve also runs the blog, Oot and Aboot with Some Canadian Skeptic." can can be followed on Twitter, @SomeCndnSkeptic.