Posts Tagged Chris French

Challenge Sally – The Press Conference

Last week, we offered ‘Psychic’ Sally Morgan the opportunity to demonstrate to all that she is able to talk to the dead, and therefore does not rely on well-known illusions and trickery in her stage shows. As I’m sure many people are aware, she declined the opportunity – however, we wanted to leave things as open as possible for her, which is why we kept our word and gathered at the Adelphi Hotel at the appointed hour, in case she changed her mind.

The challenge we offered to Sally, which she did not take up, is still open – if at any point Sally feels that demonstrating to her critics, and indeed to her fans, that the services she sells are genuine, she need only get in contact and we’ll happily arrange for the test to take place. Collaborating with the JREF, we had the test set up as an official preliminary test for their $1m challenge, and a future test for Sally would fall under a similarly official remit.

Each Halloween, we intend to give those with paranormal claims the opportunity to demonstrate what they believe they are able to do. More details of the focus of next year’s challenge will be announced late next year.

Below you can watch the press conference we held, including talks from Simon Singh, Chris French and myself.

Part 1: Introduction from Mike Hall, and talk from Dr Simon Singh:

Part 2: Talk from Prof Chris French

Part 3: Prof Chris French Q&A

Part 4: Talk from Michael Marshall and Q&A

Note: Although it shouldn’t need to be pointed out, it’s worth clarifying that the Merseyside Skeptics Society don’t condone or support people publishing contact details for Sally, her office, her lawyers or anyone, nor do we support anyone sending her abusive phone calls or emails (if indeed anyone has done this). Our challenge was offered in an open and respectful way – we wish Sally no personal harm, we just want to establish whether the extraordinary claims she makes and the wholly-unproven services she sells are genuine, or not.

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Day 3 at the 14th European Skeptical Congress

It’s the last day here at the 14th European Skeptical Congress.

Marsh and I have Joe Nickell and Chris French to look forward to.

Even more interest in 10:23 from the delegates, many of whom are keen to join in for 2011 and have lots of good ideas of their own.

I’m writing this whilst listening to a talk about baby bullshit from a mathematician who has mathematically modelled why nonsense treatments are so widespread. He has invented a country called “believia” and an illness called Giant Ear Syndrome!

Joe Nickell’s talk is worth a mention. He’s been personally involved in a huge variety of skeptical investigations and I’m sure his name is well known to many Merseyside Skeptics. One key aspect that he focussed upon was his undercover work. In this capacity he would attend some kind of claimant incognito, and carry out an investigation masquerading as a genuine “case”. However he’s really well known. And to avoid being rumbled he would wear a disuse of some kind. Some of the pictures were very funny.

He recounted a tale of a spiritualist carrying out a “billet reading” technique which he recognized immediately. It reminded me of Marsh’s demonstration of this technique during one of the early MSS social events. I recognized it immediately.

Chris French told some great stories. A couple were in his talk at MSS last year but there was some great new stuff too. In his capacity as editor of Skeptic Magazine, he announced the new issue which has a bit about 10:23 in it, and a new book which is a collection of the “the best of” from the magazine called Why Statues Weep.

This has been a really well organised conference with great speakers from all over Europe and America. From the Turin Shroud to mathematics. It’s been a real eye opener.

We fly back this evening and we’re looking forward to the next MSS social.

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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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