Interesting talks in a pub since September 2011.

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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.

John Issitt

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

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
John Issitt

What's the talk about?

"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.

 

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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.

A cartoonist's perspective on science, psychiatry, and the economy

Darryl Cunningham

When?
Wednesday, November 19 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Darryl Cunningham

What's the talk about?

Darryl Cunningham went to Leeds College of Art and is a prolific writer and cartoonist.

'It can take other authors whole books to say what Darryl can say in a single illustration.' – Jon Ronson

He has also worked as a health care assistant on an acute psychiatric ward which informed and inspired the thoughts and experiences which went into Psychiatric Tales He lives in Yorkshire.

His book, Science Tales published by Myriad Editions, was shortlisted for Best Book, British Comics Awards 2012 and is a graphic milestone of investigative reporting. Science Tales takes on controversies surrounding climate change, electro-convulsive therapy, the moon landing, the MMR vaccine, homeopathy, chiropractic, evolution, fracking and science denialism. 

Thoroughly researched and sourced, Cunningham's clear narrative, graphic lines and photographic illustration explain complicated and controversial issues with deceptive ease and wit. Science Tales decodes the myths and lies that have shaped some of the most fiercely-debated issues of the past fifty years.

His latest book, Supercrash: How To Hijack The World Economy, takes us to the heart of free-world politics and the financial crisis of 2008, as he traces the roots of bankrupt countries to the domination of right-wing policies and the people who created them.

Clare Perryman

When?
Wednesday, October 15 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Clare Perryman

What's the talk about?

Clare Perryman is a PhD student at the university of Exeter researching climate change and adaptation. Her paper 'Adapting to a changing environment: non-obvious thresholds in multi-scale systems' was recently published by the Royal Society. In this talk she addresses the following questions:

Why is the climate changing?
Is it human-driven?
Why aren't we doing enough to prevent it?
This isn't the end game - why?

When?
Wednesday, October 1 2014 at 7:00PM

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Where?

Who?

What's the talk about?

Do you want to become more involved in Coventry Skeptics in the Pub? We are now running a monthly open board meeting and social event which everyone is welcome to attend.


The first meeting is tomorrow, Wednesday October 1st, downstairs at Drapers (formerly Browns). The open board meeting, where we discuss speakers and strategies, will begin and 7pm. The social event, where we discuss anything, will begin at 8pm. Subsequent meetings will take place on the 1st Wednesday of every month at the same times.

Coventry Skeptics has been running for 3 years now. We feel the time has come to broaden our horizons, and bring in more people with new ideas and fresh perspectives. Those with experience in design, publicity and promotion are particularly welcome.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Ongoing adventures in the world of pseudoscience

Michael Marshall

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

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Michael Marshall

What's the talk about?

 It’s easy to think of pseudoscience existing in a glass case at a museum – something to be examined and critiqued from a safe distance, but not something to touch and to play with. Using examples taken from his own personal experiences in skepticism, Michael Marshall will show what happens when you begin to crack the surface of the pseudosciences that surround us – revealing the surprising, sometimes-shocking and often-comic adventures that lie beneath.

Michael Marshall is the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and Project Director of the Good Thinking Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast. His work with the MSS has seen him organising international homeopathy protests and co-founding the popular QED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

Russell Blackford

When?
Wednesday, August 20 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Russell Blackford

What's the talk about?

 Russell Blackford, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Evolution and Technology, will discuss the possibility of new technologies that could radically change the nature of human beings or bring new kinds of intelligence into the world. In his recent book Humanity Enhanced: Genetic Choice and the Challenge for Liberal Democracies (MIT Press, 2014), he offers a cautious defence of emerging technologies such as reproductive cloning, arguing that our liberal democracies can accommodate them, and that we have tended to panic in enacting sweeping bans. His newest book, Intelligence Unbound: The Future of Uploaded and Machine Minds (co-edited with Damien Broderick; Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), contains chapters by a varied range of authors considering the even more radical prospect of machine intelligence. Dr Blackford will argue that all these possibilities should be scrutinised carefully from multiple points of view - in terms of technical feasibility as well as political and moral acceptability. Still, he suggests, many of the arguments against them advanced to date seem to exhibit irrational fear or revulsion rather than rational weighing of possibilities and consequences.

Jonny Scaramanga

When?
Wednesday, July 16 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Jonny Scaramanga

What's the talk about?

