Skeptics in the Pub

Liverpool Skeptics in the Pub meets twice a month, in the Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool. You don’t have to be a member to attend; if you want to come down and see what we’re about, you’ll be made welcome.

  • Social Event: First Thursday of each month, from 8pm.
  • Guest Speaker: Third Thursday of each month, from 8pm.

If you’re planning to attend, why not let us know via Facebook?

Upcoming Speakers

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

sheena

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.

No Comments

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

1525022_651700614916057_5408259389832891347_n

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.

No Comments

Past Speakers

Inside Britain’s Creationist Schools – by Jonny Scaramanga

When: Thursday, August 21st, 2014, 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

scaramanga

Jonny Scaramanga attended a fundamentalist Christian school in the ’90s where he learned that the Loch Ness Monster disproved evolution, God disapproved of the NHS, and homosexuals were an abomination. He talks about what students learn in these schools today, and what we should do when the parent’s right to freedom of religion conflicts with the child’s right to a sound education.

Jonny is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Education, where he is researching student experiences in Britain’s 50 Accelerated Christian Education schools. He has written for the Guardian, the Times Education Supplement, New Humanist, and New Statesman. His broadcast appearances include BBC Radio 4, BBC2, BBC local radio, and Channel 4′s 4Thought TV. His blog, Leaving Fundamentalism, won the 2014 Ockham Award for Best Blog. You can follow @JonnyScaramanga on Twitter.

No Comments

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

cf

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.

1 Comment

Eggs, Milk, Holiday, Death – by Robin Ince

When: Thursday, June 19th, 2014, 6.30 – 8.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

robinJoin us for an evening with Robin Ince as he mulls over being excited about being self-conscious in the universe for a finite amount of time, strange nights in the Monkey Cage with Brian Cox and reads from his favourite scientists, along with some shouting and confusion.

Robin is a presenter, comedian and writer – he currently presents the Infinite Monkey Cage on Radio 4 with Brian Cox.

He is also the creator of numerous shows (Bad Book Club, Happiness Through Science and the upcoming (Robin Ince is) In and Out of his Mind) and science events (The School for Gifted Children, Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, Uncaged Monkeys and Robin and Brian’s Christmas Compendium of Reason).

You can find out more about Robin at www.robinince.com.

No Comments

The Angels of Mons: a legend of the Great War – by Dr Dave Clarke

When: Thursday, May 15th, 2014, 8.00 PM

‘…the greatest wartime mystery of the 20th century…’ A.J.P. Taylor

One hundred years ago, in August 1914, a force of 30,000 crack British troops were surrounded outside the Belgian city of Mons by a massive German Army three times as strong. But at the very moment they expected to be annihilated the attack was suddenly halted, allowing the troops to escape and fight another day.

Back home, newspapers attributed the escape of the British Expeditionary Force to “a miracle” and many Christians came to believe that the Germans had been stopped by a vision of angels that appeared between them and the BEF. And as the war bogged down in the trenches wounded soldiers and nurses who cared for them came forward to claim they had witnessed the miracle at Mons. 

The Angels of Mons captured the imagination of thousands across the world, bringing hope of victory to the Allies and restoring faith to those who lost loved ones in the slaughter on the Western Front. As the centenary of the legend approaches the story lives on with plans for a battle of Mons trail and commemorative events to mark the beginning and end of the war in the Belgian city.
In this talk David Clarke – author of the definitive book on the mystery (The Angel of Mons, Wiley: 2004) – sets out to reveal the facts behind the story, drawing upon original documents and accounts from journalists who collected stories about the ‘angels’.
The talk follows the evolution of the story to the present day and asks if it really was ‘the first example of a modern urban legend’.

Dr David Clarke is an expert on folklore and supernatural beliefs. He is a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. From 2008-2013 he worked as The National Archives consultant for the opening of the Ministry of Defence’s UFO files. His book The UFO Files (Bloomsbury 2012) is the first comprehensive history of the MoD’s UFO investigations. His website is dedicated to folklore and journalism: http://www.drdavidclarke.co.uk/

No Comments

Why Haven’t We Cured Cancer Yet? Debunking the Conspiracies – by Dr Vicky Forster

When: Thursday, March 20th, 2014, 8.00 PM

Millions of pounds is poured into cancer research and drug development every year and although cure rates for many forms of cancer have improved dramatically in the last fifty years, some remain exceptionally hard to treat. An increasing number of passionate cancer conspiracy theorists claiming that ‘the cure’ has already been found and is being suppressed and that unproven alternative therapies are better than conventional therapies, are threatening the health of cancer patients and the reputation of cancer charities, doctors and researchers.

This talk will aim to address misunderstandings about the basic biology of cancer, look for any evidence behind the most popular touted ‘alternative cancer therapies’ and hopes to stimulate discussion as to why there are a growing number of people who believe in these largely-unfounded conspiracies.

Dr. Vicky Forster is a cancer research scientist at Newcastle University, and a survivor of childhood cancer. She is also passionate blogger for a large cancer charity and tweets a lot about her own work and demanding evidence for alternative cancer treatments and therapies.

No Comments

What do faith healers, Roman gladiators and anal probes have in common? – by Big Heritage

When: Thursday, February 19th, 2014,  8.00 PM

The answer is, they all take centre stage in the Roman Medicine Roadshow, a public education workshop organised by Merseyside-based non-profit organisation, Big Heritage.

Developed by a team of archaeologists and funded by the Wellcome Trust; this project explores medicine in the Roman world, and examines how human remains and archaeological discoveries can tell us more about the practicalities and ethics of medicine in the past. Exploring the past also helps shed light upon the logic of modern-day faith healing and sacred temples by viewing them through 2nd century eyes.

This talk will be given by archaeologists from Big Heritage, and will consist of a light-hearted lecture followed by an opportunity to handle a range of Roman medical tools and casts of human remains from Roman Britain displaying a range of diseases and impact traumas.

http://www.bigheritage.co.uk/

No Comments

Inside the Weird World of Scientology

by John Sweeney

When: Thursday, January 16th, 2014 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

John Sweeney

Tom Cruise and John Travolta say the Church of Scientology is a force for good. Others disagree. Award-winning journalist John Sweeney investigated the Church for more than half a decade. During that time he was intimidated, spied on and followed and the results were spectacular: Sweeney lost his temper with the Church’s spokesman on camera and his infamous ‘exploding tomato’ clip was seen by millions around the world.

John Sweeney tells the story of his experiences for the first time and paints a devastating picture of this strange organisation, from former Scientologists who tell heartbreaking stories of families torn apart and lives ruined to its current followers who say it is the solution to many of mankind’s problems.

2 Comments

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

by Simon Singh

When: Thursday, December 12th, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Please note that this event is on the second Thursday of the month, rather than our normal third Thursday of the month slot.

