Next Meetings

Thu 30th May – Dr Chris Fuller – See It/Shoot It: The Secret History of the CIA’s Lethal Drone Program

Tue 11th June – Ariane Sherine – Talk yourself better

Thu 27th June – Cerys Bradley – A unifying theory of gay

Next Social Event

Wednesday June 12th

Skeptics of the Round Table at Bishop on the Bridge in Winchester from 7pm, for some informal Skeptical chat, food, drinks
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30th May – Dr Christopher Fuller – See It, Shoot it: The Secret History of the CIA’s Lethal Drone Program

This eye-opening talk will uncover the formally classified history of the most important instrument of U.S. counterterrorism today: the armed drone.

Drawing upon research conducted for the completion of his recent book, See It/Shoot It, published by Yale University Press, Dr Christopher Fuller will reveal that, contrary to popular belief, the CIA’s covert drone program is not a product of 9/11. Rather, it is the result of U.S. counterterrorism practices extending back to an influential group of policy makers within the Reagan administration.

Dr Christopher J. Fuller is a lecturer in modern U.S. history at the University of Southampton. His research and teaching focuses upon American foreign policy, in particular the origins and conduct of the War on Terror; an exploration of the United States as a post-territorial empire; and the role played by the Internet in both enhancing and undermining American national security. He is a joint U.S./UK citizen, and for the first time in a long time, feels stuck between a rock and a hard place.

He tweets as @DrChrisFuller

April 25th – Prof Danny Dorling – Time for the truth: We ‘left’ the EU because of Hampshire.

We ask for a £5 donation (at the door) that doubles as a raffle ticket to win a book prize to cover speaker expenses and the cost of the venue.

In Hampshire 546,267 people voted to leave the EU in June 2016, some 54.0% of all those who voted in the county. Hampshire was never singled out as a hotbed of leave voters and yet the people of this county, along with just a few of the other English Home Counties, were crucial to securing the referendum result. So why was this not commented upon at the time, or later – and what might it mean for how little we understand ourselves?

We can define an ‘Anti-Hampshire’ which has almost exactly the same electorate as Hampshire but is made of five northern and one Welsh district often labelled as hot-beds of leavers. In Anti-Hampshire only 494,816 voted to leave, 53.7% of all those who voted. Anti-Hampshire consists of Blackpool, Derby, Great Yarmouth, Leeds, Merthyr Tydfil and Sheffield (the fifth largest city in Britain).

Its time for a few home truths about the geography of who we are, how we got here, and where we are most probably going.

The table below is numbers voting leave and the % of all who voted in “Anti-Hampshire”

Blackpool45,14667%
Derby 69,04357%
Great Yarmouth 35,84472%
Leeds 192,47450%
Merthyr Tydfil 16,29156%
Sheffield 136,01851%

Don’t worry – the talk still works even if Theresa May cancels article 50 (she can do it without anyone’s permission) – or even if we get a peoples’ vote and that is for Remain.

Personally I think her plan is to cancel it at the point that we begin to get a great deal of panic. Panic is rising.

I have a book coming out in January with my friend Sally where we claim that the effect of Brexit will still be enormous even if we don’t leave:

I ought to admit to a vested interest of a new book! But I don’t need to try and sell any copies on the night!

Brief Bio

Danny Dorling is the Halford Mackinder Professor in Geography at the University of Oxford. He was previously a professor of Geography at the University of Sheffield, and before then a professor at the University of Leeds. He earlier worked at academic posts in Newcastle, Bristol, and New Zealand. He went to university in Newcastle upon Tyne, and to school in Oxford. He was born in 1968.

Much of Danny’s work is available open access (see www.dannydorling.org). With a group of colleagues he helped create the website www.worldmapper.org which shows who has most and least in the world. His work concerns issues of housing, health, employment, education, wealth and poverty. His most recent book, with Sally Tomlinson, was published on January 15th 2019: ‘Rule Britannia: Brexit and the end of Empire’ concerning what the 2016 EU referendum and 2019 ‘exit’ told us about the British.

[It was ‘completely spot on’ / ‘shown to be rubbish given subsequent events (delete as appropriate J )]

He is a patron of the charity Roadpeace, an Honorary Patron of Heeley City Farm, Sheffield, and a Senior Associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine. He is now working on ‘Slowdown’ during 2019. His next book, about slowing down…

March 28th – Gareth Williams – Unravelling the Double Helix

Prof Gareth Williams

DNA. The double helix – the blueprint of life, and during the early 1950s, a baffling enigma that could win a Nobel Prize.

Everyone knows that James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix.

In fact, they clicked into place the last piece of a huge jigsaw puzzle that other researchers had assembled over decades. Researchers like Maurice Wilkins (the ‘Third Man of DNA’) and Rosalind Franklin, famously demonised by Watson. Not forgetting the ‘lost heroes’ who fought to prove that DNA is the stuff of genes, only to be airbrushed out of history.

In his book, and in this talk, Unravelling the Double Helix, Professor Gareth Williams sets the record straight. He tells the story of DNA in the round, from its discovery in pus-soaked bandages in 1868 to the aftermath of Watson’s best-seller The Double Helix a century later. You don’t need to be a scientist to enjoy this book. It’s a page-turner that unfolds like a detective story, with suspense, false leads and treachery, and a fabulous cast of noble heroes and back-stabbing villains. But beware: some of the science is dreadful, and the heroes and villains may not be the ones you expect.

Gareth Williams is Emeritus Professor and former Dean of Medicine at The University of Bristol. His previous books for general readers are Angel of Death: The Story of Smallpox (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize of 2010), Paralysed with Fear: The Story of Polio and A Monstrous Commotion: The Mysteries of Loch Ness. He is a past president of the Anglo-French Medical Society and has an honorary doctorate from the University of Angers. He is often to be found playing the flute or saxophone in and around Bristol.

For this talk we ask for a £3 donation (at the door) that doubles as a raffle ticket to win a book prize to cover speaker expenses and the cost of the venue.

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.

We ask for a £3 donation (at the door) that doubles as a raffle ticket to win a book prize to cover speaker expenses and the cost of the venue.

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.

 

 

We ask for a £3 donation (at the door) that doubles as a raffle ticket to win a book prize to cover speaker expenses and the cost of the venue. So please turn up!

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.