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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 27 2013: I'm not sure what Nobel prize winner Brian Josephson has done. I'll email him and ask if you like. He popped in earlier to offer support for Sheldrake.

      Before I do though, is this $100 real or is it like Randi's $1m?
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        Mar 27 2013: because james randi's is not real? tell me more
        • Mar 27 2013: It's a scam. Didn't you know. I saw him do a "debunking" once and his randomization method was to get someone to drawn numbers out a bag - you could almost hear him say "pick a card, any card". You guys will believe anything.
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        • Mar 28 2013: Who knows, i could do you one of them in about 15 minutes. What value would you like it made out to?
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        • Mar 28 2013: I agree with your last word, you certainly have been. Many times. See below for details.
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        • Mar 28 2013: The challenge is a scam. Randi controls every element of it. Anyone could set up such a thing for anything they didn't like. The idea that science progresses through these kinds of challenge is laughable. I mean. look at the way he fiddled the dowsing experiment.
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        • Mar 28 2013: >Well if you read the website you'll find that they don't claim it to be science.<

          And yet hosts of scientists from Richard Dawkins to DeGrasse Tyson all praise Randi for doing a service to science.

          > It's just a test of a claimed ability.<

          'Claimed ability' assessed by no scientific standards? And yet if a scientist's findings are 'debunked' by Randi he is defrocked. Check out Jacques Beneviste's defrocking by Randi when he claimed he may have found evidence in support of Homeopathy. Beneviste was sacked and had his lab closed down. Why? Because Randi 'exposed' him. But if Randi's work is nothing to do with science, then why did that happen?

          Let's get real.
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        • Mar 28 2013: One, maybe two people take up the challenge each year. The process of getting to the preliminary challenge takes from between one and two years.

          Bear in mind that the term "both parties agree" does not imply consensual negotiations. "Take it or leave it" falls under that category. That happens.

          But most of all, the tests are designed by random, self appointed internet skeptics who are completely ignorant of parapsychology protocol, paranoid about cheating practically willing the contestant to lose. They are carried out either by the same people or someone like Wiseman with a long history of dodgy psi studies.

          So the few souls who do go through the gauntlet find themselves in an extremely short, extremely hard, high pressure, high profile test that is poorly designed and in the end, produces meaningless results.
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          Mar 28 2013: I suggest you read this:


          Pay particular attention to the George Vithoulkas ordeal.
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        Mar 28 2013: never mind. i know the randi challenge very well, i know the rules, and i read through half a dozen of cases. it is as real as it gets. and since i know how it works, it is also clear from your "story" that you don't.

        but go on, embarrass yourself some more.
        • Mar 28 2013: I'm sure you do know the Randi challenge well. I'm sure many anti-science people love it. Take some phenomenon, require it to be something more/different than it is, and then say it doesn't come up to your standards. If evolution is true I want you to show a chimpanzee giving birth to a man. Nope, then evolution is false. The idea that this type of challenge has any scientific validity just shows how anti-science many people (eg, you) get when their religion is challenged.
        • Mar 28 2013: I have done quite a bit of research on Randi's challenge.

          I rarely call people out on outright lies, but this is too obvious. You have not read through half a dozen cases because no such account exists. You don't have the documentation for one of the most well known cases, Patricia Putt, for example, even though that is one of the best documented. I know because I have that documentation and I know what it took to get it. The forum for the challenge is not publicly available.

          Of the other cases, the documentation is generally bad. Certainly not good enough to draw any conclusions. I know because I've been researching it.

          Further, even if you they were available, you have to do psi research to know the proper protocols, which are extensive, to know how to put together a good psi experiment.

          Dude, you are all hat and no cattle.
      • Mar 28 2013: did someone just mentioned James Randi and the JREF $1M challenge? oh, please. it's worse than a joke. journalist Steve Volk tore the $1M prize to pieces. and rightly so!

        The Joke of the James Randi Challenge (In Defense of Sheldrake)
        ~ http://stevevolk.com/archives/1040
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          Mar 28 2013: so it is impossible to get tested. wait, there were hundreds of applicants already. also, randi requires demonstration. how is that a critique to the randi foundation that your claim is hard to demonstrate? what kind of thinking is that? it is like saying, it is unfair that delhi is so far from here, and my car eats up too much gas getting there. i want my car to consume less gas if i want to go to delhi. it is delusional. if your claim is hard to test, well, bad luck. but you still has to test it.

          how about this reasoniong? i claim that there is a celestial teapot orbiting the sun, halfway between venus and earth. and i don't care about the costs!!! it is not an excuse! i want it to be either tested, or just accepted without testing. but you can't expect me to pay millions of dollars to prove it!

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