Alex Tsakiris: woomeister and coward

February 15, 2012 • 9:22 pm

Well, after my fractious interview at Skeptiko with Alex Tsakiris, in which he failed to get me to admit to the existence of any number of woo-ish phenomena, he got lambasted in the comments, something he’s not used to from his usual gaggle of ESPers, near-death-experiencers, and quantum wowsers. What does he do when faced with an onslaught of rationalism?

First, he posts his final list of talking points, resembling the self-serving, post-production introduction and conclusion he added to our interview:

and then he immediately closes the thread:

The man has shown himself to be not only a poseur who pretends to know something about evolution when in fact he’s deeply and willfully ignorant, but also a rank coward. He just can’t face dissent. I wouldn’t put it past him to expunge the whole piece.

I don’t regret having done the interview.  I didn’t get to promulgate much evolutionary biology, which was my original plan, but I got the rare chance, purely inadvertently, to expose the man for the fraud and ignoramus he is.  I call that a good day’s work.

245 thoughts on “Alex Tsakiris: woomeister and coward

  1. He always has to have the last word, doesn’t he?

    He did it in the comments, he does it with his pre and post-interview segments, and he snuck it in here:

    “Okay. I’ll get off the quantum theory stuff but I think if I really wanted to push it I’d go ahead and point out that quantum effects, particularly entanglement, have been shown in biological entities like little groups of neurons in two separate petri dishes so it’s not just at this super-micro level.

    But let’s move beyond quantum mechanics…”

  2. He also tampered with the transcript of the interview, misquoting you to advance his own woo. Some people have no notion of dignity.

    Well done Jerry.

    1. Twice I thought I noticed an irregularity, and I recall thinking they were done purposely. Because I was listening while simultaneously reading the transcript (which nicely focused the attention) it didn’t sink in, but considering the transcription errors alongside Mr. Alex’s other thumb-on-the-scale tricks, it’s obvious that the transcript was purposely made inaccurate.

    1. Hey, there’s an idea. That interview is one of the most exhaustive compilations of sophistry ever. It would be didactic to go through it adding comments on the side exposing every single piece of logical fallacy, magical thinking and pseudologia fantastica spewed by the “host”. And then you can hand that out to high school as a lesson on how not to reason…

  3. It was also fun to see the “likes” on the cogent comments steadily bumping up, while the woo-defending ones sat there, stagnant.

    I’m guessing the regulars there don’t see enough of that stuff.

    1. Oh, yeah, it was painfully obvious that they’re not used to being confronted, or asked to provide evidence for their claims.

  4. lolz. Yeah that exchange about Wallace was just strange.

    I may be mistaken but to my ears his tone seemed to imply that somehow Darwin stole Wallace’s idea about Evolution and somehow Darwin only clued into Evolution and Natural Selection the moment Wallace discussed it with him and his data on Biodiversity.

  5. Outstanding post. I’ve now listened to his show twice (one of those times thanks to you), and was thoroughly annoyed both times.

    I was trying to figure out today just what it was about him that annoyed me so much, when there are so many other worthy targets for my ire. For one thing, it’s his hijacking of the word “skeptic”. That’s deceptive to first-time listeners, and it wastes their time. Secondly, he has the smarmy vibe of a conspiracy theorist, along with the delusions of martyrdom–you know, with the “I’m just asking questions” protestations.

    He’s just a dick, and apparently a coward as well.

    1. His number one annoyance which Dr. Coyne pointed out is when a person invites a someone for an interview the hour should be devoted to presenting the ideas of the interviewee. Yes it is okay to present probing questions but the hour should not degrade into a sophomoric lecture from the fringe. The general public won’t sit through this stupidness so why should Coyne.

    2. The hijack of the word “skeptic” is a cheap social signal attempting to accrue to himself an unearned (and undeserved) aura of prestige. Alas, this is all too common, and one of the reasons I’m not thrilled with self-identifying as a “skeptic”.

      The notion wanders through my mind that a possibly effective counter-response to “I’m just asking questions” might be on the lines of “That’s exactly the problem — you’re just asking questions, and not reflecting on the content of the answers you’re getting.” I may just be deluding myself, though.

    3. I really tried to listen to the whole podcast. I couldn’t. I gave up when I started getting cross about the Wallace segment.

      Tzatziki (should be cool as a cucumber) wanted to use Michael Flannigan to bring Jerry Coyne ‘down’ for some reason. Why on earth did he want to interview Jerry – seems to me discrediting Jerry was his sole purpose.

      Why? He just irritates in his interview style and his intransigence. Stuff him. First and only time I will bother with Skeptico.

  6. “…a good day’s work”

    Total understatement. Read the transcript today and I hope it stays up long enough for me to catch the audio.

  7. Is it just me, or did some of those pro-woo comments sound familiarly worded. I wonder if there’s any sock-puppetry going on.

    Anywho, I think that Alex guy is a slimeball, he wasn’t interested in learning anything at all. What an ass.

    1. But then, Weinberg is just a physicist, so how could he possibly keep up with Alex on such a deep biological topic as quantum entanglement in petri dishes.

  8. When the guy takes cheap shots in the form of insulting commentary added after the interview is over and then he closes the thread to comments that might have redressed his insults, I’d say ‘yes, he’s a coward.’

      1. This reminds me of an economist, don’t remember whether Krugman, Stieglitz, or someone else, commenting upon the worldview of ‘treacle down’ Reaganomics:
        “Not so much ‘treacle down’ as ‘piss upon’.”

        1. Would love to find that quote, but no luck. My google skills have failed on this one. Could you please try & find that quote?

  9. The purpose Tsakiris’ interview was not supply information to his listeners but to reinforce their cult status. I was thinking of going through the transcript and seeing how many of the techniques described in Stephen Law’s Believing Bullshit were being used, but i found I couldn’t face it a second time.

    1. For the curious, a summary of the techniques from Law’s book (excerpted from Chapter 8):

      1. Playing the Mystery Card involves immunizing your beliefs against refutation by making unjustified appeals to mystery. For example, deal with any scientific evidence against your paranormal beliefs by insisting, without justification, that what you believe is “beyond the ability of science to decide.”

      2. “But It Fits!” involves coming up with ways of making evidence and theory “fit” after all. As we have seen, any theory, no matter how absurd, can be made consistent with the evidence (even Dave’s theory that dogs are Venusian spies).

      3. Going Nuclear involves exploding a skeptical or relativist philosophical argument that appears to bring all beliefs down to the same level, rationally speaking. You can thereby force a draw in any debate. Then, once the threat has receded, the skepticism/relativism may be conveniently forgotten.

      4. Moving the Semantic Goalposts involves dodging possible refutations by switching back and forth between meanings (between effable and ineffable meanings, for example).

      5. “I Just Know!” involves suggesting that the truth of your belief has somehow been revealed to you, by, for example, some sort of a psychic or god-sensing faculty (this suggestion is unreasonable if you are aware of grounds for supposing that at least a large proportion of these supposedly revelatory experiences are, in fact, delusional).

      6. Pseudoprofundity is the art of making the trite, false, or nonsensical appear both true and deep. Various linguistic recipes are able to create the illusion that you have achieved some sort of profound insight into the human condition.

      7. Piling Up the Anecdotes. Anecdotes are in most cases almost entirely worthless as evidence, particularly in support of supernatural claims. But they can be highly persuasive, especially when collected together.

      8. Pressing Your Buttons involves reliance on certain kinds of non-truth-sensitive techniques for shaping belief, such those I termed isolation, control, uncertainty, repetition, and emotional manipulation. These techniques are a mainstay of the “educational” programs of many cults and totalitarian regimes. Applied in a consistent and systematic way, they amount to brainwashing.

      The book looks to be an OK read, although (IMHO) not one worth adding to my dead-tree library. If you found it interesting, you might also enjoy the paper “Strategies for Resisting Persuasion” by Jacks and Cameron (doi:10.1207/S15324834BASP2502_5).

      1. Re. nr. 3, “bring all beliefs down to the same level” is a nice way of putting it (another favorite of the “philosophically sophisticated”). If a person’s favorite piece of woo cannot be rationally justified in any way, then apparently the next best thing is to drag all beliefs down to the same level, so at least say he can to himself that his cherished superstitions are no LESS “true” than anything else. I suspect that this is the other main reason for the enduring popularity of postmodern relativism, the first reason being political correctness. (After all, if there are objective truths, then the prevailing beliefs of some cultures might be closer to the truth than others, and something so discriminatory obviously cannot be true).

    1. Well Wallace was a spiritualist so I sure he would be happy to oblige. This was one of the few things Wallace and Darwin disagreed on.

