TED Conversations

  • TED
  • New York, NY
  • United States


This conversation is closed.

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

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Mar 23 2013: What can TEDx organizers do if TED tries to take control over what they can show and promote at their own events? Can the Whitechapel TEDx or Hollywood TEDx defy TED, and show the videos they want to show from their own events and at their own events?

    The Hollywood TEDx had wanted to show the Sheldrake and Hancock videos at the event. Can TED stop them? There are enough copies on the internet right now that it wouldn't be so difficult to show a feed from one of many pages now featuring those videos.

    I'd like to see the TEDx events go rogue if TED continues to suppress free speech and free discussion.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Mar 23 2013: "Keep TED BS free"

        That would require deleting all of your comments.
    • thumb
      Mar 24 2013: I think all we can do is try to present good arguments and evidence for including such talks. TED has the right to host whomever it wants. It has no legal responsibility to include any given idea or speaker. But does it have a moral obligation? What is clear is that TED has become such a huge voice for (often) progressive knowledge, that its policy decisions now have a global impact on the way people everywhere think. This comes with a great deal of responsibility. This then raises the issue of those interest groups behind the scenes who do not want certain kinds of information made public. Coyne, Meyer and the skeptics are an ideologically driven group with a very narrow and distorted understanding of certain realms of inquiry - and in this case this knowledge threatens the foundations, and the founding values, of their ideology. These people are typically intolerant, narrow minded and emotionally aggressive in regard to the subject matter at hand. They do not - and should not - have the right to indirectly control what others think and feel. This is not a small side discussion on a specific debate within a field of science. The issues that Sheldrake raises are foundational. They are absolutely critical to the future of science and to human futures in general. Coyne, Meyer and co. think this is why the talk should be removed. I think it is the very reason why it must stay.
    • thumb
      Mar 24 2013: Well, Sandy, it's pretty easy to imagine a different organization than McTED's.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.