#QEDcon – random notes – Day 2

Yep its day two … I do wonder how many folks are so sleep deprived that they think the religious “conversion” on offer by the bible guy at the front door is a rather good idea right now.

First some links

  • I’ve updated yesterday’s posting with a few pics (click here) … don’t get too excited, they are fuzzy iPhone ones. I see a few folks snapping away with impressive looking devices, so I suspect some far better pics will turn up at some point. When time permits I should go back and clean up the text as well.
  • Live stream of the main conference room at #QEDCon is here http://bambuser.com/v/2458374
  • Livestream of #BHA Room at #QEDCon is here http://bambuser.com/v/2458354

Now … on with Day 2 (yea). It’s a 10am start … (er…perhaps not, it’s already 10:10 … perhaps we are going for a 10.23 start) … Anyway, they anticipated a late start would be best, but how did they know that many would stay up so late – (gasp!!, is this evidence for psychic abilities at a skeptic conference?).

First question of the day … who kidnapped the Dalek? (Yep, it has mysteriously vanished).

10:12 … room darkened, slides now playing … did a quick count, quite a few folks stayed up late.

First speaker is Edzard Ernst “Good morning fellow Homoeopaths”

  • You can be a homeopath, but you might not be very good at it (but they aren’t very good at it either)
  • He is telling us about himself and his background … his family were Homoeopaths, he has also had similar training
    • Emeritus professor at Exeter (Chair in Complementary Medicine)
    • h-Index = 73 (double of anybody else in Exeter)
  • Things he did not know before coming to Exeter – huge interest in CAM within UK
  • Pic of him with Queen “She is charming” … does not think the same for her son(I wonder why)
  • Slide with long list of AM research they conducted (it’s a long list of stuff you don’t want to know about)
  • 1,000 peer-reviewed articles published – 40 clinical trials – dozens of books – 600 lectures
    • List of trials on slide
    • “Trick or Treatment” book for public
    • Focus on Alternative and complementary Therapies – behind pay wall (ugh!) – “look for “CAM for Skeptics”
  • Blogs
    • Pulse – for GPs
    • Guardian
    • BMJ (Just started)
  • Pic of him in times – “The Quackbuster” – “If I had a £1 for every misquote …”
    • “Six years ago when Ernst left his native Austria …”!!! not 6 years and best way to insult his is to call him a native Austrian
  • Slide – list of treatments that do more good than harm
  • Some alternative treatments seem to work … BUT … far too many that don’t are promoted  (pic of Prince Charles)
    • Charles does not discuss things, he makes statements.
    • “Integrated Medicine – Is their “Disintegrated Medicine”?
  • Integrated Medicine institutions
    • Lobby for alternative medicine on the NHS
    • Pay lip service to research
  • His book: The desktop guide to CAM
    • He has a slide from 7 CAM books that list treatments … 133 treatments for cancer
    • Bogus claims in your bookshop
  • List of treatments that don’t work
    • slimming aids, detox, healing, etc…
