Psi wars at TED

Another reply, April 19, again on the Huffington Post.

The latest (April 18, 2013) reaction, an excellent one, on the Huffington Post. The bottom line is that TED has made a tragic strategic mistake.


Brought to my attention by Craig Weiler.
"In this case, the brouhaha started when apparently skeptics by the names of Jerry Coyne and PZ Meyer tried to have a video by parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake removed from TED talks because they felt he was unscientific...."
See Craig's blog for the full story: The psi wars come to TED

Or here for the TED site discussion, which shows the furor evoked by TED's censorship.

Or here for a discussion about this topic on the Daily Grail.

Or here for a "big picture" opinion by Craig Weiler.

This episode is just another shameful example of the psi taboo at work. It is promulgated by small-minded, loud-mouthed "skeptics" who intimidate editors with bullying tactics.

And now this, which is a predictable next step on the part of TED:

TED Not Satisfied With Current Censorship: TEDxWestHollywood is Taken Down

Some view this affair as a clash between those who hold a materialist worldview vs. some other (non-materialist?) worldview. My own opinion is that the research I do on psi phenomena is orthogonal to such ideologies. That's because the very meaning of "material" has changed so much over the past few centuries, and indeed even recently with the discovery of dark matter and energy, that to try to draw a strong distinction between material vs. non-material worldviews doesn't make sense. E.g., I am completely comfortable with the idea that one day psi will be discovered to be a property of matter. It would just be a more comprehensive understanding of matter than the one we have today.

TED's silent revolution. New commentary on the TED censorship.

(Updated 4-19-13)


Sonic Ghost said…
This is nuts. Why haven't they also rallied from hearing the likes of Jacques Valle, Marilyn Schlitz, Graham Hancock, etc? If TED were to bring down the video, it'd prove exactly Rupert Sheldrake's point. Let the people hear the message and decide what to make of it for themselves. The most ironic thing is that it would hurt skepticism itself; you can't practice skepticism if you can't make examinations in the first place.
And yet still we have people within science telling us that a "Taboo in science about PSI" is ridiculous. When will they wake up.
muzuzuzus said…
I am glad to say I have Rupert Sheldrake's book The Science Delusion, and i RECOMMEND IT.
They've gone after Graham Hancock now. Bloody fundamentalists.
Thomas said…
They are apparently doing the same with a talk by Graham Hancock. You can see his talk here
Sonic Ghost said…
So apparently they have taken down not only Rupert Sheldrake's video but also Graham Hancock's "War on Consciousness" video. TED's blog has a post about it and has opened up discussion for the merits of both talks.

Quite frankly I find this completely absurd and will be boycotting future TED talks until these videos are back up. There is a lot of support for Hancock and Sheldrake in the comments. While I don't agree with everything they say and I understand that there is a criteria for standards to be met in these talks, I don't see how either speaker failed to meet those standards. What puzzles me even more is that they have talks by Billy Graham and Rick Warren up... why not delete those videos or indeed, any video promoting religious ideas while we're at it? I'm really disappointed.
Myers and Coyne are intellectual grand inquisitors. I once wrote a piece about Myers' major contribution to intellectual life, his "Courtier's Reply" and noted that he was calling for exactly the same intellectual standards that Galileo complained of to Kepler when the scholastic philosophers wouldn't look through his telescope. Coyne's blog writing is... well, let's leave it at, less than rigorously coherent.

Perhaps this kind of campaign should be called a "TEDscare" from now on. It joins the category of unreliable due to the kind of ideological bending that Myers' has bragged about inciting his fan boys to "edit" Wikipedia to their liking.
muzuzuzus said…
"What puzzles me even more is that they have talks by Billy Graham and Rick Warren up... why not delete those videos or indeed, any video promoting religious ideas while we're at it?"

My answer is because traditional religion and scientism always seem to go hand in hand. They BOTH in their own way de-grade the natural world, and the body, and sensuality, and also psychedelic substances. And of course this includes anomalies. The former would demonize and the latter reduce.
I have lately been trying to discuss a deeper understanding of reality at The Shroomery forums where you will get moderators and members there who are of the same mindset as the TED skeptics. The latest comedy is they keep wanting 'evidence' to back up my claim that consciousness is more than chemical reductionism and neurotransmitters. I try and show them a video about a woman's NDE which as doctors in the video claim is remarkable in that it happened in near laboratory conditions. These people REFUSE to even watch the video, because it betrays real 'proper discussion' and they quote Latin at me. You just have to laugh LOL
There's no point at all in trying to debate these people, muzuzuzuz. I wrote a couple of things on Coyne's blog which were critical of the way TED handled this, and arguing that democracy was important in science. I suppose it is nice they published the comments - they were respectful but critical - but the moderator - Coyne I assume - told me to go away because nobody was interested in listening to what I had to say! A lot of really sloppy, intellectually lazy stuff here from many in the skeptics' crowd. Many seem to think only pro-psi people need to have rigorous methods and arguments. Anyway, it isn't necessary to take it personally. The skeptics are on the wrong side of history, and it is just a matter of time before the work of people like Dean and Sheldrake is vindicated.
My experience of commenting at Coyne's and Myers' blogs is that they have glass jaws.

