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The debate about Rupert Sheldrake's talk

Please use this space to comment on the debate around Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx talk, as described here:

http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/19/the-debate-about-rupert-sheldrakes-talk/

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Closing Statement from TED

Thanks to all who participated in this conversation on TED's decision to move Rupert Sheldrake's talk from YouTube to TED.com. It was scheduled as a 2-week conversation, and has now closed. But the archive will remain visible here.

We'd like to respond here to some of the questions raised in the course of the discussion.

Some asked whether this was "censorship." Now, it's pretty clear that it isn't censorship, since the talk itself is literally a click away on this very site, and easily findable on Google. But it raises an interesting question about curation. Should TED play *any* curatorial role in the content it allows its TEDx organizers to promote? We believe we should. And once you accept a role for curatorial limits, you have to accept there will be times when disputes arise.

A number of questions were raised about TED's science board: How it works and why the member list isn't public. Our science board has 5 members -- all working scientists or distinguished science journalists. When we encounter a scientific talk that raises questions, they advise us on their position. I and my team here at TED make the final decisions. We keep the names of the science board private. This is a common practice for science review boards in the academic world, which preserves the objectivity of the recommendations and also protects the participants from retribution or harassment.

Finally, let me say that TED is 100% committed to open enquiry, including challenges to orthodox thinking. But we're also firm believers in appropriate skepticism, or critical thinking. Those two instincts will sometimes conflict, as they did in this case. That's why we invited this debate. The process hasn't been perfect. But it has been undertaken in passionate pursuit of these core values.

The talk, and this conversation, will remain here, and all are invited to make their own reasoned judgement.

Thanks for listening.

Chris Anderson, TED Curator

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  • Mar 19 2013: TED, you drag these talks from one debate to the other, still focussing on whether they are "pseudoscience", which distracts from the real problem. Your science board has enough data (the talks themselves and additional responses provided) to make a clear case for or against the talks being pseudoscience. Check the statements in questions, check the facts, follow them where they lead, and stand by whatever you find. This is not the real problem here.

    It's this: If you were able to make a clear case for taking these talks down because they're PS, you would have done so by now. But instead of doing the only logical thing, leaving/putting them back with the other talks and supporting them with clear arguments against allegations made by Myers, Coyne etc. - you refuse to make a stand and delegate the decision to the public. But what more do you want to hear ? You have multiple comment threads, exceeding in total far more than 1000 comments on the matter, you have detailled and in case of Sheldrake exceptional replies by the speakers - it's up to you to make a decision, and deal with the consequences.

    You can't please eberybody, so what's it going to be ? Please man up and make a decision, instead of inviting us to state the same points we already made over and over, until everybody runs out of steam and this whole things blows over.

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