  • Slimming aid
    • Trial …Chitsan tested and does not work … this was his first real confrontation … it went to court. He published the neg results, the manufacture did not like it
  • Pic of Dr Dixon …
    • very fond of spiritual healing and persuaded them to do a clinical trial (Spiritual healing for chronic pain
    • explaining how they tested 5 healers – used actors who looks the same as a placebo and pretend (they were told the actors had healing powers!!)
    • without or without healer … no difference (Has slide with details)
    • Cherry Picking! what about other trials? – they did a systematic review 57% were positive .. but 3 years later (with sham healers) … shown to be a placebo and nothing more
  • Talking about quack cancer cures …
    • pic of article on Rosy Daniels – wild claims for a herbal cure
  • Simon Singh …
    • BCA sued by Chiropractic
    • Have they learned anything? Nope, – shows us Canadian list  – they are still making same bogus claims
  • Detox
    • Duchy herbals – Dodgy detox – made the papers – bit of a storm – but it was declared illegal.
  • pic of Christopher Smallwood – real trouble
    • Charged by prince of Wales to do analysis on cost effectiveness of CAM in the NHS
    • Draft of Smallwood’s paper was the worst paper he had ever seen – to be deployed into hands of decision makers
      • Claimed £480 million if 10% GPs used homoeopathy was used (but you would also kill many)
    • He had a duty to prevent the worst – talked about it
    • Times article on Princes alternative treatments for the NHS – Prince of Wales was upset
    • letter from Prince of Wales to his university putting pressure to get Ernst investigated – his university treated him like dirt. He was declared innocent in the end.
  • A small survey with big consequences (he has not talked about this before)
    • Pretended to be a mother asking about MMR via e-mail
      • 104 asked … 27 withdrew they reply, 77 responses evaluated
        • 3% advised to use MMR
        • 40% advised not to use MMR
      • Published in BMJ
  • The Future
    • Hopes he is a decent scientist
    • Sows use website that claims he is a quack professor who retired in shame
    • It had been decided to have no more funding for his unit and to close it when money ran out
    • New dean appointed – a really good guy – convinced him to keep unit going
    • He is still in employment until May
  • main challenges
    • Single standard
    • Less emotions … its healthcare, not religion
    • More scientific expertise
    • Less “Royal Interventions”
  • What do we want – Evidence-based change” – when do we want it – After peer review
Joely Black ‏ @TheCharmQuark Edzard Ernst deserved a standing ovation. Repeatedly putting himself on the line for the sake of good research. #QEDCon
Marc ‏ @shiroboshi Edzard Ernst: “AltMed in the UK mostly practiced by non-medics!”#QEDCon
Martin L Poulter ‏ @mlpoulter Edzard Ernst’s phrase was “told them to go yonder and multiply”. Last bit drowned out by cheering #qedcon audience. #sexandtravel
A truly fabulous talk … my humble notes do it no justice.

