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Michael Head

When?
Wednesday, March 2 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Michael Head

What's the talk about?

We all love our children dearly and chose to vaccinate them or not vaccinate them because of that deep love. Yet the discussion of whether or not to vaccinate can bring friendships to an end and the decision itself can have life-threatening consequences, not just for babies and unvaccinated children, but for anyone with a compromised immune system such as elderly people in our community.

Michael Head looks at vaccination in the larger context. Smallpox is eradicated, polio has nearly gone the same way and in most countries diphtheria is rare. That’s due to vaccination. Yet headlines are often fixated on measles outbreaks on both sides of the Pond, or the ‘dangers’ of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine.

Too many people are just not fussed about vaccines, or worse, they actively preach and campaign against them, with more than the occasional dollop of an absence of morality.

Plus there’s the desperate search for an ebola vaccine, the imperfections of the tuberculosis vaccine, the waning immunity over time of the pertussis (whooping cough) immunisation, that HIV vaccine that just won’t come, and the annual guesswork that is the composition of the influenza vaccine. It’s a complicated business, alright.

This presentation will walk you through some facts and figures, highlight the new vaccines in the pipeline and provide an insight into the public health danger posed by those who, even today, still try and tell you the MMR vaccine gives your child autism (it doesn’t, by the way).

Michael Head is a senior research fellow in infectious diseases at the University of Southampton, and a visiting academic in the Farr Institute for Health Informatics at University College London. He has an undergraduate qualification in Biomedical Science, postgraduate degree in epidemiology and is in the final throes of a PhD with the University of Amsterdam in infectious diseases and global health.

Michael has been working in infectious disease research since 2004, has around 30 peer-reviewed publications in journals including Lancet and Nature journals, and for some reason spends far too much of his spare time reading about ‘bad science’ on the web. 

David Frank

When?
Wednesday, February 3 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
David Frank

What's the talk about?

Marketer and former radio show host David Frank will be talking about all things online dating, sex and porn. We could all use some tips on how to market ourselves, whether looking for love online, or trying to make the best impression in any situation. There's a marketer’s insight into porn for women, the formulas romance novels use for their plots and covers, and we'll look at the statistics behind the UK's porn viewing. This talk will prove you're attractive to a great many people, and we'll use science to prove it! There’ll be singing, an acted romance scene, & a very interesting Q&A afterwards.

Hailing from Perth, Western Australia, David has lived in Japan and Vietnam, and most recently moved to Scotland. He has organised dozens of events for Perth Skeptics, Tokyo Skeptics, The Humanist Society of Western Australia and various other Meetup groups. He is an Edinburgh Skeptics committee member, and runs Edinburgh Skeptics' monthly discussion group Skeptics Underground. You can read more about him at www.davidfrank.com.au.

Dr Itiel Dror

When?
Wednesday, January 6 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Itiel Dror

What's the talk about?

In many domains experts are called upon to provide research and analysis. Their expert judgment and decision making is often regarded as error-free, or at least as being objective and impartial. Drawing from the fields of medicine and criminal justice, I will present research and evidence from real cases that many different types of psychological contamination affects experts, including fingerprinting and DNA forensic laboratory decision making as well as errors in medical decision making. I will articulate the psychological mechanisms by which forensic, medical, and other experts make biased and erroneous decisions. This research can help identify such weaknesses and provide innovative, but practical, ways to mitigate them.

Dr Itiel Dror is a cognitive neuroscientist. Interested in the cognitive architecture that underpins expertise, he attained a Ph.D. at Harvard University. He has been examining expert decision making and error in a number of expert domains. In the forensic domain he has demonstrated how contextual information can influence the judgments and decision making of experts; he has shown that even fingerprint and DNA experts can reach different conclusions when the same evidence is presented within different extraneous contexts. Dr Dror has published over 100 research articles and has been working with many US forensic laboratories (e.g., FBI, NYPD, LAPD) as well as in other countries (e.g., The Netherlands, Finland, Canada, and Australia) in providing training and implementing cognitive best practices in evaluating forensic evidence, as well as with hospitals and medical training to minimise medical error. More information is available at www.cci-hq.com.

Deborah Hyde

When?
Wednesday, December 2 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Deborah Hyde

What's the talk about?

