Open main menu

Gesellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften

The Gesellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften (GWUP) (English: Society for the Scientific Investigation of Parasciences[5]) is a non-profit organisation promoting scientific skepticism, headquartered in Roßdorf, Germany.[6] Its estimated membership in 2016 is 1300[2] who are scientists or laypersons interested in science.[7] The GWUP annually hosts a conference with varying key subjects.[6]

Gesellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften
Gesellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften Logo.svg
Abbreviation GWUP
Formation 1987 (1987)
Type Nonprofit organisation
Purpose Popular education and consumer protection[1]
Headquarters Roßdorf, Germany
Region served
German-speaking Europe
Membership
1300 (2016)[2]
1500 (2017)[3]
Chairperson
Amardeo Sarma[4]
Affiliations European Council of Skeptical Organisations
Website

gwup.org

Contents

Goals and themesEdit

The GWUP regards the critical contemplation of unproven claims in fields such as parasciences, esotericism, superstition, religion and alternative medicine as its main goal.[8] It strives to achieve enlightenment in the sense of popular education and consumer protection.[1] The GWUP underlines the importance of scientific procedures and critical thinking for societal challenges.[9] Besides a theoretical dispute, individuals like dowsers, telekinetics, proponents of energized water scams, practitioners of alternative medicine and astrologers are being criticised and their skills also partially put to empirical examination.

The stated goal of the GWUP is the promotion of critical thinking and the sciences including their methods. Scientific methods should be disseminated, made understandable and applied to parasciences, pseudosciences as well as related belief systems. This also includes educating the general public about the current state of scientific knowledge about parascientific claims.[10]

The GWUP puts a strong emphasis on health topics like complementary and alternative medicine, especially homeopathy. In these areas critical attention is highly indicated, since belief in these inefficacious methods leads to omission of more effective treatments.[11][12] Furthermore, the GWUP discusses occultism, spiritism, esotericism and ideologies that underlie e.g. anthroposophy. Additionally they cover topics like religion, faith, superstition and creationism. Astrology, fortune-telling and prophecies are scrutinised in a yearly prognosis check. Further topics are conspiracy theories, paratechnologies, cryptozoology, ancient astronauts and UFOs.[8]

In Germany, the GWUP has also engaged in school politics. In 2012, it tried to prevent a state school in Hamburg from experimenting with Waldorf education.[13] The open letter of the GWUP Science Council demanded

to put an enlightened, modern and scientific worldview at the centre of school education instead of esoteric doctrines, without fuss or quibble.[13]

OrganisationEdit

 
The GWUP headquarters in Roßdorf.

The GWUP was founded as an Eingetragener Verein in Bonn on 11 October 1987.[14] It is recognised in Germany as a charitable organisation for its dedication to popular education, and it's headquartered in Roßdorf near Darmstadt.[6][15] Since 2008, its chairperson is electrical engineer and CSI fellow Amardeo Sarma, who also presided the European Council of Skeptical Organisations in 2000–2013.[4] The GWUP regards itself as the oldest and largest skeptics' organisation in German-speaking Europe and considers itself to be part of the international skeptical movement.[7] As its predecessor organisations, the GWUP cites the informal Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Skeptiker zur Untersuchung von Pseudowissenschaften und Okkultem (ASUPO, "Working Community of Skeptics for the Investigation of Pseudosciences and Occultism", founded on 7 February 1987) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Bekämpfung des Kurpfuschertums ("German Society for Fighting Quackery", founded in 1903, outlawed by the Nazis in 1934).[16] The Society has a scientific advisory council at its disposal, currently presided by Peter Kröling and Wolfgang Hell. The Science Council has an interdisciplinary composition and comprises scientists, scholars and other people from fields such as medicine, psychology, physics, religious studies, biology, pedagogy, folkloristics and cultural anthropology.[17] The Science Council is intended to secure the scientific standards of the Society's work. A representative of the Science Council is delegated to the GWUP board of directors for this purpose.

In Roßdorf the GWUP maintains the Centre for Science and Critical Thinking (Zentrum für Wissenschaft und kritisches Denken), that is led full-time[6] by Martin Mahner.[1] Amongst other issues, inquiries by journalists and interested people are answered here.[6] It was founded in 1999 and has around 200 enquiries per year.[18][19] It contains a reference library.

