Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
Paul Revis is organizing a protest April 2nd at TED’s New York office to ask that TED reinstate Rupert Sheldrake’s talk and release the names of their anonymous science board. He has also started a petition for PhD’s and MD’s to show that Sheldrake’s ideas have scientific support. The website for the protest can be found here: http://setsciencefree.org
While the petition is solely for PhD’s and MD’s the physical protest in New York has now been opened up to everyone.
Before I get into the interview, I want to point out that this purely scientific protest is a unique event in the history of mankind. There is no religion involved, no philosophical axes to grind. It is solely about accepting evidence and allowing theories that contradicts prevailing attitudes and beliefs and following it wherever it leads.
Paul, tell us a little bit about yourself:
Hi Craig, thank you for taking an interest in this protest and interviewing me. I’ve been a long time fan of TED and I’ve always had an interest in science and in freedom of speech. I’ve been interested in people that push the boundaries of our present knowledge and ask the hard questions. Even when I disagree with someone’s theories, I will still fight for them to be heard. My day job is as Product Development Manager of Integral E-Stores.
What motivated you to organize this protest?
I felt TED was disrespectful to the scientific community and the spirit of science itself. I have also become weary of having to defend my own personal views against irrational arguments. Many times, I have noticed people, including scientists and academics dismissing research without even having looked at it. This is troublesome and needs to be confronted.
What made you want to do a one year anniversary protest?
Simply because it is one year since everything has happened and we have yet to see a substantial answer. Rather instead we have nebulous comments by an unknown board and a load of comments, articles, statements, and speculations. The door is has still yet to be opened and now we all know that it is very much there.
How did this protest come about?
Look, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is bias and discrimination in scientific communities. So, no….we aren’t scientists, we’re just passionate about what science can explain to us about ourselves and we made a simple observation. We saw a silent war being fought in the intellectual community. This should be public because the greatest minds of humanity are discussing some very big issues here that will trickle down and have an effect on all of us. In the future, in 100 years, our understanding of reality will likely be very different than it is today. The history of science has shown us that what we accept as fact could very well change.
So I did my research to learn more about the controversy, including reading your book. I spoke to friends and PhD’s to gauge interest and got an enthusiastic response.
I recruited a couple of like minded colleagues and began the process of launching this campaign. Now everything is up and running and slowly becoming automated so I have a chance to concentrate on improving our overall strategy.
Speaking of which, how is it going?
Very well. We have over 125 signatures (from PhD’s and MD’s) including a Nobel Prize winner in physics so far and more on the way. While this isn’t a huge number, we’re very happy with what we’ve gotten so far because this is an esoteric subject that not everyone feels passionate about. We invite your readers to encourage any PhD’s and MD’s they know to sign the petition because it’s been our experience that word of mouth has produced the best results. One of the things that we unfortunately haven’t had the bandwidth to deal with is putting out a petition for everyone to sign. We would be grateful if someone else took up that project and we would help publicize it. Our goals are to have Sheldrake’s TED talk re-instated and for TED to disclose the names of their science board.
Any stumbling blocks?
We have been mailing requests for support to many academics and a small handful have responded by making the pseudoscience claim, but we always respond politely by asking them to please point out what part of the talk is pseudoscience. We have yet to receive a reply.
But the video for Graham Hancock was also taken down as well as TEDxWestHollywood. What about them?
We didn’t forget them. The TED controversy of last year was about so much more than just Rupert Sheldrake. I very much sympathize with Graham who had his TED talk removed as well and especially with Suzanne Taylor who had to spend $30,000 of her own money to put her program on after TED withdrew their support a mere two weeks before the event; and this was after a year of planning.
However it’s very important when you do a protest to keep things as clear, focused, and simple as possible. One of the problems of the Occupy movement was that they didn’t have any specific goals to hang their hats on and that diluted their message. We didn’t want to make the same mistake. It’s my hope that by bringing everyone’s attention to the central issue, they will be curious enough to inform themselves about the other players in this controversy.
Any final words?
Yes, this protest is a place for activism toward a more rational approach to science. I ask everyone to please help publicize this event and this controversy in general. We need your help to make this protest meaningful.