Archive for March, 2015

Be Reasonable: Episode #027 – Alan Butler

This time on Be Reasonable we’re joined by Alan Butler from the website Dawn of Realization. Alan is an author and historian who believes that the Moon and Ceres have far different origins than most astronomers realise.

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Lies, damned lies and statistics: How we get science coverage wrong – David Robert Grimes

11067494_791078434311607_2551976172180330955_nWhen:  Thursday, September 17th, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

Science and medicine have transformed our lives immeasurably, and never in history have they been more central to our lives and well-being. Yet despite this, there is often a glaring disconnect between the findings of actual science and media reporting of such topics, and consequently there is often a needless chasm between public perception and the evidence on many contentious topics. This can lead to needlessly adversarial and counter-productive discourse of everything from vaccination to climate-change. In this talk, physicist and science journalist Dr. David Robert Grimes discusses the frequent problems in reporting science from misunderstandings to bad statistics to false balance, and discusses the factors that influence this and how such problems can be remedied.

Dr. David Robert Grimes (@drg1985) is a physicist and writes regular opinion and analysis pieces on scientific issues for the Irish Times and the Guardian science. He keeps a blog on these topics atwww.davidrobertgrimes.com

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #144

Walking, root canals, Sarah Palin and witch doctors. Plus boiling nails, acupuncture meridians and sucking teeth. Without looking directly at the Sun, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #143

Featuring raw food, evil gerbils, Mark Zuckerberg and the Silk Road. Plus hate speech, Black Salve, sniffing books, and the never-ending and bloody squirrel civil war.

Nominate your favourite podcast for an Ockham Award at the Skeptic website, http://www.skeptic.org.uk/

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I HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO TELL YOU…. about water

Here’s how Reverend Peter Popoff opened his first letter to me when I asked for a sample of his ‘miracle’ spring water:

‘Emma our prayer center received your phone call and I have been praying on you behalf non-stop ever since the operator gave me your name. Emma …, did I spell that correctly? When you called perhaps you thought it was by accident… I feel that A HIGHER POWER directed you to call. I HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO TELL YOU… SO PLEASE READ ON.

The opening line incorrectly states that I called a prayer center. (click to expand)

This apparently personal opening from ‘Petey’ was only slightly damaged by the assertion that I had called – I hadn’t, I’d actually filled out an email request form…

Still, nevermind, I’m sure Petey gets a lot of mail so we’ll let that one slide. After all, the letter does have lots of seemingly handwritten annotations – those must have taken him a long time. At least, that’s what I thought… until I received a second identical letter with the exact same ‘handwriting’ printed on it. Nevermind, Petey must be very, very busy.

Identical ‘handwritten’ additions to the Miracle Water letter (click to expand)

 

As you can see the letter is quite a tough read as it, like all of the letters I have received from him, is a complete horror show of CAPITALISATION and random bold text, but essentially the letter says that:

  1. I am going through some unspecified difficulty (money and/or health and/or relationships);

  2. God wants to help me with that;

  3. All I have to do is anoint myself with the miracle water;

  4. Send the empty packet back with my name on to Petey to show i’d done it;

  5. Oh and also send a £25 ‘seed gift’ to show my faith:

‘I am asking you to plant a a(his typo) Holy Consecrated Seed for a Great Harvest Offering of £25.00. NO, I don’t want you to send £45 or £105…No, SEND EXACTLY £25.00.

It is absolutely vital that I send this ‘seed’ money. This language conjures up the amusing image of Petey planning to literally plant this ‘seed’ in order to grow money trees for God to reward me with. Or, more realistically, an image of him planting seeds in order to grow  a tree-worth of paper to turn into lengthy and aggressively persistent letters requesting money to send to vulnerable and desperate people…It’s almost… almost, like Petey-the-Proven-Pretender is up to his old tricks again…

No way! I hear you uncritically cry. Surely no one would be so brazen?! Petey is a reformed man of God as can be seen by the many biblical quote smattered through each letter. Indeed he justifies this particular request for money using Luke 6:38:

‘According to St Luke 6:38… you MUST QUALIFY YOURSELF for a Supernatural Blessing… Yes, this this harvest of a great INCOME…’

There are also constant references to obedience – and speedy obedience at that:

After you use the Miracle Spring Water exactly as I direct take the small sticker and write your name on it and put it on the empty container. When I get it back I’ll know that you have acted in faith and followed the instructions of the man of God.’

