Skeptics in the Pub Online – now fortnightly

Dear SitPO viewers,

Back in April 2020 a bunch of Skeptics in the Pub organisers got together to create Skeptics in the Pub Online, and for the last 15 months we have been working hard to bring you interesting talks from a variety of experts.

So far, except for a short break over Christmas we have been able to put on weekly talks followed by a Zoom call in our virtual pub The Lock-Inn’s Razor.

Due in part to the summer sun, pubs re-opening, and the steady progress towards normality we have decided to to reduce the frequency of our talks to every other week, starting on the 22nd July (there is no talk scheduled for the 15th).

We will still be opening The Lock-Inn’s Razor every week. It’ll open after the talks and at 7pm on non-talk weeks. So it will be open on the 15th. And you can still talk to your Fellow Skeptics throughout the week on our Discord channel.

Thank you all for your support over the last 15 months and we hope you continue to attend talks and visit us in the Lock-Inn’s Razor.

Best wishes
The SitPO team

How the Evolutionary Psychologist Got His Hypothesis – Dr Lindsey Osterman

(And Other Just So Stories)

While evolution acceptance is generally high among the skeptically-minded, evolutionary psychology is far less widely accepted. Lindsey explores some of the good scientific work in this area, as well as common misconceptions about—and misuses of—the evolutionary framework as applied to human psychology.

Dr. Lindsey Osterman

Lindsey is an associate professor of psychology at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. She received her PhD in social and biological psychology in 2012 from the University of Oklahoma. She co-hosts two podcasts about science and skepticism: Serious Inquiries Only and What The FUP? Downloads From The Secret Ghost Library.

When and Where?

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm UK time on Thursday 10th June.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.

The End of Policing: an introduction to the concepts of police defunding and police abolition- Alex Vitale

This summer’s protests over the police killings of George Floyd and other African American citizens have refocused the nation’s attention on the problem of abusive policing and its connection to larger issues of racial justice. The protesters’ demands raise a question: Can the police be reformed?

Following the protests of police killings of Mike Brown in Ferguson we were told that policing would be reformed through a series of procedural justice interventions designed to make police more professional, less biased, and more accountable. There is little evidence, however that these reforms have had the desired consequences. Police continue to kill over 1,000 people a year in the US and heavily policed communities continue to experience widespread police misconduct.

Even when the police do perform in a lawful and unbiased way, they are often tasked with enforcing laws and managing social problems in ways that may actually make the problem worse. Uprooting homeless encampments, criminalizing children in school, and chasing drug dealers has done little to make communities safer and has contributed to the immiseration of those targeted.

Why don’t police reforms work? Can defunding the police be a viable alternative to police reform? What would it mean for high crime communities that have had to rely on police as the only resource for addressing crime and disorder? Does abolishing the police really mean getting rid of all police and how would that be achieved?

Alex Vitale will answer these questions based on 30 years of experience in both studying policing and advising community-based movements for police reform. He’ll discuss the historical role of police and their relationship to contemporary policing, and he’ll look at the current movement to defund the police and the specific policy proposals it supports, including initiatives to reduce gun violence, fix schools, and deal with substance abuse and mental health crises.

​Prof Alex S. Vitale

Prof Vitale is Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College and a Visiting Professor at London Southbank University. He has spent the last 30 years writing about policing and consults both police departments and human rights organizations internationally. Prof. Vitale is the author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics and The End of Policing. His academic writings on policing have appeared in Policing and Society, Police Practice and Research, Mobilization, and Contemporary Sociology. He is also a frequent essayist, whose writings have been published in The NY Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Nation, Vice News, Fortune, and USA Today. He has also appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, PBS, Democracy Now, and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

When and Where?

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm UK time on Thursday 6th May.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.

How to Hunt Russian Spies from the Comfort of Your Own Home – Eliot Higgins

Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins explains how Bellingcat investigators uncovered the real identities of the Skripal suspects, linked their team to another European assassination attempt, uncovered Russia’s secret Novichok programme, exposed the FSB team that poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and uncovered a Russian domestic nerve agent assassination programme targeting multiple individuals, all from the comfort of their own homes.

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat, a multi-award winning collective of online open-source investigators.

When and Where?

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm UK time on Thursday 8th April.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.

 

 

Dr Keith Kahn-Harris – The End of Denialism?

CoviDr Keith Khan-Harrisd denialism is currently a global threat, but denialism has been around for years: Holocaust denial, Climate change denial, anti-vaxxers, 911 conspiracism, Creationism (in the sense of denying evolution) and more. Recently though Covid denialism and denial of Trump’s election loss have become mainstream.

Debunking denialist claims is essential – yet also rarely effective. In this talk, Dr Keith Kahn-Harris will argue that we are now seeing both the triumph of denialism and its end. He argues that denialism emerges when one’s deepest desires are ‘unspeakable’. Increasingly though, we are seeing denialism superseded by the open acknowledgement of desire. So in thinking about denialism, we also have to consider whether a world without it might not be a truth-filled utopia, but something even worse.

About Keith

Dr Keith Kahn-Harris is a sociologist and writer. Denial: The Unspeakable Truth was his fifth book. His badly-designed website can be found at kahn-harris.org and he tweets irregularly as @KeithKahnHarris.

