Interesting talks in a pub since September 2011.

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Have you ever been convinced of something beyond all doubt?

(Film screening)

When?
Wednesday, October 18 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Unit 7, Fargo Village
Coventry
CV1 5ED

Who?
(Film screening)

What's the talk about?

Coventry Skeptics in the Pub presents its first film screening, at Backhaus Bake & Brew in Fargo.

Many people have a strong sense that their views are right and couldn't possibly be wring. So how do we come to hold strong convictions and why is it hard to consider we could be mistaken?

Through the eyes of a group of people convinced that they knew the date for the end of the world, Right Between Your Ears explores how people believe, how we turn beliefs into certainties, and mistake them for the truth.

A stock trader with a young family, a philosophy student about to graduate, and a retail manager who became so convinced she quit her job of 18 years. Crossing the boundaries between belief, pychology and neuroscience, the film reveals how we can become convinced we're right, even when we're wrong.

And other legends of the Bomber War...

Frederick Taylor

When?
Wednesday, November 15 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

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

Who?
Frederick Taylor

What's the talk about?

 On that fatal night in November 1940, the people of Coventry were subjected by the German Luftwaffe to the most deadly and sustained bombing attack yet suffered by any British civilians. Such was the trauma inflicted on the lightly defended city - both industrial power-house and historic treasure-house - that  over the years rumours began to spread that the government had received prior information about the attack through its code-breaking team but had "sacrificed" Coventry in order to protect its sources.

 

Frederick Taylor's recent reappraisal, COVENTRY, THURSDAY 14 NOVEMBER 1940, was described by distinguished historian and Hitler biographer Sir Ian Kershaw as "easily the most authoritative study... a gripping account". His bestselling book about the destruction of the German city of Dresden also weighed up the legends as well as the facts when considering another notorious bombing raid. 

 

In his talk, Frederick will compare what were probably the two most notorious bombing raids of World War Two and bring his close knowledge of both these attacks, as well as of the wider war, to give his audience food for new thought. Aerial bombing was brutal. It aroused feelings of anger and helplessness in those it affected. Confusion, bewilderment and, especially because of wartime news censorship, a lack of reliable information caused many legends to arise in both British and German cities. These were a strange and fascinating, even unique, feature of the bomber war. 

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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.

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.