Tag Archives: Ted

Intent of the Day: Conflict with Patience

flowers

Patience and perseverance
have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.
-John Quincy Adams

These are tough times. It is hard to know the difference between what is real and what is propaganda, what requires our full attention and what is just distracting noise, what is truth and what is the fear of what-if. So what will disarm this fear? What is the best way to combat the anger? Will we fight fire with fire and will anything be left standing after the fire storm? Today our intent is to address conflict with patience.

How do we do that? Here are 3 things to help: Continue reading

Déjà Vu “Explained” 3 Ways, But Still Super Bizarre

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 1.57.59 PMHave you ever that eerie, ineffable feeling that “you’ve been here before.” The feeling might be triggered by something someone says, or by a series of events, a scent, taste, or texture. It may hit you all at once or perhaps dawn on you slowly as a conversation unfolds.

It’s such a common experience, you’d think there would be some good research out there to explain the phenomenon. But there are several difficulties that get in the way. For one, you can’t induce déjà vu or predict when it will come about. And researchers aren’t prepared to just sit around waiting for it to happen. Even if they did, it would be hard to tell if any two people experience déjà vu in the same way.

There are several theories out there, though, which attempt to offer insight into, if not completely explain, the bizarre phenomenon. This enlightening TedEducation video outlines three such theories, with awesome animation to accompany.

What do you think déjà vu is? Do any of these theories adequately explain it? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

“30 Is Not the New 20”: 3 Things Every 20-Something Needs to Hear

We’ve been hearing it for some time now: 30 is the new 20. The 20’s are a throwaway decade. They don’t count. Well, erase everything you’ve heard about being a 20-something because this TED talk is going to rock your world.

Clinical psychologist Meg Jay discusses her experience working with 20-somethings over the years and makes a case for why the 20’s is the defining decade in people’s lives. Before you baulk, take a few minutes to listen to her talk and see if you are inspired to pass the video along to every 20-something you know!

Jay’s 3 biggest tips every 20-something needs to hear:

  1. Get some “identity capital.” Do something to invest in who you are and in the person you might want to become. Take a risk, learn a new skill, make a big move, pursue a challenging new job or internship.
  2. The urban tribe is overrated. Best friends are great and in some situations invaluable. But by limiting your community to a tight-knit peer group with identical beliefs and values, you will rob yourself of new experiences, ideas, and opportunities. New things come out of our weak ties, Jay says, so pay attention to those friends of friends of friends.
  3. The time to start picking your family is now. Even if you don’t “settle down” until you’re 30, the pressure to do it all at once may lead you to make less than optimal decisions. The time to work on your marriage is before you’re married. Be as intentional with love, Jay urges, as you are with work!

This doesn’t mean everyone has to settle on a career in their 20’s or that everyone needs to someday get married and have kids. And fun should not be written out of the equation, either! But as Jay’s final words seem to convey, 20-somethings’ decisions and actions are worth something, and that should be treated as an inspiration, and not a threat.

“30 is not the new 20. So claim your adulthood…Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life right now.”

So 20-somethings out there, are you feeling inspired? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Why Sitting is Killing Us and What to Do About It

Silhouette SeatDid you know that most of us are sit 9.4 hours a day during the work week?

Compare that to the 7.7 hours we spend sleeping, or the 30 minutes to an hour we may spend exercising daily, and the imbalance starts to become clearly apparent. It’s easy to recognize the correlation between sitting and inactivity. But according to research published by the National Institutes of Health, sitting for long periods of time can increase the onset of chronic illness, as well as premature mortality risk, even if you meet your quota for daily exercise!

In the words of author and corporate director Nilofer Merchant:

Sitting has become the smoking of our generation.

In her TED talk, Merchant shares a compelling argument and creative approach to get people out of their chairs. The first step is literally walking out of the office and out of the box. Called the Walk-and-Talk, she has ramped up her walking to 20 to 30 miles a week by applying this unique approach, all within the context of a regular business day.

Take a look at Merchant’s innovative healthy living plan and then – you guessed it – go for a walk!

The EyeWriter: An Amazing Story of Innovation and Human Compassion

P1060131-1It started out as a rerouted date night for Mick Ebeling and his wife. A friend convinced them to check out an art show instead of the more traditional dinner and movie, and it was there Ebeling first learned about the artist “Tempt.”

Despite the signs, posters, and artwork all over the place with references to Tempt, the artist himself was nowhere to be found. As it turned out, and as Ebeling soon discovered, the show was a benefit event for Tempt, a graffiti artist who suffers from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is paralyzed in his hospital bed. With mobility only in his eyes, Tempt hadn’t been able to create his art for 7 years. But that all changed in 2011.

Inspired and distressed by Tempt’s story, Ebeling sprang into action. He has years of experience as a film and digital media producer and entrepreneur and was able to organize a team of skilled, dedicated collaborators to develop the first open source eye-tracking device, called the EyeWriter. “Open source” means that the EyeWriter is copyfree, inexpensive, and DIY-possible. No more insurmountable insurance bills and restricted access to the best technology. Ebeling took a cause, his passion for art, a network of resources, and the grassroots, non-hierarchical values latent in graffiti culture to create something truly remarkable. After a year of planning and programming, the first EyeWriter was born and gifted to Tempt, who, with it, was able to draw and communicate again after 7 years of feeling trapped under water.

