Cork Skeptics

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


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Cruise Control • Friday 3 August

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A Talk with Ex-Scientologist John Duignan

8:00pm • Friday 3rd August • Blackrock Castle Observatory

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 Engljohn_headshot_350pxish 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.

 


This talk takes place at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork at 8:00pm on Friday 3rd August. Admission is free and all are welcome to attend!

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The Importance Of Being Ernst

Cork Skeptics Proudly Present … An Evening With Edzard Ernst
Friday 21 July • 8:00pm • Blackrock Castle Observatory

–> TICKET REQUIRED • BOOK NOW! <–


About the Talk:  Edzard Ernst is an academic tour de force within the skeptic movement.

Starting his career as a medical doctor, he became interested in alternative medicine and eventually became Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, conducting a number of studies into the effectiveness and safety of many common alternative approaches. Finding little evidence supporting the claims made, he has become an outspoken critic of the alternative medicine industry.

As well as over 700 scholarly articles, he co-wrote the bestselling book “Trick or Treatment” with Simon Singh. He retired from academia in 2013, following a dispute with Prince Charles’ Foundation for Integrated Health. Through blogs, newspaper columns and public lectures, he remains actively involved in combatting medical misinformation to the present day.

In 2015, he was awarded the John Maddox Prize for “standing up for science”.

Edzard’s latest book, A Scientist in Wonderland: A Memoir of Searching for Truth and Finding Trouble is available now.


Please Note: While admission is free, this is a ticketed event. We anticipate high demand, so to avoid disappointment, book your ticket now at:
https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/an-evening-with-edzard-ernst-tickets-35303175749


The talk will start at 8.00pm on Friday 21 July at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork. It is free to attend, though tickets are required (see above), and we welcome anyone with an interest in the topic to come along on the night. For directions to Blackrock Castle, see our Skeptics In The Castle information page.

We look forward to seeing you there!


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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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References from Saturday’s meeting

The meeting on Saturday was particularly good with over 40 attendees. Our speaker, who had been with the Jehovah’s Witnesses from birth and spent over 50 years in the organisation, spoke about the origins of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, their core beliefs, the consequences of being disfellowshipped and how he came to doubt the organisations core tenets. It was a fascinating talk with loads of questions afterwards. Many thanks to everyone who attended.

Our speaker (who prefers not to be named) referred to a number of books in his talk which we provide links to below:

The Demon Haunted World (Carl Sagan)

Demon-Haunted World.jpg

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-haunted-World-Science-Candle/dp/1439505284/

Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters (Donald Prothero)

Evolution (book cover)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Evolution-What-Fossils-Say-Matters/dp/0231139624/

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer. (Bart Ehrman)

Cover of 'God's Problem' by Bart Ehrman http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gods-Problem-Answer-Important-Question–Why/dp/0061173924/

God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Christopher Hitchens)

God is not great
http://www.amazon.co.uk/God-Not-Great-Religion-Everything/dp/1843545748/

In addition, the speaker mentioned the Silent Lambs website that is helping to document child welfare issues within the JW church:
http://www.silentlambs.org


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Martin Gardner — Personal Reminiscences and Irish Connections

Our next talk takes place on Friday 12th July, and we are delighted to host Mathematics Professor Colm Mulcahy who will be discussing the life and legacy of renowned American writer and sceptic Martin Gardner. Details below.

mgard1About The Talk: American man of letters and numbers—and patterns and puzzles—Martin Gardner (1914-2010) wrote about 100 books, starting with “Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science” over sixty years ago.

That lead to his playing a founding role in CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), and the Skeptical Inquirer magazine.  He was most well-known for the 300 columns he wrote for Scientific American, mostly on recreational maths, and the huge body of magic he created.

We’ll survey his legacy and touch on his little known professional Irish interests and connections.

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 12.31.31About The Speaker: Dubliner “Card Colm” Mulcahy is Professor of Mathematics at Spelman College, in Atlanta, Georgia, where he’s been teaching since 1988. He was fortunate to know Martin Gardner for the last decade of his life. He is the author of the upcoming book “Mathematical Card Magic” (AK Peters).

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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. It begins at 8:00pm and we hope to see you there!


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Pointing Fingers: A History & Analysis of Ireland’s Last Witchcraft Trial with Dr Andrew Sneddon

Our next meeting will take place on Saturday 17th November at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm. The talk is by Dr. Andrew Sneddon, lecturer in International History at the University of Ulster.

This talk will re-examine Ireland’s last prosecution for witchcraft at Carrickfergus Assize Court in Co. Antrim in March 1711. It will explore the reasons why eight women found themselves in the dock accused of causing the possession, by means of witchcraft, of a young woman, Mary Dunbar. It will also explore why, in a period of increasing scepticism towards ‘proving’ the crime of witchcraft all over Europe, the women were found guilty under the sixteenth-century, Irish Witchcraft Act. This will all be placed in its theological, intellectual and legal context by exploring the European ‘witch-craze’ of the early modern period.

About the speaker: Dr Andrew Sneddon is lecturer in history at the University of Ulster, specialising in social and intellectual history, exploring through this the religious, legal, medical, and ‘supernatural’ histories of Britain, Ireland and, to a lesser extent, Europe. He has published widely in these fields and in 2008 published a biography of the sceptical witchcraft theorist and bishop of Down and Connor, Francis Hutchinson (1660-1739). He is currently writing an account of the Islandmagee trial, to be published in early 2013 and entitled, Possessed by the Devil, as well as a tome that will explore witchcraft and magic in Ireland, 1586-1949, which is due to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.

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!