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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 26 2013: This format that TED has created for discussing this issue is a real head scratcher. Did we really need two weeks of debate on this subject?

    Shouldn't the science board have been part of these discussions? Maybe float some objections out our way so that they can see how they're received? Maybe put some other minds to work on whether these are reasonable or not?

    The way this is set up, we all put in all sorts of comments over an extended period of time and then when it's all done the science board gets the last word. If they cave in and allow the videos back up, then it's all good.

    But what if they come up with a new set of objections and we don't like them? Then what? We haven't had a chance to see them beforehand or discuss them, so they'll be coming out of the blue. We're right back where we started. There are a lot of people covering this. I've tried to make a list of them on one of my blog posts, but it's way outdated by now: (I have 24 listed at the bottom of the post.)

    As Sheldrake pointed out, he has nothing to argue about because the Science board hasn't weighed in.

    It's not like everyone is just going to pack up and go home. No, the fight will continue and a lot of people will still be unhappy with TED.

    This is screwy. This is, of course, crossposted to the Hancock thread.

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