As Ebeling says in his TED talk, we all have the potential for greatness. We just need to ask ourselves two simple questions:

If not now, then when?

If not me, then who?

Watch Ebeling’s inspiring talk, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below:

Photo credit: EyeWriter.org

Deepak Chopra: Reply to Chris Anderson, TED, and Scientific Dogma (Part 4)

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 2.22.39 PMClick here for part 1 of this article.

Part 4 of this letter is in response to the recent letter to all the TEDx organizers, posted by Chris Anderson, the head of TED. The original letter proposed certain “red flag” topics, among them health hoaxes and the medicinal value of food but also the general area of pseudoscience.

Please read the following responses from accredited scientists and others in the consciousness communities, who have their own responses to the issues at hand:

TED asks, “Imagine a speaker arguing, say, that eating five Big Macs a day could prevent Alzheimer’s,” as an example where a science board would feel justified in excluding that topic as a TEDx talk. The claim flies in the face of common sense so no further examination is necessary. Right?

But what if there were scientifically valid experiments published in mainstream, peer-reviewed journals that supported the apparently outrageous assertion? What if the experiments were repeatable and observed in independent laboratories over decades? What if the underlying phenomena were reported outside the laboratory throughout recorded history, and across all cultures, and by a broad range of university scientists and scholars? Would that topic, however challenging it may seem, still be excluded from TED? How many credible challenges are required before the balance tips between knee-jerk exclusion of bold and risky ideas vs. timid and safe pabulum?

This is exactly the situation for a class of consciousness-related phenomena. They are labeled telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis. These phenomena do challenge naive assumptions about the relationship between mind and matter, but there is no rational justification for continuing to exclude this line of research if TED is really interested in promoting genuine science. Empiricism must trump theory, otherwise it’s no longer science that’s being defended. It’s dogma.

Best wishes,

Dean Radin PhD
Co-Editor-in-Chief, Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing
Adjunct Faculty, Department of Psychology, Sonoma State University

Chief Scientist
Institute of Noetic Sciences
625 Second St., Suite 200
Petaluma, CA 94952 USA

www.ions.org
www.explorejournal.com
www.deanradin.com

____________________________________________________________________

The Society for Consciousness Studies Statement:

The Society for Consciousness Studies is disappointed with the recent policy of exclusion by the TED Talks organizers, who have taken it upon themselves to classify several well-known scholars and researchers as “pseudo-scientists” and have removed them from TED Talks. It is our view as an organization of professional scholars and scientists that such a policy amounts to a latter day McCarthyism in which a few influential individuals have taken it upon themselves to decide which ideas and facts are suitable for all of us.

The Society for Consciousness Studies is a strong advocate for freedom to express research findings and scholarly ideas without seeking approval from purveyors of unwritten biases or worldviews, or from the self-appointed keepers of conservative intellectual culture.

Allan Leslie Combs, Ph.D.
Doshi Professor of Consciousness Studies; CIIS
Director: Center for Consciousness Studies, CIIS
President: The Society for Consciousness Studies
___________________________________________________________________

I have gone through the lecture of Rupert Sheldrake that is withdrawn by TED and available on YouTube. I am protesting this decision of TED as I feel that the TED movement is one of the historic events in the human civilization, and it is contradictory to the fundamental establishment philosophy of TED to stop the voice that extremely politely seeks the re-evaluation of the morality of the scientific practice. When majority of the scientific principles are assumed ad hoc, only to fit the experimental results with the “hand in tools”, arguing to change the way we look at the practice is not a sin. However, in contrast, trying to stop that voice is unscientific and does not match with the very foundation of science, which stepped ahead only because we made it liberal. The historic TED act to me is in no way different than those who gave poison to Socrates or burnt Bruno alive, if decision makers in TED think that they understand science then they should dare to answer the open question put forth by Rupert Sheldrake.

We have universal constants; if there is a change even at the eighth decimal, the world will be re-designed completely; who wrote that, and how, and what are the factors contribute to that change? We have a five hundred years old science, still we cannot solve a three body problem – two balls are fine, not three or more. Isn’t the science we practice primitive? We all know what games scientists play in quantum chromodynamics to fit the result, patterns have no explanation, magic numbers no explanation, lists are many, but if somebody argues to destroy the blind religious faiths of the scientists, he is non-scientific? I do not understand, on one hand, we have experimental proof that two quantum mechanically entangled particles communicate with 100,000 times the velocity of light, and on the other hand we have faith that nothing can move faster than the velocity of light. We all know that for Nature, there is no classical or quantum – it is a division created by us.

These ridiculous scenarios of science will give birth to a new kind of science. Rupert Sheldrake has started to ask and many people will join him. Whether TED gives him a platform or not, the truth will come out, and the days for the existing science are numbered. It will change. The coin is tossed; and therefore, it is better for TED not to indulge in shameful acts and then later prove itself as the “Scientific Church” that validates the religion of “Scientific Mafias.”

