The Weiler Psi

Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics

The Psi Wars Come To TED


I now have a follow up post to this one:  TED Swings the Banhammer:  It Rebounds in Their Face

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader.  This is an organization on a collision course with consciousness research and it was only a matter of time before the war spilled over into their territory.

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.  (Here is the video.) To the Immense credit of TED staff, they opened up the controversy to the public.  Even more to their credit, the staff person who did this, Emily McManus, is an atheist who set aside her personal beliefs to open up the discussion.  A comment section was set up for this topic and the floodgates opened.  (You can find it here.)

“Let’s sit down and have a friendly conversation together.”

The open discussion that took place is the kind of situation that skeptics cannot win if knowledgeable people show up to the discussion.  It’s kind of like asking “who won WWII?”  Most people (in the West) will argue that it was chiefly the U.S. and Britain.  However if someone with the real facts shows up, the discussion changes dramatically.  The credit for winning actually goes to the Soviet Union.  Once you examine the evidence it’s not really up for discussion.  The Eastern Front stretched for over a thousand miles and it was where about 85% of WWII was fought.  This isn’t emphasized in High School history books so most people don’t know about it.  The psi discussion is a lot like that.  Skeptical arguments against psi don’t hold up against knowledgeable disagreement.  For that reason, skeptics usually avoid just this sort of battle.  They get into positions of authority and work behind the scenes to fulfill their agenda.  This strategy has worked magnificently on Wikipedia where their compulsive persistence has served their agenda well.

I’ve been on many comment threads about psi on various on line websites and tangled often with skeptics, but what happened on the TED comment thread was something new.  A tipping point has been reached and it was really clear in the thread.  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen the skeptics overwhelmed on a public forum.  Maybe the JREF crowd just didn’t get the word.  That skeptical organization usually shows up for these things.  (It’s easy to spot.  Someone will favorably mention the million dollar challenge and that comment will instantly get 15 likes.)

“We’re skeptics and we’re here to give our opinions.”

Even without them, there were quite a few skeptics.  Mostly well mannered too.  TED seems to attract a better crowd.  A few people from the Parapsychology and alternative medicine forums of mind-energy.net weighed in on the debate, which brings to mind a sort of showdown between the Montagues and the Capulets.

“YOUR FATHER WAS A PSEUDO SKEPTIC!!” “OH YEAH? YOUR MOTHER WAS A WOOMEISTER!!”

I did not read through the whole 478 comments because frankly, the discussion is always the same with minor variations.  The skeptics claim that there is no proof, etc, but provide no compelling evidence and the pro psi crowd counters with a barrage of links and counter arguments.  The skeptics attempt to define evidence according to radically narrow definitions and the pro psi crowd calls them on it.  Back and forth, back and forth.  What was interesting to me was how many well informed posters were pro psi and how willing they were to work together to get their side of the debate heard.  They even made a very strong effort to “like” comments from their side, which is new as well.  That is usually a skeptical tactic.  Somewhere, somehow, these people have learned how to counter the skeptics and they did it very effectively.

This supports my hunch that the internet is changing how science is done by making the skeptical gate keeping much more difficult.  Information about consciousness research has spread far and wide and its supporters are growing ever more vocal.  Among those supporters is a growing group of people who are persistent and engaged enough to do battle with the skeptical paradigm.  Their numbers are apparently growing from what I’ve seen while the number of skeptics has stayed pretty much even.  It looks like the tipping point has been reached.  Skeptics are not winning.

Hopefully the staff at TED took notice because a wrong move on their part will create all sorts of havoc.

From a political standpoint, I think that the discussion made it crystal clear that many of the people on the pro Sheldrake side would regard it as censorship if Sheldrake’s video was removed.  If the staff chose to remove the video they certainly would be making the excuse that the video was not scientific in nature, but this would not be considered credible by the pro psi crowd which has already made it clear that that in their opinion, Sheldrake is on solid scientific ground.   The only really sensible thing to do is to leave the video up and let people decide for themselves.  This has become the most conservative, low risk solution.

While the skeptical point of view is the mainstream position in science, the TED talks are for and supported by an informed public unconstrained by academic politics and belief systems.  As the hosts of TED are learning, this public finds consciousness research fascinating.  Whether they like it or not, TED must serve this audience or risk being viewed as hypocritical gatekeepers of the status quo.

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92 comments on “The Psi Wars Come To TED

  1. Pingback: A Visionary | Doorway Cafe

  2. Pingback: The Psi Wars Just Went Nuclear on TED < ~C4Chaos

  3. Pingback: The TED Saga Continues on the Sheldrake and Hancock Debates < ~C4Chaos

  4. Anthony McCarthy
    March 19, 2013

    As soon as one of the things attacked by the pseudo-skepticism industry is accepted, their entire credibility crumbles and the evidence to do that is published in many experiments and many credible journals, over and over again. Unable to overturn that, they have turned to people like Myers, Coyne and the JR”E”F trolls to enforce the taboo on looking at that evidence.

    They’re enforcers of orthodoxy. Myers is a minor biology teacher at a minor branch of a the U. or Minn. Coyne is the marginally stable soon to be former geneticist and … well, we all know what Randi is.

    They’ve helped destroy the reliability of Wikipedia, openly bragging about that. I wouldn’t trust it on anything about any hot button issue.

    • Riz
      March 19, 2013

      I left a couple of considered comments on Coyne’s blog a day ago. So far they have not appeared. It looks like they only put up comments that agree with them. The blog calls the TED saga a victory for science over woo woo. Not one comment – there were about 20 – nor the original post, mentioned how sloppy TED’s work was on this e.g. The fact that almost all the points they mentioned about the two videos was wrong, suggesting they had either not watched them, or merely quickly skimmed them. They haven’t responded to Sheldrake and Hancock’s comments either. These were the things I mentioned on Coyne’s blog. It’s amazing how sloppy their work and thinking is. I suppose they think that they don’t have to try very hard because they are always right and anybody who disagrees is an idiot. It comes across in much of the thinking of hardcore skeptics.

