Archive for category Merseyside

Liverpool Skeptics In The Pub: One Year Anniversary Bonanza

One Year Anniversary Bonanza at The Vines

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! Read the rest of this entry »

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The Helping Hand Of God In The Unibond League

I’m about to do something a lot of you will likely frown on. I’m aware of this, and I do apologise. I don’t know what I was thinking. Perhaps all of those sugar pills last weekend scrambled my brain. Perhaps aliens visited me at night and implanted this wild, crazy and completely inappropriate idea into my mind (hey, at least they stayed up THAT end this time). Perhaps I’m just spoiling for a rumble. In any case, there’s no getting away from it, this is happening:

I’m going to talk about football.

I know, I know, IknowIknowIknow. You guys, our lovely readers, are scientists, science fans, and generally science types. As am I. But when I’m not talking Cold Reading with psychics, organising mass non-suicide or generally being a good-for-nothing skeptic, there are few things I love more than settling down to a good match. The poetry of movement, the grit of teamwork, the drama, the excitement, the cliches.

Oh, and the batshit lunacy.

I’ve spoken elsewhere about the superstition rife in football (it was my handy hook to hang the story of Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie’s horse placenta treatment on, you may recall. If you can’t recall, please head over and have a read. Horse placentas. Lol. Etc.), but this time I’m bringing things back home. We are, after all, the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and no amount of International campaign-running (yes, I’m going to milk 10:23 for all of the kudos I can get, what of it?) will change that. Which is why when I was sent this article by a listener to our podcast, I just had to take a look at it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics in the Pub: December 17th – Trystan Swale

Trystan Swale

Ghosts and the People Who Hunt Them

Trystan Swale

When: Thu, Dec 17, 2009 8:00 – 11:00 PM
Where: Crown Hotel, 43 Lime Street, Liverpool.

Summary

Who are the people that spend their weekends sat in haunted buildings hoping to capture evidence of an after life or a snapshot of a ghost? From academics to housewives, Trystan Swale blows the whistle on the profiles, methods, means, deception, poor research and bad science of the people who continue to shape popular culture and perception of ghosts.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Biblical Healing: Coming To A Town Near You

Flyer for the Revival Fellowship. Click for super-big.

Flyer for the Revival Fellowship. Click for big.

Last weekend I was handed a flyer on the street for something called the Revival Fellowship. Well, that’s not strictly true – it was actually a friend of my girlfriend’s who was given the flyer, with the specific reason that she knew it would annoy the hell out of me, and she was right. Because the Revival Fellowship is a ‘prayer heals’ kind of organisation, going so far as to make some extraordinarily outrageous claims. The flyer – which is a pretty well-made affair, I might add (you can view it right there on the right) – claims to be ‘Totally Different from anything you’ve heard before’. Bold claims. Turn the flyer over, and you’ll see the happy faces of various healees (it’s not a word, I know, but I like it). Beside the face of the first healee, the flyer proclaims:

“After prayer, Russell was healed from a severe food allergy and Autism. He now leads a completely normal life”

This struck my girlfriend as odd, and it definitely strikes me as odd. First of all, I like how the statement goes with the big claims first – namely that he was healed from a severe food allergy? Wow, that’s an amazing claim! Oh yeah, and he was healed from the hitherto-untreatable autism too, but that’s by the by… And that’s not the only extraordinary claim. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Daily Mail says ‘Don’t Worry, She’s Not Foreign’

On Wednesday, I wrote about the vicious pillow fight between a pair of Christian hoteliers and their Muslim guest. I had reservations about taking either party’s side – both seemed frustratingly petty and argumentative, and the greater issue seemed to me to be the danger of using the police to forcibly resolve silly arguments.

Well, today the Daily Mail have released an update, in which they interview the Muslim woman involved, Ericka Tazi. She is a recent convert to Islam, being brought up a ‘staunch Catholic’ until a year ago (maybe one day she’ll settle on something sensible). The odd thing about the Mail’s approach is how they desperate they seem to be to separate her religion from any ‘foreign’ connotations. They quote her saying:

I only took up the Muslim faith a year ago. And it had nothing to do with my husband. Although he was born into the Muslim faith, he is as English as I am. He goes around in jeans and T-shirts and has even got a season ticket for Everton

Wow! He’s got a season ticket for Everton! He’s more English than me! The Mail seems, as always, utterly confused. “He may be Muslim, but he’s not foreign!” How bizarre (yet, of course, expected) that the Mail isn’t worried about the oddness of a person’s beliefs, just as long as they make sure they are thoroughly English. Read the rest of this entry »

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Standing-Room Only With Chris French

A Great NightOn Thursday 17th September, the Crown Hotel in Liverpool was the setting for our first Liverpool Skeptics in The Pub guest lecture. Guardian writer, TV personality and psychology professor, Chris French, came up to talk about his main area of research, ‘Anomalistic Psychology’. And what a night it was, too!

The event exceeded all our expectations, with at least 75 people turning up (to a room meant for 60!) to hear Chris’s entertaining lecture on a wide range of topics –  from alien abductions to ghosts, to Led Zeppelin and psychics – all under the rational umbrella of  ‘Anomalistic Psychology’. The room was filled to capacity - with many of you standing, though no-one seemed to mind! Everyone seemed to enjoy the night immensely, not least of all us here at the Merseyside Skeptics Society, who were overjoyed to have such a successful and fun night for our first guest lecture.

The talk lasted an hour, featuring among other things, a look at so-called satanic messages in rock music, why people see faces in random patterns, and how everyday psychological and physical quirks can account for many reports of UFOs and psychic ability. It was entertaining and insightful in equal measure. As well as being head of the ‘Anomalistic Psychology’ department at Goldsmith University, Chris is also editor of The Skeptic magazine, and his knowledge and sceptical eye seemingly left no stone unturned. Afterwards, he was kind enough to hold a riveting question and answer session with the audience, and the night ended with many of the audience taking advantage of the opportunity to chat and share a drink with him.

Everyone had a great night, and the large turnout just went to show how big Skepticism is becoming on Merseyside. We truly are part of something great , and it’s people like you who come to events like this, that keep it going. So, thanks to everyone who came, and thanks also to everyone involved in the organisation of this event who helped to make it possible. You know who you are! Thanks also to The Crown for letting us have their upstairs room for the night, and of course, thanks to Chris French himself for agreeing to come up to Merseyside and give the talk in the first place.

The Man Himself!Last but not least, don’t forget that this isn’t a one-off! We have plans for several guest lectures in the coming months, information on which will be released nearer the time. Our next event, however, is fully confirmed: on October 15th, in conjunction with The Liverpool Humanist Group, we have journalist and comedy writer (don’t call her a ‘comedienne’!), Ariane Sherine, coming up from London to talk to us about how she created the now-global Atheist Bus Campaign. More details can be found on this site. If the last event is anything to go by, this is bound to be huge, so whatever you do, don’t miss it!

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