Several regional groups of the GWUP exist in Germany and Austria. They are located in Berlin, Essen (for the metropolitan region Rhine-Ruhr), Hamburg, Cologne, Munich, Stuttgart, Würzburg, Vienna and Untersberg (for the region Salzburg/Freilassing).[20] The Viennese group appears in public as Gesellschaft für kritisches Denken (Society for Critical Thinking).[21][22]

ActivitiesEdit

ConferencesEdit

Since 1989 the GWUP yearly hosts a conference to make the outcome of their efforts visible to the public. In July 2011 the conference took place with the title "Fact or Fiction" in the Museum of Natural History in Vienna and the Vienna University of Technology.[23] In 2012 the GWUP hosted the 6th World Skeptics Congress from 18–20 May in Berlin.[24][25][26][27] In 2013, the conference was arranged in Cologne and was named "SkepKon" for the first time.[28] The 2014 conference was arranged in Munich.[29] 2015 the conference took effect in Frankfurt, while the next two years saw them in Hamburg and Berlin. 2018 SkepKon took place in Cologne again.[30]

Das Goldene Brett vorm KopfEdit

The ironic award Das Goldene Brett vorm Kopf (de) is awarded yearly in Vienna.[31] During the 2011 GWUP-conference in Vienna, it was given for the first time, to film director Peter A. Straubinger for his pseudoscientific documentary In the Beginning There Was Light about breatharianism. Straubinger received the award personally.[32][33][34] In 2012 the prize was awarded to Harald Walach. The lifetime achievement award was bestowed to Erich von Däniken.[35] In 2013 the prize was awarded to the organisation "Homeopaths Without Borders".[36]

Psi testEdit

External video
  Hocus pocus? Testing miracles, Deutsche Welle
 
The Centre for Science and Critical Thinking.

Since 2004, the GWUP annually performs experiments to test purported paranormal skills.[14] Initially the experiments were conducted in concordance with James Randi as part of the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge,[37] later independently. The reward for proof of paranormal abilities is a prize money of 10,000 Euros. The testing procedure is agreed upon in advance between the applicant and the GWUP. Until 2010, around 30 candidates have applied to be tested for their psi abilities, most of them dowsers. As of 2014 no one has successfully passed the challenge.[38][39] The most recent Psi test was conducted on August 12, 2013 in the University of Würzburg. Again no test person was able to verify any paranormal ability. The journalist and psychologist Sebastian Bartoschek observed this test.[40]

Prognosis checkEdit

Since 2002 the mathematician Michael Kunkel yearly publishes a retrospection on the astrological predictions of the past year[14][41][42] The predictions are published on Wahrsagercheck ("Fortuneteller Check").[43][44] The predictions are mainly from the Internet (about 70%) while predictions in print (newspapers, magazines and books) make up the other 30%. In 2010, 110 predictions from more than 60 fortunetellers and astrologers were evaluated.[45]

Homeopathy / 10:23 CampaignEdit

The GWUP is a well-known critic of homeopathy.[1][46] In the year 2005, a petition was initiated against the special treatment of homeopathy as a healing method in Germany.[47] In 2011, the GWUP participated in the international 10:23 Campaign, in which critics of homeopathy took an overdose of highly potentised homeopathic dilutions in public, serving as a warning against the scientifically unrecognised foundation of homeopathy and the scientifically unproven working of homeopathic products.[48]

In 2014, the GWUP was mentioned as main critic of the planned bachelor's degree course in homeopathy in Traunstein by several newspapers.[49][50][51][52] Dr. Norbert Aust was quoted as saying: "Homeopathy lacks the ambition of a science to study its own foundations. Research in homeopathy aims only to refute the allegation of ineffectiveness", while GWUP chairman Amardeo Sarma remarked that "the proposed College of Homeopathy in Traunstein is academic fraudulent labelling and gives a pseudoscience a higher reputation".[50][51][52] In April 2014 the implementation of this course was discontinued.[53][54][55]

In May 2018, GWUP issued an invitation to individuals and groups to respond to its challenge "to identify homeopathic preparations in high potency and to give a detailed description on how this can be achieved reproducibly." The first participant to correctly identify selected homeopathic preparations under an agreed-upon protocol will receive €50,000.[56][57]

Skeptics in the PubEdit

Regular lectures in a pub atmosphere about scientific skeptical topics are held in Hamburg,[58] Berlin[59] and Cologne.[60] There are currently over a 100 groups worldwide conducting this informal meeting format known as Skeptics in the Pub.

