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Quassim Cassam

When?
Wednesday, February 17 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Quassim Cassam

What's the talk about?

What's so great about self-knowledge? What does it matter whether you know who you really are? Is self-knowledge the key to happiness or to being true to yourself? We live in a culture in which the importance of self-knowledge is taken for granted but rarely explained. This talk by Quassim Cassam will explore the nature of self-knowledge and debunk some superficially attractive accounts of its value. Knowing yourself is important but a fresh approach to understanding its value is needed. The difficulty we face is that the most genuinely valuable types of self-knowledge are also the most challenging to acquire and the hardest to live with.

Quassim Cassam is the author of several books, including Self-Knowledge for Humans (2014). He is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick and has also taught at Oxford, Cambridge and UCL. He writes about what he calls 'substantial' self-knowledge, including knowledge of our emotions, values and character, and focuses on the effect of our cognitive imperfections on our ability to gain self-knowledge. More recently he has written about intellectual vices and the difficulty of knowing our own vices. 

http://www.self-knowledgeforhumans.com/
 
Self-Knowledge for Humans by Quassim Cassam http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199657575.do
 
Berkeley's Puzzle: What Does Experience Teach Us? by John Campbell and Quassim Cassam http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780198716259.do

 

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

When?
Wednesday, March 16 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Unit 5,
Fargo Village,
Far Gosford Street,
Coventry,
CV1 5ED

Who?
Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

What's the talk about?

The idea of Gender Identity is currently enjoying a significant amount of social, political and cultural momentum. An active and highly vocal political movement has emerged around the ideas that at least some, and possibly all, individuals possess something called a “Gender Identity”, that this is often the site of political marginalization and oppression, and that an individual’s professed Gender Identity must be respected and protected. In some cases, this is being converted into legislative changes, with laws protecting individuals from discrimination or harassment on the basis of their Gender Identity being enacted in many jurisdictions.

Especially now that this discourse is being translated into concrete policy and legislative changes, one might hope that this concept - the concept of Gender Identity - would be clearly defined and able to be easily understood. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The terminology and the ideas surrounding the notion of Gender Identity are vague, confusing and ever shifting, so that as soon as one has caught up and learned the appropriate terms and the concepts to which they refer, the rules are likely to change. Furthermore, the political discourse of Gender Identity, and the ideas and concepts that embody the political movement surrounding the notion, are riddled with inconsistencies and conceptual incoherence, which render the political debate surrounding gender politics increasingly impenetrable. In this talk, I will examine the philosophical coherence and scientific plausibility of the notion of Gender Identity, as well as the social and cultural implications of its associated identity politics.

 

Polyp

When?
Wednesday, April 20 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Unit 5,
Fargo Village,
Far Gosford Street,
Coventry,
CV1 5ED

Who?
Polyp

What's the talk about?

An illustrated exploration of controversial cartoons, and their link to human rights, free speech and censorship, by long time Manchester pen scratcher ‘Polyp’.

From Roman times through to the Charlie Hebdo revenge attack, cartoonists have always been the focus of outrage and anger. What is it about this often trivialized art form that evokes such powerful reactions?

We’ll be including a look at the story of the medium’s conflict with religion and socially accepted moral consensus, and in the discussion afterwards we’ll pull at the complex knot of what it means to be offensive. Is there a simple way to untie it?

Polyp is a full time professional cartoonist and active member of the skeptics movement. His latest project is 'thINK'- a kickstarter funded collection of cartoons ridiculing superstition, irrationality and pseudoscience.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/678551473/think-a-book-of-incendiary-cartoon-skepticism

Take a look and consider funding his 'take no prisoners' project... it's already been over 60% funded before half time.

Previous year >>

Why children are great pretenders, poor problem solvers, and sometimes less clever than crows.

Sarah Beck

When?
Wednesday, January 20 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Sarah Beck

What's the talk about?

Young children are excellent imaginers, coming up with all kinds of creative and weird worlds. But what is the imagination really for? Adults use their imaginations to solve problems, but children sometimes struggle with this. In this talk, Sarah will explore how children start to use their imaginations for creative problem solving: using examples of children’s thinking about ‘how things might have been different’ and comparing children’s tool-making to that of clever non-human animals.

Sarah Beck is Reader in Cognitive Development at the University of Birmingham. She researches children's thinking about possibility and time and questions whether adults' thinking in these areas is as sophisticated as we might like to think. She teaches an undergraduate course that compares the cognitive abilities of human children with non-human animals.

Who can predict the future, and how?

Michael Story

When?
Wednesday, December 16 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Michael Story

What's the talk about?

Since 2011, a team of 200 civilians has been predicting the future more accurately than US intelligence agencies. Formed five years ago under the auspices of IARPA (the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, informally known as 'DARPA for spies'), the Good Judgement Project's 'Superforecaster' teams have been forecasting the specifics of North Korean missile programmes, the movement of Russian troops and the longevity of Robert Mugabe, achieving a 50% lower error rate than the previous state of the art.

