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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: We go where the evidence leads. That's science for you.
    • Mar 23 2013: Lime Crime, how do you know they're not? Have you done any research into it to prove it one way or the other?

      I think it's a reach to say that Sheldrake thinks dogs are psychic. He did an experiment. He got a somewhat positive result. I don't think he's every said, "dogs are psychic."
    • Mar 23 2013: Give up Lime Crime.
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        • Mar 23 2013: Actually, the science of 2013 is a lot more compatible with psi than the science of 1800 (where you seem to want to get back to) was. Extra dimensions, the vast majority of the mass and energy in the universe invisible, entanglement, non-locality, relative time - a far cry from the safe, secure billiard-balls-in-collision universe of Newton. Who knows what's lurking out there waiting to be found by those who are bold enough to look.
        • Mar 23 2013: When did accusation of witch-craft stop? Wasn't it also Sheldrake's book that was recommended for burning?
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        Mar 24 2013: Hi Oliver, I couldn't respond to your comment in the thread it was in, but in regards to Sagan, I've read his books. They don't "belong" to the other side. I'm not afraid to read different opinions on various topics before making up my own mind. But lime crime probably hasn't read Sagan's books. He has just let someone else tell him what to think about Sagan, just like someone else has told him what to think about Sheldrake.

        It's quite apparent that the ones calling for censorship either don't want to think for themselves or don't want us to think for ourselves.

        Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the Sagan quote so much. :)
    • Mar 23 2013: Sheldrake has not said that, His experiments found that dogs could sometimes seem to sense that their owners were coming home. The experiment is repeatable. One option is a sixth sense. You can come up with your own inferences.
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      Mar 24 2013: Hey, Lime: what are your credentials to judge whether or not someone's a quack? Have you taken some secret scientific training? Did you take a correspondence course in art or writing? Do you have some sort of mild PTSD which inclines you do keep repeating the same vacuous thoughts? Please enlighten us, thanks.

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