Simon Singh

Simon Singh, best-selling author of ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’ and ‘The Code Book’, will discuss his forthcoming book ‘The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets’. He will explain how a team of mathematically gifted writers have covered everything from calculus to geometry, from pi to game theory, and from infinitesimals to infinity in various episodes of The Simpsons. Singh will also discuss how the writers of Futurama have similarly made it their mission to smuggle deep mathematical ideas into the series.

No Comments

The Skeptical Bobby

by Stevyn Colgan

When: Thursday, November 21st, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

1010368_479668078785979_647955879_n

Stevyn Colgan is a former member of the Met Police Problem Solving Unit, which developed creative and innovative approaches to issues that did not respond to traditional policing methods. He is an expert on problem-oriented policing and has lectured extensively on the subject throughout the UK and US.

Stevyn is also an author, artist, songwriter, and oddly-spelled Cornishman. He is one of the QI Elves and co-writes its sister show, The Museum of Curiosity for BBC Radio 4.

His latest book Constable Colgan’s Connectoscope (Unbound, 2013) is published in paperback on 5th October 2013.

No Comments

A Skeptic’s Guide to Ghost Hunting

by Hayley Stevens

When: Thursday, October 17th, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Hayley Stevens

Described as ‘one of the sharpest and best skeptical commentators out there’, Hayley Stevens has addressed international audiences about researching the paranormal as a non-believer. She is one of Britain’s most vocal skeptical paranormal researchers and has been actively investigating ghosts and monsters since her teens when she used to believe that such things existed.

During her talk Hayley will explain everything a person could need to know about ghost hunting, from making ghosts forget their name, to the important role Play-Doh has in modern paranormal investigation. Riveting stuff that you simply cannot afford to miss.

No Comments

Alien Mummies, Monsters and Mermaids: Challenging the Mystery Mongers

by Paolo Viscardi

When: Thursday, September 19th, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Paolo Viscardi

From mummified aliens in deserts and monsters washed up on beaches to mermaids and holy fish, there is an interest in the unusual that can whip up a storm of speculation and spectacle. But cutting through hype, assumptions and misinformation is essential when you’re trying to uncover the truth. Join Paolo Viscardi in exploring some weird objects from the past and present – using scientific methods and museum collections to get beneath the surface of aliens, monsters, mermaids and the hype they have inspired.

Paolo Viscardi is a Natural History Curator at the Horniman Museum in Southeast London. He is a fellow of the Linnaean Society and a representative of the Natural Sciences Collections Association. In his spare time Paolo blogs about identifying bones at Zygoma and helps run an online biology Q&A site called ‘Ask A Biologist’. He organises and hosts monthly science communication events called PubSci and regularly lectures to a variety of audiences on topics ranging from Darwin to mermaids.

No Comments

How Quackery Corrupts Real Science

by David Colquhoun

When: Thursday, August 15th, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

David Colquhoun

One of the UK’s most outspoken and well-qualified opponents of alternative medicine and bad science, pharmacologist David Colquhoun runs the DC’s Improbable Science blog, which is devoted to criticism of scientific fraud and quackery. It has a particular focus on alternative medicine, including homeopathy, Traditional Chinese medicine, herbal medicine and other practices, which he calls ‘pure gobbledygook’.

In addition to his outspoken disapproval of alternative medicine in academia, Colquhoun frequently speaks against misrepresentation of alternative medicine as science in the media, and against governmental support of it. His blog discusses also wider problems in science, medicine and Higher Education. It was listed among the 100 best blogs in 2009. It was blog of the week in the New Statesman (30 May 2010). And in 2012 it was co-winner of the first UK Science Blog Prize, awarded by the Good Thinking Society.

Colquhoun was a member of the Conduct and Competence Committee of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), a regulatory body for alternative medicine in the UK. Colquhoun has stated he was surprised at being accepted for the position. However, he was dismissed in August 2010.

Colquhoun, FRS is a British pharmacologist at University College London (UCL). He has contributed to the general theory of receptor and synaptic mechanisms of single ion channel function. He previously held the A.J. Clark chair of Pharmacology at UCL, and was the Hon. Director of the Wellcome Laboratory for Molecular Pharmacology. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society in 1985 and an honorary fellow of UCL in 2004. Colquhoun runs the website DC’s Improbable Science, which is critical of pseudoscience, particularly alternative medicine, and managerialism.

No Comments

What Every Parent Needs To Know About Steiner Schools

by Andy Lewis

When: Thursday, July 18th, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

With Michael Gove and the coalition approving new Steiner Schools to open under the Free School Programme, it is timely to look closely at the origins and beliefs of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the occult movement of Anthroposophy. Steiner was a mystic who believed he had direct clairvoyant access to cosmic knowledge. As such he developed an esoteric belief system based on karma, reincarnation, astrology, homeopathy and gnomes. His visions gave insights into architecture, art, dance, agriculture, medicine, education, science and diet. His racial hierarchy of spiritual developmental resonated in Germany in the early 20th Century turning a personal belief into a worldwide movement. Today we find hundreds of anthroposphically inspired organisations in the UK alone: everything from Steiner Schools, Biodynamic farms to banks, pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, charities and cheese makers.

Andy Lewis has been trying to lift the veil on the inner secrets of the movement and will discuss how this secretive movement has direct impact on public life. He is the developer of the web site quackometer.net, which explores the pseudo-medical claims of alternative medicine web sites and their impact on society.

No Comments

That Guilty Look: The Modern Face of Physiognomy

by Kat Ford

When: Thursday, June 20th, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

The notion that one can judge a person’s character on the basis of their facial appearance is an idea that dates back to the ancient Greeks and for a short period, the practice of physiognomy was considered scientific. Despite the fact that this ancient practice has long been discredited, the idea that one can “read” a person’s character simply by looking at their face still persists within folk psychology. In fact, this belief and our natural tendency to judge people on the basis of facial appearance has a surprisingly pervasive effect on all of our lives.

In this talk Kathryn Ford will look at the modern face of physiognomy trying to answer questions such as; why do we judge people as soon as we see them? How accurate are these judgements? And does facial appearance effect how people are treated within the criminal justice system?

Warning: This talk will involve some discussion of rape.

Kathryn Ford received a BSc in Neuroscience and Psychology from Keele University in 2011 and an MSc in Evolutionary Psychology from Brunel University in 2012.

No Comments

Church Of Fear : Inside The Weird World Of Scientology

john-sweeney

When: Thursday, May 16th, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Tom Cruise and John Travolta say the Church of Scientology is a force for good. Others disagree. Award-winning journalist John Sweeney investigated the Church for more than half a decade. During that time he was intimidated, spied on and followed and the results were spectacular: Sweeney lost his temper with the Church’s spokesman on camera and his infamous ‘exploding tomato’ clip was seen by millions around the world.

John Sweeney tells the story of his experiences for the first time and paints a devastating picture of this strange organisation, from former Scientologists who tell heartbreaking stories of families torn apart and lives ruined to its current followers who say it is the solution to many of mankind’s problems.

