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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 25 2013: I have a question that I certainly hope will be intelligently addressed by some member of the TED staff or someone capable of speaking in their defense.

    In light of this entire controversy, and purely by comparison only:



    It currently has nearly 1.3 million views on Youtube.

    I mean honestly. How does one define an "idea", and more specifically, what are the subjective parameters which determine its eligibility for being "worth spreading"?

    Elizabeth Gilbert's talk is by far one of the most moving and persuasive arguments I've ever heard. The veracity and substance of her virtual sermon dances so precariously on the line of religion, it is no wonder the video is as popular as it is. Spiritually compelling, through and through. But most importantly, it is merely an idea, worth entertaining. The compilation of abstract notions into a single, well-rehearsed monologue tailored to the listenership of an intelligent audience.

    I do not understand how Sheldrake's talk is anything different.
    • Mar 25 2013: first of all gilbert is not saying anything about science, she is not purporting to refute science, educate about science, outline a position in philosophy of science etc....

      she is speaking as an artist, a writer.

      that said i can't stand that talk or its popularity. it is kitschy superstitious cornball nonsense.
      • Mar 26 2013: Hmmmm... Kind of like Graham Hancock.
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        Mar 26 2013: It is my understanding that Sheldrake as a scientist advocates the scientific method. He in fact advocates the unmitigated, unbiased use of the method against all established orthodoxies. Which is the entire point. He mentions this quite emphatically.

        If the backlash against his IDEAS isn't evidence that such dogmas actually exist, I don't know what is.

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