      • craigweiler
        March 19, 2013

        Can’t say I’m surprised.

  5. Pingback: TED Talk Censors Rupert Sheldrake Speech on The Science Delusion « The Elfis Network

  6. Terry
    March 17, 2013

    “The business of skepticism is to be dangerous. Skepticism challenges established institutions. If we teach everybody, including, say, high school students, habits of skeptical thought, they will probably not restrict their skepticism to UFOs, aspirin commercials, and 35,000-year-old channelees.
    Maybe they’ll start asking awkward questions about economic, or social, or political, or religious institutions. Perhaps they’ll challenge the opinions of those in power. Then where would we be?”
    Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

    • Peter
      March 17, 2013

      Carl Sagan, notorious heavy drug user, some would say addict. Not much of a example.

      • Terry
        March 17, 2013

        @ Peter what ever Sagan’s foibles that statement resonates with me because I am one of those people who do take the George Carlin approach to government I don’t beleieve anything they say.
        We have set up a Face book page calling for people to boycott Ted. This is to support both Graham and Rupert, but more importantly to protect the right to Freedom of speech which is SACROSANCT:

        http://www.facebook.com/groups/345535438881217/

        • marcustanthony
          March 17, 2013

          Personally, I’m not going to boycott TED. Why not simply engage them? I think we need to move beyond “us vs them” approaches. When we get angry and judgmental we lose our own inner peace. Victim states and conspiracy-laiden worldviews are then but one step away. We lose our connection with the spiritual dimensions of ourselves. It’s really just playing the same game of moral superiority that arch skeptics and atheists play. And how does the “other” guy react when bombarded with a whole heap of judgment and anger? I’ll let you answer that.

          • Fran Theis
            March 17, 2013

            You can lead a horse to water… But you can spoon feed him and teach him slowly until he finally understands. Engagement will help teach, and that’s really what’s needed at this point. At the same time we need a way to insist upon freedom of speech without breaking engagement. — Now how can we do that? We need a creative way to handle this situation without taking our ball and going home.

        • Peter
          March 18, 2013

          I’m certainly in favour of TED’s demise or at least substantial reorientation of its “thinking”. But linking Carl Sagan to that cause is bad judgement because links will also be made between his unsound brain-addling drug use and your option of a boycott. The latter will be seen as similar bad judgement.

          Your post is confused from another POV. Sheldrake is not a skeptic. It is the professional skeptic bunch that want to silence him. Again, your confusion means that your intention will be ignored. Better rethink your approach.

          • Terry
            March 18, 2013

            Hi there is no confusion Rupert is sceptical when it comes to materialism. I am sure people can work it out for themselves.
            Sagan’s quote has within it more than one meaning, whilst he was in favour of scepticism, all scientists are naturally sceptical, he was aware that scepticism comes with dangers. We are now seeing the danger manifest because people like myself are sceptical of government and mainstream science. That is a good thing, we see its all about contropl and manipulation and we see what the agenda really is. The creation of a dystopian New World Order in which the minority lord it over the rest of us. We are beings of infinite potential and the box they are trying so desperately hard to lock us in is about to break wide open:

            “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
            George Orwell

            • Peter
              March 18, 2013

              You have a lot to learn. Start by overcoming your ego attachment to failed strategies.

              I notice that you have changing from promoting skepticism and mistakenly attributing skepticism to Sheldrake to promoting scepticism in an attempt to distance yourself from loony professional skeptics who fomented this disgrace.

              Incidentally, Sheldrake is neither a skeptic nor a skeptic. He is simply making a bias-free inquiry into the roots of modern science, how it is being misused, and by whom.

              • Terry
                March 18, 2013

                I have discussed it with Rupert personally you are wrong. As for me being attached again you are wrong I actually practice the Buddhist principle of Non-attachment.
                Twice wrong Peter leads me to ask if you are ever right about anything or is it just you bloviating and using condescension to massage your own inflated ego, which you then project onto me!

                I will of course allow you to have the last word your ego needs it more than mine ;)

                “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first
                duty of intelligent men.”
                George Orwell

              • Peter
                March 18, 2013

                You need to keep practicing that non-attachment thing because you have not quite attained it as evidenced by your continuous need to prove your self correct and by your torturous twists and turns in evading answering for your comments.

                Incidentally, good scientists are not sceptical, they are curious. There is a difference. Scepticism depends on linear, binary,dualistic, egoistic thinking and is rooted in fear. Curiosity requires fearlessness, acceptance, egolessness, and holistic thinking – all the attributes that Buddhism strives for but which you do not yet possess.

                As for your claim to be in touch with Sheldrake and merely relaying his opinion, I am sceptical:-) Sheldrake needs no one of such small ability and large confusion as yourself to defend him.

                But hey have a nice day.

              • Terry
                March 18, 2013

                Practicing non attachment is something one must do every day I never claimed to have mastered it. I am more advanced that you though pal. You seem to like to spin what I did say and try and put word’s in my mouth.
                As for your cynicism about my being in touch with Sheldrake it does not change the fact that I am. And you don’t understand scepticism, you definitely don’t understand how scientists view things. I know Rupert is sceptical regarding the claims made for parallel universes, not only has he told me, but he’s also publicly expressed his doubts about it.
                Have a Nice day because where I am every day is great :)

              • Peter
                March 18, 2013

                Parallel universes have been known for 1000s of years by spiritual adepts. They are accessed by tuning consciousness levels to the vibration rates of the upper chakras. It is interesting that quantum scientists are finally catching up via black holes theory.

              • Terry
                March 18, 2013

                Maybe so does not mean that one cannot be sceptical about them though. In fact I have championed their existence on other forums and having read Tom Campbell’s My Big TOE seems our universe is just one of many in a Big Computer.