  10. Enrique Vargas’ last comment before the thread was closed—hey, he did Godwin it, after all!—was hilarious.

    Jerry, did you have any idea that we were “[S]talinist cretins” and “indecent, immoral, resentful and fanatical scum […] engage[d] in this orgy of hate”? We even have the same “mentality that prompted [N]azis and communists [to] burn books an[d] exterminate dissidents”, apparently!

    This is the impression he got from a handful of people pointing out problems with Alex’s interview tactics? Wow. Wow.

    He must be terribly afraid of us. We sure sound like a dangerous lot! Hopefully Enrique stays inside his safe little bubble. There are scary atheists out there!


    That interview was awful…

      1. Yep, spot on. Enrique Vargas is Alex. This woo~woo is a deeply troubled individual, he needs to heal himself. If you get the chance, check out his first of two interviews with Steven Novella. Steve, was amazing, very decent, very rational. But in the end it is like trying reach out to friend who is out of his mind on crack. If anything, Jerry’s interview and its reaction may prompt Alex/Enrique to reflect a little.


            “In the comments section of each transcript (and on the forums), he also posts as a sockpuppet, “Enrique Vargas”.”

            Hi David, what’s the evidence that Alex is posting under the name Enrique Vargas? I don’t think it’s appropriate for a site like Rational Wiki to make such claims without proper evidence or cites.

    1. This was my favorite bit:

      Enrique Vargas: I find you curious, like I might find curious a zoo monkey who seems to get a kick out of it’s [sic] sense of humor when he throws his feces at passers-by.

      Grauniad: I’m assuming that’s directed at Alex?

      Enrique: Alex, I wouldn’t worry if I were you: it looks lake [sic] a well organized effort: most of those numerous and vicious insults entered in the las [sic] couple of hours…

      Enrique: Grauniad: I take it yuo’re [sic] not particularly bright, are you?

      Enrique: Lapsus calami: I take it you’re not particularly bright, are you?
      I’m correcting it so that you, like the other rocket scientist don’t start picking on typos.
      Enrique: Lapsus calami: lake = like

      Enrique Vargas: I find you curious, like I might find curious a zoo monkey who seems to get a kick out of it’s [sic] sense of humor when he throws his feces at passers-by. [Now given as a response to La_chounie]

      The whole bit gives me the impression that Enrique is maybe 10-13 years old——or maybe just so fuming he can’t think properly. I just really love the whole bit about vicious insults following the monkey comment…

  11. He defiles the word “skeptic”.

    What I don’t understand is how the hell does he even have an audience, I thought skeptic community is diverse and informed, especially about the quantum quacks.

    1. I think it’s just another example of the old double negative: Nobody wants to be the one who holds unjustified beliefs, so true believers have made it into an artform to reframe belief in X as a rejection of non-belief in “not X”. Hence expressions like “I’m skeptical of skepticism” (= “I reject a general rejection of unjustified beliefs”) or “I don’t believe in atheism” (= “I don’t accept non-acceptance of this particular subset of unjustified beliefs”). If you reframe belief in supernatural woo as an absence of “philosophical naturalism” (= an absence of an absence of another subset of unjustified beliefs), then it becomes “sophisticated philosophy” (and your name might just be Massimo Pigliucci).

      1. “so true believers have made it into an artform to reframe belief in X as a rejection of non-belief in “not X”.”

        Ooops, triple negative, sorry! That should be “a rejection of non-belief in X”.

          1. Oh, that’s right, I wasn’t wrong, only philosophically sophisticated (I knew there had to be a difference).

  12. A neutral third-party listener would have no trouble seeing which person was interested following the data and which person was engaging in mischaracterizing the facts. Jerry was tenacious in an entirely called-for manner.

  13. Try his previous interview with Koch:

    Dr. Koch: No, no, no! Let me correct that….

    Dr. Koch: No, I’m sorry. That’s just not the case…

    Dr. Koch: But that is EEG. No, no…

    Dr. Koch: No because nobody has done—

    Alex Tsakiris: Don’t go there. Let’s just stop there. Don’t go with people won’t want to believe because we can turn that around. Let’s move on.

    Alex Tsakiris: Oh come on now. There’s more there in this essay and what looks like is coming in this book are more—I don’t know—philosophical musings about God… I’m not saying that you’re pointing to any religious conversion on your part because you’re not, but there’s more there.

    Dr. Koch: As far as I know, when I die that’s it. Unless I can resurrect my brain in some sort of computer…

    Alex Tsakiris: But you do seem to allude to—and correct me if I’m wrong…

    Dr. Koch: I don’t know what you mean by robot.

    Dr. Koch: Well, Alex, those are all very loaded terms….

    Alex Tsakiris: … That’s all philosophical and I appreciate the fact that you want to push philosophical arguments to the side and get down to the science because I do, too. But I can’t let you just say that they’re equal because they’re really not.

    Dr. Koch: Oh no, they’re not equal. I didn’t say they’re equal…

    You recognise the pattern. You could pretty much walk out of the room on that conversation and walk back in on Jerry’s and apart from the guest voice change you’d think you were listening in on the same conversation.

    1. Alex must be a supremely clueless person, or a very insecure one (or both). He probably fancied himself as an original thinker with some cutting edge ideas, ideas that stodgy old science had not considered or was not prepared accept. In fact, in his mind (and in those of his fans) his position as a non-scientist makes it more likely that he is able to “think outside of the box”. So he starts these series of podcasts to demonstrate his superior insight over conventional science.

      But things start to go very wrong. He finds a publication here or an article there that he thinks supports his position. Armed with this, he challenges conventional scientist A on his podcast. Scientist A proceeds to correct his basic errors and basically expose his complete lack of knowledge on the subject.

      So Alex tries to find scientists or academics who seem sympathetic to his views. But the podcasts reveal that most really aren’t…”No, Alex that’s not what I meant”….”No, your jumping to conclusions there Alex”

      Oh oh. A seed of doubt starts to germinate. Maybe the ideas that I think are cutting edge are really quite silly. Maybe the reason scientists do not accept them is because those ideas currently have nothing going for them. MAYBE I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.

      So rather than admit this, a new tactic emerges. Find a expert in one subject, and scrupulously avoid taking them on in that area. Instead, pepper them with questions about other areas, and make sure to drop in references to sciency-sounding research that you KNOW they are not familiar with.

      In the short term, it’s win-win-win. They can’t really challenge you on it, so you can usually pontificate without much push-back. It seems like you are very knowledgable, in fact more knowledgable about science in some areas than your guest.

      If you get a mouthy one like Coyne, who insists that you actually demonstrate HOW publication A supports your woo conclusion, then quickly change subject until you find something that they seem to know nothing about. Then stick with that and chastize them for not knowing it and spin their reluctance to offer an opinion on it as evasiveness or close-mindedness.

      And, you get to say that you had such and such respected scientist or expert on the show.

      Hopefully, word gets around to the point that no respected thinker will want to be subjected to this.

  14. Jerry, why don’t you turn the tables around?
    Why don’t you start your own podcast?
    Talk to people you are interested in quizzing and debating and engaging, as a host?
    Informed, intelligent, vibrant give-and-take on both sides of the microphone?
    As Alan Kay said: if you care about software, make your own hardware.
    So with interviews: if you care about them, make your own.
    If they’re good, they likely will go viral.

    Buttheads like Alex Tsakiris are hardly worth your time. And I would argue that an audience which willingly puts up with Alex Tsakiris and his likes for any length of time may not be worth your time either.

    1. Agree – his audience want bread and circuses, and to show that they don’t have to think, and moreover, one can show up these academic no-goods.

      1. OTOH, I experienced some definite schadenfreude listening to Tsakiris get pwned by Jerry. So clearly there’s some prurient interest for the truly skeptical listener. I’m interested in hearing the 2 part interview with Steve Novella; the second part is titled, very respectfully, “Steve Novella Dead Wrong on Near-Death Experience Research”

    2. @Occam As much as anyone I’d *love* to hear Jerry do a podcast but, holy crap dude, I’m amazed he has the time to even blog! When he signed my copy of WEIT at the UK debate with John Haught I asked him where he finds the time and he said he gets up *early* in the morning. This aside from being a Professor at an elite Uni? I think Jerry might have to perfect cloning before starting a podcast.

      1. +1
        I’ve tried plotting Jerry’s posting times, and they hint at a gruesome schedule.
        On the other hand, the time allotted to dunces like Alex Tsakiris could be more profitably spent if he used it for his own podcasts.

  15. Great news, that he is exposed as someone who can give it, but not take it. And that he is a coward who won’t respond to thoughtful dialogue. You have had a valuable experience, shared it with us, so that we can, as a community wonder what to do with these charlatans. I emailed it to hubby (who is in his study downstairs – a retired expat American academic. He emailed back..

