Greenwich Skeptics in the Pub

Welcome to Greenwich Skeptics in the Pub!

Greenwich SitP is currently the only branch of SitP in South East London. The idea is simple: Once a month, we all meet up in a pub to hear a guest speaker and enjoy a drink or three.

The Royal Park of Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum, from the Observatory. Backdrop: the Canary Wharf business district. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Our regular meet-up spot is the Star of Greenwich (60 Old Woolwich Road, 
Greenwich, SE10 9NY), where we gather on the second Wednesday of each month, unless otherwise noted. Talks will begin at 7:30pm. Although the talks are free and open to all, we would appreciate a small contribution towards covering speakers’ expenses (suggested donation: £3).

You can find out the latest events on this website, as well as news on our Twitter (@greenwichsitp), Mastodon (@GreenwichSITP@mastodon.world) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/greenwichsitp) pages. We hope to see you at one of our informal gatherings soon!


Our Next Talk

The Psychology of Coincidences

Professor Chris French
Goldsmiths, University of London

13 March 2024 Wednesday 19:30

The Star of Greenwich
60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich – SE10 9NY

There are numerous well documented instances of coincidences occurring that seem to be so unlikely that many people are tempted into concluding that something more than the blind laws of probability is at work. In many contexts, including ostensibly precognitive dreams and so-called telephone telepathy, explanations involving paranormal abilities are invoked. This talk will address the question of whether or not it is reasonable for sceptics to explain away such instances as nothing more than “mere coincidences”. This will involve consideration of both the mathematics and the psychology of coincidences as well as addressing the issue of why coincidences have such powerful emotional impact.

Chris French is Emeritus Professor and Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a Patron of Humanists UK. He has published over 200 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics. His main current area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims. His most recent book is Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience (2014, with Anna Stone) and his next book will be The science of weird shit: Why our minds conjure the paranormal to be published by MIT Press on 19 March 2024.


April 2024

How can Psychology Help with Unsolved
(Cold Case) Investigations?

Professor Fiona Gabbert
Goldsmiths, University of London

3 April 2024 Wednesday 19:30

The Star of Greenwich
60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich – SE10 9NY

The Cold Case Investigations Team, based in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths University, examine unsolved missing person and unidentified body cases. This talk will feature a case study about a murder victim who was pulled from the North Sea 28 years ago. How can psychological techniques help uncover new investigative leads that might help identify him?

Fiona Gabbert is a Professor of Applied Psychology, and co-Director of the Cold Case Investigation Team at Goldsmiths University of London. Her research in the fields of suggestibility of memory and investigative interviewing has had an international impact on operational procedure and policy including the introduction of new evidence-based investigative interview tools and training resources to the field. Fiona and her team are currently working with the charity – Locate International – to help improve cold case investigations.

NB: This is not our usual second Wednesday of the month slot


May 2024

TBA

David Alnwick

8 May 2024 Wednesday 19:30

The Star of Greenwich
60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich – SE10 9NY

David Alnwick is an award-winning writer, actor, and magician who has toured Fringe theatre shows for over a decade. His TEDx Talk ‘Why Magic Should Frighten You,’ has been met with critical acclaim and Alnwick remains the only magician asked to present his work to the Recreational Fear Lab in Denmark for collaborative study. In addition to creating his own immersive, narrative magic experiences David also designs illusions for other magicians. 

June 2024

Phone Calls from the Dead?

Dr Callum Cooper
University of Northampton

12 June 2024 Wednesday 19:30

The Star of Greenwich
60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich – SE10 9NY

This evening in the pub shall take you on an exploration of alleged Phone Calls from the Dead. Often, they have been associated with ‘After-Death Communication’ experiences, where reports occur of deceased individuals allegedly making contact. However, unusual reports of telephone calls from living individuals and perceived ‘extra-terrestrials’ have been documented too. Cal will be presenting examples of such cases, the history, controversies, theories and more… ring, ring!

