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and the crisis of authority

David Aaronovitch

When?
Thursday, May 25 2017 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
David Aaronovitch

What's the talk about?

Lewes Skeptics is delighted to welcome David back, this time to take a canter round the whole issue of the presentation and consumption of news, and the links - if any - to political events.  

David Aaronovitch is a Times columnist, presenter of Radio 4's The Briefing Room and author of Voodoo Histories and Party Animals.  

 

This event is now SOLD OUT

 

A whistle-stop tour through MMR and HPV antivax nonsense

Dr Michael Head

When?
Tuesday, May 9 2017 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
Dr Michael Head

What's the talk about?

We all love our children dearly and chose to vaccinate them or not vaccinate them because of that deep love. Yet the discussion of whether or not to vaccinate can bring friendships to an end and the decision itself can have life-threatening consequences, not just for babies and unvaccinated children, but for anyone with a compromised immune system such as elderly people in our community.

Michael Head looks at vaccination in the larger context. Smallpox is eradicated, polio has nearly gone the same way and in most countries diphtheria is rare. That’s due to vaccination. Yet headlines are often fixated on measles outbreaks on both sides of the Pond, or the ‘dangers’ of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine.

Too many people are just not fussed about vaccines, or worse, they actively preach and campaign against them, with more than the occasional dollop of an absence of morality.

This presentation will walk us through some facts and figures, highlight the curious background to the latest unfounded scare story involving the HPV vaccine, and provide an insight into the public health danger posed by those who, even today, still try and tell you the MMR vaccine gives your child autism (it doesn’t, by the way).

 

Dr Michael Head is a Senior Research Fellow in infectious diseases at the University of Southampton. He has worked in infectious disease research since 2004 and has almost 50 peer-reviewed publications, including several in Lancet and Nature journals. Michael is an experienced public speaker and has spoken at several SITP meetings around the UK. Aside from talking about vaccines, his main academic interests are analysing funding trends in health research, data showing the global burden of disease, and a sideline in scabies research with colleagues from Brighton & Sussex Medical School.

 

Tickets online here or behind the bar at the Elly. 

Why DNA is not your destiny

Nessa Carey

When?
Wednesday, April 12 2017 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
Nessa Carey

What's the talk about?

The human genome. 

Here's the old model. The genome - our DNA - is vitally important because the genes code for the proteins that are essential for life. Well yes, that's true. And if you like your ice cream only in vanilla, this may be a good enough description. But allow your taste buds to wander and some fascinating new flavours may seduce you. 

There are lots of situations where two things are genetically identical, but which aren't the same. This is the field of epigenetics, and it tells us that there must be more to us than just our DNA code. The science is weird, heretical and fascinating. If the genes that code for proteins are so important, why do they comprise only 2% of the human genome? For years, the rest was dismissed as unimportant "junk DNA". But now we know that these neglected regions have a huge range of important functions. 

Both epigenetics and junk DNA affect huge amounts of life on earth and have a big impact on human health. Nessa Carey is the author of The Epigenetics Revolution and Junk DNA: A Journey Through The Dark Matter Of The Genome, books aimed at a non-specialist readership, which discuss the amazing biology behind so much of life around us.

Go on, dive in. You won't regret it. And you won't think about the world in the same way ever again.

Tickets for this event are available now online.  

 

Ed Atkinson and Guy Tanner

When?
Wednesday, March 22 2017 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
Ed Atkinson and Guy Tanner

What's the talk about?

Burning carbon must be driven from our cheap-energy economy on a global scale - and soon - to stop a looming disaster. But is there a workable way to drive out Carbon? If nations, corporations or individuals ‘do the right thing’ and burn less carbon won’t that just make coal, oil and gas cheaper for everyone else? Just how cheap does installing new solar need to be to make it cheaper than turning on the valves in the Saudi oil fields?  

