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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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    Gail . 50+

    • +15
    Mar 20 2013: The only reason Sheldrake's talk crossed the line is because he didn't present the evidence/sources he claims he has - but that he provided in his rebuttal. Many who do follow the science do understand what he said, and only an uninformed group of people would insult and defame him by calling real science, "pseudoscience".

    Though it was an inept talk - perhaps because of the 18 minute time constraint, the real problem is with the TED board that is uneducated in what is happening in modern physics and related consciousness studies, and that chooses experts who disagree with what so many experts with at least equal if not better education have to say.

    I don't know who the scientists are that disagreed with Sheldrake, but I now believe that TED has a responsibility to release their names. I find it impossible to believe that they have PhDs in quantum mechanics and knowledge of the related study of consciousness, unless that degree is so out-of-date as to be worthless.

    I think that it's time for TED to rethink the educational minimums for its own board. The world is changing. TED doesn't like what it's changing into, so it is trying to stop it using outdated science as its weapon. This makes the TED board who call his talk pseudoscience a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites.
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      Mar 20 2013: Why do you describe the talk as inept ??
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        Mar 20 2013: That which is happening in quantum physics, neuroscience and the study of consciousness is so exciting that it deserves to be explained complete with the actual studies that tell in a more detailed way what has been discovered and why it is so important and life-changing. If he couldn't give details about his 10 dogmas, he should have done so competently with his favorite 3 or 5.

        Furthermore, it was factually incorrect in that it said that almost all scientists maintain a mechanical view of the world, which is no longer a correct statement. There is a polar shift going on in QM.

        There are also some misleading or incomplete statements in his talk - such as one of the dogmas is that the laws of nature are fixed, but he doesn't give enough information to tell me why he believes with this statement that I cannot agree with based on my information/education. For instance, evolution appears to be a law of nature, and evolution is not fixed. What does he mean?

        Bottom line: It is in humankind's best interests to allow talks such as these to be aired on TED, but it would be better if one or a panel of scientists exploring QM and those scientists studying "mind" or "consciousness" were to be allotted a half hour or even an hour for a panel of four. As there is a paradigm shift occurring in the world of science - that WILL affect your beliefs about who and what you are, I would like a better and more articulate speaker to stand on the stage and tell the world about it. Peace on earth is within our sights - as is the end to most social ills.

        Lastly: Sheldrake - in his last dogma, says that governments fund mechanistic medicine because it's the only one that works. He made a major mistake there. Governments fund mechanistic medicine because it's profitable. Meditation, that could save millions of lives and vastly reduce health-care costs is free, so governments don't encourage it. No $$$ = no campaign contributions = no way to profit from us.
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          Mar 21 2013: You seem to have disagreements of varying degrees with about on-third to one-half of Sheldrake's talk. If TED has not removed the talk, then your points could have been discussed in comments following the the talk.

          Can you support your claim that it is no longer true that "almost scientists no longer maintain a mechanistic view of the world?

          If non-mechanistic medicine were the prevailing dogma, then companies would be finding ways to profit from that.

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