This talk will cover who makes these forecasts, how they are doing it, and some techniques shown to make nearly anyone more accurate when predicting the future.

Michael Story is a policy researcher and Superforecaster with the Good Judgement Project.

Daisy Christodoulou

When?
Wednesday, November 18 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Daisy Christodoulou

What's the talk about?

How do we best teach children to have a sceptical and questioning attitude? Can pupils learn everything they need to know from first principles? Are there some things they just need to take on trust? If pupils do need to depend on authority, how can we also teach them to be sceptical of authority? And what does scientific evidence have to tell us about this – how do we think and learn, and is it even possible to teach critical thinking and scepticism?

Ash Pryce

When?
Wednesday, October 21 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Ash Pryce

What's the talk about?

Hydesville. New York. 1848. The young Fox sisters begin communicating with the spirit of a murdered beggar and spiritualism is born. This interactive look at a history of talking to the dead will feature an array of magical treats including levitating tables, ectoplasm manifestation and spirit communication. Part magic show, part comedy, part rational inquiry this fun show has regularly packed venues at the Edinburgh fringe.

  • Ouija Boards
  • Spirit Slates
  • Spirit Communication
  • Stopped Pulses
  • Spewing ectoplasm
  • And more... 

 "Ash Pryce is a naturally funny guy and won't allow his audience to be bored" "Very entertaining" - edfringereview 

"Go see" - Edinburgh Skeptics 

Ash Pryce is a performer and director based in Scotland.  He has written and staged several skeptically themed shows looking at myths & legends, ghosts, psychics and mediumship as well as producing full plays ranging from Faustus to more contemporary original shows in Edinburgh.  He is the founder of Edinburgh Skeptics, the newly started History in the Pub Edinburgh, and runs what is believed to be the worlds first skeptical ghost tour every Fringe.  He lives just outside of Edinburgh with his three Degus, one of which holds a grudge against him. 

Please note. This is a skeptically themed show and not intended as an actual demonstration of mediumship or psychic abilities.

Myles Power

When?
Wednesday, September 16 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Myles Power

What's the talk about?

In the early days of the AIDS epidemic many bizarre and dangerous ideas were advanced regarding the origin of the disease and its cause. Since the discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) these conspiracy theories, which once filled the void left by the lack of information, have all but vanished. Over the past three decades HIV has been the subject of intense scientific research which has resulted in effective treatments, rapid HIV tests, and promising cures.

Yet unbelievably there are a small number of people who are sceptical of the “official story”. Although these people are small in numbers they are extremely well funded and can pose a very real threat to public health. Many have chosen to spend their money on spreading their harmful theories, defend people who have irresponsibly infected their partners, and funded the documentary House of Numbers.

The documentary encourages people to come off their medication, tells them that HIV tests don’t work, and that anti-viral drugs such as AZT are the real cause of AIDS. To do this the makers of the documentary make liberal use of out-of-context quotations from scientists interviewed for the film, deceitful editing techniques, and flat out lies. I have dedicated a large amount of time to exposing some of the more insidious claims in the documentary. In response there have been multiple Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violation claims filed against me in an attempt to silence my criticism. They also published my personal information as well as my employ contact details and promoted people to contact them.

In my talk I discuss some examples of the dangerous assertions in the documentary and explain how they have led to the death and suffering of hundreds of thousands of people. I will also talk about the failure of the DMCA and how it can be exploited by the proponents of pseudoscience.

Jon Butterworth

When?
Wednesday, August 19 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Jon Butterworth

What's the talk about?

The discovery of the Higgs boson made headlines around the world. Two scientists, Peter Higgs and François Englert, whose theories predicted its existence, shared a Nobel Prize. The discovery was the culmination of the largest experiment ever run, the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. But what really is a Higgs boson and what does it do? How was it found? And what will the LHC do next? Jon Butterworth, a leading member of the ATLAS experiment, will talk about all this and more.

Jon Butterworth is also Head of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UCL, and writes for the Guardian

When?
Wednesday, July 15 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Josh Barker

What's the talk about?

On July 21 1969 humanity achieved one of its greatest accomplishments. After 3 long days of travel Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the surface of the moon for the very first time. Or did they?

For as long as we have celebrated the Moon landing of the Apollo program, we have also disputed them. Did America truly pull off the unbelievable or was the truth an illusion that even David Copperfield would be proud of.

Josh Barker works in the Space Communications Team at the National Space Centre. After being inspired by visitors to explore the Moon Landing Conspiracy, we will explore the arguments raised against the moon landings and consider the official responses and explanations.  The merit of such discussions and exercises in critical thinking will also be considered as we investigate what could be sciences best kept secret.

John Issitt

When?
Wednesday, June 17 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
John Issitt

What's the talk about?

Rescheduled from February

"Reason given the status of omnipotence becomes a monster" said Mahatma Gandhi with the spectre of the second world war and the Holocaust in mind.