It is easy to lose hope that change is possible, especially in Trump-World. The USA is the key to change and a group originating in the US 'Citizens Climate Lobby’ (CCL) is doing well there (even with some Republicans). They advocate a policy of a Carbon Fee which is all used to make a Dividend to the populace, thus making for a policy that is effective and politically attractive (most people are made better off). There really is hope.  

In this talk representatives from CCL, Guy Tanner and Ed Atkinson, will outline the policy options and their merits. They’ll include Cap & Trade, subsidising renewables and efficiency measures, divestment, Carbon Taxes and its variant the CCL policy of Carbon Fee and Dividend.  Guy and Ed will be delighted to get awkward questions on these policy issues leading to discussion in the SitP group. The science of climate change will not be covered.

 Tickets are now available behind the bar at the Elly shortly and online here.  

Fear of modern agricultural technology, especially Monsanto, GMOs and crop protection

Vance Crowe

When?
Thursday, February 16 2017 at 8:00PM

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Where?

St Andrew's Lane,
Lewes
BN7 1UW

Who?
Vance Crowe

What's the talk about?

Over the last 10,000 years agriculture has empowered civilization by lowering the percentage of individuals’ time spent procuring calories. In the last 100 years, improved farming technology has catalyzed the greatest human migration in history; allowing millions of people to leave their farms and move into cities where they can apply their time, skills and passion into other pursuits. In the last 2 decades, we have watched dramatic advancements in agricultural sciences including the growth of no-till agriculture and the adoption of genetically engineered crops- and yet, the present day is marked by fear and distrust of large scale agricultural technologies like crop protection and genetically engineered crops. Society clearly wants affordable quality food but also a better environment, to address climate change and preserve bio diversity, yet fears the very technologies that may deliver exactly that for the longer term.   

In this 45 minute talk, Vance Crowe, Monsanto’s director of Millennial Engagement will discuss the value of using technology to sustainably grow our crops, share why a former US Peace Corps/public radio/World Bank staffer would speak out on behalf of a deeply vilified company, and discuss why skepticsm and science communication is so deeply critical to helping society understand future technologies like microbials, data science, and chemistry as we attempt to provide locally adapted solutions to farmers growing the food in a competitive market.

Tickets are available online here

PLEASE NOTE DIFFERENT VENUE, WHICH IS WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE.

Beth Miller

When?
Wednesday, October 26 2016 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
Beth Miller

What's the talk about?

Four hundred years since he died, Shakespeare’s popularity is greater than ever. But whenever Beth Miller told people she was writing a book about him, she was amazed by the number who asked, ‘Who do you think really wrote the plays? ’ Scepticism about Shakespeare’s authorship, though a fringe belief, has a grip on the public imagination.

In this talk, Beth will consider some of the rival claimants (there are many), and explore the reasons why people think one of these, rather than Shakespeare, was the author of the plays. She will also discuss the undervalued skill of ‘making stuff up, ’ and how we are prone to forget its power once we leave childhood behind.

Beth’s new book, For the Love of Shakespeare, will be published by Summersdale on 13th October. Her previous non-fiction book is For the Love of the Archers (Summersdale, 2015) ; and she is also the author of two novels, When We Were Sisters and The Good Neighbour, both published by Ebury (Random House). She has a PhD in Psychology.

 

Tickets available from the bar at the Elly or online here

 

Professor John Mew

When?
Wednesday, September 21 2016 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
Professor John Mew

What's the talk about?

What is Orthotropics

Orthotropics  is based around the theory that different forms of removable appliances, along with relevant muscle training, can correct the anatomy of the oral cavity as it grows in a child. This then affects the development of the skeleton and changes the position of the teeth.  Those who offer orthotropic treatment point to non-surgical success without compromising the integrity of the jaw or teeth.  

It's controversial but gaining ground, and is the brainchild of Professor John Mew.  In this talk he'll describe how his treatment has transformed the faces - and the futures - of his patients, and why he believes that the orthodontic orthodoxy needs to change.  

About John Mew

After qualifying in 1953, John Mew studied maxilo-facial surgery, before moving to orthodontics in 1965. For many years he remained very much within the establishment becoming president of the Southern Counties Branch of the British Dental Association in 1971. He was honoured with life membership of the British Dental Association in 1999.

