Bath Skeptical Society denounce Chaplaincy at University of Bath

Bath Skeptical Society today denounce the action of the Chaplaincy at the University of Bath who censored material being performed by students who are part of the Comedy Writing Improvisation and Performance Society (CWIPS) because it was deemed offensive to religious people.

Bath Impact reports that ‘just four hours prior to opening night the committee of CWIPS was told that a sketch involving the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed titled ‘Cooking with Christ’ should be cut. “The SU couldn’t give more of an explanation,” recalls one of the members of the committee regarding the lack of justification given for the changes being made to the show, especially on such short notice.

It became known that the Chaplaincy of the University had become involved in the decision making process of the SU. “We were told that the chaplaincy had read it and pronounced that sketch too graphic”, the committee member said, “we come under the authority of the SU, so whilst we don’t necessarily agree with what they asked us to cut we have to respect them as they are elected to their position, however the chaplaincy is not part of the SU.”

In the wake of atrocities across the globe attempting to silence the criticism or mockery of religious ideas and figures we feel that this is unacceptable. For people to be censored from mocking ideas simply for fear of offending those who are not open minded enough to accept challenges to ideas they are invested in is not compatible with a fair society, and should not be tolerated within a university. It insults not only those of us who champion freedom of speech but also the religious people whom those responsible for this decision have attempted to save from being offended.

I, on behalf of the Bath Skeptical Society have reached out today via the National Secular Society to the students who were censored in this manner to offer them the chance to perform their work, uncensored, at one of our future events in the city centre and I hope they will take up the offer.

Hayley Stevens, on behalf of the Bath Skeptical Society.

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Conscious Robots for December

You may recognise our December speaker from previous Bath Skeptics events as Joanna Bryson is sometimes in attendance at our monthly talks (even when she has no voice!)

Dr Joanna Bryson will be taking the microphone at our December event on Tuesday 6th with a talk entitled ‘The ethics on conscious robots’ that will look at whether it is possible that artifical intelligence built as artefacts by humans might themselves be considered moral subjects?  Moral patients that deserve our protection, or even moral agents that deserve credit or responsibility for their own actions? And what, if anything, would a robot’s consciousness contribute to this question?

photo of Dr Joanna Bryson

After twenty years of involvement in artificial intelligence, Joanna has come to the conclusion that the answers to these questions have less to do with technology and more to do with sceptical enquiry into the origins of our concepts of morality.

Joanna has been at Bath University since 2002 and in 2010 was made a Reader in Computer Science. We’re really excited that Joanna is going to be speaking to us on a subject that is something we’ve never explored before.

There have been a few changes to the way our events are organised – we are now trialing the use of Eventbrite to see if we can get a better head for numbers of those attending the event (something that will help us set up the room accordingly etc.) If you are thinking of coming to our December talk then please select how many free tickets you need by clicking here and we’ll see you on the night!

We’re currently organising events for 2012 so watch our event website for details of upcoming talks as they’re organised and arranged.

Also worth a mention is the fact that on November 29th the very first Bristol Bright Club is talking place and previous Bath Skeptics in the Pub speaker, Ian Walker, is on the line up! More details here.

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vampires, tattoos & robots – oh my!

The rest of the year looks very exciting for Bath Skeptics in the Pub with a whole range of different talks coming our way – not only that, but we’ve already started to plan ahead for 2012 too!

On Tuesday October 4th we have Deborah Hyde coming to talk for us about ‘Unnatural Predators’. Deborah is the acting editor of The Skeptic Magazine and also blogs as Jourdemayne. Below is a look at some of the word Deborah has done in the past on ‘The Vampires of Rhode Island’ and demonstrates how interesting her talk promises to be.

Our November speaker, Dr Matt Lodder, was recommended to us by the previous ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ groups he has spoken for. His talk will be a fascinating look at how the media perception of tattoos has been trying to convince people that tattoos are ‘not just for sailors’ for a very long time.

Matt recently wrote a brilliant piece for The Guardian outlining some of the most common myths surrounding those who are tattooed. Did you know Winston Churchill’s mum was even inked? Neither did I, which is why I can’t wait for this talk to learn about more myths surrounding body modification and tattoo art.

It’s a talk with a difference, but it’s important to remember that there are claims made in all walks of life that effect people and the way they view others, that deserve equal skepticism. Those who have tattoos will be able to relate to some of the myths Matt wrote about in The Guardian. This talk may challenge the view of tattoos you hold – it promises to be an enlightening discussion.

In December Dr Joanna Bryson, from Bath University (we ❤ local academics!) will be talking to us about the ethics of conscious robots. Learn more about Joanna on her website here.

We hope to see you on Tuesday at the usual venue (The Westgate) which has recently has a lovely refurbishment and is even cosier than it used to be. We’re busy looking for speakers for 2012 so if you have any suggestions or recommendations to do be sure to get in touch with us.

Take the mic!

We’re opening the stage up to our audience for our social event in September!

