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The weekend’s Skeptics conference was a refreshing reminder that there are sharp-witted people in New Zealand interested in rational thought and with a healthy disdain for pseudo-scientific claims, quackery and silly beliefs.

Some of the conference sessions are available as podcasts over at the Science Media Centre website – more are to come as soon as I find time to upload them. Check them out if you want an insight into the shonky science behind the MMR-autism hoax, the catastrophic theory of Nibiru, the planet set to smash through the solar system and take us out, and the peculiar spike in cases of sudden unexplained acceleration in the wake of the Toyota recall.

It was a shrewd skeptic that alerted me to the imminent arrival of well-known US quack Caroline Myss, who on August 28 will hold an all-day seminar at the Langham hotel in Auckland. The cost is $235 per ticket.

Myss’s line in quackery is of the mystical type. As her website explains…

As a medical intuitive, Caroline can sense if someone is ailing, how soon they will become ill, why they will get ill and where the illness will likely develop. She also specialises in helping people to understand the emotional, psychological and physical reasons behind an illness.

Her flavour of alternative medicine has made her a New York Times best seller with books like last year’s Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason and 2005′s Invisible Acts of Power: Channeling Grace in Your Everyday Life.

Caroline Myss has over 6,400 followers on Twitter. Her last tweet, posted in April read:

I am trying to work out a system to do healings online. What does everyone think?

What will kiwis think of Caroline Myss? Will they flock to the Langham to hear how they can “heal any illness…channel grace…live fearlessly”. Hopefully anyone considering shelling out $235 (plus Ticketek service charges) will read up on Myss first. She may be a best-selling writer, but her PhD appears to come out of a packet of Cornflakes:

She also claims to hold a Ph.D in “intuition and energy medicine”, but the degree was granted by Greenwich University, a now-defunct correspondence school that was never accredited to deliver higher education awards by any recognized government accreditation authority.

Vitamin C as miracle swine flu cure?

Meanwhile, New Zealand-based Sciblogs readers should tune into 60 Minutes on TV3 tomorrow night. I’d be interested in your feedback on the science-related piece they will be running. This is how TV3′s promotional department have described it:

LIVING PROOF?

60 Minutes 18 Aug: The amazing story of a King Country dairy farmer who caught swine flu and very nearly died. Intensive care specialists were all set to pull him off life support, saying there was no hope. But his family refused to give up. They demanded the doctors try high doses of Vitamin C, a radical treatment well outside mainstream medicine. The hospital told them it wouldn’t work but the family insisted. It turned into a fight, the family even hired a top lawyer. But in the end, as Melanie Reid will show you, the farmer is now very much alive. So was it a one-off miracle? Or has the family stumbled on a miracle cure?

Big claims indeed – it is either a one-off miracle or a miracle cure. Let me know what you think – the show screens tomorrow night at 7.30pm on TV3.