Dr Stephen Makin:
I'm a medical doctor, clinical researcher into stroke, Skeptical Speaker on critical appraisal and evidence based medicine. .........and a lifelong vegetarian who feels that ethically I really should be a vegan. As a vegetarian in a very non-hippy world I've been argued with at every dinner party or social event I've been to. I'll be looking at the secular arguments around meat eating, animal testing, bestiality, and abortion. Not to mention some of the common myths for and against vegetarianism: was Hitler really vegetarian? does it matter?
‘…the greatest wartime mystery of the 20th century…’ A.J.P. Taylor
One hundred years ago, in August 1914, a force of 30,000 crack British troops were surrounded outside the Belgian city of Mons by a massive German Army three times as strong. But at the very moment they expected to be annihilated the attack was suddenly halted, allowing the troops to escape and fight another day.
Back home, newspapers attributed the escape of the British Expeditionary Force to “a miracle” and many Christians came to believe that the Germans had been stopped by a vision of angels that appeared between them and the BEF. And as the war bogged down in the trenches wounded soldiers and nurses who cared for them came forward to claim they had witnessed the miracle at Mons.
The Angels of Mons captured the imagination of thousands across the world, bringing hope of victory to the Allies and restoring faith to those who lost loved ones in the slaughter on the Western Front. As the centenary of the legend approaches the story lives on with plans for a battle of Mons trail and commemorative events to mark the beginning and end of the war in the Belgian city.
In this talk David Clarke – author of the definitive book on the mystery (The Angel of Mons, Wiley: 2004) - sets out to reveal the facts behind the story, drawing upon original documents and accounts from journalists who collected stories about the ‘angels’.
It also examines the claims of Welsh novelist Arthur Machen, who believed it began life as a piece of fiction he published in a London newspaper after the battle. Machen’s story, The Bowmen, tells how a soldier on the battlefield invokes St George to bring his Agincourt bowmen ‘to help the English’ against the German hordes. The talk follows the evolution of the story to the present day and asks if it really was ‘the first example of a modern urban legend’.
Dr David Clarke is an expert on folklore and supernatural beliefs. He is a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. His website is dedicated to folklore and journalism: http://www.drdavidclarke.co.uk,
Apologetics is the systematic defence of a position. Religious apologetics specifically is a field of theology which seeks to present a rational basis for religious faith, defend the faith against objections and support the claim “God exists”. But are the arguments made by apologetics sound? Mike Hall takes a look at five common apologetics, deconstructing the arguments presented and exposing any flaws.
Mike Hall is the president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and presenter of the Skeptics with a K podcast. He also organises QED in the spare time he doesn't have (although he does get a hand from one or two other people). His particular interests are the existence of God, alternative medicine, logic and Doctor Who. He once appeared on the Sky One game show "Are You Smarter Than A Ten Year Old?". He wasn't.
Following his sudden redundancy from financial services in the City as a wealth manager Charles Veitch began to question the meta-narratives of money, power and control. He subsequently launched himself head first into the emotionally charged world of conspiracism, looking for explanations as to who controls money, and therefore the world. Having gained notoriety and infamy from his anarchic videos on YouTube, and many appearances on BBC News, ITV, Russia Today, CNN, and Channel 4, he was selected by the BBC to go on a 10 day Conspiracy 9/11 Roadtrip through New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia, where he met experts from the FBI, CIA, and the designers of the Twin Towers. Luckily for Charles, hearing reasoned and evidenced logical explanations from people supposedly involved in the "inside job of 9/11", he very publicly changed his mind, amidst death-threats, hacked websites and a massive online cyber bullying campaign headed by Alex Jones, David Icke and their conspiracy theory followers.
Charles Veitch is a 33 yr old absurdist film-maker. He grew up internationally in an expat family in the oil-business. He was schooled in Edinburgh and has a MA (hons) Philosphy from the University of Edinburgh.
NOTE: due to scheduling difficulties this talk will not take place in our usual venue. The alternate venue will be posted as soon as it is confirmed so check back here for further updates.
UPDATE: We've managed to secure Cafe Muse inside the Manchester Museum for this talk. We'll be crossing the road to Kro Bar for drinks for any who wish to join us!
The Third Reich was a large, complex, modern state with a thriving mass media, diverse population, and fruitful trade and cultural links with the rest of the world. The ideology behind National Socialism drew upon well-established strands of nationalist and racialist thinking as well as centuries-old anti-Semitism, and the Nazi Party and its government used cutting-edge technology and techniques to give these ideas the broadest possible audience and appeal. All too often, this baffling web of networks, policies and overlapping interest groups, which changed constantly over the twelve years the Third Reich lasted, gets reduced to the ideas and actions of just one man. From the top of the ivory tower, to the very bottom of the bottom half of the internet, this talk will explore what Adolf Hitler means to all of us, and how our obsession with him is sucking the meaning out one of our most potent historical symbols: the Holocaust.
