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June 27, 2007

Barry L. Beyerstein (1947-2007)

Dad with Book, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

This is the last picture I took of my father, who died on June 25th. The picture shows him unwrapping a 60th birthday present. It was taken less than a month before.

Quite simply, I adored my father. He was among the most ethical people I have ever known. I don't think it's an accident that he was also one of the most fulfilled people I've had occasion to meet.

Dad was a scholar, an activist, and a devoted family man.

Dad loved all knowledge, no matter how arcane or obscure. He believed in the power of reason, compassion, and humility. He lived a life of service. 

I loved and respected him so much. It's a rare person who could leave so little unsaid or unfinished, despite having his life cut short so suddenly.


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» Condolences to Lindsay Beyerstein from Respectful Insolence
Please take a moment to head over to Majikthise and pay your respects to Lindsay, whose father, Barry L. Beyerstein, died yesterday. Dr. Beyerstein was a prominent skeptic and very active in the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and served as... [Read More]

» Condolences from Mike the Mad Biologist
Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise lost her father recently. Some kind words couldn't hurt. [Read More]

» Condolences, Lindsay from A Blog Around The Clock
I find it very difficult to say something nice, deep, profound or meaningful at the time of sorrow. But I am deeply saddened by the news that Lindsay Beyerstein's father has died. Lindsay is a dear friend, a philosopher and... [Read More]

» The loss of a great thinker from Terra Sigillata
I just learned from Orac and Bora that the father of blogger Lindsay Beyerstein (Majikthise) has passed away. Dr Barry L Beyerstein was a member of the executive council of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal... [Read More]

» The shock to me is that he's exactly my age from City Comforts
Barry L. Beyerstein (1947-2007) You get a little chill when you read about someone in the same cohort. [Read More]


I'm very sorry to read this, Lindsay. My deepest and most sincere condolences.
Once, the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, (1904-1973) wrote: Pido Silencio/I ask for Silence

Fragment from I Ask for Silence
... but mother earth is dark
and inside I am dark
I am like a well on those waters
night leaves its stars
to go on alone across the fields.
It’s that I’ve lived so much
that I want to live as much more.
Never have I felt so sonorous,
never have I had so many kisses.
Now, as always, it is early.
Light flies with its bees.
Let me alone with the day.
I ask leave to be born.
Pablo Neruda -Betty Ferber

Fragmento Pido Silencio madre tierra es oscura y dentro de mí soy oscuro soy como un pozo en cuyas aguas la noche deja sus estrellas y sigue sola por el campo.
Se trata de que tanto he vivido que quiero vivir otro tanto.
Nunca me sentí tan sonoro, nunca he tenido tantos besos.
Ahora, como siempre, es temprano. Vuela la luz con sus abejas.
Déjenme solo con el día. Pido permiso para nacer.

Lindsay, your tribute is beautiful. I am so very sorry for your loss. I wish you and your family and all who loved him healing and peace.

My condolences to you. Take care.

Lindsay - you are not alone. We all share your sorrow in this. It does seem that our fathers leave us much too soon.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.

Peace and love to you.

My sympathies in full, Lindsay.

Longtime reader calling to say Lindsay, I'm so sorry. Yesterday was the 5t anniversary of my dad's death. It gets a little easier, honey. Just a little. Namaste and thanks for all the fish.

I graduated with a PhD in Psych from SFU, so I knew your father very well.

I have tears in my eyes as I write and my heart goes out to you and your family. Your father was truly a lovely man; so kind, so warm, so very thoughtful. He was also, of course, very, very bright and had such a marvelously critical mind. I have always admired Barry for his willingness to stand up and be heard and the way he fought the good fight against the forces of irrationality and gullibility. It is so very sad that he died when he still had such a huge amount to offer us.
Lynne Robinson

My years up on the hill on SFU were a charmed one and I enjoyed almost all of it. Your father, Professor Beyerstein, taught the introductory Psychology course which I took immediately after a personal crises which saw me drop out for a semester. The content was lighthearted but illuminating. It touched on everything from the occult, UFOs, alternative cures and other topics. I poured myself into his thick stacks of assigned readings. I found them 'fun' as the subject matter were always always about debunking a well established myth or a common fallacy of human perception. Those four months in the fall of 2000 I spent in Professor Beyerstien's lectures contain some of my best memories on campus. I looked forward to class and devoured his homework.

I visited SFU this past Friday after a two year absence and walked the same routes I used to take as a student, to and fro from the Academic Quadrangle to the various surrounding halls and annexes. At the end of my tour, I picked up 'The Peak' (the University Paper) and learned of Prof. Beyerstein's passing. It is strange how things occur. If I had visited on the following week as I had planned, I may not have learned of his passing until months or years later.

