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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: After being publicly thanked by TED for his role in having the Sheldrake and Hancock videos taken down, atheist blogger Jerry Coyne has a new TEDx speaker in his sights- Russell Targ, who is scheduled to speak at a TEDx West Hollywood event. He's once again encouraging his readers to complain. How will TED respond? Will the event be cancelled? I think it's a safe bet that at the very least we will not see Targ on TED's YouTube channel, which would be a real shame as he's a great speaker and his research is fascinating!
    • Mar 22 2013: I guess the science community is now blessed with their own Rush Limbaugh and TED will just bend as it needs to because money is involved. So much for the scientific methodology.
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      Mar 22 2013: I wonder how TED's anonymous "science" board will counter the fact that Targ's work was published in Nature?
      • Mar 22 2013: Seeing as the TED Science Board's criticisms of Sheldrake seemed to be based on the misrepresentations of a blogger I doubt they're too concerned with what Targ might have actually done. Why bother doing real due dilligence when you can just parrot what some largely uninformed skeptic who has never read a paper by Targ has added to his Wikipedia article. It's not like there are sites called "Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia" whose readers routinely slant Wikipedia articles to fit their belief system. Oh wait, yes there are. Their narrow minded fanaticism is one of the reasons Wikipedia is a terrible resource for anyone who wishes to get informed about these topics.
    • Mar 22 2013: I don't particularly like this Jerry Coyne guy after having a look through his blog, he seems extremely closed minded and views people who are interested in parapsychology as complete idiots and "woomeisters". He still seems to be stuck in this science vs religion mindset...

      "his ideas that dogs finding their way home, or people knowing that others are watching them behind their backs, proves Jesus; his weakness for telepathy and other bizarre mental phenomena..."

      He also sees telepathy as "paranormal bollocks" when there is a large amount of evidence to show that it exists thanks to the work of people like Dean Radin: http://youtu.be/FMXqyf13HeM

      Overall he seems very arrogant, and very uninterested in hearing other theories about the world that don't fit into his paradigm. Are you really listening to this guy TED? Embrace new interesting ideas that breathe life into science and the world.
      • Mar 22 2013: Sadly Oliver, they are not only listening to him, they publicly thanked him regarding the Sheldrake video. Coyne also complained about the Hancock video and look what happened to it as well. To me, it's mind boggling that TED takes such an uninformed and dogmatic man so seriously. Coyne now has two blog posts up about the Targ event. It'll be interesting to see what TED does.
        • Mar 22 2013: I hear ya, hope TED make the right decision and embrace new possibilities.

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