Archive for category Skeptics in the Pub

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

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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

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Merseyside Skeptics’ March Megamix

398800_262088850543904_23500888_nWhen:  Thursday, March 19th, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

For our March Skeptics in the Pub talk, we thought we’d do something different, which is why rather than one speaker we thought we’d give you six! Giving a short talk as part of our Merseyside Skeptics March Megamix will be:

  • Mike Hall – President of Merseyside Skeptics Society – on the Monty Hall problem and counter-intuitive maths
  • Michael Marshall – Vice President of Merseyside Skeptics Society – on high street allergy tests
  • Laurie Phillips – on perpetual motion machines
  • Emma McClure – on forensic science and errors in the criminal justice system
  • Geraint Parry – on Science and May 7th

So, we’ll see you in The Vines, Lime Street from 8pm on March 19th for something a little different!


*Please note: Due to the unexpectedly early arrival of his daughter Rosalind, Tom Williamson will no longer be speaking at this event. I’m sure you’ll all join us in understanding his withdrawal, and congratulate him on his fatherhood!*

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Leftwing Propaganda Machine – by Chris Coltrane

When:  Thursday, July 16th, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool


Chris Coltrane is a comedian and activist in the anti-austerity movement that Mark Thomas once described as “the future of British political comedy”. He’s also a keen fan of skepticism from the sidelines, dipping his toes into the anti-homeopathy and pro-choice movements, plus his 2013 stand-up performances at QED and the MSS. “Basically I’m a nice man and I’d very much like the Merseyside Skeptics to like me”, he says.

In July Coltrane will be bringing a work-in-progress preview to us of his new Edinburgh Fringe show, Left Wing Propaganda Machine, a show he thinks will be about “evidence, and how people in power are bad at using it”.

He’ll be using stand-up comedy to argue for an evidence-based drugs policy; for an end to austerity; and he’ll be talking plenty on how every single statistic that British people think they know is wrong. How can democracy even work when we’re so badly informed? And how on earth does someone make that funny? Come and see Chris in July, and see if he’s worked it out.”

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Reasoning with the Unreasonable – by Harriet Hall

*Note: This talk does not take place on our usual date in the month, but instead takes place on the FIFTH Thursday of the month*

When:  Thursday, April 30th, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool


Dr. Hall will relate her always frustrating and often hilarious experiences as the token skeptic in a local community discussion group, and will follow up with a useful list of anti-science memes that refuse to die (like “science doesn’t know everything”) and will show how skeptics can answer them effectively.

Dr Harriet Hall is a retired family physician and former Air Force flight surgeon who writes about medicine, alternative medicine, science, quackery, and critical thinking. She is one of the founders and editors of the Science-Based Medicine blog, a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and co-author of the textbook Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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Do Computer Scientists Dream of Electric Sleep? – Katie Atkinson

When:  Thursday, May 21st, 2015, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

Dr Katie Atkinson

In this talk Katie will provide an insight into the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to show how current research on the topic breaks many of the moulds found in numerous depictions of AI in sci-fi literature and films. She will provide an overview of the main techniques used to represent aspects of intelligent thought and behaviour, and discuss some of the landmark success stories and current state-of-the-art. Katie will further pinpoint some of the challenges that AI researchers face, covering technological, legal and ethical aspects.

Dr Katie Atkinson is a Reader in the Agent Applications, Research, and Technology (Agent ART) Group of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Liverpool. The Agent ART Group carries out both pure and applied research in the area of autonomous agents and multi-agent systems. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the Computer Science department was ranked 1st in the UK for 4* and 3* research, with 97% of their research being rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Her research concerns computational models of argument, with a particular focus on persuasive argumentation in practical reasoning and how this can be applied in domains such as e-Democracy, law and agent systems. She has published over one hundred articles on these, and closely related, subjects. She received her PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2005.

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