where biography meets neuroscience, where biography meets nonsense
Indeed it was. I myself have emailed with Pridmore, mentioning that he seems to describe Tammet in a more neutral way rather than the negativity I saw from Joshua Foer in Moonwalking with Einstein. I understand the skeptical perspective, however I feel that Mr Foer is angrier than necessary about the issue. Personally, I don't think it's clear-cut one way or the other.
What do you think is not clear-cut? I'm not sure what you mean, Laura.I'm of the opinion that Foer deserves the credit for exposing Tammet, the way that all the folks in the memory sport community who knew the truth all along apparently didn't do, and for also asking the uncomfortable questions that countless synaesthesia, autism and savantism researchers and journalists neglected to ask. On the other hand though, maybe Foer was just lucky that Tammet allowed Foer to interview him. Maybe other skeptics have tried to get interviews unsuccessfully with Tammet. Who knows? So many people have failed pathetically to do what they should have done, but Foer is the exception. That's how I see it. If you are interested in viewing Mr Pridmore in a documentary I recommend the episode of the Superhuman series that had him in it, along with other interesting ppl. He seems to be a likeable and humble man, in spite of his incredible memory achievements.
I don't think the Tammet tale is as clear-cut as "he's lying about his savant skills" or "he actually is a savant". The man himself certainly believes he is one, and told Foer that "whether or not you think I am one depends on how you define the word". Although he once stated that he didn't mind being studied by scientists, there seem to be fewer studies about him within recent years. Perhaps he too has realized that the so-called scientists were not doing a very good job. Like the age-old "nature vs. nurture" question, I think the answer is a combination of both. The one thing I'd like to know regarding Foer is why he neglected to publicize his skepticism until 2011, when he could've been letting us know several years earlier.
I meant that much like the age-old question of "nature vs. nurture", there is not a clear answer as to whether he's a savant or not. He certainly believes he is one, and told Foer that "whether or not you believe I am one depends on how you define the word."What I'd really like to know is why Josh Foer decided to wait until 2011 to publicize his skepticism when he could've done that several years earlier.
I don't know how you can know what Tammet thinks about his own abilities. He can say whatever he likes - doesn't mean he necessarily believes a word of it.I don't have Foer's book at hand, so I'm not sure what your evidence is that Foer knew about the many inconsistencies in Tammet's story years before he wrote his book. I didn't think that Foer was in memory sport as early as 1999 and 2000 when Corney/Tammet was competing. Even if Foer knew for years, I think the scientists and Tammet himself had a much greater moral obligation to reveal the truth in full. I'm not sure if you are aware that three synaesthesia researchers with some standing have recently released a draft review journal paper in which they write about Tammet as a synaesthete savant, without a hint of any skepticism, and also a bewildering array of misrepresentations of the findings of studies. That is a good reason to be angry. Scientists are supposed to be seekers of the truth, not ostriches with their heads in the sand. The fact that the world of neuropsychological science has been apparently ignoring many years of warnings from non-scientists about the credibility of the Tammet story is evidence of a stupid elitism that will prove to be an Achille's Heel of the neuroscience community.
In the chapter of Foer's book discussing the Tammet tale, he mentions interviewing Tammet around 2007 when he came to NYC to promote his autobiography. Foer himself only competed in the year of 2006. I'd like to know why he didn't publicize his skepticism regarding Tammet as soon as he found out instead of waiting another 4 years. I feel more people would share this opinion if Foer had let it been known earlier why Tammet is unreliable.
I'll have to go back to the book and check the dates. All the same, it appears that heaps of ppl knew the Tammet story didn't add up right from the beginning. There's a website that looks credible that claims even Tammet's Pi memory record from way back in 2004 wasn't genuine. I've been told that bit of info hasn't been on the web that long, so presumably someone has been sitting on a quite shocking fact for many years, or alternately, made up a shocking lie recently. It appears that no journo or documentary-maker or scientist reporting on Tammet's supposed feat in learning Icelandic in a week bothered to check how much Tammet already knew about the language or similar languages, or whether he had previously travelled to Scandanavia. The sheer volume of evidence of Tammet's misrepresentations, of so many different types, shared by so many different sources, shows that there were always plenty of reasons for plenty of ppl to feel skeptical about Tammet.
On that note, I don't know if you've seen this forum thread from 2009 in which one poster viciously tears apart the so-called feats that Tammet displayed in the Brainman special. I found it via Google and know nothing else about the site.http://www.unfacts.org/factsforum/viewtopic.php?t=2898&sid=667694ac09392fdd0b0b6b99f449333e
Joshua Foer does explain why he didn't publicise his suspicions about Tammet as soon as he interviewed him. He states in Moonwalking with Einstein: "For a long time I agonised about whether to include Daniel in this book. But late one night, not long before I was supposed to turn in a draft of this chapter, I decided to do one last internet search of his name". It was at this point that he found the archived copy of danieltammet.com in which Tammet states directly and explicitly that he had used memory techniques.
Yes, I had read that forum posting, and I thought all of the criticisms of Tammet were good points and completely fair, and I do think it is a disgrace if other forums that are supposed to be about critical thinking have swallowed the hype story. I don't know of any criticism of Tammet from any Australian scientists or Australian Skeptics, which is disappointing but not surprising. Australian Skeptics seem to be preoccupied with homeopathy and the anti-vaccination ratbags and "alt med" in general, and like so many of our supposed leaders in Australia in science and critical thinking, they appear to be blissfully blind to the many flaws and errors and corruptions within mainstream science, medicine and media (perhaps with the exception of a state leader of the organization who appears to be a climate-change denier which must be quite an embarrassment).
If Foer wasn't willing to blow the whistle on Tammet without something like an online confession, I think that is pretty lame. There's just so much evidence out there that things weren't right. All that Foer had to do is read the full text of one of the 2007 journal papers about Tammet to figure that something weird was going on, especially in light of knowledge that Tammet was the Daniel Corney who competed in 1999 and 2000. The paper itself has conclusions that aren't supported by the findings, and it is clear that either Tammet hadn't told the researchers about his past in memory sport, or if he had, the researchers had chosen to suppress that info. Either way, something stinks to high heaven. Trouble is, I think ppl like me who actually bother to obtain and read the full text of science journal papers are rare creatures. Even some scientists who write review journal papers evidently don't bother to read the papers they are reviewing.
Post a Comment