Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers

Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

The Barnum Effect! This Wednesday 4th June

In GUSSF Events! on May 29, 2008 at 2:47 AM

Griffith University Society for Skeptics and Freethinkers presents….

The Barnum Effect

Why people want to believe

The secrets behind psychics, seances and scams.

How centuries old tricks are still being used to seperate people from their money.

Presented by Peter Booth and featuring pick-pocket entertainer Jay-Jay.

Wednesday 4th June at 6pm.

Giffith University, Gold Coast Campus.

Building G17, Theatre 3.

All are welcome, free for GUSSF members, Gold Coin donation for guests

Richard Saunders is on his way here!

In GUSSF Events! on May 15, 2008 at 1:23 PM

The Griffith University Society for Skeptics and Freethinkers invite you (yes, you) to check out our upcoming event.

This Wednesday the 21st of May we are presenting our first guest speaker of the year, Richard Saunders. Richard is Vice President of Australian Skeptics and founder of Mystery Investigators and is taking the time to fly up from Sydney to give a presentation for us. The very same presentation in fact that he will give at James Randi’s Amazing Meeting 6 in Los Vegas this June, sharing the floor with Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, PZ Myers, Matthew Chapman, and Sharon Begley, Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomer), Penn & Teller, Dr. Richard Wiseman, Dr. Michael Shermer, Adam Savage (from the Mythbusters), Steve Novella, and many more!

Richard has appeared on channel nine’s “A Current Affair” and channel seven’s “Sunrise” program multiple times in his role as a skeptic, debunking such topics as so called psychic detectives, ghosts, crop circles and more. Richard also runs the Tank vodcast in which our group has featured and I currently report for.

Admission is free for members of the GUSSF and a gold coin donation is all that is asked of anyone else who would like to come so feel free to invite/coerce/ drag as many people as you like both from on campus and of course the wider community, the more the merrier!

The event starts at 6.30pm in G17, lecture theatre 3 of the Gold Coast campus

Jayson D Cooke

Griffith University Society for Skeptics and Freethinkers

Why science really is the career of the 21st century……..

In Science on May 15, 2008 at 2:28 AM

On Monday the 27th August, a few GUSSF members (Jo, Jayson, David and I) attended a lecture by the renowned Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki at Griffith University Nathan Campus. The lecture began with an introduction of Dr. Karl, whom holds degrees in Physics and Mathematics, master’s degrees in Astrophysics and Biomedical Engineering and to top it all off, a degree in medicine and surgery. Wow. Most people will know him from his science show on Triple J or the many pop-science books and articles he has written.

The topic of the lecture was “Why Science is the Career of the 21st Century”. I must say, Dr. Karl made a convincing argument; although, I don’t think I really needed convincing. The lecture covered the creativity in engineering, the wonder of physics, the amazing potential of genetics research and the complex but rewarding future of computer science. During the address Dr. Karl held the audiences attention, as you would expect a speaker of his experience would, with fascinating side stories and clever use of multimedia.

So why is science the career of the 21st century?

Dr. Karl used examples of humans living to 1000 years old and inhabiting other planets, he spoke of being able to regrow a lost limb and of computing power far beyond what we have today. But I think it’s simpler than that. Sure, it would be cool to discover a way to reverse aging or live on Mars or even just design a kick-ass computer; but let’s face it, discoveries such as those don’t happen everyday. My reason for believing that science is the career of the 21st century is because it’s all we have. Science is the only method by which we can understand more about the world, ourselves and this massive place we so casually call the Universe. Nothing else comes even close to giving us such a phenomenal insight into pretty much anything we wish to investigate. It’s time to shake off the juvenile ideas of centuries past and face the world with a sense of wonder that can only be truly satisfied through science.

“Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have splendour of their own.” ~Bertrand Russell, What I Believe, 1925

By William Bennet


A GUSSF Summary of an Intelligent Design Lecture with Thomas E Woodward

In Creationism/ Intelligent Design, Uncategorized on May 12, 2008 at 1:12 PM

One week before the official registration of this group my university campus Griffith University Gold Coast Campus was “fortunate” enough to be a stop over on the East coast tour of the self proclaimed premier historian of the Intelligent Design movement, Thomas E Woodward.

Mr Woodward is professor of missions, evangelism and science at Trinity College of Florida/Dallas Theological Seminary (Tampa Bay Extension) and is the author of “Doubts about Darwin: A history of Intelligent Design” and “Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design”.

The hosts of this event were the Griffith Christian Students group whom I later found out were approached by Mr Woodward’s promotional people to host the talk. I attended the event alone and worried I would be the only person in attendance who would be viewing the talk with a critical eye, not to mention a fairly thorough prior knowledge of just what was being discussed.

Mr Woodward began by introducing himself as the premier historian on the subject of Intelligent Design and explained that there are only two possible causal processes in the universe, Law and randomness. To clarify, the example was used of a Royal Flush in poker. Not a common occurrence but definitely possible. But what if we were to get a Royal Flush over and over again? Surely this would not be random would it? It would be mathematically impossible for this to happen by chance!