Have you ever had to bite your tongue about something so that you wouldn’t offend those around you who aren’t as skeptical of things as you are? Have you ever had a question you couldn’t openly discuss with your family because it conflicts with their beliefs?

We’ve all been there – whether the topic is religion, alt med, paranormal beliefs or political thoughts and ideas. Be silent no longer, for Bath Skeptics has a solution! We will be hosting a ‘skeptical open mic night’ where audience members can take the microphone for five to ten minutes to discuss a skeptical subject they feel passionate about, share their ideas, or to ask their questions to an open audience for feedback.

Think of it as one huge discussion about the things that matter to you with like minded people, in the relaxed atmosphere of a pub. We will confirm a date soon (our venue is currently going through a refurb and isn’t open). However, if you are interested in taking part we’d love to hear what you’d like to talk about, or what questions you’d like to open up to the audience so that we can start forming a schedule for the night.

How to create a cult…

Scientology has been in the public eye for a very long time, & much criticism has been levelled their way, the most recent being the case against Cllr. John Dixon in what was termed the ‘Stupid Scientology’ case.

Martin Poulter has been a critic of Scientology for a long time, here he explains what his talk (that he delivered to Lewes Skeptics, but will be delivering for Bath Skeptics in June) is going to be about.

Martin also recently appeared on Channel 4’s ‘4thought.tv’ in the week that marked the centenary of the birth of Scientology founder, Ron L Hubbard. Watch him here.

Don’t leave it there though! Come along on June 21st to learn more about Scientology and how there’s more to the ‘religion’ than you probably know.

“As somebody who thought she was well researched on the truth of Scientology, I once interviewed Martin about the religion and his criticism of it and I came away from the interview in a state of shock at what I had learned.
When you listen to Martin, what he says brings you a sense of discomfort that leaves you wanting to learn more. ” Hayley Stevens, Righteous Indignation Podcast

Date for your diary
Bath Skeptics in the Pub with Martin Poulter
June 21st, 7:30pm at The Westgate [details here]

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Last minute fancy dress ideas!

The date for the Bath Skeptics ‘Geek Pride Celebrations’ is fast approaching and I bet some of you haven’t even written out your Vogon inspired poems… there’s still time left though so fear not!

The biggest problem people seem to be having is finding inspiration for their Geek Pride fancy dress costumes, the best of which will win a prize, so I thought I’d piece together a blog to give those of you who are still costumeless some last minute ideas for great costumes that you can make yourself.

Of course, you could buy or hire a costume from a shop which is fair enough, but making your own is much more fun!

Arthur Dent

With just a dressing gown over some casual clothes or pyjamas you can transform yourself into the main character from ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the galaxy’.

Star Trek Costume

You can hire these from shops, but why not make your own by finding a blue, yellow or (if you’re brave enough) red long sleeved top/dress. Create your own badge using some cardboard, foil and a safety pin and you’re ready to beam up!

Tin foil hat

Follow these step by step directions to make your own tin foil hat to wear along to the quiz.

Astronaut

If you worked hard enough you could put together a really good astronaut suit from things laying around at home and the odd thing bought at the local hardware store. For a last minute costume though why not throw together a dustsuit/jump suit with some boots and an oversized headset with a mic?

Back to the Future

With a red body warmer, some sunglasses and a skate board you can transform yourself into Marty McFly from ‘Back to the Future’. Or loose the sunglasses and skateboard and throw in a backpack and baseball cap to become Ash from Pokemon.

MIB agent

A black suit with added sunglasses instantly transforms you into an agent of the ‘Men in Black’. Just be sure to refer to yourself as the first letter of your name for the whole evening for added effect.

These are just a few ideas, and although it can be tricky to work something out it can be surprising what costumes you might already have around your house. It doesn’t have to cost too much (mine cost me £9 in total from local charity shops) and it doesn’t have to look professionally made – It’s the thought that counts the most!

Remember, all money raised is going to ‘Save The Rhino’, of which Douglas Adams was a founder patron. What better charity to raise funds for on ‘International Geek Day’ and Towel Day?

A date for your diary

Bath Geek Pride Celebrations will start at 7pm on May 25th at The Westgate on West Gate Street, Bath.
The evening will include a geek pub quiz, optional fancy dress contest and Vogon Poetry Recital.

Entry is £3 with all money going to ‘Save The Rhino’.

Be there and be square!

What happens when you try to leave the church of Scientology?

“Many Sea Org volunteers find themselves with no viable options for adulthood. If they try to leave, the church presents them with a “freeloader tab” for all the coursework and counselling they have received; the bill can amount to more than $100,000.
Many of them actually pay it,
They leave, they’re ashamed of what they’ve done, they’ve got no money, no job history, they’re lost, they just disappear.
I would gladly take down the church for that one thing.”

Read the full article offering a depressing insight into the world of Scientology here.

Bath SitP, June 21st: Martin Poulter – How to start your own cult; the Scientology way. [details here]