Publications, blogs and social mediaEdit

Since 1987, the Gesellschaft's quarterly journal Skeptiker publishes articles and interviews that are about the core of the organisation's interests.[61][62] As of 2011, Skeptiker has 2200 subscribers; its managing editor is Inge Hüsgen.[14] The GWUP and several of its members also maintain broadly themed skeptical blogs. The blogs serve the organisation as a supplement to its magazine Skeptiker.[63]

Reception in the mediaEdit

Actions of the GWUP are regularly featured in editor's pieces of the Germanophone mass media.[64] For example, the psi tests of the GWUP and the 2004 One Million Dollar Challenge were presented in the WDR programme Quarks & Co, amongst others.[65] Especially immediately before and during the conference, daily newspapers and online media report on the topics and backgrounds.[1][12] GWUP members are often invited as experts on television shows about subjects with which the organisation is concerned, for example, Heinz Oberhummer on the topic „Wieviel Unvernunft verträgt die Wissenschaft?“ ("How much irrationality can science tolerate?") in the Servus TV programme Talk im Hangar-7,[66] Amardeo Sarma was a guest in the ARD programme Menschen bei Maischberger about „Seher und Propheten“ ("Clairvoyants and Prophets"),[67] Klaus Schmeh at the clairvoyance casting in the RTL programme Punkt 12,[68] Bernd Harder in the SWR programme Menschen der Woche about the "end of the world" predictions concerning 2012.[69]

In 2008, a television documentary about the GWUP's psi tests was shown. The film aired on several television stations within German-speaking Europe under the title „Alles fauler Zauber!? Das Übersinnliche auf dem Prüfstand“ ("All Mumbo-Jumbo!? The Paranormal Put To The Test").[70] The Bayerischer Rundfunk reported on the psi tests of 2011 in their television programme Vor Ort – Die Reportage.[71] The Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk reported on the 2012 psi tests.[72][73]