Best Regards,
Anirban Bandyopadhyay
Senior Scientist, National Institute for Materials Science, Japan
_________________________________________________________________________

Some of the ideas expressed by Rupert Sheldrake may look like pseudoscience indeed, as the talk has some marks of bad science, as described by TED organizers.

For me, the talk looks like a skeptical approach to the actual methodology of science. This raises an important issue: is TED a proper stage for out of the box ideas, or new hypotheses in science? Why does the vision of Rupert Sheldrake have less value than the story of Thandie Newton?

Ovidiu Brazdau, PhD
Research Director, Consciousness Quotient Institute

_______________________________________________________________________

Since the Scientific Revolution, when empirical discoveries began to undermine religious doctrine, tension grew between those who sought truth through rational inquiry based on observation and those who accepted truths based on the authority of religious dogma. While the liberation of science from religion resulted in tremendous advances in science and technology, it also led to the fragmentation of knowledge and to a science no longer engaged with the big questions: what it means to be human, to be conscious, to be a seeker of meaning amid the vagaries of life.

We believe the time has come for the fragmentation of knowledge we have seen over the last four hundred years to give way to a new paradigm in which science and spirituality reenter into a meaningful dialogue with one another. Spirituality need not be at odds with scientific inquiry — a new kind of integration is possible. What is required for this reintegration is an empirically-responsible spirituality, one that is not beholden to dogma or authority, and a more humanistic non-dogmatic science willing to consider the big questions of life. We would only expect that forward thinking organization such as TED would support and advance this dialogue.

Zaya & Maurizio Benazzo
Founders, Science and Nonduality Conference

 

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Deepak Chopra: Reply to Chris Anderson, TED and Claims of “Pseudoscience” (Part 3)

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 11.32.34 AMClick here for part 1 of this article.

Part 3 of this letter is in response to the recent letter to all the TEDx organizers, posted by Chris Anderson, the head of TED. The original letter proposed certain “red flag” topics, among them health hoaxes and the medicinal value of food but also the general area of pseudoscience.

Please read the following responses from accredited scientists and others in the consciousness communities, who have their own responses to the issues at hand:

The accusation that the work of researchers including Rupert Sheldrake, Russell Targ and others is ‘pseudo-scientific,’ and that accordingly their presentations should be removed from TEDx, is one that is unjustifiable. As with any branch of science, their studies should be subject to intense scrutiny, and it may be that future work would reveal limitations in their approaches. Such is the core of the scientific enterprise. Nevertheless, the ideas they articulate have not been compromised by substantive scientific evidence, and casting aspersions on the integrity of their work is therefore tantamount to prejudice. Removing their talks is out-and-out censorship.

The deeper issue here concerns the challenge to understand consciousness, and the interplay between belief and methodology involved in meeting that challenge. Whilst the notion of ‘belief’ seems opposed to scientific advance as popularly construed, unsubstantiated assumptions frequently influence the kinds of hypotheses advanced and the lenses through which data are interpreted in the scientific world. In the case of consciousness the notion that its full causation will be found in the arena of neuronal processing is one such unsubstantiated assumption. There is no definitive evidence that such neurophysicalism is sustainable. There may be non-cerebral, and even non-physical (as currently understood), aspects to the basis of consciousness; we simply do not have the evidence to draw firm conclusions. The dominant paradigm entails assumptions drawn from the success in ascribing physical causation to other features of our world. But consciousness may be of a different order; it may not capable of analysis on the basis of such comparisons. Again, we simply do not know, and to castigate researchers for their openness to changing the paradigm ranks alongside the darker examples of prejudice that haunt human history.

The way in which we view consciousness has huge implications for our culture. To cite but one glaring example, a society that assumes that complex biological computation is the sole causal determinant of consciousness may rapidly decide that complex computation itself – as in computers of the future – is responsible for consciousness. Such a society will have squeezed the human spirit from its worldview, reducing what it is to be human to the level of what it is to be a super-computer. Is this a world we would wish to bequeath to our children? Too often the scientific community ignores the moral implications of stances it adopts. In cases where definitive evidence drives the stance, well and good; but where the stance stands on unfounded assumptions we are right to question it. The predominant scientific stance in the area of consciousness research is one that many of us wish to challenge. Let there be solid argument in the debate; not feeble accusations – such as that of ‘pseudoscience.’

Brian L Lancaster PhD
Emeritus Professor of Transpersonal Psychology
Liverpool John Moores University, UK.

___________________________________________________________________

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. The consciousness studies community, made up of members from nearly every branch of science and academia, would like TED’s anonymous scientific advisory board to be aware that the study of consciousness requires a new form of consideration: unlike traditional scientific subject matter we are obliged to look at awareness and experience as non-reductive processes, and this requires an openness to exploring new methodologies, new forms of logic, new truth claims, and a different understanding of what constitutes proof. Additionally, we are finding it necessary to embrace the notion that many different perspectives and ideologies may be harboring a portion of the truth about consciousness. We find it necessary to be ideologically open to a variety of perspectives and approaches, and we hope that TED will be able to partner with us in this important exploration. Rupert Sheldrake is a respected expert on the necessity of new forms of analysis, so we were understandably shocked to see his work deemed unfit for the TED venue. Experiential approaches, including Graham Hancock’s exploration of alternative states, represent an important aspect of our subject matter, and therefore of our research. We are saddened to see his brave and very personal contribution disparaged as ‘pseudo-science.’

