Cork Skeptics

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


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What people do when they get it totally wrong

Passive Impressions

Cognitive Dissonance is described as the mental state a person experiences when their long term beliefs are somehow shown to be completely wrong-headed. It’s not a nice feeling to find out that your beliefs are ridiculous, so typically your brain will work overtime  to reduce this dissonance. The internal dialogue goes something like this: “I am a good, reasonable person, and a good, reasonable person would never indulge themselves in something batshit crazy, so if something is wrong with this picture, it’s got nothing to do with good reasonable me”.

This line of thinking is, of course, a recipe for total fucking disaster.

There are a few tried and tested strategies that people have used to reduce this cognitive dissonance. Let’s look at them.

The Martyr Syndrome

When the world is agin you, it might be that you are wrong; but of course it’s more likely that you are part of…

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Summer Social

A quick note to let you know that we are meeting up tonight, July 16, for a few drinks and a chat.

If you are around Cork, we are meeting in Tom Barry’s Pub on Barrack St. We’ll be there from 7.30pm.

If there’s enough interest we might make it a more regular occurrence!

Colm


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Ignore the scaremongers: get your children vaccinated

Passive Impressions

Source: vaccine.gov Source: vaccine.gov

A BBC news report today reported that a woman in the US died from an attack of the measles. While the measles does not normally kill, a small percentage of people who get it can die; others will be left with serious health problems for the rest of their lives. If you are a rational person, measles is not something that you and your children should ever have to deal with.

Measles is one of the three diseases, along with Mumps and Rubella, that the MMR vaccine is effective in preventing. Vaccines like MMR act by priming the immune system with a weakened version of the virus. This allows your body to create antibodies, so that when the real disease comes around, the body is ready to defend itself. The mechanics of how vaccination works is not new: it was pretty much understood by the 1940s, and as…

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Homeopathy – a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

In the minds of many, homeopathy works. Until one day, it doesn’t.

Passive Impressions

Lots of people around the world do not take any homeopathic treatments. Lots of people do. Both groups tend to live to similar ages and are largely prone to the same conditions as they go through life.

You can think of it as a kind of thought experiment. On one hand, you have people who tend to see illness as something to wait out. Most illnesses – sniffles, coughs, pains, lows, wheezes – they come and go. It’s often a matter of tolerating them until they eventually die down and disappear. Maybe an analgesic, if necessary, will temporarily ease the symptoms. On the other you have people who, at the first sign of a cold or an ache, it’s off down to the homeopath for a dose of oscillococcinum, or whatever you are having yourself.

This intrigues me, because as far as I can see, in both cases the outcomes are pretty…

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Brian Clement, Alternative Cancer Practitioner: You Are Not Welcome.

Update 4: 16/6/15: The Carlton Airport Hotel have cancelled the event. Thank you Carlton! All advertised hotel venues have now withdrawn their bookings. 

Update 3: 16/6/15: The Connacht Hotel have rung to tell us the meeting has been cancelled. Thank you Connacht Hotel!

Update 2: 15/6/15 The Galway meeting has now been moved to the Connacht Hotel. 

Update: 15/6/15 The Galway Clayton Hotel have let us know that they will no longer be hosting the meeting in Galway. 

Our friends at the Good Thinking Society have tipped us off about two events taking place in Dublin and Galway later this month. The speaker at both events is Brian Clement and his speciality is cancer patients.
Alternative medicine practitioners of every hue are common in Ireland. However, this man has a particularly odious reputation. He runs a treatment centre in Florida called the Hippocrates Institute, and he and his institute are in big trouble. Florida’s Department of Health have their sights on him, as do the US Federal Trade Commission. Even former employees of his are up in arms about his practices. It’s been alleged that he is practicing medicine without a licence – a serious charge in any country.

If this wasn’t bad enough, he’s been accused of giving false hope to seriously ill cancer patients. False hope is when you tell people you can help them or even cure them, when in reality you have neither the right knowledge nor the right skills to do make good on your promises. Tempting, isn’t it? You find people with very few options left, tell them an amazing story, administer unproven treatments to them and charge them a ton of money; all in the hope that luck will be on your side and you’ll get a great testimonial out of it. If things go badly, well, hey, you did your best. Win, win – at least for you; not so much your unfortunate patients. Most people would avoid this temptation because of basic morality, but as they say here locally, there’s always one.

In public statements, Clement has said things like: “We have the longest history on the planet Earth, the highest success rate on the planet Earth, of people healing cancer” and “we’ve seen thousands and thousand of people reverse stage-four catastrophic cancer“. For anyone who has been affected by cancer, such extravagant claims would need a ton of independently verified evidence: evidence Clement does not have.

The allegation by Canadian media is that he encouraged the parents of two young aboriginal girls to have them forego chemotherapy for leukaemia and to opt instead for alternative treatments such as wheatgrass enemas, detox diets and massages – none of which have ever been shown to have any curative effect on metastatic cancer. One of the girls involved, Makayla Sault, has already died. There is also an Irish connection. After a talk in Dublin, Stacey O’Halloran, a 23 year old Limerick woman with advanced metastatic breast cancer, gave up conventional treatments and traveled to the Hippocrates Institute. She died last year.

Brian Clement has two speaking engagements coming up this June, one in Dublin and one in Galway. Based on the negative publicity from Canadian media, the lawsuits outstanding against him and his apparent lack of medical qualifications, we believe that this man is a danger to public health. We call on the Carlton Airport Hotel in Dublin, and the Connacht Hotel in Galway to withdraw their offer to host these events.


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The Baloney Detection Kit • A Talk by Colm Ryan

BaloneyDetectionKit_2015_Advert_2 baloney_detection_kit_2015_650pxCork Skeptics present

The Baloney Detection Kit

A talk by Colm Ryan

UFOs. Ghosts. Astrology. Homeopathy. Telepathy. Miracle Cancer Cures. People all around the world fervently believe they exist and yet there isn’t a shred of good evidence that they are real in any sense of the word. On the other hand, there is strong scientific support for evolution, climate change and vaccines, yet millions reject the evidence entirely, preferring long debunked ideas instead.

In a wide-ranging talk, Colm Ryan of Cork Skeptics explores the world of strange beliefs and discusses some ways to distinguish between good and bad ideas. Colm will talk about logical fallacies, brain flaws and other tricks that persuade us of things that aren’t so. He will also examine the crucial role that science plays in distinguishing fact from fiction.


Colm is the co-founder of Cork Skeptics, a group dedicated to the promotion of good science while challenging strange claims. Founded in 2010 in Blackrock Castle, we host regular public talks on issues such as ghosts, nuclear power and financial scams.

The talk takes place in De Barra’s Folk Club, Clonakilty at 8pm, Tuesday 12th May. All are welcome.