Science talks in London

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal w/@chriscfrench
Oct 22 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Ever since records began, in every known society, a substantial proportion of the population has reported unusual experiences, including seeing ghosts, feeling spiritual presence, psychic experience, near death experiences and UFO sitings, many of which could be labelled 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 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 paranormal phenomena can be fully explained with psychological reasoning.

Led by Pr. Chris French, this talk will provide an introduction to anomalistic psychology, the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience. Dr. French will attempt to provide non-paranormal explanations for these types of experiences, by applying known psychological and physical factors.

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

French has authored or co-authored over 130 articles and chapters dealing with a wide variety of subjects in psychology, his work has been published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, the British Journal of Psychology and the British Journal of Clinical Psychology.

The Irrational Ape: How Critical Thinking can save the World
Oct 27 @ 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
The Irrational Ape: How Critical Thinking can save the World @ Conway Hall

It may seem a big claim, but knowing how to think clearly and critically has literally helped save the world. In September 1983, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s early warning system showed five US missiles heading towards the country. Stanislaw Petrov knew his duty: he was to inform Moscow that nuclear war had begun so that they could launch an immediate and devastating response. Instead, he made a call to say the system was faulty. He’d assessed the situation and reasoned that an error was more likely than such a limited attack.

We may not have to save the planet from nuclear annihilation, of course, but our ability to think critically has never been more important. In a world where fake news, mistrust of experts, prejudice and ignorance all too often hold sway, we can all too easily be misled over issues such as vaccinations, climate change or conspiracy theories. We live in an era where access to all the knowledge in the world is at our fingertips, yet that also means misinformation and falsehoods can spread further and faster than ever before.

In his book The Irrational Ape, David Robert Grimes shows how we can be lured into making critical mistakes or drawing false conclusions, and how to avoid such errors. Given the power of modern science and the way that movements can unite to protest a cause via social media, we are in dangerous times. But fortunately, we can learn from our mistakes, and by critical thinking and scientific method, we can discover how to apply these techniques to everything from deciding what insurance to buy to averting global disaster.

The Irrational Ape will be available on the day.

A Skeptic’s Guide to Aliens/w @chriscfrench
Nov 4 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Are aliens really visiting our planet on a regular basis? Are people really being abducted by aliens and subjected to bizarre medical investigations? Even worse, are the aliens engaged upon a sinister cross-breeding project to produce human-alien hybrids?

This talk will cover psychological aspects of various types of alien contact claim, ranging from simple sightings of “unidentified flying objects” to alien abduction experiences. Along the way, we will review the history of UFOs within society and discuss the risks inherent in the “memory recovery” techniques employed by some ufologists.

It will be argued that all claims of alien contact can be plausibly accounted for in terms of known psychological phenomena such as sleep paralysis and false memories.