Next Meetings (2 in February!)

Wednesday 20th Feb – Dr Dean Burnett – How does happiness work in the brain?

Thursday 28th Feb – Dr Surja Dutta – Nāstika: Atheism in Indian Philosophy

Thursday 28th Mar – Gareth Williams – Unravelling the double helix

Next Social Event

Wednesday February 13th

Skeptics of the Round Table at the Bishop on the Bridge in Winchester from 7pm, for some informal Skeptical chat, food, drinks
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Wednesday Feb 20th – Dr Dean Burnett – How does happiness work in the brain?

You barely go a week without some puff piece article offering the ‘secret’ of happiness, or 5 easy steps to make yourself happy. They usually mention dopamine or oxytocin, in vague, context-free ways. But how valid are these claims? Not very, if you ask neuroscientist Dean Burnett, who looked into all this for his book The Happy Brain. In it, Dean delves deep into the inner workings of our minds to explore some fundamental questions about happiness. For starters: what does it actually mean to be happy? Where does it come from? Is lasting happiness possible? Should it be?

In his research into these questions – and many more besides – Burnett unravels our complex internal lives to reveal the often surprising truth behind what makes us tick. From whether happiness really begins at home to what love, sex, friendship, wealth, laughter and success actually do to our brains.

Dr Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist, pundit, author, blogger and sometimes comedian. In his second book The Happy Brain, he looks at all the claims and theories around what makes us happy, and investigates whether they hold up to scientific scrutiny.

 

February 28th – Dr Surja Dutta – Nāstika: Atheism in Indian Philosophy

Indian philosophy is full of interesting ideas on materialism and atheism. This might come as a surprise to many in the West, where, in the popular imagination, India is a land full of mystical gurus and religious fervour; a spiritual hotbed- a place where you ‘find yourself’, whatever that may mean. So, the news that the idea of ‘falsificationism’ was anticipated by Indian materialists (known as Charvakas) 1700 years before Karl Popper may be surprising.

In fact, Indian materialists denounced the authority of the Vedas, ridiculed the idea of reincarnation, and rejected mind-body dualism;  there is very little in Indian materialism that is not backed up by modern science.

The talk will focus on the main tenets of Indian materialism originating from the atheist branch of Indian philosophy, alternately called Charvaka, Lokāyata, and Bṛhaspatya. It will also suggest reasons for their obscurity in India and elsewhere.

Dr Surja Datta is a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University. His latest book “A History of the Indian University System: Emerging from the Shadows of the Past” is published by Palgrave Macmillan. His current book project is provisionally titled “The Creative Society: Calcutta 1815- 1955”. Surja became interested in Indian materialism while researching for his current book.

January 31st – (Cancelled) Ariane Sherine – Talk yourself better

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

About Ariane

Ariane Sherine is the comedy writer and journalist who created the Atheist Bus Campaign, as well as the best-selling 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 Observer, New Statesman and The Spectator.

She lives in London with her seven-year-old daughter, Lily.

13th December – Christmas Special – How to be a Psychic Conman

Roll up! Roll up! Roll up! Gather ye round the travelling caravan, as Snake Oil Salesman Ash Pryce demonstrates the miraculous curative abilities of psychic surgery taught him by a wise man in the Philippines (or a magicians’ tool book, whichever sounds more wondrous).

See with amazement the telekinetic forces at work as you learn how to move objects with your mind, psychically manipulate your finest silverware and read the minds of your peers. Or maybe, it’s all just a trick? The show will involve demonstrations and explanations of telekinesis tricks, metal bending, psychic surgery and remote viewing as well as look at government funded research into psychic phenomena, and the shoddy protocols that allowed “psychics” to beat the legendary Zener card experiments in the 1930s.

And if that wasn’t enough, there will be numerous on-stage demonstrations of mentalism. Warning to those on the front row… there will be blood!

Ash Pryce

Stagetime Promotions Magician of the Year 2017, and Edinburgh Horror Festival Sell out performer 2016 and 2017, Ash Pryce brings his crowd-pleasing mix of paranormal illusions, comedy and entertainment to the UK as part of a summer tour of 2018.

