Brighton Sceptics and the Reece’s Pieces

from the twitter thread.

Let me tell you about “Reece’s Pieces”.

So, Brighton Skeptics were to hold a talk in January between Hannah Barnes and Helen Lewis. Barnes was the journalist who wrote a book exposing the debacle of the Tavistock gender clinic and how it was desperately failing vulnerable children.

What a perfect topic for a public critical thinking meeting! It involves the failure of evidence-based medicine, the ideological capture of institutions, and popular ideological beliefs that turn out not to be true. That is bread and butter for the ‘skeptic movement’.

Or so you would think. But as

@helenlewis tweets, the event has been cancelled despite selling out immediately. It looks like Brighton Skeptics failed to “compromise”. With whom though, and why?

Who was putting pressure on the group to cancel this perfectly good sceptical discussion about an important and topical issue? No surprises that at least one force came from a trans pressure group in Brighton.

Who was putting pressure on the group to cancel this perfectly good sceptical discussion about an important and topical issue? No surprises that at least one force came from a trans pressure group in Brighton.

A group was formed to get this event cancelled – and if that failed to try to disrupt it on the day. This new group was to be called “Reece’s Pieces”.

The founders though did not want this to be seen as pressure from external trans groups, so were keen to recruit ‘sceptics’ who were sympathetic to trans ideology. The “main thrust” must come from “sceptics”. They would front the “anger”.

They called it “Reece’s Pieces as this is a reference to the advertising slogan about a sweet with a peanut butter inner and a crunchy shell. They believed that “trans liberation and scientific skepticism are two great tastes that taste great together”.

Naturally, the justification for this action is that questioning trans ideology is hostile and denying of the “reality of trans people” and equivalent to scientific racism. The two speakers, Hannah Barnes and Helen Lewis were cast as “transphobic bigots”.

Helen is condemned for opposing self-ID, and Hannah for forming a campaign to shut down the Tavistock. That will be news to her as she is actually a journalist who wrote about the shutting down of the Tavistock.

The clear intent of Reece’s Pieces is to prevent any discussion of these issues at all from people who might challenged the beliefs of certain groups. Skeptics in the Pub has always faced such hostility. When I ran Oxford Skeptics in the Pub, and gave talks at others, I was always faced with threats from various pressure groups, cults, and vested interests not to platform ideas that threatened their cherished beliefs and, of course, income streams. Often people with obvious complex mental health problems would be the most vociferous (and sometime vicious) in not wanting us to talk about various things. Sceptics should not intend to be cruel, but ought to believe that truth is necessary. Without truth we do not know how to be kind or just.

Unfortunately, too many sceptics groups now think we need to be kind first and foremost, and kindness needs to guide how we see truth. That is the road to hell. That leads to rejection of truths based on social acceptance rather than material reality.

People will get hurt.

Hannah Barnes’ book is all about how children were damaged at the Tavistock by ideological forms of medicine that accepted the reality of the “trans” child without a sound rationale, and put children on medical pathways with no good systematic evidence base.The idea that paediatric gender medicine emerged ex nihilo perfectly formed, with robust treatment protocols, no risks and without better alternatives is absurd.

Just like any other field of medicine, it can become trapped with supposed unquestioned assumptions, undue deference to authorities, captured by vested interests from Big Pharma, or infused with pseudoscience. Sceptics know this is common.To think it could be free from bias, prejudice, errors and corruption is plain dangerous.

The people who will get hurt are children who have trans ideation as a result of being told their distress over their emerging sense of their sex and sexuality is due to them being “trans.” This can lead to irreversible bodily and mental damage.

Indeed, an early triumph of the early sceptic movement was the popularisation of the understanding of how the bad thinking at the heart of quackery like homeopathy also plays a role in mainstream medicine.

What we have here is a lobby group with pseudoscientific ideas trying to shut down public discussion that has material impact on the well being of many people, not least children. That they appear to have recruited “sceptics” to do their dirty work is deeply alarming.

But not at all surprising how sceptics appear to be easy prey for these fashionable “progressive” beliefs about how sex is not real and lesbians can have penises. The desire to appear to be ‘kind” easily suppresses critical thinking.

It makes me angry how too many people have abandoned the ethos that drove the rise of Skeptic in the Pub in the late 00’s, that the public can be engaged in thinking about difficult and entrenched beliefs in society through scientific critical appraisal of ideas.

Now too many sceptic groups are ‘safe spaces’. Sceptic groups should be the exact opposite of safe spaces where your own cherished beliefs are subject to rigorous questioning, asking for clarity of claims, and the appraisal of evidence. It should be uncomfortable.

I do hope Brighton Skeptics are able to sort their lives out and reverse this decision and not give into ideologial pressure groups. I do hope @hannahsbee and @helenlewis can find a forum to have this necessary chat. I may have to emerge from retirement if not…

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