Unfortunately I would say the majority of the audience was far more impressed than I was by this point (not 5 minutes into the presentation) laughing as if on cue and hanging on Woodward’s every word.

Things only got worse from there however for next was presented what Woodward called the materialism narrative-

For eternity there were particles

And the particles became more complex living stuff

And the living stuff became aware

And the living stuff conceived God.

This insight into the minds of materialist thinkers was met unsurprisingly with much mirth and fist shaking from the audience. Upon much online searching after the talk, I was unable to find anything resembling the above phrase anywhere but on a web site named The Lords Mountain

which does not after much examination, seem to be a font of materialistic wisdom. Throughout the remaining 50 minutes or so we were taken on a Willy Wonka like journey of ID “facts”, evolutionary “lies”, the Goldilocks problem and much more of the standard ID talking points. We were shown an ancestral tree diagram that appeared to be at least twice as old as I am (strangely it did not have primates at all) and it was explained to the audience that ID is so very different from creationism as of course ID has no religious premises! In fact Mr Woodward knows a “whole slew of agnostic proponents of intelligent design”.

I was previously unaware that “Darwinism” was in such dire straits until my eyes were opened on this fateful night. Between learning that mousetraps were irreducibly complex, just like a bacterial flagellum, and that we have fewer transitional fossils now than in Darwin’s day, I could not believe that this was not more widely publicised. It was explained that proteins are just like “long words” and that the origin of life has been solved (although this was never explained, the audience seemed not to mind), despite scientists still battling it out. The meeting closed with the statement “don’t retreat into an evolutionary worldview rather than a Christian one, as science is in a state of flux”.

At this point I was forced to stand up and ask what had happened to the Q and A that was advertised on the posters around campus. It seemed that time had run out and the lecture theatre had to be vacated but it was possible to meet up in the foyer quickly. I had expected to be alone in my concerns/queries and needing of clarification but fortunately I this was not the case and the informal question time ran for longer than the actual talk.

Here I met two people who would come to make up a significant part of our groups executive committee. David Robertson and William Bennet were both Post graduate science students and both were equally as concerned as I was with the talk given. David and William having far more formal education than I did on the topics of natural selection and evolution, questioned Woodward on the validity of what data he did discuss and they were not surprised by the mercurial nature of any answers given. I asked why since the ID movement has no religious premise, the talk was hosted by the Griffith Christian Students. Apparently Woodward’s publicist had contacted universities up and down the east coast and none of the science facilities were keen to have him talk. As a last resort the Christian groups were contacted and were happy to have him (thankfully the organisers from the Christian group were in ear shot of his revelation that they were the second choice, and they were less than impressed).

My next question regarded the quality of the ancestral tree diagram and why an updated chart was not used. Apparently these are very hard to come by as I was asked to present one to help out. Tom Woodward had stock answers to stock questions and as soon as any questioning went outside of his standard repertoire he fumbled around like a new born fowl, which while comical and very revealing, was sad when his façade of expertise slipped and his rhetoric failed him.

My main regret is that only a portion of the audience was able to witness Mr Woodward’s fall from grace in the face of well reasoned questions and critical thought. Still afterward the group leader for the Griffith Christian Students said to us that he wasn’t sure about ID before the talk, and now had very serious reservations.

Since then I have met with the Griffith Christian students on a weekly basis and have had great discussions on the nature and varieties of faith, belief, and the nature of science. It turned out that they believed that the scientific community was adamantly opposed to creation being taught in any school and in any class room, rather than just science class rooms.

Such is the power of the propaganda they are led to believe by groups such as those that sponsor Thomas E Woodward.

Jayson D Cooke

Welcome to the GUSSF!

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2008 at 6:40 AM

My name is Jayson D Cooke and I am the founder/president of the Griffith University Society for Skeptics and Freethinkers. We are an open group of volunteer university students and members of the general public both locally and internationally and have been working as a group since July 07.

Our aims are:
• To educate and share skills in critical thinking and scientific skepticism.
• To create a community for skeptics, freethinkers and anyone and everyone with a rational and/or curious world view.
• To encourage freedom from superstition, irrationalism, and dogma.
• To further the acceptance and application of science, reason, and critical thinking in all areas of human endeavour.

In fulfilment of these aims we pursue various goals:
• Advancing the public understanding and appreciation of science and reason.
• Exposing pseudoscience.
• Engage in scientific investigation and journalistic research to investigate claims made by people on a wide range of subjects.
• Debate the philosophy of science, skepticism, and theism.
• Stimulate meaningful dialogue among religious and nonreligious students of all faiths and beliefs.

We have been fortunate enough to promote and attend talks by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Professor Ian Frazier, Professor K. Barry Sharpless, Professor Bill Phillips, and Professor Alister McGrath, and Professor Harry Messell and have just hosted a presentation by Australia’s premier mystery investigator Richard Saunders!