Perhaps TED would consider including members of our community on its advisory panel so as not to repeat the current misunderstanding and discord.

Respectfully,

Christopher Holvenstot
Independent Researcher
Editorial Advisor: The Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research
Founding Member: The Society for Consciousness Studies

__________________________________________________________________

As a psychologist and professor who has spent years studying and teaching about consciousness at a public research university, I am alternately shocked and amused at the lengths people will travel to preserve an outmoded, materialist belief system in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I have colleagues who know nothing about the complexities of consciousness studies yet who, in their ignorance and arrogance, snidely condemn it as “pseudoscience”, much as TED and its “anonymous” scientific advisory board have done. In response I have trained myself and my students to ask “What specific studies and data are you troubled by? What experimental procedures are you questioning? Have you read Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of a Scientific Revolution?” Invariably the answer is silence.

The kind of backlash exemplified by TED has occurred again and again since Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 for proposing what astrophysicists now call “the multiple worlds theory”, and it is always at its most vociferous and vicious as a new way of thinking is emerging. But, as Thomas Kuhn reminds us, the old guard eventually and inevitably gives way to the new. I am currently teaching an upper-division undergraduate course entitled “Consciousness, Ethics, and the Natural World.” Among other works that we are reading is Rupert Sheldrake’s “Dogs that Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home.” Yesterday I asked my students what they thought about TED’s censuring of Sheldrake. Here are some of their thoughts:

“TED is starting to exclude the very minds that it was created to gather.”
“TED is behaving in a very immature way….just like middle school cliques.”
“TED has become a synonym for censure.”
“To which special interests will TED bow before next”?
“The scientists who pressured TED into censuring Sheldrake are afraid that accepting his perspective invalidates their own work and that they’ll be pushed aside. They don’t realize that there’s room for everyone in the Multiverse.”

These are students at a mainstream research university for whom Sheldrake’s ideas are common sense rather than “pseudoscience.” Clearly, this latest scientific revolution is upon us.

Kathleen D. Noble, Ph.D.
Professor of Consciousness
School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
University of Washington – Bothell

________________________________________________________________________

In the TED reply they say:

“Nothing would excite us more than to include talks which offer a credible contribution to understanding [consciousness] better. Such talks could use the third person language of neuroscience, the first person language of experience or spirituality. We’ve carried plenty of each. We’re hungry for more.”

Yet in their guidelines to their TEDx organizers regarding the “Red Flags” of “Pseudo-science” topics to watch out for they specifically list:

  • The neuroscience of [fill in the blank] — not saying this will all be non-legitimate, but that it’s a field where a lot of goofballs are right now
  • The fusion of science and spirituality. Be especially careful of anyone trying to prove the validity of their religious beliefs and practices by using science

“Goofballs” is a rather demeaning and judgmentally charged word. And aren’t they contradicting themselves here? If they truly believe they are “hungry for more” credible talks on consciousness and are open to the neuroscience field, then perhaps they should change their guidelines letter to TEDx organizers and clarify these “red flags” more, and clean up their choice of words.

I’ve already made a contribution to the reply, but perhaps it might be worth pointing out TED’s inconsistency in the overall group response somewhere.

I just want to take a moment to acknowledge this group. It is great to see such active collaboration and contributions from everyone. Such a united effort is what is needed to really get this field more on a level playing field with mainstream science, and it is rather fortunate timing that this TED debate is arising now to bring this topic more into the spotlight.

Cheers,

Theresa Bullard, Ph.D in Physics

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Deepak Chopra: Reply to Chris Anderson, TED and the Science of Consciousness (Part 2)

The birth of consciousnessClick here for part 1 of this article.

Part 2 of this letter is in response to the recent letter to all the TEDx organizers, posted by Chris Anderson, the head of TED. The original letter proposed certain “red flag” topics, among them health hoaxes and the medicinal value of food but also the general area of pseudoscience.

Please read the following responses from accredited scientists and others in the consciousness communities, who have their own responses to the issues at hand:

I begin my reply with a quote from Nobel laureate, geneticist Barbara McClintock, as reported by Evelyn Fox Keller in A Feeling for the Organism:

“There’s no such thing as a central dogma into which everything will fit. It turns out that any mechanism you can think of, you will find — even if it’s the most bizarre kind of thinking. Anything… even if it doesn’t make much sense, it’ll be there… So if the material tells you, ‘It may be this,’ allow that. Don’t turn it aside and call it an exception, an aberration, a contaminant… That’s what’s happened all the way along the line with so many good clues.”

