||This article may contain improper references to self-published sources. (June 2013)|
|Formation||8 June 1990|
|Purpose||promotion of scientific skepticism|
SKEPP is an independent Belgian skeptical organization. The organization’s name is an acronym for Studiekring voor de Kritische Evaluatie van Pseudowetenschap en het Paranormale ("Study Circle for the Critical Evaluation of Pseudoscience and the Paranormal").
This nonprofit organization grew out of the Belgian astronomical society, Vereniging voor Sterrenkunde, and was founded in 1990 by, among others, Prof. Etienne Vermeersch, Prof. Willem Betz, Tim Trachet and Prof. Jean Paul Van Bendegem.
The goals of the organization are to:
- Conduct critical research into claims that are either highly unlikely based on current scientific knowledge or that contradict this knowledge. Specifically, SKEPP focuses on pseudoscientific claims as well as claims of paranormal events.
- Not reject claims or theories a priori. Their value is only determined after critical examination and an objective assessment of all arguments, free from philosophical, religious and political views.
- Collect and make available literature, documents and other materials that relate to the above-mentioned claims.
- Communicate the results of their own and others' critical research by publishing a periodical, organizing lectures and conferences, conducting educational outreach via media, schools, etc.
- Maintain contacts with organizations who share these or similar goals.
SKEPP gets most of its funding from member fees. On the initiative of board member and former editor-in-chief Tom Schoepen, SKEPP has been publishing its own three-monthly magazine since 2000, Wonder en is gheen wonder, a magazine for science and reason, which focuses on both pseudoscientific topics and topics that relate to the philosophy of science. The editors include Prof. Dr. Johan Braeckman (Ghent University), Dr. Griet Vandermassen (Ghent University), Geerdt Magiels and SKEPP founder Tim Trachet.
Since 1996 SKEPP gives out annual awards to non-members: the Zesde vijs (the “Sixth Screw”) and the Skeptische Put (de “Skeptical Pit”).
The Zesde Vijs is awarded to "someone who has distinguished themselves in the past year in spreading objective knowledge regarding pseudoscience and the paranormal, or who has made themselves noticed in the media by presenting a nunanced critical view or a thoroughly documented argumentation". This prize has been awarded to, among others:
- The Science Editorial Staff of the Flemish daily newspaper De Standaard (2011),
- The TV program Ook getest op mensen, VRT - Eén (2010),
- Ilse van Lysebeth and Ellen Vermeulen (2009),
- Bruno Clément from the RTBF current affairs program Questions à la Une (2008),
- Jan Vanlangendonck from the Flemish radio channel Radio 1 (2007),
- Journalist and philosopher Joël de Ceulaer from the Flemish magazine Knack (2005),
- Journalist Mark Eeckhaut from De Standaard (2004),
- Former dean of Ghent University Prof. Dr. Andreas De Leenheer (2003),
- Communication scientists Prof. Dr. Els De Bens and Dr. Karin Raeymaeckers (2002),
- The Flemish radio program Jongens en Wetenschap (2001),
- Journalist Wim Daems from the Belgian science magazine Eos (1999),
- Dutch psychologist Hans Crombach (1998),
- Physicist Jean Bricmont (1997),
- Historian and moral philosopher Prof. Dr. Gie van den Berghe (1996).
The Skeptische Put is awarded to "someone who, according to SKEPP, has displayed exceptionally uncritical thinking and who has totally misunderstood the popularization of science and knowledge". The Skeptische Put has been awarded to, among others:
- The three major Belgian health insurance organizations (2003),
- Journalist Willem J. Duckaert in the Belgian magazines Blik and maar Natuurlijk! (2002),
- Singer Ingeborg Sergeant (1999),
- Velazquez Paranormal Consulting (1997).
Since its founding, SKEPP has become quite widely known via the Belgian media. They are often called upon to present their critical perspective when a paranormal or pseudoscientific topic comes up. In 2004 the organization made headlines when thirty skeptics at Ghent University conducted a “mass suicide” attempt by taking an overdose of homeopathically diluted snake venom, belladonna, and arsenic. The goal of this action was to demonstrate that homeopathic products contain no active ingredients. Additionally, the Belgian health insurance organization were accused of putting themselves above the law as commercial entities by reimbursing alternative treatments. According their SKEPP, by reimbursing these alternative treatments, they give the impression to the Belgian public that these are effective medications or treatments.
The One Million Euro Sisyphus Prize
Since 1 October 2012 the organization has pledged to award the 1-million-euro Sisyphus prize, to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal abilities under controlled conditions. This includes paranormal phenomena as well as homeopathy. The same challenge is also offered by various other European skeptical organizations and serves as the equivalent of the American One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, which is offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation.
As of 4 June 2014, its website describes the prize as both "20 000 (twenty five thousand) euro" and "the 10 000 euro prize". It informs that "the text and protocol are being rewritten and will soon be available again". The same webpage provides a link to the (outdated) Dutch-language subscription form. Applying for the prize would cost 50 euro.
- Official website
- Stichting SKEPSIS (Dutch sister foundation of SKEPP)
- European Council of Skeptical Organizations
- Bonneux, Luc (May–June 2004), Belgium Skeptics Commit Mass Suicide, Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 28 (3), ISSN 0194-6730
- "Sisyphus Prijs van €10.000 opgetrokken tot €1.000.000 (één miljoen euro) [Sisyphus Prize increased from € 10,000 to € 1,000,000 (one million euro)]" (in Dutch). Belgium. 28 September 2012. Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie. Radio 1. http://www.radio1.be/programmas/nieuwe-feiten/sisyphus-prijs-van-%E2%82%AC10000-opgetrokken-tot-%E2%82%AC1000000-%C3%A9%C3%A9n-miljoen-euro.
- "Sisyphus prize | SKEPP". Skepp.be. Retrieved 2014-06-12.