Society

The following are bits of writing from many sources such as personal correspondence, posts to on-line discussion groups, notes, and occasionally even some journaling. All of this is informal in nature, but contains some interesting and/or useful information.

Boycotting Tom Cruise
I support the boycot. It isn't that we're "punishing" Tom Cruise by not giving him more money. We put him in a position of power by buying tickets to his movies (up to this point anyway). Now he has abused that position by using his influence to spread lies to advance an ideology that, contrary to its name, rejects science. He's using his time on the air to promote a cult at the expense of science, and preying on a vulnerable population in the process (presumably so he won't be alone in an insane philosophy).
There is no dialog here. Maybe I've missed it, but I haven't seen the "Today Show" or "Entertainment Tonight" bringing in a panel to challenge his propaganda. I combat misinformation wherever I encounter it, but I also will not provide Tom Cruise the means to further his irrational belief system by denigrating a legitimate means of help for people who need it.
I will certainly continue to address the lies on an individual level, but I can also to my part to reduce their spread by now standing in line for any of his movies either. If Tom Cruise is no longer commercially viable, then the media stop giving him air time. I'm skipping the movie(s) because I'm not going to fund future ad campaigns for scientology.
>An appropriate scientific response to this criticism would be to refute his claims with evidence.
As I mentioned above, there is no forum for an exchange of correct information to the masses. Within the scientific community, there is discussion, obviously, but we don't have a voice in the larger media. I'm sure Entertainment Weekly has covered Tom Cruise's comments thoroughly, but the only response that received any ink was likely from Brooke Shields.
>The whole business of boycotting is just shenanigans and will not win over public opinion or significantly hurt the success of the movie.
All of the above could be (and has been) said of recycling, but I do my share and then some in that department.
If you don't want to view it collectively as a boycott, then think of it as a personal decision. While I already wasn't a fan of Tom Cruise before his latest comments, I can't stand to look at him now. I can't separate the idiot on the talk shows from the consistently bad performance on the movie screen. I think to myself, "Why would I pay to see a film with you in it?" So I don't.

Dalai Lama, part1
[Posted to the neuroscience group on MySpace.com]
On the subject of the Dalai Lama's appearance at the 2005 SFN conference as a speaker.
I'm inclined to agree that he's a bad choice. His presence further blurs the scope of what is and isn't neuroscience.
I mentioned earlier in this group that this is a problem because people impose unreasonable agendas and expectations on neuroscience. That isn't to say I think knowledge (or the search for it) should be constrained, but a view clouded is hardly a view.
The example I presented earlier was that in recent years public educators have grown interested in was is being marketed as "brain research." It is perfectly reasonable and quite commendable that one discipline that works with brains would be interested in the relevant findings of another clearly related discipline.
However, much of what is presented as "brain research" is, in fact, psychology. I have nothing against psychological research, and I definitely hope to see the boundaries between these three disciplines significantly diminish in my lifetime, but these boundaries do presently exist and to ignore them leads to misconceptions about the questions that can be reliably addressed by the various professionals associated with these schools of thought.
The presence of the Dali Lama giving a talk apparently titled "Neuroscience of Meditation" leads to the implication that he is, in fact, an authority not only on meditation but specifically the underlying neurobiological mechanisms... which is, of course, ludicrous. Were he to give such a presentation on his own time, it would be laughable enough, but when he appears at the behest of a professional organization of neuroscientists, it gives the appearance that he has professional knowledge gained through neuroscience. He does not. And it would be criminal to confer the appearance of authority in such matters to the public at large through this high-profile event.
That is only one reason why I am opposed to his appearance (at least in this capacity) at SFN 2005. The petition is a very thorough and well-wrtten list of a number of reasons as well. Read it. Sign it.

Dalai Lama, part 2
[Posted to the neuroscience group on MySpace.com]
The topic is more reasonable sounding than I initially understood it, but I still object to his presence as such. This isn't a presentation on neuroscience research. Those who have attended the conference know that it is about presenting findings, not speculation.
I don't have a problem with him engaging in this dialogue (although it is clearly going to be one-sided if he is the only one presenting and questions are significantly restricted). However, off-topic sessions such as this have typically been held during off-hours (i.e., in the evening) or as "satellite" sessions immediately before or after the official conference.
For example, there were a couple of panel discussions on the use of animals in research in the last few years. As with the Dalai Lama's talk, these were relevant to neuroscience but not of neuroscience itself in the strictest sense. Sessions like this are held outside of the main sessions so that central figures in the field have time to present the most relevant findings of neuroscience.
I do not want to see qualified scientists "bumped" for a high-profile personality from a highly speculative area and who seems to think that neuroscience has nothing to offer.

Dalai Lama, part 3
[Posted to the neuroscience group on MySpace.com]
>What qualified scientists were "bumped"?
I don't know who had to give up their time, but you can be certain someone (probably several potential presenters) was(were) displaced to make way for the Dalai Lama to give his talk. Probably it was someone (or a couple of someones) who would have given a presidential lecure(s). Those are usually held in the larger rooms, which is likely where he will be giving his talk.
Even more broadly, the presence of the Dalai Lama will affect others presenting during his time as well. As anyone who has attended one of these conferences will tell you, there is so much to see that, even if you focus narrowly on just one interest, you're still going to miss a lot going on elsewhere.
Obviously, this is a sensational speaker (not necessarily his style; I'm referring more to name recognition). What invariably happens with something like that is that conference participants will attend whether they agree with the speaker or not or even expect anything professionally beneficial out of the experience. They just want to see what he's going to say simply because it's an "event."
Something like this sucks up a huge chunk of the attendees, and the presenters competing during this slot have wasted their time and expense doing their research, preparing their presentations, and traveling the distance to contribute to the exchange... only to compete with non-research "entertainment" that is really only proselytizing.

Dalai Lama, part 4
[Posted to the neuroscience group on MySpace.com]
>My problem is with narrow minded people of faith trying to direct science in the name of that faith.
True enough. I've taught biology in Texas public schools, so... yeah!
What worries us about the Dalai Lama/SFN connection is that, whereas previously control was exerted externally, this was apparently initiated and approved by the higher-ups within a professional organization of scientists. Granted, it isn't like they invited, say, Robert Tilton the Farting Preacher to speak/have petit mal seizures while quoting scriptures, but one would have hoped that these people would have known better.




Copyright Alexplorer.

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