    A closed mind gathers no thought… [sigh] 😛

    An IDEA I’ve just had – to begin a webpage evaluating these presenters so that other academic types can avoid wasting their time. However we scale it, this fellow is 1 out of 10 in terms of transparency. There could be a number of scales….a work in progress. This would be a way of taking some power back, so that in order to attract heavyweight guests, they have to demonstrate that they won’t play ‘get the guest’. The amount of brainpower and goodwill on this group is huge! And you nurture us, and we happily support you (although I will always argue with you about ‘free will’). Thanks for sharing all this with us.

      1. Thanks, I hadn’t heard of RationalWiki. I was thinking of something bigger and more specific about the transparency/whatever about the presenter. Something that could take off, so these people can be named and shamed. It may take a couple of years to trial it and get through the bugs, however, with a spokesperson, I could see it doing well. Ricky Gervaris comes to mind – an atheist comedian with a cutting wit. Or the Aussie Tim Minchin – another comedian that can send things up mercilessly. These can be some of our shock troops. They play games, so lets send them our best game players (I know that Hitch would be applauding this). I’ve said of Obama, that he is playing cricket and the GOP are playing gridiron (please don’t segue on this point).

        1. Just a quick segue.

          If Obama is playing cricket, he needs to play it like Clive Lloyd’s West Indies team of the 1980s.

          1. Not to segue on Clive Lloyd, but…
            Great innings in the second half of his career. The analogy would augur a fine second term for Obama.
            On the other hand, Lloyd scored at more games than just cricket, much to the chagrin of his domestic bliss. This would definitely point to a Clinton-like, rather than Obama-like, second term. (And on this, a segue is definitely not advised.)

      1. Thanks for ‘web of trust’ – however this could be loaded by friends of the program. I was thinking of one that could be evaluated by the speakers. Now of course, Sheldrake would think the presenter was great, however it may become clear that real scientists consider that they can’t tell their story.

        1. PS – so, more specifically, programs which are science friendly, that understand the scientific method and essentially agree with it. Now in Australia we have some great programs on our ABC like ‘The Science Show’, ‘The Health Report’ and lots of other presenters which will help the scientist make their complex story more accessible. I don’t listen to any other radio, so I don’t even know what happens here – except of course with climate change, where, its a bun-fight (except on the ABC).

          It could become a coveted award – eg 10 stars on the science friendly scale……

  16. “Woomeister”—that’s a splendid neologism! I suppose “-meister” is the German noun “Meister”, meaning “master”, isn’t it?

  17. I’ve been listening to Skeptiko for years as a sort of fish is a barrel exercise in logical fallacy spotting.
    Finally, Alex got his arse kicked. Well done Jerry, and thank you.

  18. I can understand a lot of the comments here but I have recently been looking at a book called Irreducible Mind by several professors which document many consciousness-related anomalies.

    My background is in physics BTW and I have an interest in relativity/QT foundations. Recently a colleague and myself went to the Society for Psychical Research Library in London and spent not a little time looking at the 100 years or so of archives.

    I just find this quite well documented data as well as the above quite hard to reconcile with a purely materialistic/biology science.
    I’m just an honest researcher here who has looked at some anomalous data which I find almost impossible to reconcile.
    Many of the researchers are highly qualified which has always surprised me. I spoke thereafter with another physicist who has also been deeply involved in looking at these anomalies – again it is agreed there is a problem with the current “paradigm” – whatever one may wish to call it.
    I just wonder whether these issues can be resolved by looking at life fundamentally more energetically-based than bio-based.

    I also spotted this remarkable case which again suggests consciousness leaving the body, also backed up by the cardiac surgeons colleagues:

    1. Sorry but Hume still applies:
      ‘No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which is endeavours to establish’.

      I’ve visited the Society for Psychical Research library myself and can tell you they keep records of everything. Thi includes accounts from the most credulous and idiotic witnesses (eg of ‘seances’ we now know were complete nonsense). 100 years of such data confers no authority whatsoever.

      1. Hi Mike

        Thanks for replying. I too DO rather share your view of some of this (SPR) material and I think it is well known also that there were frauds. But I do think some of the physical effects which were seen at the time, not all, could be regarded as evidential. One report was written up by Sir William Crookes himself here:

        Some light effects seen were remarkable and very difficult to reproduce technically in those days. I also know that even in the present day such studies continue to see effects like this.

        And others such as the Eileen Garrett medium reports; one such was The Airmen Who Would Not Die book by John Fuller (SPR Library book)involved highly technical details being given to her, through medium expts., of the technical data of the R-101 disaster, something she could not have known about – not being an engineer.

        And the LLoyd Rudy case I gave above is fascinating. I mean how did the patient get the information – and then the sensed presence by all staff during the “healing” is fascinating too? I honestly think science is missing something here.

        Anyway, from a physics perspective (and I suppose personally!) I am interested as was the chap I spoke with. Cheers for now. 🙂

        1. The Hume point still stands.

          For my sins I know a bit about William Crookes. For his so-called experiments he favoured a ‘medium’ called Florence Cook, a working class girl who was clever enough to cotton on to the fact that a young woman in a darkened room filled with middle- or upper-class men (in 19th Century England) was an environment ripe for exploitation. To our eyes it’s all very obvious – eg when she appeared as a spirit she would suggest that sitters touched her bare flesh to ‘prove’ her reality.

          I doubt your open-mindedness will survive the photos of Florence Cook. Just do a google image search of her name and you’ll see what I mean.

          The next question is a simple one: if William Crookes was gullible enough to fall for this nonsense, how can you take any account of his seriously? Or indeed, a citation from anyone quoting Crookes?

          1. What I find interesting about William Crookes, was that he never retracted his certainty of an afterlife. See p. 98 for direct quotes from him in this book by Conan Doyle:


            “Thirty years have passed since I published an account of experiments tending to show that outside our scientific knowledge there exists a Force exercised by intelligence differing from the ordinary intelligence common to mortals. I have nothing to retract… It is quite true that a connexion has been set up between this world and the next.” and “[Spiritualism] has at least convinced the great majority of people, who know anything about the subject, of the existence of the next world.”

            These are strong statements many years on.

            If you look on p.95 it seems Russel Wallace, Lord Rayleigh and William Barrett were of the same view.

            As a physicist what especially interests me are the energetic nature of the light phenomena seen, and still being seen today – I have been advised on this by several scientists. TBH I think this is where the action (for physics, excuse the pun!) lies, and also esp. with getting a handle on how some of these NDE cases, as above, can possibly have veridicality. i.e. what is actually doing the “seeing”? I believe there are ongoing studies with an international team of doctors. Regards.

            1. I doubt there’s much point in continuing this, but I’ll have a go:

              Near Death Experiences (NDEs) assume the existence of a human soul, an entity about as well-evidenced as god, which is to say not at all. If there are no souls there are no NDEs either.

              NDEs assume sight. Real bodies use eyes evolved to focus and adjust for different lighting levels; what do souls use when they go wandering? What do souls’ eyes use to adjust for different lighting and focus?

              You are entirely uncritical about the Lloyd Rudy case from YouTube yet it has all the hallmarks of a traditional ghost story: the details are second-hand, un-referenced and all but one (the post-it notes) entirely explicable in other ways.

              Finally, remember Hume. It seems you prefer to think reports of miracles are true rather than question the witnesses or their assumptions.

              1. No, I’ll give this one more go as well. First regarding some of the intelligent light phenomena, I do know these are being seen and have been by many academic witnesses – similar to Crookes’ obs. as well. This is startling considering these are obs. well over a century apart. Also enough to be considered – as to their energetic nature by some physicists. I’ll let you have a Google for this.
                As to the nature of the NDE “seeing” – unknown, but as I said there is an international team of doctors looking at this, found this recently:


                Remember carefully Dr. Rudy’s comments at the end of the article – his colleagues have had similar cases. Not a confirmation of an afterlife but “evidential” and part of a range of seemingly unrelated phenomena. And you would be well advised to hold your horses until the Human Consciousness Project’s findings are in.

            2. There’s been some amount of research on NDEs suggesting they’re not the least bit supernatural.

              Look dude, everyone wanted magic to be real when they were little kids. I was way into the idea that we could leave our bodies and explore the world ‘n stuff. At some point I realized this could all be wishful thinking so I decided to be a little more skeptical about it.

              Susan Blackmore was in a similar position — she started her career trying to prove ESP stuff. Now she doesn’t believe in it because she acknowledged the evidence that it just ain’t so.

              It would be the dumbest thing in the world for physicists to start chasing some quantum consciousness/substance dualism wild goose in the machine. There’s no real evidence for anything supernatural — and if there was, it would just be “natural”.

              1. I must say I agree with your last statement – part of the “natural” world. And begging the question what this natural world’s structure is to allow such phenomena.

              2. I didn’t do a single bit of question begging. But it doesn’t matter since you’ve already made your decision about what’s true. This is obvious from the fact that you highlight a few bits of really dubious data that “support” your beliefs but you dismiss the reams of evidence, study after study, that render your beliefs implausible.