When and Where?

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm UK time on Thursday 11th March.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.

 

Dr Jacques Launay – Born to dance?

What’s the point in making music? Is there a point?

Although music surrounds us for a large proportion of our time it doesn’t seem to serve an obvious purpose, and this talk will explore that problem.

Darwin suggested music could be involved in sexual selection, used to flaunt genetic fitness to potential partners, but there are also several alternative explanations, ranging from Pinker’s null hypothesis (it’s auditory cheesecake) to the Mozart Effect (music makes you clever).

Spoiler alert – those theories are probably both wrong!

This talk will primarily explore the role of music in social bonding, and whether music is best understood as the alternative to language.

About Jacques

Dr Jacques Launay is an expert in music and social bonding, and has worked on this from a range of perspectives, including the origins of music making, the health benefits of singing in choirs, and the neuroscience of moving to sounds.

When and Where?

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm UK time on Thursday 11th February.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.

Rosie Campbell – Too dangerous to publish?

Navigating the high-stakes nature of AI research

As AI becomes increasingly advanced, it promises many benefits but also comes with risks. How can we mitigate these risks while preserving scientific inquiry and openness? Who is responsible for anticipating the impacts of AI research, and how can they do so effectively? What changes, if any, need to be made to the peer review process? In this talk, we’ll explore these tensions and how they are playing out right now in the AI community. AI is not the first high-stakes, ‘dual-use’ field to face these questions. Taking inspiration from fields like cybersecurity and biosecurity, we’ll look at possible approaches to responsible publication, their strengths and limitations, and how they might be used in practice for AI.

Rosie Campbell

Rosie Campbell leads the Safety-Critical AI program at the Partnership on AI, a multistakeholder nonprofit shaping the future of responsible AI. Her main focus is on responsible publication and deployment practices for increasingly advanced AI. Previously, she was Assistant Director of the Center for Human-Compatible AI at UC Berkeley, a Research Engineer at BBC R&D, and cofounder of Manchester Futurists. Her academic background spans physics, philosophy, and computer science. Rosie is also a productivity nerd and enjoys thinking about how to optimize systems, and how to use reason and evidence to improve the world.

When and Where?

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm UK time on Thursday 14th January, 2021.

A collaborative enterprise as part of Skeptics In The Pub – Online.

 

Dr Jo Marchant – The Human Cosmos

The Human Cosmos

For most of human history, we have led not just an earthly existence but a cosmic one. Celestial cycles drove every aspect of our daily lives. Our innate relationship with the stars shaped who we are – our religious beliefs, power structures, scientific advances and even our biology. But over the last few centuries we have separated ourselves from the universe that surrounds us. And that disconnect comes at a cost.

In her latest book, The Human Cosmos, Dr Jo Marchant takes us on a tour through the history of humanity’s relationship with the heavens. We travel to the Hall of the Bulls in Lascaux and witness the winter solstice at a 5,000-year-old tomb at Newgrange. We visit Medieval monks grappling with the nature of time and Tahitian sailors navigating by the stars. We discover how light reveals the chemical composition of the sun, and we are with Einstein as he works out that space and time are one and the same. A four-billion-year-old meteor inspires a search for extraterrestrial life. And we discover why stargazing can be really, really good for us.

It is time for us to rediscover the full potential of the universe we inhabit, its wonder, its effect on our health, and its potential for inspiration and revelation.

Dr Jo Marchant

Jo Marchant is an award-winning science journalist. She has a PhD in genetics and medical microbiology from St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College, London, and an MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College. She has worked as an editor at New Scientist and Nature, and her articles have appeared in the Guardian, Wired, Observer, New York Times and Washington Post. She is the author of Decoding the Heavens which was shortlisted for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books. She is also the author of Cure which was shortlisted for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books and longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize.

When and where?

Livestreaming on twitch.tv/sitp at 7:00 pm UK time on Thursday 10th December, 2020.

Online and coming up for your diary!

Some exciting events for the lockdown

Weekend Treat from Merseyside Skeptics:-

Weekend of 14-15 November Saturday and Sundy starting at 10:00 am-QED 2018…Again!

And at 7:00 pm UK time on Thursdays:-

19th Nov Pixie Turner – How Social Media Has Shaped The Way We Eat (Including Ockham awards during the break)

26th Nov Jennifer Wadsworth – Planetary Protection: Guardians of the Galaxy or lame science-party poopers? European Researcher’s night special

3rd Dec – Noah Lugeons – A Crisis of Faith: How Religion Ruined America’s Pandemic Response

10th Dec – Jo Marchant – The Human Cosmos

Skeptics in the Pub – Online

Skeptics in the Pub Online (on twitch.tv/sitp) continues apace with 27 thoughtful and engaging weekly events so far!

Here are some exciting ones planned:-

Next Thursday, the 15th October is Brooke Magnanti with How the sex trafficking panic leads to Qanon conspiracy theorists

And, the week after, the 22nd, we have Aaron Rabinowitz with Ethical realism in a universe without free will

Look out for lots more planned events!