Member Bios

Student Member Profiles

Glen Carrigan

Glen Carrigan

Chair / President

Course: Masters by Research in Neuropsychology

Hi everyone, we founded the society in 2014 after a successful event called ‘An Evening of Science and Reason‘ to cater to everyone on campus who is interested in all matters skeptical! I’m a neuropsychology research student, senior research assistant in clinical practice, and senior demonstrator/associate lecturer in the Psychology Department at UCLan, as well as a regular speaker at skeptical events up and down the country. I’m passionate about engagement in science, equality, free expression, education and ethical decision making in order to promote a more enlightened society. Before coming to UCLan I was a serving soldier and communications liaison in the Middle East, and I’m now active in many areas of social and political activism. It’s my job to enable and facilitate your ideas so that we can build an inclusive, cohesive, engaging and interesting society for all!

 

1010119_293340127482322_1997621502_n

Mel Barker

2014-2015 Secretary

Course: Bsc (Hons)  Neuropsychology

I am a first year Neuropsychology student at the University of Central Lancashire and have been passionate about science for as long as I can remember. After spending several of my teenage years actively involved in a Pentecostal church, I eventually left (after being heavily encouraged to leave) because I refused to deny evolution. Ever since I have been obsessed with the power that religion has in society, the factors which contribute to the formation of religious belief and the idea we are evolutionarily adapted to become both leaders and followers. I’ve also had a fascination with alternative medicine and pseudoscience ever since I realised the Berlin Wall could be purchased as a homeopathic remedy (or Murus Berlinensis if you’d like its more official sounding name). It was a great privilege to be able to volunteer for Project Science and Reason and I’m looking forward to being able to work with people so passionate and dedicated to science.

Continue reading

AHS UCLan: A review of our first year!

Ever since its inception last September the UCLan AHS has been having a very busy year indeed! First up was fresher’s week recruitment in the atrium where Glen, Mel and Hamza were able to reel new members in with our colander dedicated to the flying spaghetti monster, evolution home brew and our own resident medical fairy Mel!

Following this for the remainder of September and beginning of October we continued to busy ourselves with ‘Atheaholics Anonymous’ where we elected our committee followed by a trip to the pub and singing skeptics karaoke at Roper hall (again for the umpteenth time James and I are sorry for murdering uptown girl at karaoke). We also managed to establish our collective society persona for pub quizzes Yolo Swaggins and the Fellowship of Da Bling!

“Every month there’s always so much to do and take part in with the AHS. I really feel that my involvement this year has taught me some valuable lessons and will hopefully help with my personal growth and skills in future.” –Niall Rowe, Social Secretary

After this we had our first piece of collaborative work with the regional AHS societies across the country when we took part in non-prophet week to raise money for the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust. Along with other AHS societies across the area we managed to raise £2000 pounds. This was a brilliant success that we were more than happy to contribute towards. Then it was time for our Happy Humanist Halloween! (We know that we have a thing for wordplay but we love it!) We hit the Preston nightlife completely dressed up in our wacky costumes including a quartet of mad scientists, a jester and even Garth Algar from Wayne’s world!

“Meeting up with like-minded people once a week just to talk about topics that interest me was a very good break from 3rd year work” -Alexander Lund, Society member

Afterwards November rolled in and it was time to really get down and into business with our planned lectures on elements of scepticism, science and many other wonderful topics our members and other within the university were keen to see! Members of the outside public even came to attend! First up it was Dr Andrew Pyle who gave us a wonderful talk on the battle between science and religion; whether it actually exists and what it entails. To cap off November we then had a showing of the movie Exposed: Magicians, Psychics and Frauds. A wonderful movie about the magician, escape artist and illusionist The Amazing Randi. The film took us through his personal life and his quest to debunk frauds who were using skills he used himself as an entertainer but passed them off as real in order to achieve more fame and riches. Suffice to say that the movie was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone that showed up.

“I really enjoyed our society trips to Sheffield and Nottingham and in future I look forward to involving myself more heavily through my position in the Regional AHS.” –James Smith, Secretary

December came and UCLan AHS still had plenty on the menu for everyone with our first event of the month being Professor Edzard Ernst’s lecture; How to Become a Pseudoscientist. Alternative Medicine: Trick or Treatment? Edzard was kind enough to come down and tell us about his life story in the world of medicine and his personal mission to ensure the accurate study of alternative medical treatments worldwide and how his own criticisms of alternative medicine had led into a run in with Prince Charles and they dire consequences that clash incurred. Then in the Next couple of

weeks AHS UCLan had its first big multi-society event to go to! The AHS training conference held in the Portland building of the University of Nottingham. Glen, James, Ben and I drove up to Nottingham for a weekend of brilliant training seminars hosted by the likes of Andrew Copson, Caitlin Greenwood, Chris Malburn and Martin Smith. Then as night came we were all able to head out into town and socialise. We made a lot of wonderful friends that weekend who we’ve now been able to engage and talk to over social media and other events since!

