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*** A change to our advertised programme ***

When?
Thursday, March 16 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
A screening of the award winning film

What's the talk about?

Sadly, our Skeptics speaker this week has just contacted us to say that due to a family bereavement, he will be unable to join us. Obviously, it is impossible at this notice to recruit a replacement.

So instead we offer the opportunity to see the winner of the Best Picture Oscar last year, Spotlight, which recounts the exposure by the Boston Globe of Roman Catholic clerical child abuse, and opened the floodgates that swept away a global coverup conspiracy – an ongoing story, with the location announced just last week of a mass grave of 800 infants in an orphanage in County Galway, run by nuns of the ironically named Bon Secours order.

It acquires even greater topicality from the savage assault on press independence launched by President Erdoğan in Turkey, and now in the US by President Trump. Even here, last week, when the Education Secretary was talking to school heads about grammar schools, filming was banned.

Apart from which, it’s great movie! Come and join us to enjoy it over a pint (equivalent non-acoholic beverages are available, of course).

It’s a full 2 hours, so we’ll start promptly at 7.30, glasses in hand, fully topped up!

How do our genes work?

Dr Kat Arney

When?
Thursday, February 16 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Dr Kat Arney

What's the talk about?

The language of genes has become common in the media. We know they make your eyes blue, your hair curly or your nose straight. We're told that genes control the risk of cancer, heart disease, alcoholism or Alzheimer's. The cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted from billions of pounds to a few hundred, and gene-based advances in medicine hold huge promise.

There are 2.2 metres of DNA inside every one of your cells, encoding roughly 20,000 genes. These are the 'recipes' that tell our cells how to make the building blocks of life, along with all the control switches ensuring they're turned on and off at the right time and in the right place. But rather than a static string of genetic code, this is a dynamic, writhing biological library.

With the help of cats with thumbs, fish with hips and wobbly worms, Kat will unpack some of the mysteries in our DNA and explain the latest thinking about how our genes work.

Dr Kat Arney holds a degree in natural sciences and a PhD in developmental biology from Cambridge University, followed by a post-doc at Imperial College, London.

For her day-job Kat is a professional science communicator, media spokesperson, award-winning blogger, podcaster and general comms dogsbody for Cancer Research UK. She counts among her achievements saying the word “boobs” and discussing oral sex on the Today programme, the infamous “drink it down your face” interview, and likening part of the cell division machinery to something out of Star Wars.

Kevin Precious

When?
Thursday, January 19 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Kevin Precious

What's the talk about?

Kevin Precious is a former RE teacher turned stand-up comedian and promoter.  Besides having played many of the top clubs in the land, he also promotes shows in arts centres and theatres under the Barnstormers Comedy banner. He has previously toured the country with a stand-up show entitled 'Not Appropriate', dedicated to the business of teaching.

In between the various comedic activites, he attends his local humanist group - he's an agnostic, folks - where he loves a good old debate about the big questions in life.  Expect jokes and stories then, about his time as an RE teacher, being a humanist, the God-Shaped Hole, and the philosophy of religion... and you can ask him a few questions of your own afterwards, if you wish.

... we're taking a break this month

When?
Thursday, December 15 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?

What's the talk about?

Just a note, in case you're looking - there is no Bedford Skeptics in the Pub this month! See you all in 2017!

Why should we care if our friends are similar to us?

Katherine Woolf

When?
Thursday, November 17 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Katherine Woolf

What's the talk about?

Do you find yourself making friends with people like you? Katherine Woolf draws on her often controversial research to explore why this happens, and its impact on success and injustice. Discover how you can challenge the status quo to create a fairer, more integrated, more successful society.

Dr Katherine Woolf is a Senior Lecturer and academic psychologist working at UCL Medical School finding out what makes people – especially doctors – do really well or really badly. Her work focusses on how and why ethnicity and gender influence success, and how we can use this knowledge to improve fairness and equality. She has recently been discovering how our choice of friends can make a big difference to our success.

A few ways in which your brain will trick you if you let it

Andrew Dart

When?
Thursday, October 20 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Andrew Dart

What's the talk about?

Your brain hates you. This is the only conclusion I can come to given how many tricks it will play on you if you let it. This talk will cover just a few of the many, many ways in which our brains try to deceive us on an almost constant basis. Drawing on the extensive psychological literature on these topics and presenting a number of worrying, and often humorous, real world examples of what happens when people fall for these tricks, this talk will look at how our brains will not only show us things that aren't there but also remember things that never happened.

Andrew Dart has a master’s degree in Research Psychology and spent four years studying how pre-existing religious and paranormal beliefs literally affect the way we see the world around us. He is the author of a beginner's guide to skepticism and a science book for children and is currently working on a novel. He works as a support technician for a software company where he spends as much of his day combating bad logic as he does technical issues. When not doing this he can often be found wandering the byways of Cambridgeshire, reading books, watching philosophy videos on YouTube, and writing pointless computer programs.

Are we “medicalizing normality”?