No Comments

Electric cars are rubbish. Aren’t they?

by Robert Llewellyn

Robert_Llewellyn

When: Thursday, March 21st, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Nothing but glorified golf carts that take forever to charge and then run out of power on the way to the shops. Try finding somewhere to charge them. They cost a fortune to buy and another fortune to replace the battery when its range drops to half. You don’t want to believe all that nonsense about them being environmentally-friendly. They are actually worse than petrol-powered cars because the batteries are made from dirty lithium and use electricity made from dirtier coal. There isn’t even enough lithium in the world to make all the new batteries we’d need anyway. Electric cars are just rubbish. Aren’t they? – Robert says no. This evening he’ll tell us why he thinks we need to put away our prejudices and think seriously about electric vehicles as the future of transport.

Robert Llewellyn is an actor, writer, comedian, TV presenter and self-described wishy-washy liberal best known for playing the android Kryten in the long-running BBC sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf. He presented Scrapheap Challenge for 10 years and these days he can be seen on TV presenting the shows Car-Pool on Dave and How Do They Do It? on Channel 5. He is probably the UK’s most prominent advocate of electric vehicles (EV) and presents a YouTube-based show called Fully Charged which documents current developments in the electric vehicle industry. He also writes a column for the EV website The Charging Point. He has been notably critical of BBC Top Gear’s position on electric vehicles – a case in point being the Top Gear “review” of the Tesla V in 2008 which is currently the subject of a lawsuit by Tesla. This February he debated the motion “This House Believes Electric Cars are the Future of Transport” at the Oxford Union. The motion was carried.

1 Comment

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

373206_464229050302432_1296449068_n
by Rob Brotherton

When: Thursday, February 21st, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Why do some people believe unproven and implausible conspiracy theories? What’s the harm if they do? And just what is a conspiracy theory, anyway? Rob Brotherton provides a psychological perspective on the peculiar phenomenon of conspiracy theorising.

Rob Brotherton is a doctoral researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London. His ESRC-funded PhD concerns the measurement and cognitive correlates of conspiracist ideation. Rob is Assistant Editor of The Skeptic, the U.K.’s longest running sceptical magazine (www.skeptic.org.uk). Rob blogs about the psychology of conspiracy theories at www.ConspiracyPsych.com.

No Comments

Dr Geraint Parry: Future food – Why GM is Important!

When: Thursday, January 17th, 2013 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

In a last-minute change to our scheduled programming January’s talk will presented by Dr Geraint Parry on the “Future food: Why GM is Important!”.

Geraint is a plant biologist and researcher at the University of Liverpool. He has had papers published in Nature Cell Biology, PNAS and Plant Cell.

NOTE This event replaces our advertised talk from Andy Lewis on Steiner Schools, which has unfortunately been post-poned due to circumstances beyond our control.

Andy Lewis: What Every Parent Needs To Know About Steiner Schools

With Michael Gove and the coalition approving new Steiner Schools to open under the Free School Programme, it is timely to look closely at the origins and beliefs of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the occult movement of Anthroposophy. Steiner was a mystic who believed he had direct clairvoyant access to cosmic knowledge. As such he developed an esoteric belief system based on karma, reincarnation, astrology, homeopathy and gnomes. His visions gave insights into architecture, art, dance, agriculture, medicine, education, science and diet. His racial hierarchy of spiritual developmental resonated in Germany in the early 20th Century turning a personal belief into a worldwide movement. Today we find hundreds of anthroposphically inspired organisations in the UK alone: everything from Steiner Schools, Biodynamic farms to banks, pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, charities and cheese makers.

Andy Lewis has been trying to lift the veil on the inner secrets of the movement and will discuss how this secretive movement has direct impact on public life. He is the developer of the web site quackometer.net, which explores the pseudo-medical claims of alternative medicine web sites and their impact on society.

No Comments

Mike Hall: The Nativity


When: Thursday, December 20th, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Herod, shepherds, stables and kings–every schoolchild knows the story of the Nativity… or do they? Mike Hall takes a critical look at the Nativity story presented in the New Testament. It may not be quite as familiar as you think.

Mike Hall is the president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and presenter of the Skeptics with a K podcast. His particular interests are the existence of God, alternative medicine, logic and Doctor Who. He once appeared on the Sky One game show “Are You Smarter Than A Ten Year Old?”. He wasn’t.

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Barry Kushner

When: Thursday, November 15th, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Why is it when our debt is lower than it has been in 200 of the last 250 years, our borowing is cheaper than during Thatcher, when unemployment and a decrease in taxation has caused the deficit, are we told that the cuts are necessary and the only option?

This talk challenges the misleading information about our economy in crisis that has become the single overwhelming narrative. Barry Kushner’s talk has done a tour of public meetings, Nerve magazine event, Adult Learners week, trade union conferences and seminars, Labour group meetings, and commended by the New Economics Foundation, senior politicians and trade unionists as a clear, simple explanation of our economy.

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Confessions of a Former Health Food Shop Worker

by Becs O’Neill

When: Thursday, October 18thth, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Three and a half years behind the counter in a health food shop can be a learning experience in more ways than one. From vitamins and minerals to the latest celebrity-endorsed wonder supplement, no main street or shopping centre is complete without a purveyor of alternative therapies. Likewise, there are very few people who don’t associate vitamin C or echinacea with the treatment of colds or flu. If these ideas are so pervasive, one question is why? What is it about the sellers of these therapies that make them seem so valid or trustworthy?

Well, take it from a former believer: the answer is definitely not black and white.

1 Comment

Mark Lynas: The God Species

Mark Lynas
When: Thursday, September 20th, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Building on recent scientific discoveries, Mark Lynas explains that there are nine ‘planetary’ boundaries that humanity must not cross if Earth is to continue to support life and our civilisation. Climate change is one, but others – like ocean acidification, nitrogen use and biodiversity loss – are less well known, though equally crucial.

But this is no depressing lamentation of eco-doom. Instead Lynas presents a radical manifesto that calls for the increased use of controversial but environmentally friendly-technologies, such as genetic engineering and nuclear power, as part of a global effort to protect and nurture the biosphere. Ripping up years of ‘green’ orthodoxy, he reveals how the prescriptions of the current environmental movement are likely to hinder as much as help our vitally-needed effort to use science and technology to play God and save the planet.

Mark Lynas is the author of The God Species: How the Planet Can Survive the Age of Humans, published by Fourth Estate in July 2011. He has previous written two major books on climate change – High Tide: News from a warming world (2004) and Six Degrees: Our future on a hotter planet (2007).

No Comments

Mark Stevenson: An Optimists View of the Future


When: Thursday, August 16th, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Mark Stevenson has been to the future a few years ahead of the rest of us – and came back believing we still have everything to play for. His voyage of discovery took him to Boston to visit a robot with mood swings, to an underwater cabinet meeting in the Indian Ocean, and Australia to question the Outback’s smartest farmer, had his genome profiled, and glimpsed the next stage of human evolution … then he tried to make sense of what’s in store.