              • craigweiler
                March 18, 2013

                Peter,
                I’m going to have to step in here. Please stop insulting people. Right now. Keep all of your comments civil. It is OK to have an opinion. It is not OK to be telling people “you have a lot to learn” and to “overcome their ego attachment” and stuff like that.

                Please confine your comments to expressing your own opinions and avoid saying anything personal about other people. It is disruptive and leads to flame wars.

                Thanks,
                The Management

              • Peter
                March 18, 2013

                Not only were my comments civil, they were truthful and backed up with factual references to his own comments. In addition, he brought up the notion of Buddhism. I was pointing that he either did not understand it or could not claim to have absorbed its teachings as he claimed.

                But hey have a nice day.

  7. idoubtit
    March 16, 2013

    I would like to point out that not all skeptics are fans of PZ Myers and dismissive debunkers. I find that distasteful. I recently completed a Media Guide to Skepticism to help with some misconceptions about skeptics.

    http://doubtfulnews.com/media-guide-to-skepticism/

    It’s unfortunate the way this TED scenario played out.

    • craigweiler
      March 16, 2013

      That’s a very thoughtful post and I’m glad that you took the time to post this link. Thank you.

    • Peter
      March 16, 2013

      If skepticism is based on only systematic observations and reason it is materialist and deeply limited in what it can investigate. There is much that lies beyond the limits of the senses whether or not those senses are augmented with tools. Skepticism provides an illusion of competency but is really just an amusing way to pass the time between birth and death.

  8. Pingback: The PSI Wars come to TED | TEDxWestHollywood

  9. Sandy
    March 15, 2013

    I started a conversation over at TED in hopes of making more people aware of the censorship. Understandably, once you mention a website has a policy of censorship, people go elsewhere to talk. But at least I can post links to useful information.

    http://www.ted.com/conversations/17083/a_new_policy_of_censorship_on.html

  10. Fran Theis
    March 15, 2013
    • Peter
      March 15, 2013

      Peer Review, Shmear Review

      I notice that the statement, in addition to being couched in skeptic phraseology, extols “peer review”, relying on peer review as some sort of gold standard of infallibility.

      The peer review process is actually the process of groupthink, even group hypnosis, whereby those of a certain opinion or mind set tend to publish and/or favourably evaluate articles that ape that opinion or mindset. It is knee-jerk science, a combination of wishful thinking, laziness, smug egoism, and the logical fallacy known as argumentum ad verecudiam or appeal to authority.

      The lack of substance behind the peer-review phenomenon may best be illustrated by looking at the 1990’s issue of Levy Flights. In 1996, a British Antarctic Survey “proved” that albatrosses follow flight patterns called Levy flights, named after a French mathematician. This information was duly published in a peer reviewed journal. Then came a season of silliness as other researchers sought to show a whole host of fauna also followed these supposed Levy Flight patterns. There were findings of Levy flights in bees, reindeer, grey seals, spider monkeys and microscopic zooplankton. One study even found evidence of Levy flights in the movements of Peruvian fishing boats going after anchovies off the coast of South America. Another suggested in 1999 that Levy statistics applied to Jackson Pollack paintings. All of these findings were submitted to and published in peer reviewed journals. People were claiming an evolutionary advantage to having Levy statistics.

      And all of them were wrong.

      In October 2007,Dr Andrew Edwards , a research scientist currently with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, showed that the original Levy flight study was flawed in two respects. First, there was an error in raw data collection from tracking devices attached to the birds. The birds were mistakenly thought to be in the air when they were, for much of the time, soaking up the sun while sitting on rocks. The more important error, however, was in methodology, a statistical method of calculation, which was wrong and is what started the chain-reaction of mistakes.

      It is Dr. Edwards who suggested that the two reasons for the errors in the original Levy Flight report was laziness and wishful thinking. If laziness and wishful thinking are the reasons numerous researchers made their silly claims of Levy flights, those same reasons could be attributed to the so-called experts who constituted the peer review panels of the various journals to accept the spurious studies.

      With the Levy flight bubble we have an excellent example of people essentially wasting their lives and careers due to laziness and wishful thinking, and possibly the publish-or-perish atmosphere in academia, all under the flawed aegis of peer review.

      While one cannot question the validity of all articles in peer reviewed publications based on their passing a peer review process, one can say that being included in a peer review publication is certainly not evidence of validity.

      As for TED, it remains a hijack victim of scientism, linearity, and the superficial.

      • Suzanne Taylor
        March 15, 2013

        At least a peer-reviewed journal is a cut above the authority that Chris Anderson cited on the TED blog to blast Graham Hancock: “…perhaps you could help me understand why your work is widely characterized as pseudo-archeology, as in the current version of this wikipedia page.” Omg, and I’m producing a TEDx event (www.TEDxWestHollywood.com). What have i done?

  11. Thomas Jespersen
    March 14, 2013

    “Further to my last two statuses I am disgusted to report that TED has indeed hidden my “War on Consciousness” presentation and Rupert Sheldrake’s “Science Delusion” presentation on the TEDx Youtube channel. Both videos are now marked as private and so no member of the public can now view them or make up their own minds about them. If this is how science operates, by silencing those who express opposing views rather than by debating with them, then science is dead and we are in a new era of the Inquisition.”

    -Graham Hancock on Facebook

    • craigweiler
      March 14, 2013

      That is truly appalling.

      • Woo Mister
        March 14, 2013

        It is appalling, and it is easy to verify.

        On the home page of http://www.sheldrake.org, the link titled “Visions for Transition – Rupert’s lecture at TEDx Whitechapel 12th January 2013″ brings up YouTube’s frowny face.

        I watched about half of the video a couple days ago and was eager to watch the remainder. For no good reason, apparently, this brilliant speaker has been quashed.

