It’s hard to believe, but come the end of this Month, the Merseyside Skeptics Society will have been going for just over a year. In that space of time we have gone from not existing at all, to hosting regular social events in Liverpool City Centre (at Doctor Duncan’s pub, for those interested), hosting regular Skeptics In The Pub nights with speakers such as Ariane Sherine, Chris French and Simon Singh, and to masterminding the 10:23 campaign, which went from strength to strength, spreading from Liverpool to other cities across England, Wales and Scotland, and then to numerous countries across the world! Amid all this we’ve also somehow managed to produce two popular podcasts, Skeptics With a K and InKredulous, and get name-checked in everything from the Pod Delusion and The Skeptic Zone to The Independent and The Guardian. Not to mention you could hear Mike and Marsh’s dulcet tones gracing the airwaves on more than one occasion, arguing with UFO enthusiasts, psychics and homeopaths to name but a few. You can also hear Marsh on the podcast Righteous Indignation.
It’s been overwhelming. So overwhelming that we almost forgot it had been a year since we started. When we did notice, we realised we should do something to celebrate this personal milestone, and so we organised a special Liverpool Skeptics In The Pub: One Year Anniversary Bonanza!
Our first Liverpool Skeptics In The Pub speaker was the psychologist Chris French and the blog of the event can be found here. Several months later, older but just as sceptical, we found ourselves in a new and bigger venue with no less than four speakers, plucked from the fertile ranks of the MSS itself: Michael Marshall, Mike Hall, Tom Williamson and Allan Callister.
Allan was first up, with a talk about the Emotional Freedom Technique. You can read Allan’s blog-posts on this subject here and here. Allan took us on a humourous journey through this particular piece of woo, successfully persuading the audience to join in as he tapped himself repeatedly at various parts of his body while reciting the EFT chants of “Even though I have this feeling… this feeling…” He even managed to persuade Marsh to come up onto the stage to be cured of his ‘narcissism’, although considering that one of the main phrases of the Emotional Freedom Technique is “I completely love and accept myself”, maybe it was the wrong woo to use?
I should probably add that I can’t remember the exact order of speakers from this point, so I’m just going to make it up from now on. Bwahaha!
Next up was Marsh, talking about PR and The Media. This was a funny and informative lecture on how PR has gained control over journalism and its overworked denizens. Listeners to Skeptics With a K won’t be surprised to hear that the Daily Mail was touted as one of the worst offenders! Marsh skilfully pointed out how to spot when a news article was simply a regurgitated press release instead of actual news. More often than not, the fourth paragraph of the article is the giveaway!
Tom’s talk was on How Science Works: what is science, how do we do it and how do we know it works? It was essential listening for anyone with an interest in science and/or skepticism. If any of the audience had previously been unsure of the definitions of ‘hypothesis’, ‘theory’ or ‘law’, this talk will have cleared up any misconceptions. This was the bedrock of Skepticism. It was also great ammunition for arguing with Creationists, too.
And finally, Mike was up, with his talk on Bad Logic, focusing particularly on the logical failures of religious apologetics. This talk successfully went through the shortcomings of logical arguments for God, showing up the errors in everything from the cosmological argument to Pascal’s wager, all emphasised by an impressive and entertaining powerpoint presentation, which went down very well with the audience.
It was a full program to say the least, but it wasn’t over yet! To conclude the evening we held a special first-ever live recording of Skeptics With a K, hosted by Mike Hall, with Michael Marshall and myself, Colin Harris. You can download this episode here, or on iTunes. As Mike admitted to the audience beforehand, this would either go really well or we’d bomb spectacularly! You can judge for yourself in the comfort of your own home! For my money, despite being full of adrenalin the entire time and therefore having no objective stance on this whatsoever, I think it went very well. All three of us enjoyed ourselves, and there was a pleasant atmosphere with lots of laughter at the hoped-for moments. The audience, too, were enthusiastic and participatory, and seemed to enjoy it, even though we over-ran last orders at the bar and broke all our pre-stated rules about profanity and off-colour humour live on stage!
The entire night was fantastic, and not just because it was a special anniversary. The Liverpool Skeptics in The Pub nights are always great fun and thought-provoking in equal measure. I hope that anyone reading this who has been thinking about coming to one of our speaker events, but who has been worried about what to expect, will realise what great fun we always have. There is nothing to fear, and despite all the cliches, Skeptics do not hate everything! We have a wide range of interests as you can see from the lectures on this night, have a keen sense of fun and are very welcoming. We’ve all been first-timers at Skeptics in The Pub at some point. At the end of the day it’s all about having fun and rational conversation with like-minded people, so please come down to one of our future events, such as Daniela Rudloff in March, or come to our regular informal social on the first Thursday of every month at Doctor Duncan’s pub in Liverpool City Centre. It’s people like you who made the MSS what it is, and who are our reason for existing in the first place. You all help make the world a better, more rational place, and you have fun while you’re doing it!