We’re a group of free-thinking people in Bedford who like to get together in a casual atmosphere 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 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?
Non-skeptics are not only welcome, they’re actively encouraged!
Location: The North End Social Club, 60 Roff Avenue, Bedford, MK41 7TW
Ring the bell and wait to be admitted – our private room is immediately on the left.
Note: Disabled access is from the rear, car park side, under the fire escape.
Thursday 19th October 2023 at 7:30pm
Snake Oil: The Golden Age of Quackery in Britain and America
The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw a proliferation of advertised medicines and health devices – some harmless, some strange and some downright fraudulent.
From arsenic wafers to electric corsets, and from morphine-laced teething syrups to life-enhancing ‘Z-Rays’, Caroline Rance of www.thequackdoctor.com explores how patent medicine vendors attracted customers, and how medical campaigners of the day attempted to put a stop to their lucrative activities.
Thursday 16th November 2023 at 7:30pm
The Bedfordshire Onion Sheds
Bedfordshire onion sheds are a specialised type of agricultural building type, developed during the 19th-century and unique to a small area of Bedfordshire.
We will look at how local media and the public helped to identify these buildings before they disappeared and how subsequent attempts (with mixed results) were made to save some for posterity.
Along the way we will also look at the development of market gardening, including the role of European refugees during the 16th-century, transport, manure, 19th-century onion crime and Brussels Sprouts.
Mark Phillips works for Albion Archaeology based at their office at St Marys Church in Bedford. He has been working as an archaeologist in Bedfordshire since 1989, and has been involved in numerous excavations, many with interesting finds. Nowadays he specialises in historic buildings.
No event held in December
Thursday January 18th 2024 at 7:30PMThe science of weird shit: Twenty years of weird science at Goldsmiths
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.
Thursday 15th February 2024 at 7:30pm
Whooping cough vaccines: a century of good science and bad
A hundred years ago, whooping cough killed more than one in every hundred children born in Europe.
Eighty years ago, two women in Grand Rapids, Michigan, developed the vaccine that stopped it. All it took was years of working evenings and weekends, an army of volunteer healthcare workers and lab technicians funded by donations from local businesses.
Fifty years ago, their whooping cough vaccine was at the centre of a scare that ushered in the modern antivaccine movement.
The story of the whooping cough vaccine is a story of good science, bad science and of the limitations of science when applied to anything as complicated as human beings.
David Miles is an infectious disease immunologist who has worked mostly on diseases of childhood in Africa and the vaccinations that protect against them. He now lives in London and tutors on the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s online MSc course. His first popular science book, How Vaccines Work, will be published in March 2023. He is on Twitter as @Variolator.