Skeptics on the Fringe 2015

Skeptics on the Fringe, a free show in the belly of Banshee Labyrinth, is a daily show based around the more general theme of science, rationality and logic. The talks vary day to day, and the quality is likely to be mixed, but watching a man talk about the cognitive abilities of chimps with the background of whether you can put a chimpanzee on trial is an excellent way to spend an evening away from the comedy and theatre grassroots of the Fringe.

The talks are not patronising, nor do they fly straight over the head of a casual observer

Dr Lewis, Dean of St Andrews, proves an exceptionally intriguing lecturer, talking at length about the differing ways chimpanzees interact with each other and with the wider world. He starts out the talk by outlining the case law in the United States that has provisionally given some apes habeas corpus – which in simple terms means autonomy over their body – which has led to a ban on keeping chimps in captivity.

This base brings about an interesting thought: can a chimp be put on trial for murder? Dean, an accomplished stage presence, captivates the audience early on, discussing the two main parts of what we in the UK consider necessary conditions for being guilty of murder: malice of forethought and a degree of moral understanding.

While at the end of the talk Dean had explained that is close to impossible to show that chimps have either of these qualities, the extensive discussion and examples of how chimp’s cognitive abilities differ from humans in the way of understanding others false belief, exhibiting empathy, among others was captivatingly outlined.

As a concept, Skeptics on the Fringe is a really great idea. By showcasing scientific, political and philosophical ideas during the Fringe, they open themselves and the public to a complete change of emphasis, and execute it close to perfection. The talks are not patronising, nor do they fly straight over the head of a casual observer: they have clearly been cleverly picked and curated to provide a wide and intriguing variety of topics.

Reviews by Conor Matchett

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The Blurb

Dude, where's my hoverboard? In the year 'Back to the Future' promised so much, Edinburgh Skeptics return with their award-winning four-star series of 22 individual talks showcasing science, reason, and critical thinking, and offering Fringe-goers an alternative to comedy and the arts. **** ( 2013, 2014). **** (ThreeWeeks, 2013). Skeptic Magazine's Okham Award for Outreach 2013.