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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: I would like to open the debate to a more abstract level...

    The question is :

    What are the demarcation criteria of "Ideas Worth Spreading"?

    This is a question that can be opened to debate. But it can't be decided by majority.
    I do think TED can open this for debate, but always has the right (and duty) to set the criteria (explicitly or implicitly)

    If I'm not mistaken the rules for TEDx events are still:
    * No religion promotion
    * No political party promotion
    * No Stage selling (so no business promotion or self promotion)

    * No Pseudo-science (This one is currently under debate, and was untill a few months ago less pronounced)

    I think these are good guidelines. And If you have better demarcation criteria: please curate your own video channel on youtube and try and see how you are recieved.

    TED tries to maintain high quality and a low level of BS... for which I'm thankfull.
    some TEDx Organizers do make errors due to lack of scientific knowledge or scepticism.
    And maybe some people who used to sell BS have become good scientists that pose alternative hypothises along the same rules any other scientist ought to follow (observation, experiment,... )

    So please continue the debate,
    but know that the earth is round and that no (democratic or other) opinion can change that fact.
    • Mar 26 2013: It's a bit disingenuous to pull out the old "it's my ball" argument when one has opened up a blog for supposed free discussion, and then another blog when that one first one failed to offer support, and then a third when the second failed to offer support. If TED wants to remove the videos that is TED's choice - as many here have already noted on many occasions. If, on the other hand, TED wants to hear what people have to say then it is no answer to tell them to shut up unless they agree with TED. Thus, let TED simply close this blog now and say no more about it, or let them delete any comments (almost all) not supportive of their stance.

      To deal with one of your specific points. We don't agree it's pseudoscience. We think it's more philosophy, or even sociology, of science. We don't think Sheldrake was making many scientific claims, and those he did make were more tentative suggestions supported, as it turns out, by peer-reviewed literature. In the main, we take him to have been making claims about the manner in which science is conducted. Thus we reject your claim of pseudoscience as a function of your lack of knowledge about the true nature of the talk.

      Just out of interest, when you said the earth was round did you consider its magnetic field?
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        Mar 27 2013: I think the free discussion has other purposes than letting us decide... I think it's more likely to have a debate here around the worldviews we hold that seem to conflict.

        I don't mind people telling a story. If you do, don't say it's true... it's a story and truth value of a story is irrelevant.
        I think that each truth-claim that cannot be backed by facts can be considered unscientific.
        If you wish to talk about the philosophy of science, then you better understand something about information theory and inductive reasoning. There is something very undemocratic about that.

        It does not matter that we disagree or agree. One can disagree with the roundness of earth all you want, it will not change reality.

        For the earth is round:
        • Mar 27 2013: I never said the discussion was about letting us decide. On the contrary, I said it was intended to generate support for the already decided decision, and that another one was started when the first failed to do that, and then a third when the second likewise failed to do it.

          Re information theory, I fail to see it's relevance to a discussion of the historical circumstances which resulted in certain philosophical views becoming associated with science. And I would put that failure down to it having no relevance.

          Re the earth's magnetic field, I'm sorry you don't agree it exists, but it kinda does. If you want sources I will happy to provide them.

          Re Asimov, a good example of the fallacious reasoning Sheldrake is concerned about. I'm always surprised when people cite that essay because many of it's main points are wild speculation presented as fact and many others are patent nonsense. Not only that, it's published in the magazine of a well known pseudoscientific organisation which is committed a priori to the falsity of certain empirical propositions. I trust I don't need to explain to you why such views are anti-science and thus are, when presented as science, pseudoscience.
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      Mar 26 2013: Christophe Cop: I generally like what you penned, and appreciate it. I also find from long experience that many otherwise reputable, good scientists unknowingly treat their trade like their religion. I see paradigms and facts changing beneath everyone's feet and sometimes we notice and sometimes not. From experience I believe that whether or not facts support them, at the end of each day that people believe whatever makes them feel most comfortable, whoever they are, even the most reputable scientists. As soon as TED removes talks from people like those with Billy Graham's message from its regular sites, I'd see TED as being more objective.
    • Mar 26 2013: When you speak of a demarcation line for ideas worth spreading, the question immediately comes up: who decides? And the second question is: Are they fair?

