Sceptics in the Pub

Sceptics make embracing failure a philosophical doctrine. So how could I turn down the chance for a beer with the local ‘Sceptics in the Pub’ Meetup in my own backyard of High Wycombe?

Hosted by the amiable Paul Hargrove, the four of us had a great chat on all sorts of subjects many of which I explore here regularly – ‘black boxes’, ‘bad science’, science and religion.

One big issue we explored is where one draws the line between (a) letting people spend their money on Rapture billboards, crystals, homeopathy and other pastimes, and (b) protecting people from being misled and victimised. Sceptics don’t assert to have any ‘right answers’ so why should be deprive others of theirs that they choose to have.  One clear area is in the expropriation of ‘science’ for non-scientific stuff. It’s all very well and good if you want to pursue or promote mystical activities for your own edification or intangible benefit. But once you start to assert a ‘scientific’ principle to lend it a bit of authenticity or authority, then you have transgressed. You can’t cherry pick science. You can’t just cite some sexy sounding terms without going along with the whole double-blind, independent verifiable results thing too.

Another key consideration is how much money you take off people. If people contribute a fiver for some meteor dust and it makes them feel better, then that’s not a bad transaction. They’re probably better off than I was after spending a fiver on two pints. On the other hand, if people wipe out their life savings, that’s another thing.

Could I have had a better evening?…I doubt it.