Jonny Scaramanga attended a fundamentalist Christian school in the '90s where he learned that the Loch Ness Monster disproved evolution, God disapproved of the NHS, and homosexuals were an abomination. He talks about what students learn in these schools today, how they learn it, and how skeptics can respond​


Jonny is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Education, where he is researching student experiences in Britain's 50 Accelerated Christian Education schools. He has written for the Guardian, the Times Education Supplement, New Humanist, and New Statesman. His broadcast appearances include Newsnight, the Jeremy Vine Show, Radio 4, BBC2, BBC local radio, and Channel 4's 4Thought TV. His blog, Leaving Fundamentalism, won the 2014 Ockham Award for Best Blog. You can follow @JonnyScaramanga on Twitter.

Ronald Green

When?
Wednesday, June 18 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Ronald Green

What's the talk about?

Why should nothing matter? If anything matters, why should nothing matter? And yet it does, for there isn’t anything, it seems, that nothing does not touch, or anything that does not touch nothing. History, philosophy, religion, science, art, literature, music – all look towards nothing at some point, stimulating questions that would otherwise not be asked.

Who, for example, could have believed that nothing held back progress for 600 years in the Middle Ages, all because of mistaken translation, or that nothing is a way to tackle (and answer) the perennial question “what is art?”? Ronald Green uses nothing in a genuine attempt to look at the world in a different way, to give new angles to old problems and so to stimulate new thoughts.

What is this nothing, that we can’t actually see, touch or feel? Is it absolute? Is it relative to everything else? If we are able to think about it, write and read about it, is it something, and if so wouldn’t it then not be nothing?

This is precisely the mystery of nothing – that the more we think about it, the more there is to it.

Disarmingly invisible, the point of nothing – to paraphrase Bertrand Russell on philosophy – is to start with something so simple as to seem not worth examining, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

Ronald Green is the author of “Nothing Matters – a book about nothing” (iff-Books). Philosopher, linguist, university lecturer and ESL teacher, with 13 ESL books published, Ronald has lectured and given workshops in Europe, North and South America and the Middle East on linguistics, ESL and the use of the Internet in education. His short stories have been published in Nuvein magazine, Tryst, Aesthetica, the Sink and Unholy Biscuit. He has completed a philosophical novel and co-authored a psychological thriller with strong philosophical underpinnings. For the past five years he has been thinking seriously about nothing, culminating in his recently-published book.

Lifer on the Loose

Ben Gunn - Prisoner Ben

When?
Wednesday, May 21 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Ben Gunn - Prisoner Ben

What's the talk about?

What’s prison for and what does it do, punishment, protection or preparation for life on the loose? Having spent almost all of his adult life behind bars, Ben uses his experience and intellect to bring us unique insights into the workings of the penal system.

The Times said of him, "one of Britain's best known prisoners...he constantly questions authority and exposes the futility of the system". Ben was finally released from prison after 32 years in August 2012 after pleading guilty to the murder of a friend when he was 14 years old. He renounced violence and fought for the recognition of the inherent dignity of all human beings. As a result he served far longer than the recommended 10 years, leading Education Secretary Michael Gove to argue that he had “…been punished excessively for a crime committed as a child".

One of the more intellectual of prisoner-campaigners, Ben chose to educate himself from a schoolboy level to having both undergraduate and post graduate degrees. He is currently one of very few prisoners in Britain ever to attempt a Doctorate. Ben's speciality is non-violent action and the Human Needs Theory. Now on Life Licence he is forging a career as a CJ policy consultant, writer and - as ever - campaigner.

Simon Singh

When?
Monday, April 14 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Simon Singh

What's the talk about?

<p>You may have watched hundreds of episodes of The Simpsons (and its sister show, Futurama) without ever realizing that cleverly embedded in many plots are subtle references to mathematics, ranging from well-known equations to cutting-edge theorems and conjectures. That they exist, Simon Singh reveals, underscores the brilliance of the shows&rsquo; writers, many of whom have advanced degrees in mathematics in addition to their unparalleled senses of humour.

http://www.simonsingh.net

Kenan Malik

When?
Wednesday, March 19 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Kenan Malik

What's the talk about?

Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster, a presenter of BBC Radio 4's Analysis, a panelist on The Moral Maze. His last book From Fatwa to Jihad was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. Coming soon are two new books, Multiculturalism and its Discontents, out this autumn, and The Quest for a Moral Compass, to be published in 2014.

http://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/a-little-introduction/

Martin Taylor

When?
Wednesday, February 19 2014 at 7:30PM

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Where?

24 Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JU

Who?
Martin Taylor

What's the talk about?

Recently psychologists have dramatically revised their ideas about how hypnosis works, and the modern theory is that of social compliance. Broadly, this means that there is no altered state when you are hypnotised – no trance, no sleep, and nothing mysterious at all. Hypnosis simply works because the subjects believe it will. Martin Taylor a stage hypnotist for over fifteen years and lectures on hypnotism without hypnosis and the psychology of suggestion.