2011 JREF Pigasus awards

By Phil Plait | April 1, 2011 11:20 am

Every year, the James Randi Educational Foundation picks the people or organizations who have done the most to promote antireality nonsense and get the public to believe in provably untrue silliness. This dubious honor is called the Pigasus Award after Randi’s official mascot, the flying pig, as in "XXX will be true when pigs fly" — values of XXX include homeopathy, faith healing, dowsing, etc. The awards are appropriately given out every April 1.

This year’s crop has just been announced. I was not surprised to see Richard Hoover listed there for his extremely shaky announcement of life in a meteorite. Hoover published his claims in the Journal of Cosmology, and while I was pretty clear in my posts about the extremely shaky nature of this journal, the JREF simply calls them "crackpot". Heh.

I do have a quibble with the awards this year though. Our old friend Andrew Wakefield — the defrocked, debunked, and discredited founder of the modern antivax movement — was given the "Refusal to Face Reality Award" for his ongoing (and wrong) claims that vaccines cause all sorts of health problems from gastric distress to autism. But it’s not clear he’s refusing to face reality at all. In fact, the point could be made that he may be simply cashing in on parents’ fears, in which case he is facing reality quite squarely.

But that’s merely a quibble. The important thing is that Wakefield’s ignominy is highlighted. And he’s just one of the five, so head over to the JREF site and read about the others who topped this year’s list of this year’s bottom of the barrel.

Image of flying pig is actually of a necklace pendant created by Skepchick Surly Amy, who has tons of great sciencey and skeptical accessories for sale.


Related posts:

Has life been found in a meteorite?
Followup thoughts on the meteorite fossils claim
BREAKING: BMJ calls Andrew Wakefield a fraud
A comic takedown of antivax icon Andrew Wakefield

Comments (24)

Links to this Post

  1. Error-Based Politics | Free Everything | July 14, 2011
  1. Not to be confused with the Pigasus Award for best BBQ. :-)

  2. I interpreted “Refusal to Face Reality” as the refusal to face the fact that he’s an international laughingstock.

  3. Thopter

    @Ken, I had thought that was the best Pig Sauce award…

  4. RobT

    And here I disliked Dr. Oz just because Oprah introduced him to us. Now I have even more reason to dislike him, and by association, Oprah.

    Why does she continue to lend legitimacy to these whack-jobs?

  5. More on Wakefield and Generation Rescue’s legacy in Minnesota at Harpocrates Speaks. He deserves the award, no doubt about it.

  6. Joseph G

    Bravo once again to JREF.

    I have to say, that Popoff guy in particular really pisses me off. Dr. Oz might conceivably be just as famous without promoting crap, and Mr. Hoover might just be straight-up deluded… But Mr. Popoff is blatantly just cashing in. It’s frustrating being dead broke and knowing that I could be quite wealthy if I just had fewer scruples (I live in a town that’s just oozing with woo-believers).
    Damnit.

    Hypothetically, if I marketed some woo nonsense, could I defend it ethically if I later revealed it to be a social experiment/lessons in science awareness, and donated (a little of) the money to JREF? :)

  7. Joseph G

    @#4 RobT: I know. I always thought that the reason Oprah was so successful was that she had one of the few daytime talkshows that didn’t inundate you with sensationalistic bulls**t (eg, obese drug-addict white-supremacist transvestite prostitute pre-teens gone wild!)
    Early on, she really seemed to care about actually informing people. But now…

  8. DeepField

    Is it possible to find out whether known and loud antivaxers have *their children* vaccinated?

  9. Allen L

    Wakefield said the American Academy of Pediatrics and The Lancet are “instruments of a state that I don’t really want to be associated with.” Bad medicine, bad science AND bad geography. Well done rocks-for-brains.

    I tried to watch the Oz show one day. It took 2 minutes before I became sick to my stomach and head. Just like the other Oprah spin-off, Dr Phil, but with a slightly higher education and and better suit. I can’t wait until the real Dr starts. Stetsons are cool!

  10. Keith Bowden

    I love Surly Amy’s pendant. I’d love to have one, but don’t particularly want to do anything to earn the award. Much like I don’t want to earn a Darwin Award. ;)

  11. Svlad Cjelli

    “And here I disliked Dr. Oz just because Oprah introduced him to us. Now I have even more reason to dislike him, and by association, Oprah.

