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!
Dr David Robert Grimes presents Conspiracy Theories in the 21st Century
8:00pm • Friday 22nd June • Blackrock Castle Observatory
Conspiratorial ideation (e.g., the moon landings were faked; climate-change is a hoax; vaccination is dangerous) is the tendency of individuals to believe that events and power relations are secretly manipulated by certain clandestine groups and organizations. Public acceptance of these ostensibly explanatory conjectures remains high, even when they are non-falsifiable, lacking in evidence, or demonstrably false.
To exacerbate the problem, social media provides fertile ground for conspiracy theories to rapidly propagate, and dedicated echo-chambers can insulate these beliefs from critical examination.
In this talk, we’ll examine what makes conspiracy theories so virile, including recent mathematical models that aim to understand the viability of such beliefs, and models of how they spread. And we’ll see how much damage such claims can cause, and why in our hyper-connected era its more imperative than ever before to combat false narratives.
About The Speaker: Dr David Robert Grimes is a physicist and cancer researcher, currently based at the Queens University Belfast and a visiting researcher at University of Oxford. His research focuses chiefly on the application of radiotherapy physics, and oxygen modelling, and academic work on factors influencing public perception and understanding of science.
He is also a science writer and frequently contributes to the Guardian, Irish Times and BBC on a wide spectrum of science, society and philosophical topics. He was joint recipient of the 2014 Nature / Sense about Science Maddox Prize for Standing Up for Science.
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.