      We don't know who decided. We do know that their initial reasons were NOT fair. TED has acknowledged this by rebooting the debate, so this is hopefully not a point of contention. Whoever did decide, very definitely was biased against both videos. That was fairly obvious from the very poorly thought out criticisms that bore little resemblance to the videos themselves.

      Are the same people who were initially not fair, going to be the decision makers the second go around? They have not earned our trust by demonstrating fairness, so whatever demarcation line TED has is irrelevant to the discussion because it comes from people who are blatantly biased against the presenters.

      Earn the trust first, and the rest will follow.
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        Mar 27 2013: TED decides in this case, you can decide on your platform.

        that said:
        - "who" decides leads to a logical fallacy that "who" is arbitrary, and that any person's decision might be considered as good as another.
        Rather ask yourself: Why has it been decided?
        - Fairness does not need to be a criteria for decision making (why should it be?) , furthermore: fair towards which dimensions?

        This debate is probably re-opened, because of all the people reacting so hard... Maybe this indicates we are onto something here... (and my analysis is that this has everything to with belief systems and our fundamental problems we run into when we try to be reasonable... it is very difficult fur a homo sapiens to think without cognitive biases and even then we always run into the problem of incomplete information)
        • Mar 27 2013: What is the LOGICAL fallacy you refer to? Perhaps you could explain.
        • Mar 27 2013: The debate reopened because the reasoning of the mysterious scientific board was awful and transparently biased. Those reasons were rather easily shot down by the presenters. That's what got people upset. You could ask them.

          Fairness is important in order to earn trust. You are, after all, asking people to trust TED's judgment in this matter are you not?

          Fairness is one step toward overcoming cognitive bias as well. A person attempting fairness is trying to understand both sides of an argument. A person who understands both sides of an argument is generally considered more trustworthy.
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        Mar 27 2013: steve: I will try to explain

        might be one I refer to (or something similar)

        What I mean to say is:
        the question "who decides" is not the question. The person making the decision does it according to some explicit or implicit criteria. I assume based on his knowledge (and probably intuition)
        Even though a person can have credibility or not, it is not because of credibility that a judgement is right (or wrong).

        An(other) error you (might) make by raising the question, is assuming that the question has any relevance to the problem or debate. There is no relevance, because if we know who decides, one could start to go ad hominem or one could fall into the fallacy of authority.

        The only thing that (imo) seems worthwhile to discuss is the reasons why talks like these are NOT worth spreading.

        [Edit: Steve: Your arguments don't handle the issue, you might try to show that my English is not my mother tongue. You are seriously failing Grice prnciples and not willing to understand (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_principle) Other than that: my master degrees are Statistics and neurobehavioral science, that includes philosophy of science, probability theory, cybernetics, logic, theory of mind,... but let's assume it's just veneer. It does not matter which fallacy or how you name it: it remains a fallacy, and you can't deny that, whatever logic or pseudologic you wish to adopt. ]
        • Mar 27 2013: It might have been this fallacy or it might have been that one or it might have been none at all. Does it really matter? Pseudologic is what that's called. Throwing out accusations of logical fallacies without the faintest idea what the words mean, and trying to give one's arguments a veneer of respectability by co-opting the jargon of academic disciplines without any actual knowledge of those disciplines.
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      Mar 26 2013: * No Stage selling (so no business promotion or self promotion)
      * No Pseudo-science (This one is currently under debate, and was untill a few months ago less pronounced)

      Well, from the point of view of this observer EVERY SINGLE PRESENTER is doing "stage selling" by the business of "self-promotion." This so-called "criteria" is ludicrous. All it really says is "don't openly state the price."

      The question of no "pseudo-science" is a bogus criteria because it is so vague. It is like saying "no ugly speakers." Totally subjective. Sheldrake's talk is a direct assault on pseudo-science and I believe that is why the real pseudo-scientists used that label against him just to discredit him without any facts behind them.
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        Mar 27 2013: * As for stage selling: I guess you can give it that interpretation...

