Sunday, 30 May 2010

Subluxations, Sex and Socialising Skeptics.

Been a shortage of new entries here lately, hasn't there? Been busy though, as I've been helping set-up a Wales Branch of Skeptics in the Pub. Here's a bit of background and a progress update for those who are interested. (An alternative and nicer, more rational account is provided by Alice Sheppard here, so read that first if you want, but if you want arrogance, sex, abuse, megalomania and obscene flights of fantasy, read on)

I live down Cardiff Bay. It's nice here, although my family all think I'm a snob for doing so (evident from the fact that they keep saying 'Dean lives down Cardiff Bay, the snob!' whenever it's brought up). I live about 2 minutes walk from the central pub/restaurant/shop bit, Mermaid Quay. On my usual route down to the Quay, there are several shops and places.

One thing that has appeared relatively recently is Cardiff Bay Chiropractic. A blatant and obvious Woo-merchant, right on my very doorstop, on the same street that featured prominently in the best ever Doctor Who episode 'Blink'. How awful, a fictional doctor peddling his wares where another fictional doctor so brilliantly saved us all from Gothic statues. The presence of this masseuse with ideas above his station is a constant irritation.

Interestingly, on the other side of the road is a brothel. At least, I assume it is. I guess it could be, as it claims, a 'leisure facility' which has utterly opaque windows and is open at least until after the pubs close. Interestingly, a new Indian restaurant has opened up right next door to it. I sincerely hope the mistake has happened at least once, some guy has gone to try out the new restaurant and found it to be staggeringly expensive but that the waitresses are really over-friendly.

(I say guy, a bit sexist of me, I'd imagine they'd cater for women too if they were willing to pay, but why would that ever happen? If pornography has taught us anything, it's that two women left alone together for even a brief length of time will almost immediately have sex for no discernible reason other than because the opportunity presents itself)

The chiropractor can advertise his business to the public, the brothel cannot. The chiropractor has a website boasting of his abilities, the prostitutes do not. The chiropractor boasts an endorsement from a Welsh Rugby player; the prostitutes don't but I imagine if they were allowed they could manage to get more than just one. The chiropractor apparently has many qualifications, none of which are recognised by Science; Insofar as prostitutes need to possess qualifications, I imagine they'd be anatomical in nature (Science, as it's normally performed by socially-awkward pasty white males, may or may not recognise these).

The chiropractor offers to manipulate your body in weird ways until you feel better. The prostitutes, given sufficient financial incentive, would probably do that too, with the added bonus that any sense of well-being experienced after a session with a prostitute will definitely have a more biological basis than that provided by a chiropractor..

I am not a supporter of the sex trade, but I'm not nearly deluded enough to think it's ever going away no matter how many laws we churn out to stop it. I just think it's ironic that the establishment offering a millennia-old, well recognised and genuine 'service' based on the biological requirements of humans is actually illegal and generally considered immoral, whereas the one offering to pummel people in order to improve their health (based on a system invented by a psycho less than 2 centuries ago) in exchange for obscene amounts of money, that's fine and legit.

I do not like this situation. The fact that this exists in my country's capital and there doesn't seem to be any opposition here at all to this witch-doctery, that's annoying on many levels. We Welsh have a rich and ancient cultural heritage, but at no point does it say 'must accept all forms of bullshit without question' in any of our inherited beliefs (in either language).

This, combined with my encounter with a batty Malaysian tour guide, made me want to do something about this situation.

One thing I've often heard about via the twittersphere and other social networks is Skeptics in the Pub. This nationwide (and beyond) scheme is incredibly influential in forming networks, encouraging rational thinking and opposing the abuse of Science and logic wherever it may be (see the 10:23 protest and the campaign to change libel laws via Simon Singh's court case).

SITP is everywhere. Apart from Wales, oddly enough. I decided to change this, or at least investigate the possibility of doing so, seeing if it's feasible. So I made a few enquiries and suggestions via Twitter (the nerd representation seems to be higher there than on Facebook in my experience).

Then, someone decided to take my suggestions, set up a Facebook group with the same aims, and do all in their power to marginalise, block and discredit my efforts. This is not the first time I've been faced with the possibility of character assassination, and had my hard work stolen from under my by shifty individuals in cyberspace and beyond. My incredible awesomness means this often happens, but I resolve to crush, I say CRUSH, anyone who dares stand against me and my goals. It's time to bring on the pain!

