Cork Skeptics

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


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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.

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“Believing is Seeing”

Dr. Jurek Kirakowski, senior lecturer in Applied Psychology in UCC, was our speaker last night for the second meeting of Cork Skeptics in the Castle. He gave a wide ranging and entertaining speech about mystical phenomena from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Dr. Kirakowski framed the talk in terms of epistemologies, or “how we know what we know”. He explained that mysticism was treated as normal during the Middle Ages, when the teachings of Aristotle held sway. The modern age, ushered in by the likes of Francis Bacon and the Enlightenment scientists, has been much more critical of mysticism as it places greater emphasis on what can be objectively observed and measured than on individual personal experiences. In essence, mysticism and how it is treated by wider society, is indicative of a clash between two very different world views.

Dr Kirakowski has a long-standing interest in the moving statue phenomenon in Ireland during 1985. He was part of a team of researchers that demonstrated that the statues were not actually moving; instead it was shown to be an optical illusion caused by the way light is processed by our brains. The phenomenon was not just about moving statues, however. There was a plethora of intense personal experiences reported all over the country. Dr Kirakowski explains such experiences as “key events”, unlocking a part of our unconscious mind that is still poorly understood.

Dr Kirakowski calls himself a “radical skeptic”, skeptical about skepticism as it were. It was a fascinating talk, taking into account the bizarre world of stigmatics, the Knock apparitions and milk drinking statues in India. His engaging style gave us all plenty to think about on our way out of the meeting.

We had some feedback on the background noise last night which we should be able to sort out for the next get-together. We are very much open to any feedback, so if you have suggestions and comments, please let us know.

You can view some more photos from the night on our Facebook page.


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Believing Is Seeing: A Talk By Dr. Jurek Kirakowski

Photo courtesy Andy Ferreira Photography

Tomorrow night, Friday 21st January, we will be hosting a talk by Dr. Jurek Kirakowski on the subject of Moving Statues, Stigmatics and Science.

Jurek, a senior lecturer in Applied Psychology in UCC, calls himself the “original ghostbuster”. He ran a number of experiments during the moving statues phenomenon in the mid-1980’s which cast doubt on any supernatural effects. Jurek is the co-author of the book ‘Ballinspittle: Moving statues and faith” and he has recently appeared in the 2010 RTE documentary “Apparitions“. Jurek remains very interested in mass-delusion, and his talk will take us on a world tour of similar happenings around the world. His talk will contrast modern enlightenment thinking to ancient and medieval belief systems, from which such strange visions and beliefs emerge.

The talk will begin at 8pm in Blackrock Castle on Friday January 21st, 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.