Details of the conference in August for experts in quantum mechanics sounded idyllic. Participants were due to discuss “de Broglie-Bohm theory and beyond” in the Towler Institute, which is housed in a 16th-century monastery in the Tuscan Alps owned by Mike Towler, Royal Society research fellow at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory.
Last week, any veneer of serenity was shattered. Conference organiser Antony Valentini, research associate in the Theoretical Physics Group at Imperial College London, wrote to three participants to say their invitations had been withdrawn.
The physicist and science writer David Peat, biographer of David Bohm (co-founder of de Broglie-Bohm theory), was considered tainted because of his books on “Jungian synchronicity” and “connections between Native American thought and modern physics”.
Brian Josephson, head of the Mind-Matter Unification Project at Cambridge, was rejected on the grounds that “one of his principal research interests is the paranormal”.
You have to read down to the end of the article to find that the third uninvited person was Jack Sarfatti. Sarfatti is the first to chime in with an indignant comment, though, so there’s that…
I suppose there’s an ethical question raised by inviting people to what sounds like a pretty sweet deal, and then rescinding the invitations. The bigger question, though, is how did these people get invited in the first place?
I mean, you don’t have to be paying a great deal of attention to know that Brian Josephson is into ESP– he’s battling it out with Kary Mullis for the title of “nuttiest living Nobel laureate.” And it doesn’t take a great deal of Googling to discover that Jack Sarfatti is all over the weird. Not that it should require Google– I instantly recognized those names as associated with disreputable ideas, and I suspect most of my readers in physics would as well.
If you object to having people invited to your conference who are associated with “the paranormal,” then you should make sure you don’t invite them in the first place. Before you send out the official invitations, type the names into Google, and look at the first few pages that come up. It’s not like the list of participants in that workshop is all that long. And they do have the Internet in Tuscany, yes?
The THE story makes it sound like they’re backing down from the uninviting of two of the three, which just makes matters worse– if you’re going to make a move like this, you need to stick to your guns, or you look even worse. On the bright, side, though, this does leave a slot open, and I’m pretty sure I’m free that week. Sure, I don’t know much about de Broglie-Bohm theory, but I’m willing to learn. And I promise not to say anything crazy…