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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:



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: Watching these two new debates for a day, they are further testimony for what TED is really doing, which is evading the real problem - taking a stand. And to clarify, this is not going to be a stand just for or against these talks, but about the topic that lies at the heart of the debate since its beginning: materialism and science. The debate started with two talks that questioned the materialist interpretation of scientific findings, and were taken down after some undeniably staunch and dogmatic proponents of this interpretation complained about these talks. TED is afraid to become part of the struggle between those holding on to materialism and trying to establish it further as the only real answer, and those refusing to just shut up and believe, who point out it's too early to accept any one particular interpretation. Instead TED fragments this debate to the breaking point...an initial debate, a blog post followed by a long debate in the comments, now two new, separate debates, one for each talk, ever to postpone addressing the real issue of materialism and modern science. Gladly welcoming, it seems, the further fragmentation of these debates into sub-topics revolving around curation or censorship, pseudoscience, drugs, anecdotal talks vs. talks discussing hard evidence...

    CENSORSHIP - your made clear your position about this not being censorship, so you surely need no debate on this.

    PSEUDOSCIENCE - you have two talks, responses by the speakers and a massive amount of debate/opinion - it's not that fuzzy, tricky a decision to make. Besides, a talk still hosted by TED (Elaine Morgan about the Aquatic Ape theory) gives stage not just on a TEDx YT-channel, but on the main TED page, to a theory widely discussed as pseudoscience on the web (for example by Jerry Coyne). No debate needed on your pseudoscience stance it seems.

    cont'd. below

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