TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Did Rupert Sheldrake make a factual error?

An editor at TED seems to suggest that Rupert Sheldrake made a factual error in his talk "The Science Delusion" when he said governments "ignore complimentary and alternative therapies." She writes:

"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 "


At the NIH link we find that the NIH invested $441,819, 000 in complimentary and alternative medicine in 2011.

But the total NIH budget is about $31,000,000,000 or $31 billion.


This means the NIH invested about 1.425% of its budget in complimentary and alternative medicine in 2011.

To what extent have other governments funded research in complimentary and alternative medicine?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Mar 11 2013: Spending $441 million a year on something could hardly be characterized as "ignoring" it. Sheldrake stated that one of the 10 examples of delusions created by mainstream science today is that only mechanistic medicine works(#10). Was he wrong to use the word "ignore" (if, indeed he did)? Yes. Nearly half-a-billion dollars is NOT ignoring, even in government bookkeeping. Is that Sheldrake's point? I don't think so. I think his issue is with Science's promotion of the perception that only mechanistic medicine works. Factual error? No. Semantic error? Maybe.
    • Mar 14 2013: Agreed - spending $441 million would be significant if paltry, however the correct figure is $441 THOUSAND - beneath paltry - beneath trivial - beneath contempt.
      • thumb
        Mar 14 2013: Wow! Something is rotten in the data barrel. The mccam.nih.gov website, linked in the OP, says the total NIH budget for 2011 was about $441M. The nih.gov website also linked in the post, says the NIH total investment in research is $30.9B. Do you get $441K for from one of those links? I think Mr. Marshall misinterpreted the figure as $441,819. It is actually in thousands of dollars so the correct number is $441,819,000 which is listed as the NIH annual expenditure total for 2011, NOT the expenditure for Complementary and Alternative medicine in 2011. That number is $107,113,000. If the NIH budget is $30.9B that is 0.34% of the total budget spent on Comp. & Alt. Medicine research. If the NIH budget is $441M then the percentage jumps to 24.3%. Thats about all I want to put into this.
        • Mar 18 2013: $441 million is still paltry, still trivial and still beneath contempt. 0.34% of the total budget is an appallingly repugnant commitment to the scientific investigation of complementary and alternative medicine a term that is itself insulting. Integrative medicine should have a much higher proportion of the NIH budget - instead of 0.34% - how about 34%? According to my calculations, 34% of the $30.9 billion is about $10.5 billion, a far more realistic figure for the advancement of science.
      • thumb
        Mar 18 2013: RE: "$441M is still paltry. . . " Revisit the claimed factual error. The OP says Sheldrake claims C&A medicine is ignored. It is not possible to interpret that word "ignored" in any other way in Sheldrake's context than to be saying "C&A medicine is not even included as a budget item." Of course that is not true, or, to put it another way, it is a factual error, and, worse, it is a binary factual error. It is either 100% correct (C&A is ignored), or it is 100% false (C&A is not ignored), so partial credit is not permissible. Did Sheldrake demonstrate a factual error?. . . Yes. Had he included the word "virtually", he could plead not guilty. As it is, TED can dispense with him as they would a malicious, unqualified pretender. It's in the details!
        • Mar 18 2013: No, it's in the meaning. And you are reading your own meaning into Sheldrake's comment. You have set yourself up as judge, prosecutor and jury. Stop playing pedantic word games. Ad hominem attacks are below the level of discourse in scientific and peer-reviewed journals.
      • thumb
        Mar 18 2013: RE: "No, it's in the meaning.. . " I intended no attack on Mr. Sheldrake. The adjectives I used are associated with the manner in which TED removed the talk, treating Rupert as if he were to be grouped with "malicious, unqualified pretenders". I make no pretense of being qualified to judge anything other than TED's assertion that there was a factual error in the talk. It is not in the meaning, as you hope, it is in the pedantic venue of semantic rules. "Ignore" has a very precise meaning. To say the NIH ignores C&A medicine is a FACTUAL ERROR. I favor Sheldrake's agenda, but this precise issue is in TED's favor.
        • thumb
          Mar 18 2013: Rupert's response "This is a good opportunity to correct an oversimplification in my talk. In relation to the dogma that mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works, I said, “that’s why governments only fund mechanistic medicine and ignore complementary and alternative therapies.” This is true of most governments, but the US is a notable exception. The US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine receives about $130 million a year, about 0.4% of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) total annual budget of $31 billion.

          Obviously I could not spell out all the details of my arguments in an 18-minute talk, but TED’s claims that it contains “serious factual errors,” “many misleading statements” and that it crosses the line into “pseudoscience” are defamatory and false."

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.