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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 20 2013: Frank and Noah: what I was saying is that there is an evolving model that currently fits the data, that we seek to refine, adjust and understand. Hence it becomes the 'assumed' model - that is tested, prodded, questioned daily. Do we rewrite the history books every day? No. I stand by my point - until there is compelling evidence by more than one source, and there currently isn't, then the theory remains in use. That isn't Science Delusion. It is the scientific method.
    When you say "I come up with dark matter to make theories of the big bang fit and then pass it off as brainwashing" - that is just wrong. I have data that is fit by a component that interacts mainly gravitationally. Do I just rest on that? No. That is why there are countless number of experiments looking to find and detect dark matter, so that we can characterise it and understand it. Perhaps you are not happy with the fact that there are many questions that remain. It can sometimes be frustrating, but I see them as new opportunities to challenge myself and the community. Are there scientists that don't like the idea of dark matter and that seek to explain it with something else - like a variation in Newton's laws? Yes. And they are free to do so. But every one of those theories needs to stand up to the wealth of independent data from different groups all over the world - and we are constantly testing our models, whether they include dark matter or not.
    • Mar 20 2013: My personal thought is that you are downplaying the significant role of philosophy in determining what constitutes a "best fit" for the data. Newtonian physics is sufficient for modeling our ordinary observations. What challenged its veracity came from the non-ordinary, the fringe if you will. Similarly, of course there is no reason to rewrite the history books if nearly everything can be explained by the current model. But the current model will have to eventually address the non-ordinary as well, the stuff on the fringe. I see Sheldrake deeply involved in trying to identify areas that can be tested to that end.

      Just my thoughts.
    • Mar 21 2013: Did you listen to the talks? Did you check the facts what TED said and did you read the rebuttals? Checked the references?

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