Of course, not every scientist is a Barbara McClintock – who boldly and at great sacrifice to her own career prospects (until the “rediscovery” of her work late in life and the awarding of her Nobel) – kept on looking for those exceptions and aberrations and wove her hypotheses to encompass those most interesting “good clues.” Most scientists, including some of those who have made breakthrough discoveries, carefully till the soil of our well-worn, well-established paradigms. Others – like Sheldrake and Hancock – do their work by focusing on the bits left out: the exceptions, the aberrations.

Chris Anderson is correct that his job at TED, aided by his advisory boards, is to curate and, therefore, to make choices. I would offer this metaphorical example as a way to consider their task: We know a lot now about how ant colonies self organize and how the food lines in ant colonies arise to maximize the rapid access to new food sources for the colony. One question is: how does this line form so efficiently and how is it maintained until the task is accomplished? A vital question. But the framing of the question excludes something important. Not every ant is actually following the line. These were the ants that wound up in my mother’s kitchen when I was a kid. I would feel sorry for the stupid ant who wound up somewhere it shouldn’t and would try to get it outside before she saw and not only squashed, but called the exterminator.

But my mother intuited something I did not know. It is precisely the ants NOT following the line that are equally, if not more vital for the survival of the colony. The few ants that don’t follow the line are the likeliest to find new food sources and establish new food lines when the old ones have exhausted their task. The ants in her kitchen were, in fact, a very good reason to call the exterminator. In complexity theory these divergent ants are an example of the necessary quenched disorder in the system, the unplanned, unconstrained activities – not too much, not too little – that allow the colony as a whole to explore new terrain, new food sources, new ways of organizing, to develop what complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman calls “the adjacent possible.”

When TED commits itself to “ideas worth spreading” they are dabbling in divergent ant promotion: their speakers and their audiences do not build on the TED talks in a planned and organized way, the interactions of TED meetings foster the kind of quenched disorder in human society that allows us to find new ways of being in the world, at the individual and at the communal level, by juxtaposing speakers and audiences that would normally not have been able to find each other.

I think Sheldrake and Hancock are divergent ants much as McClintock was. They may not be the ants that find the next food source and establish the new food line, but one never knows which one it will be. McClintock was critiqued and even ridiculed in ways not dissimilar to Sheldrake and Hancock have recently been by the TED team. She might have been wrong in her ideas. It turned out she was not. Sheldrake and Hancock may be wrong in their ideas, but we do not yet know. Even if they are, the creativity of their work and their insistence on looking at the aberrations and exceptions is certainly of value, at least to point the way to the kinds of creative explorations TED hopes to foster. They are ideas worth spreading precisely because of their bravery, creativity and care.

Neil Theise, MD
Professor, Pathology and Medicine
Division of Digestive Diseases
Beth Israel Medical Center – Albert Einstein College of Medicine

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If the history of science teaches us anything, it is that our most fundamental ideas about the world are probably wrong. Ideas that can be turned into technologies – even ideas about Higgs bosons – can be tested, in public, by experimentation. These ideas can be demonstrated, in public, to be either wrong, or close enough to right to be relied upon to develop further technologies. But fundamental ideas, ideas that have not yet been turned into technologies, cannot be tested except by exploring their logical consequences. The logical consequences of many of humanity’s most cherished ideas have been shown to be wrong. We are not the center of the universe. We are not very different from other animals. Indeed our status in the world does not appear to be “special” in any way. These things can be said with confidence because the logical consequences of these cherished ideas directly conflict with ideas that can be tested, ideas about the cosmic microwave background, or about DNA, or about the symmetries of physical interactions.

It is the fundamental ideas that underpin not just our science but our lives, therefore, that should be subjected to the most rigorous and ruthless scrutiny. Our ideas about consciousness fall into this category. Human consciousness seems special: that alone should make us suspicious. Our consciously experienced memories support our personal identities: this should also make us suspicious. What is this phenomenon, consciousness? How does it relate to basic awareness? How does it relate to differential responsiveness to one’s environment? Differential responsiveness to the environment is, after all, the only public evidence we have for consciousness. Electrons respond differentially to their environments. Does that mean they are conscious? Most people think free will and autonomous action require consciousness. Physicists debate whether electrons have free will and autonomy in the pages of mainstream journals.

A robust science of consciousness threatens no one but dogmatists. If experiments showed tomorrow that electrons were conscious, this result would threaten no one but dogmatists. If experiments demonstrated that human beings can communicate telepathically with plants, or that focused attention can affect the trajectories of distant particles, these results would threaten no one but dogmatists. Open discussion of such questions should, likewise, threaten no one but dogmatists. One hopes that organizations like TED will encourage such open discussion.

Chris Fields, Ph.D.
Chris Fields, Ph.D. is an information scientist interested in the human perception of objects as spatially and temporally bounded entities. He has published over 120 peer-reviewed papers.

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photo by: kevin dooley

Deepak Chopra: Reply to Chris Anderson, TED and The TED Community (Part 1)

touchingthevoid4601This letter is in response to the recent letter to all the TEDx organizers, posted by Chris Anderson, the head of TED. The letter proposed certain “red flag” topics, among them health hoaxes and the medicinal value of food but also the general area of pseudoscience.

