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Denying Science

Dr. Steve Novella (clinical neurologist @ Yale University, Editor of Science-Based Medicine, and Host of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast) gives Students Against Pseudoscience his take on the tactics, motivations and features across various forms of science denial.

How Do People Become Superstitious?

Stuart Vyse (behavioural scientist, teacher, author of “Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition”, contributing editor for Skeptical Inquirer) gives Students Against Pseudoscience a sneak peak into a new chapter in his book as he examines the effects of socialization and learning on the acquisition of superstitious beliefs and behaviour, addressing the important question: Do superstitions help?

Fighting Misinformation

Prof. Sander van der Linden (Director, the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab), Dr. Jon Roozenbeek (Expert on the interplay between the media and our construction of identity @ the University of Cambridge) and Prof. Stephan Lewandowsky (Chair of Cognitive Psychology @ the University of Bristol) join Students Against Pseudoscience and the Cambridge University Scientific Society, tackling big questions such as:
– how misinformation persists and spreads within society
– how fake news affects our society
– what determines whether people accept scientific evidence
– how we can fight against misinformation

Why won’t they listen to us when we have the data?

Through a discussion with Shreyas, Students Against Pseudoscience‘s Speakers’ Officer, Dr. Carol Tavris (author, teacher, lecturer, Charter Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science) revisits various themes covered in her book Mistakes were Made (But Not by ME), from cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias to self-justification and recovered memory therapy.

Building Resilience Against Misinformation

Prof. John Cook (Center for Climate Change Communication @ George Mason University) introduces Students Against Pseudoscience to his FLICC framework for understanding common critical thinking errors. He discusses his research into inoculation theory, which provides a framework for stopping the spread of misinformation, and builds on decades of research in the field of behavioural psychology by applying the theory to climate change denial.

Psychology of Conspiracy
There was no recording for this event.

Conspiracy theories often manifest as unverified and unverifiable claims where simpler explanations are far more probable. They extend beyond science typically to explain significant sociopolitical events as secret plots by powerful groups with sinister intentions, thereby harming discourse and obstructing political intentions through disengagement and extremism. But importantly for us, they are also closely related to the rejection of scientific findings, stymying healthy and rational scientific discussion, impacting causes from environmental action to intentions to vaccinate. Prof. Karen Douglas (Professor of Psychology @ University of Kent) began by giving Students Against Pseudoscience a brief overview of our understanding into the beliefs, mindsets, personality traits and cognitive styles of those more prone to conspiracy ideation. She then explored at length the epistemic, existential and social motives that drive these thoughts. She made the argument that while conspiracy theories promise to satisfy important social-psychological motives, they rarely succeed in doing so.

A Critical Look at So-Called Alternative Medicine

So-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is an umbrella term for a diverse range of therapeutic and diagnostic modalities which have little in common, other than being “outside” the mainstream of medicine. Well-known examples include acupuncture, chiropractic, herbalism and homeopathy. Prof. Edzard Ernst (Professor of Complementary Medicine @ the University of Exeter, founder of three medical journals, columnist) joins Students Against Pseudoscience and The Cambridge University Biological Society as he makes the argument that for most SCAMs, there is no convincing evidence of effectiveness and that continued integration of SCAM into routine healthcare is ill-advised. He makes a strong case that many have been associated with serious risks and that only very few generate more good than harm.

The Rise of Flat Earth Belief
There was no recording for this event.

Michael Marshall (skeptical activist, freelance journalist, co-founder of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, co-host of podcast Skeptics with a K, editor of The Skeptic Magazine, Project Director at the Good Thinking Society) discusses the curious rise of perhaps the strangest modern pseudoscientific belief: the Flat Earth. He shares with Students Against Pseudoscience his experiences with the Flat Earth movement, from attending the UK’s first Flat Earth Conference to examining the ideological leaders and organisers who have brought this idea from the strangest fringes to a point where celebrities feel comfortable espousing its tenets to thousands of fans. He notes the intersection of many different, and often more pernicious, pseudoscientific movements with the new flat Earth societies.

The Pseudoscience of the Manosphere

The manosphere is a collection of blogs, forums, and online communities devoted to a wide range of men’s issues – ranging from life philosophies and gender relations to self-help around relationships and sex. Through a study of the Reddit forum r/TheRedPill, Simon Copland (freelance writer, co-editor of Green Agenda, PhD candidate in Sociology @ the Australian National University) examines how members of the manosphere use pseudoscientific theories to justify this misogyny. He provides Students Against Pseudoscience an analysis of the pseudoscience that underpins the manosphere, detailing how this shapes their ideology and the misogyny within. He makes a case that this pseudoscience provides justification for misogyny and harassment directed toward women by ‘othering’ them as inherently different to men.

The Return of Race Science
There was no recording for this event.

Angela Saini (award-winning science journalist and author) discusses her book “Superior: The Return of Race Science” with Students Against Pseudoscience, Science for the People Cambridge and The Cambridge SU’s BAME Campaign.
Named book of the year by The Guardian, The Telegraph and others, Saini delves into the dark relationship between science and racism, as well as the resurgence of “race science” in the modern world. In this event, she discussed the history of scientific racism and how genetics, biology and evolution have been maliciously misappropriated.

The Ethics of Vaccination

At a time when COVID-19 vaccines were not yet available, Prof. Julian Savulescu (holder of the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics @ the University of Oxford) explored if and when a mandatory vaccination programme can be acceptable, and made an argument to Students Against Pseudoscience that it would be premature for COVID-19 vaccines. Instead, if a voluntary programme is insufficient, a payment model could increase uptake whilst preserving autonomy.

A Discussion with Prof. Paul Offit

Students Against Pseudoscience is delighted to have invited Prof. Paul Offit (immunologist, virologist, co-inventor of the RotaTeq vaccine, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology at the Perelman School of Medicine @ the University of Pennsylvania) to share with us his insight surrounding key narratives surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2021. Specifically, we hear Prof. Offit’s perspective on how purveyors of pseudoscience have used to scare people away from vaccines, masking and social distancing into the waiting arms of bogus therapies and preventives.