Cork Skeptics

Promoting Reason, Science & Critical Thinking in Cork City & Beyond

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Hard To Swallow — Autism & The “Miracle Mineral Supplement”

About the Talk:  Fiona O’Leary is a prominent autism advocate and prolific campaigner against the use of dangerous, unproven and unregulated ‘treatments and cures’ for autism — a growing worldwide industry, operating through the use of pseudo-science, “Big Pharma” conspiracy and the negative stigma with which autism and autistic people are so often labelled.

Having been diagnosed as autistic herself in 2013, Fiona quickly became immersed in the world of autistic rights and in particular the issues and obstacles faced by females on the spectrum. Her discovery of the Genesis II Church and their claim of a cure for autism (in the form of Chlorine Dioxide, described as the “Miracle Mineral Supplement”) galvanised Fiona into action, resulting in a worldwide campaign to expose the actions and false claims of the Church and its ilk.

In this talk, Fiona will recount her own personal experiences of autism, and detail the many campaigns she has spearheaded or participated in, from her first appearance on national TV, to her lobbying of the Government to enact legislation that would effectively put an end to the damage – both physical and psychological – that these charlatans are causing to vulnerable people.

Fiona’s campaigning has garnered national and international attention, including  documentaries for RTE, BBC, ITV and NBC, as well as articles in the Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post and more.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 23.47.05About the Speaker: Fiona’s many accomplishments include co-founding the Autistic Rights Together organisation, and administrating the Female Aspergers / Autism Support Ireland Facebook group.

Fiona studied Autism as a mature student in University College Cork (UCC). She and two of her five children are on the autistic spectrum.

She blogs at

This talk begins at 8:00pm on Saturday 17 October. The venue is Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork.

It is free to attend and all are welcome—we look forward to seeing you there!

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Ongoing Adventures In the World of Pseudoscience with Michael Marshall

Marsh_Pseudoscience_Poster_600pxOur next talk will feature Michael Marshall of the Merseyside Skeptics Society recounting his ongoing adventures in the world of pseudoscience! This talk will take place on Thursday 5th February at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork.

About the Talk:  It’s easy to think of pseudoscience as existing in a glass case at a museum – something to be examined and critiqued from a safe distance, but not something to touch and to play with. Using examples taken from his own personal experiences in skepticism, Michael Marshall will show what happens when you begin to crack the surface of the pseudosciences that surround us – revealing the surprising, sometimes shocking, and often comic, adventures that lie beneath.

About the Speaker: Michael Marshall is the Vice-President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and Project Director of the Good Thinking Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast, as well as co-hosting the Skeptics with a K podcast. His work with the MSS has seen him organising international homeopathy protests and co-founding the popular QED Conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

This talk begins at 8:00pm on Thursday 5 February. The venue is Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork.

It is free to attend and all are welcome—we look forward to seeing you there!

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The 12 Steps with Danny Strickland

On Saturday 20th September we are hosting Danny Strickland, co-founder of Newcastle Skeptics, who will deliver a first-hand critical examination of the 12-Step Programme of addiction counselling.

With millions of members and over 200 organisations world wide, the 12-step programme of recovery has been used to help people recover from addiction and dependence since 1935. The most well known of the 12-step groups is Alcoholics Anonymous, which claims to have in excess of 2 million members.

In his talk, Danny will discuss what exactly the 12 steps are, what they really mean and just how effective they are in tackling addiction.  He will also explore questions such as are 12-step groups cults, is a belief in “God” central to the 12-step programme and if so, can atheists really use the 12-steps?

Danny spent almost three years as a member of a 12-step fellowship. Six years after attending his last 12-step meeting, Danny remains free from addiction. Just for today.

Danny was co-founder of Newcastle Skeptics and helped run it for four years. You can follow him on Twitter: @dts1970


This talk will begin at 8:00pm on Saturday 20 September. The venue is Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork. It is free to attend and all are welcome.

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February links and follow-ups

Here are a few links to the stories we talked about last week:

Russia Meteor

News over the past 2 weeks have been dominated by the extraordinary event of the Chebarkul Lake meteor that tore through the skies above southern Russia at 9.30 am on February 15th. The meteor, weighing in at 10,000 tonnes, is believed to be the largest meteor to enter our atmosphere since the Tunguska event of 1908. Amazingly, the meteor entry was recorded on video by a large number of dashboard cameras, as was the intense shockwave that shattered thousands of windows across the city of Chelyabinsk. Needless to say, conspiracy theories surfaced quickly. Some believed it was a US missile test. Others thought it was a sign from God. The better ones postulated a crashing alien spaceship or an extraterrestrial Trojan Horse carrying a deadly space virus.

“My Poodles are Psychic”

Linda Lancashire from Heanor in the UK claims that her poodles have psychic abilities. According to Linda they can “detect relationship issues” and determine if clients have “money or relationship problems”. Linda herself works as a clairvoyant, which implies that a large proportion of her clients will have money or relationship problems in the first place.

Creationism in Louisiana

Science teaching in the US is under attack by biblically minded creationists, who wish to to introduce their dogmas into the classroom as “an alternative” to evolution. As more direct attempts have failed over the past decades, creationists are attempting to get creationism taught through indirect means. They have opened or exploited loopholes in local state legislation, thus allowing fundamentalist science teachers to water down the science curriculum according to their own religious beliefs. Now, Zach Kopplin, a 19 year old former high-school student, is going head-to-head with them in the courts. Below are some extraordinary episodes from the hearings, as science promoters square up against their deluded opponents.

Can e-Coli evolve into a human?

