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The Dalai Lama on Neuroscience
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A grad student here went to Washington D.C. for a neuroscience conference, where, incindentally, the Dalai Lama was speaking to the Society for Neuroscience in a keynote address. The conference and the meeting were separate events, and I was told that it was $15 to hear the Dalai Lama if you were a student (though tickets were sold out fast), and $40 for non-students.

The grad student here didn't pay the extra $25, but Daniel Engber from Slate did. Here's his story. And here's an excerpt:

He hobbled through his talking points in broken English. His slo-mo exposition seemed all the more excruciating after a day of fast-moving 10-minute presentations. "Neuroscience is a really, really important field!" he announced. And then: "I want to express appreciation for great scientists—really remarkable." A prelude to his final point: "You are really making great, important, contributions."

Hmm...I'm glad I didn't pay to hear it.

Here's more from the Q&A:

What did the Dalai Lama think of animal experimentation, he was asked during the Q&A? "That's difficult," he responded. "Always stress the importance of compassion. … In highly necessary experiments, try to minimize pain." What about intelligent design—should religious ideas be taught in school? "I don't know," he said, to much applause. "That's your problem. You have to carry out more research and discussion." What if we could surgically remove a patient's negative emotions, and it worked better than meditation—should we do it? "Yes." The follow-up question produced the most interesting exchange of the evening: What if the patient didn't want us to surgically remove his negative emotions? "Use force, with good intentions."

Use force? What the hell is he talking about? If removing negative emotions is our ultimate motivation, and it's ethical to forcibly do so, why not have the government force everyone to take Zoloft? Maybe I'm misreading him here, or Engber is misquoting him. This seems like a particularly weird thing to say.

Anyway, he may not have been worth a protest (it sounds like there wasn't much protest against his appearance anyway), but it doesn't sound like it was worth much of anything, really.

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