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Emily McManus

Editor, TED.com, TED


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Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx talk: Detailing the issues

There's been a lot of heat today about Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx Talk. And in the spirit of radical openness, I'd like to bring the community into our process.


While TED does not vet speakers at independent TEDx events, a TEDx talk can be removed from the TEDx archive if the ideas contained in it are wrong to the point of being unscientific, and that includes misrepresenting the scientific process itself.

Sheldrake is on that line, to some commenters around Twitter and the web. His talk describes a vision of science made up of hard, unexamined constants. It's a philosophical talk that raises general questions about how we view science, and what role we expect it to play.

When my team and I debate whether to take action on a TEDx talk, we think deeply about the implications of our decision -- and aim to provide the TEDx host with as clear-cut and unbiased a view as possible.

You are invited, if you like, to weigh in today and tomorrow with your thoughts on this talk. We'll be gathering the commentary into a couple of categories for discussion:

1. Philosophy. Is the basis of his argument sound -- does science really operate the way Sheldrake suggests it does? Are his conclusions drawn from factual premises?

2. Factual error. (As an example, Sheldrake says that governments do not fund research into complementary medicine. Here are the US figures on NIH investment in complementary and alternative medicine 2009-2010: http://nccam.nih.gov/about/budget/institute-center.htm )

As a note: Please know that whether or not you have time or energy to contribute here, the talk is also under review by the TED team. We're not requiring your volunteer labor -- but we truly welcome your input. And we're grateful to those who've written about this talk in other forums, including but not limited to Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, Kylie Sturgess and some thoughtful Redditors.


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  • Mar 9 2013: TED staff Cory Warshaw writes : 'Also the psychic phenomena is hypothesis that cannot be falsified, as one can always say we simply aren't able to measure it'

    Before TED staff make the mistake of censoring Sheldrake. I suggest all TED staff get up to speed by watching a google talk video by Dr Dean Radin 'Science and the taboo of psi'


    In addition Sheldrake has conducted 'Sense of Being Stared at' studies. The results have been replicated by others. Combined together in the literature there were 65 studies, 34,097 sessions. A meta-analysis has produced odds against chance of 85000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 to 1 (Source: Dr Dean Radin's book Entangled Minds)

    '' A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. ' - Max Planck

    Assuming of course the new generation actually gets to hear it. What decision will TED make?
    • Mar 9 2013: Yes Katie I read that statement by Cory Warshaw and shook my head. That's a big red light right there that we have normally intelligent people making comments on something based on little but their own personal beliefs.

      There is an ASSUMPTION that because a lot of people in the science community don't know about these studies that they must not exist. It is seriously worrying stuff.

      Also that talk by Dean Radin about the taboo of PSI within science should be watched by every single student in every university in the country. He shows not only evidence for PSI in that talk... but evidence that there is a massive taboo within Science to even discuss it. Some of the comments in this forum just prove it even further.

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