Archive

[The Skeptic] [Archive] [Shirley Ghostman] [Feb 2002 review] [Charity Firewalk] [Ex-Skeptic's letter] [Nick's Firewalk] [Taverne Debate]

Previous meetings have featured the following speakers and topics:

Date Speaker

Topic

Monday 17th November 2008

Neil Arnold
Neil Arnold

For more than seventeen years Neil Arnold has tracked, monitored and collated evidence of felids such as Puma, Leopard and Lynx in the wilds. His blog is the only investigation into sightings and evidence of large, exotic cats roaming Kent, Sussex and London. He is the author of "Monster! - The A-Z of Zooform Phenomena"
Beasts on the Loose

Neil Arnold takes a look at big cat sightings in the UK Sightings of large cats date back several centuries, proving that the so called 'big cat' situation is not a modern enigma. Neil Arnold looks at the history and evidence of sightings around the South East.
Monday 20th October 2008

Jon Ronson
Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of the top-ten-bestselling Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats. His documentaries include the acclaimed series The Secret Rulers of the World, which accompanied Them and, most recently, The Crazy Rulers of the World which ran alongside Goats. Jon lives in London with his wife and son.
Journalist and award winning documentary film maker Jon Ronson will be popping by to say "Hello!", and give us the low down of his last few projects. Namely a trip with Robbie Williams to an alien abductee's convention in Nevada, a meeting with TV psychic Sylvia Browne, his book; The Men Who Stare at Goats, being made into a film starring Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges and produced by George Clooney, and a few other bits 'n' bobs. I'm sure he'll be happy to field questions on rummaging around Stanley Kubrick's attic too.
Monday 13th October 2008

Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor joined the staff of Answers in Genesis (UK/Europe) in August 2005 as a writer and speaker. He is now Head of Media and Publications and editor for Answers Update. Paul regularly contributes to the AiG website and Answers Magazine and writes articles published in various Christian magazines. Paul graduated from Nottingham with a BSc in Chemistry in 1982. He then took a year's Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and taught science in state schools for 17 years, eventually becoming a Head of Department, and gaining a Masters in Science Education at Cardiff University. After becoming a Christian in his late teens Paul had a Saturday job in a Christian bookshop in Ashton. It was there that he first noticed a booklet by a group of Christians who did not believe in the theory of evolution! This was a complete shock to Paul, because he could not conceive how people could fail to believe in what he thought was established scientific fact. However, the bookshop manager persuaded him that it made scientific sense to believe the Bible's account of creation in Genesis, and sent Paul home with such books as Evolution or Creation by Professor Enoch, The Genesis Flood by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, and Morris' The Genesis Record. Now convinced of the truth of Genesis, and, therefore, of the whole Bible, Paul began to propagate these views, writing articles for his church magazine. As a schoolteacher, Paul frequently challenged pupils to think through the issue of origins for themselves, rather than accept evolutionary orthodoxy. These teaching methods, particularly as Paul began developing curricula, frequently brought him into conflict with more evolutionary-minded staff. He is the author of two books: The Six Days of Genesis and Truth, Lies and Science Education.
Why don’t creationists just shut up?

Why do creationists believe what they believe? Is it, to quote Richard Dawkins, just “blind faith in the absence, or even in the teeth, of evidence”? The illustrated talk will argue that even those who don’t accept their conclusions should recognise that there is a solid logic to a young earth creationist position.

Monday 15th September 2008

Monster
Dr Ben Goldacre

Ben Goldacre is a writer, broadcaster and medical doctor from the UK who is best known for the "Bad Science" column in the Guardian newspaper. Examining claims of scaremongering journalists, quack health products, pseudoscientific cosmetics adverts, and evil multinational pharmaceutical corporations, as well as wider themes such as the medicalisation of everyday life and the psychology of irrational beliefs. He has a background in medicine and academia and trained in Oxford and London. He works full time for the NHS.
Bad Science

Dr Ben Goldacre talks about Bad Science. His book "Bad Science" is published in September by 4th Estate. It will cause amusing squabbles with people who do not like to discuss evidence.

Monday 18th August 2008

Doug Ellison
Doug Ellison

Doug Ellison is a Multimedia Producer for a Medical E-Learning firm by day, but in his free time, he started a forum to share and compare techniques and ideas of rover image processing which turned into Unmannedspaceflight.com in early 2005.  He has given many lectures to schools, local astronomy societies, and the British Astronomical Association about the rovers and other Mars missions, and he produces Rover Audio Updates with Jim Bell for The Planetary Society Website.
The Truth About Mars

From websites to the blogsphere, controversial books and the tabloid media love the Red Planet. They tell of the "Face on Mars", spacecraft conspiracies, Cydonia, unnatural rock formations and a cover-up to hide 'the truth' about Mars. With half a dozen spacecraft on or around Mars, data is streaming back at an unprecedented rate, adding new layers of detail to our understanding of the Red Planet. Doug Ellison takes you on a tour of the more popular conspiracies and fringe theories, and presents the raw data that tells us the 'Truth about Mars'.
Monday, 21st July 2008

Terry Sanderson

Terry Sanderson

Terry Sanderson is the President of the National Secular Society. He is also a freelance journalist and his column in GT magazine is the longest-running feature in any gay paper in the world – 25 years and still going strong. He has also been an agony aunt on Woman's Own under the tutelage of Claire Rayner.
A World Religious Revival: Fact or Fiction?

There are repeated claims that there is some kind of massive religious revival going on around the world – but is it true? Terry Sanderson takes a skeptical look at the figures and finds that all is not as it seems.
Tuesday, 24th June 2008

S. Fred Singer

S. Fred Singer

S. Fred Singer is an atmospheric physicist and Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and former director of the US Weather Satellite Service. His most recent book "Unstoppable Global Warming – Every 1500 Years" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007) presents the evidence for natural climate cycles of warming and cooling. He is the organizer of NIPCC (Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change) and editor of the NIPCC Report "Nature, Not Human Activity, Controls the Climate" [2008], which responds to the claims of the UN-IPCC. As a reviewer of IPCC reports, he shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.
Global Warming: Science, Economics, and some Moral Issues: What Al Gore Never Told You.

The science is settled: Evidence clearly demonstrates that carbon dioxide contributes insignificantly to Global Warming and is therefore not a 'pollutant.' This fact has not yet been widely recognized, and irrational Global Warming fears continue to distort energy policies and foreign policy. All efforts to curtail CO2 emissions, whether global, federal, or at the state level, are pointless -- and in any case, ineffective and very costly. On the whole, a warmer climate is beneficial. Fred will comment on the vast number of implications.
Tuesday 17th June 2008

Dr. Ciarán O’Keeffe

Steve Parsons

Dr. Ciarán O’Keeffe and Steve Parsons

Ciarán is currently employed as a Research Associate at University of Paris specialising in Parapsychology and Investigative Psychology. He is also an associate of the Centre for Critical Incident Research at Liverpool University. He regularly provides a sceptical voice to various ‘paranormal’ shows (e.g. Living TV’s 'Most Haunted', and 'Jane Goldman Investigates') as well as numerous documentaries on the subject. A psychologist operating on science’s fringe, he's been involved in many unusual projects: the physiological effects of infrasound, ghost investigation of Hampton Court, an exorcism ‘training day’ and lie detecting for the movie ‘Spy Game’.

Steve is co-founder of Para.Science, an investigative group based in the North West of England. Steve has appeared on several documentaries focused on ghosts. His investigations and knowledge of all manner of ghostly things have been featured on National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel and the BBC. He even surfaced briefly on Living TV’s Most Haunted. He is currently studying for a PhD at Liverpool Hope University covering infrasound and haunting experiences.