My sincere condolences on your loss. This is just a small heartfelt post to Professor Beyerstien's memory. He is a rare breed of professors who treated education as a processes of personal development and learning. His loss is the loss of the entire student body at SFU, present and future, who will no longer be able to attend his colorful lectures.

So sorry, Lindsay. 60 is way too young.

I'm so sorry to hear of your father's passing. You wrote a moving tribute to him. He sounds like a wonderful person.

Dear Lindsay:

Although I've only popped on to your blog site occasionally, I had to tell you how saddened I was to hear (belatedly, from Janice's dad, David, in South Africa) about your dad. Whenever David visited us in vancouver, your mom and dad would visit us and your dad was just such an amazing guy. We are both thinking of you, your brother and your mom at this time.
in deepest sympathy

So sorry for the loss of such a wonderful man to you and your family. wrote beautifully of him here, which shows your sprecial relationship and the gifts he gave will enrich you forever. Namaste.

Dear Lindsay
I was devastated to hear of your father's death. He was easily the greatest teacher I have ever known. He had such a passion for knowledge and it was contagious. I spent many hours in his office chatting about some of the most inane topics. I have 2 favourite memories that highlight what kind of man your father was. The first is from the first time I spoke to your father outside of the classroom. I called him Dr. Beyerstein and he looked almost embarrassed. He quickly said "Please, call me Barry". In spite of his brilliance, he was very humble. He treated his students like colleagues and I respected him all the more for it. He was very easy to talk to and he always remembered who I was. Even when I had been away for several years and then came back. My second favourite memory involves your brother. I had dropped by your father's office to ask a question (something long and complicated about the storage of memories in the brain) but Loren was the only one in the room. I said "I'm sorry. I was looking for Dr. Beyerstein" and Loren replied "My Dad's not here right now. Can I help you?" I have since calculated that he was about 8 at the time. To make a long story short, Loren answered my question quite capably. As I slunk out of the office, I ran into Barry. He said "Hi, did you have a question?" I said "It's okay. Your son already answered it." Barry did not seem the least bit surprised and had no doubt that his son would have answered my question correctly and completely. He expected the best from his students and we gave him our best. He inspired me to study harder and learn more than any other teacher I have had before or since. The experience left me wondering what dinner conversations in the Beyerstein household must have been like.
My deepest condolences to your family. We are all hurting.

I am sorry for your loss. You have my sympathies.

I just heard the sad news from my sister, who came across an article in the newspaper from last week while packing some things.

Barry was my favourite prof during my years at SFU -- I took six of his classes during the time that I was there. My sister was in a couple of those with me. He was definitely an influence on my ways of thinking about the world and the nature of human consciousness.

I'm still in a bit of a shock...

As a student of his in the early through late 90s, he was a man that I always admired and respected. I had always wanted to attend more of his presentations and lectures after I finished my degree, and I am saddened that I will never have the chance to.

I will always remember how Barry would bring a 2-inch stack of overhead transparencies to every lecture -- and I'm sure I saw a few of those overheads in each of his that I was in. He would never get through even half of them, and he would always still be finishing up as students were getting up to go to their next classes. He had passion for knowledge and for sharing that knowledge with others. There were a few occasions upon which I dropped by his office to ask a question and ended up talking for a hour and leaving with a big stack of articles to photocopy.

Barry frequently challenged the beliefs that people hold dear, but he always respected their rights to hold those beliefs; he was never derogatory or condescending to those who held different beliefs. His courses were always the most interesting and thought-provoking during my time at SFU -- and they are the only classes that I kept the notes and articles from.

I don't think that you and I ever met, Lindsay, although I think I had seen you speaking with your father as I was arriving to class on a few occasions. Please accept my most sincere condolences to you and your family. Barry will be deeply missed.

As a skeptic from next-door in Alberta, I had the pleasure of meeting Barry on a number of skeptic occasions. But, the last time about 3 years ago was when my son Simon and I spent the night at Port Moody on a visit to SFU. We had a delicious family meal together with wine and lots of interesting conversation. I remember how very proud Barry was to talk about his daughter Lindsay who was just starting a blog (rather new at the time). From the list of tributes and condolences that have poured in, one can see that Barry inspired a lot of people. He really was a terrific role model for skeptics -- calm, even-handed, focused and extremely well-informed. I am so, so sorry we couldn't keep him longer.

My deepest condolences, Lindsay. I was fortunate enough to meet Barry a few times when I was working at CSICOP and... he was just a great guy.

He shall certainly be missed.

I'm very sorry to here of your lose, I'm sure your dad made a huge difference in our world for years to come.
I'm sure you are destine to follow suit. Take care.

