Cork Skeptics

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

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All In The Genes? — A Talk On Genetics and the Puzzles of Heritability by Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski

All In The Genes? w/ Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski

Our next meeting takes place on Saturday 23rd February at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm.

This talk by Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski, Lecturer in Applied Psychology at UCC, will explore genetics and the puzzles of heritability. What does it mean to say that a trait is heritable? Is there a gene for schizophrenia or a “gay gene”? What can we learn from looking at cases of identical twins raised apart, or indeed from adopted children raised together? And does genetic actually mean immutable?

These and similar questions will be addressed during what promises to be a truly insightful talk.

Dr. Marcin SzczerbinskiAbout the speaker: Dr. Marcin Szczerbinski is a Psychology graduate of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, and of the Department of Human Communication Science, University College London. From 2001 until 2011 he was a lecturer at the Department of Human Communication Sciences, University of Sheffield, where he contributed to a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, particularly in Speech and Language Therapy. He joined UCC in January 2011.

This will be Dr. Szczerbinski’s second talk for us, following his talk on Special Educational Needs in June of 2011.


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 15 Minute Baloney Detection Kit


As part of Culture Night in Blackrock Castle this weekend, I talked about a number of techniques we all should be on the look out for when confronted with strange claims that don’t seem to make much sense. These techniques included strong emotional appeals, the use of celebrities, “magic” words, claims that seemed to be too good to be true, and the “black or white” fallacy, where only two options are presented even though other alternatives may exist. These are just some examples of what are called Logical Fallacies – you can find more fallacies discussed in the website below.

Click on the link to go to the Logical Fallacies website

I also spoke about the dangers of anecdotes and testimonials and why we can’t always rely on our memories or perceptions to explain what we might have witnessed. Finally, I contrasted scientific claims to baloney claims, outlining the hard work that has taken place to provide a reliable understanding of the world around us.

Further reading: 

The following books are worth a look if you are interested in finding out more about science and baloney.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) – Carol Tavris & Eliot Aronson

Bad Science – Ben Goldacre

Trick or Treatment – Simon Singh & Edzard Ernst

The Demon Haunted World – Carl Sagan

Flim Flam! – James Randi

Why People Believe Weird Things – Michael Shermer

Bad Astronomy – Philip Plait

Paranormality – Richard Wiseman

Internet Resources

The Skeptics’ Dictionary

Doubtful News

Skeptic Magazine

James Randi Educational Foundation

Bad Astronomy


The Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe


Skeptics with a K



Storm (Tim Minchin)

The Strange Powers of the Placebo Effect

The Problem With Anecdotes