Cork Skeptics

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


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The Baloney Detection Kit at Science Week 2015

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The BALONEY DETECTION KIT @ Science Week 2015

As part of Science Week 2015, Cork Skeptics present “The Baloney Detection Kit” — a furiously fast-paced introduction to skepticism!

From 6 – 7pm on Saturday 14th November, at Blackrock Castle Observatory.


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 with topics ranging from ghosts to nuclear power and financial scams.

This event takes place in Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork City from 6pm on Saturday 14th November. It is free to attend, and all are welcome.


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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 fionao71.tumblr.com


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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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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Mindfulness with Karen Murphy

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On Friday 21st November we are hosting a talk by Cork-based counsellor and psychotherapist Karen Murphy, who will deliver a detailed appraisal of the meditative practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is growing in popularity as a way of improving mental health, coping with pain, reducing stress and now is even being introduced into the Junior Cert cycle. From the cover of Time Magazine in February this year to companies like Google developing their own in house mindfulness programme it is hard to escape the mindfulness explosion. But what is mindfulness? How does it work? Why do we need it? What evidence is there that it works? Our speaker will explore these topics as well as why, very often, people react with scepticism towards mindfulness.

About the Speaker: Karen Murphy is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist (BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy) working in private practice in Cork City. She gives workshops on mindfulness to organisations and business as well as running regular mindfulness courses.


This talk begins at 8:00pm on Friday 21 November. 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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Autism and Autism Treatments (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly)

Autism is a fascinating subject, steeped in rumour, mystery, misconceptions and myths. Tannice Pendegrass firstly aims to take you through different definitions of autism, cultural representations and the results of her survey, asking over 700 people about their perceptions of what causes and treats autism (spoiler: we don’t know and, currently, nothing).

The second part of the talk focuses on ‘the bad’ and ‘the ugly’. The part most skeptics will probably be most interested in. Tannice will briefly cover the MMR scandal, but this is not the main focus of her ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ section: the subject that Tannice reserves the most ire for is the toxic and sometimes downright dangerous treatments many children must endure. Asking the question ‘what’s the harm?’ has never been more important.

The third part of the talk is for ‘the good’ – it focuses on ABA or Applied Behavioural Analysis; the gold standard in Autism treatment. Through a whirlwind journey (to fit in the format of a SitP talk) Tannice will explain what ABA is, how it’s used and the evidence behind it. From Kim Peek (the inspiration for rain man) to Jenny McCarthy (an anti-vaccination campaigner), this talk will give you a broad overview of Autism, Autism treatments and why cultural representations of Autism are usually wrong. You’ll also find out why a horse died when he was being treated in a chamber normally reserved for divers suffering from the bends.”

Bio:

Tannice Pendegrass is the Assistant Editor of The Skeptic Magazine (UK) and responsible for running Guildford Skeptics in the Pub with a Cesium fist. Tannice’s brand of skepticism is focused around alternative medicine and false claims of an ability to converse with the dead. Her specialist Credible Hulk subject is the bogus link between Autism and the MMR vaccine. Tannice is also the Treasurer and the Press Officer for the newly formed South East Skeptics’ society.

 

Our meeting:

This meeting takes place at 8pm in Blackrock Castle, Saturday March 16th. The call will take place over Skype.

 


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

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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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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!