How not to investigate the Paranormal

The title says it all. Steve and Ciarán amuse with their horror stories from the world of paranormal investigation. They discuss equipment faux-pas, television investigations and unusual cases. As well as discussing ethics, and presenting the most extreme unethical stories, Steve and Ciarán candidly discuss hilarious cases brought to their attention and their most embarrassing moments investigating in the dark!

Tuesday, 20th May 2008

Richard J. Evans

Richard J. Evans

Richard J. Evans is Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University. His books include "The Coming of the Third Reich" and "The Third Reich in Power", both published by Penguin. He has taught in adult education at Birkbeck, and at Gresham College, and contributes occasionally to radio and television, most recently to Radio 4's "In Our Time" and Channel 5 televsion's "Hitler Speaks". He lives with his family near Cambridge and in his spare time enjoys playing the piano and taking his dog for long walks in the Cambridgeshire countryside.
Holocaust denial and freedom of speech

Conspiracy theories about recent and even more distant historical events have become ever more widespread, especially with the growth of the Internet. One such theory, generally known as "Holocaust denial", claims that professional historians, the mass media, and governments have conspired to suppress the truth about the Nazi extermination of the Jews during the Second World War - which is that it never happened.  

How has this theory come about? Who supports it , and why? How do its proponents deal with their critics? What, if anything, could or should be done to combat Holocaust denial? This talk draws on the speaker's experiences as an expert witness in a High Court libel case to suggest some answers.
Saturday, 10th May 2008 Skeptics in the Pub Outing!  

On 10 May 2008, SitP is having an outing to the Mystic Arts psychic fair at Olympia (http://www.themysticarts.co.uk/). A limited number of tickets at a discounted price (£5.50 instead of £7.50) are available, and if you'd like to come, you can secure your ticket by contacting Jon Cohen at jon_cohen@mac.com. You can purchase a tee-shirt from Jon for the additional, low, low cost price of £4.00 by letting him know your size in the email. We expect to have a fun afternoon asking questions of the psychics, and having our auras read ("why are you telling me it's blue when that psychic over there said it was red?") and our chakras aligned.
Tuesday, 6th May 2008

Mahlon Wagner

Mahlon Wagner

Mahlon Wagner (Professor Emeritus of Psychology - State University of New York) taught experimental psychology, statistics, research design, history of psychology and parapsychology for 30 years at Oswego. During that time he became intimately involved in "critical thinking" and wrote several articles on attitudes toward the "lunar influences on behaviour" and "attitudes of college professors toward parapsychology."  

He has been a member of the GWUP (German Skeptics Group) since 1989 and have been a visiting professor at the Universitiy of the Saarland in Saarbruecken and the Justus-Liebig University, Giessen in Germany.
Chiropractic - A 113 year struggle from pseudoscience to legitimacy

In the US, Chiropractic is the second largest of the health-care professions with close to 50,000 practitioners (Doctors of Chiropractic, or D.C.). Significant numbers of chiropractors also exist in the UK and Europe as well as Australia.  

Mahlon will examine the origins of Chiropractic (a healer in 1895), the questionable diagnostic and treatments used, reasons for their success, and public attitudes toward (and satisfaction with) chiropractic as compared to traditional medicine.  
Monday, 21st April 2008

Phil Plait

Astronaut
Dr Phil Plait

Phil Plait is an internationally renowned astronomer, author, and lecturer. His numerous appearances on radio, television, podcasts, and live in front of audiences have made him a celebrity in science circles, and put him in demand as an expert on astronomical matters. He has been interviewed on literally hundreds of national and local radio and TV stations about astronomical topics ranging from lunar eclipses to the fate of the Universe. His stock-in-trade is dealing with myths, misconceptions and plain old mistakes people make about astronomy. His website, Bad Astronomy, is a virtual encyclopaedia of astronomical errors, and his blog is one of the most popular science blogs on the web, with thousands of fans eagerly reading it every day. His writing has appeared in dozens of magazines, and his first book, Bad Astronomy, was a trade science hit.
The Moon Hoax Hoax & Bad Astronomy

Do you think NASA faked the Apollo Moon landings? Do you wonder if there are aliens on Mars, building giant structures? Or that they may even be here, on Earth, abducting people and performing bizarre experiments? Phil Plait will look at the world of conspiracies, scare stories and myths surrounding astronomy.
Tuesday 15th April 2008


David Allen Green

David is a solicitor in London with wide experience of the communications, media and public sector fields. He is the author of the chapters on the restrictions that criminal law places on free speech in the current edition of Law and the Media.
The Skeptic in the Courtroom

Courtroom

This talk will address, in an objective and balanced manner, how the law deals with certain controversial issues of belief and non-belief. Prompted by recent developments, the talk wil explore whether the courtroom is really the appropriate forum for settling disputes that relate to controversial issues of belief and non-belief.

For example, the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951, the last remnant of the old witchcraft legislation, is to be repealed in April 2008. Mediums and psychics will now be under a new and modern legal regime in respect of any unfair commercial practices. But how will these new sanctions work in practice? Will mediums and psychics who adopt questionable practices be more or less likely to face legal action?

The ancient common law offence of blasphemy may also soon be abolished. A recent High Court decision has effectively narrowed its scope in any case. There is the new offence of incitement to religious hatred. But can the legal process really deal with what can be questions of religious dispute?

Other examples of where the law grapples with issues of belief and non-belief include the "Evolution" trials in United States, the Holocaust denal trials, and when religious groups seek to incorporate aspects of religious law into more general legal systems.

The talk will describe and assess these and other legal developments, using practical examples. It will also offer practical suggestions for both skeptics and non-skeptics on how legal regimes may affect them.
Tuesday 1st April 2008

Dr Simon Singh 

Dr Simon Singh

After completing a PhD in particle physics, Simon Singh joined the BBC and worked as a director and producer on programmes such as Tomorrow's World and Horizon (NOVA in the US). He has also presented programmes on Radio 4, BBC4 and Channel 4. He is best known as the author of Fermat's Last Theorem, The Code Book and Big Bang. His next book is published in April - Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial.
Science and the Media - Can we trust TV?

TV producers have to entertain, inform and grab large audiences in an
increasingly competitive media market.
How do they balance accuracy with excitement? Simon Singh discusses various science documentaries and gives his opinion on where things went right, and where they went horribly wrong.
Tuesday 18th March 2008

David Colquhoun

Andy Lewis

Andy Lewis & Professor David Colquhoun

David Colquhoun is a pharmacologist at University College London who writes the Improbable Science blog and website at DCScience and Andy Lewis is the creator and writer of The Quackometer blog.
Regulating Alternative Medicine: Are the Quacks Ducking the Issues?

