Fri 22 Jan “Geoengineering for Climate Change” Kevin Lister

This Friday Kevin will be talking on the above. he writes:

In the presence of sunlight, Iron Salt Aerosols (ISA) can catalytically remove methane from the atmosphere. As methane constitutes about 30% of the radiative forcing imbalance of the atmosphere and its concentrations are dangerously increasing as the Arctic permafrost is thawing, deployment of ISA and addressing methane concentrations  is a necessary first response to the dangerously accelerating rate at which the climate is changing. Should the current lab based experiments that ROC are conducting be successful, then ISA could be an integral element in a suite of interventions that will be necessary to address the dangerous, irreversible and accelerating change in the climate system that is now underway. The approach that society takes to climate intervention raises fundamental and challenging questions from scientific, technological, political and ethical perspectives, with the very real danger that even a short term success does not guarantee a long term success. I will consider the implications of these questions, and how they impact on the strategy for ROC, for its testing programme and potential deployment strategies. 

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Fri 15th Jan “A National Strategy for Disabled People” Justin Tomlinson MP

This week its our very own MP for North Swindon – Justin Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work) who will be discussing the governments National Strategy. Your chance to put your questions on this to him,

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ALL WELCOME as always!

Fri 8 Jan “Life, the Universe, and Everything” – Neil Howard

from 7.30pm by Zoom, Neil Howard will be speaking on Life, the Universe, and Everything.  Neil says:
Physicists aspire to create a ‘Theory of Everything’ that unifies physical forces to become the foundation for explaining everything in the Universe. But this is a theory of nothing without understanding how this leads to higher-level phenomena. Most significantly, it does not explain how order can arise out of disorder – how the complexity of life can arise from a universe of entropic decay, reaching its apotheosis in human physiology, culture and consciousness.  I will try to provide some answers. ‘42’ is definitely not one of them.

Fri 11 Dec “Desert Island Books” Daniel Merlo

On Friday the guest for Desert Island Books is Daniel Merlo. Daniel will be choosing eight books and one piece of music to take to his desert island.Daniel says ”I am planning on covering a range of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and even one from my childhood, so quite eclectic. Currently I’m working on international trade matters at the department for international trade so I suppose my book choice is as varied as my CV.”

Daniel’s choices were

Boy/Going Solo, Roald Dahl 
Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder
Straw Dogs, John Gray
Don Quixote, Miguel Cervantes
The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas
Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde 
100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

And his one piece of music….Hey Ho by The Lumineers

This will be the last talk this session. We restart on January 8th when the speaker will be Neil Howard.

4th December “Missing Links in Science” Rahman Katmani

This Friday from 7.30pm by Zoom, Rahman Khatibi will be speaking on ‘Missing Links in Science’.  Rahman says:
My presentation will take an overview of scientific developments and their social contexts, which emerged in the 17th Century. As a sculptor and a sculpture, science thrives on self-adjustment but sometimes solutions or courses of actions are not that obvious. Now, we enjoy a considerable scientific understanding on reproduction (proliferation), life (processes) and death (entropy) of natural (social) systems. However, their scientific treatments are fragmented and not interconnected. Without questioning the authority of science on explaining social and natural complexity, I will argue in this presentation that these fragmentations may signify the existence of missing links in science. It is not surprising that such doctrines as post-truth or postmodernism play down the role of evidence-based scientific facts, where their proponents exploit social media to their advantage. Also, entropic outcomes of science include climate change, sea level rise, plastic crisis, acid rain, carbon emission and now coronavirus. These too signify missing links and sometimes they suggest that we probably have the cart before the horse.

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see you there !

Fri 27th Nov “Mistakes” – Jeremy Holt

The discussion of mistakes is often a taboo subject, in both personal and business life.  Which is why I find it such an interesting subject. What is a mistake? Surely it should be clear at the time of making the mistake that it is actually a mistake. Otherwise we are only judging a decision through the prism of hindsight. It may have simply been a sub optimal decision, not a mistake. I will review my own, and others’ mistakes and draw conclusions about the nature of mistakes. I feel that I am ideally qualified to give a talk on this subject!  

Jeremy Holt

PS we still haven’t got our facebook page back 😦

Zoom login details in your emails as usual

email us at to get one !

Fri 20th Nov “Rebuilding the Earth” Mark Everard

This Friday from 7.30pm by Zoom, Dr Mark Everard will talk on ‘Rebuilding the Future’.  Mark says:

I will reflect on how our legacy societal norms are depleting the very natural infrastructure that makes life safe, profitable and fulfilling.  At this pivotal time in human history, we literally need to ‘rebuild the Earth’ not by altruistic conservation action but by recognising and embedding the many values that natural systems confer across all policy areas.  From flood management to fishery and water resource regeneration, resource security serving industrial supply chains and averting conflicts, and roles in public health and urban liveability, nature constitutes foundational, if currently undervalued or wholly overlooked, primary capital.  Global examples where working with natural systems has lifted people from poverty, addressed climate of water resource threats, stemmed erosion and food insecurity are drawn from my recent book Rebuilding the Earth: Regenerating our planet’s life support systems for a sustainable future, along with lessons stemming from these nature-based solutions and their transferability across all policy areas.  As we enter the 2021-2030 UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, this offers guidance on how transition to a truly sustainable future can be achieved in the face of a booming human population.