The result was An Optimist’s Tour of the Future, which is finding fans from schoolchildren through to Nobel Peace Prize winners. Mark will talk of the future of humanity and how technology will help remedy some of these problems.

Mark combines two careers – one as a successful writer and comedian and as co-founder and director of the cultural learning agency Flow Associates and the science communication agency ReAgency, Roving Learner at The Age of Smart, a fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and Nibmaster General for the Ministry of Stories.

No Comments

Mark Henderson: The Geek Manifesto


When: Thursday, July 19th, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

There are 650 MPs in the House of Commons. 158 have a background in business, 90 have been political advisers or organisers, and 86 are lawyers. Only one of them is a scientist. Is it any wonder that politics so often lets science down, and fails to exploit its skeptical methods to design policies that are fit for purpose?

In the Geek Manifesto, published by Bantam Press in May 2012, Mark Henderson explores this disconnect between science and politics, and charts the emergence of a new force that is promising to mend it. From the Simon Singh libel case to the sacking of David Nutt and the Science is Vital campaign, people who care about science are starting to stand up to be counted. The geeks are coming — and our country needs us.

Mark Henderson is ex Science Editor of The Times, and current Head of Communications at The Wellcome Trust.

No Comments

David Nutt: The Struggle for Evidence-Based Policy


When: Monday, July 9th, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

The Merseyside Skeptics Society is pleased to announce a special additional talk for July. We will be joined by Professor David Nutt, current Edmond J Safra Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London.

Professor Nutt was a member of the Committee on Safety of Medicines, and was President of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology but it was during his chairmanship of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and his refusal to fudge the issue of perceived drug harm that brought him into the public spotlight.

Please note that this additional talk for July will be on a Monday evening, rather than our usual Thursday slot.

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Stephen Law

Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole


by Stephen Law

When: Thursday, May 17th, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Wacky belief systems abound.

Members of the Heavens Gate suicide cult believed they were taking a ride to heaven on board a UFO. Muslim suicide bombers expect to be greeted after death by 72 virgins. And many fundamentalist Christians insist the entire universe is just 6,000 years old. Of course its not only cults and religions that promote bizarre beliefs significant numbers of people believe that aliens built the pyramids. How do such preposterous views succeed in entrenching themselves in the minds of sane, intelligent, educated people and turn them into the willing slaves of claptrap?

Believing Bullshit is a witty and insightful critique that will help immunise readers against the wiles of cultists, religious and political zealots, conspiracy theorists, and various other nut-cases by clearly setting out the tricks of the trade by which such insidious belief systems are created and sustained.

ABOUT STEPHEN LAW

Stephen Law is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London. He has written several well-known introductions to philosophy, including the prize-winning The Philosophy Gym, and edits the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK: Philosophy For Everyone.

His latest book is Believing Bullshit: How Not To Get Sucked Into An Intellectual Black Hole.

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Ash Pryce

How to be a Psychic Con-Man


by Ash Pryce

When: Thursday, April 19th, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Ash Pryce of the Edinburgh Skeptics Society presents a fully interactive demonstration of various tricks that psychics have used over the years.

From the Fox Sisters through to Uri Geller, psychics have been claiming to be able to do things beyond our understanding, but Ash Pryce knows better. Nearly all of the major claims of psychics and mediums can easily be re-created and tonight Ash will be reproducing such famous feats as Uri Geller’s Telekinesis, Filipino Psychic Surgery, the Remote Viewing experiments of America’s “Stargate” program (The 70s CIA shenanigans and not the inter dimensional, Goa’uld busting kind) and much more – including an attempt to beat the odds of the Randi Million.

A fun, entertaining and magic filled evening that also takes a look at the history of psychic trickery and how it has become such a popular phenomenon. Warning to those on the front row – there will be blood!

1 Comment

Skeptics in the Pub: Mark Edon

Creationism in the UK – Closing the Ark Door After the T-Rex has bolted?

by Mark Edon

When: Thursday, February 16th, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Mark Edon, from the British Centre for Science Education will be talking about the current issues surrounding creationism in the UK; why Skeptics should care; how to argue against creationism and maybe even a bit of science.

About the Speaker

Mark Edon is a lifelong fan of science, and first got involved in the UK anti-creationist scene after creationists interfered at his children’s school. He is currently studying for a degree in Life Sciences at the Open University.

Mark is also the Humanist representative on the Leeds City Council Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education (SACRE) and the secretary for the BCSE (British Centre for Science Education).

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Peter Blanchard

Homeopathy: Is it legal?

by Peter Blanchard

When: Thursday, January 19th, 2012 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Homeopathic products have long been shown to have no effect on illnesses, and no active ingredients – yet these sugar pills are sold on high streets across the country and by our most respected pharmacists. Given that the pills are indistinguishable from sugar pills, yet proponents claim remarkable powers of healing from them, how legal are the claims made?

Peter Blanchard is a blogger and activist who has amassed the most comprehensive lay understanding of the ins and outs of regulating homeopathic products.

In this talk, he’ll explain who can and can’t supply homeopathic products, what homeopathic remedies can be advertised and what claims can and can’t be made about. He’ll also cover the highly restricted circumstances under which some homeopathic medicines can be supplied – exposing those who operate outside of these rules.

Having been successful in getting reluctant regulators to act on those who break the law, he’ll go through tactics you can use to make successful complaints, and how you can help.

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Michael Marshall

Bad News: How PR Came to Rule Modern Journalism

Michael Marshall: Bad News: How PR Came to Rule Modern Journalism by Michael Marshall

When: Thursday, December 15th, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

“You can’t believe everything you read in the papers.”

Everyone knows this, but few people realise this truism extends far beyond the celebrity pages and gossip columns, and spills into ‘real’ news. Here, the near-invisible influence of PR companies is often pivotal in deciding what news gets told, and how it gets reported. By taking a brief look at the history of modern journalism, and using real examples taken from recent headlines, Michael Marshall will show why you really, really can’t believe everything you read in the papers.

Michael Marshall is the co-founder and vice-president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and appears on the “Skeptics with a K” and ‘Be Reasonable’ podcasts. Besides organising the national and international 10:23 Campaign against homeopathy, he writes about the often-unsuspected role of PR in modern media. Michael has written for The Times, The Guardian and The New Statesman, and has lectured as part of the Sheffield Hallam University Journalism degree.

Ben Goldacre once called him ‘a mighty nerd from Liverpool’, and the self-proclaimed psychic Joe Power once called him something very rude and unprintable.

, , , , ,

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test

Jon Ronson: The Psychopath Testby Jon Ronson

When: Thursday, November 17th, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

When the journalist Jon Ronson is contacted by a leading neurologist who has recently received a cryptically puzzling book in the mail he is challenged to solve the mystery behind it. As he searches for answers, Jon soon finds himself, unexpectedly, on an utterly compelling and often unbelievable adventure into the world of madness. Jon meets a Broadmoor inmate who swears he faked a mental disorder to get a lighter sentence but is now stuck there, with nobody believing he’s sane. He meets some of the people who catalogue mental illness, and those who vehemently oppose them. He meets the influential psychologist who developed the industry standard Psychopath Test and who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are in fact psychopaths. Jon learns from him how to ferret out these high-flying psychopaths and, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, heads into the corridors of power.

Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of two bestsellers: “Them: Adventures with Extremists” and “The Men Who Stare at Goats”, and two collections, “Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness” and” What I Do: More True Tales”.

, , , , ,

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: John Walliss

It’s (Not) the End of the World As We Know It

John Walliss: It's (Not) the End of the World As We Know Itby John Walliss
When: Thursday, October 20th, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

On 21st May 2011 the end of the world should have begun. This prophecy, from evangelical Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping, however, did not come to pass. Christians all over the world were not raptured, the Tribulation period did not begin, and Camping, who has subsequently suffered a stroke, and his followers are having to come to terms with the apparent failure, or at least delay, of the prophesied events to occur.

Camping however, is not unique in religious history. Numerous other prophets and religious leaders have made claims that the world will end on a specific date with events subsequently proving them wrong.

John will examine the phenomenon of prophetic failure, drawing on the wealth of literature that we have developed in the social sciences over the last 60 or so years. In doing so he will hope to answer such questions as what happens when prophecy fails and does prophecy ever really fail?

John Walliss is the senior lecturer in the sociology of religion and Director of the Centre for Millennialism Studies within the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Liverpool Hope University..

, , , , , ,

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Stuart Ritchie

The Science of Pornography and Anti-Porn Campaigners: A Skeptical Look At The Debate

Stuart Ritchie by Stuart Ritchie

When: Thursday, September 15th, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Is pornography turning us all into sex offenders? What effect does it have on societal attitudes towards women? Is porn taking over the internet? If certain recent books – such as ‘Pornland’ by Professor Gail Dines – are to be believed, pornography is having all these effects and more, and is a hugely detrimental force in our society.

But what does the best scientific evidence say? Stuart Ritchie, a PhD Psychology student at The University of Edinburgh, takes a skeptical look at the arguments for and against pornography.

NOTE: This is a replacement talk for “How to be a Psychic Con-man” by Ash Pryce, which has been postponed until further notice.

, , , ,

1 Comment

Skeptics in the Pub: Richard Peppiatt

The Street Of Shame: Tales of Fleet Street

Rich Peppiatt: The Street Of Shame: Tales of Fleet Streetby Richard Peppiatt

When: Thursday, August 18th, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Rich Peppiatt is a former tabloid reporter who earlier this year quit the Daily Star in a sensational open letter to proprietor Richard Desmond.

His talk will lift the lid on what life is really like behind the doors of Britain’s red tops, what drives the journalists who work for them, and just what needs to be done to reform an industry which for too long has behaved with impunity.

In what promises to be a night packed with anecdotes from the jaw-dropping to the hilarious, Rich will take you on a tour through the pitfalls of Fleet Street.

, , , ,

2 Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Deborah Hyde

Unnatural Predators

Deborah Hyde
by Deborah Hyde

When: Thursday, July 21st, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Deborah Hyde will tell us about cultural aspects of the religious and superstitious experience. This evening we will discuss and answer such questions as:

  • Why do the dead chew in their graves?
  • Why do vampires strike in autumn?
  • Why do ghosts live in electric clocks?

A gory talk full of the unexpected, it’s a round-up of the folklore of the macabre.

About Deborah

Deborah has been writing about the supernatural for nearly two decades. She blogs on ‘Superstition, Religion and Being Human’ as ‘Jourdemayne’ but often suffers from mission creep.

She’s also one of the organisers of Westminster Skeptics and is Editor-in-Chief of the Skeptic Magazine. Her daytime, grown-up job is a makeup effects coordinator in the film industry – more vampires and zombies, then.

, , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Brian Deer

MMR and Autism: An Elaborate Fraud

How the Case Against the Vaccine Was Built

Brian Deer

by Brian Deer
When: Thursday, June 16, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

As the Wirral becomes the latest area of the UK to suffer a measles outbreak in an unvaccinated population, investigative journalist Brian Deer visits Liverpool to speak about how he uncovered the “elaborate fraud” behind the MMR scare.

In February 1998, the Lancet medical journal triggered a global alarm with research proposing a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism. The researchers’ leader, Andrew Wakefield called for the vaccine to be “suspended”. But all was not as it appeared to be. Following investigations over a period of 7 years for The Sunday Times, the British Medical Journal in January denounced Wakefield’s research as “an elaborate fraud”.

The story raced round the world. A Harris poll in the United States found that 47% of Americans had heard Deer’s story. The New York Times said his work was “extraordinary.” Now, on 16th June, he comes to Merseyside Skeptics Society to talk about how Wakefield rigged the research linking MMR with autism, how he did it, who paid him for it, how much money he expected to make out of it, and the years-long investigation which finally nailed him. This is one of the big science stories of today.

, , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Skeptics in the Pub: Alan Henness

The Nightingale Collaboration

Alan Henness

by Alan Henness
When: Thursday, May 19, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

In 2009, Alan Henness heard about the British Chiropractic Association’s libel case against Simon Singh for the article he wrote for the Guardian about bogus therapies. He started to look at chiropractors’ websites and was appalled by the claims being made – he decided to do something about it. Alan submitted complaints about 524 chiropractors to their statutory regulator in June 2009; nearly two years later, many of those complaints have yet to be decided.

Simon Singh’s case encouraged many skeptics to see what they could do to challenge misleading claims. However, many were unsure how best to make complaints and also saw the need to have larger, coordinated campaigns if they were going to make a real impact. The Nightingale Collaboration was set up to enable sharing of knowledge and experience in challenging misleading claims in healthcare advertising, and to encourage anyone who is concerned at protecting the public from misinformation in healthcare promotion to join them in challenging it. The Nightingale Collaboration aims to improve the protection of the public by getting misleading claims withdrawn and those responsible held to account.

1 Comment

Skeptics in the Pub: Chris French

Haunted houses, telepathy and UFOs: Investigating the extraordinary

by Chris French
When: Thursday, April 21, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Over the last decade, the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit of Goldsmiths University has investigated a wide range of weird and wonderful topics, including alien contact experiences, sleep paralysis, haunted houses, dowsing, and telepathy. Many paranormal claims have been scientifically tested under properly controlled conditions along the way. This overview by Professor Chris French will present some of the results of such investigations.

About Chris French

Chris is head of the APRU, and appears frequently on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims. He is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and writes for the Guardian’s online science pages.