2008 is going to see a big battle between various groups as to who gets to pretend to regulate alternative therapists. The Government, through Prince Charles' Foundation for Integrated Health, is setting up The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, a voluntary federal register. The problem is, no one appears to want to join. Various homoeopaths' Membership Groups are setting up their own 'Single Registers'. More fundamentally, no group looking at this issue appears to want to tackle the inconvenient problem that most alternative therapies do no work and their practitioners hold strange and sometimes dangerous beliefs. Two sceptical bloggers will explore the issues.
Tuesday 19th February 2008

Dr Matthew Smith

Dr Matthew Smith

Dr Matthew Smith joined Liverpool Hope University in 1999 and has recently conducted research on replication issues in parapsychology and psychological variables associated with paranormal belief. Dr Smith was awarded his PhD on the psychology and parapsychology of luck from the University of Hertfordshire in 1998 under the guidance of Prof. Richard Wiseman. Matthew was awarded the Gertrude Schmeidler Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Parapsychology by the Parapsychological Association. Dr Smith�s current research, funded by the Bial Foundation, is examining the role of experimenter variables in ganzfeld-ESP research. Matthew has also received funding from the Perrott-Warrick Fund, the Parapsychology Foundation, and the Society for Psychical Research. Matthew has made several television appearances as a Resident Parapsychologist for Living TV's Most Haunted.
Confessions of a Spiritual Junkie: A Psychologist's Search for Enlightenment

What do the Loch Ness Monster, Noel Edmonds, magic-eye pictures, butterflies, forgiveness, and the number 42 all have in common? Could it be they all have something to do with the meaning of life? Or are they simply the not so random thoughts of a man going through a mid-life crisis? Join psychologist Matthew Smith on his search for spiritual enlightenment and the meaning of life. (Although my money is on the mid-life crisis...)
Tuesday 15th January 2008

Nick Pope

Nick Pope

Nick used to work at the Ministry of Defence, where from 1991 to 1994 he was posted to a division where his duties included investigating UFOs. Initially sceptical, his official research and investigation convinced him that the UFO phenomenon raised important defence, national security and flight safety issues. He was particularly interested in cases where the witnesses were pilots or where UFOs were tracked on radar. Nick is now recognised as a leading authority on UFOs and the unexplained.

The British X-Files

Nick Pope will discuss the Ministry of Defence's policy on UFOs, explain how investigations are undertaken and discuss some of the UK's best known UFO sightings. He'll give some new insights into Britain's most famous UFO incident, in Rendlesham Forest, and will discuss his investigation into a case from 1993 which involved liaison with the US Embassy and led to the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff being briefed. Nick will also discuss the MoD's remote viewing study and their involvement in the crop circle mystery. Finally, Nick will talk about the Freedom of Information Act, the release of MoD files on UFOs, and all the latest UFO-related news.

Tuesday 11th December 2007

Mark Vernon

Dr. Mark Vernon

Mark Vernon was an Anglican priest, left a conviction atheist, but now finds himself to be a committed and increasingly passionate agnostic. His book, After Atheism: Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life, is part personal story, part philosophical search. Mark is a journalist as well as writer, an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck College, and also author of The Philosophy of Friendship and What Not To Say. For more info and a good read see www.markvernon.com.
How to be an Agnostic and Why it Matters

The broadside against religion launched by a new generation of evangelical atheists has generated much heat but little light. Locked in battle against their Christian opponents the argument goes nowhere fast, and in an age of extremism, nurtures the dangerous vice of intolerance. To put it another way, the contemporary lust for certainty is demeaning of any real spiritual or humanist quest. It loses sight of the key to wisdom - as Socrates, the great theologians and the best scientists knew it � namely, a deepening understanding of the limits of our knowledge. This talk, which it is hoped will prompt a fulsome discussion, will ask how to be an agnostic and why it matters.
Tuesday 20th November 2007

Chris French

Professor Chris French

Chris French is a Professor of Psychology and Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths College, University of London (www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/apru). He teaches a course entitled Anomalistic Psychology as part of the BSc (Hons) Psychology programme at Goldsmiths College. He is a Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers & Commerce, and the Institute for Cultural Research. He is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society and the Advisory Board of the Center for Inquiry, London. He has published over 100 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main current area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. In addition to academic activities, such as conference presentations and invited talks in other departments, he frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims.
Many happy returns? Investigating reincarnation claims in the Lebanon

The arguments put forward in support of reincarnation are critically evaluated with particular emphasis on the version of reincarnation held by the Druse. The Druse are members of a religious sect founded in 1042, who live mainly in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel. A number of cases from an investigation in 1998 in Lebanon will be presented and evaluated.

Tuesday 16th October 2007
7pm at The Penderel's Oak

Emma-Loiuse Rhodes

Emma-Louise Rhodes

Emma-Louise is a researcher of psychic phenomena and the Spiritualist faith. Articles published this year have included �Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Psychics and the Media�, �The Psychic Industry: Supply and Demand� and �Psychics on eBay� (for the forthcoming addition of The Skeptic). She runs the sceptical website A Matter of Life and Death, which is a resource dedicated to examining and explaining the paranormal.

The Relevance of Spiritualism in Society Today

The talk will examine the brief history of the Spiritualist movement and the growth of it as a mainstream faith in Britain. Phenomena inexorably linked with Spiritualism, such as materialisations, apports and the spirit trumpet will be discussed, along with the functions of the Spiritualist church. The industry behind the movement will also be examined, and the �need� to believe in the unbelievable.

Tuesday 18th September 2007

Richard Wiseman

Prof. Richard Wiseman How not to investigate the Paranormal
Thursday 30th August 2007
7.30pm at The Old Kings Head

Victor Stenger

Victor Stenger

Victor is emeritus professor of physics at the University of Hawaii and adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado. He is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a research fellow of the Center for Inquiry. He has also held visiting positions on the faculties of the University of Heidelberg, Oxford University and has been a visiting researcher at the Rutherford Laboratory, the National Nuclear Physics Laboratory in Frascati and the University of Florence.

God: The Failed Hypothesis

In my 2003 book "Has Science Found God?" I provided a critique of contemporary claims that science supports the existence of God and found them inadequate.I will go much further and argue that science makes a strong case against the existence a God with the traditional attributes of the Judaic-Christian-Islamic God. My argument is not based simply on the gross absence of evidence for this God. Not only is there no evidence for God, I  argue that the evidence we have can be used to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that this God does not exist. Not only does the universe show no evidence of its existence, it looks exactly as it would be expected to look if there is no God.
Thursday 19th July 2007

Timothy Good

Timothy Good

Timothy Good is widely regarded as one of the world's leading experts on UFOs and alien phenomena. He has lectured at the Royal Canadian Military Institute, the Royal Naval Air Station Portland, and has been invited for discussions at the Pentagon's Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office and at the headquarters of the French Air Force. He has also acted as consultant for several US Congress investigations.

Good's first book, Above Top Secret (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1987), became a best-seller and is widely regarded as the definitive book on the subject, together with the fully revised and updated book replacing it, Beyond Top Secret (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1996), which remained for five weeks on the Sunday Times bestseller list. Alien Liaison (Century, 1991) spent 13 weeks on the same bestseller list. Alien Base (Century, 1998) and Unearthly Disclosure (Century, 2000), followed. Four of these books have forewords by Admiral of the Fleet The Lord Hill-Norton, former Chief of the Defence Staff. Good has also edited four books on the subject, including the best-selling Alien Update (Arrow, 1993).
 
Timothy is also a professional freelance violinist, and was a member of the London Symphony Orchestra for 14 years and has played with all London's major orchestras. Nowadays, he freelances for concerts, and occasionally for feature films, commercials, and recordings with pop musicians.
Need to Know: UFOs, the Military and Intelligence
 
Timothy's talk will be based on his latest book, Need to Know: UFOs, the Military and Intelligence, first published last year by Sidgwick & Jackson. The updated paperback is due for publication by Pan on 06 July 2007. As his publisher writes:-
 
"Need to Know is a compelling expose of top-secret documents, interviews with key witnesses and discussions with military and intelligence specialists, pilots, politicians and scientists. It is full of revelations, including the alarmingly high number of aircraft crashes following military attacks on UFOs; the disappearance of hundreds of military and civilian aircraft during  UFO encounters; and the amazing information provided by a surgeon who operated on an alien captured by the Brazilian army in 1996 . . . Need to Know proves that UFOs are a real and current problem facing governments worldwide."
 