Dr Cal Cooper is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Northampton. He lectures on parapsychology, positive psychology, thanatology, sexual behaviour and social psychology. He is the author and editor of five books to date, including ‘Telephone Calls from the Dead’ and ‘Psi in Psychotherapy’ and over 100 papers and articles. He is the recipient of such awards as the Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship (2009, Parapsychology Foundation), a runner up of the Ockham’s Razor Award (The Skeptic/QEDcon, 2018), and the D. Scott Rogo Award for Media (2021, Parapsychology Foundation).

www.callumecooper.com | Twitter/X @CallumECooper


July 2024

Chasing Empowerment:
The Hidden Cost of Wellness

Dr Alice Howarth
Science communicator and writer

10 July 2024 Wednesday 19:30

The Star of Greenwich
60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich – SE10 9NY

The wellness industry is worth an estimated $4.5 trillion dollars, stretching out into the worlds of fitness, health, beauty, sleep, stress and nutrition. Promises of self-improvement permeate every element of our lives, with all manner of tips, tricks and products targeted at optimising our homes, work lives, health, and diet, often with the promise of empowerment and fulfilment. But what does wellness actually mean? In this talk Dr Alice Howarth will talk about the complex intersection between women’s empowerment and the wellness industry. She will also shine a spotlight on the pervasive influence of medical bias, a deep-seated issue that disproportionately affects women’s health and wellness choices. Discover how stereotypes and systemic imbalances and medical biases shape the wellness landscape, often driving women towards harmful trends and practices.

Dr Alice Howarth is a cancer cell biologist, science communicator, podcaster and writer. She has been part of the skeptical community for more than a decade, and is co-host of Skeptics with a K, vice president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, deputy editor of The Skeptic Magazine, co-organiser of the QED conference and co-founder of Skeptics in the Pub Online. Alice has delivered lectures on the topics of science and skepticism all over the world, written for publications such as The Guardian, and worked on numerous investigations into pseudoscientific claims. In her day job, Alice is an open research advocate for the University of Liverpool and the UK Reproducibility Network, working to make research available beyond academia. She believes that accessibility and inclusivity is crucial to how we engage with science and critical thinking.


August 2024

What is Pseudoscience?

Dr Stephen Law
University of Oxford

14 August 2024 Wednesday 19:30

The Star of Greenwich
60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich – SE10 9NY

What is Pseudoscience? How do we distinguish science from Pseudoscience? Does the key lie in falsifiability, as Popper supposed? Can it be defined? I will look at some classic attempts to pin down what pseudoscience is. I’ll reject Popper’s way of demarcating science from pseudoscience, compare pseudoscience to bullshit, and make a suggestion of my own.

Stephen Law is a philosopher now based at the University of Oxford’s Department of Continuing Education. He is the author of many books, including Believing Bullshit, The Philosophy Gym, and The Great Philosophers.


September 2024

Where do Superstitions Come From?

Professor Stuart Vyse
Psychologist and writer

11 September 2024 Wednesday 19:30

The Star of Greenwich
60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich – SE10 9NY

You say you are a skeptic, but do you touch wood for luck or avoid hotel rooms on the thirteenth floor? Would you cross the path of a black cat or step under a ladder? OK, perhaps you would, but lots of other people deploy these superstitions. Despite the dominance of science in today’s world, superstitious beliefs — both traditional and new—remain surprisingly popular. The concept of superstition has existed for millennia, and some of today’s most popular superstitions had their beginnings in ancient Babylonia. What explains their enduring appeal? Psychologist and author Stuart Vyse will try to explain it all for you — both the origins of many popular superstitions and the psychology that keeps them alive.

Stuart Vyse is a behavioral scientist, teacher, and writer. He is a contributing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, where he writes the “Behavior & Belief” column, both online and in print. His first book, Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition, won the William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association and was translated into Japanese, German, and Romanian. An updated edition was published in 2014. His 2008 book, Going Broke: Why Americans (Still) Can’t Hold On To Their Money, was an analysis of the challenges of personal debt. The first edition was translated into Chinese, and the second edition was released in September of 2018 in both paperback and audiobook formats. In 2020, he published Superstition, a volume in the Oxford University Press Very Short Introduction series. The Spanish translation, Breve historian de la superstición, was published by Alianza editorial on January 13 (!), 2022, and Chinese and Danish translations are forthcoming. His latest book, The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Rational to be Rational (Oxford, 2022), is out now in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook and has been released in Chinese by China Times (Taiwan). Vyse taught at Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, and Connecticut College, and he is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Association for Psychological Science and has achieved a 10/10 score from Room Rater.


