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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

Jonathan M.S. Pearce

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

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Jonathan M.S. Pearce

What's the talk about?

Do we have free will, or are our ‘choices’ determined by our environment and past experience?

Author and educator, Jonathan M.S.Pearce offers an entertaining introduction to the debate, and explains how new developments in brain science have influenced philosophers.

We will also consider the impact of free will and determinism on Christianity’s concept of a judgmental God, and the implications for our justice system if we don’t have free will.

An entertaining introduction to the age-old philosophical debate on whether we have free will or whether we live predetermined lives.

Jonathan is a teacher and author from South Hampshire, who has dedicated many years of his life to all manner of things philosophical and theological. He is currently studying for a Masters in Philosophy, and is a founder member of the Tippling Philosophers, a friendly group of disparate believers and non-believers based in Hampshire.

The Nativity: A Critical Examination is his fourth book, and follows Free Will? An investigation into whether we have free will, or whether I was always going to write this book, a popular philosophy, science and theology book that examines the free will vs. determinism debate. He has also written The Little Book of Unholy Questions, which looks to show the incoherence of the idea of an all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful God. As an interlude from writing about philosophy and theology, he has branched out by writing a book of advice for dads of twins; Twins: A Survival Guide for Dads.

He is a founder author for the Skeptic Ink Network (SIN), an online community of skeptic writers, bloggers, academics, thinkers and activists, which can also be found on their Facebook page.

Can consumers trust what they're seeing, reading, hearing and clicking on?

Richard Burdett

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

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Richard Burdett

What's the talk about?

Richard Burdett looks at advertising from both the consumer's and the advertiser's perspective. Can consumers trust what they're seeing, reading, hearing and clicking on? And, in an increasingly fragmented and fractured media environment, can advertisers trust the data on which they're making multi-million pound investment decisions?

Richard began his career at Saatchi & Saatchi, spending eleven years working with clients such as BA, BP, Cadbury Schweppes and Sainsbury's. He then moved to the fledgling world of multi-channel television, initially as Head of Ad Sales for The Discovery Channel and subsequently as Head of Marketing for UK TV. While Head of 4Creative, Channel 4's in-house ad agency, he worked on shows such as Lost, Desperate Housewives, Shameless and Jamie's School Dinners as well as the launches of More4 and Film4.

He is currently MD of Horse & Country TV, a channel that has brought over fifty new advertisers on to TV and was one of five nominees for Best Factual Channel in the recent Broadcast awards.

 

How to solve Climate Change and Unemployment at the same time

Suzanne Jeffery

When?
Thursday, November 19 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Suzanne Jeffery

What's the talk about?

Suzanne Jeffery, from the Campaign Against Climate Change, will explain their ambitious plan to create the National Climate Service (NCS) and thereby create well over 1 million jobs (possibly nearer 2 million) and cut our CO2 emissions by 86% in 20 years.

This is no airy-fairy notion - it has been put together by some very credible people from a number of universities and trades unions.

So, employ 1 million people and solve the Climate Change crisis and unemployment in one go - what could be wrong with that?

Well, nothing at all, provided you've got £66 Billion to fund it. I doubt if Suzanne will be handing a tin round on the night!

If anything matters, why should nothing matter?

Ronald Green

When?
Thursday, October 15 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Ronald Green

What's the talk about?

Why should nothing matter? If anything matters, why should nothing matter? And yet it does, for there isn’t anything, it seems, that nothing does not touch, or anything that does not touch nothing. History, philosophy, religion, science, art, literature, music – all look towards nothing at some point, stimulating questions that would otherwise not be asked.

Who, for example, could have believed that nothing held back progress for 600 years in the Middle Ages, all because of mistaken translation, or that nothing is a way to tackle (and answer) the perennial question "what is art?"? Ronald Green uses nothing in a genuine attempt to look at the world in a different way, to give new angles to old problems and so to stimulate new thoughts.

What is this nothing, that we can’t actually see, touch or feel? Is it absolute? Is it relative to everything else? If we are able to think about it, write and read about it, is it something, and if so wouldn’t it then not be nothing?

This is precisely the mystery of nothing – that the more we think about it, the more there is to it.

Disarmingly invisible, the point of nothing – to paraphrase Bertrand Russell on philosophy – is to start with something so simple as to seem not worth examining, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

Ronald Green is the author of "Nothing Matters – a book about nothing" (iff-Books). Philosopher, linguist, university lecturer and ESL teacher, with 13 ESL books published, Ronald has lectured and given workshops in Europe, North and South America and the Middle East on linguistics, ESL and the use of the Internet in education. His short stories have been published in Nuvein magazine, Tryst, Aesthetica, the Sink and Unholy Biscuit. He has completed a philosophical novel and co-authored a psychological thriller with strong philosophical underpinnings. For the past five years he has been thinking seriously about nothing, culminating in his recently-published book.

...or Does It Just Feel That Way Without Bacon?

Dr. Stephen Makin

When?
Thursday, September 17 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Who?
Dr. Stephen Makin

What's the talk about?

Stephen is a medical doctor, clinical researcher into stroke, Skeptical Speaker on critical appraisal and evidence based medicine and a lifelong vegetarian who feels that ethically he really should be a vegan. He’ll examine the evidence based pros and cons of forsaking the bacon butties and going meat and dairy free.