Alert reader barenormality called my attention to what looks very much like another TEDx quackery-and-woo event in West Hollywood, California, on April 14.
I am not making this up: April’s TEDx West Hollywood conference is called “Brother, can you spare a paradigm: making the quantum leap.” And the description is just as bad as you’d imagine (my emphasis):
Brother, Can You Spare a Paradigm? will deal with the need to change our fundamental value system or worldview to one in which humanity pulls together, superseding the current worldview where whoever has the most toys wins. The new ideation will be based on what science tells us is a quantum universe, with everything being interconnected and interdependent — one organism that needs to function for the good of the whole. A new science-based vision won’t take hold, though, unless people know it exists, and bringing about a new cultural understanding is what some presentations will focus on. Other presentations will provide models for what we would do if we were thinking along different lines. Given TED’s outreach, hopefully our program will impact the world’s thinking about who we are as humanity, and impress everyone with practical programs and technologies that can be implemented in communities everywhere.
And check out the speakers: pretty much as dire as you’d imagine. Most have NOTHING to do with quantum mechanics, and of course quantum mechanics says nothing about everything being “one organism that needs to function for the good of the whole.”
Witness, brothers and sisters, some of the speakers who will convey the new “science-based vision” to the denizens of Hollywood:
- Marianne Williamson, self-help speaker, “Love restores reason, not the other way around.”
Summary: “Humanity is trying to evolve beyond the mechanistic, Newtonian perspective of the 20th century–past data and metrics to a more relational, even spiritual worldview. From competition to collaboration, from ambition to inspiration, from sales to service, from me to we–we’re being called to a radical change in humanity’s basic operating principle from economics to humanitarian values as our bottom line. Anything less, and the human race is in peril.”
Here’s the blurb on Amazon for Williamson’s latest book, The Law of Divine Compensation. It sounds to me like Creflo Dollar and the prosperity gospel (my emphasis):
Marianne Williamson is a bestselling author (Return to Love, Healing the Soul of America), a world-renowned teacher, and one of the most important inspirational thinkers of our time. In The Law of Divine Compensation, she reveals the spiritual principles that help us overcome financial stress and unleash the divine power of abundance. A guru to anyone interested in spirituality, Williamson’s words ring with power and truth as she assures us that, with faith in God’s promise of prosperity for all, we need never fear the future.
- Russell Targ: physicist, ESP advocate, and promoter of Uri Geller. “The reality of ESP: a physicist’s proof of psychic abilities.” (Proof?)
Summary: “Targ, co-founder of this psychic research program that was highly classified until its termination in 1995, will present a summary of the very best evidence for extrasensory perception and precognition. He also will describe the close relationship between remote viewing, the non-locality of modern physics, and thei eighth century teaching of “Self-liberation through seeing with naked awareness.”
- Larry Dossey, M.D. The Revolution in Consciousness: “The Global Community is Now”
Summary: “Dr. Dossey will provide evidence that consciousness is infinite or nonlocal in space and time, and is therefore eternal, immortal, and one with all other minds. This sets the stage for a communal, planetary ethic that is crucial for our survival.”
- Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D. Social anthropologist and writer. “How do we shift our paradigm? The science and practice of transformation.”
Summary: “How do we change our minds? When and why do transformations in our worldviews occur? What helps to catalyze positive and enduring shifts in our consciousness and our sense of who we are in the rapidly evolving world? Based on decades of her own empirical research, Schlitz will use these questions to guide her presentation about the ways that consciousness transformation matters to each of us, now and for the future.
- Daphne Rose Kingma, self-help writer on love. “The shrinking emotional body and the emotional power of love.”
Summary: ” . . . We sit awake till all hours pinteresting, tweeting, be-and un-friending, spilling our whole lives out on the screen, while having only a screen to speak back to us. We are more informed and in one way more connected than ever; we also are excruciatingly unconnected and alone. Into this matrix of lives suspended in the Cybercryonosphere, I propose that love, as usual (though differently in these times) is the solution.”
- Reverend Paul E. Nugent, New Age Anglican. “The missing link is in our future, not in our past.”
Summary: “All of creation is evolving, leading us on an exponential journey of discovery. Now, we are on the verge of a quantum leap into the unknown, to become not just what we should be but what we truly are.”