Krampus, a demon-like creature from Alpine folklore, punishes naughty children at Christmas - in contrast with Jolly St Nicholas who brings presents. Krampusnacht, usually celebrated on December 5th, involves dressing up as the Krampus and roaming the streets frightening children with chains and bells. The Krampus phenomenon has been re-kindled; growing in popularity in the US and increasingly appearing in the UK.

We'll look at where Christmas really comes from. See if you get candies.... or coal and a thrashing!

Rob Bailey

When?
Wednesday, November 4 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Rob Bailey

What's the talk about?

Rob Bailey is a Chartered Psychologist, a member of the Magic Circle and a veteran of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where, for 4 years he performed a one-man show as a ‘mind reader’. During that time, he felt increasing unease that although the show was meant to parody psychic powers and encourage critical thinking, he has risked replacing the audience’s beliefs in the paranormal with unwarranted beliefs in impossible psychological powers.

His new show is a response to that: Rob has stripped his routines back to include only genuine psychological principles. He will perform a few routines, followed by explanations (e.g. quirks of bias, memory and perception).

Exclusively for the Skeptics in the Pub audience, he will also discuss his thoughts about the pitfalls of attempting to promote critical thinking by using illusions.

Ash Pryce

When?
Wednesday, October 7 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Ash Pryce

What's the talk about?

Hydesville. New York. 1848. The young Fox sisters begin communicating with the spirit of a murdered beggar and spiritualism is born. This interactive look at a history of talking to the dead will feature an array of magical treats including levitating tables, ectoplasm manifestation and spirit communication.

Part magic show, part comedy, part rational inquiry this fun show has regularly packed venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Ash has performed frequently at Skeptics in the Pub groups to positive responses.

NB: This is a skeptically themed show and not intended as an actual demonstration of mediumship or psychic abilities

A special event with the European Skeptics Congress

Gustav Khun

When?
Friday, September 11 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Goldsmiths Students' Union
Dixon Road
New Cross
London
SE14 6NW

Who?
Gustav Khun

What's the talk about?

Magic is one of the oldest art forms, and for centuries magicians have created illusions of the impossible. Some have used these illusions as demonstrations of supernatural powers. However, advances in psychology and neuroscience offer new insights into why our minds are so easily deceived. I am a magician and psychologist with an interest in researching some of the mechanisms involved in magic. Instead of relying on supernatural powers, magicians have developed powerful psychological principle to distort our perception and thoughts.

In this talk we will explore some of the principles used by magicians to distort your perception. For example, we will look at how magicians use misdirection to manipulate your attention and thereby prevent you from noticing things even though they might be right in front of your eyes. Alternatively, magicians may manipulate your expectations about the world and thus bias the way you perceive objects and can even make you see things that aren’t necessarily there. At first sight, our proneness to being fooled by conjuring tricks could be interpreted as a weakness of the human mind. However, contrary to this popular belief, I will demonstrate that these “errors” in fact reveal the complexity of visual perception and highlight the ingenuity of the human mind.

Dr Gustav Kuhn worked as a professional magician and it was his interest in deception and illusions that sparked a curiosity about the human mind. Gustav is a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, and one of the leading researchers in the science of magic.

This meeting is in 'The Stretch' in Goldsmith College's Students Union on Friday September 11th starting at 19.30. Being a Skeptics in the Pub event, the atmosphere will be informal and there will of course be a bar!

Please note that this event is in addition to our normal monthly meetings, and is not in our usual venue!

This is an additional event to the main European Skeptics Congress that delegates and non-delegates may attend, tickets for each costing only £5. You may pay at the door but it is best to purchase tickets in advance. To do this or to obtain further information on payment please click here to register on the European Skeptics Congress website.

A special event with the European Skeptics Congress

When?
Thursday, September 10 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Goldsmiths Students' Union
Dixon Road
New Cross
London
SE14 6NW

Who?
Chris French, Wendy Grossman, Mike Heap, Mike Hutchinson, Deborah Hyde, Michael Marshall, Ian Ridpath, Richard Wiseman

What's the talk about?

Greenwich Skeptics in the Pub presents: 'The Growth of Skepticism: The UK Experience' with Chris French, Wendy Grossman, Mike Heap, Mike Hutchinson, Deborah Hyde, Michael Marshall, Ian Ridpath and last but not least, Richard Wiseman.

