"Happy Design": The Junk Science Everybody Can Live With!

Take an old-fashioned red state preacher in the cut of every character John Lithgow has ever portrayed on film. Make him spew fire-and-brimstone imprecations and certainties about a creationist myth tricked out as "intelligent design." You'll have every member of the scientific community who's not a laughable fraud sighing in frustration. Ah, but now turn that same preacher into the Dalai Lama, and make the cosmic message something about shiny happy people holding hands. And what do you get? Something like this:

[The Dalai Lama] has been an enthusiastic collaborator in research on whether the intense meditation practiced by Buddhist monks can train the brain to generate compassion and positive thoughts. Next month in Washington, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak about the research at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

But 544 brain researchers have signed a petition urging the society to cancel the lecture, because, according to the petition, "it will highlight a subject with largely unsubstantiated claims and compromised scientific rigor and objectivity."

But wait, that's not nearly the end of it:

Defenders of the Dalai Lama's appearance say that the motivation of many protesters is political, because many are Chinese or of Chinese descent. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese crushed a Tibetan bid for independence.

But many scientists who signed the petition say they did so because they believe that the field of neuroscience risks losing credibility if it ventures too recklessly into spiritual matters.

Got that? Brain researchers (who I'm sure spend their weekends abusing Falun Gong members) claim that a whoppingly dubious idea deserves no place on any legitimate scientific lecture circuit. And they're met with charges of chauvinism (and worse) because they're... Chinese, or "of Chinese descent."

Now. How many out there who've bumped His Holiness into bestsellerdom on multiple occasions can't see the logic in that?

Scientists Bridle at Lecture Plan for Dalai Lama [NYT]


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