Quantum leap into the unknown??
This is just a sample; the rest sound just about as bad. There’s not one talk I’d want to hear. But the salient points are three. First, there’s no real science: just sciencey-sounding woo. Second, there is nothing about quantum physics at all, just the usual expropriation of quantum mechanics in the form of “quantum leaps” and so on. Not a single talk is based on reconciling the “quantum universe” with human values—a fool’s errand if ever there was one. The talks have nothing to do with the conference’s theme. Third, there’s a high titer of self-help talks here, but no meat. It’s for those rich Hollywood types whose money hasn’t bought them “spirituality.”
And it’s a huge step downhill for TEDx. Have a look at the agenda. Would you go?
Any inquiry regarding TED should be sent to:
TEDx Media Liaison
I’ll be calling this event to the editors of TED.com, just to let them know.
By the way, in the last week I’ve been inundated with emails and posts by supporters of Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock after TEDx removed their talks from its website and sequestered them elsewhere. No other post I’ve done has elicited so much private email—many of it full of obscenities, name-calling, and so on. What it’s made me realize is not just that so many people are susceptible to the brand of pseudoscience pushed by Sheldrake and Hancock, but also that many people have a low opinion of “mainstream science”, resenting it for imposing its authority on the quackery they see as good research. When I suggested to one Sheldrake supporter, for instance, that if Sheldrake wanted credibility, he should publish his astounding results in good mainstream journals, I was told that he would then be forced to obey the rules of “the club”.
Two points here:
1. The “club” is what determines acceptable science, and rightly so, for it enforces procedures (peer review, blind testing, replication, etc.) designed to verify claims. Would someone recommend taking prescription drugs that had not been thoroughly tested for efficacy and safety by a double-blind test? What counts as good science is in fact the result of a consensus, based on published work, by the scientific communities who use those procedures. Yes, renegade scientists can be right (though they usually aren’t!), but their results have to be verified by others. Remember that many hypothesis, like the Big Bang, plate tectonics, and mitochondria as descendants of bacteria, were once outside the mainstream scientific consensus, and were doubted by scientists. But they eventually gained acceptance because further research and evidence supported them. That is not the case with the work of people like Hancock and Sheldrake, nor with earlier claims about Piltdown man, cold fusion, and faster-than-light neutrinos.
Good science is not determined by the court of public opinion, which largely accepts on what people would like to be true. Science becomes accepted wisdom when it’s tested and verified by those in the scientific community.
This summary, from one of Hancock’s talks, shows the craziness that some readers have defended as “good science”:
Judging from the abundant evidence of ancient cave art from all parts of the world, encounters with aliens and UFO’s are nothing new. Humanity has been visited, taught and nurtured by non-terrestrial beings for at least 35,000 years, construing them according to different cultural frameworks as “spirits”, “elves” or “fairies”, “angels” or even “demons”, and most recently as “aliens”. The same beings and vehicles depicted in the cave art also occur in the much more recent art of surviving shamanistic peoples still living today in remote regions such as the Kalahari and the Amazon jungle. Even more mysteriously, similar experiences and imagery are reported by Western lab volunteers, placed experimentally under the influence of hallucinogens such as DMT, psilocybin, mescaline and LSD. The growing popularity in the West of the Amazonian visionary brew Ayahuasaca (where the active ingredient is DMT) has opened up these experiences of parallel realms and their inhabitants to an ever-growing constituency of North Americans and Europeans. The common factor, which is also fundamental to all forms of shamanism, appears to be altered states of consciousness and, crucially, this does not suggest that these experiences are in any way “unreal”. On the contrary the evidence supports the hypothesis that in deeply altered states of consciousness the receiver wavelength of the brain is altered to allow us to tune into and interact with beings from other levels and dimensions of reality.
If you think that’s good, credible science, or even a reasonable scientific theory, welcome to the asylum.
2. Hancock and Sheldrake’s talks were not “censored.” TEDx and TED are private organizations that give platforms to people, and it’s entirely up to them whom they choose to promote or not promote. Both Hancock and Sheldrake have published extensively and have their own websites, so can you really cry “censorship” if a single organization chooses not to promote their work? Besides, TEDx did not remove their videos—they just relegated them to a “website of shame.” And that’s exactly where they belong.