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.
On Saturday 20th September we are hosting Danny Strickland, co-founder of Newcastle Skeptics, who will deliver a first-hand critical examination of the 12-Step Programme of addiction counselling.
With millions of members and over 200 organisations world wide, the 12-step programme of recovery has been used to help people recover from addiction and dependence since 1935. The most well known of the 12-step groups is Alcoholics Anonymous, which claims to have in excess of 2 million members.
In his talk, Danny will discuss what exactly the 12 steps are, what they really mean and just how effective they are in tackling addiction. He will also explore questions such as are 12-step groups cults, is a belief in “God” central to the 12-step programme and if so, can atheists really use the 12-steps?
Danny spent almost three years as a member of a 12-step fellowship. Six years after attending his last 12-step meeting, Danny remains free from addiction. Just for today.
Danny was co-founder of Newcastle Skeptics and helped run it for four years. You can follow him on Twitter: @dts1970
This talk will begin at 8:00pm on Saturday 20 September. The venue is Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork. It is free to attend and all are welcome.
This talk by Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski, Lecturer in Applied Psychology at UCC, will explore genetics and the puzzles of heritability. What does it mean to say that a trait is heritable? Is there a gene for schizophrenia or a “gay gene”? What can we learn from looking at cases of identical twins raised apart, or indeed from adopted children raised together? And does genetic actually mean immutable?
These and similar questions will be addressed during what promises to be a truly insightful talk.
About the speaker: Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski is a Psychology graduate of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, and of the Department of Human Communication Science, University College London. From 2001 until 2011 he was a lecturer at the Department of Human Communication Sciences, University of Sheffield, where he contributed to a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, particularly in Speech and Language Therapy. He joined UCC in January 2011.
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.
On the night, we will also have a short (live!) presentation from the editor of Walton Magazine, a new quarterly STEM publication based in Cork.
Most people are familiar with the placebo effect—where an inert substance appears to cause an improvement in a patient’s symptoms (or at least makes them believe things are getting better). But we may be less aware of it’s corollary, the nocebo effect.
In medicine, a nocebo reaction or response refers to harmful, unpleasant, or undesirable effects a subject manifests after receiving an inert dummy drug or placebo. Nocebo responses are not chemically generated and are due only to the subject’s pessimistic belief and expectation that the inert drug will produce negative consequences. In these cases, there is no “real” drug involved, but the actual negative consequences of the administration of the inert drug, which may be physiological, behavioural, emotional, and/or cognitive, are nonetheless real.
In this talk placebo and nocebo are explained and pitted against each other. Are they both real? How can we study nocebo effects? And what implications do nocebos have for modern clinical practice?
Keir Liddle is a PhD student at the University of Stirling, and on the Edinburgh Skeptics committee. He founded the longest free skeptical festival in the world (Skeptics On The Fringe) and has a longstanding interest in placebos, nocebos and their implications. In this talk he draws on recent and past research into nocebo effects to argue that they are really a lot more important than anyone seems to give them credit for.