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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:

http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/19/the-debate-about-rupert-sheldrakes-talk/

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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 31 2013: I tried three times to post a link to an article of Nobel Laureate BJ. And it was deleted???
    • Mar 31 2013: If it was a reply to "Jimmy Randy" it probably got flushed out with his posts. Try posting again.
      • Mar 31 2013: No, it was at the top level.
        I tried again, and it seems this link is auto-off limits. Wow.

        http: //www. tcm. phy. cam. ac. uk/~bdj10/mm/articles/heretic.txt

        Try to post it and see for yourself.
      • Mar 31 2013: The obfuscated link worked now. Very strange.
    • Mar 31 2013: I can't post anything, but this is somewhat of a test. They deleted a comment I made earlier. Not sure why, but now I can't post anything. The only thing these posts all had in common was the link to "Zen....and the Art of Debunking." If this gets through without the link, then maybe they've blacklisted that site for some reason. If it doesn't get through, then my posts are likely getting auto-deleted or winding up in a moderation queue.

      At any rate, the "Zen...." article is very good. Thanks for taking me to the site.
      • Mar 31 2013: You can for the time being just obfuscate the links by inserting some random space here and there, like after the dots.. Worked for me. We will see what happens. A rather desperate and shortsighted move, if this is really a blacklisting of certain links "too effective against us".. this can't be true... or can it?
        • Mar 31 2013: They've definitely blocked that site. Obfuscation will work though since they've got a very simplistic way of blocking it. They just don't want to make it easy. How odd.
      • Mar 31 2013: It could be different fractions inside of TED acting out their "policies". Maybe someone overplayed his competences. If this is actual policy it is incredible... ... ... (XXXcensored)
    • Mar 31 2013: A test I've just done indicates that that site is blacklisted and linking to it as of now leads to my post being auto-deleted. I can post without the link, but posting with the link leads to auto-deletion. This is the case as of 31 March at 00:49.

      Just did a final test with a link to another site and the worked fine. So that site is apparently not safe for TED. (NSFT).
      • Mar 31 2013: Let's email TED and report this. Who knows who's behind this. It could still be a technical problem.
        • Mar 31 2013: I doubt it's a technical problem. I can post a link to a few other sites but not that one. Technical problems would not likely cause a comment that links to a single site to auto-delete the comment, which is what is happening. This is a feature of their forum software. Not unusual, but I can't imagine why that site specifically would be blacklisted, unless someone with admin privileges finds it offensive. Now that would be strange.
        • Mar 31 2013: Obviously it's a test to make sure you're using proper scientific protocols to deduce what the issue is. If you jump to conclusions they can reasonably conclude that everyone here is a delusional woomeister.

          But, seriously, I think there are some site issues as of today. I have to use an alternate web browser to thumbs up or reply to comments.
      • Mar 31 2013: No, it's clear they are using a filter on the URLs. Normally your server wouldn't check the link for specific code, just if it looks sane from the syntax, so as a result you would just a get an error when,for example accessing a non-existing domain. But here specific action is taken when submitting. This can't be accidental. This is full-blown blacklisting.

        http://www.phy.cam.ac.uk/people/paynem.php

        You see, this works.

        also this
        http://www.xyz.phy.cam.ac.uk/people/paynem.php


        But this
        h t t p://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/people/paynem.php

        would auto-delete this comment, (even if it is a non-existing link), because of the tcm. sequence pointing to Theory Condensed Matter group subdomain.

        I just checked this link with another comment and indeed, it deletes it.

        It shouldn't care. This isn't fair.

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