 
Thursday 21st June 2007

Julian Baggini

Julian Baggini

Julian Baggini is a philosopher, writer and journalist. He was awarded a PhD from University College London for his thesis on the philosophy of personal identity in 1996. He then went on to found The Philosophers' Magazine with Jeremy Stangroom, supporting himself with jobs that included teaching and, increasingly, journalism and writing.

He has authored, co-authored and co-edited several books. Among the most significant of these was his first major trade book, Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headines and the textbook he co-authored with Peter S. Fosl, The Philosophers' Toolkit, which went through several reprints in its first year. The Pig that Wants to be Eaten became a popular science best seller and his latest book is Welcome to Everytown, which charts six months in a "typical" English town.

Julian is increasingly in demand as a journalist and commentator, writing for The Guardian, for BBC News Online, Prospect, Times Education Supplement, the Observer and New Humanist, among others. He makes regular appearances on national radio and television.

Being sceptical of scepticism: Ways of being wrong.

John Stuart Mill once said, "In all intellectual debates, both sides tend to be correct in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny." He was wrong in what he affirmed, but right in what he denied, namely that people are usually wholly right or wrong. To undertake a sensitive critique of any belief, it is important to be very clear not just about the literal content of the belief in question, but what lies behind it and motivates it. Although some beliefs are just irredeemably batty, many wrong beliefs mask valuable truths. A scepticism which fails to save these from the wreckage of critique is an impoverished one. In my talk, I will attempt to outline some of the ways in which scepticism can fail to see the coal for the dirt.

Thursday 17th May 2007

Mike Heap

Mike Heap

Mike Heap is a clinical and forensic psychologist in Sheffield. He has a part-time contract with Wathwood Hospital, a medium secure unit in Rotherham and the rest of the time prepares psychological reports for the Civil and Criminal Courts. He has a special interest in hypnosis and has authored and edited a number of books on the subject. He is a founding member of the Association for Skeptical Enquiry and is its current chairman and editor of the Newsletter and the Skeptical Intelligencer. He also writes a regular column for The Skeptic Magazine. For copies of various writings visit his website, www.mheap.com.

Suggestion, the paranormal and unusual claims

The presentation concerns suggestion and suggestibility and their relation to certain unusual and paranormal claims. I shall say a little about the nature of hypnosis but will concentrate mainly on ideomotor suggestion. There will be live demonstrations and plenty of opportunity for audience participation. 

 

Thursday 19th April 2007

Nick Pullar

Nick Pullar

Nick Pullar has lived in London for the past five and a half years. He has worked as an IT Manager, but is now leaving the UK to live in Hungary with his family. Because of the poor customer service culture in the UK, he plans to run a customer services consultancy and website from Hungary.

Five years of Skeptics in the Pub

Nick Pullar has run Skeptics in the Pub for the past five years. Today is his last meeting. Join him as he looks back on his time running Skeptics in the Pub, and why it's great to be a skeptic.

Thursday 15th March 2007 Jean  La Fontaine

Jean  La Fontaine  was born and went to school in Kenya, but received a B.A. and Ph D. from Cambridge. Her first research was in Uganda, followed later by research in Kinshasa, capital of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and then in Britain.

After ten years being a diplomat's wife, she taught anthropology in London University, retiring early to work free-lance.  Subsequent research included a study of incest and a Government funded investigation of allegations concerning allegations of devil worship in England.

Jean is the author of several books: City Politics - Leopoldville 1962-1963; Initiation; What is Social Anthropology? Child Sexual Abuse; Speak of the Devil - Tales of Ritual Abuse in Contemporary England.

Hidden Enemies

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Britain experienced a widely-publicised panic about what was called satanic abuse. This term referred to the belief that groups of satan-worshippers were sexually abusing children in rituals that included human sacrifice, cannibalism, incest and other extreme and orgiastic behaviour. The lecture will consider the origins of the scare, the implications of the way it was promoted and then try to draw some generalised lessons from it. In particular it will argue that such scares are encouraged by an intellectual climate where belief and experience count for more than evidence and reasoning.

Thursday 15th February 2007

Loius Constandinos

Louis Constandinos

Louis is a research scientist currently working for a leading pharmaceutical company in Kent. Louis has a BSc(Hons) in Chemistry from the University of Leicester. After his first degree he spent five years in the pharmaceutical industry in a variety of research roles before moving to the University of Nottingham to undertake research for his PhD in synthetic chemistry. Louis is a lifelong skeptic and atheist. He has been captivated by all science from an early age and, myriad adventures along the way aside, now gets paid to do what he loves, if only between meetings.

Clarion: A call to rational arms

Are things really as bad as they seem? Is science, as Carl Sagan put it really "A candle in the dark"? With brother stabbing brother in the "rationalist camp", are the hordes of irrationailty, superstition and dogmatic religion triumphant? Perhaps it was ever thus. Is the battle against irrationality taken up by people like James Randi, Richard Dawkins, and other uncountable luminaries, unwinnable? Is it even a battle worth fighting? If so, how should we fight it? Is it even, in fact, analogous to a battle at all? This talk doesn't seek to conclusively answer all these questions (and many more), merely to put forward a series of possible answers for discussion.

Thursday 1st February 2007

Krissy Wilson

Krissy Wilson

Dr Krissy Wilson has just completed her PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her main areas of interest are the psychology of belief, the unreliable nature of eyewitness testimony, false memories and the impact of belief. She has recently published articles in Personality and Individual Differences, The European Journal of Parapsychology and The British Journal of Psychology. She has also written a recent review of the medium Sharon O'Neill for The Skeptic. Krissy regularly appears on TV and on radio discussing a variety of paranormal subjects and has recently co-presented Believe it or not! for ITV West Country. However, her main claim to fame is that she once played a prostitute on The Bill!

Thanks for the Memories!

Thirty years of research has shown that memory is not the reliable store that was once thought. Memory is in fact a constructive process, vulnerable to all kinds of misinformation, suggestion and individual biases. For three years I have been investigating a variety of different phenomena of memory for both normal and ostensibly paranormal events. My research focuses on the unreliable nature of eyewitness testimony and explores how far individual differences might render someone more susceptible to distortions of memory and in particular how belief in, and experience of the paranormal impact on both perception and memory.

There is a forum thread for discussing this talk here.

Thursday 21st December 2006

Dick Taverne

Lord Dick Taverne

Dick Taverne is a former barrister (QC), was an MP and Minister (Financial Secretary, Treasury), launched the Institute for Fiscal Studies in 1971 and founded Sense About Science in 2002, to promote good science and the evidence-based approach to public debate about scientific issues. He wrote The March of Unreason published last year and recently received the Science Writers� Award of �Parliamentary Science Communicator of the Year�. He was made a peer in 1996.

Sense About Science

I founded SAS four years ago to try to reverse the current mood of suspicion towards science. There is a strong Back to Nature fashion- e.g. alternative medicine, organic farming, opposition to GM and invocation of the precautionary principle. I would add, a new wave of religiosity, including the government�s disastrous decision to promote faith schools, but SAS has not taken on religion.

Our main aim � very successful � was to mobilise scientists to take a more active part in public debate. We now have a list of some 1,000 scientists who are willing to take part in public debate. We have also established good relations with science journalists and have set up an enthusiastic group of young scientists �Voice of Young Science�.