“Little letters”

Creationism in Turkey

In Turkey, the teaching of evolution is also under attack, this time from Islamic creationists. Recently, Turkey’s main funding agency, responsible for translating hundreds of science books into Turkish, made the decision to withdraw books such as The Blind Watchmaker and The Double Helix from sale. They cite funding and copyright issues, but it’s curious that the main targets are books on evolution. In 2006, Turkey was placed behind the US regarding the teaching of evolution.

Acupuncture Beads

The latest fad in Hollywood is “Auriculotherapy”, a variation on Acupuncture, where needles are inserted into the ear and later replaced by gold beads to “potentiate” the treatment. The treatment is claimed to fight stress, pain and infertility. Actors such as Penelope Cruz were recently seen sporting these beads. Where would skeptics be without Hollywood?

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January Skeptics In The Castle: Jennifer Keane Examines the Burzynski Clinic & Its Purported Cure For Cancer


Our next meeting will take place on Saturday 19th January at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm.

This talk by Jennifer Keane will examine the Burzynski Clinic and its purported side-effect free cure for cancer. Jen has kindly supplied the following summary of her talk:

Stanislaw Burzynski has a cheap, effective, and side-effect free cure for cancer, and the FDA don’t want you to know about it. For over 30 years, Burzynski claims he has treated cancer patients who had no other options, and given them back their lives. In the past, most of Burzynski’s patients have been in America, though recently, a surge of celebrity-led publicity surrounding some UK patients and their fundraising efforts means that Burzynski has well and truly crossed the pond. Increasing numbers of UK, and now Irish patients are signing up for treatment, and while some patients are claiming shrinking or disappearing brain tumours, many more seem a lot further from success.

In this talk, I hope to shine a critical light on Burzynski’s treatment, the financial burden that it represents for those who sign up for it, and whether or not he is really offering a cure, or just expensive false hope.

About the speaker: Jen became interested in scepticism and science investigation while in college, when a group project on clinical trials ended up highlighting the problems with trials, and the inconsistency in their quality, execution, etc. The group project sparked an enduring interest in clinical trials, and science communication, which would ultimately culminate in her winning the Whittaker Award, twice consecutively, for talks on the TGN1412 clinical trials, and on biofuels. She graduated from NUI Maynooth with a double honours degree in Biology and Computer Science, and is currently pursuing a MSc with the Open University.

Jen blogs and tweets as Zenbuffy, and began writing about about science and scepticism in 2009, and has covered topics such as homoeopathy, psychics, miracle cures, and science reporting, to name but a few. Though always an area of interest, her father’s battle with cancer has made the area of cancer cures and quackery a particularly important one for her.

This talk is open to the public, and is free to attend. Directions to Blackrock Castle Observatory can be found on our information page. We hope to see you there!

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Academic Freedom: A Talk by Dr. Tom Moore

Academic Freedom, In theory and In Practice: A Talk by Dr. Tom Moore

Our next meeting will take place on Saturday 22nd September, at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm. The talk is by Dr. Tom Moore, a senior lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry at UCC, and will examine the topic of academic freedom.

Academic freedom encapsulates the idea that academics must be able to freely research and discuss controversial or politically unpopular ideas without suffering repression, job loss, or imprisonment. There is an extensive history of repression of academics for expressing unpopular ideas, for example in the former Soviet Union. In contrast, in the United States, freedom of speech is to some extent guaranteed under the First Amendment. The breadth of academic freedom may be subject to various constraints where it intersects with employment law, commercialisation, religious freedom, and social responsibility. In Ireland, the 1997 Universities Act provides a robust statement of academic freedom.

This talk will outline some key historical cases and discuss how the Irish approach to academic freedom performs in practice.

Dr. Tom Moore teaches and researches the genetics and physiology of embryonic development and human pregnancy. A veterinary surgeon by training, he did his PhD studies at the University of London and postdoctoral research in Cambridge, UK. He is currently a senior lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry, UCC.

This talk is open to the public, and is free to attend. Directions to Blackrock Castle Observatory can be found on our information page. We hope to see you there!

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The Industry of Modern Art: A Talk by Reg Murphy

August 18th 2012 — The Industry of Modern Art by Reg Murphy

Our next meeting will take place on Saturday 18th August, at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm. The talk is by Cork Skeptics member Reg Murphy, and promises to be a fascinating look behind the industry of modern art. Reg has a degree in Fine Art from Limerick School of Art and is an avid art enthusiast. Reg has supplied an outline of the talk below.

In this talk I won’t deal with lofty questions like: what is art? What is the meaning of art? etc.; these are subjective issues best left to philosophers and not truly accessible to skeptical analysis. What I will talk about is Modern Art’s essential relationship with Money, Prestige and Entertainment. Modern Art, for better or worse is a big worldwide industry which employs tens of thousands, entertains millions, generates billions (literally), and causes (occasionally) mass trauma and outrage. Decisions concerning it often go to the highest levels of Government and it is often used as branch of diplomacy.

In a heavily illustrated slide lecture, I hope to give a fun and irreverent (i.e. free of jargon) overview, providing a highly condensed history from French Impressionism to the current day, revealing:

The Artists: Where do I start?
The Collectors: Visionaries, fools or prudent investors?
The Dealers: Smarmy charlatans or the hand maidens of Culture?
The Critics: Vindictive failed artists or heroic cheerleaders?
The Media: Vulgarians or honesty reflecting public bafflement?
The Curators: Elitist snobs or a sincere desire to stimulate the public?
The State Galleries: A waste of public money or vastly important tourist draws?
Government: Arts spending; the role of Cultural heritage and national prestige.

Most importantly, and perhaps not widely appreciated: How visual art became a mass spectacle (a very modern phenomena).

All these elements will build up a picture of the current contemporary art scene and will show that despite stupidity, hubris and greed, the public are the winners and are in fact, greatly enriched.

This talk is open to the public, and is free to attend. Directions to Blackrock Castle Observatory can be found on our information page. We hope to see you there!



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