Archive for July, 2014

The Psychology of Possession and Exorcism – by Chris French

When: Thursday, July 17th, 2014, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

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It can be argued that human beings tend to be intuitive dualists, finding it easy to believe that “mind-stuff” simply cannot be reduced to matter. Such intuitions underlie the belief that mind (or, as some would call it, “soul”) can become separated from the physical body. Indeed, most people go further and believe that consciousness can in some way survive physical death. Comforting though such beliefs may be, they also open the door to the possibility that other spiritual beings, both human and non-human, may at times take control of another person’s physical body. Belief in possession and exorcism is widespread in many societies, both ancient and modern. Neuropathological and sociocognitive factors that underlie such beliefs will be presented in this talk.

Professor Chris French is the Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 120 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims, as well as writing for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine. His most recent book, co-authored with Anna Stone, is Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience.

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Is Cleanliness a Bad Thing? – by Sheena Cruickshank

When: Thursday, September 18th, 2014, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

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This talk will highlight how the rise in sanitation and vaccination in developed countries has seen a correlative prevalence of autoimmune disease and allergy, leading to the counterintuitive possibility that we might be able to cure the current wave of allergies and autoimmune diseases with worms.

Dr Sheena Cruickshank lectures in Immunology in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester. Her work explores the relationship between cleanliness and allergies.

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An Atheist on the Alpha Course – by Simon Clare

When: Thursday, October 16th, 2014, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

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The Alpha Course runs in 162 countries and has been attended, according to their website, by 25 Million people. Over a 9 week period, students are guided through Christian theology ostensibly to “Explore the meaning of Life”.

Simon Clare, an unabashed atheist, signed up to his local course in Brighton, wondering if his faithlessness would be challenged. Spoiler: He wasn’t converted but he was surprised at what he learnt about faith.

The new Archbishop Of Canterbury, Justin Welby, found his faith at the home of the Alpha Course and his election suggests that the Alpha model of spreading the word is now at the heart of Christianity’s struggle for survival. As well as giving an overview of the course from biblical history to singing in tongues, Simon will discuss what atheists can learn from the Alpha Course.

Simon Clare runs Horsham Skeptics in the Pub and is a founder member of the South East Skeptics Society.

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