That last paragraph is bollocks, of course. Much like the beneficial effects of chiropractic, it's all in my head. But at least I'm aware of it.

My speculations mean I've linked up via this interweb with Alice Shepperd, who seems to be one of, if not Wales only true Skeptic. Until now, maybe, now that Johnny-come-lately's like me might be realising that you don't have to just sit there and accept the insane ramblings of others. If you've been contacted previously by someone regarding a Wales Skeptics in the Pub meet, it must have been Alice (or me). Alice knows how to do things like email people nicely and coordinate things via the web, she's some sort of professional, clearly. I'm not quite at that level, my own web presence is more akin to a wild pig in a public swimming pool; lots of attention and noise, but nothing coherent or useful and mostly just upsetting the children.

So, thus far, Alice presents the slick on-line face of Wales SITP, I'm the guy on the ground organising things like venues (i.e. me wandering around pubs in Cardiff, occasionally stroking my chin while looking at the layout), publicity (me badgering people I've encountered via the comedy circuit etc. in the hope that they'll give us a mention if I just go away), some pictures and
what have you. Other people are clambering aboard the good ship Wales SITP (well, it's more a raft made of twigs and those cardboard tubes you get in the middle of toilet rolls at the moment, but it seems sturdy at present and it appears to have hit a good strong current to get us going)

If you were wondering why my Science Letters have been on hiatus, this is why. I shall be posting updates as and when they occur, and that should be quite often with any luck. We shall have out first pub gathering of Welsh Skeptics organised before the month is out (or next month, as it's the 31st of May right now, and it's a bank holiday so I can't see anything useful happening today).

One final thing, Alice says that some people, naming no names (largely because I'm not aware of any of them), have been whingeing about us calling it the WALES Skeptics in the Pub project, when it's just in Cardiff. In-keeping with the theme of the evening, let's look at the evidence for our claims.

- Thus far, it IS the only SITP being organised in Wales.

- Nobody ever said just Cardiff, it's just that I'm doing most of the groundwork and I happen to live in Cardiff so know most about this area. I could feasibly do a driving tour and investigate the likely venues of every population centre in our fair principality. Why don't I rent a helicopter and go from roof to roof of every building with an alcohol license in the country, seeing as we're indulging wild fantasies where I squander resources on a mammoth trek in the spirit of inclusiveness.

- We have always had the intention of going beyond Cardiff. We had Swansea venues proposed before we had a facebook group discussing such things.

To be truthful, calling it SITP WALES was my idea, in an underhanded attempt to encourage it to spread further. It shows that all of Wales is welcome to join in, not just Cardiff. But more cynically, I knew it would piss off the type of people who like to whinge rather than get involved. Maybe to the point where they'd set up their own night to prove a point. I could have just called it 'Cardiff'' and avoided the whole issue, and trusted people to take the hint and set up their own in their area, but in my experience, encouragement is nowhere near as big a motivator as spite.

So if anyone does have any issues with this, please take them up with me, not Alice; this isn't her idea and she seems far too nice to have to deal with such crap, whereas I actively enjoy smacking down on-line criticisms, so please, bring it!

Skeptics in the Pub: Wales (or Cardiff, if you like). Lets make it happen. Suggestions/abuse, please post in comments section.

Love to ya all


email: humourology (at)
twitter: @garwboy


Alice said...

Haha, love this, Dean!

I think we both thought up Skeptics in the Pub in Wales independently - had I met you when I was mucking around on Facebook? Ah well, if you want to take on the arguing, mate, please by all means do. I shall watch, and insert the odd sarcastic comment.

Seriously, if you'd like to sign up, please join our Facebook group - and hopefully we'll have our own website soon. I had no idea whether anyone would be interested when I started that Facebook group, but Dean seems to have taken care of nearly everything else, so you're bound to have a great time!

Dean Burnett, Neuroscientist said...

It's Alice! The one from the Blog! Hurrah, that proves it!

Greg P said...

ah, the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is West Bute Street. I walk up there on my way to work in the morning, the chiropractor's been in the area for more than a year. Still, an excellent comparison with the local brothel, raised a chuckle!

Looking forward to a SITP in the not too distant future.

Greg, aka @gregpycroft via twitter

endless psych said...

Here soon we will be able to have a skeptical triple crown ;)

Dean Burnett, Neuroscientist said...

Oh it is ON!

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