Each will give a brief talk about the growth of skepticism in the UK. European colleagues are very welcome to share their experiences in their own countries.

This meeting is in 'The Stretch' in Goldsmith College's Students Union on Thursday September 10th and the first speaker is scheduled for 19.30. Being a Skeptics in the Pub event, the atmosphere will be informal and there will of course be a bar!

Please note that this event is in addition to our normal monthly meetings, and is not in our usual venue!

This is an additional event to the main European Skeptics Congress that delegates and non-delegates may attend, tickets for each costing only £5. You may pay at the door but it is best to purchase tickets in advance. To do this or to obtain further information on payment please click here to register on the European Skeptics Congress website.

Dr Kevin Felstead

When?
Wednesday, September 2 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Kevin Felstead

What's the talk about?

Hypnotised, sedated and brainwashed, Carol’s childhood memories were eradicated and her mind was reordered through 20 years of protracted psychotherapy. Assigned a new identity, separated from her family, a myth was created around Carol which helped stoke the entire Satanic Abuse panic in the United Kingdom. Out of the blue, in 2005, Carol phoned her brother and said that she wanted to return home. One week later she died in mysterious circumstances. Her family then embarked on a quest to discover the truth about Carol’s life and death. Caught up in a frightening conspiracy of silence, misinformation and institutional cover-ups, they discovered what really happened to her mind, body and soul.

In 2014 Carol’s family were granted permission by the Solicitor General to apply to the High Court to order a new hearing and to quash the findings of the original inquest into her death.

Dr Kevin Felstead completed a doctorate in history at Keele University where he taught undergraduate courses on the history of crime, policing and punishment since 1800. He later taught American history at Liverpool Hope University College; subsequently Kevin was employed by High Peak Borough Council and from 2003 to 2011 by Manchester City Council working in the field of community safety, neighbourhood crime and justice. Kevin is the author (with Richard Felstead) of Justice for Carol – The True Story of Carol Felstead. He is currently employed as Director of Communications for the British False Memory Society.

More information about the Justice for Carol campaign can be found at http://www.justiceforcarol.com.

Dr Tim Miles

When?
Wednesday, August 5 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Tim Miles

What's the talk about?

The children's author EB White once quipped: 'Analysing humour is like dissecting a live frog. No one is interested and the frog dies.' Studying comedy, at university level, has encouraged a number of criticisms, but two have dominated: that it is too frivolous when more 'serious' matters need to be investigated; and it is somehow beyond investigation because some people are just funny - they have 'funny bones' - and cannot, therefore, be taught. Reflecting this, when politicians, and the various advisory bodies, consider the direction that Higher Education should take, rarely are there worries that comedy is being insufficiently studied or researched. Instead, comedy is seen as something that should be extra-curricular, like the Footlights at Cambridge, and not part of serious academic work. To suggest otherwise leads to accusations of 'dumbing down', wasting public money, and 'soft' subjects on the curriculum.

In this talk I want to suggest that studying comedy offers us fascinating insights and important possibilities. A sense of humour, and a capacity to laugh in response to a cognitive or emotional state, is unique to humans. It is not surprising, therefore, that by looking at laughter we can discover important aspects about what it means to be human. The talk will seamlessly (hopefully) explore a path through evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, health care, pedagogy, cultural anthology, the performing arts, and other academic fields, looking at the work of comedy and humour scholars. Specifically, the areas discussed will include: the benefits of tickling rats to neuroscience; why Jeremy Clarkson is of political significance; and why you can get away with making very close-to-the-knuckle jokes in Japan but only under very specific circumstances. The talk will also briefly look at stand-up comedy, and my own doctoral research in which I argued that laughter rarely has much to do with anything being objectively funny, but is more connected to human relationships. I also want to briefly argue that teaching stand-up to undergraduates has value beyond an academic study of a performing art, in that it works well with widening participation goals, as well as developing vocational and transferable skills. Finally, I shall examine Bright Club, the comedy club where academics present research as comedy.

