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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: Kant held that autonomy, the ability of people to determine universal law through the faculty of their own reason, is a precursor to human dignity. This insight underpins our concept of human rights and informed the establishment of formal human rights by the UN.

    Is the imposition of factual information, or 'truth', then a denial of dignity? If a person doesn't arrive at a conclusion through autonomous exercise of their own abilities to reason, but has that conclusion imposed upon them through suppression of the individuals prior beliefs and indoctrination of the 'correct' ones, is that not an attack on the individual's dignity?

    I believe that it is, and this is why I resist the monocultural trend of scientism, which seeks to denounce alternatives and establish its self as the one true path. Ultimately whether it is in some sense currently more 'correct' or 'accurate' than it's competitors, materialistic, empirical science, when wielded as a device to destroy other knowledge construction systems and convert their adherents, is an instrument of dehumanisation.
    • Mar 30 2013: "First we should not deride the world of its ambiguity, this is what *good taste* already demands, gentlemen!" Friedrich Nietzsche

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