New Site

Announcing the launch of!

I’ve decided to split all the triathlon/racing blog posts away from this website, and keep it more a personal website with a few blog posts, rather than having regular sporting updates on it. So old posts should already by redirected to their new homes at, and new race reports and other triathlon thoughts will start to appear there.

Here on, I will keep my CV and the other more general or sciencey type thoughts that used to be here before all that sport took over.

Save the UCLU Garage Theatre Workshop

Save your student theatre

Save your student theatre

During my time at UCL as an undergraduate, I was lucky enough to be involved with a fine bunch of people; the UCLU Stage Crew society. These ladies and gents use their spare time to help other students put on shows; musicals, dramas, fashion shows, jazz concerts, opera, bongos(!). You name it, they’ve assisted with it.

They also run a small ~70 seater theatre on the ground floor of the one of the college buildings, the UCLU Garage Theatre Workshop. And by run, I mean everything from the year’s budget to keeping the backstage toilet clean and functional. It sounds like great fun, and it was, but now this is under threat from UCL.

The college, somewhat reasonably, would like to renovate the space. However they are refusing to replace what they are taking with an alternative space.

I think this would be a great shame, because as well as being immense fun, I think the theatre is a very valuable asset to the university and student body. I can say with certainty that I would not be the person am I today, in the position that I am in,  had that theatre not existed. And I can point to dozens, if not hundreds, who could say the same.

A few benefits are obvious: having a place to perform, try out small-scale projects and get your work seen by an audience without using the college’s larger (and more expensive) Bloomsbury Theatre is a benefit in its own right. But actually, aside from the considerable artistic merit and cultural benefit, working on a theatre project gives students the opportunity to learn many skills that are missed by an academic education.

On a personal level, I believe I developed many skills whilst working in the Garage:

  • speaking and performing develop self-confidence and public speaking, something directly related to giving talks or presenting in an academic context
  • teamwork is a vital skill for putting on a production, between designers, technicians, cast members, musicians and the director. Having a concrete example of working in a team to achieve a goal is invaluable to employers.
  • leadership goes hand-in-hand with teamwork, and being given a role of responsibility such as Garage Theatre Manager or Technical Manager is a good way to gain managerial experience as an undergraduate.
  • committee work is a strong component of running the theatre; allocating time, money and people to productions were all decided by committee.
  • personal organisation is key when running a theatre or rehearsing a show in your spare time, whilst also concentrating on a degree course.
  • budget management for shows in the Garage is important as the shows are often on a very restricted budget
  • bidding for funding is important for all clubs and societies, but the Garage has been traditionally successful in applying for extra funding for equipment, and this sort of ‘writing to persuade’ is very important in many jobs and even in getting a job, so honing it at the student union can only be a good thing.

These are some of my personal and less obvious ways I think a student theatre helps develop the skills and further the education of the student body. There are probably many others that I’ve missed. But I do think that a university should encourage students to gain all of these skills and that being involved in the Garage is brilliant way to do that.

The facebook page is doing a good job of collating videos and pictures of the Garage in action and I hope they can put together a persuasive case to the College and also persuade UCLU to give the campaign their full support. It has already gone out in the all student email, so I am hopeful that the union will be able to lobby the College too.

Get Britain Cycling debate in Parliament

The ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report by the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group has secured a debate in the House of Commons on the 2nd September. Having previously written to my MP, Frank Dobson, about cycle safety and received a lukewarm response, I’ve decided to try again.

My letter, which is a personalised version of the one British Cycling provide, is below. I shall update with a response, if I get one.

Dear Mr Dobson,

You may recall that I wrote to you back in November last year to draw your attention to The Times newspaper’s cycle safety campaign ’Cities fit for Cycling’. Following this campaign and the ’Get Britain Cycling’ report recently released by the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, there will be now be a debate in the Main Chamber on the first day after the summer recess, 2nd September between 7 and 10pm. As one of your constituents I urge you to attend.

We are lucky to live in one of the better areas in London for cycle infrastructure but even with this there is still work to be done, as the recent death of a cyclist in Holborn shows. In your previous letter to me you referenced cyclists jumping red lights. I understand that this is a nuisance for many, but this is no reason not to help the vast majority of law-abiding cyclists to have more space and safer routes.

