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Saturday, 6 November 2010

Swansea SitP said their first words!

So we have now launched!!!!

To all of those who came I hope you had a much fun as I did if not more! And to those who couldn’t make it, see you at the next one! By my reckoning we had about 30 people turn up! everyone i spoke to seemed to have a good time and the barman even told me how good he thought it was and was looking forward to the next one! to quote him “its a really “fresh” idea!” lol!

After getting there a little early to setup with some help from @Thyrisis and @RobEarls people slowly began to trickle in. Soon the place was filling up pretty nicely! I had written a little intro to skepticism but couldn’t remember it all so I just introduced Dean who very kindly pointed out that I hadn’t given my talk, the bugger!

Dean gave a great talk on his experiences of mixing science and comedy, including a hilarious version of “why did the chicken cross the road?” that's too long for me to recount here! but it ended in “because there was a big cock on the other side!” After explaining how he got into science, how he got into comedy and his attempts trying to combine the too he talked about his experiences with the media, including certain newspapers and TV companies, and there propensity to ignore the facts, quote mine to extremes and give nutjobs a platform. He talked about his application to NHS Tayside for the position of homeopathic doctor and of his letters from science to media. Among these stories and others he drew from them lessons in critical thinking such as “just because a person is in a position of authority doesn’t mean they know what they’re on about, in fact they often don’t!”

The Q&A was pretty good with questions ranging from delving into what he does as a neuroscientist to his recent blog post where he made very clear his position on animal testing, or at least I thought so!

It was a very enjoyable night and it was great to see so many of you there!

Look forward to seeing you at the next one!

p.s. here’s Dean’s most recent application for a homeopathic position in the NHS

Friday, 22 October 2010

Darwin, God and The Meaning of Life

Today our speaker for March, Dr Steve Stewart-Williams, launched his book Darwin, God and The Meaning of Life: How Evolutionary Psychology Undermines Everything You Thought You Knew. I went along to meet him and get some free snacks! To my surprise he was about 8 feet tall, which I only noticed when he stood up out of his chair and appeared to keep on standing up past the expected amount. Intimidating as his height was, he was very welcoming. I had a good chat with him later on after he'd signed a few books. I also chatted to some of his colleagues from the psychology department, which made for some interesting discussion. Unfortunately I was too poor to afford one of his books, but I will definitely be getting a copy in the future, at which point I will track him down for his signature! It looks to be a very interesting read. I advise all of you to go out and buy it! I am very much looking forward to his talk and think it will lead to very interesting Q&A session.

On another note, it's less than 2 weeks till we launch! As you can probably tell from the countdown above come to think of it... November 4th, Monkey Bar, Dean Burnett, Nervous Laughter. Tell your friends! Look forward to seeing you all there :-)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Oh Shit! There appears to be a barrel rolling!

Ok so I've been hard at work getting a venue sorted (with a little help from Rob) and booking some speakers! :-)

We will be hosting our event at the wonderful Monkey Bar, a short walk down the road from the train station. For people travelling by car you can park in Parc Tawe by Plantasia and walk through it's all very easy to get to. We will be holding our events on the first Thursday of each month, starting from November 4th. Our first talk is by the brilliant Dean Burnett co-founder of Cardiff Skeptics in the Pub, entitled - Nervous Laughter: Promoting Neuroscience (and General Science) through Comedy. This should be brilliant, I can't wait! And our second event will be the amazing Iszi Lawrence, she will be talking about – The Experiences of An Awkward Atheist

I've seen her before and she is hilarious, wear incontinence pants because you will be pissing yourself with laughter!

Got some more great speakers lined up but more of them later ;-)

A few other things for you guys to look at

http://thewelshboyo.wordpress.com/ - rhys morgan's blog, info on #bleachgate, if you don't know what #bleachgate is read it ;-)

john dixon's guest post on jack of kent about #stupidscientology :-)

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/09/around_the_solar_system.html some amazing astronomy pictures :-D



Thursday, 16 September 2010

Myddfai Magic

So I've just trawled my way through "the oldest newspaper in Wales" the Carmarthen journal, in search of something for me to pounce on with my wolverine-like skeptical ways. But to my annoyance (and admittedly pleasure) all I found that vaguely annoyed me, was a small article on the village of Myddfai getting lottery funding to "create a sustainable business venture based on ancient local herbal traditions".

