With great sadness the Flemish Belgian skeptics group SKEPP (Studiekring voor Kritische Evaluatie van Pseudowetenschap en het Paranormale) announces the passing away of their honorary chairman, Prof. Dr. Willem (Wim) Betz, on June 8, 2019. He was seventy-six and had been ill for quite a while.
Betz was well known worldwide as a fierce critic of homeopathy and other unproven remedies and was one of the founders of SKEPP in 1990. He started as its secretary and led the organization from 2005 to 2013 as its president. Betz was also a longtime fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He wrote or cowrote many articles for the Skeptical Inquirer.
Betz, a physician, started off as general practitioner and later became professor of general medicine at the Brussels Free University VUB. In that profession, he was regularly confronted with alternative therapies. Open-minded, he initially took courses in several of them. But very soon he concluded that their effectiveness was unproven and that their success could be explained by psychological effects.
Betz also criticized attempts to bestow recognition to homeopathy, acupuncture, osteopathy, and chiropractic. He noted that one could equally well legitimize the laying on of hands or prayer healing, which score equally well (or badly) for patients due to placebo effects.
His point of view led to animated discussions with opponents, sometimes in national media. That today alternative therapies are still not recognized in Belgium is largely due to Betz’s ardent criticism.
In 2012, Betz was awarded the Outstanding Skeptics Award by the European Council of Skeptical Organizations (ECSO). He was the first Belgian to be awarded the Gebroeders Bruinsma Erepenning by the venerable Dutch Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (Society against Quackery, founded in 1881). He played an important role in our organization and was a source of inspiration to all of us. He will be sorely missed.