 

Dear Chris,

Thank you for clearing up some issues, particularly the confusion surrounding TEDx’s decision to take down or shift the talks by Sheldrake and Hancock. Actions speak louder than words, and the talks were removed from the website, followed by your letter warning TEDx organizers essentially not to repeat the same mistake again by inviting similar talks. To underline the point, TEDx withdrew its brand name from a West Hollywood event that was by no means filled with “goofballs” or “questionable” figures.

TED has invited religious leaders to speak, but that’s not at issue. The “fusion of science and spirituality” that you warned against in your guidelines is the issue. The animosity of militant atheists against consciousness studies and their stubborn defense of conservative mainstream science seem to be the background noise, at the very least, that colored your warnings. It’s easy to envision that someone along the line at TED, seeing a talk entitled “The Science Delusion,” recognized an attack on Dawkins and chopped the limb off the tree.

I’m grateful for the even-handedness that you say TED displays in matters of atheism, religion, and science. In 2002 I spoke directly after Dawkins, mounted a vigorous riposte to his main points, and received a standing ovation. His talk appears in full at TED’s website. Mine doesn’t, nor can it be found with a Google search. I’d be grateful to see it restored as a gesture of TED’s lack of censorship.

TED is reacting to the widespread objections to your warnings/guidelines. This takes us halfway. An open forum without an anonymous science board giving thumbs up or thumbs down would go all the way. I recognize that TED is a privately held non-profit (Sapling Foundation). I’m only making a suggestion.

Please read the following responses from accredited scientists and others in the consciousness communities, who have their own responses to the issues at hand.

Comments:

Dear Chris and TED:

I am actually thankful to TED for in some way what happened with this whole incident is bringing out some long-simmering issues in the scientific community, what is legitimate science at least as science is practiced today, how science may evolve, and other related issues; and also, and this is relevant to TED’s apparent policies (I say apparent because it is not clear to me how the decision to remove the talks was reached and who was involved) how groups of self-appointed zealots are taking upon themselves to use labels and aggressive language to discredit what may after all turn out to be legitimate science. I won’t repeat what many others already pointed out but science is evolving because of the change of the paradigms not by defending existing views. The latter, belongs to the realm of dogmatic belief systems.

Using terms like “goofballs” and “pseudo-science” doesn’t really address the real issues at hand. There are so called “scientists” who use these terms to promote their own cherished views and I am afraid, dogmas. Who is pseudo-scientist after all? Someone who is trying to expand the horizons of science and is doing research at the intersection of different fields? If that is the case, then anyone doing research in consciousness, its relationship with fields like physics and psychology, and yes, neuroscience, should be labeled pseudo-scientist. Or someone who has other agendas and using anonymity and labeling others, promotes his or her agenda? If that is the case, I submit to you, this is not science. Such attacks by so-called skeptics have been used at some universities to weed out unwelcome views (in the minds of the skeptics) and in the process adversely impact the careers of colleagues. We scientists are skeptics by the nature of inquiry but we should not use the methods of the self-labeled “skeptics”. Such methods belong to the history of some religious past to shut up “heretic” views. Today “defenders of the faith” don’t burn heretics at the stake; they label them and try to exclude their views.

Science advances by dialogue, inquiry and exchange of ideas. Today dialogue is even more important than in the past, the community problems and issues that science is facing need the best of minds, and hearts, to come together. Science and philosophy, science and metaphysics, are complementary activities. Fields like global climate, neuroscience and consciousness and even quantum field theory, advance through intersection of ideas and methodologies, not by censorship.

I am a quantum physicist, cosmologist and Earth scientist, so I know these issues. We are now facing a grand revolution in scientific thought, through the dialogue between quantum theory, consciousness work, biology, and philosophy and psychology. TED has a great opportunity to help advance this transformation. I hope you do.

Menas C. Kafatos

Fletcher Jones Professor of Computational Physics
Chapman University
Orange, CA

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TED apparently allows science, and religion, but not science which may be compatible with religion, e.g. quantum brain biology giving rise to the possibility of non-local entanglement among living beings, and the structure of the universe (Sheldrake’s banned topic of ‘morphic resonance’ was an early, courageous attempt at such a bridge). How would the TED mavens explain quantum entanglement?

Regarding the disposition against pseudoscience and commercialization, what about the TED talk by Ray Kurzweil which makes outlandish (ridiculous, really) claims that brain equivalence including consciousness will soon be reached in computers by his Singularity approach. Total unscientific self-promotion. Whoever showed that neurons were simple bit-like states? What about a single cell organism like paramecium which swims around, finds food and mates, has sex and can learn, without any synapses? Kurzweil should simulate a paramecium before worrying about a brain. Where are the pseudoscience police on this one?

Stuart Hameroff MD
Professor, Anesthesiology and Psychology
Director, Center for Consciousness Studies
The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

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For centuries, intransigent voices argued that the following kind of question is meaningless: Can an ape think? What does an elephant feel? The reasons actually had nothing to do with whether these were “scientific” propositions in principle. They had to do with the philosophical and psychological prejudices held by the guardians of traditional science in biology, psychology and philosophy. The parallel to the TED debate is obvious.