                This is a very dangerous attitude for anyone to have. Let’s put it this way: what would it take to convince you that you are wrong?

            3. So your evidence that Crookes was not a crackpot is an excerpt from a book written by a known crackpot?

              Arthur Conan Doyle thought the Cottingley Fairies were real.

            4. Hi Peter

              I’m interested in finding out more about these light orbs you refer to, have you got a link or paper I can read, or an e-mail address I can contact you on?


    2. If you really are a physicist you know there is no energy in itself (as demonstrated in the mid 19th century by Maxwell). Consequently to appeal to it is rather … awkward.

      Further, to use quantum mechanics to support any “weird” properties of organisms is to doubly jump the gun: (1) because one should carefully make sure there are such properties (see the other post in this subthread) and (2) demonstrate some sort of quantum plausibility. Most parts of organisms are too warm, wet and large for any.

  19. “I want to talk to you about quantum physics.”
    “But I’m an evolutionary biologist”
    “I want to talk to you about quantum physics.”
    “But I’m an evolutionary biologist”
    “I want to talk to you about quantum physics.”
    “But I’m an evolutionary biologist”
    “I want to talk to you about quantum physics.”
    “But I’m an evolutionary biologist”
    “I don’t think you’re being honest with me Jerry”

  20. Tsakiris was apparently afraid that Jerry would “carefully craft some kind of nonsense beforehand”.

    “In this case I was corresponding with Jerry for several days. I sent him some stuff a couple of days before… then found some stuff that I wanted to include and sent him that 4 hours before the interview.

    But at the end of the day I don’t see how that matters… I want to know, and I want you to know, how Jerry handles questions about consciousness, neuroplacticity, psi and Wallace without the chance to carefully craft some kind of nonsense beforehand.

    Also, these kind of problems NEVER come up with “for real thinkers”… think of all the really good guests that have been on Skeptiko… you’d never feel a need to offer up this kind of excusing making for them.”

    1. “But at the end of the day I don’t see how that matters… I want to know, and I want you to know, how Jerry handles questions about consciousness, neuroplacticity, psi and Wallace without the chance to carefully craft some kind of nonsense beforehand.”

      Wow. So this jerk gleefully admits to inviting Jerry on not to interview him but deliberately setting him up to ambush him because he thinks that Jerry’s science is carefully crafted nonsense. :-p

      1. Yep, I thought about that, but the domain’s already registered with another genus. 🙂

        Tsak acted as though Jerry hadn’t done his homework, but if he’d done any homework himself he would have realized that he’d be no match against anyone who had dealt so adeptly with a botfly as jac. Come to think of it, the botfly’s a good metaphor for the interview. Both were patiently endured, and in the end, neither got anywhere.

    1. I went looking for some bkg on the guy last night and noted that he didn’t seem to have risen to the level of having a Wikipedia page.

  21. I have attempted to discuss this stuff before on the

    After a few days of discussions, it seems there are a very limited number of sources quoted by the advocates of ‘psi’:

    Dean Radin
    Jeffrey Schwartz
    Stuart Hameroff
    TD Duane

    I think that covers most conversations about the ‘evidence’ psi, or the conflations of quantum mechanics with consciousness.

    I have tried to ‘engage with the evidence’, but it is difficult to take it seriously when the whole movement seems to be based on a small number of non-objective researchers.

    PS – I received a wonderful comment in response to my blog article criticizing ‘psi’: “You seem very thoughtful, but this is a very typical problem with skepticism”!

  22. “Ignoramus” is the word that came to my mind as I listened to Mr. Tsakiris brandish his deep ignorance for all the world to see.

    Good to know that this podcast can be safely ignored.

  23. Well, it’s all of a piece, isn’t it?

    His badgering of you to get you to agree that … well all kinds of nonsense.

    No interest in talking about evolutionary biology, except to say that it’s superseded by … what, quantum entanglement? As you said: Show me how quantum entanglement affects: Mutation, natural selection, consciousness, etc. No, “well, it affects things, therefore: Giant illogical leap.” Show me the mechanism, describe it, and show me the evidence.

    To me, the worst of this are:

    1. His very uncivil attitude, badgering, and partonizing, sneering tone

    2. His intellectually dishonest introduction and coda, slapped on after the fact without your knowledge or participation, purely for the purposes of spin and getting the last word (by fiat).

    3. Shutting down comments. What a wimp! I’m going to take my baseball and run home!

    Skeptiko skeptical? NOT!

  24. And I missed one:

    This is rich:

    Giving insufficent praise for the work of Wallace somehow invalidates your book or the work of Darwin or makes Wallace the real authority on EBNS?

    A couple of sentences in your book don’t agree a CREATIONIST “ID” “SCHOLAR’S” take on Wallace, this somehow calls into question all the evidence for EBNS and the arguments in your book and the validity of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis and Darwin’s priority and recognition as the true “father” of EBNS? Does Tsakiris not realize that Wallace himself attributed primacy to Darwin?

    It’s all of a piece isn’t it.

    I recommend reading the discussion thread on AT at the JREF

  25. And, another again: How could I forget the bait and switch? Sending you journal articles outside your area of expertise 2 hours (2 hours 30 minutes, what doe sit matter in this case?) before the interview and then ambushing you with them.

    Wow, what bad behavior. These are the kinds of behaviors that liars and cheats deploy. If the shoe fits …

    All in all: That interview (and his site, I must say) is just one very large capacity earthenware vessel of above-ambient temperature fecal matter.

  26. Funny how in the post interview bit he mentions how he hopes the interview “will generate a lot of dialogue among you, Skeptiko listeners, and I hope to hear from you about that. So, please join me on the Skeptiko forum or in the comment section of this show and tell me what you think.”
    How can he hear from us if the comment section is closed?

    1. Thought-transference, mediated by quantum fluctuations in the subspace continuum which unifies the vital force all living things draw their energy from.

      Do I have to provide ALL the answers around here?

        1. Yah, but yours sounded like you knew what you were talking about because you used sciencey-sounding words. Kinda like some “interviewer” we know.

  27. Maybe you should have simply discussed teh subtul spirityoualizy of Ceiling Cat ‘nd reely phocked him up.

  28. I think and I hope someone hasn’t already had the thought that his insistence of Wallace being preeminent to Darwin is not about evolution or biogeography but rather an attempt to raise Wallace up as a scientist to lend greater validity to Wallace’s latter life. Didn’t he end up joining in with spiritualism? As such when making an argument from authority that Alex is wont to make, isn’t it better to have the father of evolution cruelly hidden from history for his other beliefs as a standard bearer?

  29. After all that reading, the only take-away from Mr Alex is that tired old viewpoint that knowing that something is true is the same as believing strongly in something that is false.

  30. I call that a good day’s work too, Jerry. It’s important that people sailing under false colours, such as Skeptico, be exposed as frauds. Scepticism should be sceptical, for Pete’s sake! And to try to derail a conversation with an evolutionary biologist in the way that Alex does is a scandal of no mean proportions. He got you there under false pretences, but did not succeed in making you commit yourself to beliefs for which there is no evidence as he did try so sedulously to do. To say that you were being browbeaten is to put it mildly.

          1. Well, Jerry seems to be developing knack for exposing the infant personalities of theists and woo-merchants. First Haught, and now this clown.

  31. This was the part that had me lol. Especially the last two sentences. What a trip this guy alex is. I’ve run into more of these characters lately it seems. Claim to be nonreligious but deep into solipsism.

    “Alex Tsakiris: It’s the observer effect, Jerry. It’s the double-slit experiment. It’s our…
    Dr. Jerry Coyne: Yeah, okay, what does that have to do with…
    Alex Tsakiris: Are photons waves or particles, right? So it’s like…
    Dr. Jerry Coyne: What does that have to do with evolution?
    Alex Tsakiris: It has to do with evolution because what we find is that it’s consciousness. If we put our consciousness one way or another it measures this way or that way.”

    1. “If we put our measuring device one way or another it measures this or that.”

      Sounds less impressive when you leave out Alex’s magic word ‘consciousness’.

    2. So you see, if it goes this way or that, that means it’s like quantum indeterminacy effect, and we find that if we put our consciousness to it, we can do it either this way or that way, so it has got to have something to do with evolution, right? I mean, you’re the expert, so tell me I’m right.

      1. I’ve had some drawn out exchanges with some of these kind of folk who turn out to be a lot crazier then they seem to let on at first.

        It seems that they are taking their arguments to pure solipsism. He thinks we make up the physical world as we go. Consciousness came first and then the world, not the other way around. Completely misguided. Just another creation story. A cognitively dissonant response to the idea that there is no god.

          1. Well, it’s what this s***head did to Dr. Coyne,who probably wouldn’t have done the interview had he known what he was in for.