BREAK: Some Administrivia from Andy … then a 10 min break. [Parting Andy quip – “When discussing Prince Charles, the ONLY font to use is Comic Sans”]

Its Ian Ridpath with “UFOs: Fact or Fantasy”

(Apologies … got caught up in conversation missed the start)

  • Ian is talking about George Adamski … showing really silly flying saucer pics … (Audience is laughing at it).
  • Cedric Allingham (who claimed he met a martin on the Scottish coast).
  • Betty and Barney Hill – telling us the famous story of their abduction. Planet Venus “followed” them … but later Betty had dreams later … apparently remembering with the aliens had done.
  • The Condon Report -66-68 scientific report “Further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified”
  • J.Allen Hynek and the UFO experience … from skeptic to believer – his book “The UFO experience”
    • This chap sparked Ian’s interest
    • He invented the classification … “close encountered of the first, second, third kind” … hence the movie in 77 … that reduced it all to a Disney attraction
  • Roswell in 47
    • Shows us paper report
    • Bits gathered … it was a balloon … and that was it for 30 years
    • The suddenly we get a series of books
    • Air Force went back … looks at records … confirms “yep, a balloon, but not a weather balloon” … but they could not admit it at the time, so a cover up to keep Russians in the dark
    • Crash Test dummies caused downed alien stories “So who are the dummies now?”
    • 95 we get the “Alien autopsy” film – lost of divergent opinion at first – later on admitted to be a hoax
  • One big change in UK – freedom of information Act
    • Interesting government docs have emerged
    • The Flying Saucer Working party set up in 1950 to look into it all – concluded it could all be explained and recommended that until better evidence, not to bother (This is what they kept secret and what they really knew)
    • Internal memo from 1995 – few people that are lightly to believe the truth that due to lack of funds they have not investigated
    • 2000 3 year study looked at 30 years of UFO reports – conclusion: it’s not aliens and can all be explained. [no signals, or artefacts … ] This was a highly secret report, not for public consumption, only a few copies for the top. —- and yet the believers still believe
  • facts and figures
    • every 15 mins somebody claims to have seen one
    • How many are really unidentified
      • majority 42% astronomical
      • Aircraft 37%
      • balloons, kites 9.6%
      • Unreliable data 2.8%
      • unexplained 8.6%
    • Believers argue this 8.6% is evidence
  • So lets take a look …
    • YouTube generation … everybody now has a camera so we can see what was seen.
    • 2007 Glowing UFO’s passing overhead
      • Yep – Chinese sky lanterns (cause of biggest upsurge)
      • We even have somebody we admits launching them from a nearby park
      • Folks reject this … “You can’t tell me what I saw” … ah but we can, we have the clip.
    • 1997 string of lights in Phoenix, Arizona (shows us clip)
      • Military range in that same direction … parachute flares where being dumped at that time … but the believers don’t accept this
    • Venus, the queen of UFOs
      • Shows us the clip from 2009 in California … of light in sky in exact position of Venus
      • As he zooms in he looses focus and you get weird effect.
      • It’s a real mistake, not a fraud
    • Heavy dependence on police sightings
      • 1967 story of two police chasing a bright light (shows us a clip of them telling us it was under control)
      • Timing makes it clear it was Venus they were chasing
    • Fireball
      • shows us 1992 clip … yep its meteor and breaks up into a cigar shape
    • Artificial satellites
      • some catch and flash sun at us … shows us a video example of one flaring up like this – you might well think it is coming towards you rapidly and then recedes again
      • www.heavens-above.come website tells you what you can see – folks look up and watch … they seen no aliens
    • Shows us Sun video of Gray cylinder
      • Yep it is the science museum solar balloon – increasingly common
      • You will always find some UFO nut to confirm it is aliens
    • Pic of UFO
      • er no, it is a bird flying when photo taken
  • Ian personally investigated the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident – UK’s most famous
    • Triggered by base commander writing letter to MOD that came to light under freedom of information act
    • Happened in east Anglia – showing us a map of the area … its near the coast (used to be front line NATO bases)
    • Shows us Orford Ness lighthouse nearby
    • 2 security guards saw light descending into nearby forest – thought it was a crash went to have a look
    • later they found what appears to be a landing area
    • 2 nights later – they came back – base commander went out with two men to investigate – saw lights
    •  Now lets take a look
      • initial security guard sighting ties up with a known meteor
      • shows us map where they went …when they went to investigate and saw lights
      • Vince, a local, explains the light  they saw through the trees was the lighthouse
      • landing site – three indentations and burns on nearby trees – police who looked said it is rabbit diggings and damage to trees was axe cuts to indicate treats ready to be harvested
      • Two nights later group, including Lt Col Halt, goes out with radiation counter (what they measured was background radiation you find anywhere). Yep, bright light flashing … we get timing from their recording … it flashed every 5 seconds … the exact same rate as the lighthouse.
    • One of the world’s greatest UFO cases … easily explained.
  • The truth
    • UFO’s are products of bad human perception
  • Go here for more info
Dean ‏ @Buster_Bear Rush of nostalgia as Ian Ridpath’s talk at #qedcon seemed to feature all the UFO books I read as a pre-teen.
Emma Jayne ‏ @EmmaJaynewithaY Loved the UFO talk with Ian Ridpath. #QEDcon
Emily B ‏ @RogueStardust UFO talk spoiler: turns out they’re unlikely to be alien sightings. How about that? ;) #QEDcon
Elizabeth Donnelly ‏ @_ElizabethD Not only are people stupid enough to mistake planets for UFOs they are stupid enough to put their stupidity on YouTube. #QEDcon


13:00 We are back … its D.J. Grothe, former magician and psychic entertainer, and also JREF president …”How to be a Bad Skeptic”

