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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 23 2013: Ok, I've been diligently reading through these posts and yes, I do get the feeling that TED will ultimately do nothing about reinstating these talks, apologizing or ratifying their rules on what makes the cut for a TED Talk. This forum of comments is just a smoke screen to let us vent, ultimately they will not respond and when the time runs out of this comment thread it will be done.

    How many of you are willing to walk away from TED when all is said and done? How many of you are willing to look for another internet venue that better represents the reality of exploring science topics in an open and honest way - leaving the decision on what to believe in the hands of the viewers and not decided for us by an "Anonymous panel"? Let's discuss other venues that we can turn into a newer, better TED. Or will they censor my comment? Interesting thought....

    Always remember.... It is a Mysterious Universe.....After all
    • Mar 23 2013: Doug,

      Any good suggestions? I'm not aware of any other sites like TED.
      • Mar 23 2013: Not sure. A quick google search brings me to this http://julliengordon.com/top-9-websites-like-ted but I haven't checked any of them out yet.
      • Mar 23 2013: There aren't any really good organisations who bring people together to give talks in the way TED does, but there are many, many very good talks scattered across the internet which were recorded / made in a variety of contexts.
        What we need is not a centrally structured platform like TED as that requires funding, which entails agenda, stakeholder influence on content.
        What we need is a place to sort, categorise, and QA all of the tens of thousands of talks that are up on youtube, and present them one place where the tools exist for conversation / debate about them.
        We need a method for the community to curate the work, perhaps through some kind of representative democratic process.
    • Mar 23 2013: I think a better question to ask is: Who here is willing to take this debacle as a wake-up call to begin making, working on, and contributing to a TED alternative? Not just find a replacement, but to become it.
    • Mar 23 2013: I will not walk away, but I will tend to listen to TED talks with a very different ear.
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      Mar 24 2013: Doug Little: this week, without prompting or the slightest discussion from me, someone with the smarts and chops to start an anti-TED brought it up to me. It's in the wind... like the wind's in Lime's comments and cranium.

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