Thursday, June 28, 2007

Barry Beyerstein, RIP

Barry Beyerstein, professor of psychology and member of the Brain Behavior Laboratory at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, a Fellow and member of the Committee of Skeptical Inquiry's executive council, author of numerous skeptical articles and books, a contributing editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, member of the advisory board of the Drug Policy Foundation and advocate for decriminalization of drugs, brother of philosopher and skeptic Dale Beyerstein, and father of prominent blogger Lindsey Beyerstein, died on Tuesday at the age of 60.

His daughter describes him as "among the most ethical people I have ever known" and "also one of the most fulfilled people I've had occasion to meet."

I had the pleasure of meeting him on multiple occasions at CSICOP conferences and found him to be very friendly and generous with his time; he was the only member of the CSICOP executive council who took me seriously regarding an ethical issue I brought up regarding a prominent skeptic who regularly published in the Skeptical Inquirer.

His death is a significant loss to skepticism and advocates for sensible drug policies. He is remembered on the front page of the CSI website. CSI Executive Director Barry Karr sent out the following:
Subject: Barry L. Beyerstein (1946-2007)

We all lost a true hero yesterday. I am stunned and saddened and I have been searching the internet for an hour this morning looking for news because I just can't believe it. Barry Beyerstein died. Barry Beyerstein. I don't have enough words to tell you what this loss will mean to the skeptical and rationalist world. Barry was a tireless defender of science. An activist who has been a staple in the media, television, newspapers, public forums for decades. I searched in the Skeptical Inquirer CD-ROM and found 311 mentions of his name. He is scheduled to teach a workshop for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in Oregon later this summer - and represent us at a conference in Ireland in the fall. He traveled and lectured
all over the world for us, Australia, Belgium, England, Germany, Italy, and he was part of our delegation to China.

He was one of our first people on a number of topics we deal with. Graphology, Psychic Powers, Why People Believe, Near Death Experiences, Critical Thinking, Alternative Medicine, Neuropathology of Spiritual Possession, Brain States, Dowsing, The Sins of Big Pharma, and the list goes on and on. The thing is, he didn't have to do any of this. He was a volunteer, but he worked just as hard for this organization as he did for his full-time faculty job at Simon Fraser University. But he had talents, wisdom and knowledge and he saw the need and he used those talents. And we are far better for that.

And Barry was one of the most charming, wittiest, and nicest people you could ever meet. He was kind and funny, yet strong in his convictions. My heart goes out to his family, his wife and children and brother Dale. and I can't believe that he is gone.

You should do a google search on Barry today, just to get an idea as to the kind of person we have lost. Here is a good place to start:

Barry Karr
Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
He will be missed.

UPDATE (July 13, 2007): Drug policy reform advocate Arnold Trebach gives tribute to Barry Beyerstein.

UPDATE (July 3, 2008): Daniel Loxton, editor of Junior Skeptic, gives a tribute to Barry Beyerstein at the BC Skeptics' Rational Enquirer blog.

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