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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: Nietzsche said, “Convictions are more dangerous enemies of the truth than lies”
    Throughout the ages there have been periods of dramatic scientific discovery and rapid advancements of technologies. In many of these instances, in order for the changes to take place, a complete paradigm shift was necessary to explain the new ideas.

    The keepers of the “truth” in any such transformational period used derision, slander, misdirection, and sometimes outright falsehoods to deride those thinkers emulating the new way of thinking. Many times the “new thinker’s” discoveries were not completely accepted or proven to be true until many years later, often after the “new thinker” was deceased.

    By grouping Sheldrake in this category I will likely be accused of fallacy by association however, according to at least one “scientific” website*, there are several criteria that will flush out the charlatans;
    • Consider the reliability of those making the claim. Could they be biased or have an agenda?
    • If possible, ask to see the supporting evidence for their conclusions. Is the claim based on only one or two studies? Or none at all?
    • Do an online check of any studies that are cited. Have they been through a peer-review process? Were they published in legitimate scientific journals?
    • Check online to find out whether there are systematic reviews of their claims or similar claims.
    I postulate that Sheldrake’s work meets all of the criteria listed, therefore, my case that he is a victim of the so called Galileo Gambit is shown to be true. Get your towel out of the closet, Jimmy.

    • Comment deleted

      • Mar 30 2013: Lol. I'd like to have a beer with you sometime.We may not agree, but you make me laugh. That's a good thing. Take care bro.

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