        • craigweiler
          March 14, 2013

          I for one, will sleep better tonight, knowing that all over the world, skeptics are working tirelessly to protect me from having any woo thoughts.

        • jgadd
          March 15, 2013

          You can watch it here:

    • Peter
      March 14, 2013

      My first comment on this article was “I had almost given up on TED because of its superficiality and linearity. This is TED as it should be always.” It seems I spoke too hastily and TED remains firmly rooted in its superficiality and linearity. Too bad.

  12. Mark
    March 13, 2013

    I have an idea, Craig. Maybe you can write a blog post, in the future, about why it is important to not continue to misrepresent atheism, as people like Alex Tsakiris and Peter, on this comment section, seem so intent on doing. Having people on the pro-psi side continue to misrepresent atheism makes many atheists, like me, angry and pushes them away, and sometimes pushes them into the pseudoskeptic movement, where they might not have gone, otherwise. If I didn’t dislike the pseudoskeptic movement so much I might think of joining. If some people in the pro-psi community don’t try to reign in this problem with the pro-psi community then I predict that there are going to be few atheists, for the foreseeable future, that want to join the pro-psi community. Unfortunately, there may be too many people, in both the pro-psi community and the pseudoskeptic movement, who want it that way.

    • craigweiler
      March 13, 2013

      Hi Mark,
      I’ve been following your back and forth with Peter, so I understand the context of this message. If you look at Alex’s post, he mentions over-the-top atheists, not atheists in general. Alex has a long history of being very reasonable and thoughtful, so I don’t think he’s actually biased in the way you think he is.

      I’m not going to write a blog post on this because I am too ignorant of atheism. In my posts I generally separate atheism and skepticism unless I am presented with an obvious connection, such as the committee for skeptical investigations.

      However, I would welcome a guest post from you if you’re interested. Your message is relevant to the psi discussion and you know way more about it than I do. You can email me at craig @ weiler . com (remove spaces)

    • Peter
      March 13, 2013

      Mark, despite the several times I have asked you to identify what it is you object to, you have refused to participate and have instead hurled invective.

      Has it occurred to you that you are merely imitating the skeptic/Atheist side that sought to silence Rupert Sheldrake?

    • Frank Matera
      March 13, 2013

      Mark, for what it is worth I have a similar belief… that PSI and God should not be linked. I know others (Mainly radical materialist skeptics mind you….) do want to link PSI and God because it allows them to discredit PSI by linking it to God which in their mind is as ridiculous as the tooth fairy and the lochness monster. For them it is all about discrediting someone rather than looking at the data.

      Do I think it is worth getting upset about? Not really. 99% of people would link Atheism with Materialism… as simply by claiming to be an Atheist you are saying you have a belief based on something… and in nearly every case it is materialism. If it is materialism then you can’t believe in PSI…. if it isn’t materialism and you believe in the possibility of PSI then surely you cannot discount the possibility of a God energy and that would make you Agnostic rather than Atheist.

      If you were Agnostic about the prescence of God then yes… most people could claim that an Agnostic person would be more likely to believe in PSI.

      • Peter
        March 14, 2013

        Psi phenomena by virtue of their existence leads one to God as you so succinctly described. To not make that linkage because of skeptics mistakenly think that doing so enables them to discredit psi by virtue of their mistaken views of God and what religion considers about God is not only silly but cuts you off from more extensive knowledge about psi.

        You are correct that skeptics would rather denigrate than inquire (as Mark has so ably demonstrated). This tendency is curious considering the avowed allegiance to reason. It seems that some will only reason within an area of ‘givens’ but will not reason about the ‘givens’. Too bad.

      • Dimitra Makropoulos
        March 16, 2013

        Frank, I have to disagree with you here. I think that in time, psi will be explained by science, perhaps quantum physics. It is not necessary to have any linkage between God and psi. In fact, I don’t believe that any link can be made by science to God because of the structure of science. Science requires an observer and participant. God is considered to be Alpha and Omega, therefore, there is no standing outside of God in order to observe and measure God. God is therefore, always going to be a gamble on reality. That is fine, I am willing myself to take that gamble, a gamble on faith that God exists, but trying to link psi to God, or suggesting that psi is an example of, or leads one to the conclusion that God exists, is an error…in my opinion.

        I am in agreement with the comments about atheism, why is it of any importance if the woman at TEDx is an atheist? Was she black too? I’m a religious person, but the issue of atheism and acceptance of psi evidence are not mutually exclusive.

  13. alex @ skeptiko
    March 13, 2013

    Great post, Craig. As much as I’d like to see this as some kind of tipping point it may just be an example of over-the-top Atheists/Skeptics pushing their nonsense a bit too far. The fact that this kind of censorship nincompoopery gets this much traction from TED is disappointing.

    • craigweiler
      March 13, 2013

      Thanks Alex. What encouraged me was the large number of different people involved on psi side of the discussion and how they tore a page out of the skeptical playbook in dealing with the skeptics. It was very unusual.

  14. Marcus T Anthony
    March 13, 2013

    I gave a TEDx talk in Hong Kong a year ago, which was on a related topic. Nobody has tried to take it down from youtube, and it clearly has the TEDx logo there.. There are 25 000 TEDx videos, and I’m just a small fish. I’m sure there must be many more like mine. Personally, I’m not bothered by those who hold contrary views to mine. It’s none of my business what they think of me or my ideas, unless we are having some kind of genuine discussion (and there’s not too many of those in “the Psi Wars”). Here’s the talk if you are interested. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lFyHdaLPPk

  15. Jim
    March 12, 2013

    Alan Wallace in the first part of his book “Embracing Mind: The Common Ground of Science and Spirituality” shows that scientific materialism, like everything else that functionally exists, evolved out of prior content, in this case, the beliefs of Christianity and the early Greeks. Essentially this drives a truck through the front window of anyone who tries to defend scientific materialism (whether they know they are doing that or not). In the second part of his book he sets out a framework for how consciousness could be investigated through structured subjective examination. I thought he was setting the entry bar pretty high in the second part. However, I did enjoy the shower of shattered glass in the first part.

