pigasusHollywood, CA. —The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) promotes critical thinking through grants for outstanding teachers, scholarships to inspire skeptical students, educational resources for the classroom and general public, and annual conferences showcasing the best of skeptical thought—but every April Fools’ Day, JREF “honors” the five worst offenders who are intentionally or unintentionally peddling harmful paranormal and pseudoscientific nonsense.

Since 1997, the JREF’s annual Pigasus Awards have been bestowed on the most deserving charlatans, swindlers, psychics, pseudo-scientists, and faith healers—and on their credulous promoters, too. The awards are named for both the mythical flying horse Pegasus of Greek mythology, and the highly improbable flying pig of popular cliché.

These are this year’s “winners.”

The Pigasus Award in the Scientist Category goes to Houston biochemist and physician Stanislaw Burzynski, who sells expensive cancer cures by administering “antineoplastons,” costing his customers tens of thousands of dollars, and which have never been shown to be efficacious in controlled trials. His cancer therapy is not FDA approved.  Despite his many customers to whom he sells his so-called “cancer cure,” he has never published the final results of a single clinical trial. The FDA has sent his clinic warning letters about their unsafe research methods and is currently investigating possible violations of rules meant to protect research subjects, including children.

The Pigasus Award for Funder goes to Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center for their funding and promotion of the spurious “contemporary healing modality which evolved from the process of laying-on of hands” called Therapeutic Touch. This practice is approved by a number of professional nursing associations for continuing nursing education, despite the fact that there is no compelling evidence that it works. Pumpkin Hollow is one of the major sources of training and promotion of this harmful and expensive pseudo-therapy. The JREF is conducting a One Million Dollar Challenge of Therapeutic Touch claims at the Franklin Institute this next month.

The Pigasus Award in the Media Category goes to the cable television network SyFy for promoting unfounded paranormal fringe-belief through various shows on its network. While other networks, such as Spike TV, promote the paranormal (for example, Spike TV is to offer a Ten Million Dollar Prize to prove Bigfoot exists through its unscripted TV show 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty) the SyFy channel gives airtime to many more shows than others, including Ghosthunters, Ghost Hunters International, Destination Truth, Fact Or Faked: Paranormal Files, Haunted Collector, Deep South Paranormal, and many others. This is not to mention the network’s many failed attempts at paranormal-themes shows, including 2012’s School Spirits, Paranormal Highway, and Ghost Mine, or new paranormal-themed shows currently in development, including Buyer Beware, Ghost Town, USA and Deadfinder.

The Pigasus Award in the Performer Category goes to entertaining radio host Alex Jones for his continued promotion of quack medicine and unfounded political conspiracy theories. One of the most popular and influential radio personalities in America today, Jones focuses primarily on promoting support for the “Truther” movement, the “Birther” movement, promotion of paranoia surrounding water fluoridation, denial of climate change, beliefs such as that the 2004 tsunami in South Asia and the 2012 Hurricane Sandy were man-made, and various political conspiracy theories, such as belief in a nefarious New World Order, that the Sandy Hook Massacre was a government “false flag” attack to generate public support for gun control, and that the U.S. government engineered the Oklahoma City bombing. His show is also one of the primary promoters of pseudoscientific quack therapies, giving valuable promotion to the complementary and alternative medicine website Natural News, and promoting such quackery like “Supernatural Silver,” a number of expensive water purifiers to remove “poisonous fluoride” from tap water, and dozens of untested herbal and alternative medicine remedies.

The Pigasus Award for Refusal to Face Reality goes to Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Harvard-trained cardiologist who hosts The Dr. Oz Show on broadcast television, one of the most popular syndicated television shows in America. The only person to have won a Pigasus Award two years in a row, he wins a third time this year for his continued promotion of quack medical practices, paranormal belief and pseudoscience, including pseudoscientific Reparative Therapy to "cure" gay people, the “energy-healing practice” of Reiki as a way to cure disease, various TV psychics and mediums such as Theresa Caputo and John Edward, faith healers such as "John of God," GMO conspiracy theories, and any number of new quack diets, herbal remedies, anti-aging cures, and untested “wonder drugs,” among many other pseudoscientific and paranormal claims.

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The James Randi Educational Foundation exposes charlatans and helps people defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. The JREF offers a still-unclaimed million-dollar reward for anyone who can produce evidence of paranormal abilities under controlled conditions. Through scholarships, workshops, and innovative resources for educators, the JREF works to inspire this investigative spirit in a new generation of critical thinkers. |