TED Conversations

  • TED
  • New York, NY
  • United States


This conversation is closed.

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

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Mar 22 2013: The fifth dogma is that nature is purposeless. There are no purposes in all nature and the evolutionary process has no purpose or direction.

    Dogma six: biological heredity is material. Everything you inherit is in your genes or in epigenetic modifcations of the genes of in cytoplasmic inheritance. It's material.

    Dogma seven: memories are stored inside your brain as material traces. Somehow everything you remember is in your brain in modified nerve-endings, phosphorylated proteins. No one knows how it works, but nevertheless almost everyone in the scientific world believes it must be in the brain.

    Dogma eight: your mind is inside your head. All your consciousness is the activity of your brain and nothing more.

    Dogma nine, which follows from dogma eight: psychic phenomena like telepathy are impossible. Your thoughts and intentions can not have any effect at a distance because your mind's inside your head, therefore all the apperent evidence for telepathy and other psychic phenomena is illusory; people believe these things happen but it's just because they don't know enough about statistics or they're deceived by coincidences or it's wishful thinking.

    And dogma ten: mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works. That's why governments only fund research into mechanistic medicine and ignore complimentary and alternative therapies. Those can't possibly really work because they're not mechanistic. They may appear to work, because people would have got better anyway, or because of the placebo effect. But the only kind that really works is mechanistic medicine.

    Well, this is the default worldview which is held by almost all educated people all over the world. It's the basis of the educational system, the national health service, the medical research council, governments, and it's just the default worldview of educated people.

    But I think every one of these dogmas is very, very questionable and when you look at it, they fall apart.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.