His surgical training at East Grinstead gave him the opportunity to study occlusal and TMD problems. He also observed the facial changes that followed the repositioning of its skeletal components; especially the Maxilla. Noticing that many facial problems appeared to have environmental origins he became interested in early facial growth and the factors which might influence it.

In 1958 he put forward the ‘Tropic Premise’ which suggested that malocclusion was a ‘Postural Deformity’ and that irregular teeth were not necessarily inherited. He became concerned that the mechanics of orthodontic treatment could be harmful to facial growth, and over the subsequent 20 years developed the concept of facial ‘Growth Guidance’ [Orthotropics®] and the ‘Biobloc’ system of treatment. At the time the establishment labelled him a maverick and applied enormous political, legal and financial pressure to prevent him from using many procedures that are now commonplace.

 

TICKETS NOW ONLINE AT 

https://www.tickettailor.com/checkout/view-event/id/64590/chk/7219

The costs and benefits of psychological research and its links with medicine

Jane Ogden

When?
Wednesday, July 20 2016 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
Jane Ogden

What's the talk about?

What's the talk about?

'Do no harm' underpins medical practice.  However sometimes medical interventions can cause complications or further illness. This talk looks at research into such topics as compliance with medication, help seeking, screening and changes in behaviour to argue that all interventions risk harm as well as delivering benefits.

Health psychology explores the links between psychology and physical health. It is possible that health psychology may have inadvertently contributed to psychological harms (eg lead times, anxiety, risk compensation, rebound effects), medical harms (eg. medication side effects, unnecessary procedures) and social harms (eg. financial costs, increased consultations rates).   Such harms may result from over medicalisation of symptoms. They may also reflect the ways in which we manage probabilities and an optimistic bias that emphasises benefit over cost.  Or they may reflect a change in the way we understand mortality and a belief that even death can be controlled, or even avoided, by the individual.

 

Bio: After completing her PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry Jane Ogden lectured first at Middlesex University then Kings College London.  She joined the University of Surrey as Professor in Health Psychology in 2005.  She teaches psychology, medical, vet, nutrition and dietician students to think more psychologically about physical health.  Her research focuses on eating behaviour and obesity management, aspects of women's health and communication.  She has published 6 books and over 170 papers.  She is also a regular contributor to the media and writes a regular column for The Conversation. 

 

Robin Ince

When?
Wednesday, June 15 2016 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
Robin Ince

What's the talk about?

Robin Ince is in doubt, and battling dogma that seems to have become a creeping disease since social media rose. What does he know? Well, find out. He may also tell you something about Brian Cox's large hadron beauty regime

 
About:
 
Robin Ince started his comedy career as a writer, working on shows including Alistair McGowan's Big Impresison, V Graham, Norton and Meet Ricky Gervais, his first of many collaborations with the Extras star.
 
Ince appeared with Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Jimmy Carr in the 2001 Edinburgh show Rubbernecker, and regularly supports Gervais on tour. He also appeared in one episode of The Office, playing interviewee Stewart Foot.
 
He's also Brian Cox's partner on Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage (which might explain the insights into his beauty regime...)

 

Tickets are now available behind the bar at the Elephant and Castle or online for a small supplementary charge.  

What are the arguments, and who will win?

Simon Hix

When?
Wednesday, May 25 2016 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
Simon Hix

What's the talk about?

This event is being hosted jointly with the Headstrong Club.

Note: tickets for this event will be on sale from behind the bar at the Elephant & Caslte from the beginning of May. They will not be available to buy online.