Cycling has enormous potential benefits, for our health, our economy, our environment and our quality of life. Now is an ideal time to start realising those benefits, with interest and participation in cycling at an all-time high following Britain’s Olympic and Tour de France successes. The Times’ ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ campaign has also galvanised support for better conditions for cycling; nearly 70,000 people have signed the e-petition and the report has received support from David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, Sir Dave Brailsford, Sir Richard Branson, Lord Sugar and Edmund King.

To date, there has been no clear announcement on the Government’s plan for cycling and this is a chance to demonstrate that Parliament understands the countries need for political leadership to make cycling all it can be in this country. This report sets out a clear action plan and has received near unanimous support.

The ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report recommends an increase cycle use from less than 2 per cent of journeys in 2011, to 10 per cent of all journeys in 2025, and 25 per cent by 2050. Around the country communities are looking for leadership on this issue and to be effective the next steps must be led from the very top.

Key priorities from the report include:

  • Ensuring that cycling is designed into all future roads, junctions and relevant transport policies
  • 20mph speed limits in urban areas and lower speed limits on many rural roads
  • All children to be given the chance to learn the skills of road cycling, at primary and secondary school
  • Government funding on cycling to be £10 per head of the population

I hope to see your contribution to the debate, ensuring the cycling boom in London can will continue and improve life in the capital for all.

EDIT: Just found this Research Briefing Note on UK road cycling by the House of Commons Library. It contains a breakdown of cycling injuries by constituency. I wish I’d pointed this out to Mr Dobson in the letter, as our constituency does not come out well from this.

UPDATE 25/08: Yesterday, 24th August, I received a response from Frank Dobson, which is below:

Thank you for your recent letter about cycling safety.


There have been many well reported cycling fatalities on London’s roads of late, including the fatal accident on Holborn some weeks ago. Irrespective of whether of not the extra reporting of these deaths reflects an actual increase in the number of accidents, it is clear that more must be done to improve road safety for cyclists, as well as for other road users.


Whilst it is undoubtedly true that we were already some way behind the safety standards of some other Europeans[sic] nations, I feel that part of the problem may also lie in the confused cycling policies that have been introduced by the Mayor of London who has done little to improve cycler[sic] safety. Many of his policies are actually having the opposite effect.


The introduction of the Cycle Superhighways, for instance, has encouraged cyclists onto dangerous and busy roads, with the sole protection being provided by a thin strip of paint. Unsurprisingly, this policy has already led to several collisions and deaths, with Cycle Highway[sic] 2 having recently been branded as “far from fit for purpose” by a group of air ambulance emergency care doctors.


Little has also been done to improve the safety of cyclists using the deliberately mistitled “Boris Bikes” with the Mayor repeatedly rejecting calls for them to be provided with helmets, despite the obvious added safety that this would provide.


Cycling in London needs an overall strategy and a cycling network instead of a patchwork. Boris Johnson once claimed that a “critical mass” of cyclists would make the roads safer, but it is clear we need more than catchphrases from spin doctors if we are to improve safety on London’s roads. I have therefore written to the Mayor of London to ask what steps he is taking to address these issues and will write to you again once I have received a response.

With so many points to address in this letter, I’m almost not sure where to start. The fact that he doesn’t reply to any of the points in my letter suggests this is a form letter sent in reply. On the one hand, this is positive, as to receive so many letters about cycling as to warrant a standard response means it must be on his radar. On the other hand, I am disappointed that he has not mentioned whether he will attend Parliament next week for the debate.

By lambasting the Cycle Superhighways as having the “sole protection…a thin strip of paint”, I can only assume he supports a full “Dutch-style” segregation and the LCC’s “Love London, Go Dutch” campaign.

The letter then veers off into the helmet debate, the benefits and disadvantages of which I don’t want to get into. Suffice to say, it isn’t always as obvious you’d think what the true benefits of wearing a helmet are.

The rest of the letter is mostly party political bleating between himself (Labour) and the Mayor (Conservative), to which I shan’t respond. As for London having an overall cycling strategy, will shall see how Andrew Gilligan, the cycling commissioner fairs during this first year in office.

