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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: DRUGS (and their dangers) - Tim Brown, mescaline. Roland Griffiths, psilocybin. Just two examples of two TED talks mentioning positive aspects of drug use. As long as they don't call people to recklessly use drugs (which Hancock clearly never did), no problem in my opinion. Ken Robinson's talks come to mind - they're not about drugs, but do you feel the need to take them down, because his portrayal of a stifling education system and highlighting of a free, less controlled development of our personally dominant faculties might inspire kids to drop out of school ? Since he sure didn't make being in school look very attractive. Your stance on drugs seems pretty clear-defined as well.

    ANECDOTAL - For example, the talks I just mentioned, by Ken Robinson, are highly anecdotal in nature, and so is the evidence he gives for his OPINION. He surely didn't swamp the audience with data supporting his stance.

    All this goes to show, you don't need a community debating these sub-topics. You need these drawn-out debates to pacify those who want to see the two talks in question back up, while all the while pacifying the other side by not having them back up anywhere but a corner of the blog, where in a few weeks noone will really find them any more unless specifically looking. If you were interested in anything but this, in a real debate about the central issue - you, the visionary TED, would host public debates on this, to really give it publicity. Between outright proponents of materialism, and more moderate voices (Thomas Nagel comes to mind these days). But you're afraid of the mine field.

    cont'd. below

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