Cork Skeptics

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


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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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Skeptics In The Castle Double Bill! The Science of Misunderstanding and Sense About Science – November 26th 2011

The next meeting of Cork Skeptics in the Castle on Saturday 26th of November will be a double bill, with talks from Dr. Brian Hughes, of NUI Galway, and Síle Lane, of Sense About Science.

The Science of Misunderstanding: How Our Brains are Programmed to Make Mistakes.

For centuries it was believed that human reasoning was distinguished by logical thinking, clarity, and general accuracy. More recent studies have shown that human reasoning is in fact characterised by repeated mistakes, errors and wrongheadedness. It is argued that reasoning errors are often side-effects of otherwise useful mental shortcuts that have been used in the wrong way. While such concepts are useful, they do not quite explain how audiences often find bogus information to be much more attractive than accurate information. It may even be the case that our tendency to make frequent mistakes has given us a considerable evolutionary advantage. This talk will look at biological, evolutionary, and socio-cultural research on how our tendency to misunderstand can help us, both as individuals and as a society. We will also look at research which suggests some unexpectedly negative effects of enhanced logical reasoning, on both mental and physical health.

Our speaker, Dr. Brian Hughes, is the director for the Centre for Research on Occupational and Life Stress (CROLS) in NUI Galway. He is the author of The Science Bit blog, where he writes frequently about science, pseudoscience and scepticism. He holds Ph.D. and B.A. degrees in psychology from NUI Galway, and an Ed.M. degree in public science education from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He served as founding Head of the Psychology Department at Dublin Business School and as President of the Psychological Society of Ireland (2004-2005).

The Ask for Evidence Campaign

Sense About Science is a UK charity that works with scientists, the public and the media to challenge misinformation, whether about the age of the earth, the causes of cancer, wifi radiation or homeopathy for malaria. This is often very effective but no sooner is attention turned elsewhere than misleading claims creep back up again. Sense about Science run campaigns and produce documents to help equip people to make sense of evidence themselves, but to make a permanent difference, they need more members of the public to be evidence hunters. That’s why they launched a national campaign, Ask for Evidence, to encourage consumers, voters and patients to scrutinise every claim they see and to give people who come across dubious scientific claims somewhere to go with their questions. Organisations that seek to persuade people to try treatments or cures should expect questions about their evidence.

Cork native, Síle Lane is Campaigns Manager at Sense About Science. She joined Sense About Science in February 2009 from a career in stem cell research. Síle works with regulatory bodies, civic society organisations, patient groups, medical research charities, the media and policy makers in the UK to ensure the public always has access to the best science and evidence. Since June 2009 Síle has run the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign which this year led to the UK Government bringing forward legislation to reform the libel laws to protect scientific and medical discussion. Síle became Campaigns Manager in 2011 and is developing a new dedicated campaigns unit to popularise our approach to standing up for science, including launching a national campaign to Ask for evidence.

The talk will start at 8.00pm, on Saturday November 26th (please note that this is a change from our usual Friday night schedule). It is free to attend, and all are welcome. For directions to Blackrock Castle, see our Skeptics In The Castle information page.

We hope to see you there!


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Trust Me, I’m A Scientist: A Talk by Eoin Lettice

On Friday 18th February, we will host a talk by Eoin Lettice entitled Trust Me, I’m A Scientist: Gentically Modified (GM) Crops and the Public Perception of Science.

With an increasing demand for high-yielding crop varieties, the genetic modification of plants is seen by many as part of the solution. However, with serious opposition in some quarters to GM technology, has there been a failure by scientists to communicate the benefits and risks of GM properly to the public? This talk will look at public perceptions of science and at how science is communicated. Particular focus will be on the area of genetically modified crops and how the public perceive them.

About the speaker: Eoin Lettice is a lecturer in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES), University College Cork. His research and teaching focus is on plant pathology and plant biotechnology. He also writes the Communicate Science blog, which was nominated for an Irish Blog Award, Irish Web Award and shortlisted for an Eircom Spider Award in 2010.

The talk will begin at 8pm on Friday February 18th, in Blackrock Castle Observatory, which is close to the Mahon Point Shopping Centre. Everyone is welcome and the talk is free to attend.
Please see our Skeptics In The Castle page for directions to the Castle.