I went back to look at what they said about Sheldrake and am pretty sure neither of them have read any of his research they are allegedly commenting on. I'll bet neither of them could answer questions about it cold, even after making vicious attacks on it.
Unknown said…
We'll see how it all shakes out.

George Hansen appears to be right.
I think this story needs an update. Three weeks after Coyne-Myers-Carroll issued their fatwa against Sheldrake, Science Daily reported upcomming papers that said the speed of light might not be constant.

If you do an update, please note that "declaring yourself a "Skeptic" means you never have to correct yourself even when you've made an ass of yourself."
Dieguti Guti said…
I know it's totally off topic but how could I contact with Dean Radin?
I would like to ask him about where he appears as a "Research Advisor".

Dean Radin said…
dean at noetic dot org
Dean Radin said…
The TED controversy reminded me that several people over the years have asked me what I thought of Robert Carroll's review of my books on his "Skeptic's Dictionary" website.

I finally had a chance to read it. It's written from the same mind-set as those who feel compelled to defend TED from what they regard as pseudoscience. This is clear in Carroll's case from an opening comment just before the review itself. He writes, "Actually, I [Carroll] am hoping that this review will discourage some readers from pursuing a career in this barren field." I.e., he wants to restrict what others wish to learn, based on his (faulty) understanding.

The review goes downhill from there.

At first I thought I might respond point-by-point to his critique, until it became obvious that that would be a waste of time.

A key point of my books is that through considering the preponderance of evidence for psi via the technique of meta-analysis, we would find that what used to be vague has become crystal clear. More data and ways of analyzing those data have sharpened what we can say about psi to the point where even skeptics like Richard Wiseman (as noted in this blog) have conceded that if psi were a more conventional topic then the existing data would have proved (his word) that it exists.

I tried to provide enough information about simple statistics and meta-analysis to let a naive reader appreciate my arguments, and based on an enormous amount of feedback I believe I succeeded with most readers.

But not with Carroll. He clearly doesn't get it. Nor is there any evidence that he read my list of footnotes, many of which I added specifically to address the kinds of questions that I know skeptics are fond of asking.

Enough said about Carroll's critique.
Lisa Sinervo said…
Errr, the unsinkable rubber duck keeps popping up because people, like me and others, have experiences that need explaining.

I've run into many closed minded skeptics myself who keep ranting that precognitive dreaming breaks all the known laws of physics and there is no possible mechanism for it.

I think the mechanism is just being overlooked. Did anyone notice that there is a difference in the speed of waking brainwaves and the speed of the brainwaves in the stages of sleep just prior to dreaming? If motion slows down time, there is every possibility that this situation would put a dreamer in a later spacetime than one's waking self where future thoughts encoded in brainwaves could provide the stimulation for precognitive dreaming.

We can't stop discussing this.


Here's a proposed model that uses standard physics and biology to model precognitive dreaming. Do I know this happens? No, but the claim that it can't be modeled it so not true.

djbarney said…
I find it amazing that more people have not heard of and indeed do not reference the work Farewell to Reason (1987) by Paul Feyerabend - - He defined very well how and why "orthodox" science mis-characterises Science due to misconceptions, conceits as well as ignorance of the history of science (Feyerabend was a Philosopher of the history of science at Berkeley). Actual historical cases of scientific research often display the same mixture of methodology, creativity and art that Hancock and Sheldrake display in their own research. Feyerabend covers the often messy history of research from figures like Einstein in revealing detail, which is often not revealed in the sketches/cartoon histories that we are usually hand fed. Know your history of science !
Anthony Mugan said…
Thought I might just mention that not all atheists view psi with disdain as the Huffington post article seems to imply. At least this one doesn't. My impression is that it is telling us that we are still missing something pretty fundamental within physics. I do have an issue with the frequent spiritual interpretations as lacking a firm foundation but then I can't supply a mechanism either and sincere best wishes to all those engaged in serious research in this challenging field.
anonymous said…
I think the parapsychological community should stop worrying about pseudo-skeptics and instead spend their time lobbying congress for resarch funding.

The pseudo-skeptics are actually powerless. Spending time reacting to them is not necessary. In the US we have National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine which provides government funding for research in alternative medicine. The pseudo-skeptics did not want this to happen and they did everything they could to stop it. Everything they could do was in fact nothing. It exposed them as impotent. Parapsychologists and others should not wast time reacting to pseudo-skeptics nor should they let the pseudo-skeptics set their agenda.

Instead of constantly responding to pseudo-skeptics the parapsychological community should spend their time and effort lobbying congress for research funds. The current budgetary environment is not encouraging but money could be reallocated to parapsychology from other areas.

What could be more important to humanity than the huge gaps in our understanding of consciousness? What could be more important to science than the fact that it has huge gaps revealed by the facts of psi? Making the argument that parapsychology is more deserving of research funds than other branches of science should be very easy to do.

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