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The Association for Skeptical Enquiry

Casting a critical eye over suspect science, dubious claims and bizarre beliefs


Being a Skeptical Activist

Many people from all walks of life are now actively involved in some way in what has become known as The Skeptical Movement. For some, their main level of engagement is simply learning and being informed about skepticism - reading, attending presentations, and exploring websites, about subjects of interest or concern to skeptics. Even if this is as far as you pursue your interest in skepticism, you are still participating and, so long as you are in broad agreement with the principle and aims of skepticism, as illustrated here, you can count yourself as a skeptical activist.

You may at times, like other skeptical activists, wish to go further than this - e.g. by promoting a skeptical stance on matters that are of particular concern to you; supporting campaigns; signing petitions; giving presentations or writing articles, blogs, posts and tweets on topics within your field of knowledge; donating to skeptical causes; making formal complaints about misleading and pseudo-scientific claims in the media; communicating with the media in general; and participating in the testing of individuals who claim to possess unusual abilities. If you are an ASKE member you may contribute material to this website, include publicity about your own skeptical activities.

This webpage is still under construction and is intended to provide guidance for anyone who wishes to pursue further their interest in skepticism and perhaps be a more actively participant. Thefollowing guidance is presented with UK readers in mind.

Books on skepticism

If you are new to skepticism you may want to read a general, up-to-date introduction. There is plenty of material online but you may prefer the comfort and convenience of reading offline sources.

If you click here you will find a list of popular books on modern skepticism. Three comprehensive guides that are listed there are:

The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, which is a two-volume collection of articles edited by Michael Shermer;
Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer; and
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe: How to Know What's Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake by Steven Novella.

Books authored in the UK include:

Anomalistic Psychology by Chris French; and
Why Statues Weep: The Best of the "Skeptic" edited by Wendy Grossman and Chris French.

You will find other books that specialise in topics of skeptical interest such as paranormal claims, pseudoscience an antiscience, medicine (alternative and orthodox), and conspiracy theories.

Periodicals

The UK has its own skeptical magazine The Skeptic (not to be confused with the US journal of the same name - see below) which for many years was available as a hard copy. This is now online and, may be accessed at www.skeptic.org.uk/.

There are two well established skeptical periodicals published in the USA that are of a high academic quality. One is of these is the bi-monthly Skeptical Inquirer, published by the Centre for Inquiry. There are lots of articles accessible online, but you can have the full issue mailed to you (there is a UK agent).

The Skeptic, is published by the Skeptics Society of the USA. Again, there are many online articles but you can have the full journal delivered to your address.

Skeptical societies all over the world have their own periodicals in their own language. The Australian Skeptics magazine is of course in English, and is quite substantial.

Meetings

You can develop your interest in skepticism further by attending meetings and conferences devoted to topics of skeptical interest. For a long time now, all over the UK, and in other countries, meetings have been held in pubs at which invited speakers give talks of relevance to skepticism. In fact it's a good way of learning about areas of knowledge and recent scientific developments over a wide range. You might even consider offering to give a talk yourself in your field of expertise. Anyone is welcome to come along. There is no entrance fee, but a donation of the price of a pint is encouraged. There may be a Skeptics in the Pub near you - you can check on this by clicking here. But note that currently no live meetings are held owing to the Covid 19 pandemic but weekly online meetings are now being hosted by Skeptics in the Pub Online.

In some cases you'll find that the organisers of a Skeptics in the Pub are involved in other skeptical activities and some have quite busy websites, such as the Merseyside Skeptics Society and the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society. If you are keen, you and your colleagues could consider setting up a Skeptics in the Pub in your locality - you'll be offered plenty of support.

In the UK, an annual skeptical conference is held annually in Manchester with an attendance in the hundreds. It is called QED ('Question, Answer, Explore'). Presentations covering a limitless range of areas of interests, both in the sciences and the arts, are given by international experts over one weekend. QED is organised by North West Skeptical Events Ltd (NWSE), a volunteer-owned non-profit organisation originating from a collaboration between the two skeptical societies above.

There are, of course events, that take place in other countries. One worth mentioning here (simply because it is in English) is the bi-annual European Society of Hypnosis. Further details of this can be found on this website here. For other conferences see the list on Wikipedia.

Making a complaint about dubious health claims

The media, including the internet, are full of advertisements for products and treatments that are claimed to alleviate and cure illnesses and problems despite any proper evidence that they are able to do this. They may even be dangerous. ASKE encourages members of the public to formally complain about such scams to the Advertising Standards Authority/ Committee of Advertising Practice. Guidance on how to do this may be found on the ASA/ CAP website. Over the years individuals and groups, such as the Nightingale Collaboration (see below) have been very successful at having advertisers remove misleading health claims for their products from their advertisements, promotional literature and websites. The ASA/ CAP publishes its rulings every week here.

Activities of some ASKE members

Some ASKE members are themselves very active in promoting skepticism, irrespective of their membership of ASKE. If you are a member yourself, in the section below you are free to announce any activities you are involved in that may be of interest to other members and anyone visiting this website.

Michael Heap

Michael Heap is a clinical and forensic psychologist living in Sheffield. He is Chairman and one of the founders of ASKE. He is an expert on hypnosis and has written, lectured and taught extensively on this as well as on subjects such as clinical psychology, psychiatric diagnoses, NLP, alternative medicine, and skepticism generally. For many years he has given talks in schools on 'Science and the Paranormal'.

Many of his papers are to be found on his website.

Mark Newbrook

Mark Newbrook is from Wirral, near Liverpool. He completed a BA (Honours) in Classics (including Indo-European philology) at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and a PhD in linguistics at Reading University and worked as a lecturer and researcher in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. Mark is one of the world's few identifying 'skeptical linguists' and authored the first ever survey work on the subject in a book entitled Strange Linguistics, Lincom-Europa, Munich, 2013.

A sample of his writings can be found on this website.

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Challenging misleading healthcare claims

Fed up seeing misleading healthcare claims on the Internet, in magazines, etc?

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www.nightingale-collaboration.org
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Rational Veterinary Medicine

The Rational Veterinary Medicine website (http://www.rationalvetmed.org/) is run by Niall Taylor, a veterinary surgeon in mixed practice in the south-west of England. Its main aim is to collate many of the references and clinical papers used by proponents of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, both human and veterinary. Papers are critiqued and links are provided, wherever possible, to the original papers themselves and to additional commentaries elsewhere. There are also links to relevant media articles and a number of bespoke articles on the topic.

Peter Lucey

Peter Lucey is an ASKE member and skeptic. He found skepticism while engaged with Scientology criticism in the 1990s and being referred to the old "sci,skeptic FAQ"). That led to other skeptical books and publications and it has been a "growth experience" (as they say). Peter attended the second James Randi Education Conference (JREF) and some European events, and has appeared as a skeptic on Kilroy, and even Trisha, though neither of the latter can he described as educational! Peter worked in the computer industry for 30 years and has since retired. (Open to all offers!) Now an atheist, he is interested in belief systems generally, and what makes us act on those beliefs.

Peter's website is:
http://www.peterlucey.com.

Chris French

Professor Chris French was formerly Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a Patron of UK Humanists. He has published over 150 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics. His main current area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims. His most recent book is Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience.

Find out more at:
http://profchrisfrench.com/.