One approach has been establish expert panels on special subjects, who produce statements on public misconceptions: Sense about chemicals, radiation, homeopathy, organic farming and (coming soon) the weather. A major effort has been producing a paper on the importance of peer review (�Who can you believe�), which has so far had requests for over 60,000 copies.

I regard the struggle to promote Enlightenment values against the current reaction as part of the struggle for a more civilised society, which depends on the gradual erosion of superstition and ignorance by reason and the evidence-based approach.

There is a forum thread for discussing this talk here.

Thursday 16th November 2006

Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of the top-ten-bestselling Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats. His documentaries include the acclaimed series The Secret Rulers of the World, which accompanied Them and, most recently, The Crazy Rulers of the World which ran alongside Goats. Jon lives in London with his wife and son.

Out of the Ordinary

Jon Ronson�s subjects have included people who believe that goats can be killed by the power of a really hard stare, and people who believe that the world is ruled by twelve-foot lizard-men. In Out of the Ordinary, a collection of his journalism from the Guardian � many pieces expanded and updated - he turns his attention to irrational beliefs much closer to home, investigating the ways in which we sometimes manage to convince ourselves that all manner of lunacy makes perfect sense � mainstream, domestic, ordinary insanity. Whether he finds himself promising his son that he will be at his side for ever, dressed in a Santa costume, or trying to understand why hundreds of apparently normal people would suddenly start speaking in tongues in a Scout hut in Kidderminster, he demonstrates repeatedly how we all succumb to deeply irrational beliefs that grow to inform our everyday existence. Out of the Ordinary is Jon Ronson at his inimitable best: hilarious, thought-provoking and with an unerring eye for human frailty � not least his own.

Thursday 26th October 2006
 

Richard Wiseman

Richard Wiseman

Psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman started his working life as a professional magician and currently holds Britain�s only Professorship in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He frequently appears on the media, and has written over 60 academic articles and several books, including The Luck Factor.

Richard will chat about television and the paranormal, the need for positive skepticism, religious belief, magic, and the science of speed dating.
Thursday 28th September 2006
 

Chris French

Professor Chris French

Chris French is a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths College, University of London and Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit within the Department of Psychology. He is also co-editor of the Skeptic. He frequently appears on the media and is the author of over 80 publications in various areas of psychology. His primary current research interest is the psychology of paranormal belief and ostensibly paranormal experiences.

Six Years of Weird Science at the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit

The Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit was founded in 2000. This talk will provide an overview of the research carried out over the last years as well as ongoing and forthcoming projects.

Thursday 24th August 2006

Martin Poulter

Martin Poulter

Martin Poulter used to be a regular at SitP when Scott Campbell ran it (and his excuse for not coming now is that he lives in Bristol!) and he's been reading the Skeptical Inquirer all his adult life. He has a PhD in the Philosophy of Science, after doing a first degree in Psychology and Philosophy at Oxford.

Since Feb 1995, he's been an activist against Scientology, including some media appearances and quotations, because of its attacks on the internet. Martin started the first UK-based critical web site about Scientology.

Martin has had two threats of legal action, a "death stare" and numerous threats from the Scientologists in response to his activities.

Scientology: It's worse than you think

A lot of people I talk to know there's something dodgy about Scientology, but their knowledge about it is vague: they only know it's "bizarre" and has something to do with UFOs. This is unfair to the Scientologists but also underestimates their potential harm by writing them off as merely silly. I will focus on specific allegations about Scientology theory and practice and show the leaked internal documents that back the allegations up.

Scientology covers a lot of topics that skeptics are concerned about: pseudoscience, psychic powers, pseudohistory, bogus medical practice, mega-doses of vitamins, truth-relativism, therapeutic touch so I will show how Scientology practices and institutionalises each of these.

I realise that "anti-cult activists" have a bad reputation with some of the skeptical community, with some people saying the "anti-cult" is itself a cult. I'm happy to address this, or to go in pretty much whatever direction the audience want on the night once I've made my initial presentation!

Thursday 20th July 2006

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. He is the author of twelve books, including two popular works, "Kuhn vs Popper" and "The Intellectual". He has addressed many academic and popular audiences around the world. He is interested in how knowledge is authorized in modern democracies, especially as it relates to the public understanding of science. Recently Fuller served as an expert witness at the Pennsylvania trial on intelligent design vs. evolution.

An expert witness for the defence

Steve Fuller will describe his experiences at the Pennsylvania trial on intelligent design vs. evolution, where he was an expert witness for the Creationist school board.

Thursday 22nd June 2006

Lynette Davidson

Lynette Davidson

Dr Lynette Davidson was a university administrator in Canada before she figured out that the university would never put her in charge of anything without a doctorate. Several years and two more degrees later, she still does a great deal of administration. She did her graduate work in modern British history at Oxford. She works as a college history lecturer and as an historical consultant for television, and she lives in Surrey with her partner and two daughters. She is an erratic golfer and a connoisseur of inexpensive wine.

Bad History?

The Financial Times called history "the new sex" in 2004. History television and popular history books have boomed in recent years, showing a hearty appetite on the part of non-specialists for tales of the past.

There is, however, a darker side to this popularity. One British writer has recently been jailed for what he has written. Two authors have sued the author of  The DaVinci Code for using the ideas they presented as historical fact.

Are consumers of popular history buying a product that does what it says on the tin? Or are they being manipulated by authors and producers who make things up and present them as fact? Is there such a thing as bad history?

Thursday 18th May 2006 Professor Bernard Carr

Bernard Carr is Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Queen Mary, University of London. He recently completed a 4-year stint as President of the Society for Psychical Research and has a long-standing interest in the subject. He is particularly intrigued in whether physics can be extended to incorporate mind and paranormal phenomena.

Psychical research in the 21st Century

The great challenge of psychical research is that some of the phenomena it investigates seem to involve a direct interaction between mind and the physical world. Any theoretical framework for the subject therefore requires some sort of extension of physics. This is the remit of what is sometimes termed �paraphysics�, in contrast to �parapsychology�, which is more concerned with the psychological aspects of the paranormal. Both fields are controversial but their status is very different. Whereas parapsychology has now attained a fair degree of academic respectability in the UK (with some 60 PhDs and 17 permanent academic appointments in university psychology departments), the study of paraphysics is still academically taboo (with no PhDs from UK physics departments). Clearly psychical research will only have come of age when paraphysics enjoys the same academic respectability as parapsychology, so this raises the issue of whether physics (either in its present or some future form) will ever be able to accommodate psi. As a first step towards this goal, one must decide which phenomena need to be explained and which should be weeded out as pseudo-paranormal, so I will present a physicist's classification of psychic phenomena which is useful in this respect. I will then argue that physics can be extended to describe psi but that it will need a different paradigm from the one that currently prevails. Invoking a new paradigm is not too outrageous since physics regularly undergoes paradigm shifts and I will present my own view as to the form the new paradigm might take.

Thursday 27th April 2006

Benjamin Radford

Benjamin Radford

Benjamin Radford is an investigator and managing editor of two science magazines, The Skeptical Inquirer and the Spanish-language Pensar. He has written over 300 articles on various topics, including urban legends, mass hysteria, mysterious creatures, and media criticism. He is author of three books: Hoaxes, Myths, and Manias: Why We Need Critical Thinking (co-authored with Bob Bartholomew); Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us; and Lake Monster Mysteries (co-authored with Joe Nickell). Radford has appeared on numerous programs including on The Discovery Channel, CNN, National Geographic Television, the Learning Channel, and MTV.