  16. Woo Mister
    March 12, 2013

    The humorist Mort Sahl said it’s too hard to be an atheist, because you don’t get any days off. And if you’re agnostic, you don’t know if you get days off or not.

  17. Mark
    March 12, 2013

    Don’t be such a jerk about atheism, Craig. I’m an atheist and I believe in psychic abilities.

    • craigweiler
      March 12, 2013

      I’m sorry if I offended you. Your position of believing in psychic ability while being an atheist is something I don’t encounter a lot. Typically, atheism is associated with a materialist belief system (no God, no soul, consciousness is entirely in the brain) under which psi cannot exist. In fact, nearly everyone who rejects the existence of psi is an atheist. The Committee for Skeptical Investigations is joined at the hip with an atheist organization, JREF is run by atheists and all of the prominent skeptics are atheists.

      The two are associated so often that it’s easy to see them as one and the same, which they are not.

      • Stephen Leslie
        March 12, 2013

        I think there may be a lot of agnostics rather than atheists in the psi crowd. Dean Radin is agnostic. I’m agnostic, nonspiritual, and a psi-believer. More than just believing in psi, it has been confirmed that I have presentiment capability via EEG tests. But I’m still skeptical on the existence of God or gods. Even when I was an full-blown atheist several years ago, I still believed in reincarnation and had a somewhat dualistic view of consciousness (David Chalmer’s minimalistic dualism). As for psi, I couldn’t make up my mind. Scientific American kept printing disparaging articles by Micheal Shermer pulling me one way while a few of my friends who claimed to have some psychic ability pulled me the other. Eventually, I figured out that Micheal Shermer is a skeptic-fundamentalist and Scientific American has been doing its readers a disservice by publishing only psi-skeptic articles.

      • Mark
        March 12, 2013

        The folks that you are talking about are a small group of atheists, though they tend to be the most mouthy. Most atheists are open to psi and afterlife. Most atheists don’t think about these things a whole lot, though perhaps they should, so I don’t think that it is accurate to say that most atheists are materialists. I think that you have a skewed view of atheism because of a few pseudoskeptic, mouthy atheists that you hear about more often because they are more mouthy. For better or worse, most atheists are not getting involved in this kind of conversation.

        • craigweiler
          March 12, 2013

          Ya, you have a good point there. It’s quite likely that I don’t get exposed to a good cross section of atheists. Because I research a lot of psi stuff, and comment on psi related stories I run into a lot of fairly fanatical skeptics who are also atheist. And their brand of atheism is horrifically rude. I get a bit jaded by this.

          So thank you very much for the constructive criticism. I will try harder in the future to be sensitive to this.

        • Frank Matera
          March 12, 2013

          I have to be honest that really isn’t my personal experience. I don’t go actively seeking out Atheists to start discussions with but because of the field I am in I do meet people from all sorts of belief systems.

          To me Atheists predominantly have a science and materialistic belief system which goes against PSI. They aren’t the “mouthy” ones because they are just people I meet in every day work, but they do quote things like Randi’s MDC.

          That is usually your first clue that you have an Atheist based on science who just googles arguments against PSI and takes no real interst in it.

          So I can’t say personally myself I have met too many atheists who believe in PSI… but then again maybe I just don’t meet the right people.

          • Mark
            March 12, 2013

            Yeah, you don’t meet the right people. Those ones you described are the mouthy ones, though not quite as mouthy as Randi. There are different degrees of mouthiness.

        • Peter
          March 13, 2013

          The common thread among Atheists is that they have an egocentric world view (which allows them to miscast religion in their efforts to discredit it publicaly or privately). The differences among Atheists is due to their egocentricism being held defiantly, smugly or contentedly.

      • Peter
        March 13, 2013

        As with any other religion, Atheism has many sects. (I’ve come across 14 Atheist sects and there could be more) Two of these are Mystical Atheism and Spiritual Atheism. The adherents of either could believe in psychic abilities even extending to what are commonly referred to as miracles (i.e. that which occurs outside the accepted limits of how the natural world operates). The adherents of these two sects continue to refer to themselves as Atheists because they misunderstand religion. Their arguments are always based on either or both a factual error about religion or a logical error in their argument.

        • Mark
          March 13, 2013

          Well, eff you, too, Peter. This type of stuff is a big part of the reason why so many atheists don’t want to work with a lot of people in the psi and afterlife fields. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think that there would be a lot more atheists and agnostics that would be a lot more open to working with others in the psi and afterlife if it wasn’t for stuff like this.

          • Peter
            March 13, 2013

            Aside from swearing, you neglected to state what in my comments you think is in error:
            1. There are many sects in Atheism.
            2. Two of those believe in psi phenomena including miracles.
            3. Atheists misunderstand religion.
            4. Atheist denouncements of religion ALWAYS contain logical or factual errors or both.
            5. Atheism is religion that attempts to follow the negative theology path known variously as as the Via Negativa path of Roman Catholicism; the Jnana Yoga path of Hinduism; the Lahoot Salbi path of Islam, found principally the Shia and Sufi paths; the Ein-sof aspect of Judaism plus Buddhism and Taoism also known as Daoism. This path differs from the Via Positiva approach which assumes that positive statements can be made about God. The Via Negativa path to the Divine has been practiced for many millenia by all religions.

            In my experience Atheists are unable to accept either that their views of other religions are incomplete and/or based on errors or that their statements against religion continue elementary logical errors. Because of these inabilities, Atheists soon degenerate into invective just as you have (which, of course, is another logical error of argumentum ad hominem).

