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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:

http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/19/the-debate-about-rupert-sheldrakes-talk/

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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 23 2013: The Pioneer anomaly is the name given to the observed difference in velocities and trajectories of spacecraft in the outer solar system from what is expected from the current theory of gravity. A small, additional sunward acceleration of (8.74 ± 1.33)×10-10 m/s2 has been observed for both Pioneer 10 and 11 and there is presently no accepted explanation for this anomaly. Both spacecrafts are closer to earth than should be expected when all the known forces acting on the spacecrafts are taken into consideration. It is also noted that the unexplained acceleration magnitude is close to the value of the product of the Hubble constant times the speed of light in a vacuum but the significance of this is unknown (Anderson 2009). The explanation could simply be measurement error, gas leakage, effects of uneven heating or other possibilities. However, the unexplained acceleration can also be explained by a small variation in the gravitational constant with time. http://www.philica.com/display_article.php?article_id=235

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