Find Ash on most social media as “Psychic Conman” and check out his Website .

29th November – Dave Alnwick – The Cult of Dave

Can you be brainwashed in 60 minutes?

After a sell-out run at Edinburgh Fringe and fresh off the back of hosting QED 2017, Skeptic regular Dave Alnwick tours his new show ‘Literally the Best Magician’.

Is Dave Literally the Best Magician? He certainly thinks so and intends to spend an hour proving it. Working through every genre of Magic, Dave hopes to ‘one up’ the classics of conjuring.

Ok, enough of this third person charade. I’m doing a Magic show. It’ll be really good, you should totally come. In the past I’ve focused on mentalism (y’know that Derren Brown mind reading business) but I thought I’d step away from that and have a go at old school stuff. It’s not easy making tricks with rope, tissues and post-it notes interesting but I’m pretty sure I’ve smashed it.

“He is the kind of performer who could probably make reading the dictionary into an entertaining show” – WorldMagicReview.com

I’ll even do a talk after the show about Magic. I’ll teach you a trick. We’ll do a Q&A. Maybe have a drink. It’ll be dope.

See you there.

Can you be brainwashed in 60 minutes? Dave wants you to join his cult and promises to teach you all of his mind-reading powers in return.

About Dave

Magician and Comedian Dave Alnwick is a 7 year Edinburgh Fringe veteran and frequently performs to packed out crowds throughout the UK. In 2017 Dave hosted the QED conference in Manchester; he has also performed at over a dozen Skeptics in the Pub groups nationwide.

Dave combines Magic & Mentalism with a healthy dose of scepticism.

Instagram @davealnwick Twitter @davealnwick Website www.davealnwick.com

25th October – Diana Fleischman – The evolution of human morality

The evolution of human morality

Human morality developed in small face-to-face groups in which humans lived for the last hundreds of thousands of years. In these environments those who succeeded protected themselves against hostile out-groups, butchered animals, prioritized the welfare of themselves and their kin and managed to maintain a moral reputation while finding available opportunities for cheating.

Human moral limitation are plain in a world that is so different compared to the environment in which we evolved. Now we are aware of the suffering of billions of strangers and trillions of animals, our moral inconsistencies are magnified by surveillance, and we must prevent artificial agents developing a morality completely antithetical to our survival.

How does our evolved morality cope with this novel ethical landscape and will we allow ourselves moral enhancement?

Bio

Diana Fleischman grew up in in the Southern United States in a religious and conservative area where evolution was not taught in school. At 12 Diana earned the moniker “monkey girl” for fervently endorsing evolution to teachers and peers. Attending both Catholic church and synagogue further formed the foundation of a sceptical perspective on religion. During a formative year at the LSE shortly after the September 11th attacks, Diana read Dawkins and other evolutionists extensively, kindling an obsession with atheism and evolutionary psychology.

As an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, Diana teaches and researches many different topics including disgust, human sexuality and biological bases of behaviour. Involvement with effective altruism, a movement that aims to use evidence to accomplish the most good in terms of human and non-human wellbeing, prompted Diana to more deeply consider human morality its evolution and shortcomings, the topic of this Darwin Day talk.

Diana is a sentientist, someone who prioritizes the capacity to suffer as the basis for moral consideration.

Find her on Twitter @Sentientist.

Thursday 27th September – Charlotte Riley – Gin, bunting and bloody railways

Gin, bunting and bloody railways: Why everything you thought you knew about the British Empire is Wrong.

The British Empire was the largest empire in modern history. At its height, it covered a quarter of the world’s surface and encompassed a fifth of the world’s population. For centuries, Britannia ruled the waves; from Ireland to India, from Ghana to Guiana, the union flag flew high over British territory.

Britain tells this story as a story of triumphs: a small island coming proudly to dominate the world, with the empire cast both as a sign of military might and as a humanitarian mission, bringing peace and civilisation to the wider world. But the reality was very different; the British empire was built on violence and exploitation, the populations under British rule rejected and resisted imperialism, and the British at home had a very ambivalent relationship to ‘their’ empire.