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FACEBOOK UPDATE – our facebook page has been “lost, stolen or mislaid” – hopefully a new one will be created soon

Fri 13 Nov “Seven Types of Atheism” Paul Archer

Paul Archer will be introducing a discussion of John Gray’s influential book ‘Seven Types of Atheism’.  The central idea of John Gray is expressed when he says:

‘If you want to understand atheism and religion, you must forget the popular notion that they are opposites…contemporary atheism is a continuation of monotheism by other means…the God of monotheism did not die…it only left the scene for a while to reappear as faith in humanity…without their reverence for this phantom, contemporary atheists could hardly go on’
I am attaching an A4 summary of John Gray’s typology of atheism and look forward to a lively discussion. 

Seven Types of Atheism – John Gray (2018)

John Gray’s Big Idea

‘If you want to understand atheism and religion, you must forget the popular notion that they are opposites…contemporary atheism is a continuation of monotheism by other means…the God of monotheism did not die…it only left the scene for a while to reappear as faith in humanity…without their reverence for this phantom, contemporary atheists could hardly go on’

Type 1 = New Atheism

Religion is a system of beliefs…it is a set of empirical claims believed without evidence…these empirical claims are false…we can construct a science of good and evil that will support human equality and personal autonomy without religion

Type 2 = Secular Humanism

Religion can be replaced with the belief in progress…humans are gradually improving…the collective efforts of humanity are taking us to a better place…there are forces in human history that are moving us towards realising our full possibilities as humans

Type 3 = Scientific Atheism

Religion can replaced by evolution…science will enable us to evolve into a higher kind of being…through planned genetic evolution or planned genetic modification, we can fashion a superior species…a kind of Social Darwinism

Type 4 = Modern Political Religion

Religious salvation in another world must be replaced by political salvation in this world through the following of beliefs founded in reason…salvation is found in the Jacobinism of the French Revolution, the Bolshevism of the Russian Revolution, and the faith in modern Liberalism

Type 5 = God Haters

Religion is the enemy of humanity…for the Marquis de Sade, we must rebel against the God of monotheism to serve nature…for William Empson, the Christian God is pure evil…Empson has the same cold horror at the justice of God as he does at the justice of a commandant at Belsen

Type 6 = Atheism without Progress

Religion is untrue but in no need of replacement with any other illusion…we can pursue equanimity without any hope of salvation in the next life or in history…there is freedom in the godless flux of nature…religion is natural and it is an odd naturalism that seeks to purge religion from our lives

Type 7 = Atheism of Silence

Religion of the traditional kind is untrue but we can find intimations of a realm beyond the human world for example, in music…the intimation of a state of pure being…the reality of something incommunicable…a godless mysticism…the silent contemplation of the world beyond words

  To join the meeting just click on the link below and I will let you in from the waiting room:

6th Nov “Lessons from the Trump Phenomenon” John Little

Dear All
This Friday from 7.30pm by Zoom, John Little will be speaking and introducing a discussion on Donald Trump. 

Alternatively titled:

‘Trump, a Retrospective’


‘Trump: What have we done to deserve this’,

John will be speaking about ‘Lessons from the Trump Phenomenon’.  John says:

By Friday we should have a good idea who has won the most controversial and polarising election in US history. Or maybe not.  For an outsider it has been a bewildering four years. Just what is the attraction of Donald Trump for over 40% of the American electorate? Are they just stupid (after all he has said that he loves the poorly educated)? Are they ordinary people who simply fell for an alluring sales pitch? Are they wishful thinkers who projected their image of a successful businessman on to someone who was part con man, part criminal?

Can we blame it all on The Apprentice and Fox News? Are my biases showing? And then there’s the role of religion in American politics. Above all what is the conceivable attraction for 90% of white evangelical Christians of a proven serial adulterer, conscienceless liar and convicted fraudster? Yet, as I type this, my TV shows a Trump rally with supporters chanting  ”We love you” and waving posters of Jesus wearing a MAGA baseball cap. Can they be serious? Is it all to be explained by the frailties of human psychology ….some combination of confirmation bias and the fallacy of sunken costs? What am I missing? I want some help to try to understand the Trump phenomenon. 

To join the meeting just email us for the ZOOM link
The programme for the Winter 2020/21 programme is out

– something to keep us cheerful in those long dark nights of lockdown!
I hope to see you Friday.