        * I don't want to go into semantics, but pseudo-science is not vague.
        Each truth claim that is counter-factual or unobserved can be considered unscientific. If you then try to package it and sell that claim as if it were backed by observation (experiments, measurements) and logically valid, you are being pseudo-scientific.
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      Mar 26 2013: Metaphor # 1:

      Let’s pretend the TED organization happened to be around in the 16th-century. Their mission was to organize “Agoras” all over Europe. Let’s say Nicolas Copernicus, Johannes Keppler, or Galileo Galilei happened to give a TEDx talk on heliocentrism. Based on the recent events, is it reasonable for us to assume that no matter how forward-thinking and revolutionary the idea of the sun being the centre of our solar system might be, TED curators would have stopped printing transcripts of the talk and spreading it with the public as soon as they realized the potential consequences of being affiliated with such a controversial subject?

      Fearing the judgement of mainstream scientific minds and the masses of the time, would TED curators maybe move on to dismiss the idea as “pseudo-science” and “pseudo-astronomy”? Would they maybe leave one single record of the idea tucked away somewhere on their vast library, so as to protect themselves from the accusation of censorship by the minority of supporters of a heliocentric view of the world? What ya think?

      In other words, YES, Christophe, TODAY we know the Earth is round THANKS to scientists who were BRAVE enough to CHALLENGE the scientific paradigms of their time, NOT thanks to mainstream scientists who held on to their "scientific orthodox views of the world" as strongly as Christians hold on to their religious views of the world.
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        Mar 26 2013: the right metaphor goes as this.

        the priests of 1600 reincarnate today. they give a presentation about "four centuries of heliocentric lies". they advocate the geocentric view, as it feels better, and they also support it some rag-tag science-lookalike reasoning and so called experiments. they are invited, for some crazy reason, an astronomy convention. the organizers, after hearing the proposals, wash their hands, and try to hide the shame. and then the priests cry oppression and mobilize their religious army.

        isn't it like that all the time? creationists also cry oppression and discrimination. they just want to teach the "controversy", and they get bashing for it. poor guys. this trick is older than dirt. pose yourself the victim of aggression, and reap the empathy.

        sorry, i'm not buying. sheldrake is a liar, that's what he is, nothing more. liars do not get sympathy, empathy or support from me.
        • Mar 26 2013: Creationists, the Catholic church, priests etc etc. Your hatred for religion is, I think, clouding your judgement in this case, and is leading you into all sorts of over the top claims. It's hard to see what else could have prompted such anger - surely not the mere suggestion that some assumptions of science should be subjected to the same dispassionate scrutiny that is, we are informed, the hallmark of science.
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          Mar 26 2013: Have you read every book by Sheldrake? Likely not. So, tell me Mr. Pinter, how can you believe with such conviction that he's a LIAR? Not even that he's simply wrong but that he's actually "lying" - in other words, you think that he's fully aware that he's wrong, but for some reason, profits you probably think, he's willing to stand in front of a TED audience and just spit outrageous lies.

          In case you haven't noticed, one of the main points we're arguing here is that most of you who agree with TED haven't taken the time to actually rigorously study the ideas discussed by Sheldrake, or Hancock, but you hold on to your convictions so strongly, as if it was a religion.

          If you accuse him of lying, then please elaborate a decent, carefully-researched, reasonable response to every single one of his rebuttals here: http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/14/open-for-discussion-graham-hancock-and-rupert-sheldrake/

          If you don't, then by calling him a liar you're actually being the "religious army" yourself, in case you didn't notice.
        • Mar 27 2013: Exactly right, kriztian - it is amazing how the irony is so lost on those trying to paint sheldrake as a kind of gallileo! He's on the wrong side of history and science.
        • Mar 27 2013: Here's the correct metaphor: for one reason or another, and with no involvement of the men themselves, two men are invited to give talks at a conference, which they do and the talks go down well both at the conference and online. Some people complain, and the overarching organisation removes the talks, and then produces a list of complaints which turn out to be wildly false and which include a number of completely uncalled for personal slurs. And then, after admitting the allegations they made up were false, the organisation sets up a series of blogs where people who are affiliated with the organisation throw various other false/libelous statements at the gentlemen in question and generally abuse anyone who disagrees with any aspect of the organisation's handling of the matter. The great advantage to this metaphor being it is not metaphorical.
        • Mar 27 2013: A TED translator calling Sheldrake publicly a liar. Oh dear, what level has this debate reached?