Cities fit for Cycling

Back in November, the excellent Julian Huppert MP and colleagues from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group submitted a motion to the House of Commons, entitled Get Britain Cycling. The motion supported cycling in general and particularly the Cities fit for Cycling campaign being run by the The Times.

Both the motion and The Times campaign seemed worth supporting, so I fired off a letter to my MP, the Rt. Hon. Frank Dobson, asking him to sign the motion.

My letter is reproduced below:

Dear Mr Dobson,

I am writing to draw your attention to the excellent ’Cities fit for Cycling Campaign’ run by The Times newspaper, and publicly accessible at, as well as Early Day Motion 679: Get Britain Cycling, proposed by Julian Huppert and others from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.

Within the constituency, we are lucky to have relatively good cycling infrastructure in some places; segregated cycle paths, 20mph areas and advanced stop lines at many junctions. However, we are also home to some terrible junctions that are very difficult to navigate by bike, such as the junction between Torrington Place and Tottenham Court Road, where the cycle lane weaves from the right-hand side of traffic to the left-hand side, or much of the one-way system around Kings Cross station which has already claimed lives.

I know you are interested in issues for Central London and transport, and with that in mind, I ask you sign the EDM and support the measures contained in the ’Cities fit for Cycling’ manifesto:

  • Lorries entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.
  • The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.
  • A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.
  • Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.
  • The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.
  • 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.
  • Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.
  • Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms.

I think you will agree that these aims are both possible and sensible.

Over the Christmas holidays, I finally got a less than pleasing response, below:

Dear Mr. Streetley,

I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 9 November about the Cities Fit for Cycling campaign. I apologise for the delay in replying.

I have already signed the Early Day Motion 679 that you refer to in your letter under the provision everyone believes that to strengthen road traffic law and its enforcement applies to cyclists jumping lights and riding on pavements.

So whilst Frank Dobson has signed the motion, it is only because he believes cyclists are part of the problem, not part of the solution to sustainable transport in London. I expected better from a man who was once the Shadow Transport Secretary and whose stated interests include Central London and transport.

Is using an academic title automatically an ‘argument from authority’?

We are bombarded with ‘expert opinions’ every day in the media, both printed and broadcast, and many of these people are presented to us with their title: Prof, Dr, PhD, FRS and the like. An example might be this recent story on sleep deprivation and stroke from the Guardian, which is followed throughout.

My questions are: does including their “rank” in the scientific hierarchy automatically say to the audience “you should believe this person for they are more qualified than you“, is this committing an ‘argument from authority‘ and does this even matter at all?

The first question translates basically to whether or not an academic’s title is optional. On the one hand, they’ve earned the degree/accolade by working pretty damn hard and deserve to be called by it. In 3 years time, when (hopefully) I finish my PhD, I’ll be pretty cheesed off if ‘Dr’ doesn’t get written down in the right places. On the other hand, within science (certainly biology/biochemistry), people don’t much use their titles. At the institute where I work, titles are basically relegated to the telephone directory and a handful of email signatures. They certainly don’t appear on published papers, so why in the press release and press coverage. (As an aside, this is different in the medical world such as the BMJ, The Lancet and NEJM, where author qualifications are published). If they aren’t on the paper itself, I think that says to me that they aren’t needed in the press coverage, but I’ll admit that it’s an open question.

Does the inclusion of these titles confer authority on to whatever quote their holder is giving? I think they probably do. This might not be the intention in science reporting but it has that effect. Why else would people be so keen to use the title Dr, if not to be accepted as an expert in a field?

A better question is whether worrying about presenting a well-qualified expert as an authority figure actually matters? As noble as the Royal Society’s motto might be (nullius in verba – On the word of no-one), equally nobody has time to fact check everything, and qualifications and titles are often a pretty good heuristic for reliability. As Paul Nurse (or perhaps “the Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse PRS) recently put to James Delingpole (3m30s), when you go to a doctor, you trust their clinical judgment. You might do your own research and disagree with the consensual position, but that would be a very unusual position to take.

