Cork Skeptics

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


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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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Where’s The Harm: Dr. Stephen Makin & Ben Makin of Edinburgh Skeptics Discuss Alternative Medicine

Alternative Medicine: Sat 14th July ay Blackrock Castle Observatory

On Saturday 14th July, Dr. Stephen Makin and Ben Makin of the Edinburgh Skeptics will deliver what promises to be a fascinating talk on the anecdotes and evidence surrounding alternative medicine. This talk will begin at 8.00pm at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory.

Ben Makin has tried a complete alphabet of traditional, complimentary and New Age treatments and practices. She will take us on a rapid tour of alternative and complimentary medicine, from Applied Kinesiology to Zen Buddhism, and ask “Where’s the harm?”

Dr Stephen Makin will reply, looking at the evidence and discussing cases where real harm has been done by alternative practices, and explaining why skeptics should continue to fight against quackery and cons.

Ben Makin was raised on goats’ milk and home-made wholemeal bread and started her working life at Culpepper’s the Herbalist; she now maintains the Edinburgh Skeptics website.

Stephen Makin was raised on soya milk and meditation, and ran away to Medical School to become a doctor. He is a Clinical Research Fellow in Stroke Medicine at Edinburgh University who spends too much time arguing with proponents of woo on the internet.

 

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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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So You Think You Own Your Body?: A Talk by Dr. Muireann Quigley

So You Think You Own You Body?

On Friday June 15th, we will be hosting Dr Muireann Quigley from the University of Manchester. The talk will begin at 8.00pm at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory.

Muireann is a lecturer in Bioethics, with a particular interest in property law regarding the human body. Prior to taking up the lectureship, Muireann worked as a Research Fellow in Bioethics and Law. In a previous life she was a medical doctor where she worked in General Medicine and A&E. She has also worked as a Screening Physician for a phase I clinical trials company.

Muireann’s talk, entitled So You Think You Own Your Body? will look at the changing role of the body and human biomaterials in a rapidly developing biotechnological world. She will show how the uses and misuses of persons and their tissues and cells by medicine, scientists, pharmaceutical companies and industry have risen and expanded exponentially.

In so doing, Muireann will argue that advancing biotechnology has fundamentally altered the way we view the human body and its parts and products. During the talk we will see that the fact that each of us is a potential provider of material for research has placed the human body and biomaterials in the realm of property. Using some relevant stories and cases, the talk will highlight the conflicts that can arise over the use of human tissue for research in the ’tissue economy’; thereby, illustrating that the body (and its parts) can be viewed as being in flux, scientifically, legally, and ethically though.

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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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CRUISE CONTROL: Ex-Scientologist John Duignan Recounts His 22 Years in the “Cult to the Stars”

Our next meeting will take place on Friday 25th May, at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm. The talk is by John Duignan, ex-Scientologist and author of The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology.

About The Speaker: John Duignan (born 1963) grew up in both Stirling in Scotland and in Carrigaline County Cork. He had a difficult and troubled childhood thanks in part to a mentally ill father, an ill and abused mother and the chaotic home life that resulted.

Following the untimely death of his parents in 1974, he and his siblings were fostered by family members on his mother’s side in both County Cork and Wicklow. He left school at the age of 17 and joined an American Christian Evangelical drama group and spent three years traveling Europe and North America forwarding this unique brand of Christian ministry. In 1983, he was operating a branch of this ministry in Vancouver Canada and came to see that much of the Christian message simply did not add up. He moved to Halifax Nova Scotia to live with a group of atheist humanists and to work on an old North German built schooner. About a year later, he found himself in Stuttgart, Germany and during a period of dark depression was recruited by The Church of Scientology.

In 2008 he wrote and published The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology. In this non-fiction book he describes his 22 years in the organization and his eventual awaking partly as a result of attending an event where actor and Scientologist Tom Cruise was given the award of “Most Dedicated Follower”. Duignan began to examine the organization more closely and had doubts about remaining. He left the organization in 2006, after taking measures to avoid investigation by Scientology’s intelligence agency the Office of Special Affairs.

The Church of Scientology responded to the publication of The Complex by sending legal letters to several bookstore retailers that were selling the book, claiming the book contains libelous statements about a member of the organization. His publisher Merlin Publishing, “emphatically denied” these allegations, and an editorial director at the publishing company called Scientology’s claim “vexatious”. The United Kingdom branch of Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, stopped selling copies of the book after receiving legal letters from the Church of Scientology through internationally feared libel firm, Carter Ruck; booksellers Waterstone’s and W H Smith and Borders Books were “warned off” selling the book as well. However the book remained in broad publication here in Ireland and has been stocked in all Irish retailers for a number of years.

Following the publishing of The Complex, John returned to education completing a BA in English and Italian Literature and Italian language at University College Cork.

John counts Christopher Hitchens, Bertrand Russell and A.S. Byatt among his most important intellectual influences. He no longer considers himself to be a religious person.

