Looks like some SfN members are not happy with the Dalai Lama’s proposed lecture at the upcoming annual SfN meeting, according to an article in Nature. I can’t say I agree with the critics:
Some of the critics believe that the Dalai Lama’s lecture should be ruled out because of his status as a political and religious figure. “One of the reasons for inviting him is that he has views on controlling negative emotions, which is a legitimate area for neuroscience research in the future,” says Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But “the SfN needs to distance itself as much as it can from the Dalai Lama and his beliefs”, adds Desimone, who opposes the lecture but has not yet signed the petition.
Um, OK, but what’s the point of having a series of “neuroscience and society” lectures if we’re not going to be talking with religious, political, and other non-neuroscience areas? Even those who have signed the petition don’t seem to have very compelling reasons:
[…] they insist that their concerns are purely scientific. Yi Rao a neuroscientist at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, helped to draft the petition, which says that the science of meditation is “a subject with hyperbolic claims, limited research and compromised scientific rigour”.
Regardless of what you think about meditation and any neural impact it may or may not have, this seems at little preemptive. Stopping dialogue is never necessary when trying to debunk bad science — dialogue, if anything, helps! Unless the Dalai Lama is persuading people to do bad science (and it certainly didn’t seem that way during his symposium at MIT on neuroscience), these scientists need to be a little more accepting. How cool would it be if President Bush — or any major political/religious leader, for that matter — cared enough about a scientific subject to actually come to a professional society’s annual meeting?