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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: While I understand and share the emotion behind the censorship "battle cry", to my mind it does little to further anyone's interests. It only makes the TED staff, and others who agree with the rejection, more defensive. It pushes them away, rather than engaging them, and like sugar, it replaces more nutritious calories. Can we let the semantic argument stand where it is and move on? A banquet of more substantive fare awaits us.
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      Mar 19 2013: Well said, Sebastian. A solution agreeable to all, or an agreement to disagree (both are acceptable outcomes to my mind) is what's needed, not an ongoing semantic argument on what the definition of censorship is.
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        Mar 20 2013: Censorship is censorship. TED has the right to do so, but in doing so, it does great harm.

        By refusing to allow that which it disagrees with, and by setting militant atheism as its standard, it has created the first evidence that I have found credible that enables atheism to be defined as a religion. This will probably do MUCH harm to atheists such as myself.

        When an organization hates science so much that it picks and chooses from among that which it will allow to be discussed in its hallowed web space, it is a religion.

        Imagine the fun Christians will have as they use the ammunition TED is giving to turn the arguments we have been making against prayer in school, creationism as science, and anti-intellctualism. How many more rights am I to lose because of TED turning atheism into a religion?
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          Mar 20 2013: We certainly disagree on what censorship is. Here in the West, it's pretty hard to argue we suffer censorship in any true sense of the word.

          I'm also going to disagree with you that TED is both anti-science and militantly atheist. I think neither is the case. And I'm okay with us disagreeing.
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        Mar 20 2013: Of course you are OK with our disagreeing. You have the power. Those with power can always be OK when the powerless disagree.

        It's pretty hard to argue that we do not suffer censorship unless you twist the definition so badly that it fits in a very narrow framework. There is overt censorship, soft censorship, and covert censorship. Censorship is censorship. I find it hard to believe that you don't really know that as you put out your talking points
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          Mar 20 2013: I'm not sure what power I have here... nor what power you (or others) don't have. I certainly have little influence with TED; I've attended a few times, and I run a small TEDx event far away over here in Australia.

          I fully understand the nuances of censorship and what they mean; I'm a former board member of the Australian equivalent of the EFF where one of my campaigning platforms was internet censorship and limiting government control. I've been in the trenches, so to speak.

          I've thought long and hard about this. My positions aren't reached without consideration.
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        Mar 20 2013: Then you are conflicted. If you understand the various types of censorship but don't call what TED is doing censorship, you are either conflicted or you are setting what you know aside in defense of TED.
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          Mar 20 2013: Gail, I don't feel at all conflicted. I'm certainly aware others disagree with me, you included, and that neither bothers me, nor do I feel any compulsion to try to change your mind.

          Others here share both your view and mine. As it should be.

          Yes, I am (at least in part) defending TED's stance. I think they're within their rights to do what they've done. Could they have handled this situation better? Very much so.
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        Mar 21 2013: TED is certainly within their rights to do what they have done. Business owners always have the right to define their brand however they see fit. The problem is less with what they have done (censorship - that TED would like the conversation to be about even though it's not about censorship) than it is with the sudden obvious appearance of an agenda that dismisses the most exciting science in the recorded history of humankind to come before us.

        IF it turns out that the science that TED has blacklisted goes mainstream, as appears inevitable, humanity itself has its best chance of survival (IMO). Power hierarchies will crumble and fall. Tyranny over others will come to an end. (Corporate, government, religious, gender & color based, etc). Individuals will be lifted up by seeing how all are interconnected, and that as we do to others, we do to ourselves - literally - meaning that who and WHAT a human is will be redefined. Human individuals are powerful creatures who believe themselves to be something that they are not - which is why our world is in such a sad state today.

        The science has already shown that IF "God" exists (improbable), it bears zero resemblance to the God of the Bible. Given TED's atheist stance on things like this, I would think that they would be willing to look at a body of science that is systematically exposing religion for what it is. Instead it turns atheism into a religion by rigidly standing by its dogma and turning away from (and not allowing TED talks about) any science that shows that humans are not what they think humans are.

        It calls legitimate and exciting science "pseudoscience", as if those many notables who are working on consciousness studies and even neuroscience are quacks. (neuroscience a pseudoscience???? what idiocy)

        What stuns me most here is the lack of honesty, intelligence, education, and rational thought by TED staff. Too many know they're lying & don't feel conflicted. That's sad.

        What R they afraid of

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