This is a different lecture to the one delivered for us by Chris in September 2009

5 Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Bob Churchill

You’re Probably Not A Jedi: The Census Campaign And Why It Matters

YOU'RE PROBABLY NOT A JEDI: THE CENSUS CAMPAIGN AND WHY IT MATTERS

Bob Churchill, British Humanist Association

by Bob Churchill
When: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Bob Churchill will discuss the BHA’s Census Campaign, what the problem with the religion question on the Census is, why it matters in the long-run, and why you’re probably not a Jedi. Bob will also divulge the surprising reasons as to why the Office of National Statistics declined to make the question more accurate even though they knew how to do it – and it’s probably not what you think.

About Bob Churchill

Bob is Head of Membership and Promotion of the British Humanist Association. He studied Philosophy at the University of Warwick and Queens University, Canada. Subsequently he worked in communications for a social housing organisation and then in marketing and information systems development for an industrial technology company.

Bob joined the BHA in January 2008. He has responsibility for managing the membership scheme and communications, promoting Humanism via their events and publications and liaising with Local Humanist Groups.

NOTE: Due to our regular third-Thursday slot clashing, somewhat ironically, with St Patrick’s Day, this lecture will be taking place on Wednesday 16th March, at the Head of Steam, Liverpool.

, , , ,

1 Comment

Skeptics in the Pub: Gareth Williams

God, Shaw and Wakefield – Two Centuries of Anti-Vaccinationists

by Gareth Williams
When: Thu, Feb 17, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Gareth Williams qualified with Honours in Medicine and Pharmacology from Cambridge University in 1977 and trained in London and Geneva. He was Professor of Medicine in Liverpool, where he built up an internationally recognised research group in diabetes and obesity, and then Dean of Medicine in Bristol, where he remains as Professor of Medicine and Lead for European Relations in the Faculty. He has written 200 scientific papers and has authored or edited over 20 books, including the prize-winning Textbook of Diabetes. Gareth is a former President of the Anglo-French Medical Society and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Angers. He is Chair of the Trustees of the Edward Jenner Museum. His hobbies include playing music (both reputable and disreputable) and writing fiction.

Inspired by Edward Jenner, who lived and practised nearby, Gareth wrote Angel of Death: the story of smallpox, during a year’s sabbatical leave. Angel was published by Palgrave Macmillan in May 2010, leading to appearances on national and international radio and television, and at the Hay Literary Festival and many other events. Angel of Death has been reviewed as “wonderfully researched, vividly written … medical history at its absolute best” and was shortlisted for the prestigious Wellcome Trust Book Prize 2010.

2 Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Neil Gavin

Climate Scepticism in the Media: Gone But Not Forgotten

by Neil Gavin
When: Thu, Jan 20, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Climate scepticism is a complex beast with many facets. The talk will look at some of these facets (at strands of argument and claims-making), but will also focus on the political roots of the phenomenon. The talk will venture onto the ground of ‘climategate’ and what it tells us about climate science and climate politics, before engaging with just how salient contrarianism is in the media (from press, to television to the web).

Biography

Neil Gavin is Senior Lecturer in the School of Politics and Communication Studies at University of Liverpool, and formerly taught at York University and London School of Economics and Political Science. He was editor of The Economy, Media and Public Knowledge and co-editor of Britain Votes 1997. He has published in the Journal of Politics, British Politics and International elations, Political Studies, Electoral Studies, Parliamentary Affairs, Media, Culture and Society, Journalism, and The British Elections and Parties Yearbook.

2 Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Hayley Stevens

I’m a Ghosthunter; Get Me Out of Here!

by Hayley Stevens
When: Thu, Dec 16, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Ghost hunters across the country commit a multitude of sins while looking for ghosts in haunted buildings, but it’s all harmless fun, right? Wrong!

Join Hayley Stevens, the founder of the British Anomalistic Research Society, as she takes you on a terrifying tour through the British field of paranormal research and unleashes several skeletons from several cupboards. From fraudulent hauntings and paranormal politics to sham ghosts, outright fraud and the dreaded paranormal curse…

Biography

Hayley Stevens is a thorn-in-the-side for pseudoscientific ghost hunters everywhere. She has been researching and investigating paranormal and supernatural phenomena since 2005. In the past she has been described as ‘controversial’, ‘level headed’, ‘****’, ‘outspoken’, ‘a pain the arse’, and ‘a voice of reason. Hayley also blogs as the Rather Friendly Skeptic and is a co-host for the Righteous Indignation podcast.

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Martin Poulter

How to Create Your Own Cult, the Scientology Way

by Martin Poulter
When: Thu, Nov 18, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Scientology has been described in the States as “ruthless, litigious and lucrative” and in this country as “corrupt, sinister and dangerous”, yet it boasts global success and has made hundreds of millions of dollars. Thanks to the Internet, it now faces an unprecedented global opposition. The scary secrets of Scientology and its recruitment methods will be exposed in this talk. It will be useful for anyone wanting to set up their own lucrative cult.

Biography

Martin Poulter first encountered skepticism while a teenager. He has a Philosophy and Psychology degree from Oxford University and a PhD in Philosophy of Science from the University of Bristol. He has been a Scientology-watcher since 1995, when he was threatened with legal action over material he posted online. He is an ordained minister in the Church of the SubGenius, which offers eternal spiritual salvation or triple your money back.

NB: This event replaces the scheduled talk “Sex in the Media” by Dr Petra Boynton, which has been postponed due to unforeseen circumstances.

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Elizabeth Pisani

Public Health Prostitution: Has HIV made whores of us all?

by Elizabeth Pisani
When: Wed, Oct 27, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani will argue that a bloated AIDS industry dances to the tune of money and ideology rather than science and common sense. The result: over 60 million HIV infections to date, and still rising.

Biography

Elizabeth is an epidemiologist who has spent over a decade working on the defining epidemic of our age – HIV. She’s done research and worked as an advisor for the Ministries of Health of China, Indonesia, East Timor and the Philippines, and has also provided analysis and policy advice to UNAIDS, the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, US Centres for Disease Control and many others.

1 Comment

Skeptics in the Pub: Sarah Horton

Being Sarah

by Sarah Horton
When: Thu, Oct 21, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer at 43 and lives in Liverpool. She underwent six surgeries including mastectomy, oophorectomy and breast reconstruction, plus gruelling treatments. She has 49 inches of scar and lives with the permanent fear of the cancer returning.

Sarah Horton claims that the UK has conned itself into thinking breast cancer is a treatable disease and there is little debate on prevention.

This October Sarah Horton is calling for breast cancer policy to focus more heavily on prevention and for breast cancer patients to be given further choice and control over their treatments.

Biography

On 21 February 2007 Sarah Horton was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the space of a few moments, her life was to change forever – not only physically and emotionally, but opening up a whole new world of breast cancer politics, ‘pink’ campaigns and a glaring lack of focus on prevention.

Following press coverage of Sarah’s extremely honest, opinionated diaries, in 2009 Sarah began writing a book about her experience. Opinionated, outspoken and life-affirming, Being Sarah is also a protest call, angry, and anti-pink.