CriticismEdit

The GWUP faces criticism from the sociologist Edgar Wunder, who has been a founding member. He criticises that the GWUP scarcely investigates paranormal claims and instead primarily promotes a naturalistic worldview.[74][75] He ascribes the GWUP of prejudiced thinking in "ingroup-outgroup" dichotomies. GWUP's chairman Amardeo Sarma states his position in an interview.[76]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e Kurt de Swaaf (31 May 2011). "Schluss mit dem Hokuspokus". Der Standard (in German). Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Bärbel Schwertfeger (19 June 2014). "Skeptiker-Konferenz: Engelkurse und Pseudotherapien" (in German). Wirtschaftspsychologie aktuell. Retrieved 8 November 2016. 
  3. ^ Sebastian Leber (2 May 2017). "Fakten gegen den groben Unsinn". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Amardeo Sarma (GWUP Who Is Who)". GWUP website (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  5. ^ "For International Visitors". GWUP website. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Verstand contra unbekannt". Focus (in German). 13 May 2002. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  7. ^ a b (in German) According to the Society. "Über uns: GWUP – die Skeptiker". GWUP blog. 2007. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Themen nach Gebiet" (in German). GWUP website. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "Was wir wollen" (in German). GWUP website. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  10. ^ GWUP (14 May 2010). "Satzung §2. Zweck (Bylaws §2. Purpose)" (PDF) (in German). GWUP website. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  11. ^ Eva Stanzl (30 May 2011). "Wissen versus Glauben". Wiener Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Josephina Maier (25 May 2009). "Ist das noch normal?". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Rainer Wolf; et al. "Gegen die geplante staatliche Waldorfschule in Hamburg" (in German). GWUP website. Retrieved 4 June 2014.  Open letter of the GWUP Science Council.
    Bernd Harder (26 November 2013). "Waldorf in Hamburg: Esoterik und "abstruse Ideen"" (in German). GWUP blog. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c d "Eine kurze Geschichte der GWUP" (in German). GWUP website. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  15. ^ Birgitta vom Lehn (11 January 2008). "Schummeln gehört zum Magie-Geschäft". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  16. ^ "War die GWUP die erste deutsche Skeptiker-Organisation" (in German). GWUP website. Retrieved 30 March 2016. 
  17. ^ "GWUP-Wissenschaftsrat" (in German). GWUP website. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  18. ^ Mahner, Martin (2002). "Das Zentrum für Wissenschaft und kritisches Denken der GWUP". Skeptiker (in German). GWUP. 27 (4). Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  19. ^ Sophia Seidener (5 March 2010). "Nach Ufos kommt nun die Homöopathie für Tiere". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  20. ^ "Regionalgruppen" (in German). GWUP website. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  21. ^ (in German) Website of the Gesellschaft für kritisches Denken
  22. ^ Stefan Müller (3 May 2012). "Die Apokalypse in den Köpfen". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  23. ^ "GWUP-Konferenz 2011 - Fakt und Fiktion" (in German). GWUP website. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  24. ^ "6th World Skeptics Congress: Promoting Science in an Age of Uncertainty". World Skeptics Congress website. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  25. ^ Christopher Drösser (18 May 2012). "Lobbyisten gegen esoterische Umtriebe". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  26. ^ Alice Ahlers (22 May 2012). "Die Jungfrau weint Männerblut". Frankfurter Rundschau (in German). Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  27. ^ Wolfgang W. Merkel (18 May 2012). "Warum Esoterik und Ufos ernst zu nehmen sind". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  28. ^ Bernd Harder (15 June 2013). "Alle Vorträge der Skepkon 2013 jetzt zum Nachlesen im Blog" (in German). GWUP blog. Retrieved 10 June 2014. /
  29. ^ "Programm SkepKon 2014" (PDF). SkepKon website (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  30. ^ "SkepKon - Archiv". SkepKon.org. GWUP. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 
  31. ^ Alice Ahlers (14 October 2014). "Denkzettel für Scharlatane". Frankfurter Rundschau (in German). Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  32. ^ "Das Goldene Brett vorm Kopf : skeptic award" (in German). Gesellschaft für kritisches Denken. 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  33. ^ "Skeptiker haben drei Preis-Anwärter nominiert". Der Standard (in German). 30 May 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  34. ^ "Skeptiker: "Goldenes Brett" für Lichtnahrungs-Film". Die Presse (in German). 3 June 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  35. ^ ""Goldenes Brett vorm Kopf" für deutschen Universitätsprofessor". Der Standard (in German). 19 October 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  36. ^ ""Goldenes Brett vorm Kopf" für deutschen Universitätsprofessor". Der Standard (in German). 29 November 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  37. ^ Corinna Sachs (12 October 2004). "Der One-Million-Dollar Test". Quarks & Co (in German). WDR. Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  38. ^ Ralf Nestler (21 August 2009). "Die Macht der Strahlen". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 23 June 2014. 
