Portsmouth SitP #3

Last night was the third meeting of Portsmouth Skeptics in the Pub, featuring a talk by Dr Tom Williamson on The Scientific Method.

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who attended, there were approx 35 people, meaning that the venue was at pretty much maximum capacity, so apologies to those at the back who didn’t get a good view of Tom’s slideshow, or my GoldKeith monster- here it is again, for those who missed out on its grotesque countenance:

im in ur branes, trollin ur nightmares

So, to the good stuff:

Tom’s talk began with an overview of the basic scientific principles such as theories, laws, predictions and experiments. He described how the research cycle works, and how questions become refined using scientific processes, into hypotheses and then into data. The creationist argument that “Evolution is only a theory” was thoroughly debunked- as he explained that scientific theories have a solid basis in empirical data and observable facts. He emphasised the cyclic aspect of research, in that failure at any point does not mean that the idea is worthless, just that it needs further revision and research in order to continue- which is basically science!

This is why I, personally, love science. It’s ever-changing and dynamic, yet not fickle or ungrounded. Scientific theories are altered as new evidence emerges, rather than being set in stone, such as religion, for example. The Bible was written during a time when the writers had no idea of concepts such as DNA or chemical reactions; they documented what they saw, and came up with reasons for it, which were fine at the time, but it is absurd that millions of people regard such an ignorant piece of literature as their guidebook for life in a century where, due to healthcare improvements, you can expect to live beyond 80, instead of barely scraping to 40 and dying a long and agonising death.

A key point of the talk was about how individuals or organisations engage in scientific misconduct, such as research fraud. Some major cases which Tom outlined were those of: Hwang Woo-suk, who co-oerced his assistant into donating her eggs for research; Dr Steinschneider, whose fraudulent research methods nearly led to a Juanita Hoyt getting away with multiple infanticide; and the infamous case of Andrew Wakefield (no longer a doctor), and if you don’t know about his wrongdoings, there are many books and papers on the subject.

There was a brief break, whilst I visually assaulted those present with my terrible photoshopping as part of the (now traditional) PSitP quiz, during which, Dr Tom Williamson PhD demonstrated his top secret new product to four volunteers, gathering vital marketing data in the process. I won’t go into any more detail about this part of the evening, as I honestly believe you should see this demonstration for yourself if and when The Skeptic Canary comes to your local SitP, and if he’s not speaking at your local SitP, then book him ASAP!

The next Portsmouth SitP will be on the 12th of May, more details here, although the venue is likely to change, so please check the website nearer to the date!

Edit: Audio of the talk is available here, in case you’re unable to attend a talk by Dr Williamson in the near future. Thanks so much to Paul Jenkins for recording this, hopefully we’ll have a better recording setup for the next time- without football commentary in the background!

One Comment on Portsmouth SitP #3

  1. toasty redhead
    May, 29th 2011 at 1:08 am

    Thank you for a great post.

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