Petey insists that I need to comply with his instructions as soon as possible so God can help me with the unspecified problem I have… and Petey speaks from experience:

‘..I have PERSONALLY overcome some of the same challenges you are now facing in my own life.’

Presumably a reference to his little earpiece faux pas…

The other really weird thing about the letter was the sheer volume of stuff it contained. The Miracle Water letter consists of a 4-page (pink, double-sided) letter, plus a second envelope containing the water itself as well as another 4 page note, which also had with it a sticker to attach to the empty water packet, and then a self-addressed pre-paid envelope in order to send the whole lot back to Petey (or at least to the PO Box address for Peter Popoff Ministries Ltd – which is PPM Ltd, PO Box 6279, London, W1A 6DN if you feel like sending him any correspondence).

Another thing about the composition of the letters is the sheer volume of them that Petey sends after a single prayer request. While I was still considering my first water letter with befuddled disbelief I received 3 more letters! This was without any response from me to the first one. Each of the letters were as voluminous as the first. These letters, however, didn’t contain water – they contained various other miracle items and… more requests for money.

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The contents of the first letter from Popoff (click to expand)

At the time I didn’t feel I could spare the £25 asked for in the original water letter, but I thought God would understand my circumstances, so I sent back the form back to Petey explaining it all, and enclosed in the envelope some copper coins that I had found so at least I had sown a little ‘seed’ for good measure. I fear that these coins were fairly weighty and may has caused Petey to incur additional postage costs-but I felt I needed to give something back and this was the very least I could do…

Speaking of money (as Petey almost constantly seems to be), for my whole series of posts about Petey’s letters I’m going to keep track of the amount of money he’s asked for using the patented ‘Popoff Plush Pad Pot’ totaliser. Not that I want to suggest that Petey has materialistic rather than spiritual motivations, of course…

Current Popoff Plush Pad Pot Total: £25.00.

So I now had four letters from Petey, and this was just the beginning…

Next time: A veritable slick of grimy-yet-godly Oil.


Potscript: As I mentioned in my first blog my dog Evie is now receiving letters from Petey. She has had three sent to her so far, in just over three weeks. Her Miracle Water letter states a miracle will occur for her on 19th April 2015 as long as she follows Petey’s instructions.

It seems odd that God would concern himself with the financial position of an admittedly-cute canine, but oh well, mysterious ways and all that. Obviously I am far, far too late to be able to use my miracle spring water to heal what ails me as I received my letters a few years ago – but for Evie, there is still hope. Therefore she has followed the instructions in Petey’s missive to the letter. Well, almost. As a dog she doesn’t actually have any money to send Petey… but we’ve managed to work something out, so i’ll keep you updated.

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Evie drinks her ‘Miracle’ water

Evie peruses her Popoff post

Evie peruses her Popoff post

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Inside AA: Can A Non-Existent God Really Cure Alcoholism? – by Jon Stewart

11019010_778557812230336_553471540070168100_nWhen:  Thursday, November 19th, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

Alcoholics Anonymous has become a widely accepted and media approved treatment for problem drinkers. Yet while AA’s social worth is rarely challenged its efficacy rate, estimated to be as little as 5%, appears comparable to that of spontaneous remission.

  • Can a non-existent “Higher Power” really offer meaningful solutions to the debilitating and frequently fatal condition of alcoholism?
  • If so, what happens to all those alcoholic atheists and skeptics?
  • How did AA become the go-to treatment modality for one of the great social health scourges of our age?
  • It’s the twenty first century, is this really the best we can do?

Jon Stewart was co-founder, guitarist and co-songwriter for platinum-selling Britpop band Sleeper, with whom he enjoyed three UK Top 10 albums and eight UK Top 40 singles. Jon subsequently played on albums by K D Lang and Mel C, and contributed to feature film and documentary soundtracks including Trainspotting and Telstar: The True Story of Joe Meek.

Jon currently lectures in cultural history at BIMM Institute, Brighton, on programmes validated and awarded by University of Sussex. He is also a PhD researcher at University of Southampton. Author of a long-running column in Guitarist magazine, Jon has published a wide range of research in peer reviewed journals and collections of academic essays. An active and sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 14 years, Jon quit the fellowship in early 2014. His blog “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” is at http://jonsleeper.wordpress.com/

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