Cork Skeptics

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


1 Comment

Where’s The Harm: Dr. Stephen Makin & Ben Makin of Edinburgh Skeptics Discuss Alternative Medicine

Alternative Medicine: Sat 14th July ay Blackrock Castle Observatory

On Saturday 14th July, Dr. Stephen Makin and Ben Makin of the Edinburgh Skeptics will deliver what promises to be a fascinating talk on the anecdotes and evidence surrounding alternative medicine. This talk will begin at 8.00pm at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory.

Ben Makin has tried a complete alphabet of traditional, complimentary and New Age treatments and practices. She will take us on a rapid tour of alternative and complimentary medicine, from Applied Kinesiology to Zen Buddhism, and ask “Where’s the harm?”

Dr Stephen Makin will reply, looking at the evidence and discussing cases where real harm has been done by alternative practices, and explaining why skeptics should continue to fight against quackery and cons.

Ben Makin was raised on goats’ milk and home-made wholemeal bread and started her working life at Culpepper’s the Herbalist; she now maintains the Edinburgh Skeptics website.

Stephen Makin was raised on soya milk and meditation, and ran away to Medical School to become a doctor. He is a Clinical Research Fellow in Stroke Medicine at Edinburgh University who spends too much time arguing with proponents of woo on the internet.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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!

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

So You Think You Own Your Body?: A Talk by Dr. Muireann Quigley

So You Think You Own You Body?

On Friday June 15th, we will be hosting Dr Muireann Quigley from the University of Manchester. The talk will begin at 8.00pm at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory.

Muireann is a lecturer in Bioethics, with a particular interest in property law regarding the human body. Prior to taking up the lectureship, Muireann worked as a Research Fellow in Bioethics and Law. In a previous life she was a medical doctor where she worked in General Medicine and A&E. She has also worked as a Screening Physician for a phase I clinical trials company.

Muireann’s talk, entitled So You Think You Own Your Body? will look at the changing role of the body and human biomaterials in a rapidly developing biotechnological world. She will show how the uses and misuses of persons and their tissues and cells by medicine, scientists, pharmaceutical companies and industry have risen and expanded exponentially.

In so doing, Muireann will argue that advancing biotechnology has fundamentally altered the way we view the human body and its parts and products. During the talk we will see that the fact that each of us is a potential provider of material for research has placed the human body and biomaterials in the realm of property. Using some relevant stories and cases, the talk will highlight the conflicts that can arise over the use of human tissue for research in the ’tissue economy’; thereby, illustrating that the body (and its parts) can be viewed as being in flux, scientifically, legally, and ethically though.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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!


Leave a comment

Tim Minchin in Cork Opera House – two tickets up for grabs

***Congratulations to William Grogan, whose name was drawn first at our meeting on Friday. Many thanks again to everyone who entered the competition.***

The outrageously funny and talented Tim Minchin is playing in Cork Opera House on the 31st of October.

Tim is the originator of the wonderful beat poem “Storm“. He also wrote the lyrics and music for “Matilda The Musical” with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His show is a mixture of comedy, polemic, skepticism, anarchy, and lots of fantastic tunes.

In conjunction with Blackrock Castle Observatory and Cork Opera House, we are pleased to offer two free tickets to one lucky winner.

To be in with a chance to win, simply drop us a mail* at corkskeptics at gmail dot com, with the subject “Tim Minchin at the Cork Opera House” and we will add you to the list. We will announce the lucky winners at our next Cork Skeptics meeting on October 21st. Best of luck!

* We will not share your information with anyone and we will only use it in the context of this competition. One entry per human being please!


1 Comment

Our June Talk by Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski

Science and Pseudoscience in the Treatment of Special Educational Needs

Friday 17th June at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork

Some children experience significant difficulties in aspects of their psychological development, making it hard for them to achieve their full potential inside the mainstream school curriculum. Those developmental difficulties can be elusive—hard to diagnose or even define precisely—and hard to treat. Naturally, there is no shortage of those who claim to have found the solution—wonderfully simple and effective— and who try to sell it to (often desperate) parents, teachers, psychologists or speech therapists. What these consumers need is the ability to critically evaluate the therapeutic products that are being marketed to them.

In this talk, Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski of the UCC Applied Psychology department will offer a brief overview of special educational needs—their symptoms and causes—as currently understood by the mainstream scientific community. The talk will cover subjects such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. He will then suggest some rules of thumb that will allow us to evaluate the competing therapeutic proposals, helping to differentiate those that are plausible from those that are almost certainly a waste of time.

The boundaries between evidence-based therapy and its dubious alternatives can be fuzzy. Even bona fide scientists are often guilty of over-selling the genuine remedies they offer. Dr. Szczerbinski will discuss the effectiveness of widely known therapies, such as Educational Kinesiology and Brain Gym as part of the talk, questioning how effective they are in reality.

About The Speaker: Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski is a psychologist, a graduate of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, and University College London. He has taught psychology and research methods at the University of Sheffield, before moving to the UCC earlier this year. He researches developmental dyslexia, among other things.

Venue & Time: This talk will begin at 8.00pm on Friday 17th June, in Blackrock Castle Observatory. Everyone is welcome and the talk is free to attend. Please see our Skeptics In The Castle page for directions to the Castle.


Leave a comment

Hmm – That’s Funny: Niall Smith at Skeptics in the Castle

Our latest meeting of Skeptics in the Castle was hosted by Dr. Niall Smith, Head of Research in Cork Institute of Technology and a founding member of Blackrock Castle Observatory. Niall holds a degree in astrophysics and is a superb science communicator.

In a wide-ranging and frequently hilarious talk, Niall spoke about the importance of experimentation to scepticism and science. Niall, a keen Carl Sagan enthusiast (“I hated Carl Sagan because he wrote so well”), spoke about extraordinary claims that no level of testing can pick up and why we can be rightly sceptical of such claims. But he also warned against unbounded skepticism, quoting Lord Kelvin whose scepticism lead him to conclude that x-rays were a hoax and that airplanes were impossible.

 His talk then turned to claims that don’t make much sense but where the experimental results were nevertheless unambiguous. A classic example is Wave Particle Duality, where light sometimes acts as a wave, and other times acts as a particle. It’s a mechanism that’s still not fully understood, yet it is verified to an exceedingly high degree of precision by modern science. He also spoke about the age of the universe – how current models cannot yet explain how the universe appears to be larger than expected and how light speed is the same no matter which direction or speed you are moving. All these are challenging results, but experimentally there is no debate – they can be shown to work every single time. They demonstrate that although we know a lot, there is a lot still yet to be understood about the nature of reality. As Niall said “just because you can’t explain it, doesn’t automatically mean you must reject it”.

Niall discussed the possibility of aliens, and wondered why any alien would want to experiment on humans after such a long journey through space – “maybe they’re really smart physicists but really stupid biologists”. He also had some interesting things to say about pseudo-scientific claims – that they rarely told us anything new about the world, whereas scientific discoveries often lead us down new and fascinating paths. Quoting Isaac Azimov, he said that science moves forwards, not through “Eureka” moments, but by someone saying “Hmm, that’s funny”.

Niall’s talk both thought provoking and entertaining, and although the room did heat up a bit, we didn’t find any dragon.