            I’d be pleased to continue this discussion of the shortcomings of Atheism but this is not the place for that. If you want to suggest an alternative that is fine.

          • Mark
            March 13, 2013

            Ugh….I don’t think I’ll be coming back to this blog. I will repeat that this is the kind of stuff that makes most atheists not want to work in these fields. It is not that most atheists are not open to psi and afterlife. Too many people insist into bringing gods into the mix when that should be seen as a separate, or at least mostly separate, issue. If you are interested in having reasonable atheists work with you then you have to stop people like Peter from doing what they are doing. If you want to polarize things and continue to make it look like you have to believe in psi and a god or no psi and no god, when it doesn’t need to be this way, keep allowing people like Peter to keep doing what he’s doing.

            • Peter
              March 13, 2013

              Mark, it has interesting and predictable to interact with you. You claim to disagree with my second post in this thread but did not and have not been able to detail what it is you disagreed with. You also seem to have turned down my invitation to continue the thread outside of this blog. Instead, you hurled invective and have now flounced out of the room. Too bad, but again, predictable.

  18. Sheila Joshi
    March 12, 2013

    Thanks for this newsworthy report, Craig! I’ve been waiting for this moment on TED, wanting them to move more into psi talks. We need to start a write-in campaign to get Dean Radin on their roster! I’m going to post this in the psi section of our antidepressant withdrawal support forum — http://antidepressantwithdrawal.info/

    • Fran Theis
      March 12, 2013

      Sheila, I formally nominated Dean Radin to the TED gatekeepers on 3/11/13. They indicate that multiple recommendations will not assure that a speaker is accepted, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to demonstrate that he has a wide supportive base. TED’s nomination site is: http://www.ted.com/nominate/speaker.

      • Sheila Joshi
        March 12, 2013

        Thank you so much for doing that, Fran! That form is a lot of work! Sheesh!

    • Frank Matera
      March 12, 2013

      It is funny… I downloaded the TED iPhone app only about a month ago and first thing I did was a search on Dean Radin and Rupert Sheldrake. I found nothing… and was gobsmacked because I thought it would be the perfect forum for them to talk.

      I was excited to see Rupert “snuck on” and now with all the anti-Sheldrake sentiment on TED it really opened my eyes up as to what the site may be about.

      I agree though… get Dean Radin up there… get him to show his presentiment studies… and lets see what the skeptics say then. I will be driving it.

  19. max
    March 12, 2013

    eddie huang about the corruption of the ted organisation

    http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/29612563/highlight/328611

  20. Woo Mister
    March 11, 2013

    I’m delighted to learn of this website. I saw it mentioned on Dean Radin’s site.

    I am a big fan of TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, an architect, designer and publisher. I’ve heard he is no longer associated with TED, having sold the business to others. But I believe Wurman would have none of this censoring of Rupert Sheldrake. Anomalies research absolutely belongs within TED’s scientific ambit.

    Those who ejected Sheldrake could not have been real skeptics. A real skeptic would be skeptical of intolerance, conformity and suppression, particularly of a credentialed and popular scientist and author such as Sheldrake. A real skeptic is skeptical of his own preconceptions and reactions to surprising data obtained through disciplined observation and experiment.

    As you may know, Sheldrake was assaulted and wounded at one of his appearances. Thank goodness he recovered and has continued his work. He certainly seems to have handled the terrible incident calmly and without resentment to the deranged attacker.

    As to the magician James Randi, Dean Radin has written extensively about why parapsychologists do not take Randi seriously. The book Randi’s Prize by Robert McLuhan covers similar territory.

    I look forward to reading the many other interesting posts and comments on this site. Congratulations on it.

    • craigweiler
      March 11, 2013

      Thank you for your kind words. I do praise the TED people for opening up this subject for discussion. A lot of the skeptical backstabbing of the world happens behind closed doors.

      I’m sure you know, but I’ll mention it in case anyone else is reading, Sheldrake was attacked with a knife by a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. While some skeptics may have shed crocodile tears over this, they had nothing to do with it.

      Randi is well known to me. I’ve written about his challenge and I’m still doing research on it.

  21. Suzanne Taylor
    March 11, 2013

    Um, wait till you see http://www.TEDxWestHollywood.com, coming up April 14. Same territory. In fact, we’ll show Graham Hancock’s talk from the same TEDx program Rupert was on. Am surprised no flack about that. Uh oh, I hope I haven’t started another thread :-).

    Here’s what i put out on the TED protest subject: “My 2-cents regarding Ted’s concern about wacky people getting on their platform is that I think they are looking through the wrong lens for how to control this. They are doing what feels to me like a modern day witch hunt. Pseudoscience is witchcraft. Who is a witch and who isn’t? Everyone is on trial. I’d think that instead of naming subjects that are taboo, TED should concentrate on presenters. If people are brilliant making a case for anything, I think that should be what they welcome.”

  22. Fran Theis
    March 11, 2013

    Skeptics: Please read Dean Radin’s scientific meta-analysis, The Conscious Universe. This book is your starting point for having an intelligent discussion about consciousness and psi.

  23. ridelo
    March 10, 2013

    Why doesn’t Sheldrake go for the Randi prize of $1,000,000? He could use that money for his experiments.

    • craigweiler
      March 10, 2013

      Ridelo,
      I’m going to allow this comment because I think many skeptics share your views.

      Here are the reasons why this isn’t going to happen:

      1. The way the rules are written, JREF has total control. That means that scientists would have to trust Randi et al to be fair. They do not trust him; not even a little bit. No one is going to hand over control to a person they don’t trust.

      2. Real science is expensive to do. There would be a substantial outlay of cash just to risk doing a challenge they seriously doubt is fair in the first place.

      3. There is no evidence that the challenge is fair. The process is not sufficiently open or objective for anyone to conclude this.

