Darren Dahly, Principal Statistician of the Clinical Research Facility Cork, Presents A Skeptic’s Guide To Common Statistical Paradoxes & Biases
8:00pm • Friday 8th June • Blackrock Castle Observatory
There are lots of ways to fool ourselves with data. This talk will help you defend yourself against the most common statistical paradoxes and biases. Examples will include how regression to the mean can explain most placebo effects, and how collider bias can lead us to think that smoking during pregnancy is actually good for small babies.
About The Speaker: Darren Dahly is the Principal Statistician of the Clinical Research Facility Cork, and a Senior Lecturer in Research Methods at UCC.
Niamh O’Connor, a.k.a. the Nutri-Babble Slayer, Puts Online Health & Nutrition Claims Under The Microscope
8:00pm • Friday 24th November • Blackrock Castle Observatory
Having immersed herself in Twitter for the past 7 years, dietitian & consultant nutritionist Niamh O’Connor has seen first-hand the power of social media in healthcare. In that time, Niamh has become a leading voice on social media for Irish dietitians, as an unwavering nutribabble-slaying thorn in the side of opportunistic quacks, celebrities and charlatans, who post misleading, false and incorrect health and nutrition information online!
In this talk, Niamh will chronicle her online odyssey through the world of bogus health and nutrition claims and those that peddle them, as well as providing practical advice on what to look out for and how best to assess these claims.
About The Speaker: Niamh O’Connor qualified with BSc (Hons) in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from TCD & a Diploma in Dietetics from DIT in 1993.
In 1999 she founded Cork Nutrition Consultancy, which was the very first of its kind in Cork, and in 2012 she went on to launch NutriCount® Ireland, which provides professional nutritional analysis, allergen labelling, staff training & mentoring on health and nutrition claims for the hospitality sector.
Niamh is an active member of the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute (INDI), the professional body for dietitians and clinical nutritionists in Ireland. She advocates for her patients and for her profession, and is a regular contributor to local and national radio, television, print media and social media on all things nutrition.
Colm Ryan of Cork Skeptics will discuss some of the stranger stories arising from our love affair with the cosmos.
Colm will take a sceptical look at astrology, the UFO phenomenon, and the popular conspiracy theories of our culture. In contrast to these are real, scientific quests to find life on planets and moons beyond the Earth.
Lastly, Colm will introduce a baloney detector kit, which may help distinguish outlandish claims from rational scientific discovery.
This talk is part of the Space On The Road! series of events taking place throughout Cork County Libraries this summer, and is one of many events comprising the Summer of Space at Blackrock Castle Observatory. For more information visit www.bco.ie/events or www.ssp17.ie You can also follow along on social media using #SummerOfSpace #SSP17 #OurSpaceOurTime
This talk takes place in Youghal County Library, Cork at 6:30pm on Thursday 27th July. 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
In an article entitled “Are miracles happening on the streets of Coleraine“, Finola Meredith wrote a largely uncritical piece about Mark Marx, a self-described street healer who claims he can channel the spirit of God to heal people of various different ailments. Particularly worryingly, claims were made that his ministry helped rid a woman of paralysis and helped to eliminate a young man’s cancer. Both claims went unchallenged.
Marx cited a “leg lengthening” technique that has long been debunked by professional magicians. Using this technique, so-called healers use sleight-of-hand to convince the unwary that a miracle has been performed, when all that’s usually required is a simple repositioning of the shoes being worn by the subject. In this case, we do not know the effect that chemotherapy had on the young man’s recovery. It appears that Ms Meredith did not seek corroboration for the claims made.
In cases of cancer, because treatment regimes are often difficult and outcomes uncertain, people can come to a conclusion that there are easier solutions out there. Combined with unscrupulous people who claim they can cure without evidence, it is a breeding ground for false hope and avoidable suffering. The utmost scepticism must be applied. Irrespective of whether sceptics have “never encountered the reality of knowing God”, any claim to cure cancer must stand on its own merits. Anecdotes are insufficient as they are often self-serving, selective and fail to account for the many biases we are all subject to.
Evangelical faith healing has a long pedigree of making extravagant claims despite any clinical evidence. The area is fraught with examples of brazen charlatanry and most worryingly, there have been plenty of cases of serious harm caused to people who have abandoned medical treatment in favour of faith based treatments. We need to be extremely wary of the claims of faith healers, even when the healers themselves seem sincere in their beliefs.