Monday, November 9, 2015

SCIENCE IN THE MEDIA - CFI EVENT on 12th December Conway Hall (my birthday!)

This is going to be brilliant. Book your tickets now. I am presenting.

Science in the Media: Dodgy Science Reporting, Ghostbusting, and Doctor Who

Hear about the science of Doctor Who from a scientist who is also a consultant to Doctor Who's scriptwriters, find out about the credibility (scientifically and otherwise) of ghosthunting TV programme from a former ghosthunter now turned ghostbuster, and discover just how much bullshit science reporting there really is in our national press.

12th December 2015

Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4RL
Nearest tube: Holborn

10.30 Registration

11.00-12.00 Meet The Real Ghostbusters
Hayley Stevens

Welcome to the weird world of modern ghost hunting. A world inspired by reality paranormal TV shows where only the brave dare tread... but what is it that goes bump in the night? And why are the ghost hunters actually scarier that the ghosts they claim to hunt down? Join us on this whirlwind tour of the ghost hunting subculture, the nonsense that comes with it, and how it all came to be in the first place. 

Hayley Stevens is a skeptic paranormal researcher based in Wiltshire, England. Believer-turned-skeptic, with over a decade of ghost research under her belt, she is often sought for an expert opinion on weird stuff - from ghosts to monsters and fairies. Hayley has written for Skeptical inqurer, The Skeptic, Paranormal Magazine and more, and has spoken internationally about the paranormal. She blogs at

12.15-1.15 Follow the formula: the fake science behind real headlines
Michael Marshall

All too often we see stories which seem to be based on science turn out to be nothing more than marketing and PR. By highlighting and dissecting examples from the recent press Michael Marshall will show who is behind these stories, who benefits from them, and who can be said to be at fault when even legitimate science gets distorted in newspaper print.
Michael Marshall is the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and Project Director of the Good Thinking Society. His Bad PR project exposes the often-unseen influence of public relations in the mainstream media.

2.15-3.15 The Science of Doctor Who
Edward Gomez

Travelling to alien worlds is one of the regular features of Doctor Who. But how could the TARDIS travel there and what would those alien worlds really be like? During this talk I'll discuss what we currently know about the several thousand alien worlds we've discovered in the last 20 years and if any of the worlds the Doctor has travelled to look familiar.

Edward Gomez is an astronomer and education director for Las Cumbres Observatory, based at Cardiff University. He is interested in searching for asteroids which travel close to Earth, and in open access for science and education. He has been a life long fan of Doctor Who and gave science advice to the script writers for several episodes.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Class-ism - the unrecognised bigotry

Just heard the Archers by accident and was struck by the class stereotypes. It really is: 'The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, HE made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate.' ('All Things Bright and Beautiful' - a hymn of poisonous lies from beginning to end).

Of course, many middle classes now suppose it's not God that's responsible for the entrenched social hierarchy but Darwinian social selection selecting for intelligence: 'Middle class children have better genes' says former OFSTED head Chris Woodhead.

What's the biggest obstacle to entering the prestigious middle class professions: sex, race, or class? Who would find it hardest to climb that greasy pole, a black middle class male, a white middle class female, a white working class male? I would guess class is the biggest obstacle. And unjustly so. Class-ism: the bigotry that's still largely unrecognised.

If the The Archers were to pander to and entrench racial stereotypes the way it does class stereotypes, it would be off the air in a week.

P.S. I remember having to sing those lyrics at school and thinking "WTF?" Nowadays they're often omitted. But not here.... (verse 3)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


SCIENTISM: here's the final paragraph of the chapter I just finished which will appear in Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry's forthcoming tome Science Unlimited.

I have provided three illustrations of how the charge of scientism is made in a baseless and indeed irrelevant way against some critics of religious and/or supernatural beliefs. It is not difficult to find many more. In the hands of some - including many theologians - the charge of 'scientism!' has become a lazy, knee-jerk form of dismissal, much like the charge of ‘communism!’ used to be. It constitutes a form of rubbishing, allowing - in the minds of those making the charge - for criticisms to be casually brushed aside. No doubt some things really are beyond the ability of science, and perhaps even reason, to decide. But there's plenty that does lie within the remit of the scientific method, including many religious, supernatural, New Age, and other claims. However, because the mantra 'But this is beyond the ability of science to decide' has been repeated so often with respect to that sort of subject matter, it has become heavily woven into our cultural zeitgeist. People now just assume it's true for all sorts of claims for which it is not, in fact, true. The phrase has become a convenient, immunising factoid that can be wheeled out whenever a scientific threat to belief rears its head. When believers are momentarily stung into doubt, there are those who lull them back to sleep by repeating the mantra over and over. The faithful murmur back: 'Ah yes, we forgot - this is beyond the ability of science to decide.... zzzz.'

Monday, November 2, 2015

Life as 'a journey' is a hoax: short video with Alan Watts

This is great. Life as journey is 'a dreadful hoax' … Thanks to Blakeley Nixon.