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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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Confessions of a Former Health Food Shop Worker: A Talk by Rebecca O’Neill of the Dublin Skeptics

Confessions Of A Former Healt Care Worker - Friday March 16, 8.00PM

ATTENTION SHOPPERS! Our next meeting takes place on Friday 16th March, at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm. The talk is by Rebecca O’Neill, founder of Dublin Skeptics In The Pub, podcaster with The Skeprechauns, and all-round science enthusiast nerd.

Confessions of a Former Health Food Shop Worker: 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.

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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Why Nothing Matters: A Talk By Ronald Green

Our next meeting takes place on Friday 2nd March, at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm. The talk is by author Ronald Green, and promises to be a very interesting discussion all about…nothing!

Why should nothing matter? If anything matters, why should nothing matter? And yet it does, for there isn’t anything, it seems, that nothing does not touch, or anything that does not touch nothing. History, philosophy, religion, science, art, literature, music – all look towards nothing at some point, stimulating questions that would otherwise not be asked.

Who, for example, could have believed that nothing held back progress for 600 years in the Middle Ages, all because of mistaken translation, or that nothing is a way to tackle (and answer) the perennial question “what is art?”? Ronald Green uses nothing in a genuine attempt to look at the world in a different way, to give new angles to old problems and so to stimulate new thoughts.

What is this nothing, that we can’t actually see, touch or feel? Is it absolute? Is it relative to everything else? If we are able to think about it, write and read about it, is it something, and if so wouldn’t it then not be nothing?

This is precisely the mystery of nothing – that the more we think about it, the more there is to it.

Disarmingly invisible, the point of nothing – to paraphrase Bertrand Russell on philosophy – is to start with something so simple as to seem not worth examining, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

About The Speaker: Ronald Green is the author of “Nothing Matters – a book about nothing” (iff-Books). Philosopher, linguist, university lecturer and ESL teacher, with 13 ESL books published, Ronald has lectured and given workshops in Europe, North and South America and the Middle East on linguistics, ESL and the use of the Internet in education. His short stories have been published in Nuvein magazine, Tryst, Aesthetica, the Sink and Unholy Biscuit. He has completed a philosophical novel and co-authored a psychological thriller with strong philosophical underpinnings. For the past five years he has been thinking seriously about nothing, culminating in his recently-published book.

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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Skeptics In The Castle Double Bill! The Science of Misunderstanding and Sense About Science – November 26th 2011

The next meeting of Cork Skeptics in the Castle on Saturday 26th of November will be a double bill, with talks from Dr. Brian Hughes, of NUI Galway, and Síle Lane, of Sense About Science.

The Science of Misunderstanding: How Our Brains are Programmed to Make Mistakes.

For centuries it was believed that human reasoning was distinguished by logical thinking, clarity, and general accuracy. More recent studies have shown that human reasoning is in fact characterised by repeated mistakes, errors and wrongheadedness. It is argued that reasoning errors are often side-effects of otherwise useful mental shortcuts that have been used in the wrong way. While such concepts are useful, they do not quite explain how audiences often find bogus information to be much more attractive than accurate information. It may even be the case that our tendency to make frequent mistakes has given us a considerable evolutionary advantage. This talk will look at biological, evolutionary, and socio-cultural research on how our tendency to misunderstand can help us, both as individuals and as a society. We will also look at research which suggests some unexpectedly negative effects of enhanced logical reasoning, on both mental and physical health.

Our speaker, Dr. Brian Hughes, is the director for the Centre for Research on Occupational and Life Stress (CROLS) in NUI Galway. He is the author of The Science Bit blog, where he writes frequently about science, pseudoscience and scepticism. He holds Ph.D. and B.A. degrees in psychology from NUI Galway, and an Ed.M. degree in public science education from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He served as founding Head of the Psychology Department at Dublin Business School and as President of the Psychological Society of Ireland (2004-2005).

The Ask for Evidence Campaign

Sense About Science is a UK charity that works with scientists, the public and the media to challenge misinformation, whether about the age of the earth, the causes of cancer, wifi radiation or homeopathy for malaria. This is often very effective but no sooner is attention turned elsewhere than misleading claims creep back up again. Sense about Science run campaigns and produce documents to help equip people to make sense of evidence themselves, but to make a permanent difference, they need more members of the public to be evidence hunters. That’s why they launched a national campaign, Ask for Evidence, to encourage consumers, voters and patients to scrutinise every claim they see and to give people who come across dubious scientific claims somewhere to go with their questions. Organisations that seek to persuade people to try treatments or cures should expect questions about their evidence.

Cork native, Síle Lane is Campaigns Manager at Sense About Science. She joined Sense About Science in February 2009 from a career in stem cell research. Síle works with regulatory bodies, civic society organisations, patient groups, medical research charities, the media and policy makers in the UK to ensure the public always has access to the best science and evidence. Since June 2009 Síle has run the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign which this year led to the UK Government bringing forward legislation to reform the libel laws to protect scientific and medical discussion. Síle became Campaigns Manager in 2011 and is developing a new dedicated campaigns unit to popularise our approach to standing up for science, including launching a national campaign to Ask for evidence.

The talk will start at 8.00pm, on Saturday November 26th (please note that this is a change from our usual Friday night schedule). It is free to attend, and all are welcome. For directions to Blackrock Castle, see our Skeptics In The Castle information page.

We hope to see you there!