The problem – as there is with all such rules of thumb – is that it is open for exploitation. I alluded earlier to those who ‘pass off’ having more qualifications than they have, often in order to lend their opinion legitimacy, often for monetary gain in the form an endorsement by an expert. Weirdly, this means that every time a title such as Dr is used legitimately, it adds weight to all those using the same title illegitimately. A reverse problem can also occur – someone with a legitimate qualification, in a relevant field presents a maverick view rather than scientific consensus and can be spectacularly wrong, but still taken “on authority”. Think Andrew Wakefield and the disproven MMR/Autism link for an example.

On balance, I’m not sure that there is a right answer to the use of academic titles. To me they are a mark of respect and achievement, not authority and certainly don’t mean that everything the holder says is true and sacrosanct, but I’m not sure that is always how they are taken.

“James Streetley BSc (Hons) MRes

“Justin Lee Collins: Turning Japanese”

Five just aired the first part of three in this series where Justin Lee Collins checks out Japan. You can catch the first part here as well as find the promotional material and synopsis. I was always going to be interested in this as I have an uninformed fascination with Japanese culture and have recently taken up learning the language, despite skeptical about what the comedy persona of Justin Lee Collins would bring to it. The blurb starts off well:

Justin arrives in Tokyo on a mission to learn more about the people and customs behind Japan’s often baffling image

However, I think the programme potentially added to the “baffling image” by focussing on what would appear to be quite bizarre aspects of Japanese culture: meeting a man with over 100 sex dolls, costing over £250,000 and sending Justin Lee Collins out to be a host in the city’s Red Light District, where a single night can cost the customer >£1000. I could be totally wrong here and that is pervasive behaviour across Japan but it seems unlikely to me, not least because of how much it costs.

There were some genuinely interesting and troubling moments when the programme visited a sex doll showroom and saw child sex dolls, but this is interesting because it doesn’t need to be presented as “normal” for us to find it shocking and it was spoiled by rest of the programme which seemed to dress up fringe activities as normal.

Frustratingly, I think they skirted around the actual issue they were discussing. The lessons on meeting people, the sex dolls and the host bar were all lazily hung from an interesting point on population decline in Japan that could have been treated in more in-depth way whilst still fitting in some of the kookier aspects which presumably sell the programme.

I would like to see a proper, genuine comparison of both similarities and differences across these cultures, rather than programmes such as this and Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14 which play into stereotypes rather than challenge them.

Science is Vital

Supporters at the rally

Supporters at the rally

Yesterday, I attended (and helped marshall, as evidenced here) the rally for an important campaign called Science is Vital. It is a campaign against any proposed cuts to the science budget, when the spending review is published later in the month. I urge anybody who hasn’t already done so to: check out their website which details all the reasons why continued investment in science is a necessity, sign their petition and write to their MP about the campaign. It was a fantastic afternoon and great to meet up with so many people that I’ve heard about or briefly tweeted @ them but never spoken; even if it was under unfortunate circumstances with the prospect of cuts hanging over all our heads.

This campaign is more than just a self-interested group getting antsy about a policy they don’t like. Yes, many of the people who have signed the petition are scientists who are understandably worried about their own careers. I am also worried about what the state of biomedical science will be when I start looking for my first position after finishing my PhD in 3 years time.

This is about more than that though. We are saying

We already don’t have enough money to do all the research we need, with only around 20% of grant proposals finding funding, and yet we greatly ‘punch above our weight’, in almost any metric you pick; number of World-class universities, citations per researcher, papers produced against spend. We can’t get more efficient. We are already at the limit.

And it isn’t the scientists that will be the biggest losers in this. They can move to other world-leading institutions in the US, Japan, India, Australia, Germany and others. It is society that loses out, as we have to become reliant on the work of other countries to fulfil our scientific, technological and engineering needs.

The Campaign for Science and Engineering has plenty more on the economic reasons why science funding is a poor judgment, so if you like facts and figures, head here. The Science is Vital campaign has also collated photos and other reports from the event and the Pod Delusion has podcasts of all the speakers and some reporting from the rally. The rest of my own photos from the event can be found in this Flickr set.

“Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14″

I’ve just watched Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14 on the BBC iPlayer (originally on BBC Three last night). It chronicles the fortunes of Rebecca Flint/Beckii Cruel, her family and finding global fame.

There are plenty of things that are really interesting about the documentary; from the way the Internet can make stars of people, the concept of multiple identities across different cultures and the conflict of interest between parent and offspring. (That last one may just be some unsympathetic editing towards her father, Derek, but even so, it made me think about childhood success and the parents wanting “in”).

