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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: by revoking the TEDxWestHollywood license, TED has now made it official that they will not allow voices from the fringes to be on the TED/TEDx platform. TED has no interest of "spreading ideas" by the likes of Russell Targ, Marilyn Schlitz, and Larry Dossey. the TED platform is only big enough for "skeptics" and scientific materialists. disappointing, yes but hardly surprising. as i said before, their slogan ought to be changed to "Status Quo Ideas Worth Spreading."

    speaking of Russell Targ... he is often lumped with New Age and "pseudoscience" by people who don't his background. never mind the fact that Targ's (and his colleague Hal Puthoff) research work was good enough to be funded by the CIA. incidentally, Targ has just published a new book where he has divulged declassified information in the CIA remote-viewing program. TED will never dare touch this material. so you and i will just have to rely on our own research and other alternative news sites to be informed.

    case in point: here's a good interview with Targ on The Paracast.

    "Gene and Chris present the ever-elusive Dr. Russell Targ. Dr. Targ and Hal Putoff led the team at Stanford Research Institute that created the "remote viewing" protocols in the early '70s, about which many stories have been written. Targ's latest book is The Reality of ESP: A Physicist's Proof of Psychic Abilities."

    ~ http://www.theparacast.com/podcast/now-playing-march-10-2013-dr-russell-targ/
    • Mar 31 2013: Targ is one of my heroes. The amazing thing about rv...which I discovered last year... Is since 1995 the protocol has been available to civilians. Training too. I took the time to learn the protocol and do it myself. I've done about 30 sessions. I'm still learning, so my accuracy rate isn't perfect, but when it works it is mind blowing. This is the kicker.... Skeptics can try it out for themselves and see firsthand results. I've got targ's book on my amazon wish list, gonna get it when it is released. The only people saying it doesn't work are those who refuse to look at all the docs that have been declassified, or heck just try it yourself! Been reading the Sagan book Jimmy mentioned.... First it doesn't support his arguments against Sheldrake, and second, Sagan himself says that scientists can be stubborn, which can slow adoption of new ideas.
      • Mar 31 2013: "I'm still learning, so my accuracy rate isn't perfect, but when it works it is mind blowing."

        What sort of percentages are you getting?
        • Mar 31 2013: I think I saw some RVers have a spreadsheet to help quantify their accuracy, but I haven't learned that. Moreover rv sessions are long (45 minutes+) and tiring, so I haven't done any in a while. But I did link earlier in this thread to my own published results, here it is again
          http://danpouliot.com/blog/?p=819

          Though I don't do "official" rv lately, Lynn Buchanan said "the goal of a session is not to learn about the target, it's to learn how your mind works". That is a wonderful way of putting it, quite true. Since I did the training, something got unlocked in my mind. I have been having precognitive experiences, where that never used to happen to me before. I've gotten a lot better at understanding the difference between a "normal thought" and "receiving a signal". I'd call it spooky, but really it's just how our minds work, it is normal. I wondered if I could do a target session in my sleep, I.e. intend before falling asleep to get some information (mostly this is because rv session are long, and I haven't enough free time to do them, plus the questions I want answers to are "front loaded" and I haven't been trained on how to do front loaded RV sessions (a front loaded session is where you are given some info about the target, as opposed to just a target ID number). Long story short, while dreams generally aren't as reliable as a true session, I have had some amazing results there too. In every case, I seem to get the answer in the last dream before I wake in the am. Interestingly, after I discovered this about myself, I heard Targ on a radio show say the same thing happens to him... The last dream before he wakes often gives him information. Anyway, sorry for the long post, I could talk about this all day!
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        Mar 31 2013: Is this... technique learnable, or do you need certain traits? I would imagine that people who do not put up boundaries in their minds would be more inclined to something like this.
        And did these- messages feel like thoughts, or less clearly formed intuitions?
        so many questions
        • Mar 31 2013: Great questions, long answer here (not a genric post, I just wrote this specifically to answer your questions):
          http://danpouliot.com/blog/?p=1727

          It's Easter morning, so I gotta go be a good dad! More later
    • Mar 31 2013: Just started listening to that mp3. It's so frustrating when good talks like this have spooky or exposé type music as a lead in, I mean sheesh, way to make yourself look like you aren't worth being taken seriously.
    • Mar 31 2013: To understand what is happening, I suggest looking at the money trail. It's like the relation between the Tea Party and the Koch Brothers. The public face of the debate is a bunch of loud-mouths who spew venom, but clearly are not informed or especially deep in their analysis or understanding. Behind the scenes, are billionaires who are pushing a pro-business agenda. "Drill Baby Drill" is shouted by people who are manipulated by propaganda. But the oil interests who promote these simplistic slogans, will make huge profits from gas fracking, tar sands, etc.

      In this case, instead of the Tea Party, we have Skeptics spewing misinformation. The pejorative Woo is a simplistic way to dismiss a century's worth of experimental data. The attempt to equate Sheldrake with right wing Creationists has no basis in fact, but is effective in muddying the waters.

      The money trail in this case leads to psychiatric medications. This multi-billion dollar industry is premised on mental illness being a brain disease. If consciousness is not a product of brain function, then psych meds are not treating the cause of emotional disorders. Disturbances of consciousness are better treated by tools that deal directly with consciousness.

