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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 21 2013: I've read these comments and watched it all unfolding from the initial censorship, to the burial of public reaction in a series of moving blog threads and the weak replies from TED trying to defend the indefensible. I'm just wondering how many people can see the elephant in the room? If you can't see him, just check the list of TED corporate partners. First rule of living in this crazy world... if in doubt or perplexed about others actions, follow the money and power trail and just ask yourself who stands to lose from these kinds of ideas taking off? Who stands to gain from the censorship? The hubristic alliance of corporate power and scientific dogma is on display here for the world to see. Time for science to find a new forum for its ideas.
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      Mar 21 2013: Moogle: you're writing under a pseudonym, why not just write the TED partner name you're suggesting and save us all some time hunting it down. Just bring things out into the light of day.

      To wit: professionals to theocratic rightists, CounterPoint Strategies, recently visited my blog after I impugned the Koch and DeVos tribe for their subversion of science over anthropogenic change, via an article I reposted by George Monbiot. If you want some surprising, amusing and sobering reading, take a look at Counterpoint Strategies' attitudes about spin doctoring in their CounterPoint Strategies' Cavalry manifesto at http://cpscavalry.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/CPS_Brochure.pdf.

      It includes statements on page 16, under the heading, "Ethos," like:

      "We help clients plant a confident flag in the public discourse, confront their aggressors— activists, journalists, regulators, lawmakers, or competitors — and safeguard a path through the hostile public affairs environment.

      Journalists are not friends and their relationships run one-way only. That’s not what traditional public relations firms will say, but the truth is reporters are mercenaries at best and adversaries more often. They will attack almost any institution, even their own, and no tactic or device is out of bounds.

      But journalists can be held accountable and the most aggressive activist groups are being successfully confronted and rebuked. CounterPoint has built a strategy that recognizes the modern news media in its actual nature: ideological, hostile, under intense competitive pressure, and willing to disregard standards and collude with almost any antagonist."

      Aside: it was always curious to me that the words calvary and cavalry are so similar. "Mercenaries?" "Rebuked?" Westboro Baptist Church has nothin' on CounterPoint Strategies. Do CounterPoint Strategies' attitudes of fearful entrenchment remind you of anyone? Maybe TED could have hired their liberal analogues.

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