Applying Science to the Paranormal: The Case of Psychic Detectives

Some people absolutely believe in psychics, while others dismiss them as ridiculous. Yet basically these are empirical, testable claims: Either psychics have the powers they claim, or they do not. These are not matters of opinion or belief, but of fact and evidence. Success or failure of psychic powers is especially clear in the case of psychic detectives.

Thursday 16th March 2006

Rob Lyons

Rob Lyons

Rob Lyons is a journalist/website producer, mainly for the spiked website.

However, an increasingly important part of what he does is looking at science and health stories, particularly unwarranted panics. This can be seen in his main spiked entries of "Don't Panic", which looks at these scare stories and aims to bring a sense of much needed perspective. His longer articles can be found on his blog, Precautionary Tales.

What's the point of skepticism today?

Skepticism is a necessary but not sufficient outlook for progress. Placing rational debate back at the centre of society is crucial if we are to make sense of the world, but it could collapse into pedantry without a sense of purpose. I think that purpose must be to re-establish faith in humanity, against doomsayers who say that humans are feeble to cope with change, and those who go further and believe that humans are actually the biggest problem the world faces.

Thursday 16th February 2006 Matt Morgan

Matt currently works in London managing scientific research projects. Before moving to the UK in 2004, he was a chemistry professor at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He received his PhD in chemistry from Montana State University in 1997. He admits to having no special expertise on his speech topic, but that has never stopped him from talking in the past.

The Noahic Flood: Why Creationists Need it, and How They "Prove" it Happened.

While creationist assumptions and explanations of the flood are the centerpiece of this talk, Matt will also touch on other issues, such as ark impossibilities and science vs. religion. Matt hopes to generate lively discussion and stimulate rational thinking about an irrational subject.

Thursday 19th January 2006 David Allen Green

David is a city lawyer working in the communications, media and public sector fields. He is the author of the chapters on the restrictions that criminal law places on free speech in the current and forthcoming editions of Law and the Media.

Incitement to Religious Hatred: should it be a crime?

The government is proposing to criminalise those who incite religious hatred. There are mixed views on this, even amongst skeptics and secularists. On one hand, this can be seen as an assault on free speech and open debate. On the other hand, religious hatred can spill over into violence and cruelty, and it is difficult to see why anyone should be permitted to incite such hatred. David will first explain the background to the proposed new offence and how similar laws work (or don't work) in other countries. He will then, as impartially as possible, set out the arguments both for and against it being a crime to incite religious hatred.

Thursday 22nd December 2005

 

Louis Constandinos

Louis is a research scientist currently working for a leading pharmaceutical company in Kent. Louis has a BSc(Hons) in Chemistry from the University of Leicester. After his first degree he spent five years in the pharmaceutical industry in a variety of research roles before moving to the University of Nottingham to undertake research for his PhD in synthetic chemistry. Louis is a lifelong skeptic and atheist. He has been captivated by all science from an early age and, myriad adventures along the way aside, now gets paid to do what he loves, if only between meetings.

Misuses of Science

Science is perhaps the most important human endeavour. After beer, sex and rugby union. Throughout history humankind has sought to understand the very mechanisms of the universe, and has had some modest success. We now have twenty TV channels of gardening and home improvement. Despite the best attempts of modern anti-intellectualism and born again Bronze Age fundamentalism, science still has a certain social cachet. People have sought to borrow the trappings and language of science to cash in on this.

Tonight we'll see fraud, lies, moronic misunderstandings, and refusal to accept reality. And that'll just be from the speaker.

Thursday 17th November 2005 Andrew Clifton

While studying psychology at Durham University I took a special interest in cognitive biases, misconceptions, prejudice and stereotypes. I wrote a dissertation suggesting that if we could only educate people effectively about how these processes work, they might be less likely to succumb to beguiling delusions. My ambition at the time was to carry out further research, developing and testing a method of what I called 'a training in uncommon sense.' My career, alas, took an altogether different direction: I now work as technical director of a publishing company, depending for my income on my company's promotion of beguiling delusions (known in the trade as 'advertisements'). My original interest, however, remains.

The scope of skepticism

Skepticism may be defined, I suggest, as a belief in the importance of scientific inquiry and critical thinking, in particular, towards empirically ill-founded or unwarranted claims. So, what is the proper subject-matter of skeptical critique? A survey of the skeptical literature reveals a host of academically disreputable (and predominantly, quasi-spiritual) topics: the paranormal, astrology, creation science, crypto-zoology, fringe-archaeology, alternative medicine, UFOs, conspiracy theories. Yet it seems to me that many other popular beliefs are at least equally in need of skeptical scrutiny - promulgated, for instance, by influential economists, politicians, media moguls, pressure-groups, think-tanks, corporate advertising and PR executives. In this talk, I will comment on some examples of might be called 'Establishment pseudoscience' - and present a case for a broadening of the skeptical agenda to include them.

Thursday 20th October 2005Wendy Grossman

Wendy Grossman

Founder of The Skeptic

The history of The Skeptic

Thursday 15th September 2005

Nick Pullar

Nick Pullar holds an MA degree in Philosophy from Auckland University. He has a long and varied career in Skeptical and atheist activism. He is currently convener of Skeptics in the Pub and works as an IT Manager in North London.

A Skeptical Primer

Nick will give an overview of what skepticism is, with examples drawn from his Skeptical career.

Thursday 18th August 2005 Henry Marsh

Henry Marsh MA, MB, BS, FRCS, is the senior consultant neurosurgeon at St. George's Hospital in London. He obtained a First in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University before studying medicine and taking up Neurosurgery. He recently starred in the BBC programme 'Your Life in Their Hands' where he was shown removing a brain tumour from a patient under local anaesthetic. He believes that hospitals have much in common with prisons, that all religions are rendered largely obsolete by a proper understanding of the brain, that 'alternative' medicine is entirely based on the placebo effect and spends his spare time either making furniture or practising neurosurgery in Ukraine where he modestly claims to be quite famous.

Frontal Brain Damage and the Human Soul

Damage to the front of the brain will produce profound changes to our ability to relate to others and to make moral judgements. Our ability to behave morally depends upon the physical integrity of our brains. The concept of the �soul�, that something about us survives after our death, is an essentially moral concept. Neuroscience tells us that all thoughts and feelings are a complex and dynamic pattern of electro-chemical communications between brain cells. The soul is rendered absurd by this understanding and without a soul all the great religions � both as systems of moral guidance and of explanation � fail.

Thursday 21st July 2005

Dick Taverne

Dick Taverne

Dick Taverne is a former MP and Treasury Minister, who now sits in the Lords as a somewhat maverick Liberal Democrat.

The March of Unreason

In the last few years Dick Taverne's main preoccupation has been the growing suspicion of science and the fashion for modern myths and superstitions, as manifested in the popularity of alternative medicine, organic farming, blind hostility to GM crops and a near hysterical preoccupation with safety. He argues that this irrational trend undermines democracy and a civilised society. It has led him to found a charity, Sense About Science, which promotes the evidence-based approach, and write a book, published last month, The March of Unreason.

He will talk about the main themes of his book.

Thursday 16th June 2005

Clare Bowerman

Clare is a writer and editor who lives in London. After studying for a German and French degree at Cambridge University, she moved into science, starting her career on an alternative health title. She then moved into evidence-based medical journalism and other science writing. She currently works in communications for UCL.

A sceptic's guide to alternative health

The market in alternative health remedies is worth millions of pounds every year. Many people are led to distrust conventional medicines that are tested for safety and effectiveness, and to stake their health on totally unproven treatments.