October 2024

Things that go bump…

Dr Ciáran O’Keeffe
Buckinghamshire New University

9 October 2024 Wednesday 19:30

The Star of Greenwich
60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich – SE10 9NY

What goes bump in the night… when you’re a parapsychologist researching it in a lab… or when ghost-hunting at night… or when researching the literature with a global ghost gang… or when listening to ghost stories on a podcast… or when running around with a film crew on a paranormal tv show?

Dr O’Keeffe will give his answers to each of these contexts as he discusses his career as a parapsychologist, what it takes to scientifically investigate the unexplained, and how chasing ghosts in the lab differs from chasing them on television!

Dr Ciarán O’Keeffe is a parapsychologist and investigative psychologist who regularly provides a sceptical voice to various paranormal shows (e.g. Uncanny, The Battersea Poltergeist, Most Haunted, Jane Goldman Investigates, World’s Most Unexplained, Unexplained: Caught on Camera, etc). He has been involved in many unusual applied psychology projects: physiological effects of infrasound (at the Royal Festival Hall); ghost investigation of Hampton Court Palace; an exorcism ‘training day’; Hostage Negotiation simulations; and lie detecting for the film Spy Game. He is Head of the School of Human & Social Sciences at Buckinghamshire New University (BNU) where he is responsible for overseeing undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Psychology, Education, Social Science and Sports. His paranormal research, published and presented, has focussed on the examination of haunting experiences and testing mediums and psychics in the lab. Additional research has included psychic criminology and ‘Religious’ parapsychology (i.e. exorcism, possession, miracles, etc.). It has been reported in The Psychologist, The Times, The Independent, New Scientist, etc.


November 2024

Genes, Environment, Chance and Free (?) Will

Professor Yulia Kovas
Goldsmiths, University of London

13 November 2024 Wednesday 19:30

The Star of Greenwich
60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich – SE10 9NY

Genetics is the fastest developing field in the history of human knowledge. New insights into gene-environment-chance interplay have implications for conceptualising success and failure, praise and blame, determinism and malleability, expectation effects, added value in education and health, fairness, and (free?) will. Yet, genetic findings are poorly understood by most, including by well educated people. For example, genetic knowledge is on average low among teachers, lawyers, judges and other professionals. Poor genetic literacy can form a foundation for a system of erroneous beliefs and potentially harmful attitudes, decisions and actions. In this talk, I will describe recent genetic advances, findings from genetically informative studies in cognition, personality and behaviour, as well as research on genetic knowledge and attitudes. I will discuss promises and challenges of using genetic findings to benefit people.


December 2024

Doctored Images

Professor Kim Wade
University of Warwick

11 December 2024 Wednesday 19:30

The Star of Greenwich
60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich – SE10 9NY

In an image obsessed world, where photos can be edited at the touch of a button, it is increasingly difficult to tell what is real and what is fake. Being able to distinguish between truth and lies in photography is important, but why?

For nearly 20 years, cognitive psychologist Kim Wade has examined the impact of doctored images on memory, cognition and behaviour. Her work has shown that doctored photos and videos can lead people to develop detailed and compelling memories of entire events that never happened. In a new line of research, Wade and colleagues ask whether people have the ability to distinguish between authentic and doctored images in their daily lives. And if so, are some people better at spotting fakes than others?

Kim Wade is a Professor in Psychology at the University of Warwick. She is a cognitive psychologist specialising in autobiographical and episodic memory, best known for her research demonstrating the power of doctored images to distort memories. Kim is especially interested in the mechanisms that drive the development of false memories, and in refining the theories that explain false memory phenomena. Much of her work has implications for policymakers and professionals in legal settings (e.g., witness evidence in criminal and civil cases, police investigative techniques, “recovered” memories in the courtroom). She has served as an Associate Editor at Legal and Criminological Psychology, Executive Director of the international Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (SARMAC), and Deputy Director of Warwick’s Centre for Operational Police Research (COPR). Her research is published in many high-impact journals, and appears frequently in the media, in undergraduate texts, and in books for the educated layperson.


Greenwich SitP gratefully acknowledges the support of Goldsmiths, University of London. All views expressed are those of individual speakers and are not necessarily endorsed by Goldsmiths.