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 Deborah Hyde

When?
Wednesday, August 5 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?
Deborah Hyde

What's the talk about?

One night in 1875, a young woman in an old, remote house in Cumberland was startled to find a hideous creature picking at the lead on her window pane. As she lay paralysed with fear, it let itself into her room and sucked blood from her neck. How could this have been just an apparition? After all, her brothers saw it too, and it had left a hideous throat wound on the traumatised victim.

England isn't usually noted for its vampires, but the Beast of Croglin Grange is one of the notable exceptions. Join us for an evening of tracking the Beast back to its unlikely lair.

Pixie Turner

When?
Wednesday, July 1 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Pixie Turner

What's the talk about?

To be revealed soon…

James Ball

When?
Wednesday, June 3 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
James Ball

What's the talk about?

Evidence-based policy is the cornerstone of the skeptic movement. But what happens when the evidence says evidence doesn't work? Can we ignore this contradiction – or even better, disprove it – and what should we do if we can't?

NB** Please note, this is NOT our usual first Wednesday of the month slot

Dr Stuart Vyse

When?
Tuesday, May 12 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Stuart Vyse

What's the talk about?

Despite the many scientific and technological advances of modern life, superstition persists and, by some measures, is increasing in popularity. As a result, today there is a lively stream of research on the psychology of superstition, much of which is marketing studies inspired by the remarkable rise of the Chinese economy. This talk will review current trends in superstitious beliefs and the latest research on the psychology of those beliefs. Finally, I will discuss some of the current challenges faced by the skeptical community in the United States and elsewhere. I hope to get your thoughts about the proper role of skeptics in today’s world —a place where too often basic truths are rejected and wildly implausible ideas are uncritically endorsed.

Stuart is a sychologist, writer, and Contributing Editor for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. He is the author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition (OUP, 2013) and Superstition: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2019).

Dr Adam Rutherford

When?
Wednesday, May 6 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Adam Rutherford

What's the talk about?

Contemporary concepts of race have shallow historical roots, invented as they were during the European Age of Enlightenment, exploration and plunder. From the 17th century, philosophers, scientists and writers concocted taxonomies of our species, sometimes based on crude traits like pigmentation and bone morphology, and often just made up. Science, and notably the new science of genetics, did a good job of dismantling these racial categories in the 20th century, and showing that while race is very real because we perceive it, the folk taxonomies that everyone understands and uses have little basis in biology. However, in recent years, new techniques in genetics, sometimes poorly deployed, misunderstood or misrepresented, have given succour to those who wish to reinforce traditional racial categories, alongside common attempts to understand common observations such as in sporting success and cognitive abilities. In How to Argue With a Racist, I dissect what genetics does and doesn't say about race, and explain why science is no ally to racists.

Paul Zenon

When?
Wednesday, April 1 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Paul Zenon

What's the talk about?

The title of this talk is taken from a book released by Harry Houdini in 1924, and relates to the odd and sometimes confrontational relationship between stage magicians and psychics and mediums, which continues to this day.

Paul Zenon will discuss the paradox which resulted in performers who rely on creating ‘supernatural’-style effects and phenomena for their audiences, pitting their wits against those who claim that their feats are actually real ‘magic’, debunking them in the name of rational, critical thinking and Science.

Houdini’s extensive work in the field will be explored, along with that of other skeptical conjurors throughout the past century, and there might well be a mention of Zenon’s own publicised run-ins with certain contemporary charlatans.

Paul is an award-winning magician, comedian, actor, author and pundit with around four decades of performing experience in around forty countries, and he is a Gold Star Member of the Inner Magic Circle. He was the pioneer of the Street Magic genre, with several one-man specials on C4 and ITV, and has made literally hundreds of television appearances, including being a regular Dictionary Corner guest on C4’s Countdown.

Ariane Sherine

When?
Wednesday, March 4 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Ariane Sherine

What's the talk about?

Comedy writer and journalist Ariane Sherine created and organised the Atheist Bus Campaign, persuading Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association to support her – and buses with variations on the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” ran in 13 countries across the globe.

As a result, Ariane received an Inbox full of hate mail from Christians, which eventually led to a major nervous breakdown and suicidal ideation. She ended her journalistic career, and didn’t write again for over three years.

In this talk, she will tell the full story of how therapy and medication saved her life, prompting her to write her new book, Talk Yourself Better: A Confused Person’s Guide to Therapy, Counselling and Self-Help.

Ariane will also be signing copies of Talk Yourself Better after the talk.

What people have said about Talk Yourself Better:

“Brilliant – makes the baffling comprehensible.” JEREMY VINE

"What an excellent, long-overdue idea! A super-accessible guide, through the bewildering marketplace of modern therapy, to ease our noble search for help." DERREN BROWN

“How do we cope with this brutal world? In this witty, revealing book Ariane Sherine runs through the ways. An excellent, funny and thought-provoking read for all who seek answers.” ARTHUR SMITH

“What makes Ariane Sherine’s Talk Yourself Better stand out from the crowd is its accessibility and humour; to be able to discuss difficult things with a lightness of touch and a comedy that does not trivialise is a rare skill indeed. This, combined with the honest – and often deeply moving – stories of clients and practitioners alike, makes this the ideal introduction to for anyone considering therapy for the first time.” BRIAN BILSTON

Ariane Sherine is the comedy writer and journalist who created the Atheist Bus Campaign, as well as the bestselling celebrity book The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. She has written for BBC1’s My Family, Channel 4’s Countdown and BBC2’s Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, as well as for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mash, The Mail on Sunday, New Statesman, New Humanist and The Spectator. She lives in London with her eight-year-old daughter, Lily.