The aspect I really want to talk about is the fandom, or inappropriate fandom that the girls received.

The film devotes much of the middle section towards this, but mostly parries it off as being a “cultural difference”, especially when her manager is asked about it. My question is: just because another culture allows a fixation with young, female teenagers, does that make it acceptable? Or to spin it around, because British (Western? I hate that word though) culture doesn’t allow it, does that mean it is wrong? For sure, I got a slightly uneasy feeling watching parts of that film, but of course I’ve internalised the British view.

Incidentally, I think Beckii has an amazingly level head on this, perhaps more so than her parents and manager. Her piece to camera after she receives the bass guitar is very considered, and her take on the “cultural difference” is equally sensible, where she talks about making sure she is happy (31mins in on iPlayer).

I think working to get away from the sexual side , that’s why we’ve turned down a lot of offers for [?] magazines and everything because we don’t want to do that and I never want to do that. I mean I’m 14 years old and even if [?] “oh, its just a different culture”, even so, I’m a British person with a British mindset and I think it is wrong so, yeah.

My basic problem is that if we assume that 14-16 year old girls getting attention from 45-54 year old males (27mins) isn’t a problem but part of the culture, then why are is it important to make sure that the girls clothing is so carefully checked (29mins and 10mins) and that their “look” (from 9mins) of large eyes, chiselled chin is so important. From 9-14 mins is particularly illustrative of this.

To me, printing photobooks of a 14 year old girl – where the girl is the product, not like a clothing catalogue – and making out that it isn’t sexual/objectifying doesn’t quite add up. Part of me wonders if someone, somewhere, is ignoring the “elephant in the room” on this.

That is not to say that printing her photobooks and other merchandise is necessarily wrong. I want to explore why and if behaviour of those consuming those materials and generating that market is acceptable. I mean surely she should be able to publish whatever materials she wants, and it is up to those consuming them to be responsible in the way that they contact her and behave to her. Pragmatically however, should she censor herself to minimise the risk of unwanted attention?

Obvious follow-up questions are: is there ever an age for objectification as above?  Is this solely a problem for girls (cf. Justin Bieber)?

Maybe I’m coming at this with too much of a gender and culture bias? Anyone else have thoughts?

Update: I just had this conversation with @Tom5mith on Twitter, about our take on the ‘moe‘ and ‘idol‘ culture. Relates strongly to our attempts as Brits to see through the cultural difference.

Cycle Hire Experience – 1 week on

I awaited the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme with interest. I live within the covered zone (approximately zone 1 + a bit) and make around 2-3 return trips a week by bus on routes that I could cycle. I’d also been considering cycling for a while, but wasn’t sure if I’d like it (or even if I still could) and I don’t own a bike.

In other words; I’m definitely part of the target audience for the scheme.

When registration day came around, I duly registered (with a glitch or two) and was sent my membership key in advance of the bike release day.

Bike docking station outside the office

Bike docking station outside the office

My first trial wasn’t good – I attempted to give one a quick go around Russell Square from the rack just outside my office, but instead got an amber light and horrible juddering noise. Instead I had to walk to the next rack along, on Bedford Way, where I took my first 8 minute ride.

I can confirm and corroborate the general opinions on the bikes. Yes, they are quite heavy, but not overly so. The gear range is terrible. I’m not a strong cyclist, or fit in any way, but even uphill only the highest gear was of any use. First or second just leave you pedalling like a maniac without actually moving. And if your bag is too small, it will just fall sideways out of the basket, unless it is large enough to be bungee’d in.

The real test came on Saturday, when I took one to and from work (having invested in a helmet and reflective backpack cover). Other than highlighting how unfit I am – panting and sweating after a 15min cycle, it was totally fine. I even cycled home at 2am in the morning and found the lights to be adequate and the experience perfect. The scheme was actually perfect, as there is little in the way of public transport from Goodge Street to Farringdon/Sadler’s Wells, but there were docking stations almost door-to-door. Spot on!

Monday night, I got even braver and tried Russell Square to Victoria during the rushhour, and took advantage of being able to dock the bike and forget about it; using it to cycle to the pub, have a few drinks and get the bus back, not worrying about leaving my own bike somewhere overnight.