        1. Subjective idealism has a long history, religiously motivated (Berkeley) or not (Hume) or unsure (Schopenhauer), alas. Unfortunately, it also infects physicists on what Bunge calls “philosophical holidays”. Bohr, Eddington and co. have a lot to answer for that way. Fortunately their misrepresentations are pretty close to provably wrong.

    1. True. He needs to change his name to creduliko or beliviko or some such since he is not a skeptic in the generally accepted sense of the word.

  32. Regarding quantum physics, there is a small book titled “The Quantum Universe” by Brian Cox and Jeff Foreshaw that I think is written with great clarity. In the first chapter (“Something Strange Is Afoot”) the authors have the following to say (p. 4):

    “Quantum theory does, admittedly, have something of a reputation for weirdness, and there have been reams of drivel penned in its name. Cats can be both dead and alive; particles can be in two places at once; Heisenberg says everything is uncertain. These things are all true, but the conclusion so often drawn – that since something strange is afoot in the microworld, we are steeped in mystery – is most definitely not. Extrasensory perception, mystical healing, vibrating bracelets to protect us from radiation and who-knows-what-else are regularly smuggled into the pantheon of the possible under the cover of the word ‘quantum’. This is nonsense born from a lack of clarity of thought, wishful thinking, genuine or mischievous misunderstanding, or some unfortunate combination of all of the above.”

    For me this eloquently verbalizes the reasons why people like Alex, Deepak Chopra, and others are so drawn to the mysteries of quantum theory.

  33. That interview actually had a lot of entertainment value for me. It was also interesting to hear Jerry summarize the contributions of Wallace versus Darwin and why Darwin is the famous one. (Alex T. has some serious questions about those dates, though!)

    AT’s commentary between question about how Jerry was just not cooperating were great because it was so nicely contrasted by Jerry having just done his best to cooperate, and continuing through the interview to do his best.

    And the crap about Jerry being rude or whatever butted up against AT being actually rude, and Jerry pointing it out… It was funny!

    1. It also has a huge amount of educational value. I have sent the link to it to all of my kids with the title “How to argue with an idiot/ignoramus”.

      I found it hilarious that on the forum they are reacting like Alex came out on top in this discussion. But then I explored some of the other threads there and suddenly realized something: These people are spending huge amounts of time discussing things intelligent 12-14 year olds spend untold hours arguing about in their peer groups, and then discard as silly when they start learning science. Says it all for me.

  34. What a way to end a comment thread.

    Once again, I am reminded of one of my most favorite comments ever, made by someone named Jody in a thread on skeptico. (different blog: note the spelling)

    “And the moral we learn from that last comment, Boys and Girls, is that if you can’t win an argument on its merits, take a shit on the desk and leave.”

  35. Reply to Dan L.(February 16, 2012 at 11:26 am0

    “I didn’t do a single bit of question begging. But it doesn’t matter since you’ve already made your decision about what’s true. This is obvious from the fact that you highlight a few bits of really dubious data that “support” your beliefs but you dismiss the reams of evidence, study after study, that render your beliefs implausible.

    This is a very dangerous attitude for anyone to have. Let’s put it this way: what would it take to convince you that you are wrong?”

    As someone with a scientific background for me it’s evidence that counts – observable but also the consideration of evidence from other sources. Now starting with the light phenomena seen esp. recently by academic investigators (see my posts above) I go from there. I don’t have beliefs Dan but from what I know it is my duty to report this. Evidence gathered in a different way is interesting too. The pointer though, as I see it, is evidence for non-physical intelligence but with a connection to our lives. That’s the best working hypothesis I at the moment. Cheers now.

    1. I don’t have beliefs

      How am I to interpret a statement like this? Does this mean that you are so taken with your particular worldview that you think your apprehension of the world transcends “mere belief”? Does it mean that you are a perfect solipsist, refusing to grant that any given proposition is more plausible than its negation? Does it mean that you think you are, somehow, the first human “neutral observer” in history and that your perceptions should be taken by everyone else as “facts,” not “beliefs”?

      As far as I can tell, you’re just another mysterian trying to convince people not to look behind the curtain. Let’s say you’re right and that intelligence is magic. How does that help us investigate intelligence? It doesn’t. It doesn’t generate any testable hypotheses.

      Think about magnetism. During the middle ages the vast majority of European commoners believed in the “occult powers” of various plants and gemstones. That is, they believed certain gems and plants are magic. And magnets, of course, when their existence became widely known were regarded as some of the most magical. One can understand why, but nonetheless ascribing “occult powers” to these magnets did nothing to help humankind understand magnetism. It was only after natural philosophers gave up on “occult powers” and started making rigorous hypotheses and performing controlled experiments with magnetism that we came to understand that phenomenon, at least to a degree useful enough to allow electronics to remake the world in the early 20th century.

      If intelligence is magic then we’re still better off assuming it’s not magic and to try to understand it in terms of phenomena that are already understood. The best proof that intelligence is magic would be consistent failures in this endeavor, not to assume it to be so at the outset.

      1. The statement “I don’t have beliefs” means just that. I know QED works to many decimal places. I know QCD is the correct theory for the strong force. I know the truth of the Dirac equation and T violation (but to be subsumed one day within a more general theory). These are not beliefs. I know, on the same level of knowing, that other scientists have reported correctly obs. indicating *quite clearly* non-physical intelligence (the phenomena I spoke of above). Not magic – observations for these phenomena.

        Now you may know (in fact it is considered necessary) that physics postulates multiple dimensions – big and small. Perhaps this is where these phenomena can manifest. Now I don’t know this (or believe) they are there (and can sometimes pop into our space) but let’s take this as a working hypothesis. But reported *facts* need explanations – let us leave it at that. Thanks for your input.

        1. I know QED works to many decimal places. I know QCD is the correct theory for the strong force. I know the truth of the Dirac equation and T violation (but to be subsumed one day within a more general theory). These are not beliefs.


          I know, on the same level of knowing, that other scientists have reported correctly obs. indicating *quite clearly* non-physical intelligence (the phenomena I spoke of above).

          … we saw what you did there.

        2. You seem to link to out-of-body experiences above. It’s been long known how to induce them, and what causes them:

          ““multisensory conflict” is a key mechanism underlying out-of-body experiences.”

          There is no new phenomena here, but embodies emergence of the sensation of “conscious” mind.

          As for the physics, I can’t remember if it was Feynman or Weinberg who estimated it, but fundamentally you can’t have any new interactions than the known long range ones on account of entropy reasons. I’m sure its googleable by now.

          So it’s woo considered as biology, and woo considered as physics. Let’s call it “woo woo” for emphasis.

        3. Apparently you don’t know what a belief is. For most philosophers, “knowledge” is justified true belief — and I personally might quibble with that definition but unless you’re proposing an alternative we’re stuck with it. So when you say you “know” QED “works” to many decimal places, you are really saying:
          a) That you believe QED “works” to many decimal places,
          b) That this belief is justified, and
          c) That this belief is true.

          The important bit is (a). To know something you must also believe it. Everyone has beliefs. I bet you believe you’re having a conversation in the comments of a blog post right now (I believe the same exact thing).

          When you say you “know” that scientists have “correctly” observed “non-physical intelligence” you are saying that you believe it, that this belief is justified, and that it is true. You certainly believe this — you’ve made this quite clear. I’m arguing that this belief is in no way justified. The evidence you’ve cited is extraordinarily weak, especially compared to the evidence for a competing hypothesis: that intelligence is embodied in a physical brain.

          I could claim to know that intelligence is embodied in a physical brain with much greater justification than you can claim to know it isn’t. I certainly believe it is, and I think given the wealth of evidence for it that this is a justified belief. Consider Ramachandran’s treatment for phantom limb pain using only a shoebox and a common, household mirror. It was inspired by reasoning from a naturalistic theory of mind, by assuming that mind is embodied in a physical nervous system. And it works. Do you have any similar success stories for “non-physical intelligence”? Have you been able to cure any cases of phantom limb pain with a Vulcan mind meld?

          String theory and maybe a few other physical theories posit big and small dimensions but there is essentially no good evidence for this thesis. This is one of the weaknesses of string theory, actually.

          Reported facts only need explanations if the reports are credible. Many, many experimental results have been overturned on the basis of subsequent experiments, or even by theoreticians pointing out problems with experimental technique or the interpretation of the results. Thus, we can’t simply take any given report as “factual,” we must take into all the evidence both for and against a thesis and make a decision about which reports are credible.

          You don’t get to tell me where to “leave it.” And you’ve successfully convinced me that your “scientific background” isn’t worth, in Douglas Adams’ immortal words, a pair of fetid dingo kidneys.

        4. Oops, I forgot the reason: one can estiamte entropy content of the universe, and new long range interactions would generate more entropy than is observed.

