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

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 [Bonus Talk]

Are we living in a “post-truth” world?

Joseph Uscinski
University of Miami

3 July 2024 Wednesday 19:30

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

The “Brexit” vote, as well as the election of Donald Trump, led many to speculate that we are now living in a “Post-Truth” world, a world in which our information environments are polluted with misinformation and conspiracy theories, and in which facts no longer matter to people. While this narrative helped make sense of our tumultuous politics, the evidence in its favor has been less than systematic. In this talk, Uscinski will showcase more than 60 years’ worth of survey data measuring the public’s beliefs in misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other questionable ideas from both the UK and US. He will detail what has changed over time and what has not. Are we in fact living in a post-truth world, and if so, who, or what, is to blame for the public’s epistemically questionable beliefs? What should be done about it? In providing surprising answers to these questions, Uscinski will discuss the role of the internet, social media, traditional media, and politicians in affecting the public’s beliefs.

Joseph Uscinski is Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, and is one of the foremost experts on conspiracy theories and the people who believe them. For more than a decade, he has been polling Americans about their beliefs in conspiracy theories and other dubious ideas. His research has helped to uncover why people believe in conspiracy theories, when, and to what effect. His work is currently funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Uscinski has authored more than 70 published scientific articles and chapters, many of which are highly influential and have appeared in top scientific outlets. He is the author of Conspiracy Theories: A Primer, the first textbook on conspiracy theories, now in second edition, and co-author of American Conspiracy Theories, widely considered the foundational study of modern conspiracy theories. Uscinski’s research and views have been covered extensively in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Newsweek, and Politico. He has appeared as a guest on NPR, CBS, Fox News Channel, BBC, and numerous other national and international outlets. Most recently, he appeared in HBO’s “Q: Into the Storm” documentary about QAnon. Growing up in New England, he earned his BA at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH, his MA at University of New Hampshire, and his PhD at the University of Arizona.

NB: Not our usual second Wednesday of the month.


July 2024

Chasing Empowerment:
The Hidden Cost of Wellness

Dr Alice Howarth
Science communicator and writer

31 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.

NB: Not our usual second Wednesday of the month.


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.


October 2024 [Halloween Bonus]

Monsters on the Couch – The Sequel

Dr. Brian A. Sharpless 
Licensed Psychologist and Author

16 October 2024 Wednesday 19:30

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

What’s better than watching a scary movie around Halloween?  Well, hearing a lecture on the real-life psychological disorders behind movie monsters in a nice pub, of course. Clinical psychology actually has a lot to teach us about horror – and horror movies can reveal much more than we realize about some of the fundamental fears that go along with being human. 

In this sequel to the lecture given for Halloween of 2023, Dr. Sharpless will discuss four different topics. Much of this material will be surprising. Though film fans may be well acquainted with werewolves and zombies, even many medical professions may not know much about the corresponding conditions of clinical lycanthropy and Cotard’s syndrome. Even some horror aficionados may be surprised to learn that A Nightmare on Elm Street was inspired by real-life events in 1970s Los Angeles. 

This talk will discuss what clinical psychology and psychiatry have to say about a sampling of movie monsters from the Golden Age of cinema, more modern monsters, and even some “monstrous” behaviors (e.g., necrophilia). Attendees will not only learn state-of-the-art psychological science but also gain a better understanding of history, folklore, and how Hollywood often—but not always—gets it wrong when tackling these complex topics. 

Dr. Brian A. Sharpless is a licensed psychologist and author. He received his PhD in clinical psychology and MA in philosophy from Pennsylvania State University and completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania. He has authored more than fifty professional publications including three books for Oxford University Press. His latest book, Monsters of the Couch: The Real Psychological Disorders Behind Your Favorite Horror Movies(Chicago Review Press), is currently available as well. His research interests include common and unusual psychological disorders, psychotherapy, professional issues, and the history of mental illness. He lives in the Washington, DC, area.


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

How They Hide The Truth From You

Meirion Jones
Investigative journalist

11 December 2024 Wednesday 19:30

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

Twenty years ago the Freedom of Information Act was just coming into effect. It was going to be a new dawn of open government. Hoorah! For a brief window Whitehall’s deepest secrets were on view – some of them revealed by Meirion – and then Tony Blair realised that the last thing he needed was the cat out of the bag. Find out how the Cabinet Office has managed to run a Clearing House – AKA Blocking House – concealing national and local government corruption and wrongdoing ever since. It is at its worst under Rishi Sunak but could we persuade a new government to let the sunlight in?

Meirion is best known for investigations into Bogus Bomb Detectors, Jimmy Savile, Vulture Funds and the Fake Sheikh. His stories have led to changes in the law and bad people going to jail.

Jeremy Paxman accused Meirion of exhibiting that “obsessional, slightly nutty commitment that marks out all successful investigative reporters”.


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.