Interview 1005 – Alex Tsakiris Argues That Science Is Wrong About Almost Everything

by | Feb 19, 2015 | Interviews | 14 comments

Today James talks with Alex Tsakiris, host of Skeptiko and author of “Why Science is Wrong… About Almost Everything,” about the nature of consciousness and the failure of the “biological robot” paradigm. We discuss science as a methodology vs. science as a cultural, societal and political authority, and talk about the nature and likelihood of a true revolution in consciousness.

James’ Appearance on Skeptiko

Skepticality Hosts Skeptiko, Blake Smith, Ben Radford, Karen Stollznow

Corbett Report Episode 208 – The Galton Institute Exposed


  1. Sure, but it seems like some tortured apologetics just to prop up natural selection. I mean, come on, what we all experience is a sense of choice/free-will. We’ve just been battered into believing that mind=brain so we look beyond the obviously.

    The best science suggests mind>brain… i.e. consciousness is not an illusion.

  2. I never called Shermer a liar. I never called Krauss a liar. I enjoyed talking to both of them.

  3. In answer to candideschmyles, I think the title of the book is unfortunate. My understanding is that Tsakiris is using the term “science” here as meaning the current philosophical bias towards materialism which underpins what is accepted as worthy of scientific enquiry. The current scientific world view is informed by a assumption that the metaphor of the machine is more accurate than that of, say, the metaphor of mind. The machine metaphor is understandable given the enormous effectiveness with which scientific method has been used to alter and rearrange the “building blocks” of physical reality. The metaphor breaks down when confronted with examples, uncovered by the same scientific method, of phenomena which do not fit the current paradigm. Science is not the problem, the unflinching dogma of scientific consensus in
    a favoured metaphor is, however. Science should not be about belief -that is not it’s job. In fact, I believe the course of science has been severely hampered by a refusal to follow “maverick” researchers into realms which appear to contradict the tenets of the materialist canon. Consciousness research is doing this and there is much data gathered by reputable scientists which needs more focus from those in mainstream (and who get to influence the allocation of research funding). That science can only be enriched by embracing what may at first seem heretical is the thrust of Rupert Sheldrake’s recent book, “The Science Delusion”. Good science must always attempt to operate from what may be an impossible position (but nevertheless worth striving for) -objectivity. If that means looking beyond the metaphor of the Universe as machine in order to make sense of our world then all the better for science.

  4. This comment is somewhat a fusion upon this interview, and your previous one with Kallen Diggs. Here’s a snippet from the appendix of a book I finished today:

    Appendix II

    ‘Ortega on the Barbarism of Specialization’

    “[The scientist who] is only acquainted with one science, and even of that one only knows the small corner in which he is an active investigator… even proclaims it as a virtue that he takes no cognisance of what lies outside the narrow territory specially cultivated by himself, and gives the name of “dilettantism” to any curiosity for the general scheme of knowledge.

    Anyone who wishes can observe the stupidity of thought, judgement, and action shown today in politics, art, religion, and the general problems of life and the world by the “men of science,” and, of course, behind them, the doctors, engineers, financiers, teachers, and so on.

    Compared with the medieval university, the contemporary university has developed the mere seed of professional instruction into an enormous activity; it has added the function of research; and it has abandoned almost entirely the teaching of transmission of culture.”

    . . .

    “Civilization has had to await the beginning of the twentieth century, to see the astounding spectacle of how brutal, how stupid, and yet how aggressive is the man learned in one thing and fundamentally ignorant of all else. Professionalism and specialism, through insufficient counterbalancing, have smashed the European man in pieces; and he is consequently missing at all the points where he claims to be, and is badly needed.”

  5. Science is another way of killing time as we pass through the seemingly infine universe on a ball on a journey to the unknowable.

