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First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 5 September 7:00pm start

Tuesday 5th September: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion

Discussing Militarising the Far East and a second topic

Public discussions and debate in Manchester
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How chilling is Leveson for Press Freedom?

April 2012

Patrick Hayes and Helen Nugent introduced a discussion on what impact the Leveson inquiry is having on Press Freedom

Patrick Hayes

Established following the News of the World hacking scandal, the Leveson Inquiry has seen a flood of celebrities expressing their disdain for the way the media has operated, alongside a wide range of others, from scientists, to feminists, broadsheet journalists and pro-drug campaigners.

 Helen Nugent

While Lord Justice Leveson himself has said he’d be ‘surprised if government regulation ever entered [his] mind’, some form of new regulatory body – even just in the form of a revamped Press Complaints Commission ‘with teeth’ looks almost certain. Would such a body be effective in ensuring that another Hackgate arises again? And, if so, could there be unintended side effects? What could be the implications for investigative journalism – and, more broadly, for press freedom?

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Engineering a solution to the energy crisis

March 2012

Mike Koefman, Lauren Collins and James Woudhuysen introduced a discussion on how science can help develop a solution to the looming energy crisis

Mike KoefmanThe Manchester Salon hosted a discussion in October 2011 entitled Fukushima fallout, which brought the impending energy crisis in the UK into stark relief. What also became very clear was that the terrain of discussing such an issue has transformed itself quite profoundly in the last decade or so. Many in the audience questioned the proposed use of nuclear technology as a solution to existing and indeed increasing demands for energy production in a way that didn't seem to connect with how the nuclear industry insiders discuss their solutions.

 

Lauren CollinsThe assumption that society's use of more power should be answered by simply producing more power is commonly questioned, and indeed many in education as well as politics, now teach (or preach) that society should learn to consume less through Reducing, Reusing or Recycling what we have rather than producing more. There seems to be a growing gulf between discussions around reducing waste within energy production and society in its consumption of energy. The talking at cross purposes isn't helpful and as misanthropic views of humanity and its profilgate and rapacious use of energy become more widespread, so the discussion within the industry about how to produce more will be impacted with profound consequences for the lights going out.

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Technology, Philosophy and Religion: why the anxiety?

February 2012

David Lewin and James Heartfield introduced a discussion on how technology is discussed across society

David LewinThe public’s use of the internet is causing many liberals some anxiety. Our unfettered access to it has made some begin to question whether all this communication and networking is entirely a good thing—especially when it takes place out of view from officialdom.

 

In the past, governments have always been exponents of censoring, regulating and questioning merits of access to content including pornography to hate-speech. But now, more and more liberals are themselves questioning the effects of technologies being deployed in wider civil society from unfettered access to the internet through road building, house building to genetic modifications of food.

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Religion, Education and Tolerance

November 2011

Richard Harris, Rania Hafez, Dennis Hayes and Charles Brickdale introduced a discussion to ask why religious education and faith schools cause such frisson today. 

Richard HarrisIt is over a hundred and twenty five years since Friedrich Nietzsche popularised the slogan ‘God is dead!’ in Also sprach Zarathustra, so in our secular world the current attacks on religion by Dawkins and others are just not news. To the religious and particularly to Muslims and Christians, the new militant atheism can be explained as a response to the revival of belief. It is not only traditional religions that people appear to be turning to, as there is a big increase in new age beliefs, such as paganism, witchcraft, and spirituality.

 

Rania HafezOutside of these philosophical debates more and more parents want to send their children to faith schools and as many oppose them. Whether you love them as bastions of a traditional education and discipline, or loathe them as peddlers of homophobia and sexism, faith schools regularly occupy the headlines. Opponents call for their abolition in the name of integrating different cultures rather than allowing educational ghettoisation, equal access to state-funded institutions, and educational openness rather than indoctrination. Defenders of faith schools point to their excellent academic record, and argue that institutions must be free to set their own rules based on their beliefs, noting that the right of free association is not worth much without the right not to associate with some people. Should this argument be allowed to stand, however, when children are being taught values with which much of society now takes issue?

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Recent Discussions

Artificial Intelligence, bionics and consciousness

October 2011

Professor Kevin Warwick, Dr Kathleen Richardson and Professor Ray Tallis introduced a discussion on Artificial Intelligence and consciousness, chaired by Dr Stuart Derbyshire.

Kevin WarwickIn 2002 Professor Kevin Warwick embarked on a ground breaking experiment Cyborg Project 2.0, in which a one hundred-electrode array was surgically implanted into his own left wrist, connecting his nervous system and an external ‘gauntlet’ housing supporting electronics. The purpose of this experiment was to send signals back and forth between Professor Warwick’s nervous system and a computer via the internet, and most notably, to communicate with his wife Irena who also had an array implanted in her arm. This was noted as the first direct electronic communication between the nervous systems of two humans.

Kathleen Richardson

 

In May 2011, ‘Milo’, a Serbian living in Austria, volunteered to have his hand amputated so he could be fitted with a bionic limb connecting to and controlled by the nerve signals in his arm, which had been paralysed in a motorcycle accident, and already partly repaired using nerves from his leg. Meanwhile, developments in stem cell science and synthetic biology have brought the prospect of replacing flesh with ‘synthetic’ flesh a whole lot closer, raising further questions about where man ends and machine begins.

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Recent Discussions

Fukushima fallout

October 2011

Dr John Roberts, Dame Sue Ion and Rob Lyons introduced a discussion about where the fallout from Fukushima leaves the future of nuclear energy, chaired by Tony Gilland.

John Roberts

This year's earthquake off the northeastern coast of Japan, and the subsequent tsunami, had a devastating effect on that country, including the highly-publicised damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the days and weeks following the earthquake, press coverage of the plant was intense, with many predicting a catastrophe - especially as some parts of the plant dated back to 1967.

 

Dame Sue IonFears of a 'new Chernobyl' spread across the globe. The fallout from the disaster has included Germany shutting down some of its plants and declaring all will be shut down by 2022. Meanwhile, some environmentalists who had recently begun to support nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels are having doubts, or simply reverting to the anti-nuclear position.

 

With the prospect of oil and gas production declining, with coal widely seen as unacceptable and alternative forms of 'green' energy production seemingly unable to satisfy increasing demands, the nuclear option had looked set for a renaissance.

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