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Tracy King – Cancelled/converted to a social

We’d originally planned to have the excellent Tracy King from Skepchick come to talk to us about Storm: The Animated Movie. However, due to demands of her role with TAM London (tickets still on sale – buy them now!) Tracy has had to cancel at the last minute, which is a huge – yet understandable – shame.
Instead, this event will revert back to a social at Dr Duncan’s, where there’ll be drinks, laughter and the chance to chat to your fellow skeptics, and stuff. Which is pretty damn cool, in any case.

Hope to see you there!

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Evan Harris

The Way Ahead for Skeptical and Rationalist Campaigning

by Dr Evan Harris
When: FRI, Sep 17, 2010 8.00 – 10.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Dr Evan Harris, was educated at the Blue Coat School in Liverpool and qualified in medicine from Oxford University in 1991. He was the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon from 1997-2010. During his time as an MP – and since – he has campaigned strongly for free speech, human rights, equality, science, evidence-based policy, secularism and much else besides. He was the Lib Dem Science Spokesman and served on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Science and Technology Select Committee.

He was responsible for the abolition of the blasphemy law and criminal defamation As Parliamentary lead on the Libel Reform campaign, he advised English PEN , Index on Censorship and Sense About Science on strategy and worked to build a coalition in Parliament to reform Britain’s outdated libel system. He has also campaigned for better Parliamentary scrutiny of the Government, as part of the Parliament First group and was elected to the “Wright” Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons. He is a patron of Dignity in Dying, a Vice-President of the BHA and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. He is a long-standing member of the BMA’s Medical Ethics Committee.

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Mike Hall

Five Bad Reasons to Believe in God

by Mike Hall
When: Thu, Aug 19, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Apologetics is the systematic defence of a position. Religious apologetics specifically is a field of theology which seeks to present a rational basis for religious faith, defend the faith against objections and support the claim “God exists”. But are the arguments made by apologetics sound?

Mike Hall takes a look at five common apologetics, deconstructing the arguments presented and exposing any flaws.

Biography

Mike Hall is the president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and presenter of the Skeptics with a K podcast. His particular interests are the existence of God, alternative medicine and Doctor Who. He owns at least two cyberman heads.

, , ,

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: David Aaronovitch

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

by David Aaronovitch
When: Thu, Jul 15, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Our age is obsessed by the idea of conspiracy. We see it everywhere – from Pearl Harbour to 9/11, from the assassination of Kennedy to the death of Diana.

In his book Voodoo Histories, writer David Aaronovitch entertainingly demolishes the absurd and sinister conspiracy theories of the last 100 years. Aaronovitch reveals why people are so ready to believe in them and the dangers of this credulity.

Meticulous in its research, forensic in its reasoning, hilarious in its debunking, Voodoo Histories will arm anyone who has found themselves at the wrong end of a conversation about moon landings or the twin towers.

David will examine the need, when iconic figures such as Kennedy, Monroe or Princess Diana are killed, to construct an overarching explanation that mitigates the pain and anxiety of their loss – showing what happens when, as in the case of Diana, conspiracy theories actually make it as far as a court of law.

Biography

David Aaronovitch is an award-winning journalist, who has worked in radio, television and the media in the United Kingdom since the early 1980s. He has previously written for The Guardian, The Observer and The Independent as well as having appeared on Have I Got News For You.

, ,

3 Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Phil Allport

Dr Phil Allport

Liverpool and the Large Hadron Collider

by Phil Allport
When: Thu, Jun 17, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) with the intention of testing various predictions of high-energy physics, including the existence of the hypothesized Higgs boson.

Dr Phil Allport will be talking to the MSS about the involvement of Liverpool and other UK universities in the design and construction of the LHC experiments, as well as the schedule for the accelerator’s projected 20 years of operation.

Biography

Dr Phil Allport leads the Liverpool Particle Physics Group (one the three largest in the UK) and is Director of the Liverpool Semiconductor Detector System. He also chairs the UK Institute of Physics High Energy Particle Physics Group. Internationally, he jointly leads the ATLAS Experiment Tracker Upgrade Project at the LHC and is a member of the ATLAS Experiment Upgrade Steering Group and Project Office.

, ,

4 Comments

(Cancelled) Skeptics in the Pub: David Aaronovitch

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History – Cancelled

Apologies for the last minute notice, but after an unforeseen emergency eye surgery, our guest speaker David Aaronovitch has had to pull out of the event on Thursday. This is of course a huge shame, but we’ll be keeping the room for the date, so instead we’re hosting a social event in the Vines at 8pm. Please feel free to come along and chat to us about skepticism, conspiracy theory and other skeptical topics.

, ,

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Matt Smith

Million Dollar Psychic

by Dr Matthew Smith
Matt Smith
When: Thu, Apr 15, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Can a scientist become a psychic and win a million dollars?

Do we all have hidden psychic powers? Can we learn to be psychic? Psychologist Dr Matthew Smith is determined to find the answers to these questions and see if he can discover and develop his own abilities and claim the $1 million offered by magician James Randi for anyone who can demonstrate psychic ability.

Biography

Dr Matthew Smith was an Associate Professor of Psychology at Liverpool Hope University until September 2009. His sceptical views on the paranormal have led to appearances on a number of television programmes broadcast throughout the world.

After nearly twenty years investigating the paranormal from a scientific perspective, he is embarking on a unique and ground-breaking experiment in which he becomes his own test subject.

, , ,

1 Comment

Skeptics in the Pub: Daniela Rudloff

Mental “Shortcuts” – A Necessary Evil?

by Daniela Rudloff

When: Thu, Mar 18, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Can we really trust our eyes? Why does a footballer’s performance usually drop right after they’ve been sold to a high-paying football club? What exactly is “anchoring”, and why are we doing it in a pub?

Daniela Rudloff will answer these and other questions by giving an introduction to the everyday mental shortcuts and biases we often employ, arguing that even though they might be misleading, they are also necessary – and almost impossible to avoid.

Biography

Daniela has always had a profound interest in critical thinking, leading her to join the German Skeptics in 1994. In 2006 she commenced a PhD in Psychology to find out what keeps Joe Bloggs from being a rational, reasonable and skeptical person.

, ,

No Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Anniversary Special (formerly Andy Lewis)

Anniversary Bonanza

When: Thu, Feb 18, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances our booked guest speaker Andy Lewis is unable to make this event. However, all is not lost – in honour of the first anniversary of the Merseyside Skeptics Society we’ve decided to replace Andy’s talk with a number of short talks on a variety of topics:

  • Emotional Freedom Technique, by Allan Callister – a look at the latest craze for face-tapping therapy
  • Bad Logic, Mike Hall – examining logical failures, with examples from the world of religion
  • PR and the Media, Michael Marshall – how PR gained control of journalism, and where we go from here
  • How Science Works, Tom Williamson – what is science, how do we do it and how do we know it works?

Plus, a live recording of the Skeptics with a K show.


