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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: Lime Crime and other skeptics, may I suggest to look at the available data.

    Published scientist Simon Thorpe looks at the data available in this video:
    • Comment deleted

      • Mar 23 2013: Scientists waste their time on things, if they're good scientists, because that's the scientific method, and they're going where the evidence leads . Good scientists don't close their eyes simply because the TRUTH(TM) has been revealed to them a priori. You might not like that, but that's how things are.
      • Mar 23 2013: Lime Crime, it's very clear now where you stand. Obviously no interest in studying paranormal phenomena scientifically or looking at the evidence. Your decision. Sounds very much like sticking to a dogma.

        But respect that others are much interested and looking into the yet unexplained. Your attempt to ridicule and label others, including respected scientist, speaks for itself. Same for your choice of language.
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        Mar 24 2013: "At the time of writing, there are three claims in the ESP field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study: (1) that by thought alone humans can (barely) affect random number generators in computers; (2) that people under mild sensory deprivation can receive thoughts or images "projected" at them; and (3) that young children sometimes report the details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation"

        Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, Random House, 1995, p. 302.
        • Mar 24 2013: Ha ha good job Sandy, use their own sources against them :p
        • Mar 24 2013: I was going to post that. The thing that's quite funny about Sagan's quote is that in listing the three things in parapsychology that are still worth studying he is pretty much listing the whole of parapsychology. That is, PK, telepathy and survival of consciousness in some form. The only one he missed out was precognition, but given the recent work on that he would no doubt have agreed it too should be thoroughly investigated. It's unfortunate that while most skeptic's laud Sagan they are unwilling to adopt his brand of inquisitive skepticism and have slipped instead into dogmatic denialism.
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        Mar 24 2013: Sorry Steve, I beat you to it! :)

        As I mentioned to Oliver, I don't think Lime Crime actually read the book.

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