Cork Skeptics

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


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Paranoia For The People • Friday 22 June

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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.

DRG_headshotAbout 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.

David can be found on Twitter @drg1985


This talk takes place at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork at 8:00pm on Friday 22nd June. Admission is free and all are welcome to attend!

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Odd Numbers with Darren Dahly

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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.

Darren_Headshot_350pxAbout The Speaker: Darren Dahly is the Principal Statistician of the Clinical Research Facility Cork, and a Senior Lecturer in Research Methods at UCC.

Darren can be found on Twitter @statsepi

 


This talk takes place at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork at 8:00pm on Friday 8th June. Admission is free and all are welcome to attend!


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David Robert Grimes tackles bad journalism

For our January meeting, David Robert Grimes gave us a comprehensive and entertaining talk on the misuse of statistics in the media. Starting with an explanation about how statistics can easily be distorted in the wrong hands (the maths bit), David talked about the reality behind cancer statistics and how testing for breast cancer at too early an age might actually be counter-productive. David also discussed problems with comparing relative statistics and misrepresenting small absolute changes in data as huge problems. He then considered the incursion of PR releases into journalism (“churnalism”) and false balance – the creation of artificial debates in an effort to create controversy where no scientific controversy exists. Examples of these are creationism vs evolution and climate change. David also hits on anti-vaccination and HIV denial. David finishes by suggesting what people can do to counter bias and error. It was a terrific talk, full of stories and examples.

[MP3]

David has a PhD in Medical Physics and is an accomplished actor and musician. His blog is Three Men Make a Tiger and he can be found on Twitter at @drg1985.


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Skeptics in the Castle: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

File licensed by Depositphotos.com/Igor Zakowski

Science and the Media – an Odd Couple.

To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, mainstream media has difficulties differentiating between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilisation. Yet we rely on media to inform us of events and concepts in the world around us, despite the fact that they often get it terribly wrong, especially in the fields of science and medicine. In this talk we’ll outline some of the common mistakes journalists and indeed the public make, from shocking statistics to bogus balance, as well as discuss how they can be improved, and what sceptics, scientists, doctors and you can do to help rectify the situation.

Our speaker

Dr David Robert Grimes is a medical physicist, musician, actor and writer with a keen interest in the public understanding of science and sceptic thought. He writes a science and medicine blog at 3menmakeatiger.blogspot.com and contributes to various publications on such issues. He is an Aries, but as astrology is a bogus pseudoscience he cannot use this as an excuse for his belligerent nature.

Date and Venue

The talk begins at 8.00pm, on Saturday, January 21st in Blackrock Castle Observatory. It is free to attend, and all are welcome. For directions to Blackrock Castle, see our Skeptics In The Castle information page.

Looking forward to seeing you there!