Cork Skeptics

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


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How To Find Love On The Internet • Dr Martin Graff

MartinGraff_CorkSkeptics_650pxFriday 2 May at Blackrock Castle Observatory

Are there gender differences in attraction?  Can you really find true love on the Internet?  How do people actually portray themselves online?  Can you have a virtual affair?

In this talk, Dr Martin Graff will examine all of these issues and will draw on current empirical studies on online relationships.  He will cover some of the major research work on the online disinhibition effect, which suggest that we disclose more personal information, and do this more quickly in online environments.

Dr Graff will also give some factual advice on how to construct dating site profiles, and the way to approach an online liaison with a potential dating partner.  With the explosion in the provision of online dating sites, including those dedicated to finding partners for affairs, this will also draw on some of the speaker’s own research on online infidelity, asking whether it is possible to have a virtual affair.

 

About The Speaker:

Dr Martin Graff is Reader in Psychology at the University of South Wales. He is an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Chartered Psychologist.

Over the years he has carried out research in the areas of cognitive processes in web-based learning, individual differences in website navigation, online interaction and the formation and dissolution of romantic relationships online and offline. He has also carried out research in the areas of online persuasion, and online disinhibition, and has supervised several doctoral degrees in this area.

He is a member of the British Psychological Society Undergraduate Education Committee, which oversees the running of Psychology degree programmes at British Universities.  In April 2013, he was invited as a visiting research professor to Cortland University, New York, USA April 2013.

Dr Graff has published widely in the field of Internet behaviour, and has also written for The Psychologist in the area of Online Infidelity.  He has also presented this work at numerous International Conferences.


 

This talk will take place at Blackrock Castle Observatory at 8pm — directions can be found on our information page. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers, and all are welcome at this free event. We hope to see you there!

 

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The View From The Watchtower: A Former Believer’s Experience as a Jehovah’s Witness

CorkSkeptics_Watchtower_Poster_650pxMost people at some time or other—usually on the doorstep—have had a brief conversation with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It probably went something like this: “Isn’t the world in a mess? Do you think things will ever get better? Do you know that the Bible promises that God will make it possible for good people to live forever right here, on an earth that will be transformed into a paradise?” Then often some literature is left that cites Bible texts to support this belief.

The Witness worldview that underpins this theology is quite surprising. What is Armageddon and what will happen to most of the world’s population when it comes?  How do Witnesses view other religions? How do members regard higher education? What is wrong with having a birthday party, celebrating Christmas or voting in elections?

Our speaker for this event was for many years a devout member of the Jehovah’s Witness community in Cork. In this talk, he will briefly outline the history of the religion, summarise the key beliefs and recount his own experience as a member.

There will be plenty of time for questions and answers, and all are welcome at this free event. This talk takes place at Blackrock Castle Observatory at 8pm — directions can be found on our information page. We hope to see you there!


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All in the Genes? Marcin’s talk in full.

Last night, Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski gave a talk on genes and the role that they play in determining our personalities, our mental faculties and the quality of our lives. It was a fascinating lecture that brings the “Nature vs Nurture” debate right up to date. Marcin presents his talk as a hypothesis, but in doing so he brought us on a tour of the key research that tells us something about the influence of genes in our lives. The various strands of research – via twin studies, animal studies and genetic studies – show a strong linkage between our genes and our traits. They also show that genes do not necessarily impose limits on our abilities, and that “inherited” does not mean “immutable”. The environment, as it were, raises (or lowers) all boats, providing the means to correct, improve or impose restrictions on our natural talents and inclinations.

Using Google Hangout, we broadcasted this talk live to YouTube, and the full recording of the meeting is presented below. Marcin’s talk begins at the 29 minute mark. We’d love to hear some feedback from you on what you taught about the talk, whether this format works for you, and any improvements you would like to see.

 

 


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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!


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The Nocebo Effect: A Talk by Keir Liddle of Edinburgh Skeptics

Our next meeting will take place on Saturday 20th October, at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm. The talk is by Keir Liddle of Edinburgh Skeptics, who will take a close look at the Nocebo Effect. Keir will join us from Scotland, via the sufficiently advanced technology* of Skype.

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.

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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The Industry of Modern Art: A Talk by Reg Murphy

August 18th 2012 — The Industry of Modern Art by Reg Murphy

Our next meeting will take place on Saturday 18th August, at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm. The talk is by Cork Skeptics member Reg Murphy, and promises to be a fascinating look behind the industry of modern art. Reg has a degree in Fine Art from Limerick School of Art and is an avid art enthusiast. Reg has supplied an outline of the talk below.

In this talk I won’t deal with lofty questions like: what is art? What is the meaning of art? etc.; these are subjective issues best left to philosophers and not truly accessible to skeptical analysis. What I will talk about is Modern Art’s essential relationship with Money, Prestige and Entertainment. Modern Art, for better or worse is a big worldwide industry which employs tens of thousands, entertains millions, generates billions (literally), and causes (occasionally) mass trauma and outrage. Decisions concerning it often go to the highest levels of Government and it is often used as branch of diplomacy.

In a heavily illustrated slide lecture, I hope to give a fun and irreverent (i.e. free of jargon) overview, providing a highly condensed history from French Impressionism to the current day, revealing:

The Artists: Where do I start?
The Collectors: Visionaries, fools or prudent investors?
The Dealers: Smarmy charlatans or the hand maidens of Culture?
The Critics: Vindictive failed artists or heroic cheerleaders?
The Media: Vulgarians or honesty reflecting public bafflement?
The Curators: Elitist snobs or a sincere desire to stimulate the public?
The State Galleries: A waste of public money or vastly important tourist draws?
Government: Arts spending; the role of Cultural heritage and national prestige.

Most importantly, and perhaps not widely appreciated: How visual art became a mass spectacle (a very modern phenomena).

All these elements will build up a picture of the current contemporary art scene and will show that despite stupidity, hubris and greed, the public are the winners and are in fact, greatly enriched.

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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CRUISE CONTROL: Ex-Scientologist John Duignan Recounts His 22 Years in the “Cult to the Stars”

Our next meeting will take place on Friday 25th May, at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm. The talk is by John Duignan, ex-Scientologist and author of The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology.

About The Speaker: 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.

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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!