IT IS always good to see a great scientific thinker being recognised for their contribution.
So, it is heart-warming to see that well known expert on all things related to health, Pete Evans, receive one of Australia’s highest honours.
The celebrity chef recently received the Australian Skeptics’ Bent Spoon award, becoming the first person to receive the prestigious prize twice.
A key factor in Evans’ win was his promotion of the BioCharger, a miraculous device that, according to its manufacturers, “has [been] proven to restore strength, stamina, coordination and mental clarity”.
The “subtle energy platform”, which looks rather like a cross between an upright kitchen blender and a lava lamp, apparently achieves these astonishing outcomes through the transmission of four different energy types: “Light, voltage, frequencies and harmonics, and pulsed electro-magnetic fields”.
Perhaps the regulators at the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have one tucked away in their office, as they displayed considerable mental clarity earlier this year in fining Evans’ company for claims he had made about the device.
In addition to repeating the manufacturers’ assertions, Evans had allegedly claimed the device could be used in relation to “Wuhan coronavirus”.
“Any claim that references COVID-19 is a restricted representation under therapeutic good legislation, and is of significant concern to the TGA given the heightened public concern about the pandemic,” the agency said, noting there was no apparent foundation to suggestions the device offered benefits related to the virus.
Sadly, the $25 200 fine probably didn’t overly trouble Evans, who continues to sell the device on his website, albeit with disclaimers it is not a medical device. At that special discount price of $14 990, he’d only need to sell two of the things to get his money back.
The Bent Spoon is, as the judges put it, awarded to “the proponent of the most preposterous piece of pseudoscientific or paranormal piffle of the year”.
Past winners have included the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, antivaccine groups, various purveyors of quack remedies, and a psychic dentist.
Evans previously won the spoon in 2015 for his paleo diet advocacy (including the promotion of bone broth as a formula replacement for babies) as well as campaigns against fluoridation and vaccination.
In a year that saw the proliferation of quack cures and conspiracy theories sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, Evans was the clear winner, according to the Skeptics.
In addition to the BioCharger, his case was bolstered by his promotion of the “alarmist, conspiratorial and mis-named” Medical Options Party in the Queensland elections as well as his ongoing antivaccine efforts, including providing a platform to disgraced former doctor Andrew Wakefield.
“Over the years, Evans has added to his portfolio of weirdness,” said Skeptics’ head Tim Mendham. “Each new fetish just puts further strange ideas out there, some silly, some dangerous. He is a deserving winner.”
In the face of “pseudoscientific piffle”, we need their kind of informed analysis more than ever.
Jane McCredie is a health and science writer based in Sydney.
The statements or opinions expressed in this article reflect the views of the authors and do not represent the official policy of the AMA, the MJA or InSight+ unless so stated.