The Persistence of Delusion

by Andy Lewis

Summary

The late eighteenth century was a very creative time for inventing new forms of quackery and many became quite wealthy on the back on their invention. Of these creations, it is perhaps only homeopathy that has survived virtually unchanged into the 21st century. The majority of alternative medicines available today have been invented and developed within living memory, despite claims of their origins in antiquity. What makes an alternative medicine successful? Why should homeopathy survive when the very popular tractors of Perkins have long since been forgotten? Could you have predicted this in 1800? Today, we have a new industry of quack devices protecting us from mobile phones. Should you invest in such enterprises? In this talk, Andy will look at the factors that make pseudo-medicines thrive and why consumers and practitioners latch onto them. Importantly, we shall explore the implications of these views for regulation and protecting the public from delusional or fraudulent claims.

Biography

Andy Lewis developed the web site quackometer.net that explores the pseudo-medical claims of alternative medicine web sites and their impact on society. Despite his detractors claims, he does not own a yacht in the South of France paid for by Big Pharma. He has yet to secure a single penny from such sources for his work.

, , , ,

4 Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: Simon Singh

Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial

by Simon Singh
Simon Singh
When: Thu, Jan 21, 2010 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Where: The Vines (aka The Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool, L1 1JQ

Summary

Prince Charles is a staunch defender and millions of people swear by it; most UK doctors consider it to be little more than superstition and a waste of money. But how do you know which treatments really heal and which are potentially harmful? Simon Singh and his co-author Professor Edzard Ernst investigated the evidence for and against alternative therapies and published their conclusions in “Trick or Treatment?”, an honest, impartial and hard-hitting examination and judgement of more than 30 of the most popular treatments. Singh, who has also authored “Fermat’s Last Theorem” and “Big Bang”, will discuss how and why he got involved in writing about alternative medicine. In particular, he will discuss the origins, philosophy and testing of acupuncture and homeopathy, two of the most popular forms of alternative medicine. Singh, who is currently being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association, will also comment on his ongoing legal battle and the impact of libel laws on scientific journalism.

Biography

After completing a PhD in particle physics, Simon Singh MBE joined the BBC and worked as a director and producer on programmes such as Tomorrow’s World and Horizon. He has also presented programmes on Radio 4, BBC4 and Channel 4. He is best known as the author of Fermat’s Last Theorem, The Code Book, Big Bang and Trick or Treatment?.

, , , ,

5 Comments

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.

Biography

Trystan Swale is a folklore hobbyist and between 2004 and 2009 was an active member of two paranormal investigation teams in southern England. He is a serving officer with educational charity ASSAP and has investigated a range of phenomena including ghosts, unidentified flying objects and out of place animals. When not busy pieceing together and co-hosting Righteous Indignation podcast, Trystan is a teacher by profession.

,

2 Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: November 19th – Alastair Miller

Quackery in the 21st Century: Unproven Treatments for Unexplained Symptoms

Alastair Miller MA FRCP DTM&H

When: Thu, Nov 19, 2009 8:00 – 11:00 PM
Where: Crown Hotel, 43 Lime Street, Liverpool.
Alastair Miller

Summary

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) otherwise called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is a medically unexplained syndrome. That is, it is a well defined complex of symptoms that add up to this diagnosis but with no biomedical explanation at a physiological, anatomical, biochemical or molecular level to give a basis for these symptoms. However, there are well established therapeutic approaches (Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Graded Activity programmes) that are evidence based and approved by NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence). Regrettably, because these approaches are behavioural rather than pharmacologic there is much dissatisfaction with them in the patient community which therefore spends considerable time and money on unproven therapies exploited by well meaning or less well meaning practitioners.

Biography

Alastair Miller read medical sciences and law at St Johns College, Cambridge and completed clinical training at Westminster Hospital where he also worked as a house physician and surgeon. He then spent some time in the Royal Naval Medical Service including service with the Royal Marine Commadoes. He specialized as a physician in Naval Hospitals and trained in Infectious Disease at Birmingham and London. He held various consultant posts in Navy hospitals and was Naval Professor of Medicine in his last post.

He then spent nearly 10 years as a consultant physician in West Midlands with NHS appointments at Kidderminster and Worcester and an Honorary Senior Lecturer post at the Dept of Infection in Birmingham Medical School.

Since 2004 he has been consultant in the department of medicine and the Tropical & Infectious Disease Unit at Royal Liverpool University Hospital and an honorary Fellow at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He is lead for Bone infection and chronic fatigue services and also has major interests in blood borne virus infection. He chairs the Specialist Advisory Cttee on Infectious Disease at the London Royal College of Physicians and is Director of the Clinical Research Facility at Liverpool. His outside interests are mountaineering, sailing and adventure sports.

10 Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: October 15th – Ariane Sherine

The Atheist Bus Campaign and The Atheist’s Guide To Christmas

Ariane Sherine, Comedy writer and journalist

When: Thu, Oct 15, 2009 8:00 – 11:00 PM
Where: Crown Hotel, 43 Lime Street, Liverpool.
Ariane Sherine

Summary

Journalist and comedy writer Ariane Sherine talks about creating the global Atheist Bus Campaign, now running in twelve countries across the world, and how it started with just 700 words on The Guardian’s website. She’ll also talk about editing the new charity book The Atheist’s Guide To Christmas, which features 42 of the world’s most entertaining atheists, including Richard Dawkins, Charlie Brooker and Derren Brown.

Biography

Ariane Sherine is a television comedy writer, journalist and the creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign. She writes regularly for The Guardian, and has also contributed to The Observer, The Independent, The Sunday Times, New Statesman and the NME, as well as writing for television shows including My Family (BBC1) and Countdown (Channel 4).

Ariane won a Special Award from the National Secular Society for the Atheist Bus Campaign, and was a nominee for Secularist of the Year 2009. She was asked to give the first humanist equivalent of Thought For The Day, which was broadcast on Radio 4 in January. She was born in 1980 and lives in London. You can find out more about Ariane on her official website.

This event is being held in association with the Liverpool Humanist Group and the University of Liverpool Atheist Society.

6 Comments

Skeptics in the Pub: September 17th – Chris French

The Psychology of Anomalous Experiences

Professor Christopher C French, Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London

When: Thu, September 17, 2009 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Where: Crown Hotel, 43 Lime Street Liverpool, L1 1JQ

Chris French

Summary

Ever since records began, in every known society, a substantial proportion of the population has reported unusual experiences many of which we would today label as "paranormal". Opinion polls show that the majority of the general public accepts that paranormal phenomena do occur. Either the paranormal is real, in which case this should be accepted by the wider scientific community which currently rejects such claims, or else belief in and experience of ostensibly paranormal phenomena can be fully explained in terms of psychological factors. Anomalistic psychology attempts to provide non-paranormal explanations for anomalous experiences in terms of known psychological factors. This approach will be illustrated with examples relating to a range of ostensibly paranormal phenomena.

Biography

Chris French is a Professor of Psychology and Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has published over 100 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main current area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims. He is the editor of The Skeptic magazine.

6 Comments