Tim Miles wrote jokes for BBC radio as an undergraduate, subsequently running his own comedy club booking the then-unknown Al Murray and Graham Norton. Having taught in Higher Education for ten years he was awarded a PhD by the University of Surrey in 2014, his doctoral research examining ways of analysing live stand-up comedy. He has been a member of the editorial board of Comedy Studies since 2010. He has published on a number of areas relating to comedy, including: comic responses to the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland; humour and the erotic; and emotion in stand-up comedy. In 2015 his book Reading between the Punch-Lines; a Guide to Analysing Stand-up Comedy will be published. In 2015 he will also be editing an edition of Comedy Studies devoted to Japanese comedy. He occasionally performs stand-up at various Bright Clubs, winning the 'worst pun' award in 2013 for a joke about Nietzsche, which he promises not to tell during this talk.

Martin Rowson

When?
Wednesday, July 1 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Martin Rowson

What's the talk about?

Martin will talk about offense and cartoons. More details will be confirmed nearer the time.

Martin Rowson is an editorial cartoonist and novelist. His genre is political satire and his style is scathing and graphic. He characterizes his work as "visual journalism.”

Dr Rosie Waterhouse

When?
Wednesday, June 3 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Rosie Waterhouse

What's the talk about?

Lurid tales of children being sexually abused, of animals being ritually slaughtered and babies being bred for sacrifice, in bizarre black magic ceremonies by cults of devil-worshipping Satanists first surfaced in America in the early 1980s. The allegations of what became known as Satanic ritual abuse soon spread to Britain, Australia and New Zealand in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the same time, belief in this apparently new and especially depraved form of child abuse was reinforced and said to be corroborated by another new phenomenon, or fashion, in the field of adult psychotherapy, psychology and psychiatry – the recovered memory movement. On conference circuits and in literature, this movement, led by both medically qualified professionals and untrained therapists, promoted the theory that adults can be helped to recover long-buried “repressed” memories of childhood sexual abuse, in some cases Satanic ritual abuse, and that as a consequence of that abuse those patients suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.

This talk explores the origins and spread of the myth of Satanic ritual abuse. As early as 1994 a UK government-funded investigation concluded there was no evidence Satanic ritual abuse existed. Yet despite the continuing absence of evidence, anywhere in the world, a minority of child care professionals including police officers and social workers, and adult psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists persist in the belief that Satanic ritual abuse exists. Conferences are still being held around the world.

This talk will chart the progress of my ongoing investigation over 25 years which has examined allegations of the Satanic ritual abuse of children and asked ‘Where’s the evidence’?

In the course of the investigation I explored the controversy over the extreme and polarised recovered-versus-false memory debate – still one of the most divisive issues in adult psychotherapy, psychology and psychiatry today. As an illustration of the damage caused by zealots who believed in Satanic ritual abuse and in their ability to “help” a patient recover the memories, I will relate the tragic story of the life and untimely death of Carol Felstead, alias Myers.

Finally, this talk will explore how the myth of Satanic ritual abuse can be considered in the context of the field of anomalistic psychology, the wonderful whacky world of weird beliefs, for example how people can come to believe they have been abducted by aliens. Some of these UFO “experiencers” also believe they were victims of Satanic ritual abuse. Part of the purpose of my research, ultimately for a PhD by Prior Publication, is to try to understand how and why people can come to believe bizarre, appalling, weird things happened in the total absence of evidence.

Rosie Waterhouse is Director of the MA in Investigative Journalism, at City University London and a freelance journalist with extensive experience as an investigative reporter, having worked for five national newspapers and as a TV reporter. She has twice been a member of the Sunday Times Insight team, she worked for The Independent and Independent on Sunday, where she was Investigations Editor, and for BBC Newsnight, where she contributed to a BAFTA award-winning film on BSE. As a freelance journalist, Rosie has contributed articles to publications including New Scientist, The Guardian's G2 section, the New Statesman, the Daily Mail, and The Oldie. She has most recently written a series of articles in Private Eye on the 'Satanic Panic'.

Her freelance television work includes a spell as a research consultant on a BBC Real Story documentary on the Rochdale Satanic abuse controversy. Earlier documentaries include a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation into allegations of fraud at Red Star and a BBC Bristol investigation into allegations of bribery by Westland Helicopters to win contracts in Saudi Arabia. Rosie has been researching the myth of Satanic Ritual Abuse and the controversy over false versus recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse for more than 24 years and her published work on these issues formed the basis of her PhD by Prior Publication, submitted in January 2014.