The 2011 Pigasus Awards

Every year on April 1st, the James Randi Educational Foundation announces the recipients of the Pigasus Awards. They go to psychics, pseudo-scientists, faith healers, and the like — and the people who enable them.

Among the “winners” this year:

  • NASA Engineer Richard B. Hoover, who recently announced for the third time in 14 years that he had found evidence of microscopic life in meteorites
  • CVS/pharmacy, for their work to support the manufacturers of scam “homeopathic” medications who sell up to $870 million a year in quack remedies to U.S. consumers
  • Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has done such a disservice to his TV viewers by promoting quack medical practices
  • Andrew Wakefield, the researcher who launched the modern anti-vaccine panic with unfounded statements linking the MMR vaccine with autism that were not borne out by any research, even his own

There’s also a special “comeback” award for televangelist Peter Popoff… who went bankrupt decades ago after he was exposed (by James Randi) as a con-artist… but is right back on TV offering “supernatural debt relief” and “Miracle Water” on infomercials airing on BET.

This business is so lucrative that according to recent IRS documents, Popoff took in $23.5 million and paid himself and his immediate family more than $1 million in one year alone.

There’s something strange about Popoff receiving this award, though. The reason he’s receiving this distinction is because he’s getting rich by making false promises to gullible people. Is that really any different from certain megachurch pastors?

The only major difference I can think of is that the pastors may sincerely believe they’re helping people… but when that much money comes rolling in, there has to be a voice in their head that says, “The more I tell people what God will do for them, the richer I get! Must. Keep. Making. Bigger. Promises.” Even if they’re not consciously thinking that, they’re still perpetuating a false myth instead of deliberate conning.

So if Popoff gets the Pigasus Award, then those pastors making over $1,000,000/year on the backs of people who buy into their lies ought to receive at least an honorable mention, no?

  • Allecher

    You make a good point, but Popoff is riding the name-recognition from his previous shenanigans.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    Um, yes Popoff is worse because he preys on the sick and poor, convinces them to give up all their money, and discourages them from getting real help. Megachurch pastors are bad, but I think that we can still speak of different levels of evil.

  • Alt+3

    I watched Popoff on TV about a year back and right in the middle of his spiel about his Miracle Cure Water he grabs a bottle of it and holds it up and announces “This water here, this water, I got it on a trip to the Ukraine. I got it while I was at Chernobyl!” I have no idea what he said after that because I laughed for a solid minute.

  • Rest

    It pisses me off that certain TV stations, like Canada’s Vision TV, a so-called family values/religious channel, have no problem airing such crap. Don’t they feel any sense of moral accountability to their viewership, or is it really all just about money? (I think I just answered my question.)

  • Kamaka

    @ Rest

    (I think I just answered my question.)

    Jimmy Swaggart…Jim and Tammy Baker…I could go on, but I think I make my point. *cough* RCC *cough*.

    Dammit, I just spent some money at CVS. That won’t be happening again anytime soon.

  • Vanessa

    Yes! I am glad to see Dr. Oz on this list. He annoys the heck out of me.

  • Meyli

    How did only CVS make this list? I mean, doesn’t practically EVERY pharmacy or even grocery store sell homeopathic medicine in addition to the real stuff…?
    Also, I work at cvs :-/ and our homeopathic options are squished at the bottom of the shelf, and I’ve never seen anyone by them, except maybe the saline drops. Some locations must sell a TON!

  • freddie

    i love randi, but i still dowse

  • http://chrisalgoo.com Chris A

    What’s wrong with Dr. Oz’s medicine? It always seemed based in a solid medical background.