Barry Beyerstein: We Have Lost One of the Best

Posted in:

(reprinted from The Trebach Report)
Prof. Barry Lane Beyerstein
When I say one of the best, I mean that in every sense of those words. Barry, who just died at the young age of 60, was a superb scholar, teacher, social activist, and human being. He was wise, compassionate, and kind to everyone with whom he came in contact. I cannot remember in all of the years I knew him -- almost half of his life -- any action on his part that was not gentle and caring and very, very wise.

My condolences to his wife, Susie, and his children, daughter Lindsay and son Loren. Thanks to Ethan Nadelmann and Kevin Zeese for telling me about this sad but important news.

Here are my reflections, somewhat meandering but that is how I am feeling this morning -- that and traumatized and a bit pissed at the sometimes cruel vagaries of fate.

It has been easy to follow Lindsay's progress because she has become one of the new breed of internet experts or bloggers, affiliated with, I believe, Google. Why do I remember those years ago, when a much younger Lindsay intrigued a visiting scholar from France because the French she learned in school and in which she was fluent -- was, well, classical and a modern French person rarely heard it anymore? Barry and Susie chortled as they told me that story. I am sure I do not have it exactly correct and hope I will be straightened out soon.

I first met him and his wife, Susie, when they attended one of my comparative drug policy seminars in London at Imperial College. This must have been in the early 80s or late 70s. My memory is not the best but I recall quite well that Bruce Alexander was also at the seminar. At any rate, I can recall that we had great Canadian professionals in attendance and that we all stayed in student housing at Imperial in the heart of London, or close to the heart. It was a fine time and we kept in contact ever since. By then I am sure that I had completed my first monograph on drug policy, The Heroin Solution. It covered the comparative history of drug control in the US and the UK -- and of course the history of heroin. Soon I went to work on the next one, which dealt with the then-current situation in the US, with a bit of comparative info on Canada and also of course on Britain. I wanted to title it The War on Us. The frontispiece quote would be "We have met the Enemy and it is Us." I am sure Barry liked that idea. My publisher convinced me to title it The Great Drug War. Even today, I do not particularly like that title. The biggest point here is that I could count on Barry and also Bruce to react to every twist in my research and to read all of the manuscript. What dedication and what enormous help! I quoted Barry extensively in an important footnote in that book.

Barry and Bruce were quite helpful as I later went about the process of setting up the Drug Policy Foundation, with the constant close help of Kevin and my wife, Marjy. Both Barry and Bruce were on the Advisory Board and provided wonderful guidance.

My family considered Barry and Susie's family an extension of ours, even though we did not keep constantly in touch. When our middle son, Paul, married Joanne Hughes in Seattle, Barry and Susie were in attendance.

Barry's interests went far beyond drug policy and in more recent years he was heavily involved in the skeptical inquiry/paranormal arena. This is a field beyond my ken and I cannot talk sensibly about it. However, I will attach links to other comments on him and I plan to write more about him in the near future. I will also issue corrections when anyone sends in information contradicting my chancy memory.

In closing this rambling memoir I recall a note Steve Jobs just sent out to the effect that we are all going to die and while we are here we damned well better live our lives so that we do that which is closest to our hearts and our souls and to our personal sense of ethics. All that -- and I would say without fear. Of life or of death. I would also say that Barry did just that, all of it.

Arnold Trebach

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Barry Beyerstein

I applaud Beyerstein for his sensible views about drugs and society.But I wish he'd spent more time campaigning for drug law reform instead of spending so much time zealously debunking paranormal phenomena, which appeared to be his favourite agenda.

Beyerstein could see that persecuting and criminalizing drug use was an irrational, failed approach. And he no doubt saw that those who view drug use as moral evil that must be punished under strict laws, are irrational idealogues.

Yet, as a dedicated "skeptic", he himself was arguably an irrational idealogue, quick to persecute any brave scientist who dared investigate paranormal phenomena with an open mind, instead of with a debunker's zeal. I consider him a pseudo-skeptic, because his mind was closed on the subject of the paranormal. How else does one explain that he apparently dismissed data of dozens of scientific studies by qualified scientists conducted under University auspices over decades, many of which showed, with statistical validity, that paranormal phenomena like ESP demonstrably do occur?

Some have suggested Beyerstein was more open and fair minded a "skeptic" than some. I see no evidence of open mindedness. The fact the "skeptics" organization CSICOP
(now called CSI) embraced him as a valued member at the top of their pecking order/heap, a "hero" to the cause, speaks volumes. Because open minded skeptics soon find they are completely unwelcome at CSICOP, and are either driven out or leave as Marcello Truzzi, an early member, did. Truzzi then formed an organization to investigate paranormal phenomena with an OPEN mind not the closed mind of the debunking idealogue.
Truzzi, perhaps naively, at first thought CSICOP's mission would be to impartially investigate paranormal claims with an open mind. He soon realized his CSICOP colleagues were doctrinaire fanatics, and impartiality was definitely not on CSICIOP's agenda.

As paranormal research scientist Rupert Sheldrake ( a favourite target of CSICOP/CSI) says, dedicated debunkers when considering paranormal research studies, insist on being "immune to data". That is, debunkers who claim to be defending science are in fact taking a very UNscientific or pseudoscientific approach
when it come to subjects that threaten their cherished "fundamentalist materialist" world view.

Sad irony that the irrational idealogical thinking that leads people to view drug use as criminal/immoral - a form of thinking Beyerstein criticized - was mirrored in his own zealously ideological irrational thinking when it came to paranormal phenomena.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School