Following our return after the Christmas break we then had the wonderful opportunity to see Dara O’Brien, the popular Irish and atheist comedian at The Guildhall in Preston. Nearly everyone in the society managed to get themselves together and head down for a fantastic night of laughs! The society even got a mention from Dara after we tweeted him! (We won’t say how many attempts it took.) After this we then really got our rolling Roper hall socials into gear each Thursday for the quiz followed by karaoke and even managed to pick up the big £100 on our first outing! Everyone in the society really enjoyed being able to get out each week to flex our minds and vocal chords (Strain may be a more appropriate verb for our vocal chords though.)

Following this the end of February marked our biggest AHS conference event to date when Glen, James, Ben, Phil, Alex and I hopped down to Sheffield for their universities first ever Freethought Convention organised by the marvellous Sylvia Broeckx. We spent our Friday night and weekend engaging with those that we had met at Nottingham again as well as some new faces including renowned atheist speakers and authors such as David Fitzgerald and Amal Farah. I know that I for one was genuinely sad when the weekend was over, I just didn’t want to leave!

“I was totally overwhelmed by the opportunities and events being part of the AHS provides. From charitable events to free thought conventions, it has delivered a wide range of new experiences.”  – Phil Ashburn, Society Member

Following this we received the devastating news of the death of the amazing Terry Pratchett when he lost his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. A true paragon of humanism and a staunch advocate of the Dignity in Dying campaign deserved a memorial and that’s exactly what we did! Within a week we had organised a reading of Terry’s 2013 Humanist of the year speech by Glen followed by a showing of Terry Pratchett: Shaking hands with Death and The Colour of Magic. It was a moving night and in my opinion a fitting send off to such a great man. We also collected money from attendees at this event for Alzheimer’s Research UK as a token of our respect to Terry and to continue the fight against Alzheimer’s despite his passing.

“I liked that we could raise money for charity as part of the society, it made me feel like being part of the society was more than just a past-time.” –Megan Thomas, Society Member

Post-Sheffield UCLan AHS still had plenty to offer with our first annual Skeptics Week kicking off shortly after Easter! We had a debating workshop with Glen, a lecture on green chemistry from James Smith and Emma Lowrie gave us another side of the story with her talk on the psychological benefits of belief. This really gave our members to improve on their skills related to public engagement which has been a large aim of our society right from the start. On top of this we also had Chris Moos giving his talk: From Jesus & Mo to Charlie Hebdo: Being a secularist in the face of the religious far-Right and the pro-religious Left. Every single talk that week was wonderful and Chris’ was just the icing on the cake, we loved it! Then to wrap it all up James and I made our way down to Ships and Giggles on the Saturday of Skeptics week for a charity waxing… needless to say it hurt; but the pain was worth it to raise even more funds for Alzheimer’s Research.

AS exam season rolled in and everyone found themselves strangles by increased exam time stress the AHS still managed to provide for its members with Chloe sorting out a cocktail night in Ships and Giggles. A couple of free drinks and entry into Macs was just what some of us needed to unwind and get our heads out of the books for a night. However Phil and Glen were still more than willing to hit the nationwide stage with not one, but two appearances on the BBCs: The Big Questions! It was wonderful to see some representation from our society live on national television.

“We started the society when a few of us noticed a lack of representation for AHS students on campus. Since then, I’m happy to reflect on the year and our successes including: Nationally recognised links and humanist celebrants on campus; developing students’ skills through campaigns, media experiences, training and events all over the UK; and to have engaged in charitable giving in Uganda and for Alzheimer’s disease, as well as provide a vibrant atmosphere for stimulating and skeptical debate.” – Glen Carrigan, Society Chairman

And so there it is… an account of everything our society got up to in its very first year. I for one think we did a brilliant job of really getting our name out onto the stage both within UCLan and throughout the country! Now all that’s left is to get ready for the new academic year! Don’t forget to come down and check us out at fresher’s when the societies fair is on we can’t wait to see some new faces!

Niall Rowe (Social Secretary)

bbctbqaud 11045382_849916518383271_7738226679165826528_n 10967823_10152627553741080_1868670066_n 10686860_763306223705386_8830079199808315105_n 10492139_547890255357624_1755023352252486100_n 10429477_849921015049488_7627635229939109993_n 1487438_574899149323401_7082065866115928269_n 19292_849907318384191_8655229492068700653_n

AHSUCLan Does The BBC’s The Big Questions

bbctbqaud

Sunday was an eagerly anticipated experience as myself and Glen were at the Pyramid and Parr Hall, in Warrington, to sit in the audience for two episodes of The BBC’s The Big Questions – a show I had, myself watched for quite some time. This was one of those occasions where you are sat, two rows behind the likes of Andrew Copson, Peter Tatchell, and Maryam Namazie, watching them being pounded with questions by the brilliant Nicky Campbell, and you realise these are the tremendous opportunities that present themselves when you are at university, and especially part of a society.