          The open letter by the TEDx organizers sounded much more educated to me.
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        Mar 26 2013: easy. a person is a liar if he lies. i don't need to read all of his work. a person that robs the bank is a bank robber. it does not matter if he does not rob a bank on most days. i don't need to know his life, work, ambitions and all. he is just a bank robber. if you don't want to be referred to as a bank robber, you don't rob banks.

        in the talk we are discussing here, sheldrake started with ten dogmas allegedly central to the scientific thought. zero out of the ten are statements central to scientific thought. many of them are not even held by science at all. many of them makes no sense as far as i'm concerned. i don't need to read any further. this is already terrible.
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          Mar 26 2013: Key phrase here being "as far as I'm concerned". Well, as far as I'm concerned, you're not the know-it-all of science. And as far as I'm concerned, a debate is NEVER terrible. But anyway, thanks for your opinion. :)
        • Mar 27 2013: @ Krisztián Pintér, So are YOU a mind-reader now?! You somehow know, not only that Sheldrake is incorrect, but that he's being deliberately incorrect? You have somehow intuited his motivations? Really?! And yet, you disregard psi research... Fascinating. And here I was thinking that perhaps you'd be a perfect candidate for studies into telepathy.
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        Mar 26 2013: it is just a common phrase. i know those don't make sense. but even if they do, it is still just a partial recovery, since there are those that not central and not held by science. bank robber.
        • Mar 26 2013: You seem unfamiliar with some basic concepts. A lie involves deliberate falsehoods, and while unintentional falsehoods are commonplace and therefore quite possible, unintentional bank robberies are non-existent. Thus the analogy misses a key step which you need to show to support your allegations.

          It's also strange that you suggest many of the dogmas don't make sense (although I note you don't specify which), when the majority who have complained about Sheldrake have suggested that these dogmas are actually the result of centuries of evidence piling up. Again, then, we see the 'any old thing' nature of the complaints.
      • Comment deleted

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          Mar 27 2013: It's called metaphor. And I'm not saying Sheldrake is like Galileo. I don't know enough about what he discussed to make such a claim (though I am certainly claiming Hancock is like Galileo). But I think the analogy is still useful here as it's about a scientist challenging the mainstream scientific paradigm of his time and being condemned for it.
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        Mar 27 2013: I think Krisztian made the bulk of the argument already.

        The metaphor does not hold because (among other reasons):
        - What is scientific and what is not scientific is NOT arbitrary! and it is not democratic either.

        At the time, given the knowledge (the observations), Newton and Kepler actually made good inferences. So their idea of Heliocentrism would have been worth spreading.
        Nowadays, we could invite them for historical reasons, but I would not put someone on stage that is defending Heliocentrism.
        heliocentrism has been replaced by better theories (relativity theory for example), as we know the sun is not the center of the universe).

        I would consider putting on stage some quantum-fysicist who does research at cern (as a matter of fact I did http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irWoA_pEbQk) to see which ideas that are currently in the running as possibility to explain the universe...

        These people use the same idea as Kepler and Darwin: they observe and use the observations to falsify their ideas, to wonder how it might work.
        But most importantly: they will abandon their ideas for new ones in the light of new information.
        • Mar 27 2013: Explain the universe - lol. Which part? The programme Cheers, the rules of baseball, my dreams, or the behaviour of particles which may be abstractions? Talk about pseudoscience!
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        Mar 27 2013: Steve:
        If I refer to the universe, I do mean the one that is described from a few seconds after what we call big bang up until this moment (ans expected future), with all matter in it.
        But it can be defined broader if you wish.
        So: All of it.