I’ve now used the bikes to make seven journeys that I would normally make by bus or tube, and it has been both fun and useful each time. Only once have I been over the 30 minute limit (by 34 seconds), so I’ve saved at least £6. 15 more weeks until I’ve paid off the £45 annual membership and the cost of the helmet and backpack cover!

The only scary moment I’ve had was cycling down Oxford Street. So many buses, bus stops and rickshaws that all seem to be out to get you. I shan’t be making that mistake again any time soon. The other thing that is quite strange about cycling around London is my propensity to get lost. I know my way around places that are walking distance from home and work, and I know the buses and tube for places further away, but actually having to cycle to places I’d normally take public transport too was surprisingly difficult. It isn’t like being on foot, when you can just stop any time, or turn around and because you are moving faster, there is less time for contemplating the route. It is funny though, because I don’t have that feeling in the car. (Probably to do with the sat-nav…).

Any way, so far I have loved the scheme and I hope I continue to use it beyond its current novelty.

SciencePunk – A critique of skepticism

And so it is the beginning of another month, which means it’s time again for Westminster Skeptics in the Pub. This month, it was the turn of the SciencePunk, Frank Swain, to address us with a talk entitled “A critique of skepticism”. Here, he basically told us where skeptics (or the skeptic “movement”, if that exists) are going wrong in engaging with others. I think most of us probably have an uneasy feeling about things we have seen done in the name of skepticism and how we are perceived by “non-skeptics”, such as my first thoughts on skeptics insular nature last month.

In a way, I think Frank was putting out there our own “inconvenient truth”, that we dimly recognised before. The genius was in his delivery, which was a well-illustrated, persuasive and coherent argument. I’ve said this before, but it is a mark of great speaker at SitP, when we carry on discussing their talk long after fact, because it has been that thought-provoking.

What follows is just a few of my favourite quotes from the presentation. I never take enough notes for a full round-up and there are many who are better at it than I anyway.

What are the KPIs of skepticism?

  • Who are you talking to?
  • Who is listening?
  • Whose mind is changed?

I’m pretty sure anything I’ve written hasn’t changed any minds. Why? I write for those who already think like me. Not on purpose, but because actually challenging someone’s opinion, in writing, is difficult. What is worse is that I hadn’t even considered this until last night.

“A Facebook group or Twitter hashtag is not a campaign.”
It shows a groundswell of support from those already in the know, but it doesn’t change minds or engage. It is people agreeing with their mates.

Undeniably true.

I think this is also the time that Frank introduced the “Mum” test: how would you explain it to your mum and would she care? A useful teaching technique that should be applied to skepticism more. To me, that indicates a danger of talking down to people and coming across as superior – a point that is later addressed.

Facts do not speak for themselves. We have a fetishism for facts.
How many people have heard or used “the plural of anecdote is not data”? *many hands go up* – “instead it’s a convincing argument”.

Whilst we can ask for evidence until we are blue in the face, it only convinces people that make evidenced-based decisions. Anecdotes persuade a lot more people. Frank’s example here was; user reviews on Amazon – many of us use them to make purchasing decisions based on anecdote, because we trust others. Also, how many of us can prove that the Earth orbits the Sun? I guess anecdotes/non-first hand evidence is more pervasive that we’d like to think.

Arguing from facts is cowardly. You’re going in with the knowledge that you’re right. Arrogance will show. (I didn’t note this verbatim, so relied on a tweet for wording)

I struggle to agree with this, because people don’t go into arguments knowing they are wrong. Each party tends to believe (to the extent that they know) they are right. However, I can definitely buy the idea that arguing arrogantly doesn’t work.

This is why I have a problem with the concept that skeptics are teaching or enlightening people. It implies a hierarchy where skeptics are above those they are talking to, who are in turn in some way stupid or primitive.

That leads on to what I think was the take-home message; just because you have evidence, doesn’t mean you are better, or even right.

In no way was that a complete report of the talk. It is only the bits I found most interesting and challenging (and the bits I had notes for). Most notably I missed out all of the coverage of the recent Twitter mess regarding Gillian McKeith and the level of skeptic vitriol that was shown.

I will link here to any more complete reports as they become available: