Edinburgh Skeptics Presents...

Welcome to the Edinburgh Skeptics Society podcast. We'll be bringing you talks from our guest speakers on a variety of topics in our Skeptics in the Pub podcast. There'll be talks from areas such as science, social issues, politics, and lots more, all with a view to promoting reason and critical thinking. You'll also be able to see what makes our guest speakers tick with our 10 Questions segment, and recordings of our Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Edinburgh International Science Festival events. Do make sure you rate or review us, and get in touch and let us know what we're doing right (or wrong!). Email us at
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Edinburgh Skeptics Presents...





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Now displaying: Category: talks
Sep 29, 2017

The UK's negotiations on withdrawal from the EU are now underway. And so Leave campaigners are now facing a form of accountability they have never experienced before: the accountability of reality. What are the key issues in the UK-EU negotiations? What will be their likely outcomes? What will the Repeal Bill mean for democracy and accountability here in the UK? Our speaker will provide an overview of the current legal and political situation, leaving plenty of time for questions from the floor, to discuss the most important set of challenges facing the UK since 1945.

Michael Dougan is Professor of European Law and Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law at the University of Liverpool. He is an established academic authority on EU constitutional law and Joint Editor of Common Market Law Review - the world's leading scientific journal for European legal studies.

Michael's public engagement activities, including videos of his lectures on the EU referendum, received extensive media attention in the run-up to the ‘Brexit’ referendum and he continues to be a popular authority on the matter for individuals and groups all around the world.

Jul 28, 2017

Edit: A birthday surprise at the end of this talk. The picture attached should hopefully provide some context...

From long-running TV series to sold-out theatre shows and premium rate phone 'advice' lines, the business of 'Love and Light' and talking to the dead is very much alive and well. How are psychics able to convince the public that their other-worldly insight is genuine? Why do people insist on believing, despite the lack of evidence of an afterlife? Paul Zenon presents a potted history of what of what Harry Houdini described as ’the filthiest profession in the world’, and takes a look at their methods, past and present.

Paul is possibly best known as a magician; after several series on Children's BBC in the 90s he became the pioneer of the UK's Street Magic genre, with a number of one-man C4 and ITV Specials. His career has spanned three decades and seen him performing for audiences in around forty countries while making hundreds of TV appearances as performer, presenter nd pundit; the latter relating in particular to his inside knowledge with regard to matters generally considered by the media to be 'paranormal’. His last visit to Edinburgh was to the 2016 Fringe, in his roll as Ringmaster in the Olivier Award-winning circus-cabaret show, La Clique. 

Consumer Protection Disclaimer: this talk is investigational and for the purpose of entertainment.

Jan 11, 2017

For our December Skeptics in the Pub meeting we decided to try something different: An open mic! It was specifically aimed at people who thought they wanted to have a go at doing a skeptical talk but had never done one before. We had 7 speakers all doing different skeptical topics, and our committee member and host for the evening Heather Pentler had a buzzer (from the QI board game, no less!) to let people know when their time was up.

All 7 talks are presented here in their entirety for you, although the audio quality is a bit shit in places, for which we can (as always) only apologise and promise to do better next time.

You'll hear from:

Heather Pentler - Autism Myths
John Raven - Education, Hierarchy, and the Destruction of Life on Earth.
Tracey Jolliffe - 2 FameLab talks for practise :)
Ewan Leeming - What You See Is Not Quite What You Get
Stefano Bosisio - Where Do My Medicines Come From?
Dan Ridley-Ellis - The Christmas Tree Lecture (an unexplanation)
Mark Pentler - Audiophile Bullshit
Brian Eggo - Unpredicta-Bull: End of Year Summary
Dec 7, 2016

With the rise of the science centre as an educational experience a new profession has arisen: the professional, full-time science communicator. Distinct from researchers who carry out engagement as part of their work and unwilling to be teachers, these people roam the Earth, dispensing wisdom and fun, often with a healthy dose of foam and fire. But, 15 years on from the Millennium projects that spawned them, what state is the industry in? Are they providing a clarity beyond more traditional academics, or have they created a whole mystic lore of their own? Join Ali Floyd, Science Engagement Officer at the National Museum of Scotland, as he explores some of the not-quite-truths he has experienced in the business.

Ali was born and raised in a small village on the East coast of Scotland called Edinburgh, and at 17 ran away to the bright lights of the sprawling metropolis known as Glasgow. After gaining a degree in microbiology, Ali again ran away to the life of a travelling performer, though the cruise ship rather than the more-traditional circus.

His career as a science communicator began with a stint at Glasgow Science Centre and a regular freelance presenter for STV's The Hour as the face of "Weans' World of Science", working with luminaries such as Grant Stott and Michelle McManus. Perhaps his proudest moment was her eureka moment of understanding space weather and aurorae. He subsequently worked at Edinburgh International Science Festival and has recently been originating the role of Science Engagement Officer at the National Museum of Scotland, developing new programming to go alongside their exciting new Science and Technology galleries.

He has an excessive fondness for cheese, tea, running and the Madeiran wall lizard.

Twitter: @sir_ali_floyd
Blog: Ali Floyd | National Museums Scotland Blog

Jul 29, 2016

It’s time for our Summer Skeptacular Fundraiser With @AshWhiffin @stephenlingham & @gussiegrippers. We have a great line-up of comedy, poetry, insects and pelvic floor exercise for you, recorded in mid July as we prepared for the 2016 Fringe run.

Ash Whiffen - who loves insects, particularly the ones that eat dead bodies - will be telling us about ‘Maggots, Murder & Museums’. Stephen Lingham – our Resident Poet - will be doing stand-up poetry which is provocative, funny, controversial and thought provoking spoken word that explores contemporary ideas surrounding free speech. Finally, Elaine Miller, physiotherapist, comedian, mother of three and recovered incontinent shares the wonders of the pelvic floor, her talk involves poo, pee and orgasms in men and women. There is, however, no show and tell.

Every year we put on a vast selection of talks at ‘Skeptics on the Fringe’ and the only way we’re able to do that is through PBH’s Free Fringe. Without PBH and the free fringe crew, we would never be able to afford to put on a show without finding £1000s.

PS: Sorry it's late...

Feb 24, 2016

Well, this was an odd one to edit. Today's Skeptics in the Pub talk comes to you courtesy of my wife Heather Pentler. We also have a 10 Questions interview with her which you can download along with this podcast.

Since being diagnosed with a chronic condition, Heather has been snooping into the dangerous advice given by various alternative medical practitioners. Her talk will take you through her experiences and how and why this advice is so harmful.

Heather Pentler is a long-time member of the skeptic community, having first been involved with the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and later on becoming part of the video crew at QEDCon. As a humanities dropout and not a scientist, Heather likes applying skepticism to areas where it would not normally be applied, although she still has a passion for science, evidence and facts.

She has lived and moved all over the country, spending her formative years in East Lancashire, before finding her way to Edinburgh with her husband. She still coos at all of the pretty buildings when she gets off the bus.

Twitter: @LadyPenny

Jan 25, 2016

Before we celebrate our atavistic winter solstice festival of choice based on our cultural or family heritage (or go home and get pished as you might call it) we like to let our hair down, kick up our heels, open the mic and have a good party.

This episode we have a series of short talks for your listening pleasure from our 2015 event, and we're only a month late with it!

  • Podcast co-host David Frank talks about growing up as a Jew at Christmas
  • Our chair Ewan Leeming gives us his Christmas Quiz
  • Dave Colville is talking about replicating psychology studies
  • Skeptics regular Tracey Joliffe will be enlightening us on 'The 12 Lays of Christmas' as she summarises some interesting bugs we can catch (STIs)

Your compere for the evening is the inimitable Twist!

Jan 19, 2016

Media dons and science journalists are regularly publishing emotive and dramatic headlines about the purported negative effects of screentime on child development. In particular scaremongering links have been drawn between technology use by children and young people and the increasing rates of diagnosis of autism. In this talk Sue uses scientific evidence and draws on personal testimonies to pick apart the claims made in the papers and expose the truth about the impact of technology on children today. 

Sue Fletcher Watson holds the post of Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. She is an associate of the Patrick Wild Centre for research into autism, fragile X syndrome and intellectual disabilities and of The Salvesen Mindroom Centre to understand and resolve learning difficulties. Sue is interested in the application of psychological research methods to questions with clinical, educational and societal impact. Sue’s current work focuses on: intervention for children with autism, especially using technology; outcome measurement for early intervention studies; longitudinal follow-up of at-risk groups especially infants born preterm.

Follow Sue at  

And @suereviews

Jan 13, 2016

We're back for 2016! Hopefully you had a great holiday, and you're ready for some skepticism. We have a couple of episodes for you, in the form of a great Skeptics in the Pub talk AND a 10 Questions interview afterwards with our speaker for this episode Paul Burns.

Why are so many otherwise intelligent people duped by scientific fraud? 

Paul became fascinated by Andrea Rossi's claims about cold fusion and set up the website eCatNews to examine them and find out more. At one point the site was receiving over 300k unique views per month. Inviting skeptics and believers alike, the discussion on site is often heated but illuminating and has given Paul insight into what happens when people believe There Is Someone Wrong On The Internet.

It's a fantastic story, and we can't do it justice here, so we'll let you listen to Paul's engaging yarn about what happened...

Paul Burns is a physics graduate, mass-spectrometer engineer and now a novelist (SF). He became interested in the truth and lies surrounding free energy and cold fusion in particular. 

Jul 3, 2015

Quick note: Still having radio mic problems. We're working on it. Sorry!

Evidence-based public policy is a holy grail for researchers but somewhere in the 'black box' of policy development other factors are at play.

Drawing on research and personal experiences, this talk will explore key questions such as: to what extent is any policy evidence-based, what types of evidence do decision-makers use and how does evidence interplay with dominant narratives and values systems? 

Jennifer Wallace is Head of Policy at the Carnegie UK Trust. She is an experienced manager and public policy researcher and analyst. Her work in the public and voluntary sector has led to positive change in legislation, policy and practice. Based in Scotland, she has experience of working with governments and stakeholders across the UK. 

A prolific writer, she has authored more than 30 reports, many of which relating to public service reform. Key areas of interest include community empowerment, user focus in public services and measuring wellbeing. Jennifer holds the degrees of MA (Hons) in Social Policy from the University of Edinburgh and MPhil in Social Science Research from the University of Glasgow. She is a Trustee of Evaluation Support Scotland and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.


Jun 24, 2015

Alcoholics Anonymous is a media endorsed and popularly recognised remedy for problem drinkers. Yet while AA’s social worth is rarely challenged its efficacy rate, estimated by some to be less than 10%, appears comparable to that of spontaneous remission. Can a non-existent "Higher Power" really offer meaningful solutions to the debilitating and potentially fatal condition of alcoholism? If so, what happens to all those atheist and skeptic alcoholics? 

AA’s famous 12 step recovery programme, drawn from a long-forgotten 1930s Christian fundamentalist mass movement, has not changed in eighty years. How did such out-dated mental health technology become the primary self help option for what is arguably the great social health scourge of our age? In the second decade of the twenty first century, is this the best we can do?

Jon Stewart was guitarist for platinum-selling Britpop band Sleeper, with whom he enjoyed three UK Top 10 albums and eight UK Top 40 singles. He now lectures in cultural history at BIMM Institute in Brighton and is a PhD researcher at University of Southampton. Jon was an enthusiastic and grateful member of AA for fourteen years. He now campaigns for more up-to-date and evidence-based secular treatment options via his blog “Leaving AA & Staying Sober” at

Apr 22, 2015

Bitcoin is one of a new breed of so-called “crypto-currencies” which only exist online. Fans say they provide low-cost secure money transfer without the need for bank accounts, critics say they’re used by criminals and tax evaders. Bitcoin uses a technology called “Blockchain” and, like the Internet in 1990, only a few people have heard of it and, like the Internet in 1990, it is probably on a trajectory to change the world. In this talk Dug Campbell will introduce us to Bitcoin and discuss the story so far in the real world.

Dug Campbell runs the Scottish Bitcoin Meetup and founded the Scottish Bitcoin Conference. He regularly speaks at events and provides press commentary around the disruptive potential of crypto-currencies, in addition to exploring how blockchain technologies will change society over the next few years. After over a decade as a technology lawyer, he completed an MBA before becoming a Digital Strategy Consultant. He also blogs regularly at

Apr 20, 2015

We could all use some tips on how to market ourselves, whether looking for love online or trying to make the best impression in any situation. There will also be a marketer’s insight into why there are few porn sites for women, and an analysis of the porn viewing habits of men. We’ll lampoon the formulas romance novels use for their plots and covers. Finally we’ll look at a case study of how one porn site markets itself in safe-for-work plain view. There’ll be singing, poetry, and what we’re sure will be a very interesting Q&A afterwards.

Hailing from Perth, Western Australia, David has lived in Japan and Vietnam, and most recently moved to Scotland. He has organised dozens of events for Perth Skeptics, Tokyo Skeptics, The Humanist Society of Western Australia and various other Meetup groups. He currently runs Edinburgh Skeptics’ monthly discussion group Skeptics Underground held at 2pm on the second Sunday of every month. You can read more about him at