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The Truth about “Post-Truth”

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky

When?
Thursday, July 8 2021 at 7:00PM

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Who?
Professor Stephan Lewandowsky

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Watch live at https://twitch.tv/sitp

We are said to live in a “post-truth” era in which “fake news” has replaced real information, denial has compromised science, and the ontology of knowledge and truth has taken on a relativist element. I argue that to defend evidence-based reasoning and knowledge against those attacks, we must understand the strategies by which the post-truth world is driven forward. I depart from the premise that the post-truth era did not arise spontaneously but is the result of a highly effective political movement that deploys a large number of rhetorical strategies. I focus on three strategies: The deployment of conspiracy theories, the use of “micro-targeting” and “bots” online, and agenda-setting by attentional diversion. I present evidence for the existence of each strategy and its impact, and how it might be countered.

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky is a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol. He was an Australian Professorial Fellow from 2007 to 2012, and was awarded a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council in 2011. He held a Revesz Visiting Professorship at the University of Amsterdam in 2012, and received a Wolfson Research Merit Fellowship from the Royal Society upon moving to the UK in 2013. He was appointed a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science (UK) and a Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science in 2017. In 2016, he was appointed a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry for his commitment to science, rational inquiry and public education. In 2019, he received a Humboldt Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation in Germany. His research examines people’s memory, decision making, and knowledge structures, with a particular emphasis on how people update their memories if information they believe turn out to be false. This has led him to examine the persistence of misinformation and spread of “fake news” in society, including conspiracy theories. He is particularly interested in the variables that determine whether or not people accept scientific evidence, for example surrounding vaccinations or climate science. His interest in the cognitive implications of climate change, and the conflict between human cognition and the physics of the global climate, has led him into research in climate science and climate modeling. As a result of his work in climate science he was appointed Visiting Scientist at the CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere laboratory in Hobart, Tasmania, in August 2017. He has published more than 220 scholarly articles, chapters, and books, including numerous papers on how people respond to corrections of misinformation and what variables determine people’s acceptance of scientific findings. (See www.cogsciwa.com for a complete list of scientific publications.) Professor Lewandowsky also frequently appears in print and broadcast media and has contributed nearly 90 opinion pieces to the global media on issues related to his research.

Andy Wilson and guests

When?
Thursday, July 1 2021 at 7:00PM

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Andy Wilson and guests

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Join host Andy Wilson for another live-streamed episode of the skeptical-themed panel show InKredulous. InKredulous, a production of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, is the long-running comedy podcast where skeptics from across the world are put through their critical-thinking paces and challenged to entertain as well as inform. InKredulous has been a firm fan favourite at every QED conference since 2010, and we are putting on another one for Skeptics in the Pub Online.

Joining Andy for the show will be a panel from across the skeptical world:

Jonathan Jarry – Jonathan Jarry is a science communicator in Montreal, Canada with the McGill Office for Science and Society, dedicated to separating sense from nonsense on the scientific stage. He brings his experience in cancer research, human genetics, rehabilitation research, and forensic biology to the work he does for the public. With cardiologist Dr Christopher Labos, he co-hosts the award-winning medical podcast The Body of Evidence, which aims to contextualize findings in the realm of health research and answer the public’s most pressing questions about the biomedical sciences while also being funny and entertaining.

Carmen D’Cruz – Stand up comedian and drag queen, pearl-clutching project manager, and co-host of London Skeptics in the Pub and Conway Hall’s Thinking on Sunday talks.

Michael Marshall – President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and Project Director of the Good Thinking Society, Marsh is a long-term skeptical activist and podcaster.
 

Dr Alice Howarth

When?
Thursday, June 24 2021 at 7:00PM

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Dr Alice Howarth

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One in two of us will suffer with cancer in our lifetime and almost all of us have some experience of the disease. But do we really know what cancer is and how we can work towards a cure? Is a cure even possible? And how can we arm ourselves with the right information to help us prevent and treat cancer?

Alice is a researcher who has worked in the Institute of Translational Medicine at the University of Liverpool with both non-profit and for-profit organisations. In this talk she will discuss what cancer is, how it works and just how we are working towards understanding and curing the disease. She will talk about the complexities of research and some of the big success stories that relate directly to some of the many types of cancer. Only when we understand the difficulties we face can we discern between bogus cancer treatment claims and genuine scientific advancement in this field.

Alice is also the co-host of Skeptics with a K – a fabulous podcast, and one of the organisers of Skeptics in the Pub Online.

Dr Micheal De Barra

When?
Thursday, June 17 2021 at 7:00PM

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Dr Micheal De Barra

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For most of human history, an average patient meeting an average doctor was probably harmed rather than helped. This talk will explore how medical treatments can persist for decades – even centuries – despite having little or no beneficial effects. One focus will be on how features of biology and psychology make figuring out what works especially hard without tools like randomised controlled trials. I’ll also look at how features of human psychology can make some kinds of treatments intuitive, despite being useless or worse. Finally, I will examine if the benefits of treatments might lie not in what they do to your body, but in what they communicate to others about your need for care.

Mícheál de Barra is a lecturer in psychology in the Centre for Culture and Evolution, Brunel University London. His research focuses on unnecessary treatment and harmful health behaviours.

Sense and Nonsense in Evolutionary Psychology

Dr Lindsey Osterman

When?
Thursday, June 10 2021 at 7:00PM

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Dr Lindsey Osterman

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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 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.

Dr Caspar Addyman

When?
Thursday, June 3 2021 at 7:00PM

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Dr Caspar Addyman

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What is the meaning of life? I once wrote to every philosopher in the UK to ask them. Their answers were meagre and dispiriting. One even included a death threat.

Since then I’ve moved on to study why babies have such a great time being babies. Anyone who has met a baby knows how much they delight in the world. As a baby scientist, I set out to discover why babies laugh so much more than the rest of us and what it tells us about the human condition.

It turns out that the secret of babies happiness contains lots of wisdom for the rest of us and fits in nicely with the very best answers to the meaning of life.

Caspar Addyman is a lecturer in psychology and director of the InfantLab at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has investigated how babies acquire language, concepts and even a sense of time. His Baby Laughter project has surveyed families all over the world to find out just what causes all those little giggles and he is interested in how laughter helps babies bond and learn. Caspar worked with Grammy winner Imogen Heap to create a song scientifically designed to make babies happy. His popular science book, The Laughing Baby, was published in April 2020.

Professor Chris French

When?
Thursday, May 27 2021 at 7:00PM

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Professor Chris French

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Back in the 1980s, alarm spread throughout the world with respect to claims that Satanic abuse was not only real, it was widespread. Fuelled largely by pressure groups and the media, many people came to believe that there was an international network of powerful individuals who regularly engaged in rituals involving Satan worship, human and animal sacrifice, group sex, paedophilia, forced abortions, cannibalism, and so on. There were two main sources of evidence put forward in support of such claims. First, such abuse had been reported by hundreds of children in day care centres. Secondly, there were many reports from adults who had entered into therapy for common psychological problems, initially with no memories of ever being the victims of such abuse. During therapy, however, they recovered traumatic memories of abuse that had been apparently been buried in their unconscious minds for many years. We now know that the reports from the children in day care centres were the result of grossly inappropriate forms of questioning. The reports from adults in therapy were almost certainly false memories unintentionally produced by the therapy itself. This talk will discuss some of the lessons that we should learn from the Satanic Panic – and the very real possibility that it could happen again.

Chris French is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is also Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and a Patron of the British Humanist Association. He is a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 150 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 writes for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine. His most recent books are Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke (2012, Palgrave Macmillan), and Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience, co-authored with Anna Stone (2014, Palgrave Macmillan).

Professor Rory O’Connor

When?
Thursday, May 20 2021 at 7:00PM

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Professor Rory O’Connor

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Based on his new book, Professor Rory O’Connor will try to dispel myths around suicide and to describe the complex set of factors that can lead to it, drawing from the Integrated Motivational-Volitional Model of Suicide. The talk will also include an overview of what we can do to support those who are vulnerable.

Rory O’Connor PhD FAcSS is Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and a Past President of the International Academy of Suicide Research. Rory leads the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory (Web: www.suicideresearch.info; Twitter: @suicideresearch) at Glasgow, one of the leading suicide/self-harm research groups in UK. He also leads the Mental Health & Wellbeing Research Group at Glasgow. He has published extensively in the field of suicide and self-harm, specifically concerning the psychological processes which precipitate suicidal behaviour and self-harm. He is also co-author/editor of several books and is author of When It is Darkest. Why People Die by Suicide and What We Can Do To Prevent It (2021). He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Archives of Suicide Research and Associate Editor of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. Rory acts as an advisor to a range of national and international organisations including national governments on the areas of suicide and self-harm. He is also Co-Chair of the Academic Advisory Group to the Scottish Government’s National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group.

Professor Manjit Dosanjh

When?
Thursday, May 13 2021 at 7:00PM

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Who?
Professor Manjit Dosanjh

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If you have cancer and you live in a low or middle-income country, you’re unlikely to have access to the radiotherapy treatments that patients in higher-income countries take for granted. A global collaboration including engineers and physicists from the Large Hadron Collider with International Cancer Expert Corps (ICEC), the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Daresbury Laboratory, Lancaster and Oxford University and users in Africa and other Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) is aiming to change the current status quo.

Professor Manjit Dosanjh is the Project Leader for STELLA (Smart Technologies to Extend Lives with Linear Accelerators), honorary CERN Staff, the particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland and Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford. She holds a PhD in Biochemical Engineering from the UK and her professional efforts in the fields of biology and the medical applications of physics span more than 30 years, during which she has held positions in various academic and research institutions in Europe and the U.S., including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) at the University of California, the European Commission Joint Research Centre (EC-JRC) in Italy. Dosanjh joined CERN in 1999 where she has worked to apply technologies originally developed for particle physics to the domain of life sciences, aiming to translate and transfer knowledge about physics to society at large. She played a key role in launching the European Network for Light Ion Hadron Therapy (ENLIGHT), a multidisciplinary platform that takes a collaborative approach to particle and radiation therapy research in Europe, and she is the coordinator of the network since 2006. https://enlight.web.cern.ch/ She is also actively involved in helping non-profit gender-related organisations in science and technology for development in Geneva and is a board of director for ICEC (International Cancer Expert Corps). https://www.iceccancer.org/

An introduction to the concepts of police defunding and police abolition

Alex Vitale

When?
Thursday, May 6 2021 at 7:00PM

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Alex Vitale

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An introduction to the concepts of police defunding and police abolition, with Alex S. Vitale, professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of The End of Policing.

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.

​Alex S. 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

Reporting on the disinformation front-line

Marianna Spring

When?
Thursday, April 29 2021 at 7:00PM

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Marianna Spring

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The BBC’s first-ever specialist disinformation and social media reporter, Marianna Spring, has spent the past year down the online conspiracy rabbit hole, investigating the real-world impact of disinformation being shared on social media. Families have been torn apart, lives lost and violence inspired. What’s it like speaking to the victims and leaders of these online conspiracy networks – and what’s the best approach?

Marianna Spring is the award-winning specialist disinformation and social media reporter for BBC News and World Service. Previously, she worked for BBC Newsnight and on the Guardian news desk and makes frequent appearances on BBC TV segments including recently presenting on BBC Panorama about her investigation into anti-vaccine content. Recently Marianna was named on the Forbes 30 under 30 Europe list.

Highs and lows during the pandemic (so far)

Professor David Speigelhalter

When?
Thursday, April 22 2021 at 7:00PM

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Professor David Speigelhalter

What's the talk about?

Join via: twitch.tv/sitp from 6:45 pm

The current pandemic is notable for the vast traffic in official and unofficial information and claims. David will offer some personal insights into the challenges of trying to bring some illumination to the statistics about the pandemic, illustrated with some examples of things that have gone fairly well, and communication disasters.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter FRS OBE is Chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication in the Centre for Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge, which aims to improve the way that statistical evidence is used by health professionals, patients, lawyers and judges, media and policy-makers. He has been very busy over the COVID crisis. He presented the BBC4 documentaries “Tails you Win: the Science of Chance”, the award-winning “Climate Change by Numbers”, and in 2011 came 7th in an episode of BBC1’s Winter Wipeout. His bestselling book, The Art of Statistics, was published in March 2019. He was knighted in 2014 for services to medical statistics, was President of the Royal Statistical Society (2017-2018), and became a Non-Executive Director of the UK Statistics Authority in 2020. He is @d_spiegel on Twitter, and his home page is http://www.statslab.cam.ac.uk/~david/