Victoria Stiles is a final-year PhD student at the University of Nottingham, as well as a member of Greater Manchester Skeptics. She is writing a thesis called "Reading the Enemy: German Publications on British Imperialism, 1933 - 1945" and occasionally blogs about her sources and what it means to "do" history at tattyjackets.blogspot.com.
Hydesville. 1848. Two sisters stumble across something otherworldly: an ability to communicate with the dearly departed. The Fox Sisters took their séance on tour and are the people most responsible for the Medium and Spiritualist craze that continues to this day.
What tricks and deceits did the Fox Sisters employ and what of the Ouija Board or Spirit Slates that came later? What about levitating objects and people? Mumler’s Spirit Photography? Ectoplasm? What of the last woman imprisoned for Witchcraft- if indeed she was?
Edinburgh Skeptics founder Ash Pryce brings a collection of tools and toys and will recreate elements of a Victorian style séance and reveal just how they did it. As a group you will take part in a theatrical experiment- just how convincing were those Victorian tricks and will they still convince today?
Featuring flying tables, Ouija Boards and ectoplasm, this popular show attracted regular full houses during the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe.
Ashley James Pryce (or simply Ash) returns to Manchester for the concluding part of his psychic trickery trilogy!
Whereas research into the historical origins of Christianity began in Germany in the nineteenth century, and revealed the Roman political origins of much of Christianity and the Bible, serious historical research into the origins of Islam is of much more recent date.
Guy Otten will present a talk outlining what recent scientific and scholarly research has to say about how Islam came about, and what reliable evidence there is for what was happening in the Middle east around the time of Islam’s foundations. He will summarise the evidence from the fields of history, linguistics, archaeology, textual analysis, numismatics, etc.
Whilst rejecting Islamophobia, the irrational fear of and prejudice against Islam and Muslims, he will explore the rational basis for criticism of Islam.
Guy Otten is Chair of Greater Manchester Humanists; he is a Member of the Board of Trustee of the British Humanist Association; he is a BHA accredited Humanist Celebrant; he is currently writing a book on the origins of Islam.
Ever since records began, in every known society, a substantial proportion of the population has reported unusual experiences many of which we would today label as “paranormal”. Opinion polls show that the majority of the general public accepts that paranormal phenomena do occur. Such widespread experience of and belief in the paranormal can only mean one of two things. Either the paranormal is real, in which case this should be accepted by the wider scientific community which currently rejects such claims; or else belief in and experience of ostensibly paranormal phenomena can be fully explained in terms of psychological factors. This presentation will provide an introduction to the sub-discipline of anomalistic psychology, which may be defined as the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience, in an attempt to provide non-paranormal explanations in terms of known psychological and physical factors. This approach will be illustrated with examples relating to a range of ostensibly paranormal phenomena.
Biog: Professor Chris French is the Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, as well as being a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association and a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 100 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims, as well as writing for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine which, for more than a decade, he also edited. His most recent books are Why Statues Weep: The Best of The Skeptic, co-edited with Wendy Grossman (2010, London: The Philosophy Press) and Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke (2012, London: Palgrave). His next book (co-authored with Anna Stone) is Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience (November 2013, London: Palgrave). Follow him on Twitter: @chriscfrench
http://photos4.meetupstatic.com/photos/event/3/c/8/4/event_209235492.jpegDr. Rebecca Lawson is a senior lecturer in Psychology based at the University of Liverpool. She completed a PhD on human visual object recognition at the University of Birmingham and then a post-doc at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Her research investigates how the human brain perceives, remembers and creates the shape of 3D objects, and she compares object recognition by vision and by touch. In addition, she tries to find out what people believe about how their visual system works. Specifically, she has found that many people make striking and systematic errors when they try to predict what they will be able to see in mirrors and windows. Finally, she looks at people's explanations of how common, everyday objects - like bicycles, cranes and greenhouses - function and the surprising mistakes that people make.
http://photos1.meetupstatic.com/photos/event/c/c/f/8/event_233992472.jpegChurch of Scientology: ‘John Sweeney is psychotic, a bigot and a liar’
Why disconnect a daughter from her mum?
Who is Xenu? What does Tom Cruise get out of it?
Q: What kind of Church hires private eyes? A: The Church Of Fear
Tom Cruise and John Travolta say the Church of Scientology is a force for good. Others disagree. Award-winning journalist John Sweeney investigated the Church for more than half a decade. During that time he was intimidated, spied on and followed and the results were spectacular: Sweeney lost his temper with the Church's spokesman on camera and his infamous 'exploding tomato' clip was seen by millions around the world. In The Church of Fear John tells the full story of his experiences for the first time and paints a devastating picture of this strange organisation, from former Scientologists who tell heartbreaking stories of families torn apart and lives ruined to its current followers who say it is the solution to many of mankind's problems. This is the real story of the Church by the reporter who was brave enough to take it on.
NOTE: DUE TO AN OVERSIGHT THIS EVENT HAS ONLY JUST GONE LIVE!!! THIS IS TOMORROW NIGHT!!!! SO APOLOGIES FOR SHORT NOTICE