  • Telling us about the JREF latest news
    • The are starting to publish e-books … out of print and current to reach a new audience
    • To get up to speed subscribe to their podcasts
    • they run TAM … sponsored 100 people to attend … its 4 days (we are also seeing pics from TAM)
    • They are also going after the big-name psychics … for first time is TV history … they did live $1 Million dollar test live
    • Celebrate psychic Van Praagh only talks to dead people … so they (the JREF) brought some folks dressed up as zombies to talk to him … the media loved it.
    • They have started issuing free education modules to teach critical thinking
  • On with the talk [Least you wonder … DJ is being ironic in what follows – they was lots of laughter as he proceeded]
    • real title is “How to be a rad skeptic” … so think about it in these terms … “How to be a perfect skeptic” – this is the inside scoop on how to be as good a skeptic as he is
    • Realize skepticism is best used on other people!!! – since you are already a skeptic you don’t need to apply it to yourself :-)
    • Foster the “Mensa” effect … I’m a skeptic, I’m really smart, so I’m right and you are smart so you should know you are right
    • Use a purity test … use phrases like “You are not a true skeptic”
    • Refuse to empathize with the credulous … our enemies … show no mercy. Refuse to coddle the weak-minded
    • Refuse to evangelize … since we are skeptics, we don’t have any good news to spread … (It only works for cults and sects, not science and reason)
    • Eschew marketing  … social science is soft science and not hard science … and of course skepticism is above that
    • Use skepticism to arrive at the true ideology … “so you will agree with me”
    • Realize skepticism is the most effective way to advance your Marxism or libertarianism …
    • Pay no attention to the recent history of the worldwide skeptics movement – pay no attention – you don’t need to know why leading skeptics have avoided politics
    • Realize there is no meaningful difference between scepticism, atheism and humanism … pay no attention to anybody who tells you there is no difference … and so folks like Randi, is not true skeptic :-) – if you are not an atheist, you are not a true skeptic.
    • Do not aspire to become skeptifamous – we don’t need any more writers … so just consume our product
    • Realize it does not take any special expertise to advance skepticism, just ambition and a commitment to the truth –
    • make skepticism the club for your epitemological minority – skeptics of the world unite
    • Don’t be distracted in your skepticism by all this talk of diversity in the skeptics movement
    • Key Point: Do the exact opposite of all the above.
  • Q&A
Giles Wendes ‏ @gwendes – Love how freethinkers and skeptics can actually follow this blend of irony, sarcasm and truth. It’s beautiful. #QEDCon
Andy McColl ‏ @andy_mccoll – I’m developing a skepticism to the received idea that Americans don’t do irony #qedcon
Girl on the Net ‏ @girlonthenet – “It doesn’t take any special expertise to advance skepticism, just a commitment to telling people they’re wrong.” DJ Grothe at #qedcon
Arakwai, Glaws ‏ @Arakwai – Lol! –> RT @PencilBloke: DJ Groethe having difficulty enunciating with his tongue planted this deep in his cheek. #QEDcon
Hayley M Stevens ‏ @Hayleystevens – Oh gosh, nobody actually thinks D.J is being serious, do they?!#QEDcon
Matt Brown ‏ @Matttskimo – DJ Grothe pointing quite a fun mirror at some within the skeptical movement. #QEDCon
David Aaronovitch ‏ @DAaronovitch – Grothe pulled it off. Says much for him, #JREF and #QEDcon.
Girl on the Net ‏ @girlonthenet – What?! He was being ironic? *throws notes in bin* #qedcon
Rob ‏ @PencilBloke – Skeptics’ uniform? Red trousers, surely. #QEDcon
Emily B ‏ @RogueStardust – Quite liking the idea of bright orange t-shirts as a skeptic uniform.#QEDcon
Crispian Jago ‏ @Crispian_Jago – FFS don’t let stupid people join our club #QEDcon
Steven Sumpter ‏ @latentexistence – “The big bad news all of us have to face up to is that skeptics are really bad Skeptics.” – DJ Grothe #QEDCon

Another fantastic talk.

Generic Tweet

CoffeeLovingSkeptic ‏ @TPRyan007 – Recommendations for people to follow from #QEDcon:@PaulaSKirby @maryamnamazie @EdzardErnst @psweetman@Therematrix @Tannice_ @Brum_Skeptics

 BREAK: (Time for my double dose caffeine fix)

14:00 It’s the fantastic Maryam Namazie  – “Secularism, Social Cohesion and Citizenship”

