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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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
About the Talk: The modern world has witnessed a revolution in understanding how our brains work. Where once it was believed that we were in complete control of our actions, modern neuroscience has put forward a compelling case that this sense of control is merely an illusion. This has been termed “the death of free will”.
In this upcoming talk, Dr Robert King asks if the pendulum has swung too far and whether we still have the ability to make truly independent choices in our lives.
About the Speaker: Robert James King, Ph.D., is a researcher at the School of Applied Psychology, University College Cork. He has published in the field of human sexual behaviour, and is interested in various aspects of human behavior viewed through a biological lens. He blogs about his ongoing work in a popular form at Psychology Today.
Robert has consulted for television, radio and print media and is a regular reviewer for scientific journals, including Human Nature, Archives of Sexual Behavior, and The Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.
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.