    • Peter Knight
      March 11, 2013

      Randi is not a scientist (doesn’t publish in journals, doesn’t do research etc) but someone who makes a living with debunking. Scientists wishing to prove anomolous phenomena need to so under scientific conditions (a multitude of experiments, replicated etc) and not by a one-shot ‘test’ controlled by a debunker who doesn’t actually do science. One problem with JREF is that the level of significance that they would request requires an unrealistic amounts of trials to prove potentially subtle but real effects. This why the notion that parapsychologists should prove themselves through the challenge makes absolutely no sense.

      It’s also important to understand that the materialistic worldview underpinning many skeptics beliefs is threatened by the existence of a real, measurable psi effect, even of the tiny, subtle, miniscule variety. It would be a watershed concession on their part. This is why so many skeptics seem to be hellbent on discrediting anything that comes out the mouths of parapsychologists. It’s this position that Sheldrake wishes to point out, as it is not about science, or the integrity of science, as much as it is about protecting a belief system that has become ingrained in the scientific community.

      The select few scientists doing paranormal research that have legitimate, widely respected academic backgrounds are an easy target for skeptics. By continually using terms like pseudo science, woomeister etc the desired effect is that people start to ignore them, discrediting them in advance, This is not by a sympathetic attempt to understand their body of work or point out flaws. Until a bigger group of researchers start doing psi research (with positive effects), it will continue to be easy to discredit the work that has been done so far.

      • Stephen Leslie
        March 11, 2013

        I don’t think it’s necessarily true that philosophical materialism would be destroyed by a paradigm shift to psi (I think this will happen within the next few years as quantum biology develops plus ever more robust parapsychological measurements come into play). One could just switch to a materialistic mind-as-a-quantum-computer picture and go on from there to explain telepathy and precognition. But with so much talk of “consciousness causes wavefunction collapse” and “wavefunction collapse causes consciousness”, I think the hardened skeptics are afraid to go there.

        • craigweiler
          March 11, 2013

          While there are many materialists out there still, materialism itself is dead both on a philosophical and evidential level. There is no there, there.

          I’ve been seeing a gradual shift from talking about consciousness to talking about information as a force in the universe. They are the same damned thing of course, but the latter is easier for skeptics to chew and they won’t gag on it. Information will be seen as a fundamental universal force.

          • Peter
            March 12, 2013

            Consciousness and information are the same thing??????????

            That would come as a stunning surprise to the billions of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Sufi, and Christian meditators for whom attaining consciousness without content is a primary goal.

            Information is about something. Those with information consider themselves to be separate from that which they think they have information about. It is a necessary and egocentric feature of rationalism/materialism.

            If information is, as you say, a force in the universe, then there is also intention permeating the universe. Intention leads to paranormal activities by the beings in the universe and eventually to the idea of God, Brahman, the Great Spirit, etc.

            The ultimate questions become, Is there a difference between God and consciousness or Is there a difference between God and the effects of God.

            • craigweiler
              March 12, 2013

              Yes, you can’t have consciousness without information or information without consciousness.

              • Peter
                March 13, 2013

                Craig, simply repeating your opinion does nothing to support it. Your lack of expansion on this view may even suggest that it lacks substance.

                To equate consciousness and information is only a modern twist on Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.” Both are based on materialism.

                Again, your opinion would come as a stunning surprise to the billions of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Sufi, and Christian meditators for whom attaining consciousness without content is a primary goal and a goal that some achieve.

                I do notice a slight change in your position from your original claim that consciousness and information are the same to this new claim that one can’t have consciousness without information. In the latter version you are differentiating between the two.

                Now it is only a matter of moving you to the point of directing consciousness beyond the physical world to a non-physical, transcendental state where there is no separation, where all is one as some religionists say.

                Information relies on difference and difference relies on a phenomenal world. Change worlds and difference disappears.

            • craigweiler
              March 13, 2013

              Information, like consciousness, has no substance. It can be defined as giving substance order, or interpreting order from substance. There is no such thing as consciousness without content (order) because not-content (a form of order) is a subset of content.

              Consciousness is required for order/information because with no consciousness there is no way to perceive information. It is also impossible to even imagine consciousness without information because perceiving/creating order/information is really the only thing consciousness does.

              • Peter
                March 13, 2013

                Sorry Craig, but you stretching here. “No content” is a subset of content only to you because you are mired in binary/dualistic/egoic/phenomenal thinking. Change your type of thinking, come to the Buddhist “No Thought” and you will be aware of your error here. Try http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/japanese-zen/ for a start.

                As for your contention that “perceiving/creating order/ information is really the only thing consciousness does”, how would you know? That YOUR consciousness only perceives/creates order/is information oriented no reason to suppose that that is the only possible aspect of consciousness or of a different type of consciousness.

                Before the Big Bang there was consciousness, that is, consciousness independent of content or, if you will, information.

                Again, all you are doing is restating your first presumption, yet again, without being able to provide proof or even explanation.

                Repetition is neither proof of a viewpoint nor refutation of a differing viewpoint. Repetition, is however, the stock in trade of Atheists. Do you really want to align yourself with Atheism after all of your work in this blog and elsewhere? Perhaps you are the materialism that you reject.

                Oh yes, as for your first paragraph, there is no such thing as “substance” so your boomerang segue back to consciousness as information is invalid on that basis as well as on the other logical error and factual error bases mentioned.

              • Jim
                March 13, 2013

                Buddhist Middle Way teachings tackle this point “head on”, and they’ve been doing it in writing for 1000+ years. The basic message aligns with Craig’s post.

              • Peter
                March 14, 2013

                And then there is Zen Buddhism which has a different approach which does not link consciousness and content (not to mention Hinduism, Sikhism, etc).