Dr Stephen Ginn

When?
Thursday, September 15 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Dr Stephen Ginn

What's the talk about?

Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors and psychiatry is a medical speciality which focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of mental function i.e. abnormalities of thought, perceptions, emotional and purposeful behaviour. 
Psychiatry is one of the most controversial medical specialities. There are a number of reasons for this, which this talk addresses. These include:
The validity of ‘mental illness’. Mainstream psychiatry is underpinned by an assumption that mental illnesses can be viewed as diseases akin to those that affect other parts of the body. But others argue that mental illness are predominantly social rather than medical in origin, and are used for purposes of control. Szasz famously argued that mental illnesses do not exist at all.
We may agree that mental illness is a valid concept, but how widely should this be applied? Has shyness, for instance, become ‘generalized anxiety disorder’. If it has, does this matter? Many new disorders have appeared with new editions of psychiatric classification manuals and some regard this as ‘medicalizing normality’.
Alongside diagnosis, psychiatric treatments often receive unfavourable scrutiny. The number of prescriptions of antidepressants in England and Wales has increased in recent years. Does this reflect the better recognition and treatment of mental disorders, or the influence of the pharmaceutical industry over doctors’ prescribing? And do these medications actually work? Should more talking therapies be offered instead?
Some say that psychiatrists have no role treating mental illness.  But who should take our place?  No society has satisfactorily cured, integrated, or accepted those with disturbed minds.  Is it unfair to chide psychiatry for its failures, where so many others also come up short? 

Dr Stephen Ginn is a consultant psychiatrist working in North London.  He specializes in in-patient care of people with severe mental illnesses.  He blogs at www.frontierpsychiatrist.co.uk (sadly neglected, but hopefully soon to be resurrected) and tweets at @psychiatrist.  He also co-runs the Art of Psychiatry Society (www.artofpsychiatry.co.uk and @artofpsychiatry) which holds meetings to explore the shared space between psychiatry and the creative arts.

When?
Thursday, August 18 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
-

What's the talk about?

The holiday season is upon us so, as is traditional, we don't have a meeting this month.

What does the modern family look like?

Dr Fiona MacCallum

When?
Thursday, June 16 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Dr Fiona MacCallum

What's the talk about?

What does the modern family look like? Technology has led to the creation of families that were not previously possible; a woman can become pregnant with, and give birth to, a child who is not genetically related to her. Parents don’t have to be in a female-male couple but can be with a same-sex partner or going it alone. Many assumptions are made about the best situation for children but what is actually known about the psychological effects of being raised in a “non-traditional” family?

I’ll discuss research which investigates different family types and asks questions such as does it matter if a child has two mums or two dads? What do parents tell their children about how they were conceived? And when it comes to family relationships, is “blood” really thicker than water?

Fiona MacCallum is a developmental psychologist with a particular interest in parent-child relationships and their influence on children’s social and emotional wellbeing. She began to research the psychology of new family forms in 1996, and has specialised in the study of non-genetic families. Fiona is an Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Warwick.

Beyond the Potemkin illusion

Robin Tudge

When?
Thursday, May 19 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Robin Tudge

What's the talk about?

Robin Tudge is a writer in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he has lived and worked in Chicago, Moscow, Hanoi, Beijing and Pyongyang.

As an author he has written the No Nonsense Guide to Global Surveillance,  the best-selling Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories, and contributed to the pioneering Bradt Guide to North Korea. He has visited North Korea several times since 2001 and has led tours there in 2013 and 2015 for the leading tour company, Koryo Tours.

This talk will be an illustrated presentation on travelling to that impoverished, surprising country, and how much one can see beyond the Potemkin illusion.

The NHS and Beyond

Michael Marshall

When?
Thursday, April 21 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Michael Marshall

What's the talk about?

Homeopathy is one of the most widely debunked form of alternative medicine – yet homeopathic remedies adorn the shelves of respected pharmacies and are funded by taxpayers on the NHS. How big of a problem is this?

Using information and personal experiences gathered during his last 6 years of campaigning against homeopathy, Michael Marshall will highlight how much money is spent on homeopathic remedies, how this gives undeserved credibility to homeopathy, how such remedies can lead to genuine harm and what you can do to help.
 
Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society and the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast. His work has seen him organising international homeopathy protests and co-founding the popular QED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

...a live comedy show about obscure people from History

Iszi Lawrence

When?
Thursday, March 17 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Iszi Lawrence

What's the talk about?

Skeptic, comedian and voice of the Skeptics Guide To The Universe, Iszi Lawrence is out to delight and inform with her new show The Z List Dead List.

The Z List Dead List is a live comedy show about obscure people from History. As a skeptic, Iszi has found a few people from the past that will peak your interest. Expect woo, violence, sex and death. And a competition.

The show is also a podcast with guest interviews from Jon Ronson, Griff Rhys Jones, Natalie Haynes, Neil Denny, Richard Herring etc. You can find it here:  www.zlistdeadlist.com