In evolutionary biology and cognitive psychology, the last 25 years have witnessed a revolution in the philosophy of science for those fields. Given what we know about the operations of the minds of primates, corvids, cetaceans, octopi and other animals, no serious ethnologist would any longer suggest that it is non-scientific to ask the kinds of questions introduced above. In fact, the burden of proof has shifted dramatically so that those who question whether animals other than humans can be consciousness have more to explain if they disagree with those conclusions.

Censorship almost always arises from some political agenda. Let’s do our best to keep it out of the study of consciousness.

Robert E. Sweeney, DA, MS
CEO
Challenger Corporation
Distinguished Alumnus
University of Memphis
Member Board of Directors
Foundation for Mind-Brain Sciences

www.deepakchopra.com

Follow Deepak on Twitter

Dear TED, Is It ‘Bad Science’ or a ‘Game of Thrones’?

By Deepak Chopra, MD. FACP, Stuart Hameroff, MD, Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., and Neil Theise, MD

censoredOne of modern science’s great strengths is that any questionable finding dies a quick death if it’s invalid. The safeguards are mainly two: Your new finding must be repeatable when other researchers run the same experiments, and peer review by qualified scientists subjects every new finding to microscopic scrutiny. So it surprised the millions of admirers of TED, whose conferences attract wide attention to new, cutting-edge ideas, when that organization decided to practice semi-censorship.

The flap is over two videos of TEDx talks delivered in the UK in January that were summarily removed from TEDx’s YouTube channel (TEDx is the brand name for conferences outside the main TED events that are allowed to use the TED trademark, such as TEDxBoston or TEDxBaghdad — so far, about 5,000 such events have used the name). This amounts only to semi-censorship because the videos were reposted on TED’s blog site. Yet the reputations of the two presenters, Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock, were besmirched. In a letter to all the TEDx organizers, Chris Anderson, the head of TED, proposed certain “red flag” topics, among them health hoaxes and the medicinal value of food but also the general area of pseudoscience. The response has been decidedly negative — scientists don’t like the suppression of free thinking — and among the thousands of comments aired on the Internet, one pointed out that Sheldrake and Hancock spoke at a TEDx conference explicitly dedicated to ideas that challenge mainstream thinking.

There’s no need to stir the coals. TED has been badly singed already. At a cursory glance, much of Anderson’s letter sounds reasonable: TED has every right to give guidelines to conferences using their name. Who’s in favor of health hoaxes and pseudoscience? As it happens, Sheldrake’s talk was on “The Science Delusion” and covered ten dogmas in mainstream science that need to be examined; there wasn’t a hint of bad science in it. Hancock’s talk was on consciousness and psychedelics, a topic without fangs for anyone who has heard of the Sixties, much less lived through them. Even as the videos were begrudgingly reposted, TED felt justified in tagging them as “radical” and attaching a “health warning”.

Yet something quite pivotal is occurring that inflames strong feelings. The decision to remove the two videos was apparently instigated by angry, noisy bloggers who promote militant atheism. Their target was a burgeoning field, the exploration of consciousness. For generations bringing up consciousness as a scientific topic was taboo. In the wildly popular fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, “A Game of Thrones,” now running as an equally mad success on HBO, the mythical kingdom of Westeros is divided by a great wall 700 feet high. On the other side of the wall are lethal enemies and malefic magic. For centuries, no one has seen the zombie-like White Walkers who live on the other side of the wall, nor the dragons that once ravaged Westeros.

Even so, after magic and zombies fell into disbelief, a hereditary band of guardians swore an oath to keep watch at the wall, generation after generation. TED has put itself in rather the same position. What the militant atheists and self-described skeptics hate is a certain brand of magical thinking that endangers science. In particular, there is the bugaboo of “non-local consciousness,” which causes the hair on the back of their necks to stand on end. A layman would be forgiven for not grasping why such an innocent-sounding phrase could spell danger to “good science.”

The reason becomes clear when you discover that non-local consciousness means the possibility that there is mind outside the human brain or even outside material reality, that a conscious mind is in some way intrinsic to the quantum universe, and that we all are quantum entangled. One of us (Menas Kafatos) has devoted many years of research on the connection of quantum theory to consciousness. Four of us (Stuart Hameroff, Rudolph Tanzi, Neil Thiese, and Deepak Chopra) have devoted years of research to neuroscience, clinical studies and consciousness. For millennia it went without question that such a mind exists; it was known as God. Fearing that God is finding a way to sneak back into the kingdom through ideas of quantum consciousness, militant atheists go on the attack against near-death experiences, telepathy, action at a distance, and all manifestations of purpose-driven evolution. Like the guardians in “A Game of Thrones,” these militants haven’t actually looked over the wall, and given their absolute conviction that the human brain is the only source of awareness in the universe, you’d think that speculative thinking on the subject wouldn’t be so threatening. (Most people wouldn’t picket a convention of werewolves in their hometown. It’s not hard to tell what is fantasy.)