Directly and indirectly my story negotiates the limits and fortunes of Reason. It follows the best and most reasonable efforts of a group who act to a large extent in the name of, or at least with, the standard of Enlightenment Reason. It, in its own small way follows the kindling light of a certain political perspective - most notably in the form of Paine's Rights of Man - and its snuffing out by more immediate, more powerful drivers which were themselves reasons albeit of a different order.

There are important lessons to be learnt by observing the fortunes of Reason and the initial 5-year period of the French Revolution is particularly fascinating and rich. My tale in the Agents of Reason accounts the actions of a man - Jeremiah Joyce (1763-1816) who was one of a small group of radicals in 1790s London who pursued the Enlightenment aspirations of fair play and the extension of the franchise, on a claim of reason. It is not a tale of the famous and their doings, it is a tale of a working class man caught up in the action trying to do his best. It is a tale based as far as possible on the minimal historical record - minimal because it was quite simply too dangerous to keep evidence that could be used in court.

John Issitt is a writer and a part time lecturer at the University of York UK where he teaches philosophy of learning. He has taught for the Open University for 23 years and is a National Teaching Fellow. His book, Agents of Reason is available to buy.

 

When?
Wednesday, May 20 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Dr Stephen Ginn

What's the talk about?

Psychiatry is in essence the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of mental function i.e. abnormalities of thought, perceptions, emotional and purposeful behaviour.  Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in this area.

Psychiatry is one of the most controversial medical specialties.  There are a number of reasons for this, which the talk addresses.  These include:

The validity of “mental illness”.  Many psychiatrists argue that mental illnesses can be viewed as diseases like those affecting other parts of the body.  Others argue that mental illness are predominantly social rather than medical in origin, and are used for purposes of control.  Szasz famously argued that mental illnesses do not exist at all.

We may agree that mental illness is a valid concept, but how widely should this be applied?  Has shyness, for instance, become "generalized anxiety disorder".  If it has, does this matter?  Many new disorders have appeared with new editions of psychiatric classification manuals and some regard this as “medicalizing normality”.

Alongside diagnosis, psychiatric treatments also receive scrutiny. The number of prescriptions of antidepressants in England and Wales has increased in recent years.  Does this reflect the better recognition and treatment of mental disorders, or the influence of the pharmaceutical industry over doctors’ prescribing?  And do these medications actually work?   Should more talking therapies be offered instead?

Dr Stephen Ginn is a consultant psychiatrist working in North London.  He specializes in in-patient care of people with severe mental illnesses.  He blogs at www.frontierpsychiatrist.co.uk (sadly neglected, but hopefully soon to be resurrected) and tweets at @psychiatrist.  He also co-runs the Art of Psychiatry Society (www.artofpsychiatry.co.uk and @artofpsychiatry) which holds meetings to explore the shared space between psychiatry and the creative arts.

When?
Wednesday, April 15 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
The English Collective of Prostitutes

What's the talk about?

A recent survey found 5% of students are working in the sex industry to pay off debt and cover living expenses.  At the same time, unemployment, benefit cuts and sanctions, lowering wages and homelessness, are driving increasing numbers of women, mostly mothers supporting families, into the sex industry where we are being arrested, criminalised and even imprisoned. 

Sex workers who report violence can find themselves prosecuted while their attacker goes free; victims of trafficking, instead of the support they are entitled to, are treated as immigration offenders and face detention and removal.

It’s about time consenting sex was decriminalised. Find out what sex workers are doing to insist on our rights to safety, protection and justice.

being skeptical about forensic linguistics

When?
Wednesday, January 21 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Professor Tim Grant

What's the talk about?

Tim Grant will discuss the potential and limits of forensic linguistics to provide evidence to the Courts. He will look at how one forensic linguist identified the wrong woman as sex-blogger Belle de Jour and how another correctly identified JK Rowling as the author of "The Casual Vacancy." He will also explain why both analyses would provide bad evidence for the Courts. Using some case examples he will also discuss what sort of linguistic evidence could and should be admitted in Court and whether forensic linguistics is in any sense a forensic science.

Prof Tim Grant is Director of the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University where he teaches English Language linguistics. He previously lectured in forensic psychology at Leicester University. His consultancy primarily involves authorship analysis of threatening and abusive communications and he has worked in civil and criminal contexts including investigations into sexual assault, murder and terrorist offences.

Science Denialism on Climate Change, GM Foods and Nuclear Power

Mark Lynas

When?
Wednesday, December 17 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Mark Lynas

What's the talk about?

Mark Lynas is the author of several books on the environment, including High Tide, Six Degrees, and The God Species. His most recent publication, in July 2013, was the Kindle Single ebook Nuclear 2.0: Why a green future needs nuclear power. He is a frequent speaker around the world on climate change, biotechnology and nuclear power, and was climate change advisor to the President of the Maldives between 2009 and 2011. In October 2013 he was appointed a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University’s Office of International Programs at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He is also a member of the advisory board of the science advocacy group Sense About Science, and is vice-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies, which produces an annual top 10 list of the technologies with most potential to change the way we all live.