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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: The two faces of Emily McManus, TED.com Editor

    Fascination with the taboo:
    Thread post, 9 March - After extending this conversation for an additional day, I'm just sending a quick reminder that it'll close in about 5 hours. And to say an early THANK YOU -- this has been a truly fascinating conversation to be part of. I've read every word and so have some of my coworkers. We won't be able to make a decision that pleases every single flavor of opinion on this thread, but: You have been heard. And in fact, the quality of this conversation has inspired some of my coworkers to think about an interesting new project for TED.com (stay tuned...). Until the clock runs out, please keep chiming in -- especially if you have a new twist to consider, like reine de violettes' fascinating opinion on American communication methods earlier today: https://www.ted.com/conversations/16894/rupert_sheldrake_s_tedx_talk.html?c=618976

    but in another circle, accusation of pseudoscience
    Emily McManus email to Jerry A. Coyne PhD, Author, blogger
    TED and TEDx can’t be a place for pseudoscience rhetoric. We’ve made that pretty clear in our guidelines. TEDx is an independently licensed entity, and because of the way TEDx has grown, something like 300 new TEDx talks are posted on YouTube every week. Our staff reviews every video, but we are also grateful for the kindness of strangers in letting us know when something crosses the line. It’s been incredibly interesting and rewarding to have these conversations in public, and it helps us refine our guidelines for organizers, to help them know bad science when they see it.What I’d love to ask your readers is this: If you know of a TEDx event being organized near you, AND you have the time and inclination, perhaps get in touch with the organizers and offer to help them look for and vet science speakers.http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/tedxs-guidelines-for-science-and-pseudoscience/

    Two faces of Emily McManus
    • Mar 31 2013: The funniest thing about the appeal to Coyne and his readership is that a cursory glance at Coyne's blog will show a highly politicized form of (pseudo)science being practiced there. Indeed, Coyne himself appears to be making the move away from science and into the pop/junk science and amateur philosophy realm where he will play my little pony to the four horsemen (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens) by spinning science into an atheistic/anti-theistic enterprise. If TED wants to go down that road then it should at least be upfront about the fact that it has taken on the ideals, and dogma, of the New Atheist movement - a movement that many within the scientific/academic community view with disdain.
      • Mar 31 2013: I don't know what the appeal of these radicals like Coyne is to to science, and I always see direct appeals to credulities over the evidence in these situations
        • Mar 31 2013: It's because they've hijacked the word "science" to mean "philosophical materialism"

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