    Why does she continue to lend legitimacy to these whack-jobs?”

    Because she is a whack-job? In what sense is she not?

  12. QuietDesperation

    But it’s not clear he’s refusing to face reality at all. In fact, the point could be made that he may be simply cashing in on parents’ fears, in which case he is facing reality quite squarely.

    I think most pushers of various ideas are like that. I think the Moon Hoaxers are just trying to sell books and videos, and probably believe we went to the Moon, or just don’t actually care. Political pundits from the right (say, Ann Coulter) to the left (say, Michael Moore) are just out to sell books and films to their targeted audiences.

    That’s why I advise not getting overly concerned about ideologues like that. If you are going online and ranting over something they said or did, they’ve owned you. You’re their tool.

    Feh, I just try to avoid it all these days. Got too much going on at work and home. Dr. Oz? WhoTF is that? o.O

  13. Pete Jackson

    Actually, homeopathy could be the savior of several endangered species! If the Chinese and others would believe that elephant tusks or tiger pancreas diluted by factors of trillions of trillions would improve the potency of the potions they make, then only one tiny piece from one animal would suffice forever.

  14. fred edison

    Yeah, what Todd (#5) said. There’s a story going around about Andrew Fakefield (Wakefield?) visiting Somali communities in Minnesota, I’d imagine as a medical consultant of sorts, though I doubt he’d dare to use the former professional association after his credentials were appropriately stripped and he was declared a fraud. Short story is there’s a current measles outbreak in the Somali community in MN, and even though vaccination clinics were set up hardly anyone showed. The baseless fear created by Wakefield and instilled in the minds of parents, rears its false and ugly head once again.

    Wakefield will tell you he isn’t against all vaccinations, but he’s simply cautioning parents to use their own discretion about what vaccinations are safe and to do their own homework. This kind of advice sounds like me trying to rebuild my car engine and then deciding what I can safely throw away from all the dozens of left over parts.

    It doesn’t strike me as someone with a caring attitude to tell people they’re on their own and to essentially play dice with the health of their children. But that’s exactly what he’s telling parents to do, figure it out for themselves and good luck. One thing you can say about Andrew Wakefield, he knows how to stay as a passenger on the runaway autism fear mongering gravy train. Enjoy your JREF award, Mr. Wakefield, you’ve earned it.

    http://apnews.excite.com/article/20110402/D9MBNCMG0.html

  15. Laozi

    I think, in the light of recent events, that the “Refusal to Face Reality Award” should have gone to each and everyone who still believes that nuclear energy is a cheap, reliable, eco-friendly and/or cheap energy source.

  16. PayasYouStargaze

    If only there was a way to get these into a more mainstream media. The JREF can only do so much.

    @14 Laozi. No. Nuclear energy is generally safe, reliable and eco-friendly. Certainly compared to fossil fuels. The people who say otherwise are refusing to face reality.

  17. toasterhead

    Not sure I agree with the association of these antireality fools with Pegasus. That winged horse was pretty badass in Clash of the Titans (the original claymation one, not the non-canonical remake!)

    I’m thinking Pigcarus would be a more appropriate allusion.

  18. @ Toasterhead:

    While I applaud your dismissal of the ultra craptacular remake of the one and only Clash of the Titans, Pegasus was most definitely not created via “claymation,” but rather by the always brilliant stop motion animation of the master, Ray Harryhausen. The model was constructed of foam latex and animal fur over a steel and aluminum armature.

    “Claymation,” first coined by animator Wil Vinton, refers specifically to stop motion with clay figures, such as in the Wallace And Gromit films of Nick Park.

    Now bow down and repeat, “From the land beyond beyond,” fifty times in penance.

    //internet pedantry

  19. Nigel Depledge

    @ Kuhnigget (18) –
    Yay, internet pedantry!

    ;-)

  20. toasterhead

    Ok, good point – e-lashings accepted.

    The worst part of it all – I was going to write “the original Harryhausen one,” but didn’t think enough people would get the reference. Stupid me – I forgot this was the Internet…

  21. You’re forgiven.

  22. Joseph G

    QuietDesperation: That’s why I advise not getting overly concerned about ideologues like that. If you are going online and ranting over something they said or did, they’ve owned you. You’re their tool.

    This. Thisity this this this

  23. physicsmum

    @9 Allen L
    Yes!! The real doctor will fly in and save the world as always!!

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