      TED has fallen into bed with the pharmaceutical industry. They are determined to suppress any science that contradicts consciousness = brain. The TED slogan can be Industry Advertising Worth Spreading.
      • Mar 31 2013: While I am a sheldrake fan, I think the explanation for some people's unwillingness to seriously look at the legitimate inquiry and real science being done by people like him and Targ is much simpler. It comes down to basic stubbornness, and an emotional investment in the status quo. "Skeptics" who abandon scientific reasoning when railing against real science that is shattering long held beliefs are just like you and me.... Letting their emotions get the best of them from time to time.
        • Mar 31 2013: Absolutely, I agree. These are challenging and perplexing issues for everyone. People experience telepathy frequently, but we are conditioned to dismiss it as coincidence or illusion. It has taken me decades to integrate that these experiences are common and valid. Being skeptical means being intelligent and discerning. These are not simple issues and there is much room for debate and disagreement.

          But really? What ordinary person with a sensible level of skepticism is going to devote themselves to bashing Sheldrake? The reasonable response is to be challenged by the material and unconvinced of his assertions.
        • Mar 31 2013: Thanks Dan. I appreciate your explanation and completely agree with your assessment. There are likely some very influential and powerful forces behind the obvious censorship of this man's ideas. I don't necessarily agree with everything he postulates either. Nor do I completely agree with Bruce Lipton's research and conclusions that belief can actually influence our genetic evolution, but I think his research is absolutely fascinating! I understand that Tedx has to have some standards by which they judge the merits of a presenter, but by walking lockstep with the same, old, tired skeptics and debunkers of ANYTHING that falls even slightly outside of their precious and narrowly defined "science", Tedx quite frankly, has completely lost the respect of a great many bright, interested, and skeptical people.
          AND, so we are clear, I too, believe the Tea Party has more than its share of knucklehead haters. I pisses me off quite frankly as it gives a bad name to many who really just want our government to relax restrictions on business and perhaps give free market principles more consideration when passing future legislation.
          As Amfortas stated above, I think this whole conversation is about spent. I've truly enjoyed the interaction with the majority of people here. I'm extremely interested in the nature, including such "woo" topics as psi, the afterlife, etc. and particularly curious about the role quantum mechanics might play in explaining them.
          I'm incredibly encouraged by the number of people here who seem to be open minded enough to consider Sheldrake's work. The evidence regarding many esoteric subjects is voluminous. Sadly, much of it has never been given the proper scientific investigation it deserves due to the very reasons that you and others have so eloquently argued. It boils down to what you have alluded to; money. Couple that with ego, reputation, and fear of ridicule, and it is easy to understand why there aren't more Rupert Sheldrakes out there. Regards!
      • Mar 31 2013: Dan, when you paint a group that espouses principles different than your own as "loudmouths spewing venom", I don't think you're helping your case. The whole point of this discussion is that Tedx is being close minded and intolerant of positions that fall outside of their narrow paradigm. NO ONE has a monopoly on the truth. Although I wouldn't call myself a "Tea Partier", I do believe in free market principles espoused by the likes of Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell. Neither, in my opinion spews venom, yet their views represent what many in the Tea Party espouse. You can certainly disagree with those views, but stereotyping a political movement as being hate filled is a little much.
        I do not and will not engage in a political discussion here; I do that on enough other sites, but my point is, we should leave politics out of this discussion unless discussing political considerations which are directly tied to the Tedx/Sheldrake issue. There's enough politics involved with the rigid, materialist, viewpoints promulgated by mainstream science and academia to keep us busy without engaging in the typical right vs left discussions that define so many debates concerning the direction our country should be taking. I completely respect your views and you have contributed much to this debate. I just think we should leave the other stuff out of it.
        • Mar 31 2013: James - I agree with you that the Tea Party draws from respected sources and many of their platforms have merit. What I am pointing to is the strategy of corporate interests to pay for front organizations. I would not put hate-radio personalities like Michael Savage or Glen Beck in the same category as Milton Friedman. "Loudmouths spewing venom" is a proven technique for influencing public opinion. It is used across the political spectrum.

          The professional Skeptics have their own breed of attack dog. The undermine coherent debate by slinging insults and feigning outrage. Jimmy Randy/James Randi was employing this technique. I applaud his removal from the debate.

          If this debate was about whether Sheldrake is correct or not, I think there would be much room for debate. Even with his extensive research, these questions are far from being settled. One can make a strong case that Sheldrake is fundamentally incorrect.

          However, that is not the topic. It is whether TED's criticism and censorship was merited. The initial criticisms have been refuted. TED has refused to elaborate or expand on them. Their decision to remove the video is seemingly final.

          That calls into question, what are their motives? My conjecture is TED's corporate funders do not want to give Sheldrake a platform because were his ideas about consciousness accepted, they would be bad for business. The pharmaceutical industry is presently drugging 25% of all incoming female college freshman on US campuses and 10% of the entire US adult population. The entire industry stands on the platform that consciousness is made by the brain. Take that away and people will soon wake up to the toxic effects of psychiatric medications.

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