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Barry Beyerstein

SFU loses great thinker and commentator

July 12, 2007

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SFU psychologist Barry Beyerstein, a much-admired professor and well-known media commentator, died Monday, June 25 from apparent heart failure while working at his office. He had just turned 60.

Beyerstein (above) was internationally recognized and sought after by the media because of his wit, easy manner and unique understanding of the human brain and behaviour, from the psychology of human error to his penchant for debunking scientifically questionable beliefs.

"Clearly, Barry’s work has made an important and enduring contribution to psychological science," says psychology chair Dan Weeks. "He achieved worldwide eminence for his critical analyses of pseudoscience in psychology and medicine. Most importantly, he was a kind and genuine person and we will miss him deeply."

In her blog (http://majikthise.typepad.com) on June 27, Beyerstein’s daughter, New York journalist Lindsay Beyerstein, describes her father as "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."

A charter student at SFU, Beyerstein enrolled at the university because he was looking for something different. He earned his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. He then returned to the hill, building a career that capitalized on his passionate investigation of the psychology of truth while enhancing SFU’s reputation as a university with a difference.

A skeptic at heart and a tireless commentator, Beyerstein tackled issues from drug and alcohol addiction and depression to the notions and social beliefs linked to parapsychology.

Beyerstein’s dedication to clearing the unscientific air about the benefits of alternative medicine, the presence of UFOs and other widely cherished beliefs motivated him to do more than 800 media interviews.

His willingness to discuss tough topics and do media interviews earned him SFU’s annual president’s award for service in media and public relations in 2002.

A resident of Port Moody, Beyerstein headed the B.C. Skeptics Society, an educational organization dedicated to improving scientific literacy and providing critiques of occult and pseudoscientific claims.

"He always enjoyed being an ambassador for the university," says Lindsay Beyerstein. "He wanted everyone to love SFU as much as he did."

A celebration of Beyerstein’s life is being planned.

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