    2. While we’re at it, could you explain to me what you find so compelling about the Crookes paper you link to? This is not a study but apparently one man’s rather credulous personal report of his friends’ seances from 1874. This is not good evidence. Contrast this with all the neuroscientific data from the 20th century pointing to the embodiment of cognition within the physical brain — no contest.

      Why haven’t any more recent researchers come to similar conclusions? You, Alex Tsakiris, and millions of Deepak Chopra fans prove there’s a market for it; and if it’s true one would think we could find some more recent evidence for it.

      As a “scientist” (I must admit some skepticism as to your credentials — care to link to your CV?) surely you must realize that the results of experiment and observation must be repeatable to serve as good scientific evidence? If this wasn’t so physics would have run off the rails centuries ago — sometimes experimenters and observers are simply incorrect. No one report can be taken as good evidence, one needs mutual confirmation by independent sources before a finding really constitutes “evidence”. So if you insist there’s evidence for this nonsense you’d be better off citing a more credible and more modern study, one embodied in a research program that has turned up a significant amount of confirming evidence by different researchers.

      1. He can always fake up a CV anyways …

        It’s all of a piece with AT citing a ID creationist historian as THE authority on EBNS.

        1. Faking a CV that is simultaneously plausible and creditable would require a great deal more scientific knowledge than this guy has demonstrated so far in the thread. Thought I could trap him but he ended up trapping himself.

      2. “…what you find so compelling about the Crookes paper you link to…”

        Because the light phenomena (intelligent behaviour) have been seen quite recently (and at other times over the last century). As I said above try a little research for these – in science it’s called repeatability, thus interesting. Goodbye Dan!! – NHF

        1. LOL. No, I’m busy with my own reading, thanks. If you want me to believe your mysterian nonsense you can do your own research. Let me know when you find a (controlled, peer reviewed) study confirming Crookes’ “observations” from the 20th or 21st centuries.

  36. So, Dr. C. and readers: This incident may attract more trolls and so on to this site. So, though I do agree with Eric that you did “a good days work” and sharpened your wits on a twit (a la Hitchens), we may have to wade through feces for a while.

  37. Jerry Coyne is obviously a bright guy. He is also a hard core materialist. It wasn’t the right thing for Alex to invite him on skeptiko and try to enlighten him. However, whether materialists like it not, there is a growing body of evidence showing their postion to be false. Every sensible person would back evolution to be true but either evolution has created something in a human that can leave the body and observe it’s surroundings,,,,,or something existed prior to evolution that joins the body and leaves it. Bullshit I hear you cry. Well, take a look at the veridical evidence in NDE research.
    Lastly, Professor Coyne would do himself a favour by not throwing out insults such as ignoramus, poseur, coward etc. Shame on you, Professor Coyne you sound like a bar room brawler rather than a serious high ranking academic researcher. Not good.

    1. There’s no such thing as “veridical evidence.” By definition of “veridical” and “evidence” such a thing is impossible. Problem of other minds.

    2. I sincerely hope you are not the same Tim I had the displeasure to meet at

      Anyway, your post is absurd. Let’s say that evolution “created” a consciousness that can exist indpendently of a brain. Let’s forget anbout the plausible mechanism for this astonishing fact. Have you any evidence to show for such a consciousness? Is there any experiment you can design that would unequivocally show the existence of such an entity? You don’t? Then fuck off,

      Now, let’s suppose this mysterious entity existed before apes became human. Why did it have to embody itself in humans? Why not in slugs? Amoebas? Chameleons? Oh, of course: it couldn’t, because it needed a sufficiently complex brain! Again, fuck off.

    3. Oh, and you said:

      “Shame on you, Professor Coyne; you sound like a bar room brawler rather than like a serious, high-ranking academic researcher. Not good.”

      (I corrected the syntax for you. Yes, I know, I’m a softie at heart).

      You sound like one of several million ignoramuses who clutter cyberspace with their asinine comments. You obviously know nothing about neuroscience, biology or physics. If I were you, I’d refrain from posting at all; instead, I’d try to learn something from reading what the knowledgeable posters have to say.

    4. Ah, is that naive trusting Tim, who Alex plays like a fiddle and who actually believes that Tsakiris is not Enrique Vargas. Clearly, your critical skills are non existent.

  38. Tim said “either evolution has created something in a human that can leave the body and observe it’s surroundings,,,,,or something existed prior to evolution that joins the body and leaves it.”

    That all sounds very strange.
    Could you tell us where we might find this “thing”? We need to find it outside of a person’s report of such a “thing”.

  39. here’s what Alex wrote on the Skeptiko discussion forum:

    “Great idea… Jerry, please come back on Skeptiko so we can talk about all the research you weren’t able to look at beforehand.

    Of course, if you don’t want to do it on Skeptiko we can do it on another show of your choosing.”

    so are you open to the idea? would you be willing to engage in a roundtable debate/discussion with people like Michael Flannery (on Darwin vs. Wallace), Bruce Lipton (on epigenetics), Rick Hanson (on neuroplasticity), Anton Zelinger (on QM), etc.

    i’d like to see an honest intellectual and scientific debate on these topics.

    thank you.


    1. What is there to discuss on Darwin vs. Wallace? And why would Jerry engage in a discussion with someone as dishonest as Michael Flannery?

    2. Jerry Coyne was supposed to be INTERVIEWED by THE GREAT TSAKIRIS. It was not supposed to be a debate. It was not supposed to be about quantum mechanics, which Jerry probably knows little about and Tsakiris certainly knows nothing about. Tsakiris blew his chance of getting an interesting interview with a top scientist because of his idiotic ramabling and his ignorance. And now he expects Jerry to go back to the den of iniquity for a debate with an obscure and dishonest son of a bitch? Are you fucking nuts?

      1. Piero,

        first of, i wasn’t talkng to you. my comment was respectfully addressed to Jerry Coyne.

        second, Alex said: “we can do it on another show of your choosing.” meaning, Coyne doesn’t have to go back to Skeptiko. Coyne could even host it himself if he wants to.

        that said, i understand if Coyne doesn’t want to do it. i agree that Tsakiris could’ve handled the interview better.

        that is all.


        1. But why would Dr. Coyne want to debt him at all? Fools like this tsakiris guy are a dime a dozen. There’s no point in taking him seriously.

        2. Your comment was not “addressed” to anyone in particular. Hence, I have every right to respond as if it was a public message.

          When I referred to “the den of iniquity” I was not referring to a physical space, but to the situation of having to interact with a complete moron. Whether such interaction takes place atop the Big Ben or in a strip-club bathroom is wholly irrelevant.

          Holy fuck, why do I have to keep explaining everything? Are people becoming more stupid for some unknown reason? If anyone knows what’s going on, I’d be grateful to be informed.

          1. Piero,

            it was addressed to Jerry. looks like I missed the salutation when I copied and pasted my comment. my bad.

            that said, do you always have to use the word “fuck” and “moron”? I’m not offended by it, btw. but it reflects more on you and your sophisticated limited vocabulary.

            thanks for your response. now I hope to hear back from Jerry.

            1. I find my limited vocabulary pretty good for a foreigner. If you want, I can post in Spanish or Italian. I’d still be using the Spanish and Italian equivalents of “fuck” and “moron”, though, because they are the appropriate terms. I’m sorry if you find those words offensive (naah, I’m not sorry at all, actually).

    3. Of course, if you don’t want to do it on Skeptiko we can do it on another show of your choosing.”

      This was tried on Skepticality with Alex and Ben Radford (from Monster Talk) regarding the “best case” for a psychic helping the police. Alex was as boorish there as he was towards Dr Coyne, so why exactly should Dr. Coyne bother with him again?

  40. That’s pretty firmly in the class “would look good on your CV, and be a waste of precious seconds of my life.” Alex has already established himself as a liar and troll. There is no value in feeding him further, only in warning others about his well-documented bad faith actions.

  41. Hi Jerry,

    It makes a change to hear an uncompromising, no bullshit opponent to the mega woomeister that is Alex Tsakiris ! I have been drawn to Alex’s podcasts by some of his interesting guests and have found the experience tortuous and a total waste of time. I dared to listen once again when I saw your posting on WEIT. I think it is pointless for any other serious scientists such as yourself to engage him. It is frustrating and futile, nevertheless, well done to you for exposing his nonsense.

  42. While it’s in my podcast queue I’ve yet to listen to the episode (yes, I listen to Creduliko regularly; helps me stay in shape). What amazes me most are the comments of his supporters in sympathetic forums. You’d think Akex had mopped the floor with our host. Talk about motivated reasoning, cognitive dissonance, and living in denial. Young Earthers on one side and New Agers on the other, it’s like Scylla and Charybdis.