        If you think that such is pseudoscience, please continue to do so and refrain from any further comments, asI don't think you want to understand what I wrote.
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          Mar 27 2013: So Christophe, since you're very well-versed in orthodox scientific views and theories, would you care to elaborate what "good" science today thinks regarding what was going on BEFORE those few seconds after the big bang?
        • Mar 27 2013: What I'm saying is that you work from the assumption (for it is nothing else) that the rules of baseball, or the prgramme Cheers (which are surely parts of the universe), are to be explained by physicists. Start with Cliff - he's a postman - what's the physics of being a postman? Is postmanness a physical property of Cliff? How much does it weigh? And remember, he's not even really a postman at all - he's an actor - how do you suppose physics will capture this distinction? Or are these not really part of the universe? I await your equations.
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        Mar 27 2013: Camila

        Haha, Well, according to my humble interpretation of the facts presented to me by scientists that claim to have done the proper research and not lied about it together just to deceive me...

        What is north of the north-pole?
        We assume that (space-)time did not exist before what we call the big bang.
        We are not sure the big bang actually happened, we can only see up to a few seconds after it happened.
        A good scientist first acknowledges this ignorance and admits he needs to be agnostic about it.
        but then he starts to fantasize what could have happened and how and what might or might not and what if,.... And starts to formulate ideas and debate amongst friends and fellow thinkers,...
        Up until a point where the possibility of a certain idea seems worth looking into, or makes some predictions that can be tested.
        then he runs around in his lab-coat (because we love a good laugh and a stereotype anyway), and tries to get money form society to build some crazy big machine (like CERN) in order to investigate this new idea.
        And then he hopes he was wrong so he can try and find new ideas that might be less wrong
        • Mar 28 2013: A very astonishing post that would seem to vindicate Sheldrake.
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          Mar 28 2013: Okay, so what you're saying here is that, unlike "good scientists", Sheldrake:

          - DOES NOT acknowledges his ignorance
          - DOES NOT fantasize about what could have happened and how and what might or might not
          - DOES NOT formulate ideas and debate amongst friends and fellow thinkers
          - DOES NOT try to get money form society to investigate his ideas
          - DOES NOT hope he was wrong so he can try and find new ideas that might be less wrong

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        Mar 28 2013: "what I'm saying is that you work from the assumption (for it is nothing else) that the rules of baseball, or the prgramme Cheers (which are surely parts of the universe), are to be explained by physicists."

        Dear Steve....
        If you understand chaos theory, you should know that you can't even predict the weather more than 10 days even though the system might be completely deterministic ànd the equations known.

        So asking for such equations is folly
        • Mar 28 2013: I would say that knowing no such equations can ever be give, while believing absolutely that they are there and that they govern everything, is an act of faith. The materialist reductionist mechanistic faith, to be precise. A faith which Sheldrake is, rightly imo, critiquing in his talk.
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        Mar 28 2013: Camelia:

        No (incorrect), I did not say that... I don't understand why you think that I would imply that, or how it would logically follow from what I have said.

        1) He does not acknowledge that most scientists think differently than what he talks about... (but unknown unknowns are hard to in-calculate of course)
        2 ) He does fantasize
        3) He debates and formulates ideas
        4) He tries to get funding
        5) He is not trying to falsify his ideas, and is very biased towards his own research findings compared to those of others.

        Is this sufficient? I don't really see how your question added to the debate, or how my answer could clarify something... It might just cause more opportunities to misunderstandings.

        (I think each subsequent post that I will do on this topic will be of diminishing returns)
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      Mar 26 2013: Rupert Sheldrake is a respected scientist - he may study subjects that less curious or less brave scientists would shy away from, but that does not make him less of a scientist. His science is not pseudo-science. His is good science on fringe subjects and there is nothing wrong with that in my opinion.

      TED has slipped up in its own "group think" - I hope they think again.