This talk will look at some of the key myths of empire, and will explore why the British still have such a complicated understanding of their imperial past, and how the popular memory of empire still influences culture, politics and society today.

Bio

Charlotte Lydia Riley is a lecturer in twentieth century British history at the University of Southampton. She writes about the British empire and decolonization, aid and humanitarianism, and the Labour Party; her book explores all of these things to examine the connections between empire and the British metropole in the late twentieth century. She lives in east London and spends a lot of time on trains.

Thursday 30th August – Joanna Bagniewska: Aliens among us

Aliens among us

Aliens: supremely adaptable, successful and dangerous. A tagline for a sci-fi horror? No, it’s the reality around us. Invasive alien species – species that have come, or been brought, from one part of the world to another – can pose a huge threat to our health, finances and biodiversity. However, we can also learn a lot from them. How do we study them? What do we know about them? Can we stop the invasions? Come to the talk to find out!

Bio

Dr Joanna Bagniewska is a zoologist, specialising in behavioural ecology and marking undergraduate essays. In her spare time, she does science stand-up comedy, which really isn’t that different from her academic teaching at the University of Reading. She comes from Poland, is part of the Oxfordshire Mammal Group and has a soft spot for hedgehogs.

(Joanna has asked us if we would prefer something a bit more serious. We thinks this is fine!)

Thursday 26th July – Sarah Corbett – The Art of Gentle Protest

Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry St. 7.00 for 7.30pm

Activism often conjures up quick transactional signing of petitions, clicktivism, loud and aggressive ways to demand justice. But if we want a world that is beautiful, kind and fair, shouldn’t our activism be beautiful, kind and fair? Award-winning campaigner and Founder of the global Craftivist Collective Sarah Corbett shows how to respond to injustice not with apathy or aggression, but with gentle, effective protest.  Sarah Corbett set up the Craftivist Collective to facilitate and encourage this form of activism across the UK and around the world. She will be talking about her book ‘How To Be A Craftivist: the art of gentle protest’ a manifesto for a more respectful and contemplative activism; for conversation and collaboration where too often there is division and conflict; for using craft to engage, empower and encourage us all to be the change we wish to see in the world. She will explain her gentle protest principles with practical examples of her campaigns (including campaigns she’s won!) and stories as a burnout, introverted activist.

Sarah’s Bio

Sarah Corbett is an award-winning campaigner. She grew up in a low-income area of the UK into an activist family and has worked as a professional campaigner for a decade most recently with Oxfam GB. She set up the global and award-winning Craftivist Collective in 2009 providing products and services to do craftivism using her ‘gentle protest’ approach. She works with arts institutions, the charity sector, academic as well as unexpected collaborations such as with organisations Tatty Devine & Secret Cinema and regularly gives talks around the world. Her book “A Little Book of Craftivism’” was released October 2013 and is on it’s second print run. Her book “How To Be A Craftivist: the art of gentle protest” was out October 2017. 

 

Thursday 28th June – Rebecca Fox: How to be Reasonable by Someone Who Tried Everything Else

Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry St. 7.00 for 7.30pm

Most of us weren’t born reasonable. We were born into a superstitious culture with only our ramshackle primate brains to try and figure out what’s going on. Reason, an appreciation for evidence and critical thinking skills are virtues that most of us had to fight for and that we have to work hard to keep up in difficult situations.

Rebecca Fox is no exception. She grew up believing many strange things and has had to train herself to think critically. Instead of being embarrassed by our former beliefs Rebecca thinks it is important to have compassion for and interest in what we used to believe and why we believed it. Instead of feeling shame for having been wrong, we should be proud that we had the courage to overturn beliefs that proved to be wrong.

In this talk Rebecca will discuss who she was before, and after she ‘became reasonable’ and overturn the myth that there is such a thing as ‘perfectly reasonable’ we are all, after all, a work in progress.

Rebecca is passionate about skeptical education because she has found the tools of skepticism to be profoundly empowering. Learning to think clearly has made her safer, more confident and happier. Drawing on her experience as a skeptical educator and comic book artist she will present some ideas that will help you improve your critical thinking skills and the way you think about how you think.