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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: So, I'm not "TED people"; I'm not employed by them in any way, nor do I generate income from them. I am a volunteer organiser for a TEDx event 10,000 miles (I checked) from TED HQ.

    As I noted in my answer to your other comment, we disagree on what makes for censorship. In the West, we're a long way from being actually censored on very much at all.
    • Mar 20 2013: If it's not censorship it is outright ideological racism and discrimination. These 2 people should take TED to court!
    • Mar 21 2013: While your point about not being employed by TED is fair, I think that a neat graph could be made indicating correlation between support of TED's decision and the presence of special titles beneath supporter's profile names. Correlation ≠ causation, but it perhaps explains peoples comfortability with labelling you and others as TED people. It probably comes from some assumption of ideological alignment, and you can't blame them if said correlation appears true.


      I would suggest that the only reason censorship doesn't happen in the west is because it has become impossible or pointless. If TED censored the videos outright, as well as conversation about them, the videos and conversation would simply spring up elsewhere, and in places out of TED's control. The tactic they have taken is actually superior to censorship in terms of managing reactions to the videos.
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        Mar 21 2013: Lewis, the TED attendee and TEDx organiser community is pretty broad. Not everyone within it is happy with this decision, and I certainly believe it could have been handled MUCH better. My hope is that TED learn from it.

        There's a number of private forums where TED attendees and TEDx organisers speak directly to TED (though no less directly than here, just on a smaller scale). Let me assure you, there's plenty of upset and a diversity of views in those as well.
        • Mar 21 2013: I can only comment on what is available to the public, which is why I used careful language. I simply wish to elucidate how things appear from this end.
    • Mar 21 2013: You're still hung up on the semantic thing?

      Here's Webster's definition of censor:

      "to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable [censor the news]; also : to suppress or delete as objectionable [censor out indecent passages]"

      The act fits the definition. It has nothing to do with government. But really, it's the perceived motivation behind an act that leads people to call it censorship instead of a more benign synonym.

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