Bedford Skeptics in the Pub

We’re a group of free-thinking people in Bedford who like getting together in a pub to have a few drinks and talk about interesting things. 

Each month, we find a speaker – typically a scientist or prominent skeptic who will speak for around 40 minutes.  The subjects of the talks vary, but they will typically be about a common belief that either cannot be justified by the available evidence, or that can actually be demonstrated to be false by the available evidence – or else something that is just plain interesting or contentious.

Examples of subjects we have already covered are: Electric cars, Hypnotism, Fracking, The Alpha Course, Prostitution, Policing, Spin in Lobbying, Futurology, Academy Schools, Income Inequality and a whole lot more to come.

The talk is followed by a chance to question the speaker yourself, or just relax over a drink and listen to what people have to say.

Meetings are usually on the third Thursday of the month. Arrive at 7:00pm for a 7:30 start. Why not come along and join in? 

There is no membership – just turn up. Non-skeptics are not only welcome, they’re actively encouraged!

Location: The North End Social Club, 60 Roff Avenue, Bedford, MK41 7TW


Events

Thursday, 16th February at 7:30pm

Rebel Cell: A New View of an Old Disease with Dr Kat Arney

Many of us think of cancer as a contemporary killer caused by our modern lifestyles. But that’s not true. Cancer has always been with us. It killed our ancient ancestors, the mammals they evolved from and the dinosaurs that trampled the ground before that. Why? Because cancer is a bug in the system of life. Kat Arney takes us to the dawn of life on planet earth right up to the present day to get to the heart of what cancer really is and how by better understanding its evolutionary journey we might one day overcome it.

Dr Kat Arney is an award-winning science writer, broadcaster and public speaker, and is the founder and creative director of First Create The Media.

Her latest book is Rebel Cell: Cancer, evolution and the science of life. Kat was a key part of the science communications team at Cancer Research UK for more than a decade, co-founding the charity’s award-winning Science Blog and acting as a principal media spokesperson.

Kat also presents the popular Genetics Unzipped podcast for The Genetics Society and has fronted several BBC Radio 4 science documentaries including the recent series Ingenious, looking at the stories behind our genes.


Thursday, March 16th 2023 at 7:30PM

Drop The Dead Donkey: Are the benefits of the traditional Chinese medicine e’jiao too good to be true? with Dr Heather Maggs

Wrinkles! Bleeding/Childbirth! Erectile dysfunction! Cancer! The reduction of nitrous oxide in the blood!
“When you’re just feeling a bit shit!”

Sceptical already?

E’jiao, made from boiling donkey skins to form a collagen-based TCM, has been used in China for over three millennia by emperors and their elites. Clever marketing over the past 30+ years is generating increasing demand for this multi-therapeutic TCM, which is threatening global donkey populations as well as aiding and abetting illegal trafficking in pangolin scales, ivory and tiger bones – to name just a
few.

If you find this difficult to believe, Heather will share some of the results from both her recent doctorate and her sponsor, the Donkey Sanctuary. Please note, her presentation will contain images that some people may find distressing.

Dr. Heather Maggs is a local lass and registered veterinary nurse (RVN), Heather has a passionate and lifelong interest in animal welfare.

She has just completed a PhD by papers at the University of Reading, researching the value of donkeys in underpinning the livelihoods of poor rural farming communities in northern Ghana. Her three peer-reviewed papers focus on the study’s over-arching results, livelihoods and incomes and how children view and work with their donkeys.


Thursday, April 20th 2023 at 7:30PM

The Life & Legacy of George Peabody with Christine Wagg

Born into a poor family in Massachusetts, George Peabody moved to London established himself as a successful banker. In his old age, Peabody won worldwide acclaim for his philanthropy. He founded the Peabody Trust in Britain, providing housing for the poor. The Peabody Trust continues his work to this day.


Christine will outline the life and achievements of George Peabody, the history of the trust and some of the notable properties it owns.

Christine Wagg is the Peabody Trust’s historian and has a background in property law.


Thursday, May 18th 2023 at 7:30PM

Designing A City with Tony Mackay

As Assistant Chief Architect at the Milton Keynes Development Corporation, Tony Mackay was responsible for the design of commercial, leisure and housing projects from inception to completion for over a decade.

In his talk, Tony will explain the design and execution of the Milton Keynes masterplan as well as his experiences in shaping the design of the new Chinese city of Songjiang near Shanghai.

Tony is also an artist having exhibited in London, Copenhagen, Liverpool and Shanghai and a founder of the Eagle Gallery, Bedford.


Thursday, June 15th 2023 at 7:30PM

Why Everything We Knew About Safety Was Wrong: Medical metaphors to make sense of confounding findings with Kate Carpenter

What can stroke treatment teach us about motorway management?

How is car design like clinical drug trials?

What do junction designs have in common with drug prescribing?

Kate Carpenter is a specialist in operational road safety – that is the safety of people using and working on our roads. She has given evidence to Transport Select Committee.

She makes the case for how evidence based road safety must understand and respect the most unpredictable component in the road system: the human (or what collision investigators call “the nut that holds the steering wheel”!)

Kate will share some of what she’s learnt in 35 years in road design and safety and hopes to combine entertainment and enlightenment (and sacrifice a few sacred cows along the way).


Thursday, July 20th 2023 at 7:30PM

The science of weird shit: Twenty years of weird science at Goldsmiths with Prof. Chris French

Following his retirement in October 2020, Emeritus Professor Chris French reflects on the work of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, founded in the year 2000.

Ever since records began, in every known society, a substantial proportion of the population has reported unusual experiences many of which we would today label as “paranormal”. Opinion polls show that the majority of the general public accepts that paranormal phenomena do occur.

Such widespread experience of and belief in the paranormal can only mean one of two things. Either the paranormal is real, in which case this should be accepted by the wider scientific community which currently rejects such claims; or else belief in and experience of ostensibly paranormal phenomena can be fully explained in terms of psychological factors.

This presentation will provide an introduction to the sub-discipline of anomalistic psychology, which may be defined as the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience in an attempt to provide non-paranormal explanations in terms of known psychological and physical factors.

This approach will be illustrated with examples relating to a range of ostensibly paranormal phenomena.

Chris French is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is also Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and a Patron of the British Humanist Association.

He is a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 150 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He writes for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine. His most recent books are Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke (2012, Palgrave Macmillan), and Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience, co-authored with Anna Stone (2014, Palgrave Macmillan). His next book, to be published by MIT Press in 2024, will be The Science of Weird Shit.