As the UK approaches the EU referendum the polls suggest a close race. What’s clearer though is that the vast majority of people feel woefully under-informed about the key issues. So how do we navigate our way through the issues and the, often passionate, declarations made by the different sides? Simon will explain the main political and economic claims from the Remain and Leave sides in the campaign and evaluate the evidence supporting them. He will also analyse the state of public opinion, explaining why some opinion polls are more trustworthy than others. He will look at who is likely to vote to Leave and who is likely to vote to Remain, and who are the swing voters. From this analysis he will consider who is likely to win on 23 June and what the implications might be for Britain and Europe. This talk is part of a wider initiative by the ‘UK in a Changing Europe Project’. This initiative is intended to promote high-quality and independent research into relationship between the UK and the EU. It provides non-partisan information, insights and analysis about UK-EU relations that stands aside from the politics surrounding the debate.

Simon Hix is the Harold Laski Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics, Senior Fellow on the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe programme, and a Fellow of the British Academy. Simon is one of the leading researchers, teachers, and commentators on EU politics in the UK. He has published over 100 books and articles on European, British and comparative politics. He regularly gives evidence to committees in the House of Commons and House of Lords, and has advised the Cabinet Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office under both Labour and Conservative administrations. He has held visiting professor positions at many universities, including Stanford, Berkeley, UC San Diego, Sciences Po in Paris, the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, and the Korean Institute for International Economic Policy in Seoul. In 2013, on the 40th anniversary of the UK’s membership of the EU, EurActiv.com named Simon in their list of “the 40 most influential Brits on EU policy”. He is also a local boy as he was born and grew up in Crowborough, East Sussex. You can follow him on Twitter @simonjhix.

Jon Stewart

When?
Wednesday, April 22 2015 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
Jon Stewart

What's the talk about?

Alcoholics Anonymous has become a commonly accepted and media endorsed remedy for problem drinkers. Yet while AA’s social worth is rarely challenged its efficacy rate, estimated at around 5%, appears comparable merely to that of natural spontaneous remission. Can a non-existent Higher Power really offer meaningful solutions to the debilitating and potentially fatal condition of alcoholism? If so, what do we do to help all those atheist and skeptic alcoholics?

AA’s famous 12 step programme actually evolved from the foundational precepts of a long-forgotten 1930s Christian fundamentalist mass movement, and remain entirely unchanged since first codified eighty years ago. How did this out-dated methodology become a go-to treatment option for one the great social health scourges of our age? It's half-way through the second decade in the twenty first century, and this is the best we have to offer?

Jon Stewart co-founded and played guitar for platinum-selling Britpop band Sleeper with whom he enjoyed three UK Top 10 albums and eight UK Top 40 singles. Jon has been sober since 21 August 2000, and was an active and enthusiastic member of Alcoholics Anonymous for thirteen years. He now campaigns for more up-to-date and evidence-based secular treatment options via his blog “Leaving AA & Staying Sober” at http://jonsleeper.wordpress.com

Jon lectures in popular culture and philosophy at the BIMM Institute in Brighton, and is a PhD researcher at University of Southampton. Author of a long-running column in Guitarist magazine, he has published a wide range of peer reviewed academic research in journals and edited volumes: https://bimm.academia.edu/JonathanStewart

John Gribbin

When?
Wednesday, March 11 2015 at 8:00PM

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Where?

White Hill
Lewes,
East Sussex
BN7 2DJ

Who?
John Gribbin

What's the talk about?

The Big Bang was not the beginning of time. Before the Big Bang, there was a tiny fraction of a second during which a process called inflation expanded a seed much smaller than the nucleus of an atom into a fireball the size of a basketball -- the Big Bang itself. From this fireball, he Universe as we know it developed. The origin of the seed from which the Universe began is not known with certainty, but as John Gribbin explains the most likely explanation is that it was a fluctuation of quantum energy in an eternal sea of cosmic energy. And that means that other seeds must surely have inflated to become other universes, bubbles in the cosmic sea. It is even possible that a collision between our universe and another bubble on the sea of eternity may have left an imprint on the cosmic background radiation, the echo of the Big Bang itself. 

Please note that John's ebook 'Before the Big Bang' is available on Kindle for just £1.99

John Gribbin is an award winning science writer best known for his book In Search of Schrodinger's Cat. He studied astrophysics under Fred Hoyle in Cambridge, and is now a Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.

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