  • Secularism is a pre-condition for true freedom of religion. Religion is harmful when it is part of the state
  • Religion needs to come with a health warning, it kills
  • Warsi’s message to the pope (Does he need to be convinced) – Militant secularism at its core and in its instincts is deeply intolerant and demonstrates traits similar to totalitarian states
    • That describes religion, not Secularism
    • Warsi gives example of prayer at council meeting – does not say you cannot pray, just not on public funds
    • B&B owners who ban gays – you can hold such views, you just can’t discriminate
    • Religion is like a big dog, you love it but keep it away from my kids
  • secularism is the framework that gives us an even playing field
  • Islam hangs people from cranes in city centres for being gay …
  • Dozens of Iraqi teens stones to death for their haircuts
  • 23 year old Hamza Kashgari facing execution in Saudi Arabia
  • Karzai pardons Gulnaz from 12 year prison sentence in Afghanistan to marry her rapist
  • Sharia law discriminates against woman
    • This is a human rights scandal and been denied rights … Just trivial family matters in UK? Nope it attacks basic rights.
    • Islam claims woman are inferior and emotional
  • Yemeni Cleric: testimony of woman being half that of a man
  • Religion more interested in attacking Richard Dawkins and not dealing with real issues
  • Secularism is the enemy of religion in power, not the religious
  • The claim that Secularism is intolerant …
    • we are not the ones hanging people in city centres
  • There is a right to be free from religion … to be free to criticise religion
  • Not everyone does religion is the same way
    • what happens impacts Muslims as well as non-Muslims
  • There are many Muslims who are more secular than many others in the UK
  • Secularism … when you have multiple beliefs … you must have it
  • Ban Faith Schools and Madrasas
    • showing us picture of what happens
    • they are very bad for children
    • school is supposed to level the playing field and enable children to think critically
  • The Burka is a like a prison … it should be banned, it is not just a form of clothing
  • One secular law for all
    • onelawforall.org.uk

14 March 2012: International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates



Steven Sumpter ‏ @latentexistence – Food for thought from Namazie. She believes multiculturalism has created a falsely homogeneous community which suppresses views.#QEDCon
Ian Teeling ‏ @quietman2266 – Wow, Maryam Namazie @ #QEDcon incredibly inspirarional
Matt Brown ‏ @Matttskimo –  “The right to have a religion is not the same as a right to a religious state” – Maryam Namazie #QEDCon
BenWarsop ‏ @BENWARSOP – Religion and education are antithetical – education should teach critical thinking – Maryam Namazie’s powerful talk at #QEDcon
Pauline Sweetman ‏ @psweetman – Having listened to @maryamnamazie I am more certain than ever that UK should move to disestablishment of church & to secularism#QEDcon
Claire E Smith ‏ @Clairepie – So moved by Maryam Namazie talk I’m close to tears #Qedcon. Reaching out to fellow HUMANS is what we need more of.
Martin L Poulter ‏ @mlpoulter – Sharia law overview: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia #qedcon
BenWarsop ‏ @BENWARSOP – I am so glad you are shocked, I am always shocked when people are not shocked – Maryam Namazie #QEDcon
Lee Symes ‏ @Lee_Symes “5 cases of child marriage between the age of 5 and 10 in the UK” I have no words that can express my outrage #QEDcon
stuart rubenstein ‏ @sturubenstein – Best talk at #QEDcon by Maryam Namazie. Content challenging and delivered with charm.
Martin L Poulter ‏ @mlpoulter Namazie: Men with restraining orders for violent behaviour are taking ex-wives to Sharia courts to “renegotiate” child access etc. #qedcon
Kevink ‏ @kevink75 – Good article on how sharia law works in the UK #QEDconindependent.co.uk/news/uk/home-n…


15:06  Andy is auctioning a T-Shirt (signed y all the speakers) … and it went for £75

Tonight they have “Skeptics in the Curry house”.

