As I mentioned before: it’s the season for awards and prizes:
It goes all the way back to 1982 when the Australian Skeptics instituted an award to be presented annually at the National Convention to individuals or organisations who made the most outrageous claim of a paranormal or pseudoscientific nature in the preceding year. After conferring with leading American Skeptic and illusionist, James Randi, who had earlier instituted a Bent Spoon award, it was decided that the Australian version would also commemorate one of the less useful, though widely acclaimed, alleged paranormal claims; the psychic ability to distort items of cutlery. So was born the Australian Bent Spoon Award. Some years later, in a masterpiece of alliteration, it was decided that the preamble to the award should read “presented to the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudoscientific piffle”.
For a nomination to be accepted it should include the following details:
- The name and contact details of the nominator (only the name will be listed on the website)
- The name of the person or organisation being nominated
- The reason for the nomination, including a clear explanation of the link to the paranormal or to pseudo-science
The ‘Bent Spoon’ is reserved for people who do their woo in Australia. The organisers also reserve the right to reject nominations that are deemed inappropriate. In particular, defamatory or frivolous nominations will not be accepted.
And here is the fascinating list of former winners that reads like a ‘WHO IS WHO IN AUSTRALIAN QUACKERY’:
- 2022: Maria Carmela Pau, for selling useless COVID vaccination exemption certificates, and claiming medical qualifications she did not have.
- 2021: Craig Kelly MP, for spreading misinformation about COVID and vaccinations, and offering dubious cures and conspiracy theories.
- 2020: Pete Evans for the promotion of the pseudoscientific non-medical BioCharger and continuing his anti-vaccination position.
- 2019: SBS-TV program “Medicine or Myth” for promoting certain alternative medical treatments as if they had scientific credibility as opposed to placebo effectiveness.
- 2018: Sarah Stevenson/Sarah’s Day for the promotion of questionable natural health remedies via her vast network of followers.
- 2017: National Institute of Complementary Medicine and the University of Western Sydney for the continued promotion of disproved and unproved alternative medicine practices.
- 2016: Judy Wilyman, Brian Martin, and the University of Wollongong for awarding Wilyman a doctorate on the basis of a PhD thesis riddled with errors, misstatements, poor and unsupported ‘evidence’ and conspiratorial thinking.
- 2015: Pete Evans, chef, for his diet promotions, campaigns against fluoridation and support of anti-vaccinationists.
- 2014: Dr Larry Marshall, Chief Executive, CSIRO for his support of water divining.
- 2013: Chiropractors’ Association of Australia and the Chiropractic Board of Australia for failing to ensure their own members – including some committee members – adhere to their policy announcements.
- 2012: Fran Sheffield of Homeopathy Plus! for advocating the use of magical sugar and water in place of tried and true vaccination for many deadly diseases, most notably Whooping Cough.
- 2011: RMIT University “for having a fundamentalist chiropractic education program – if the word education can be used in this way – and for endorsing the practice by targeting children and infants in their on-campus paediatric chiropractic clinics”
- 2010: the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (ACARA) for its draft science curriculum.
- 2009: Meryl Dorey and the deceptively named Australian Vaccination Network, who spread fear and misinformation about vaccines
- 2008: Prof Kerryn Phelps
- 2007: Marena Manzoufas, Head of Programming at the ABC for her sterling work in authorising the television show Psychic Investigators, made worse by putting it to air in the Catalyst timeslot
- 2006: The pharmacists of Australia, who manage to forget their scientific training long enough to sell quackery and snake oil (such as Homoeopathy and ear candles) in places where consumers should expect to get real medical supplies and advice. Video of award here.
- 2005: The ABC television program Second Opinion for the uncritical presentation of many forms of quackery.
- 2004: The producers of the ABC television show The New Inventors, principally for giving consideration to an obvious piece of pseudoscience, the AntiBio water water conditioning system
- 2003: The Complementary Healthcare Council
- 2002: Gentle Heal Pty Ltd for the selling of fake (Homoeopathic) vaccine.
- 2001: The Lutec “Free Energy Generator”
- 2000: Jasmuheen who claims one can live without food and water.
- 1999: Mike Willesee for the ‘documentary’ Signs From God.
- 1998: Southern Cross University for offering a degree course in naturopathy, while also claiming to be conducting research into whether there was actually any validity to naturopathy.
- 1997: Dr. Viera Scheibner – Anti-immunisation advocate
- 1996: Marlo Morgan – American new age author who claimed in her book Mutant Message Downunder, that Australian Aborigines could levitate.
- 1995: Tim McCartney-Snape for his promotion of the Foundation for the Adulthood of Mankind.
- 1994: Commonwealth Attorney General for an enterprise agreement with its 2,400 employees that included a clause so any employee, who had taken sick leave, need not provide a medical certificate signed by a medical practitioner, but could provide one signed by a naturopath, herbalist, iridologist, chiropractor or one of assorted other “alternative” practitioners.
- 1993: Steve Vizard’s Tonight Live programme (Channel 7).
- 1992: Allen S Roberts, archaeological research consultant for a search for Noah’s Ark.
- 1991: Woman’s Day magazine for its coverage and support of the paranormal, in particular astrology.
- 1990: Mafu, multilifed entity, channelled by Penny Torres Rubin and who, despite millennia of experience, was remarkable for the banality of his/her pronouncements.
- 1989: Diane McCann who wrote that Adelaide was built on one of the temples of Atlantis.
- 1988: None
- 1987: Anne Dankbaar, Adelaide “psychic”, whose discovery of the Colossus of Rhodes created something of a media stir until it was shown to be modern builders rubble.
- 1986: Peter Brock, prominent racing driver, whose highly touted “energy polariser” generated more heat in the motoring media than it did energy in his car.
- 1985: The Findhorn Festival Group, which sponsored the visit to Australia of American “psychic dentist” Willard Fuller. “Brother” Willard left town just ahead of some injunctions from real dentists.
- 1984: Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works for its payment of $1,823 to US “psychic archaeologist” Karen Hunt to use divining rods to detect an alleged “Electromagnetic Photo Field”
- 1983: Dennis Hassel, “medium” whose chief trick was to make his hand disappear.
- 1982: Tom Wards, self proclaimed “psychic”, whose predictions in the popular press were renowned for their inaccuracy.