  6. Good interview, I enjoyed it. Considering his Greek heritage, a little disappointing that Tsakiris confines himself to the observation that science is a tool kit and method and doesn’t ask why, or to what political end(s), this method has been promoted to replace philosophy which, in ancient Greece, created science as its necessary assistant. Philosophy is the grand tradition of open enquiry, and synthesis of all the evidence (aka data) to hand and acquired ; the ruling and comprehensively synthetic intellectual discipline. Therefore naturally in conflict with doctrinaire ideologies, whether churchy/religious, social or even or scientific. Now the modern demotion of philosophy to a minor academic department focused on logic science and epistemology (i.e. more or less an increasingly harsh questioning and denunciation of its own reality and relevance) has profound meaning ; above all the opposition of modern ruling clique(s) to any serious attempts to synthesize the results of scientific investigations, and the removal of any benevolent or at least humanistic planning of scientific agendas.

    Questions of consciousness and of morality in human society are also fairly big ones needy of some basic historical perspective and philological distinctions. There are and have been many moralities, albeit much fewer than the kalaidescope of human societies, and each of them is completely tyrannical and would like to pretend that there is and never has been any other. And yet all of them have a direct genealogy from custom (in Latin the noun is mos, adj. moralis). It is permissible to agree with the modern atheistic proposition that human life has no intrinsic meaning (I certainly do), without accepting the preposterous quantum leap that human moralities are some sort of illusion. On the contrary they are burned into the human soul and consciousness, by all the peril, exertion and violence involved in their creation and sustenance across the millennia and tens of millennia, as the guiding force and ens realissimus of all human existence. In fact morality is the human creation par excellence, far more so than even science and philosophy, neither of which are necessarily compatible with the survival of humanity. The greatest and luckiest discovery of them all was the exponential advantage to every form of human society provided by custom. The father of morality (since its a masc. noun, in the Latin anyway; Grk. “to ethos” looks like a neuter).

    • No need to deal with philosophy… our top scientist has already pronounced that “philosophy is dead” (Stephen Hawking, 2013 Google Zeitgeist conference).

      • @candideschmyles – Since that last comment will leave casual readers with the false impression that I am actively blocking/changing/editing or otherwise manipulating comments here, I should clarify that no individual user of this site is (or even could be, as far as I know) singled out for moderation. Your comments are being moderated because they are over the word limit that I set for the comment section, but after seeing them I have in each and every case promptly approved them. For clarity’s sake, I would appreciate if you would confirm that not a single word of anything you have ever written on this site has been changed or edited and that your comments have always been promptly approved when (automatically) flagged for moderation.

  7. Sort of seems to me that Alex is making a distinction without a difference, or whatever that old saying is. Of course, just learning about all the ways we’ve been lied to for a very long time is itself transformational. It allows each to re-anchor themselves with a new, broader understanding of what’s going on. This old paradigm is collapsing and we are the minds that will figure out how to remake it into a new paradigm.

  8. Interesting conversation, I definitely think Alex was a bit flippant with regards to the title of his book. Science is a method used to extract and compute information in the natural world around us. Which seems, to be the method he would unavoidably have to use to argue his point.Therefore, according to his own title, the conclusions he comes to are equally fallacious as anything Laurence Krauss concludes

    Anyways, James please try and get Dr. Shermer on the show. It would be wonderful for him to hang up on you when he is confronted with so much logical analyze data. It would confirm my suspicion of him being none other, than a piece of shit, schill, scumbag fuck wod. Basically someone who fails to practice what they so arrogantly preach!! It was precisely living up to the ‘skpetic’ ideals which led me to your fabulous website. I really hope you can somehow get him on. I can just imagine the questions you’d have for him!!

  9. wow… lotta great points. I’ll put an exclamation point on one:
    “…although they may believe in the idea that they are expressing some sort of independent view, they are, in reality, nothing but employees… [advancing] a mutually agreed upon set of paradigms…”

  10. Seems to me the title of the book is a bit of hyperbole to get people talking about the book. Looks like it worked.

  11. No problem, and thank you for the confirmation. I just want to make sure everyone understands that no one is being targeted or singled out for moderation and that nothing is being edited.

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