  43. Actually Tsakiris is helping to change the paradigm which is necessary when you find evidence that contradicts what is currently accepted. Keep your thick dinosaur heads stuck in the petrified sand if you want to, but materialism is false.

  44. Oh and Piero….you sure are one hell of a nice guy….”What’s that you say, stranger,…..oh fuck off….fuck off….!! :#>

    1. Oh, so you want some too? I can easily accomodate you, you know? But I won’t. Instead, I’ll address the pitiful argument you put forward before you decided it was a good idea to rail against me.

      “Tsakiris is helping to change the paradigm which is necessary when you find evidence that contradicts what is currently accepted.”

      He wouldn’t be able to change his own underware, and most probably throws “paradigm” around as a buzzword. Nothing I’ve ever read in his blogs has ever taught me anything. Like Chopra, he relies on fuzzy, ill-defined, unproven ideas and thinks of himself as clever guy.

      You could provide one argument at least to prove that materialism is false. To that end,you would have to do two things:

      1. Give a coherent definition of materialism
      2. Prove that some observable phenomenon is not explicable in terms of such definition.

      I doubt you are up to the task, as your defense of Tsakiris demonstrates.

      OK, I’m sorry, I cannot resist: fuck off!

      1. The theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena.

        Now, Senor Piero,
        Proof is a strange concept. Nothing is ever proved 100 per cent, but nevertheless becomes accepted. You accept all kinds of ideas without proof, including evolution (which although I agree is the best possible explanation) ,,it is stil not ‘proved.’

        There are now enough cases of mind body separation to confidently say that materialism (in it’s current state) is false. You are still behaving like a tw#t I see with the patent eff off.

        1. “There are now enough cases of mind body separation to confidently say that materialism (in it’s current state) is false.”

          No there really, reallly aren’t. Citation needed. (And Skeptiko doesn’t count, nor does anything on

        2. OK. My apologies. I didn’t really mean to tell you to fuck off. It was a stupid afterthought that was meant to be funny but backfired horribly.

          I agree that “proof” is only meaningful in a purely conceptual sphere. There are mathematical proofs, because matehematics has been developed over the centuries as a gigantic tautology, but there are no physical proofs, and the best we can hope for is a high probability of being right, by which I mean a small error range in our measurements and predictions.

          Nevertheless, I can conceive of no scenario where the theory of evolution is not true. Actually, I can conceive of silly scenarios, such as those proposed by some creationists: God made the Earth 6,000 years ago, but made it look as if it was 4.5 billion years old, complete with fossils and geological clues. I mean, come on!

          In the absence of a reputable alternative explanation, I accept the theory of evolution as true. Do I accept it with a 100% degree of certainty? To all practical purposes, yes. I estimate the probability of the theory of evolution to ever be disproved at one in a few trillion. Remember that Darwin knew nothing about genes or DNA, yet microbiology has consistently confirmed his findings and predictions. What are the chances of that happening as a mere concidence?

          I know of no case of mind-body separation. I’ve never witnessed an instance, nor have I found any reference to such amazing phenomenon in any academically respectable book or peer-reviewed journal. So materialism appears to be the way to go. The fact that you are keen to be deluded by woo does not make that woo more credible. In fact, the opposite is true: you tries to rebut my position with vague and indefensible statements, which adds credibility to the thesis that Tsakiris and his minions do not know what they are talking about, and would do well to either learn something of forever hold their peace.

          1. Piero, I don’t need your apologies. Maybe it would be a good idea for you to not be so aggressive with people that disaggree with your view of what we are doing hurtling through space on a friendly(ish) piece of rock.

            I will reference you some examples tomorrow.

              1. OK no problem.

                “Experiencing an OBE during cardiac arrest is relatively common, so common that Michael B. Sabom, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Emory University and a staff physician at the Atlanta Veterans’ Administration Medical Center, got tired of hearing his patients recount such “fantasies” and decided to settle the matter once and for all. Sabom selected two groups of patients, one composed of 32 seasoned cardiac patients who had reported OBEs during their heart attacks, and one made up of 25 seasoned cardiac patients who had never experienced an OBE. He then interviewed the patients, asking the OBEers to describe their own resuscitation as they had witnessed it from the out-of-body state, and asking the nonexperiencers to describe what they imagined must have transpired during their resuscitation.

                Of the nonexperiencers, 20 made major mistakes when they described their resuscitations, 3 gave correct but general descriptions, and 2 had no idea at all what had taken place. Among the experiencers, 26 gave correct but general descriptions, 6 gave highly detailed and accurate descriptions of their own resuscitation, and 1 gave a blow-by-blow accounting so accurate that Sabom was stunned. The results inspired him to delve even deeper into the phenomenon, and like Clark, he has now become an ardent believer and lectures widely on the subject. There appears “to be no plausible explanation for the accuracy of these observations involving the usual physical senses,” he says. “The out-of-body hypothesis simply seems to fit best with the data at hand



  45. Why doctors don’t make good scientists.

    “he has now become an ardent believer and lectures widely on the subject.”

    1. I’ll back up on that comment about Doctors.

      Listen to this “discussion” between Dr. Steven Novella, neurologist, and tsarkis about NDE.

      Novella presents in depth background and reasoning. Tsarkis is completely clueless all he does is disagree, kind of like the Monty Python skit.
      This is what he wanted suck Dr. Coyne into.

      1. Novello didn’t get back to Alex with any of the research he cited. There is no good research done that supports Novella’s claims, it’s just bluff.

        Bernard Hurley,
        Yeah I figured you’d find fault with the methodology. Nobody else has ever critized the study for not being double blind…rather Academia princess Blackmore only said that the control group was not composed of patients with identical heart conditions so the study is worthless….yeah that’s they do… no matter that the observations made by the patients were impossible to explain away normally….when you can’t explain it discredit it. When you can’t discredit it, ignore it.

        1. There is a simple answer to this. If Michael B. Sabom wants to win $1,000,000 all he needs to do is contact JREF and arrange a properly conducted study.

          Anecdotal evidence needs no explaining away but I would ask you to apologise immediately for your slanderous suggestion that I might try to discredit or ignore properly conducted research.

          Put up or shut up you offensive little worm and if you can’t manage to apologise find a tall building to jump off.

          1. It’s not anecdotal evidence you ignorant and biased man. I have nothing to apologise for….you’ve got some nerve asking for that and calling me an offensive little worm. Is that how Bernard Hurley conducts himself ?

            Randi’s prize is bullshit pie in the sky and if you didn’t know there is a double blind study currently running -aware study- .As for Sabom, he wouldn’t lower himself turning cartwheels for that phoney.

            1. Until a double-blind experiment is properly conducted, all you have is anecdotal evidence. I mean, dividing the sample group into those who had had OBEs and those who hadn’t… are you kidding me? That’s the epitome of scientific malpractice.

              Randi’s million prize offer is not a scam. You can find plenty of videos on YouTube where experiments are rigorously conducted to test the claims of dowsers and other assorted nutters. The protocol for these experiments is agreed beforehand with the claimers. Your comment is slanderous. I hope Randi sues you.

              I’m sorry I apologized to you before. You deserved every insult I threw at you and then some more.

              1. Your comment is slanderous. I hope Randi sues you :-):-)

                Yes the great Randi will sue my ass through the courts.

                Piero, you really are a berk.

            2. Can you reply to the more substantive objection in my post, namely that the “experiment” was amateurish? You can resort to any argument related to experimental design in order to refute my objection. Can you do it? If so, do it. If not, go back to the hole in the ground you came out of.

              1. I don’t need to resort to any particular argument to reply to your rubbish, Piero.

                The two sets of heart patients were divided that way, OBErs from non OBErs because he wanted to see if the standard debunkers explanation for accurate perceptions during cardiac arrest was down to confabulation (amongst other things) after the fact.
                So, the method he used was perfectly sound. As I have already tried to explain to you therre was room for a small objection because of the condition of some of the heart patients in the control group which were not exactly the same as the target group. It doesn’t actually matter one jot…but that was the only reason why the study was ignored by sceptics….just because they could.

                I see you are back to your usual witty/shitty insults. I don’t live in a hole in the ground believe it or not. Do you know anyone that does, Piero ?

            3. Yes that is how I conduct myself because I am fed up with inane twats saying thing like:

              ….when you can’t explain it discredit it. When you can’t discredit it, ignore it.

              You have absolutely no idea who I am, what I do or do not discredit, what I do or do not ignore. You obviously think it reasonable to make such ignorant disgusting accusations about someone you have never met with not a shred of evidence to back then up.

              Cet animal est tres mechant; quand on l’attaque il se defend.

              1. horts an all, of course I have absolutely no idea who you are. That’s why I don’t publicly suggest you have no integrity. I would need evidence before making such a claim.

        2. “no matter that the observations made by the patients were impossible to explain away normally”

          Yeah, they have the same problem with alien abductions and crop circles. Tsarkis should get himself one of those ghost chasing shows that we see on the TVee.