What is it that gives alternative medicine � from homoeopathy to crystal healing � its broad appeal? Is it partly because people are misinformed by press reports about these �therapies�? Former alternative health journalist Clare Bowerman talks about the driving factors in magazine and newspaper journalism that favour complementary and alternative medicines over their proven conventional counterparts, drawing on her personal experience in the industry.

Thursday 12th May 2005

 

The author of this talk wishes to remain anonymous, as he does not wish a Fatwa on himself. I will put forward the proposition that a lot of the blame for Terrorism and Wars in the world today is directly attributable to the doctrines and beliefs of Islam, and that it is only by directly challenging and refuting the core beliefs of Islam that the world can be made a better place.

I will give a brief examination of Islam and its beliefs, and show why I believe that the religion itself must bare the lion's share of the blame for a lot of the trouble in the world.

I will then put forward some practical ideas as to what can be done about this, and examine some of the difficulties that may be encountered by people challenging Islam.

I would welcome and encourage other contributions, thoughts, and suggestions from the floor, and look forward to an interesting and serious discussion on this subject.

Thursday 21st April 2005

Paul Lee

Paul has a PhD in Nuclear Physics from the University of York. His hobbies include researching the Titanic disaster, the JFK assassination, ghosts and lurking on the badpsychics.co.uk website. He has somewhat of an addiction to live music and karaoke (but you won't find him on stage). His website is www.paullee.com

Ghosthunters and me

Paul has been fascinated by ghosts since he was young, and his interest nurtured after he met several ghost "hunting" groups whilst doing his PhD. However, he has been increasingly sceptical of the subject - not of ghosts, which he regards as worthy of study, but of the pathetic antics of the amateur researchers. He will discuss some of the cases he has been on, and in his view, the future of ghost research.

Thursday 17th March 2005

Matt Morgan

Matt Morgan

Matt moved to the UK six months ago from Colorado where he was a College Professor. He received his PhD in Physical Chemistry from Montana State University in 1997.

He has been interested in skeptical issues for the last 20 years and has given this presentation at various skeptical gatherings, including The Amazing Meeting 2 in January 2004.

His hobbies include history, physical fitness, and computer games.

Creation and the 2nd Law--Exposing Misconceptions

Creation supporters often bring up the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics to bolster their arguments against evolution. You know they are mistaken and you would like to refute them, but maybe it's been a few years (or longer) since you took that thermodynamics class.

This talk defines the 2nd Law and applies it to creationist literature, showing precisely how their arguments are flawed. After hearing this talk, you will have the facts necessary to prevail against creationists any time they try to bring up the 2nd Law.

Thursday 17th February 2005

Keith Porteous Wood

Keith Porteous Wood

Prior to joining the National Secular Society, Keith was Finance Director in national companies in the wholesale and retail food distribution, financial services and insurance sectors.

He joined the National Secular Society in 1996 as Executive Director. In this role he has given evidence in person to Royal Commission on House of Lords Reform (1999) Religious Offences Committee (2002) and Education Select Committee (2004).

Keith was the keynote speaker at the 2002 National Convention of American Atheists and has spoken at seminars in the European Parliament on secularist matters.

Keith also effected a positive change to the anti-discrimination Employment Directive in the EU Parliament.

Incitement To Religious Hatred Law

This is the criminalisation of inciting hatred in others defined by reference to their religion or belief, see Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill Schedule 10.

The National Secular Society vigorously opposes the introduction of this law because: (a) it is unnecessary because existing laws, such as incitement to violence, are adequate and (b) that the law would be used to stifle free expression on religious matters (and exacerbate further the growing tide of self-censorship).

Furthermore, similar provisions were rejected immediately post September 11, 2001.

Thursday 16th December 2004 Geoffrey Dean

Since 1974 Dr Geoffrey Dean has authored or co-authored many critical articles, debates, studies, and prize competitions for research into astrology. He has practised as an astrologer and is a CSICOP Fellow.
 

Challenges in Behavioural Research: Astrology meets Meta-Analysis

A review of 25 years of scientific tests of astrology illustrated by more than 30 overheads (about 100 images). Includes an explanation of effect size and meta-analysis, and the meta-analyses of more than 300 empirical studies into astrology.

Thursday 21st October 2004 David Green

David read Modern History at Oxford University and Law at Birmingham University. After a period as a history lecturer, David was called to the Bar in 1999 and transferred to being a solicitor in 2001. He is the author of the chapters on blasphemy and other restrictions that criminal law places on free speech in the fourth edition of Crone's Law and the Media.

Hallowe'en Special: the Lawyers and the Witches

This talk explores the ways in which legal processes in England have dealt with apparently irrational beliefs, either when they have constituted substantive offences (eg witchcraft, blasphemy etc), or when such beliefs have had to be considered forensically as part of otherwise normal proceedings (eg child custody cases involving allegations of ritual abuse).

Thursday 16th September 2004 Nikolai Segura

Nikolai is a regular at Skeptics in the Pub - and an ardent anti-creationist. He studied physics at Imperial College London, before going on to sell his soul in return for a job in sales. As a skeptic, Nikolai doesn't believe he has a soul, and therefore insists he got a bargain.

Nikolai has been researching creationist tactics and arguments for several years, and posts regularly on creationist and evolutionist forums on the web.

Cretinism vs Evilution

The weird and wonderful world of creationism - exposed by Nikolai Segura - physicist and resident expert on the creationists. Scare tactics, propaganda, misquotes, lies and spies - all this and much more as the tactics of leading creationists are explained in gory detail.

Gasp at the scientific inaccuracy - gawp at the epistemological naivety - go faint at the deception and twisting of the truth! Then feel the relief as you're delivered a healthy dose of scientific rationalism, evidence and sanity. And don't forget, if the presentation's crap, you still get grub and booze.

Thursday 19th August 2004

Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett

Mark is a member and full-time employee of The Aetherius Society. He holds a wide variety of strongly-held views relating to religion, spirituality, the paranormal, life after death and UFOs. He does not consider himself enlightened.

 

The Path to Enlightenment

Mark will be talking about the Path to Enlightenment as taught by The Aetherius Society. The Aetherius Society was founded in 1954 by an Englishman named George King who claimed contact with advanced intelligences from other planets within this Solar System.

Mark will discuss the value of material proof as compared to inner realisation and personal experience, and how this relates to the meaning of life and the path to enlightenment.

Thursday 15th July 2004 Michael Young is a defence analyst working for the Centre for Operational Research and Defence Analysis (CORDA).

He has a keen interest in history and the theory of warfare. His work involves calculating defence needs, costs and effectiveness, and in building and playing wargames of potential future conflicts.

Michael is also interested in examining nutrition and health claims. Michael appeared as part of the on the TV series "How to build a human" where he talked about the practice of life-extension by calorie restriction.

 

That vitamin C, when taken in high enough doses, can counter the effects of viruses, bacteria, radiation poisoning and most toxins.

Please note the words 'high enough doses' imply between 15 and 200 grams (not milligrams) per day. The way to calculate the dose is to increase it until the patient starts to get diarrhoea, and then decrease it slightly. One of the most important claims of the proponents is that studies that refute this do not use a high enough dose rate (usually not more than one or two grams a day).

Mike Young will present the evidence and contend that the potential benefits of Vitamin C are not being examined for sociological and economic reasons, and due to poor scientific thinking, rather than because of lack of evidence.

Please have a look at the further details page before you come.