      The response in support of these two speakers only shows how much TEDsters care about TED and free speech. It's good that TED gets "kicked in the ass" by its members when it slips up. It's democratic and it's good for the soul! Ha ha
    • Mar 26 2013: Hi Christophe. Based on your comment I'm assuming you wish Sheldrake hadn't been invited to speak and you consider him a "pseudoscientist"- is this correct? Can you tell me on what basis you consider Sheldrake to be a "pseudoscientist"? Please be specific, not vague. Also, have you bothered to read Sheldrake's response to the charges made against him by the TED Scientific Board? You can read them at the link below. Let me know what you think. Thanks!
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        Mar 27 2013: Dear Joe, (you make a lot of assumptions!)
        I would not invite Sheldrake, although I might consider some other people talk about the topic he brought forth.
        Do I consider him a pseudoscientist? I don't know. I do think he believes in things that are quite unlikely. (No observation of a morphogenetic field has thus been done, and the explatory model of his theory does not produce clear hypothesis that are testable against other hypothesis). I dare to assume that he does not understand the implications of inductive reasoning (as decribed by E.T. Jayness in his book "probability theory, the logic of science).

        What I think is that Sheldrake ignores a lot of knowledge about reality and does not understand Occam's Razor sufficiently in order to update his belief system for one that has a higher plausibility.

        It is good for any scientist to challenge hypothesis (that's how science advances), through good experiments and considering the logical implications of new and old theories in order to generate more tests that can answer new questions (&c &c).

        I read your link. please read http://bayes.wustl.edu/etj/prob/book.pdf (just Chapter one)
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        Mar 27 2013: Sheldrake says:
        "But it’s equally possible that the relationship – and nothing in neuroscience rules it out – that the relationship is more like the relationship of the TV signal to the TV set and in that case when the TV set is broken of course the TV signal continues and this is the paradigm of all spiritual traditions – that we are immortal souls, temporarily incarnated in these physical forms to learn and to grow and to develop."

        It is not equally possible... Because then you need a signal. There is no evidence that there is such a signal. From a thermodynamical and information-theoretical point of view, all information needs an information carrier (ergo a material substrate that has more than one state). There is even a minimal energy-signal necessary (that can be calculated), and that signal should be stronger than our current measurement tools are capable off.
        We should be able to manipulate the signal...
        As long as Sheldrake cannot prove any of the above, it is not equally valid.

        The idea of an immortal soul stays void of any observation supporting the claim.

        I find it hard to believe that Sheldrake did not consider this, or never heard about this argument before. If he did not, he should understand that his theory becomes unvalid, if he did, then he should argue why he should not follow the rules laid out by scientific reasoning or admit he is unscientific.
        • Mar 27 2013: You're on the wrong page. That was Hancock.
    • Mar 26 2013: Whatever the guidelines would be, Sheldrake and Hancock should pass them. Their arguments can and should be debated, but they are not producing "BS". I mean, it's not that they are crazies, frauds or stupid people.
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      Mar 27 2013: Well said, Christophe. May I suggest, question you raise - of criteria to define 'worth spreading - is 'basic' and fundamental - of the essence. Not so much 'abstract' as brass tacks, ground floor.

      I'd like to suggest, following your boldly-going inquiry: categorically, core problem I'm seeing boils down to ideology -- distinct from science and philosophy. no matter how it tries to gussy itself up, pass itself off in scientific / philosophical contexts of interest.

      I hardly see anybody posting here, who is speaking to that, as you are. I feel you are on the right track to possible clarification, where it seems needed. Whether your cue is taken, by whom, is another question I'm sure.

      I just posted (above) my 'lone voice in wilderness' perspective on this, hope its of interest. I doubt it can engage partisan ideological interest. I doubt there's a good forward path across ideological lines, but I think you're pointing in sound directions. I'd challenge others posting off here to respond (not react) to what you're saying - without digression or motions to change the subject.
    • Mar 27 2013: Christophe Cop wrote: "What are the demarcation criteria of "Ideas Worth Spreading"?"

      I don't think this is the right question, or the right criteria. I could quite easily find two speakers, (a) one discussing the merits of higher taxes (b) the other the merits of lower taxes. Although you could not necessarily draw the conclusion that one talk is worth spreading (because they can't both be right), I'd be interested to hear both points of view.

      There are many other examples we could dream up, which clearly touch on science, but are not science, eg. (a) The influence of art on science (b) what is pseudoscience (c) What can we learn from bad science, (d) Are morphic fields, dark matter, multiverses, and string theory, testable? (e) Does consensus out-weight reason.
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        Mar 27 2013: true, and good remark I must say.

