Updated: Dec 15, 2020
The Ockham Awards, which were inaugurated way back in 2012 by The Skeptic’s then editor-in-chief Deborah Hyde to draw attention to those people who work hard to get a great message out, have been revitalised with the relatively recent addition of the Rusty Razor in 2017, which spotlights prominent promoters of unscientific ideas. And, this year’s winner, to be announced at this week's SITP Online, will join a growing list of usual suspects to have been cut down to size.
The inaugural award found a highly popular recipient in the form of Gwyneth Paltrow’s "wellness" brand Goop thanks to what Deborah Hyde describes as a surprising number of public vote nominations. Hyde lamented that at a time when measles and whooping cough were on the rise due to reduced rates of vaccination, "people prefer to contemplate their yonis," a reference to the company’s discredited vaginal jade eggs which did much to secure the win.
Hyde’s comments seemed almost prophetic the following year when Goop lost out to disgraced and discredited anti-vax promoter Dr. Andrew Wakefield whose now retracted 1998 paper, which fraudulently alleged an autism-vaccine connection, has been described as "the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years," and whose legacy The Skeptic described as "long-lived." "The evidence is overwhelming that vaccination is safe," Hyde reiterated. "Protect your children and your community by using it."
Hopes for this year are high in the Trump team, who after narrowly missing out on the win in 2018 have seen their nominee go from anti-vaccine promotion and climate change denial through cancer causing windmills and bleach injections to becoming the "single largest driver of misinformation around Covid," according to a study from Cornell University. Indeed, such is the confidence that some have attached rusty razors to the campaign's posters.
Speaking of the Ockham awards, Hyde has said her pride is in being an organisation that gets the good news out there, and the addition of the Rusty Razor has certainly brought with it the media coverage necessary to disseminate that message. Previous winners have found their glory celebrated in the reportage of such august institutions as IFLScience, The Daily Mail, Fox News and Breitbart (I’ll spare you the links), it’ll be interesting to see what this year brings.