Excercise your "skeptical" thinking in Chichester

Belinda Schwehr
Belinda Schwehr

Chichester Skeptics are back after a couple of years away – back for a series of meetings when they will be demanding evidence and debating the hot issues.

With the rise of fake news, team member Andrew Edmondson is delighted to resurrect the group.

“At a time of widespread fake news and populism, there is an even greater need to promote a skeptical way of thinking and engage the public in reasoned debate. Skeptics in the Pub does this in an entertaining way.Our new management team is working hard to find entertaining speakers on a wide range of topics, including science, belief, environment, psychology, culture, health, reasoning, politics, comedy, fake news, current affairs etc.

“Each talk is followed by a Q&A session where the audience can grill the speaker and exercise their skeptical powers.”

Events are held every third Tuesday in the month from 7.30pm at the Chichester Inn, 38 West Street, Chichester, PO19 1RP. Entry on the door is £3. The next session will be on Thursday, February 19 under the title Tackling Adult Social Care Rights and Wrongs in England 2019.

As Andrew says: “We are living in a period of ever-tighter budgets and political paralysis about what the nation needs to do if social care is to survive as part of our welfare safety net.

“Belinda Schwehr will consider people’s right to services, bust some common myths about the rules as to who gets what, and provide some useful information for relatives. Belinda has practised as a lawyer and trainer for 20 years, specialising in adults’ social care law. She has now launched CASCAIDr, a charity providing free legal advice about people’s rights to services.”

Andrew added: “I run the Chichester Humanists at the same pub and I was thinking that we really needed something extra, rather than just the Humanists. I was thinking of restarting the Chichester Skeptics and then Jon Percival came along and pipped me at the post. Jon ran it for a couple of years and then there were a couple of years when it stopped. I was not in a position to take it on, but now I can.”

The idea is that Skeptics use reason and verifiable evidence to challenge apparent truths: “The mantra is ‘Where is the evidence?’ And the moment is a really good time to be doing this. We have got fake news and populism, and there is nothing to promote a sceptical way of thinking, engaging with the public in reasoned debate. Brexit has turned into tribal warfare, but the only way is to take what is true and to argue the toss.”

As Andrew concedes, with the big, complex issues these days, that’s increasingly difficult – which is why the Chichester Skeptics will welcome in experts, hear what they have to say and then challenge them.

“What Chichester Skeptics does is promote reason in an entertaining way. It has got to grab the imagination. You don’t want to turn up and listen to someone speak in the evening if it is not entertaining. It has got to be a special speaker. And it can also be challenging. These will often be controversial things. The idea is to promote debate and not to suffer fools gladly. If we get a speaker who turns out to be speaking nonsense… well, it won’t just be any rag, tag and bob audience. If the speaker is making outrageous statements, then they will speak for 45 minutes and then there will be a break and the audience will come back at them with questions to see how they cope…”

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