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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 30 2013: Sheldrake claimed in his talk (www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEo2hChKeMs&t=9m21s) that "there is already evidence" that rats learn a trick faster if other rats have learned it. Some people in this thread called this evidence into question, and some assumed that the evidence must not exist.

    Sheldrake has now posted the evidence on his Tumblr: http://sciencesetfree.tumblr.com/post/45669879746/rat-learning-and-morphic-resonance

    Feel free to inspect the evidence and respond in any of the following ways:
    A) This proves what I knew all along! Sheldrake is a genius!
    B) Bullshit! This isn't even worth looking at. There must have been methodological flaws. Don't ask me what they are - you don't expect me to take this seriously, do you?!
    C) Hmmm, this is interesting. I wonder how we might interpret this evidence?
    • Mar 30 2013: If I am not mistaken, he doesn't actually call it "evidence" in the book excerpt you linked to, but rather "experimental support". It is written in a very cautious and considerate style, worthy a true scientist, I like it.Other explanations are still possible and he is calling for further detailed investigation. Maybe he is refering to the experiments with crystals in the talk as evidence?

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