When you are passionate about something, the best thing you can do is get involved. It soon becomes apparent that there are others just as passionate and some even more so. You realise your arguments are flawed, your opinions can be changed and you can disagree with and be disagreed with, by people who share the same passions as yourself. This is vital in broadening one’s horizon and developing one’s arguments. Indeed, you do not go to university to hear people who have the exact same opinions as yourself.

phil bbc big questions

Back to the actual topics of the day: Is the death penalty ever justifiable? Should the church stay out of politics? Should sex education be secular? Continue reading

Sheffield Freethought Convention: A Weekend of Skeptic Madness!

The end of February marked one of the best outings for the AHS to date! We rolled up on the 27th eager to get going and sorted out our hotels (With a minor mix-up on the part of Sean and myself.) However once settled we quickly made our way down to a local pub to meet the other convention goers. We talked and laughed through the night and we were more than happy to run into acquaintances from previous events.

However, come Saturday it was time to really get down to business! We arrived bright and early and took our seats for our first round of speakers beginning with Alastair Lichten who gave us a very provocative talk on humanism as a human rights issue. Being able to see humanism’s links to other social justice movements such a feminism was illuminating and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Next up we had David Fitzgerald; the well-known author of ‘the heretic’s guide to western religion’ gave us his hilarious “Sexy Violence! Violent Sex! The Weird-Ass Morality of the Bible” talk that he seemed to have as much fun delivering as we did listening!

“I’d cross the Atlantic anytime to make it to future cons like this one. My hat is off to you all!” – David Fitzgerald

Afterwards we had a little something for the students in the audience from Alice Fuller. Her talk on why humanism needs young people resonated very well within us all and reminded many of us why the work we do as part of a university AHS is important to youth engagement with humanism. After that we had a much needed lunch break to rejuvenate ourselves before the second round of talks. Having time to sit down and have casual discussions with the speakers in this time was something many of us saw as an improvement  when compared to many conventions we’d been to that weren’t associated with the AHS.

Once we’d had our fill of food it was back to the hall to resume the day. We had Lola Tinubu and Clive Aruede from the London Black Atheists up directly following lunch discussing theocracy by proxy and how governments in Africa were being subverted by religion. They brought up many issues that some of us were completely oblivious to beforehand and widened our spheres of social awareness.

Question: “Is it possible to be openly atheist in Nigeria?” Answer: “Well we had one” – London Black Atheists. (Great to see humour through adversity.)

Up next we had Amal Farah on how Apostasy laws were used within Islam to silence dissent along with a telling of her own personal story on how she moved away from Islam. This was especially exciting to those of us from UCLan as we were getting a preview of the talk that she would hopefully deliver to us in the future here at UCLan. Finally we had Andrew, the CEO of the British Humanist Association deliver a hilarious and useful talk on how to counter objections to humanism. As ever he had a litany of witty and intelligent answers to the main arguments many critics of humanism would throw at us. This of course was followed by a brilliant question panel made up of all our wonderful speakers that allowed us to pick their brains before we headed off to our amazing dinner that night, where we spent hours getting to know each other even better than before.

“Nothing puts these issues into perspective more than hearing people’s personal accounts. It was a inspirational and humbling experience” – Phil Ashburn

Finally it came time for our last day of the convention to get under way. Sunday consisted of two workshops run by David and Andrew which was accompanied by a fishbowl debate session. David’s workshop on “Does Jesus Matter?” hilariously explained many of the inconsistencies with the story of the messiah while Andrew’s Debating masterclass allowed us to cultivate many important skills for use both within work done for the AHS and in many other spheres in life. The fishbowl debate session was by far one of the highlights of the convention with four chairs being laid out in the middle of the room in a circle while the rest of the chairs were set in a wider circle around that. We each took our turns in the hot-seats discussing the matter on whether the government should impose rights to free speech. Opinions were somewhat mixed however everyone present was able to deliver a sterling argument. Moving forward, we’ll definitely try this format when conducting future debates at UCLan.

“It’s great to see how vibrant our community is, and how our members are using these opportunities to develop many transferable skills such as public speaking and debating, which will undoubtedly serve them well at university and beyond” – Glen Carrigan

So with the events of the last day done and dusted it came time to leave everyone behind. We all went through the usual motions of exchanging contact details and thanking each other for being such good company before racing of to catch our trains, buses and cars to go to wherever we called home. Hats off to Sylvia and her team for orchestrating this splendid event and I’m sure next year there will be even more attendees on top of those of us just itching to come back!

Niall Rowe (Social Secretary)

10429477_849921015049488_7627635229939109993_n 10995455_820398661329475_2075688587718055805_n 11021251_820398797996128_3197707080183010895_n 11024692_820398691329472_6250829357426396589_n 11038933_820398754662799_7380974556792101082_n 11043007_820398187996189_8997674520530255108_n 11042951_849914148383508_5444001260776811122_n 11042982_849915698383353_8129965766317976889_n 11043059_849920795049510_1861091686296729540_n 11045382_849916518383271_7738226679165826528_n 11069489_849923078382615_6561028128257732653_n