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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 22 2013: We think the controversy over these talks is a wonderful opportunity for TED to clarify and strengthen it’s commitment to free thought, especially in the face of pressure from highly committed ideological interests from the blogosphere. Otherwise, we fear that TED will take a lot of criticism for censorship. Several of the other speakers, even if they don’t fully agree with Sheldrake’s and Hancock’s positions, are quite upset that their videos were removed. At our urging, they have been holding back from going public, waiting to see how this plays out. It would be a shame if this ends up causing negative publicity.

    We hope that you will consider this as an opportunity to become a resilient and remarkable organisation: one that has the capacity to be self-reflective, self-critical, adapt to change, evolve and grow with its communities and the challenges it faces. Most of all, that you can stay true to your values as a democratic and open platform for ideas worth spreading.

    It seems to us that enhancing Radical Openness by accepting our invitation to reinstate the talks publicly online, is an outcome that can benefit all parties involved.

    We appreciate your time to consider our message.

    With hope for a positive outcome for all

    Amrita, Stefana, Jennifer
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      Mar 22 2013: Thank you Amrita, Stefana and Jennifer.
    • Mar 22 2013: Perfectly sensible response from Amrita Bhohi and colleagues. Most of us would much rather live in a world with this free spirit of inquiry
    • Mar 22 2013: Thank you for posting this publicly Amrita, Stefana and Jennifer, you touched on all the points where TED seems to be in the wrong, particularly the:
      TED (and Chris Anderson himself) have displayed.

      Will be interesting to see how they react next.
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      Mar 22 2013: Excellent! Thanks for sharing that Amrita, Stefana, and Jennifer - and for putting on such an amazing and thought-provoking TEDx conference to begin with!
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      Mar 22 2013: Thank you for inviting both Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake as well as others to your TEDxWhiteChapel event. Your willingness to publish an open letter and defend your speakers earns my respect.

      Cheers from Russia,
    • Mar 22 2013: To: Amrita, Stefana, & Jennifer: It occurs to me that with such thoughtful ground from which you apparently spring, you might consider taking on the creation of a alternative venue, as it is pretty apparent we now need one. Individuals commenting here await a response from the TED folks, but I suspect there will not be one that will satisfy most of us.

      I'd like to propose the creation of NOTted, and I nominate you three as its creators. We need to move on from this violation of principle, and your commentary here indicates you carry the necessary mantle of integrity. It's rather likely you would find supporters among those of us who previously looked to TED for such a venue, but who now view them with essential suspicion.

      In any case, thank you for your appeal here. I do not share your hope of a course change as they seem to be answering to unknown higher masters.
    • Mar 22 2013: Thanks! Well said.
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      Mar 22 2013: bravo!
    • Mar 23 2013: Thank you so much for showing the integrity to stand behind your speakers. Well done. I, for one, would be interested in hearing what Rupert and Graham's peers from the Whitechapel event have to say on the matter. It sounds like they are as appalled as the rest of us.

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