Friday, March 28, 2014

Lili's fear for the day

Is Jason Padgett the new Daniel Tammet? I think I can speak for Tomas in saying "Please No!"

Previous small article on Padgett, with comments, can be found here.


Anonymous said...

Jason Padgett might not be the new Daniel Tammet - he's got competition!

Derek Amato allegedly gained the ability to play piano after hitting his head, having never ever played piano before. He has written a book "My Beautiful Disaster: My Brain Injury, My Gift, My Life". From the blurb:

"Readers enchanted by autistic savant, Daniel Tammet’s eloquent Born On A Blue Day, will welcome another multi-layered, first person account of what is to live with a remarkable condition."

What Amato doesn't mention in his book, which I found by googling on the internet, is that before he hit his head in October 2006, he was posting songs from his forthcoming album in September 2006 on the internet at "" ( In those songs he apparently played the piano and organ. Seems that when he hit his head he somehow forgot that he already played piano and was working on an album.

It all seems rather suspicious. And familiar. That hasn't stopped him convincing Darold Treffert and Berit Brogaard among others that he has amazing acquired savant skills, and having his alleged abilities featured in a documentary, a TEDx talk, and various articles and TV shows.


Lili Marlene said...

Well, we can hardly be surprised that some bold individuals are emulating Tammet's very successful business model. It is however rather surprising that a man who forgot to include his years of moderate success as a memory sport competitor in his autobiography and another man who apparently forgot the beginnings of a musical career that happened before he was struck with musical savantism should be taken seriously by anyone remotely like a researcher or academic.

Amato claimed in his HuffPost Live interview with some Aussie interviewer and Treffert that he'd never touched a piano before his accident, which is dated as October 2006 by all sources I've found, but in the September 2006 forum posting he wrote: "I played all acoustic guitars, piano, and synths." Just a month out, but all the evidence I need to establish this story as bullshit. To start with the story strains credibility, I'm being more than fair.

Is Berit Brogaard the new Baron-Cohen?

Who does Amato's PR?

Why is almost-plausible bullshit so perpetually popular?

Why don't a group of real researchers who care about the reputations of psychology and neuroscience get together and issue some kind of document in a public or scientific platform, outlining the readily-available evidence about celebrity savants, identifying major issues with the concept of the savant, and voicing their reservations with "savant science"? This kind of thing is the core work of science, and it should be possible to do without legal risk. This isn't triviality because ideas about savantism and autism and synaesthesia have implications for education, training and learning, including as pertains to the disabled, normals and the gifted, including young children. Why hasn't this been done years ago?

Anonymous said...

So dismissive, with so little information -- you haven't even read his biography.

It seems Dr. David Eagleman, Dr. VS Ramachandran, Dr. Richard Cytowic, Dr. Darold Treffert and Dr. Temple Grandin -- all who blurbed positively after reading the work, disagree with you.

How about some original research on your part instead of rehashing/criticizing everyone else?

Lili Marlene said...

You refer to Amato or Padgett?

I would like to have a look at both of their books, but neither appears to be held in any Australian library, according to Trove, and I'm certainly not going to spend my hard-earned on such books.

I wouldn't be surprised if all those celebrity scientists/celebrity autists wrote a nice blurb for a book by Amato or Padgett. That's the problem with celebrity neuroscientists, including most of the big names in synaesthesia research - they do everything as a bloc and appear to set money-making ventures like public speaking and writing books for the general market at a top priority. Real scientists are supposed to be personally committed to their research and university teaching and mentorship and discovering the truth as their top priorities, and have no time for building a fan base outside of the academy or writing pop science books for a living, and are also supposed to be willing to step out of line with other researchers if they believe their conclusions or theories are not a reflection of the truth. It appears that Rama to a tiny degree stepped out of line with other celebrity scientists by expressing a little bit of skepticism about Daniel Tammet a long time ago, and Eagleman has done some good research, but the whole game they are playing in is more business than science. Why should I have huge respect for the opinions of a bunch of pop science book authors who do a bit of science on the side?

There's a difference between a scientist and a science-flavoured celebrity, just like there's a difference between a piece of bacon and a bacon-flavoured potato crisp.

Lili Marlene said...

Update - Trove searches still indicate that Amato's book has no holdings in Australian libraries, but Padgett's book is on order for my local library and I've reserved it.

Anonymous said...

Berit Brogaard has just published her book "the Superhuman Mind". Highlights include a foreword by Darold Treffert, and totally credulous and unskeptical coverage of Solomon Shereshevsky, Jason Padgett, Derek Amato, and of course Daniel Tammet.

Brogaard is giving Mr Baron-Cohen a run for his money in the competition to see how much bullshit can be crammed into one book.


Lili Marlene said...

Don't forget that Brogaard has a co-author who deserves a share of the blame.

I gather that you have seen the actual book? I can't find a preview on Google Books and I also can't find any holdings for the book in Australia as an ebook or otherwise, and I'm not going to ask my local public library to buy a copy for me to read.

I was pretty amazed to see this new book compared favourably with Foer's book in the publisher's review of the book at Google Books. Wouldn't the new book soundly contradict content of Moonwalking with Einstein? Have the authors even read Foer's book?

Lili Marlene said...

Oh, and thanks for the tip!

Lili Marlene said...

Oh, I see, huge preview at Amazon.