But TED took the threat seriously enough that Anderson’s letter warns against “the fusion of science and spirituality,” and most disappointing of all, it tags as a sign of good science that “it does not fly in the face of the broad existing body of scientific knowledge.” Even a newcomer to science knows about Copernicus, Galileo, and other great scientists whose theories countermanded the prevailing body of accepted knowledge. Einstein believed in a static universe at a time when early proponents of an expanding universe were ignored, and the early reception of the now-popular “multiverse” theory was scornful. The greatest breakthroughs rarely come by acts of conformity.

Anderson’s letter is cautiously couched on the one hand — he takes pains to divorce his warnings from outright bans and acknowledges that the dividing line between real science and pseudoscience is hardly sharp and clear. But the dose of cold water is frigid enough, since his red-flag subjects include “healing” of any kind (his quotation marks) and using neuroscience to explain various mind-body puzzles (“a lot of goofballs” inhabit this area).

TED finds itself on the wrong side of censorship, semi- or not. But this fracas actually opens a window. The general public — and many working scientists — isn’t aware that consciousness has become a hot topic spanning many disciplines, and its acceptability is demarked by age. Older, established scientists tend to be dead set against it, while younger, upcoming scientists are fascinated. There are any number of books on “the conscious universe.” There are peer-reviewed journals on consciousness and worldwide conferences on how to link mind and brain (the so-called “hard problem”). Nobody wants to guard the wall except the self-appointed watchers and minders who form a society for the suppression of curiosity (it should be noted that TED’s Science Board, which undoubtedly plays a role in this dispute, remains anonymous).

Freedom of thought is going to win out, and certainly TED must be shocked by the avalanche of disapproval Anderson’s letter has met with. The real grievance here isn’t about intellectual freedom but the success of militant atheists at quashing anyone who disagrees with them. Their common tactic is scorn, ridicule, and contempt. The most prominent leaders, especially Richard Dawkins, refuse to debate on any serious grounds, and indeed they show almost total ignorance of the cutting-edge biology and physics that has admitted consciousness back into “good science.”

Militant atheism is a social/political movement; In no way does it deserve to represent itself as scientific. Francis Collins, a self-proclaimed Christian, is an acclaimed geneticist who heads the National Institutes of Health. To date, Collins hasn’t let any White Walkers or dragons over the wall. Dawkins, who has a close association with TED, gave a TED talk in 2002 where he said the following:

“It may sound as if I am about to preach atheism. I want to reassure you that that’s not what I am going to do. In an audience as sophisticated as this one, that would be preaching to the choir. [scattered laughter] No, what I want to urge upon you is militant atheism.”

In a society where militant atheism occupies a prestigious niche, disbelief in God is widespread, but it isn’t synonymous with science. In his mega-bestseller “The God Delusion,” Dawkins proclaims that religion is “the root of all evil.” He describes teaching children about religion as “child abuse.” He spoke publically on the occasion of a papal visit to London calling for the Pope to be arrested for “crimes against humanity.” To propose, as Dawkins does, that science supports such extremist views is an errant misuse of science, if not a form of pseudoscience.

TED is a huge enterprise bringing cutting edge ideas to the world, and local TEDx organizers will no doubt feel a chill when they read Anderson’s stern reproof: “It is not your audience’s job to figure out if a speaker is offering legitimate science or not. It is your job.” If the intent of this warning wasn’t explicit enough, TEDx rescinded their trademark from a recent conference in West Hollywood because of “questionable” speakers, causing the cowed organizers to cancel the event before they reconsidered and held it without the coveted brand name. A call to caution is hard to tell from a desire to censor.

One of the authors of this article (Stuart Hameroff) recently gave a TEDx talk in Tucson where he made the point that critics of the possibility of consciousness outside the brain cannot explain consciousness inside the brain. While neuroscience is at a loss, the notion of consciousness being based on finer scale, deeper order quantum effects in microtubules inside brain neurons (the Penrose-Hameroff ‘Orch OR model) has been boosted by recent discoveries of quantum resonances in microtubules, and anesthetic action on microtubules. Quantum entanglement could account for Rupert Sheldrake’s findings, and consciousness occurring outside the brain. Stuart Hameroff’s TEDx talk ‘The future of consciousness‘ explains how this can scientifically happen. Should it be censored also?

But the main flaw in TED’s position has been made abundantly clear. It isn’t the organizers’ job to exclude questionable science but a job shared between them and the audience. We’re all adults here, right? Any speculative thinking worthy of the name should make somebody in the audience angry, inspire others, and leave the rest to decide if a challenging idea should be thrown out or not. Any other approach casts shame upon tolerance, imagination, and science itself.

Deepak Chopra, MD. FACP, ChopraFoundation.org/

Stuart Hameroff, MD, Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychology, Director, Center for Consciousness Studies, The University of Arizona, www.quantumconsciousness.org

Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director, Center of Excellence, Chapman University,
Facebook: kafatos@chapman.edu

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital

Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) Beth Israel Medical Center — Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, www.neiltheise.com

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