George Ellerby ‏ @gellerby – KINDLE USERS! You can get all of Douglas Adams’ books for £2ish today to celebrate his birthday. DO IT. #DouglasAdams60th#QEDcon #kindle

MedTek ‏ @medtek amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.htm… Hitchhikers at Amazon #QEDcon

We have a surprise 10 min slot … Colin Wright

  • Calculating distance to horizon
  • Is taking us through the maths …
  • Has just calculated the precise distance to the moon
Once you get your head around this, you can bend you will to the world. – (Click here to go to his website)

15:21 Ah what a fabulous way to end … it’s the fantastic Joe Nickell, one of the most widely respected and experienced paranormal researchers of all time. – “Investigation the Paranormal”

  • Plug for his book: Adventures in paranormal Investigation (Amazon UK link here)
  • he has been doing this for over 40 years
  • he has lessons for us … the guidance is based upon all the mistakes he has made
  • Should us pics of the stuff he has done …
    • fire walking, stigmata, undercover,
  • First big case in 1972: The Ghost at Makenzie House
    • Historic house … with all sorts of weird sounds .. footsteps when nobody was in the house – multiple witnesses. Ghostly figure seen.
    • Printing press in basement was a flat-bed … does not make that sound … next door was a publishing company … ah but no presses (You jumped to a conclusion). However, that is the source
    • Staircase in building is matched by same next door … they were hearing folks next door
    • Cleaning folks in basement next door moving carts made the printing press sound
    • The Ghost: It was a waking dream
    • Photo: we can see it’s a flash photo, its a reflection of the flash coming back
      • Ghosts only show up in pics when we get glass plates and the ability to do double exposures (In the 1860s … it was very popular)
      • Notice primary subject is off centre (to make room for 2nd image)
  • Lady getting weird images in photos
    • Asked her to bring camera and negatives
    • Took her camera and took pictures … then turned flash on … picture of camera strap as a spiralling vortex
  • Spirit percipitation
    •  Pictures of spirit guide apparently made to appear
    • The images look like ordinary photos
    • An analysis was done … tried ultraviolet, infra-red … nope … then tried argon light
    • With this evidence police warrants were obtained to arrest the fake medium
    • In the end … only got him on misdemeanour count
  • John Edward – The infamous US psychic
    • Dateline show asked Joe … he gave them an earful
    • On the show … did an apparent hit on a camera man … apparently they had talked earlier … Joe confronted him on camera … it was a great moment.
  • Camp Chesterfield
    • Joe went undercover to see if they were still doing their trickery
    • Told all who would listen about the death of his mother
    • When doing readings – he wrote “Mother will you be with me always” – apparently you had to fold these only in half (Why all folded the same way? – Joe explains the trick)
    • People were crying talking to their dead loved ones
    • Joe got a message from his mother – except at that time his mother was alive and just fine.
    • He wrote it all up and exposed them
  • Lake Monster Mysteries
    • Most sightings are from intelligent people … not stupid … treat the claimants with respect
    • So what was it … they went out with Nat Geo … Yep otters playing follow the leader gets you the humpbacked lake monster …
    • Are all lake monsters otters … nope some are beavers, or logs, or …
    • Joe also checked … lake monster sightings align with Otter populations in lakes
  • Roswell
    • Rancher in original paper story … paper, sticks etc… it was a US government spy balloon array – Joe talked to guy who ran the project to confirm it
    •  shows picture of a simulation
    • the video of the alien … from the planet latex (that’s now a matter of record)
    • Joe should Alien time line … poster of how images of aliens changes over time
  • Crop circles
    • Pic of Joe in a field doing field research in the UK
    • Looked at what happened over the years … as the media reported more, more happened … they also got more complex each season
    • Shows us one of a bicycle
    • Pics of joe faking a crop circle
  • Nazca drawings in Peru one of (Joe’s favourite project)
    • How were they done and why? Joe looked into it
    • They used a very simple procedure … knotted cord and recreated it
    • Nat Geo wanted him to make one for them … and film it … shows us the finished giant image
    • He might do another . he has figured out a really simply way
    • But Why did they do this?
      • He noted its a continuous line and the figures also have extra lines
      • The lines are in fact ritual walking paths … start one end you end up at the other end
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion
    • Shows us a pic (English case)
    • She simply fell in the fireplace
    • We can see the grate has been knocked to the left where she fell
    • Human body contains a lot of fat … the wick effect works … it’s never a big fire

And so that the end of a fantastic weekend with a fantastic talk.

16:17 Andy is on the stage now wrapping things up and issues thanks to all those that made this work so well.

16:18 Mike hall on stage giving thanks to all the speakers … and lots of others.

And we are done.

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