Beyerstein, Barry

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Beyerstein, Barry

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19 May 1947 - 25 June 2007


Barry Beyerstein was a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Simon Fraser University. His research focused on brain-behaviour relationships, with a focus on the topics of psychopharmacology, sensory psychophysiology, and critical assessments of claims of the paranormal and pseudoscience. He was a renowned skeptic of pseudoscience and the paranormal, heading the B.C. Skeptics Society. Beyerstein taught at SFU from 1973-2007. He passed away on June 25, 2007 at age 60.

Beyerstein was born on May 19, 1947 in Edmonton, Alberta to Christine and Hilliard Beyerstein. Barry began his university education as a charter student at Simon Fraser University, completing his B.A. in 1968. He received a Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley in 1973, and subsequently moved back to Vancouver to join SFU's Department of Psychology as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1986 and Full Professor in 2004. Beyerstein continued to teach at SFU until he passed away due to a heart failure in 2007. He is survived by his wife Susan Beyerstein, and their two children, Lindsay and Loren.

Beyerstein published numerous articles and contributed to several important books in his field:

• The Write Stuff: Scientific Evaluations of Graphology (1992)
• The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal (1996)
• Mind Myths: Exploring Everyday Mysteries of the Mind and Brain (1999)
• Science Meets Alternative Medicine: What the Evidence Says About Unconventional Treatments (2000)
• Tall Tales about the Mind and Brain: Separating fact from fiction (2006)
• 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior (2009)

Beyerstein was the recipient of numerous awards and honours. He received significant research grants from the Steel Research Fund throughout the 1980s, and received the President's Award for Service to the University from SFU in 2003.

In addition to his scholarly output, Beyerstein was regularly sought out by the media for his understanding of human brain behavior. He presented on the BBC Radio's "All in the Mind" program; he appeared regularly on the CBC National Radio program "Quirks and Quarks"; and he spoke as a guest on the Jim Bohannon Show.

Outside the academy, Beyerstein served at various times on the boards of a number of organizations: the Drug Policy Foundation, the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Psychological Association, and the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

In a late essay, Beyerstein reminds his readers that, "false hope easily supplants common sense," and that, "in this vulnerable state, the need for hard-nosed appraisal is all the more necessary, but so often we see instead an eagerness to abandon any remaining vestiges of skepticism." Such calls to think critically about brain behaviour were common in Beyerstein's writing, teaching, and media appearances, showing his passion for identifying ways to see past myths, conspiracies, and claims of the paranormal and pseudoscience.


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