I was very shocked and saddened to hear of your father's sudden death. I was a student of his at SFU in the '80s and he was the kindest, most suportive and most brilliant man I have met. He helped me with references and papers and always had a smile and the time to talk. Years later I attended a presentation he gave for Vancouver Mental Health on alternative therapies, and was flattered that he recognized me, called me by name and came over to catch up. I wish your family some comfort in knowing how many lives he touched. I lost my own father a few years ago, suddenly and much too young. I hope that time will help with your is like a whole other world, one we didn't choose to visit, but nonetheless, here we are. Peace to you. Susie

Ok I'm a little late in finding this blog to make a comment about Dr. Beyerstein's untimely passing. I'm not exactly tuned into the Skeptic media so it takes a few days for big news to reach me, especially bad news, because who likes to hear bad news? But the passing of such an icon can't go by unnoticed or without some sort of textual tribute from the likes of myself, I figure!

Now I consider myself a 'hardcore skeptic', and I am rather passionate about my beliefs, or lack of beliefs, as it were. That's because two people I knew, one whom I was quite close to, joined cults and have been lost in woowoo-world (which is just past lala-land) ever since. Sometimes when discussing issues about skepticism I get more easily exasperated than I'd like to. There was only one person I knew of who I could look up to as a role-model when I felt that way, and that person was Barry Beyerstein. I'm a big fan of skeptic luminaries like James Randi and Robert Carroll, and they each certainly have more patience with 'true believers' than I do, but the only person who seemed to have an inexhaustive supply of patience was Dr. Beyerstein. I know my thinking gets muddled as soon as I get emotionally worked up, and I suspect Barry knew about that mechanism, as well, and he must've done a hell of a lot of work on himself to become the kind of level-headed conversationalist he had to be in order to excell at what he did.

All I can say is that you are a very lucky person to have had Barry Beyerstein as your father. My father also happens to be a former (retired) psychology prof (at UBC, not SFU), and he's no Barry Beyerstein, that's for sure. In fact, he's a long way off from being Chevdo, and I'm a long way off from the calibre of Dr. Beyerstein. So if you've managed to soak up even an iota of Barry-ness, genetically or environmentally, you're on the fast-track to ubermensch, I tell ya!

As I said in another blog a couple weeks ago just after hearing this news, there are few people in this world who are irreplacable. People, who, when they die, there is simply nobody of similar calibre to step into their shoes and take their place, and Barry Beyerstein was one of those people. Consumers of media in Vancouver will all suffer from this loss, because there simply isn't anyone who will be able to take the place of Barry and provide anywhere near the same quality of media soundbytes. No matter how boneheaded the prevailing viewpoint might have been, whenever a reporter asked Barry for his opinion on the issue at hand, you at least knew there'd be a lone voice of sanity. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard or read him say anything I didn't agree with, and I can't think of anyone else I can say that of. Most of the time, at least in recent years, I'd already agree with him on the issue before hearing his reasoning, but in my younger days, I'd find myself agreeing with him only after hearing/reading his reasoning. But either way, I can't think of a single issue I didn't already agree with him about, or that he didn't convince me of. I can't say that about any of the other pundits of the Skeptic scene.

I've just read of Barry Beyerstein's passing and am shocked, saddened and most importantly saddened for the sudden loss to you and the rest of his family.

Barry Beyerstein turned me on to being a skeptic when I was taking one of his classes at Simon Fraser many years ago (this was somehow, the worst grade I ever got and the best course I ever took - go figure!). I joined the CSICOP, now CSI, and subscribed to the Skeptical Inquirer because of Barry's influence. I have been an advocate for skepticism and emperical evidence in mental health, in the business world and in many a conversation - all sparked from the fire that Dr. Beyerstein's words and passion lit in me years ago. I will continue to ask people to 'prove it' and challenge my own and others' assumptions to seek the truth.

I'm sure you know that although his life was too short, Dr. Beyerstein had a very, very wide positive influence in this world.

My deep condolences,

Neil Hanley
Oslo, Norway

Oh Lindsay, I was shocked to check in at your site and read your sad message. I am heartbroken, and so sad for you, Suzi, Loren, Dale, and the family. You know, Barry was like a father to me, as well as a treasured friend and mentor. Always dependable, so smart, funny, caring, and what a guide on everything that’s important in life. I will miss him deeply. Sending much love and warmth, and with deepest sympathy, -Nancy

I knew Barry less than I would like to have. We went to high school together and then got reacquainted through the BC Skeptics.

I was greatly impressed with both of Barry's intellect and his kindness.

I only just found out about his death and I'm sitting in shock with tears in my eyes.


He must have been a remarkable man. May you may comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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