From faith schools to coercive worship, and from confessional RE to faith based sex education, our school system is full of inappropriate religious influence, privilege and discrimination. But it doesn’t need to be this way, our many fantastic community schools show how we can move towards a secular, inclusive education system. The National Secular Society’s Alastair Lichten, will talk about the Society’s No More Faith Schools campaign, along with their other education focused campaigns. The talk includes advice on activism and is engaging and informative for those with all levels of pre-existing knowledge on the subject. Alastair Lichten is the Society’s head of education. HeRead More →

The societal and scientific consensus says only irrational people fear things like WiFi, artificial sweeteners, and fluoridated water, but there have been legitimately dangerous products sold as safe in the past. ​Flammable, toxic, radioactive and generally bad for you, we’ll look at products throughout history that killed, injured and poisoned, and the marketing campaigns that went along with them. ​Plus, we’ll explore some formerly dangerous things that turned out to be fine, and things we know are bad for us that we consume anyway. ​Come along. It’ll be good for your health. David Frank David Frank is a marketer, a writer and a former radioRead More →

Over two thousand years ago, long before Trump, Brexit and 2020, the Greek philosopher Epicurus offered a seemingly simple answer: pleasure. All we really want is pleasure. Philosopher John Sellars takes us through the basic arguments of Epicureanism with wonderful clarity, distilling the essence of an ancient philosophy that speaks with increasing urgency to our troubled times. Today we tend to associate the word ‘Epicurean’ with the enjoyment of fine food and wine and decadent self-indulgence. But, as Professor Sellars shows, these things are a world away from the vision of a pleasant life developed by Epicurus and his followers who were more concerned with mental pleasuresRead More →

Since Michael Howard’s pronouncement that ‘Prison Works’ the prison population in the UK has doubled with the current Government planning to build several more multi-occupancy ‘Titan’ prisons to incarcerate thousands more men and women. This reflects an ill-founded commitment to what became a cross-party mantra. In what sense does ‘prison work’? Does the claim stand scrutiny? Or, as Jonathan Simon suggests, does locking away an ever-increasing number of women, men and children amount to ‘social warehousing’? Derived in three decades of activist work and academic research Phil Scraton will address the harms of imprisonment for those locked away, their families and their communities. He willRead More →

Light bulbs in antiquity? UFO landing sites in Peru? Giant pyramids in the Balkans? Authors like Erich von Däniken or TV shows like “Ancient Aliens” accuse archaeologists of hiding important discoveries and masking the truth. According to them the monumental buildings of the past were created not by our ancestors but by aliens or extradimensional beings. At first glance this appears harmless – fantasies written by science fiction authors. However, those claims are deeply rooted in creationist and racist ideas. In times when fewer and fewer people trust in science such views become more popular and thus give rise to right-wing esoteric ideologies. This talkRead More →

Today’s “machine-learning” systems, trained by data, are so effective that we’ve invited them to see and hear for us–and to make decisions on our behalf. But alarm bells are ringing. Recent years have seen an eruption of concern as the field of machine learning advances. When the systems we attempt to teach will not, in the end, do what we want or what we expect, ethical and potentially existential risks emerge. Researchers call this the alignment problem. Systems cull résumés until, years later, we discover that they have inherent gender biases. Algorithms decide bail and parole–and appear to assess Black and White defendants differently. WeRead More →

In 2017 HUK hosted the book launch for Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom (right) by Chief Executive Andrew Copson. As well as being a historical survey of secularism’s development, his book identified today’s threats to secularism and the big debates raging around it. The book was republished a year later by Oxford University Press as Secularism: a Very Short Introduction. Over three years later, secularism is still a hot topic in public, political, and religious debate across the globe. It is embodied in the conflict between secular republics – from the US to India – and the challenges they face from resurgent religious identity politics. In theRead More →