  39. ^ Kramer, Bernd (2011). "Die Geisterjäger". Zeit Wissen (in German). Zeitverlag Gerd Bucerius. 7 (4). Retrieved 23 June 2014. 
  40. ^ Waschkau, Alexa; Waschkau, Alexander (18 August 2013). "'Der PSI-Test der GWUP'" (Podcast). Hoaxilla (in German). Hoaxilla website. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  41. ^ "Prognosencheck 2012". GWUP website (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  42. ^ "Wahrsager sind Unwahrsager – außer Paul". Badische Zeitung (in German). 16 December 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  43. ^ "Wahrsagercheck website (Archives January 2002–December 2009)" (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  44. ^ "Wahrsagercheck Blog (Archives December 2008–present)" (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  45. ^ "Prognosencheck 2010". GWUP website (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  46. ^ Kramer, Bernd (2011). "Der akademische Geist". Zeit Wissen (in German). Die Zeit. 7 (4). Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  47. ^ GWUP (10 May 2005). "Wissenschaftler fassen Resolution zur Homöopathie" (in German). GWUP website. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  48. ^ Bernd Kramer (6 February 2011). "Das war 10:23" (in German). GWUP blog. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  49. ^ Michael van den Heuvel (11 June 2014). "Homöopathie-Studium: Master of Verdünnung" (in German). DocCheck News. Retrieved 22 June 2014. 
  50. ^ a b Heiner Effern (27 March 2014). "Bachelor für Homöopathen - Ärger um die Kügelchen-Akademie" (in German). Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  51. ^ a b Bärbel Schwertfeger (17 February 2014). "Umstrittenes Homöopathie-Studium: Die Globulisierungsfalle" (in German). Spiegel Online. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  52. ^ a b Klaus Schmidt (28 March 2014). "Neues Homöopathie-Studium nur Etikettenschwindel?" (in German). Medical Tribune. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  53. ^ "Globuli-Kunde: Privat-Hochschule gibt Homöopathie-Studiengang auf" (in German). SPIEGEL ONLINE. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  54. ^ Bernd Harder (7 April 2014). "Traunstein – die Begründung" (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  55. ^ Stefani Hergert (16 April 2014). "Nah an den Unternehmen" (in German). Handelsblatt. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  56. ^ Frazier, Kendrick (2018). "Homeopathy Challenge: German Skeptics Offer 50,000 Euros If Test Is Passed". Skeptical Inquirer. 42 (5): 5–6. 
  57. ^ "Challenge". GWUP. Gessellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften e.V. Retrieved 28 August 2018. 
  58. ^ "Skeptics in the Pub". Skeptiker Hamburg website (in German). Skeptiker Hamburg. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  59. ^ "SITP". Berlin Skeptics website. Berlin Skeptics. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  60. ^ "Aktuell". Skeptics in the Pub Köln website (in German). Skeptics in the Pub Köln. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  61. ^ Uwe Kanning (2010). "Schädeldeutung und Co.: Absurde Methoden der Psychodiagnostig" (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  62. ^ "Homöopathischer Vollrausch - Esoterik-Kritik als massentaugliches Edutainment" (in German). GWUP. 2010. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  63. ^ "GWUP – Die Skeptiker". GWUP blog (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  64. ^ "Medienecho Übersicht". GWUP website. GWUP. 2014. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  65. ^ Corinna Sachs; et al. (November 2004). "Der One-Million-Dollar Preis" (PDF). WRD website (in German). WRD. pp. 2–7. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  66. ^ Richtar, Isabella (presenter) (6 May 2010). "Tolle Theorien". Talk im Hangar-7 (in German). Servus TV. Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  67. ^ Felix Ehring (6 January 2010). "Mit Engeln in Kontakt". Menschen bei Maischberger (in German). Frankfurter Rundschau. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  68. ^ Bernd Harder (28 February 2011). "Hellseher-Casting bei RTL: GWUP bohlt mit". GWUP blog (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  69. ^ Frank Elster (presenter) (15 January 2012). "Weltuntergang 2012". Menschen der Woche (in German). SWR Fernsehen. Archived from the original on 17 January 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  70. ^ Claus Hanischdörfer (2008). "Alles fauler Zauber!? Das Übersinnliche auf dem Prüfstand". GWUP (in German). SWR, PHOENIX, ARD-Digital, 3sat. Retrieved 22 July 2014.  Information about the documentary by director Claus Hanischdörfer.
  71. ^ Matthias Ott (editor) (17 January 2012). "Wahre Gabe oder fauler Zauber? – Übersinnliches unter Beweis". Vor Ort – Die Reportage (in German). Bayerischer Rundfunk. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  72. ^ "Die Wunderhändler - Geschäfte mit dem Übersinnlichen". Exact: die Story (in German). Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  73. ^ "Die Wunderhändler – Geschäfte mit dem Übersinnlichen" (in German). YouTube. 22 June 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  74. ^ Christoph Drösser (28 January 1999). "Grabenkämpfe, Glosse zum Streit um die GWUP" (in German). Die Zeit. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  75. ^ Edgar Wunder (2000). "Kritik von Edgar Wunder" (in German). Skeptizismus.de. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  76. ^ "Interview mit Amardeo Sarma" (in German). GWUP. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 

External linksEdit