Cork Skeptics

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


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Here we go again.

Another outbreak of measles in Cork.

In a small number of cases, measles can cause permanent health complications. In extreme cases, it can kill.

Very small babies and immunocompromised children depend on the rest of us being vaccinated in order to avoid contracting the disease.

People who don’t vaccinate their kids put their kids and other children at unnecessary risk. 
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/warning-over-adult-measles-outbreak-in-co-cork-1.2757125


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Anti-vaxxers. No science, but plenty of threats.

Autism campaigner Fiona O’Leary gets threatened by US Film Studio linked to Andrew Wakefield.

Passive Impressions

It takes an extraordinary person to go after a global pseudoscience network and dismantle it, piece by piece. The network involved is the Genesis II cult, whose schtick has been to promise “miracle” cures to parents of autistic children. If they would only drink bleach, or have it forced up their rectums, their children would be cured of autism. These people have made their fortunes by selling industrial bleach to vulnerable parents. They couldn’t care less who got hurt in the process. Despite negative publicity and widespread condemnation, they seemed unstoppable. Business is business, right?

Then someone – a parent of autistic children – took them on. Working with concerned parents in other countries, she got the media to take note. By contacting the papers, independent journalists, TV stations, radio stations and networks, she brought the church’s tactics into the light. Documentaries were commissioned, special investigations produced, exposing Genesis II for who they…

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Rethinking Psychology with Professor Brian Hughes

About the Talk:  Attempts to explain the workings of the human mind have persisted as a popular cultural fascination for centuries. This has led to the emergence of scientific psychology, a modern empirical enterprise that uses scientific methods to resolve uncertainties in our understanding of people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

Nonetheless, psychology attracts significant attention from people who hold deeply negative views about science, and is often studied by students and researchers who lack true scientific rigour. This lecture examines psychology’s relationship with science and pseudoscience. It explores the nature of scientific reasoning, the contrasting way fringe scientists study the mind, and the creep of pseudoscientific practices into mainstream psychology.

It also considers the peculiar biases impeding psychologists from being truly rigorous, and argues that pseudoscience not only damages psychology, but threatens the coherence — and dignity — of humanity at large.

 

About the Speaker: Brian Hughes is Professor in Psychology at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He can be found on Twitter and maintains a blog at thesciencebit.net

His book ‘Rethinking Psychology’ is available now.


This talk begins at 8:00pm on Thursday 2 June. 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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What does it take?

Passive Impressions

There is a broadcaster in Cork, Neil Prendeville, who has no problem promoting pseudoscience and instilling fear into people during his radio programme. He regularly invites a guest, Michael O’Doherty, whom he calls a medical professional, onto his show to expound on vaccines and antibiotics. O’Doherty has no medical qualifications. He is a quack healer whose shtick seems to be that natural is good, that the body is capable of healing itself without the need for modern medicine.

This stuff is dangerous. It is simply not true to say that our bodies are able to deal with every illness that comes along. The flu, a common disease, kills millions of people every year. Before modern medicine, deaths from smallpox, measles and TB were common. They are much less so now because of vaccines, antibiotics and antivirals. Where is the evidence for the great natural panaceas they keep talking about? In…

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Anti-vaccination horror story

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Grieving woman / Martin / Flickr (CC Licensed)

From RawStory.com comes a horrific story of a baby dying from Meningitis, with the parents trying everything except the most sensible option – to go to a doctor and to seek medical help. If they had done that, it is probable that the baby would be alive today.

It’s easy to blame the parents in this case, but pointing the blame solely at them would be wrong. There are many within the alternative medicine industry who need to take a large share of the blame also.

Despite the messaging that alternative healthcare ‘complements’ medical healthcare, there are influential people within the alt-med industry who paint normal medicine as the enemy. They portray the industry as grasping and corrupt, medical practitioners as uncaring and deluded, and the modalities used as worse than useless. They will browbeat you into believing that vaccines are killing you and that all the cures are known, but they will not reveal them because there’s no money in it. A common meme, widely shared, is that they have no interest in making people better, in the totally mistaken belief that a healthier population is somehow a threat to the medical profession. If anything, it’s the opposite.

A direct result of these scare stories is that people like the family above cannot cope when presented with real medical emergencies. The result is needless suffering, needless death and charlatans making fortunes from the unwary. You cannot solve serious health problems with magic water, fruits, chakras, kale and thinking yourself better. If you or your family are sick, go see a doctor.

 


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A misleading article on faith healing

In an article entitled “Are miracles happening on the streets of Coleraine“, Finola Meredith wrote a largely uncritical piece about Mark Marx, a self-described street healer who claims he can channel the spirit of God to heal people of various different ailments. Particularly worryingly, claims were made that his ministry helped rid a woman of paralysis and helped to eliminate a young man’s cancer. Both claims went unchallenged.

Marx cited a “leg lengthening” technique that has long been debunked by professional magicians. Using this technique, so-called healers use sleight-of-hand to convince the unwary that a miracle has been performed, when all that’s usually required is a simple repositioning of the shoes being worn by the subject. In this case, we do not know the effect that chemotherapy had on the young man’s recovery. It appears that Ms Meredith did not seek corroboration for the claims made.

In cases of cancer, because treatment regimes are often difficult and outcomes uncertain, people can come to a conclusion that there are easier solutions out there. Combined with unscrupulous people who claim they can cure without evidence, it is a breeding ground for false hope and avoidable suffering. The utmost scepticism must be applied. Irrespective of whether sceptics have “never encountered the reality of knowing God”, any claim to cure cancer must stand on its own merits. Anecdotes are insufficient as they are often self-serving, selective and fail to account for the many biases we are all subject to.

Evangelical faith healing has a long pedigree of making extravagant claims despite any clinical evidence. The area is fraught with examples of brazen charlatanry and most worryingly, there have been plenty of cases of serious harm caused to people who have abandoned medical treatment in favour of faith based treatments. We need to be extremely wary of the claims of faith healers, even when the healers themselves seem sincere in their beliefs.


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Discovering Humanism with Brian Whiteside | Humanist Association of Ireland

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Brian Whiteside is the Director of Ceremonies for the Humanist Association of Ireland.

In this talk, Brian will speak from both a personal and general viewpoint about Humanism in Ireland, its history and its recent growth. He will also detail the different activities of the HAI, under the headings of community, campaigning and ceremonies. He hopes that his talk will lead to questions and answers and a lively discussion afterwards.

q5iyq7xeBrian “discovered” Humanism in 2002 following a career in business. Over the last 14 years he has been immersed in the Humanist Association of Ireland, both as Director of Ceremonies and leading various campaigns. He was central in achieving the change in legislation to give legal status for Humanist marriage ceremonies.

Brian lives in Dun Laoghaire where he recently started the South Dublin Humanist Community. Although he is from Dublin he is proud of his Cork roots where his grandfather was a Church of Ireland clergyman.

You can find him online @briandwhiteside

 


 

This talk begins at 8:00pm on Thursday 11 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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