Fri 15 Feb -. ” Lessons from the Troubles in Northern Ireland ”  – Paul Archer and Gerry Hannon

This Friday from 7.40pm at the Friends Meeting House, Paul Archer will be speaking on ‘Lessons from the Troubles in Northern Ireland‘.
The Troubles in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 2007 were the civil war on our doorstep.  In the 25 years from 1969 to 1994, over 3,500 people were killed and over 45,000 were injured – mostly the victims were civilians.  Around 30,000 combatants from both sides were imprisoned which was around one in fifty of the whole population.  How did this happen and how did it come to an end?  What, if anything, can we learn from this conflict to help us understand other conflicts around the world?
Gerry Hannon who lived in Belfast through the Troubles will chair the meeting and be there to share his experience.
I hope to see you there.

Fri 8th Feb – The Foundations of Morality- A Conversation between Don Cameron and John Little

Where do moral values come from?
* God’s commands (as conveyed in sacred texts)
* Cultural conventions that have stood the test of time
* Natural Selection (shaping our genes)
* Reasoned thought
* Personal opinion
Don (and to a lesser extent, John) would plump for Natural Selection. But Natural Selection can install values which, though once (and perhaps still) good for genes, we no longer consider moral (retribution, xenophobia, homophobia, patriarchy, even genocide.) If so, on what grounds do we reject these?
Don has written, ”It can be shown that all the values that arise in society must ‘boot up’ from genetically programmed values”. John agrees that evolution has installed a suite of ‘moral sentiments’ that we can consult when we look for moral guidance, but it would seem to be an unreliable guide.
So, do genes hold morality on a leash? (Wilson) Or do they simply provide a launch pad for future developments which transcend biology? (Dennett)
Does Natural Selection give us the building blocks of morality or did it merely provide the initial scaffolding which we can now put to one side?

Friday 1st Feb – !!!!!Postponed – Snow !!!! – Economics as if People Mattered – Neil Howard

Its postposed – sorry – fear not – we will meet next week if the Gods smile upon us and send warmth!

This is what we are missing tonight but can to look forward to another time


Neil is one of our regular speakers, here is a preview of his talk, based on two quotes:

“I hear people say we have to stop and debate globalisation. You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer.”   (Tony Blair, 2005)
“What is the meaning of democracy, freedom, human dignity, standard of living, self-realisation, fulfilment? Is it a matter of goods, or of people? Of course it is a matter of people. But people can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups. Therefore we must learn to think in terms of an articulated structure that can cope with a multiplicity of small-scale units. If economic thinking cannot grasp this it is useless. If it cannot get beyond its vast abstractions, the national income, the rate of growth, capital/output ratio, input-output analysis, labour mobility, capital accumulation; if it cannot get beyond all this and make contact with the human realities of poverty, frustration, alienation, despair, breakdown, crime, escapism, stress, congestion, ugliness, and spiritual death, then let us scrap economics and start afresh.”   (E. F. Schumacher, 1973)


Fri 25th Jan – Data as a Modern Currency – Rahman Khatibi

  • Each day we create 2.5×1018 bytes of data. 90% of the data in the world to date was created in the last 2 years. As such, data acts as a currency, comparable to the nutritional intakes of living things or the flow of money.

  • The irony is that we have now entered a new surreal world, where post-truth trumps truth for a significant proportion of individuals, even those in the developed countries. It tips the balance of opinion on issues such as Brexit and the last American presidential election!

Data science as a term was coined in 2010. It supports a new breed of professionals with tools to cope with big data and to see the world in a new perspective. Are these acting for the good of man like the open science we know? Or are we vulnerable to elites, who have the means to exploit the findings from big data for their own ends? Man invented religion but elites soon took it over for their own benefit. We have not changed much but now have the advantage of open science. So, can we avoid falling into a similar trap this time round? Can we trust academics with a major concern over their revenues? I will take you through excursions into a number of disciplines and then will try to give an insight into the past evolution of data science and a look into its future. Hope to see you on Friday.

You can get a glimpse of my ideas here:

Fri 18th Jan – The Assault on Truth: From Donald Trump to Jordan Peterson – John Little

We live in interesting times. Fake News, Alternative Facts, Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers, Peak Bullshit, Clickbait….we are suffering from Truth Decay……

We are living in the age of Post Truth, defined  as increasing disagreement about facts, a blurring of the line between opinion and fact, an increase in the relative volume of opinion compared with fact, and lowered trust in formerly respected sources of factual information (news media,experts), where appeals to emotion and intuition trump appeals to reason and evidence. And not just in politics: consider the recent collapse in vaccination rates.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, influential thinkers have challenged the very notion of truth itself, seeking to redefine it. Historically there came the Pragmatists, then the Post Modernists and today the epic debate between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson which has taken place, firstly on the internet, but has filled 10000 seater auditoriums from Vancouver to London. Peterson, who many are calling the most influential intellectual around today, has promoted the notion of Darwinian truth over scientific truth. What exactly does he mean by Darwinian truth and is he on to something?

Fri Jan 11th – Global Tax Justice – David Archer

David Archer will be talking about the links between tax justice and justice in education and other public services globally.

David is the Head of Civic Participation, Tax Justice and Public Services at ActionAid (, a co-founder of the Global Campaign for Education (, Chair of the Right to Education Initiative (, long term elected board member of the Global Partnership for Education ( and an active part of the tax justice movement globally (