        In the case of taxes, there is still debate about what is the better (as we don't know how the whole tax thing works exactly, probably non-linear I guess), and none of the theories are considered as falsified or blatantly wrong.

        How would you formulate the question? or how would the question be better?

        When giving a talk that does truth claims, I truly hope that these claims are plausible (let's say for example: given our knowledge, the claim needs to be at least 1% likely where 100% the total probability of all the hypothesis ).
        • Mar 27 2013: On the About TED page, it has the strapline: "Our mission: Spreading ideas". This is good, and neutral. This is quite difference to the judgemental tag: "Ideas worth spreading", which can't possibly please all the people all of the time.

          The criteria is that a local TEDx (not a single individual) has decided that they want to hear someone talk, not because we pre-suppose the "truth" of various ideas.

          I actually don't mind hearing talks that may contain inaccuracies provocative ideas, or even outrageously wrong ideas, because rationale people will step in and either correct them, or ensure that talker clarifies them. This is how we all improve our critical thinking.
    • Mar 28 2013: Christophe,

      good question.

      as for "pseudoscience" i've noticed in this thread that this term is being thrown around liberally without a clear definition. but for the most part, pseudoscience is often used as *ad hominem* and to marginalize scientific work on the *fringes*. to illustrate my point, allow me to provide a more specific example.

      in your opinion, how would you classify Dr. Michael Persinger's research on psi? see this lecture:

      "Michael Persinger on No More Secrets" ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l6VPpDublg

      note that Persinger is a scientist with impeccable credentials. he has published his works on science journals indexed by PubMed. below are a couple of his published research:

      "Remote viewing with the artist Ingo Swann: neuropsychological profile, electroencephalographic correlates, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and possible mechanisms."
      ~ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12081299

      "Possible disruption of remote viewing by complex weak magnetic fields around the stimulus site and the possibility of accessing real phase space: a pilot study"
      ~ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12509207

      Dr. Persinger works on fringe science (e.g. The God Helmet, remote-viewing, psychedelics, etc.) the Skeptic community praised him when he claimed that OBEs, religious and mystical experiences can be triggered by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation of the brain. but then the same Skeptic community kept their distance from Persinger when he claimed to demonstrate in his experiments that psi is indeed real. in fact, he's beyond that debate already. he's moved on to finding out the *mechanism* for psi -- his hypothesis is *geomagnetic field*. see the lecture i linked to above.

      based on TED's treatment of Sheldrake and Hancock, i seriously doubt that Persinger will be invited to TED or TEDx even if his ideas are interesting and, IMHO, worth spreading.
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        Mar 28 2013: Freud did great research on Aphasia, while he later developed theories that can now safely be dismissed.
        Same goes for other scientists in the past.

        What Persinger is telling in your link are quite hard claims. I don't agree with what he says and he should get some real data to support his claims of entanglement.
        he can challenge the skeptics and accept the Randy million,
        Hmm.... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Persinger tells me that he had attention from sceptics, but that it later proved to be unreproducable...
        Skeptics are curious when some good research shows surprising results, so will divert attention to it. They then want to improve the data and confirm the claims... If that does not happen, the distance will increase again.

        So I would suggest not to invite him.
        • Mar 30 2013: Christophe,

          Persinger *is* a profilic scientist (look him up on PubMed). he doesn't need validation from non-scientist skeptics. he supports his hypothesis with experimental data and then he publishes them in scientific journals. just because some other scientists weren't able to reproduce his God Helment experiments doesn't mean that Persinger can easily be dismissed. in fact, he had a rebuttal on that issue: see http://www.innerworlds.50megs.com/The_God_Helmet_Debate.htm

          also, by suggesting that Persinger has to challenge skeptics and accept the JREF $1M prize is another case in point why Steve Volk's critique of the $1M prize is spot on. the $1M is not science. it's a joke.

          The Joke of the James Randi Challenge (In Defense of Sheldrake) ~ http://stevevolk.com/archives/1040

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