Posts Tagged Merseyside

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.

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Homeopathy in the Wirral: RIP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NHS Wirral and The North West Friends Of Homeopathy: A Typical Wednesday Evening Out

I’ve had a rather interesting evening. Last week, MSS member and local councillor Darren Dodds alerted me to the fact that Wirral NHS were holding an open meeting to discuss whether to continue funding homeopathy in the region, with the recommendation being very much ‘No, we absolutely shouldn’t’. Needless to say, I agree with this recommendation, and wanted to go along to let them know that I – and by extension the hundred or more local MSS members – applaud their step in the right direction. Interested parties should read the report they came up with, it’s really pretty good. Some highlights:

The paper concludes that the lack of evidence on efficacy and cost-effectiveness of homeopathic therapies means that it should not be a high priority for the PCT at this time. It is recommended that NHS Wirral does not commission homeopathictherapies.

The key risk is that NHS Wirral fails to maintain its reputation as an evidence-based commissioning PCT.

Excellent stuff. Still, it seems we weren’t the only ones made aware of the open meeting – also invited were patients currently or formerly using homeopathy, and the ‘North West Friends of Homeopathy‘. This latter group are most interesting, and I’ll come back to them a little later in more detail, but first it’s worth pointing out that I appeared on local radio with a member of the group on Monday morning, in an exchange that might amuse, and will certainly give a far better impression of who John Cook is than I could ever do justice with words. UK-based readers can listen here, it starts around the 2hour 13minute mark and lasts about 10 minutes. I’ll wait.

For those not able, willing or interested in listening, what we have from John is a charming ability to hog a conversation, and the maniacal insistence that the date of the meeting was aired. Clearly, John wanted his supporters to arrive mob-handed. Fair enough, he probably feels he has a strong case. As it was, when I arrived with a couple of other MSS members there were maybe 40 or so people present, a number which I presume to be in excess of the general norm for these meetings.

John, having lobbied for inclusion, was amongst the speakers, joined by Dr. Hugh Neilsen BA MA BM BCh MRCP FFHom (it’s worth pointing out that his name is actually Hugh Nielsen, and the NWFoH’s own website, while painstaking in it’s detail of Hugh’s many qualifications, mispells the name of their own president), and the panel was completed by two local GPs who were involved in making the recommendation, and who spent the evening ranging between bemused, compassionate and at times startled. Startled, not least, by the quite spectacular opening by John, the homeopath’s friend (which I imagine is rather like a Fisherman’s Friend, but lacking in clout), in which he directed a quite flattering string of insults at me directly, and at the Merseyside Skeptics Society. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dogs, Doom and Dictators

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

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

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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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Homeopathic Mass ‘Overdose’ – The 10:23 Campaign

10:23 Campaign

The 10:23 Campaign

Cross-posted from the JREF Swift blog.

Generally speaking, when homeopathy hits the headlines here in the UK skeptics have cause to wince – whether it’s B-list celebrities advocating homeopathic malaria preventionnewspaper lifestyle columns promoting the benefits of the long-discredited pseudomedical practice or simply major pharmacies out to make an easy profit, there are very seldom many good days for succussion-skeptics.

Saturday, 30th January 2010, however, was different. At precisely 10:23am that morning, over 400 protesters took to the streets of cities around the UK as part of the 10:23 campaign – aiming to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of homeopathic pills. Gathering in a dozen town centres the length and breadth of the land, activists bravely took their lives into their hands by ‘overdosing’ on entire bottles homeopathic remedies.

Unsurprisingly, no skeptics were harmed in the making of this protest – for, as we know, there’s nothing in homeopathy. Zip. Zilch. Nil. What’s more, the event didn’t go unnoticed – with prominent press coverage from the BBCThe GuardianThe Telegraph and even the Huffington Post, amongst many, many other sources. Radio stations had phone-ins on the the story. It made the TV news. All in all, this wasn’t a day for skeptics to wince. Read the rest of this entry »

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