Thursday 17th June 2004 Norman Hansen trained as a physicist and then went into Operational Research spending twenty years solving non-linear maths problems for a large food industry company. While an undergraduate he became a born-again evangelical Christian who would have
described himself as an Old Earth Theistic Evolutionist. Norman was a lay member of the staff of the organisation that publishes Hugh Ross's books. Through a confrontation with Creationism he realised that the only rational position was to declare himself
an Atheist.
Thinking about Creationism: A practical
application of the 'Baloney Detector'

Creationism is one of the delusions which has most potential to cause global catastrophe with both Tony Blair and George W. Bush, at least passively, believing it. Norman does not claim to be an expert but he can offer an insight from both sides of the religious divide along with some experience of email discussion with a Creationist Evangelist and some of the more recent approaches to peddling nonsense from the Young Earth Creationists.

Thursday 20th May 2004 Nick Pullar hosted a discussion. How skepticism should approach religion.

There seem to be two schools of thought. One, expounded by the late Stephen Jay Gould, that religion and skepticism (or science) are two completely separate domains, "non-overlapping magisteria". Many skeptics are also members of religions. They are very happy to criticise ghosts, but think their religious views are held by faith, they are not subject to the same skeptical analysis.

The other view is promoted by James Randi and Richard Dawkins, among others, is that in so far as religions make claims that are testable, they should be subject to the same sorts of scrutiny that we would give to the reports of spoon bending, or mediumship.

Please come along and I hope we will have a very lively discussion. There's been a recent Skeptical Inquirer issue on this very subject, so we'll be able to catch up on the latest thoughts of the international skeptical community.

In addition, I have attended a British Humanist Association seminar on the draft National Curriculum on Religious Education. We might like to discuss that.

Thursday, 15th April 2004

DJ Grothe, magician and mentalist from The Center for Inquiry.

As a Program Director for the Center for Inquiry, DJ Grothe serves as director of the CFI-On Campus, a secular, pro-science alternative to organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ and fringe-science and paranormal movements at colleges and universities. Mr. Grothe has travelled and lectured widely throughout North America, speaking on secular ethics, religious-political extremism, church-state separation, the paranormal and science advocacy. His writings have been published in newspapers throughout the United States, and he has spoken on numerous radio and television programs. He is currently finishing a book on the need for public argument in a secular democracy.

Before completing graduate studies in philosophy and intellectual history at Washington University at St. Louis, DJ worked as a corporate magical entertainer and public speaker for companies such as IBM, Southwestern Bell, Este� Lauder and Ralston Purina.

The Science of Fooling Scientists: The History of Psychic Charlatanry in the Sciences

Exactly how do occultists fool scientists? DJ will perform his award-winning demonstrations of seeming "psychic abilities," while showing how easy it is for even the most ardent scientific thinker to be duped. With a witty style that astonishes audiences with inconceivable results, DJ "shakes people's understanding of reality," while showing that deception is more pervasive in society than you may think.

Come watch him demonstrate and detail the case histories of the scams that have fooled even Nobel Prize winners. He'll use your rational strengths to destabilize your skepticism.

Not you? Prepare to be surprised. You'll see a performance you won't soon forget, one that promotes critical thinking and the scientific outlook.

 

bullet

March 2004: David Koepsell - The state of the skeptical community in the US.

bulletFebruary 2004: Donald J. West - Evidence for and Against the Paranormal.
bulletJanuary 2004: Richard Sanderson - Skepticism and the Counter Culture.
bulletDecember 2003: Albert Bon - I, Caravaggio.
bulletNovember 2003: Montague Keen - What makes skeptics shy away from paranormal evidence?
bulletOctober 2003: Robert Newman - It must be true, I read it on the internet.
bulletSeptember 2003: Dr Rupert Sheldrake - The Seventh Sense: Recent Experimental Evidence
bulletAugust 2003: Brian Austin - Confessions of a Creationist - Why I agree with Richard Dawkins.
bulletJuly 2003: Nathan Williams - Horizon Homeopathy Trials.
bulletJune 2003: Barry Blatt - Errors in science and medical journalism.
bulletMay 2003: Sid Rodrigues - The Amazing Meeting.
bulletApril 2003: Toby Andrew - What do twin and family studies tell us about human genetic inheritance?
bulletMarch 2003: Mark Prendergrast - Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives.
bulletFebruary 2003: Bob Keefer -An American Psychologist in London.
bulletJanuary 2003: Scott Wood - The Angels of Mons and Elsewhere.
bulletDecember 2002: Steve Wilson - The Skeptical Pagan.
bulletNovember 2002: David Murray - C. G. Jung's Complicity with Nazism.
bulletOctober 2002: Lee Traynor - Natural, Holistic, Traditional and Gentle - But does it work?
bulletAugust 2002: Nick Pullar - Practical Skepticism.
bulletJune 2002: Marcus Allen and Robert Massey - That the Apollo moon landings did not land humans on the surface of the moon.
bulletMay 2002: Chris French - A Critical Look at Paranormal Perception.
bulletApril 2002: Mike Brass - Antiquity of Man: A Skeptic's View of Hindu Creationism.
bulletMarch 2002: Colin Price - The Theosophical View of Nature.
bulletFebruary 2002: John Wall - Alternative History and the Ma'atians From Cyberspace.
bulletNovember 2001: Dr Stephen Clark - Conspiracy Theories.
bulletOctober 2001: Dr Vic Tandy - A Sound Approach to Ghost Hunting.
bullet September 2001: Dr Charles Paxton - Sea Monsters? Science and unknown giant aquatic animals.
bullet August 2001: Scott Wood - Sex and Dogs and UFOs.
bullet July 2001: Jon Ronson - "Them".
bulletJune 2001: Dr Scott Campbell - Why Falsificationism is False.
bulletMay 2001: Prof. David Marks - The Psychology of the Psychic.
bulletApr 2001:  Robert Newman - It must be true, I read it in a book
bulletMar 2001: Ron Roberts - The Paranormal and Society.
bulletFeb 2001: Dr Geoffrey Dean - Astrology.
bulletJan 2001: Panel of experts - General Questions.
bulletNov 2000: Richard Joltes - Oak Island Money Pit.
bulletSep 2000: Peter Ward - Satanic Abuse Obsession.
bulletAug 2000: Rev Lionel Fanthorpe - What Makes An Unsolved Mystery?
bulletJul 2000: Dr Chris French - Psychology of Paranormal Belief.
bulletJun 2000: Thurstan Brewin - Alternative Medicine.
bulletMay 2000: Robert Rankin - Who Wouldn't Be A Skeptic?
bulletApr 2000: Nick Rose - Memes - Is Religion a Mind Virus?
bulletMar 2000: Julian Baggini - How Can You Be Sure?
bulletFeb 2000: Mike Howgate - Tackling Creationists.
bulletSep 1999: John Rimmer - UFOs.
bulletAug 1999: Barry Williams - Australian Skepticism.
bulletJul 1999: Tony Youens - Magic performance.
bulletJun 1999: Dr Chris French - Skeptics and the Media.
bulletMay 1999: Dr Richard Wiseman - General Skepticism.
bulletApr 1999: Mike Hutchinson - General Skepticism.
bulletMar 1999: Wayne Spencer - Alternative Medicine.
bulletFeb 1999: Wendy Grossman - My Life as A Skeptic.

[The Skeptic] [Archive] [Shirley Ghostman] [Feb 2002 review] [Charity Firewalk] [Ex-Skeptic's letter] [Nick's Firewalk] [Taverne Debate]

horizontal rule

Copyright � 1998 - 2008 The Skeptic
Last updated by webmaster 09 October 2009