Do I need tickets?
No, you just turn up at the pub. We'll be collecting £3 from each person to help pay for the speaker's expenses.
What are you skeptical about?
Skepticism is a method rather than a position on a given topic. When I say I'm a skeptic I mean I look at the evidence for a claim rather than accepting or rejecting it without consideration. A skeptic will look at the evidence to see if it justifies belief. If it doesn't, we remain skeptical. If it does, we provisionally accept it. If the evidence shows the belief to be false, we provisionally reject it.
Modern skepticism is based in the scientific method, and skeptics are generally interested not only in weird stuff that people believe, but also in psychology (to understand the mistakes they make when they believe it), science/epistemology (because this helps you avoid believing nonsense) and statistics (because you need to use them in science to weigh the value of the evidence).
OK, so what have you provisionally rejected?
Well, anything where the evidence against a claim is significantly larger than the evidence for. Remember, we only reject claims provisionally and we maintain an open mind. If new evidence comes to light we may change our mind.
But to answer your question, the consensus amongst critical thinkers is that the following (not exhaustive) short list of ideas are almost certainly nonsense:
- Psychic powers
- Religious beliefs
- Reiki healing
- Alien abductions/visitation
- Many conspiracy theories such as "holocaust denial"
I'm a psychic/Christian/homeopath/alien abductee and I know from personal experience that you're wrong.
OK, come along to Skeptics in the Pub, bring some evidence and let's chat about it. If the evidence for outweighs the evidence against, I'll change my mind.
Why do you meet in a pub?
Pubs serve beer.
But doesn't the evidence show that alcohol is a significant danger to health?
Yes, observational studies have linked alcohol to liver damage, various forms of cancer, heart disease and many other conditions. While observational studies rate poorly as evidence when compared to controlled, randomised clinical trials, I believe the correlation is significant enough to justify belief. Though naturally, as a skeptic I am willing to change my mind in the face of new evidence.
So, why meet in a pub if you've provisionally accepted this danger to be significant?
Any decision is the result of a cost-benefit analysis. If you only look at the costs, the consideration of any proposal would result in a negative decision. The costs (health risks, price of the drink, having to get a taxi home, diminished ability to maintain an erection) have to be weighed against the benefits (perceived relaxation, reduction of social inhibitions). If the costs, in your opinion, outweigh the benefits - then don't drink; it's optional at Skeptics in the Pub.
Isn't that quite subjective?
Yes, it's a personal decision. We don't generally debate whether it's worth having a pint.
Are any of your "frequently asked questions", in reality, asked frequently?
Errr, well.... I've been asked the first two a couple of times, but I made the rest up to buff up the content. The only question I am asked frequently is "can you provide a projector/PA system" which is asked by our speakers almost every month.
Shouldn't you answer this FAQ then?
Can you provide a projector/PA system?
If you're a speaker, yes.