            1. Your “evidence” does not support your contention. It only shows that some people report experiences that they don’t understand. We can grant the truth of the report without granting the truth of the anecdotal experience.

              I still see tsarkis chasing ghosts on the teevee and boldly challenging the conventional science that says that ghost don’t exist. 😉 What a fruitloop. Amazing that the takes himself seriously.

              1. Precisely. And perhaps even more amazing, other people seem to take him seriously too.
                I understand Tsakiris is an enginner, but I couldn’t find any information about him on the net. Who the fuck is he, apart from a blathering idiot?

              2. Alex is a decent guy with integrity…

                This blog is like an overused public toilet with the drains blocked. Man, it stinks….

              3. Okay horts, we’ve had enough of your insults of other bloggers, but you don’t come over here and insult the website. And if Alex had “integrity,” he would close the comments thread when he gets criticize, or ban every comment that criticized him. I have allowed you to promulgate dissenting views here, but after this invective I suggest you go elsewhere.

  46. Jerry, I noticed in your latest comment you asking ‘horts an all’ to basically leave for critizing your website and other blogs. Now I agree with you, you should not sit and critize. However, I notice you have ignored what has been said by your own commentors, for example Piero telling ‘Horts an all’ to ‘fuck off’, apologizing, then retracting his apology by saying ‘I’m sorry I apologized to you before. You deserved every insult I threw at you and then some more.’ The main point of this article is to critize Alex Tsarkis (which if him leading you to an interview under false pretences – I certainly understand) for many things, amongst them his inability to ‘face dissent’. However, in your latest comment you have asked a commenter to leave for critizing and giving ‘dissenting’ views. In your admirable haste to rightly critize those who can’t face dissent and ask a commenter to leave for their dissenting views and for saying bad things, you seem to have missed out applying these critisms on your own commenters and most importantly – on yourself.

    1. Give me a break, please. I try to police personal insults against other commenters as much as I can, though I miss some, but what I don’t easily forgive is somebody who says the whole website is garbage. He wasn’t asked to leave for giving dissenting views, of which I allow plenty (unless they become too-frequent trolls or express creationist or extreme religious views), he was asked to leave because he insulted the entire enterprise.

      Are you seriously saying that I don’t allow dissent on this site? Have a look at any of my free will posts!

      1. ‘I have allowed you to promulgate dissenting views here, but after this invective I suggest you go elsewhere.’ – After you said this you can understand why I thought you were asking ‘Horts an all’ to leave for dissenting views! If I misunderstood you I apologise. The point I was trying to make is you might want to watch what your own commenters say (Like Piero and the example I provider) before taking exception to those who say bad things, but disagree with you!
        And I wouldn’t know about how much you allow dissent on this site, I don’t visit that much, and I admittedly only found out about it via Skeptiko.
        Anyway, if what you said about Alex is true, then I agree with you, I was just trying to make the point that it seems a bit hollow if you at least seem to be taking part in similar behavior yourself!
        Anyway cheers and hope all is well!

    2. As I explained to “horts an all”, my telling him to fuck off was meant to be a silly joke which backfired. I duly and sincerely apologized in my next reply to him.

      Then “horts an all” alled Bernard Hurley an “ignorant an biased man”, “un idiot prétentieux”, and referred to Randi’s million dollar challenge as “bullshit pie in the sky.”

      That was enough to expose “horts an all” as a faux polite poster, and I took off my gloves too. Fairly, in my opinion.

      I’m glad you found this site, albeit via Skeptiko. Hang around for a few days and you’ll soon be cured.

      1. Okay fair enough, but after that you did say ‘I’m sorry I apologized to you before. You deserved every insult I threw at you and then some more.’ So even though I agree that ‘horts an all’ was a bit rude, it seems that both of you were in the wrong, to me anyway.
        I would agree with him about Randi’s challenge, as in I don’t think much to it, but he didn’t need to put it like that! If you want to discuss it in a reasonable way I’d be happy to!:)
        Haha what are you curing me for? Just because you guys don’t reckon much to Alex (Fairly understandably if what’s being said is true, even though some of his interviews are pretty good with some pretty impressive people!) doesn’t mean the rest of us that post at Skeptiko are like that! I actually find it to be a pretty reasonable place with pretty reasonable posters, with exceptions, of course.

        1. I think discussing Randi’s prize would count as derailing this thread. If you have misgivings about it, you should post your arguments in the jref forum.

          What do you need to be cured of? This:

          “About Skeptiko:

 is the first scientifically oriented Podcast exploring new research in controversial areas of science such as telepathy, psi, parapsychology, near-death-experience, psychic detectives, medium communication, reincarnation, and after-life encounters. Each episode features open, honest debate on new scientific discoveries. The show includes interviews with top research scientists and their critics.”

          Really? Is telepathy a controversial area of science? No, it is not. Not once has any scrap of evidence been provided. Are psychic detectives a controversial area of science? No, they are not. They may be a controversial area of the judicial system, because they’ve caused untold suffering to grieving parents and have not been punished for it.

          None of these is a controversial area of science. They have failed time and again to provide any evidence whatsoever for their claims. Meanwhile, heartless crooks such as Tsakiris, van Praagh, Sylvia Browne and others make a nice living out of the suffering and gullibility of their fellow human beings. They should all be in jail. No, that’s not punishment enough for them: they should be forced to watch repeat episodes of “The X Files” for all eternity.

          Finally, who would anyone in good faith set up a website called “skeptiko” when there was already a site called “skeptico” devoted precisely to stop fairy tales and woo peddlers? If you had a bleach factory, would you market it as “Koka Kola”?

          1. Ah okay, you guys were talking about it earlier so I thought you might want to is all :)!

            When you say there is ‘no evidence for telepathy’, do you mean psi in general, or telepathy specifically?
            I wasn’t aware that Tsakiris made money out of Skeptiko? If he does it can’t be very much! Although I am in agreement about Sylvia Browne and Van Praagh, especially Sylvia Browne!
            When you say ‘they have failed time and again to prove evidence for their claims’, who do you mean by ‘they’ exactly?

            And I’m not sure about why it’s called Skeptiko, good question!

            1. There is more than one way to profit from people’s gullibility. For example, Tsakiris may increase his chances to be engaged as a speaker in woo conferences and get paid for it, or gain enough credibility to dictate woo courses and charge for them, just as Chopra does. He might even found a woo Institute
              for the Advancement of the Quantum Metaphysics of Indeterminacy and Onion Stew and charge extortionate amounts for woo peddling, just as Chopra and Scientologists do.

              PSI in general has provided no evidence. I just took telepathy as a representative example.

              By “they” I mean everyone who has failed to provide evidence for any of their claims: mind-readers, psychics, tarot readers, acupuncturists, homeopaths, astrologers, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Hare-Krishnas, the Socialist Workers Party, Milton Friedman, Talcott Parsons, Michel Foucault, dowsers and my next-door neighbour, who thinks he can predict earthquakes (he can’t).

              1. I disagree with you that ‘psi in general has provided no evidence’, on the contrary there is quite a good amount of evidence!

                I agree with you on the majority of that list, except Buddhists (The studies that have shown the effects meditation can have on the mind and body for example) and psychics, but only in the sense of the evidence for psi and remote viewing, and to a lesser extent mediumship. Mind – reading I would agree/disagree with you depending on what you mean by it, and I don’t know who any of those people you named are!

                Hope all is well!


              1. Hi Piero

                Thank’s for the links! Had a quick look will have a proper look when I have more time and comment then!


  47. I was reading through all the incredibly negative reviews at the itunes website and noticed that the woo-meister has a new one up titled,

    162. University of Chicago Biology Professor, Dr. Jerry Coyne, Fails

    Haven’t listened to it yet but Dr. Coyne obviously pulled his chain. It’s the only way to deal these ‘rabid Deepaks’. We need a name, this is a new breed of wacko for me, I seem to be running into them more frequently. You really can’t blame anyone for losing patience with them.

        1. Here’s Flannery’s Discovery institute connection.

          The quote below I took from the Dust Jacket of his book. We can see that Flannery thinks that Wallace never really did accept natural selection.

          “Flannery places Wallace in historical context. Flannery exposes Charles Darwin’s now-famous theory of evolution as little more than a naturalistic cover for an extreme philosophical materialism borrowed as a youth from Edinburgh radicals. [b]This is juxtaposed by his sympathetic account of what he calls Wallace’s intelligent evolution, a thoroughly teleological alternative to Darwin’s stochastic processes.[/b] Though based upon very different formulations of natural selection, the Wallace/Darwin dispute as presented by Flannery shows a metaphysical clash of worldviews coextensive with modern evolutionary theory itself – design and purpose versus randomness and chance. “

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