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Dear TED, Is It 'Bad Science' Or A 'Game Of Thrones'?

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    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 18 7:27 PM
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      Thanks to Barbara Whitfield.


      By Deepak Chopra, MD. FACP, Stuart Hameroff, MD, Menas C. Kafatos,
      Ph.D., Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., and Neil Theise, MD
      Huffington Post
      April 18, 2013



      One 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

      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

      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

      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,

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

      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, neiltheise.com


      David Sunfellow
      Founder & President
      NewHeavenNewEarth (NHNE)
      Phone: (928) 239-4133
      Fax: (815) 642-0117

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