Skeptics in the pub

I’d known for a while that Tunbridge Wells had a Skeptics in the pub group, but had never really fancied going along, until last night. Held on the first Thursday of every month, the best way to find out about SitP is to read the wikipedia page…. and I’ll just tell you about last night.

The reason I went  was due to the speaker being Will Storr. Before I knew Will was booked, I had been emailing him about his part in producing the Tunbridge Wells Forum fanzine ‘some years ago’. Will has gone on from fanzine writing to journalism (see his bio) and has written two books; he came to talk about his recent book ‘The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science‘. The format of SitP is a talk, a break, and then a Q&A session, and the Tunbridge Wells event is held upstairs in Sankeys, seating about 40 people.

While it was good to meet Will, and put a face to an email, I did enjoy the mind-blowing talk and Q&A time. Will has encountered a wide range of people who believe quite bizarre things, although facts would seem to prove them wrong. As someone who is sceptical of surveys, I can almost see where these bizarre thoughts come from, as any facts can be manipulated to suit your thoughts… and Will has met some people who have just taken these thoughts to the extreme… So – do you believe everything you read? Is it possible that parts of history have been wrongly recorded to suit the ideas of those recording, and the truth is different? Are we lied to by politicians and medical experts to suit their own needs? Why do people hold different political views, sometimes in extremes? Have you seen the Tunbridge Wells Bigfoot roaming the Common?

I’m going to own up to not being too good at the “fellowship and social networking” aspect of the evening, but worth keeping an eye on @TWSkeptics and website if you are a critical-thinker.

(Here’s the official blurb on the evening:)

For years, journalist Will Storr has been writing about people with strange beliefs: demon hunters, UFO spotters, homeopaths and a couple who swore they’ve met the Yeti in some woods outside Ipswich. One afternoon, he was sitting at a Creationist lecture in the far north of Australia when he asked himself a question that he couldn’t even begin to answer. Why don’t facts work? The people that he had met, in his ten years of reporting, were often not stupid. Many were demonstrably intelligent. So why didn’t superior information fail to replace the inferior. Why did logic fail?

The answer was to lead him on a journey which is recounted in his new book: The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science (Picador, 2013). Along with a spectacular cast of characters – including climate skeptic Lord Christopher Monckton and controversial historian David Irving – and some of the planet’s most celebrated experts in brains and thinking, Storr finds his answer in what he calls ‘The Hero Maker’ : the collection of neural illusions by which we understand the world to be a narrative struggle which are at the centre of. We populate this narrative with heroes and with villains, and we flatter ourselves that we are the most important character in it. We are not agents of reason, but storytellers.


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