Archive for category Merseyside

Bad News: How PR Came to Rule Modern Journalism – Full talk plus Q&A

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to our lovely Skeptics in the Pub crowd, where I took about dissecting the media and generally picking out just how to spot PR bullshit in the press. For all of you who were sadly unable to make it, fret not! For we have the whole thing on video. Feel free to discuss in the comments below!

*Sorry for the random sound issues in the middle – apparently passing taxis were interfering with the radio mics. It was not – repeat NOT – any kind of nefarious hacking tactics from the tabloids…

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Bad News: Clarkson’s Cock Rides Again!

A few weeks ago I gave a BadNews talk at Ignite Liverpool, a cool evening where people from all manner of backgrounds give 5-minute talks on something that interests them. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure.

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Homeopathy in the Wirral: RIP

As I’ve covered previously, the position of homeopathy on the NHS in the Wirral region has been under review, with the Professional Executive Committee evaluating the future continuation of the 200-year-old non-science in the wake of dwindling patient interest.

Following the open meeting of March 10th to discuss proposals to cut homeopathy from the budget, the PEC collected their thoughts and formally presented them to the Wirral NHS Board. This meeting took place on the 22 March 2011, and unsurprisingly attracted the attention of the North West ‘Friends’ of Homeopathy, whose very vocal envoy John Cook persuaded the board to allow him to present his objections to their proposal. Readers of the previous blog or listeners to Skeptics with a K will know John well, and his forthright advocacy style.

Fortunately, a local councillor is a supporter and friend of the MSS, and he was able to equally persuade the board to allow an external voice of support into the meeting to counter the objections of the homeopathic lobby – which is why I found myself called upon to give a 5-minute speech in favour of disposing with the sugar pills once and for all.

The exact text of the speech is presented below, and my opportunity to present it came immediately after 5 minutes from the homeopaths, in which the main thrust of their argument was:

  • The consultation process had not been as robust as one would hope (essentially attempting to get off on a technicality)
  • Homeopathy does indeed work and there is science to prove it
  • Homeopathy is used by 10% of the population (a somewhat spurious figure brilliantly put into context by the board, who pointed out that the 60 affected patients in the Wirral each year are in fact just 0.02% of the population)
  • Those who seek to end funding for homeopathy are in fact attempting to ban it, with similar zeal to the calls to rid the world from smallpox.

I’ve no doubt that John will be able to offer a fuller clarification of these points below, and I welcome him doing so if he so wishes. Following this argument, I took to the rather official-looking table with it’s little microphone, the eyes of the board upon me, and began: Read the rest of this entry »

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Science, Music and The Beauty Of Nature: Polar Live!

If you’re stuck for something to do this weekend, I strongly recommend you check out Polar Live, right here in Liverpool. It’s an awesome-looking project, where the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra will be playing over a beautifully-shot documentary about life at the poles, which will be shown on a HUGE screen in HD. Essentially, it’s going to be unique, unusual and utterly beautiful, I think.

Don’t just take my word for it though – here’s a clip which gives you a taste of what it’ll be like:

I can’t wait to go myself, it looks really brilliant – something of a stirring, wonder-filled way of saying ‘this is the only planet we have, and we’d damn sure better look after it’.

The whole thing is being organised by a brilliant chap who goes along to the Greater Manchester Skeptics, who explained the show to me:

As Jacques Cousteau said, it’s easier to protect what we love. Polar is, first and foremost, a great night out. The rest is there for the audience to discover, if they so wish.

Tickets are still available if you move fast. I have mine already, and I really can’t wait.

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Question of The Week: What New Skeptical Events Can You Come Up With?

You’re never short of skeptical events these days. We have skeptics’ cruises through the Bermuda Triangle, Dragoncon’s Skeptrack, not to mention the infamous Amazing Meeting, which was held in London for the first time last year. On a more local level, here in Merseyside we have social and speaker events for both the Merseyside Skeptics and the Greater Manchester Skeptics, as well as other events and meetings of interest to skeptics, such as the scibar talks, cafe scientifique, philosophy in pubs and the Liverpool Humanists. We also have the recently started Ladies Who Do Skepticism meetups, the brainchild of Manchester Skeptics’ Janis Bennion. We simply can’t move for Skeptical events.

However, there’s always room for more, and that’s where you come in. We’re interested in your ideas for skeptical events. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a brand new idea, it can be something you’ve just heard of and thought was a good idea. Either way, we want to hear your ideas.

So the Question of The Week is this: What new skeptical events can you come up with?

Maybe you’ve been nurturing the idea of starting up a Skeptics In The Sauna, or have an idea for the perfect skeptical holiday. It doesn’t have to be an event. Feel free to branch out. It’s common for skepticism to advertise itself in the form of podcasts – maybe you have an idea for a new skeptical outlet? Whatever it is, let us know. Then we can steal it and get all the credit…

Please leave your ideas in the comments field below.

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Dogs, Doom and Dictators

Last weekend, the Bluecoat gallery in Liverpool hosted a day of events under the title Views From The Grassy Knoll. It was a mixture of talks, screenings and performances covering everything from conspiracy theories and art, to science and politics. It also included an overview of what Skepticism is by Gavin Schofield from the Greater Manchester Skeptics, which I sadly missed but which I heard was a very good talk.

The headline lecture was 2012 by Dr Bill Aitchison, a performance artist and researcher. I was lucky enough to be able to make this one, albeit fifteen minutes late, and found it a very interesting and entertaining, if strange, experience. Read the rest of this entry »

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