Watch out Myddfai, here come the pain!

Let's start with the headline for the article. "Funding for herbal cures is a tonic for rural village" that alone annoys me as it flat out claims that the products this company sells are cures, that they are legitimate medical treatments. Also I'm always wary of worlds like "herbal" and "ancient", "tradition" especially. These words, to a lot of people, conjure images of healthy living people, nature, and generally nice things. But to me already I have images in my head of vapid faces, telling me about the benefits of living on seeds, and blabbering on about "auras", whilst claiming that modern medicine is evil and that we should in fact trust remedies that have long since vanished, as if their age somehow gives them validity. It seems all they're selling is soaps, herbal teas and other nice smelling things, which is fine if their just being sold as those things. But if they're being marketed as having magical healing powers, then to me that's clearly fraud. Having a look at their website this seems to be the case. Under the words "Welcome to Myddfai" lays this hunk of drivel "Myddfai is a special place with a remarkable heritage – where legend and history combine in a unique blend of magic and healing."

There's no such thing as magic people, GROW UP!

Well you know how I feel about this business but the project as a whole is a little more blurry. What makes it blurry is that they will get other benefits including getting the village hall rebuilt, a visitor centre and tourist shop. These surely are good things for the village, but why do they have to commit fraud to attain them? I can't help feeling that you could get the same benefits without the superstitious nonsense. If the business of selling smelly things is unsustainable without the claims of magic then surely there must be some other business idea that would help this village prosper?

Am I being too harsh in my criticism of what is probably just some old ladies up in the hills selling tea, and will probably have no real detrimental effects? If this weren't supported by the lottery fund then I'd probably not be so annoyed by it, then it's just an issue of fraud, but since it's using money that as far as I'm aware normally goes to charities I'm a little more skeptical of it all.

Let me know what you think.


Monday, 13 September 2010

The Shape of SitP Swansea to Come

I know there are enough of you who want to get involved and I thought I should probably give you something to do. So here are four things you can have a crack at.

Find a pub:

We need a pub that's easy for people not from Swansea to find, has good parking facilities, within walking distance of a train station etc. Preferably with a function room and projector. I also think the pub shouldn't be too big so as to make our group look small and discourage anyone from coming again.

Post your findings either in the comments here or on this Facebook group discussion.

Suggestions for first talk:

For the first talk I think we need something that'll get us in the papers and maybe on the radio, a little controversy, perhaps something to do with Prince Charles or the Councillor Dixon case, etc. Something that will get us in the media, therefore increasing the amount of people likely to hear about us and hopefully come to our events.

Again suggestions below in the comments section or you can join this Facebook group discussion.

Design a logo:

I've had a little play with designing a logo but if any of you have some Photoshop skills etc. then please have a go at designing a better one. 

Email your logos to sitpwestwales@gmail.com or post them to the Facebook group.

Design a poster:

I think we need to get a poster designed to put up wherever we can to see if we can find anymore skeptics in the area. The aim of this poster is to gain the attention of existing skeptics but also to gain the attention of people who may not have previously considered themselves a skeptic but may well do so after seeing this poster, or will at least be intrigued to look into it further. We have no first event organised yet but we can still advertise what type of events we will hold, how often they will be held (once a month) and the intended atmosphere of these talks, etc.

Email your posters to sitpwestwales@gmail.com or post them to the Facebook group.

I look forward to hearing from you guys, and hopefully I'll see some of you at Cardiff SitP's first event on September 20th :-)


P.S. If anyone would like to post on this blog, email me to ask for permission and I'll give you the details you need.

Also check out the blog @Thyrisis has just started up.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

In The Beginning was the void...

So... the first post of the blog for Swansea SitP...

What to write? What tooo write?...

Well, eventually this blog will be used to report on our numerous and enlightening events. But until then I'll use it to chronicle the beginnings...

And so... in the beginning was the void, and then there was the Facebook group:

This skyrocketed to 3 members within 2 days!

Soon the email and twitter page came into being: and people flocked in their one's and two's. Before long there were 7 members on the Facebook group.

Then followed ... the WEBSITE!

By this point in the creation, the Facebook group had continued its exponential rise and now counted ten people among its faithful.

And now the blog has come into being. Who can tell what glamorous events lay in waiting?