              • Jim
                March 14, 2013

                And then there is the Buddhist tenet system, which ranks the different levels of teaching by how far they help one along the path. Noted highly in them are sutras where the Buddhas is said to say that he taught different people at the level appropriate for them. In particular, he is said to say that he taught mind only (which includes Zen) for people who would react to the Middle Way with excessive fear of personal annihilation. (“Ok, if it would make you more comfortable, we’ll leave in a *little* inherent existence…how about mind?”) There are many streetlights, but the lost prize will be found under only one of them.

              • Jim
                March 14, 2013

                And, having considered Craig’s post above again, the Middle Way is still on this side of shunyata, which means it’s still bound up trying to connect knowledge (information) to reality (….). Upon popping through shunyata even momentarily, mind seems to have a distinctive quality of “getting directly at” its object, without the intervention of concepts. In the model that consciousness only interacts with information, how do we explain transpersonal psi experiences? Is there some common download buffer to supply the common concepts that the two minds simultaneously perceive? Where might that exist? Or is the experience more like two energy fields interacting? And might mind relate to energy like time relates to space? In everyday experience quite distinct, but at higher energies, one.

    • Frank Matera
      March 12, 2013

      There is a very good reason why and Craig has covered some of them but to me this is as much the issue. Ask

      Rupert Sheldrake why he would apply for the Randi prize when james Randi was found to have blatantly lied and misrepresented the work of Rupert Sheldrake with his dog telepathy experiments?

      To quote Sheldrake:

      The January 2000 issue of Dog World magazine included an article on a possible sixth sense in dogs, which discussed some of my research. In this article Randi was quoted as saying that in relation to canine ESP, “We at the JREF [James Randi Educational Foundation] have tested these claims. They fail.” No details were given of these tests.

      I emailed James Randi to ask for details of this JREF research. He did not reply. He ignored a second request for information too.

      I then asked members of the JREF Scientific Advisory Board to help me find out more about this claim. They did indeed help by advising Randi to reply. In an email sent on Februaury 6, 2000 he told me that the tests he referred to were not done at the JREF, but took place “years ago” and were “informal”. They involved two dogs belonging to a friend of his that he observed over a two-week period. All records had been lost. He wrote: “I overstated my case for doubting the reality of dog ESP based on the small amount of data I obtained. It was rash and improper of me to do so.”

      Randi also claimed to have debunked one of my experiments with the dog Jaytee, a part of which was shown on television. Jaytee went to the window to wait for his owner when she set off to come home, but did not do so before she set off. In Dog World, Randi stated: “Viewing the entire tape, we see that the dog responded to every car that drove by, and to every person who walked by.” This is simply not true, and Randi now admits that he has never seen the tape.

      Now given that James Randi has a history of fabricating data and has been caught out lying about the results of Sheldrake’s work, why would Sheldrake put any credibility into a challenge that has been obviously designed a tool to discredit rather than to prove.

  24. Peter
    March 10, 2013

    Thanks for this, Craig. I had almost given up on TED because of its superficially and linearity. This is TED as it should be always.

    Your photo of the bikers is a hilarious and deadly accurate description of skeptics in all their aggessiveness, fear and herd mentality.

    Rupert Sheldrake’s characterization of an aspect of the science world as a belief system/world view is accurate. I would even claim that the scientism he refers to is a religion that attempts to follow the via negative process.

    It should be noted that Sheldrake referred to science as A method of inquiry. It is certainly not the only method of inquiry. It is viewed the only method of inquiry available to those people trapped in a logical/mathematical learning style who are unaware of or unable to use other non-linear styles of learning.

    • craigweiler
      March 10, 2013

      I noticed that the skeptics just couldn’t understand that Sheldrake can separate the idea of science as a method of inquiry from the materialist belief system.

  25. Marcus T Anthony
    March 10, 2013

    The only issue as far as I can see is whether the talk should be re-classified as philosophical rather than scientific. But if this is the case, many science talks would have to be put in their philosophy section (I don’t know if they have one, but…), because they don’t go into detail about the evidence of the topic they are dealing with. I did note some skeptics repeating the same strange comment – why doesn’t Sheldrake bother to do experiments himself? – when he’s been doing them for decades.

    It would pay to remember that Coyne and Meyer are extremists – as are Randi, Wiseman and co – and they are intolerant of any opposing perspectives, as we have seen here – even the discussion of them. So as far as I’m concerned it’s a good thing if they are becoming fringe players in the science game themselves. And it’s inevitable that they will become increasingly fringe, as their worldview position is simply wrong – wrong in the sense that their position excludes valid data, evidence and experience. They are on the wrong side of history. I discuss many of these ideas in Futures Studies, and I generally get a very open reception. Then again, hardcore skeptics don’t tend to attend Futures conferences, because they don’t like talking about the future – you can’t measure it…

    Keeping all this in mind, now we can all get some sleep. :-)

    Marcus

    • craigweiler
      March 10, 2013

      Interesting idea about reclassifying the talk as philosophy. I would argue that science and philosophy are fairly inseparable.

  26. Sandy
    March 9, 2013

    I think the skeptics were taken for a loop when they hit the censorship button. Most scientists are adamantly opposed to censorship and would much rather be given the option to make up their own minds. In serious science forums, participants do not use words like “woo” or fling insults at the other posters, and that was something the skeptics didn’t seem to understand either. Randi has taught them bad manners, and they got voted off the island.

    • craigweiler
      March 9, 2013

      Randi has taught them bad manners, and they got voted off the island.

      Lol!!

  27. moniquestevenson
    March 9, 2013

    The ME Generation has been shown to be more tolerant. That’s going to change a lot of things, including the psi discussion. This is an awesome, awesome example of that, I think; but also a really great example of the fact that people, when it boils down to it, aren’t usually assholes. So overall, this is just awesome. :p

    • craigweiler
      March 9, 2013

      Thank you Monique. Have you given any thought to using some sort of picture for your avatar?

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This entry was posted on March 9, 2013 by in Psi Wars, Skeptics and Skeptic Arguments and tagged .
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