Jo Kenrick

When?
Wednesday, February 5 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Jo Kenrick

What's the talk about?

What if there was a dirty bomb hidden somewhere in the UK and you had a few short hours to get a suspect to tell you where it was and how to disable it, what lengths would you go to?

Revelations in the media about the UK government’s role in cooperating with the CIA's rendition and torture programme have re-opened the debate on what is and is not acceptable when innocent lives are at stake. The President of the United States has declared that torture ‘absolutely works’ but the CIA’s own reports state that torture techniques “do not produce intelligence” and “will probably result in false answers”. This talk reviews both the science and expert testimony from intelligence operatives to reveal what techniques do and don’t work in eliciting information in high-pressure situations and explains why what we think will work is actually utterly ineffective.

Jo is a PhD researcher in the Forensic Psychology Unit at Goldsmiths and a Lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London. As a forensically applied cognitive psychologist, she is particularly interested in increasing awareness and understanding of the science behind evidence-based, non-coercive techniques in eliciting information.

She holds an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, a B.Sc. (Psychology) from Birkbeck College and a B.A. from Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). Her PhD research is concentrated on the abilities of highly skilled liars, though her recent focus in teaching and public engagement has been why torture and coercive methods do not work, and what ethical, science-based alternatives are available. To this end she has contributed research reviews to the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) ‘What Works’ programme to improve the training and practice of interrogations by law enforcement. She was a House of Lords Roundtable discussant on "The development of guidelines on investigative interviewing and associated safeguards" chaired by Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, QC.

In an attempt to get away from being known as 'the torture lady' Jo has also made television appearances as a deception expert for the programme 'Comedians Giving Lectures' on the Dave comedy channel and used her dubious fiction-writing skills to help create the award-winning immersive science-theatre event 'Top of the Cops: Murder on the Dancefloor' at Goldsmiths. Twitter @Kenrickforensic

NB: Not our usual first Wednesday of the month slot

Dr Brian Klaas

When?
Wednesday, January 8 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Brian Klaas

What's the talk about?

There are more elections than ever before in human history and yet the world is becoming less democratic. How can that be? A huge number of people suspect that their elections are being manipulated in some way or another, whether it's a vote in a fragile country in sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia, or, say, a contentious referendum in the UK or a presidential election in the US. How much of that is true, and how much of it is just our propensity to be suspicious of powerful people in politics? In this talk, Dr. Klaas will walk us through the tricks of the trade – how the amateurs do it and how the pros get away with it, in this stranger than fiction talk that covers elections from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe

Dr. Brian Klaas is an assistant professor in global politics at University College London, a weekly columnist for The Washington Post, and the creator and host of the Power Corrupts podcast. He is an expert on US politics, authoritarianism, elections, democracy, and political violence. He has conducted field research interviewing election rigging henchmen, despots, presidents, prime ministers, rebels, coup plotters, and torture victims in southeast Asia, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe. He obtained his B.A. from Carleton College and his MPhil and DPhil from Oxford.

Dr Dan Jolley

When?
Wednesday, December 4 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Dan Jolley

What's the talk about?

Conspiracy theories are associated with almost every significant social and political event, including the theory that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, that the U.K Government murdered Diana, Princess of Wales, or that the pharmaceutical industry deliberately concealed the fact that the MMR vaccine causes Autism. Belief in these types of conspiracy theories is blooming in the 21st century; millions of people subscribe to them.

A basic understanding of logic, rationality, and probability tell us, however, that most of these conspiracy claims are probably false. So why then do so many people believe them? What makes them so attractive and compelling to people? And, anyway, what’s the problem, aren’t they just harmless fun?

In this talk, Dr Daniel Jolley will take you through the psychology of conspiracy theories. You will learn why people subscribe to conspiracy theories and discuss some of the misconceptions (including whether all conspiracy believers are paranoid!). He will also uncover some of the potentially damaging consequences of conspiracy theories; maybe they are not just harmless after all, before discussing ongoing research into tools to combat the negative harm of conspiracism!

Dr Daniel Jolley is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Staffordshire University. He is a Chartered Psychologist of the British Psychological Society, where he is a member of the Executive Committee of the Social Psychology Section. Jolley’s main area of research is the psychology of conspiracy theories. He is particularly interested in using experimental methods to examine the social consequences of exposure to conspiracy theories and has co-authored articles in outlets such as PLoSONE, the British Journal of Psychology and Political Psychology. He blogs at conspiracypsychology.com and tweets @DrDanielJolley

Anthony Warner

When?
Wednesday, November 6 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?
Anthony Warner

What's the talk about?

We are getting fat and sick in increasing numbers and it’s placing a devastating burden on our healthcare systems. Scientists in every field are desperate to explain this epidemic and stave off a modern health disaster. But what’s to blame? Carbs, fat or sugar? Gut microbes or genes? Laziness or poverty? In this talk, Anthony Warner will scrutinise the explanations of experts in every field, laying out the best evidence available. But most of all, he will rail against quack theories preying on the desperate and consider whether we are blaming our own bodies for other people's ignorance and cruelty. What remains is the unvarnished truth about one of the great preoccupations of our age.

Deborah Hyde

When?
Wednesday, October 2 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Deborah Hyde

What's the talk about?

The legal approach to witchcraft in England changed considerably over the course of 700 years, reflecting the philosophy, power struggles and politics of each era. At first deprecated as an ignorant superstition, belief in the power of witchcraft eventually became established - even among the most educated.