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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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  • Apr 1 2013: In cancelling the TEDx event in West Hollywood, it appears that I was accused of "using the guise of science" to further spooky claims, (or some such). People on this blog have asked what I was going to talk about. That's easily answered. I was co-founder of a 23 year research program investigating psychic abilities at Stanford Research Institute. We were doing research and applications for the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, Air Force and Army Intelligence, NASA, and others. In this $25 million program we used "remote viewing" to find a downed Russian bomber in North Africa, for which President Carter commended us. We found a kidnapped US general in Italy, and the kidnap car that snatched Patricia Hearst. We looked in on the US hostages in Iran, and predicted the immanent release of Richard Queen, who was soon sent to Germany. We described a Russian weapons factory in Siberia, leading to a US congressional investigation about weakness in US security, etc. We published our scientific findings in Nature, The Proc. IEEE, Proc, AAAS, and Proc. American Institute of Physics. I thought a TED audience would find this recently declassified material interesting. And no physics would be harmed in my presentation.
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      Apr 1 2013: Russell Targ: I'd be among those who'd be interested in how TED and/or its scientific faithful might respond to your posts. At the time I'm writing this, it has been around three hours after your post. A fairly long time in the sometimes snappy repartee I've seen here.
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      Apr 1 2013: Russell, I couldn't find an abstract for your paper, Information transmission in remote viewing experiments, on the Nature website (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v284/n5752/pdf/284191a0.pdf). I hadn't heard of your work until this event was cancelled but it looks fascinating. Your work was published in Nature, paid for by the CIA, and we have you to thank for safe commercial flying due to lasers you developed to detect windshear and air turbulence. Those are serious scientific credentials. Just because TED does not agree with your conclusions is not a reason for prior restraint.

      This also happened a few weeks ago when the TEDx talks by Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock were removed from the TED YouTube channel. There has been a very lively debate on this topic. Like you, Rupert Sheldrake was published in Nature, made important contributions to science, and is now also being labeled as non-scientific by an anonymous scientific committee at TED. I've always been a big fan of TED and I guess I was naive to believe that this is really all about the free exchange of ideas.

      Hopefully, new people will learn about your work as a result of the controversy. I hear that the West Hollywood show will go on. That's great news! I will look for the event on YouTube. Best, Matthew
    • Apr 1 2013: Welcome to the discussion, Mr. Targ. Prior to this fiasco I had not heard of you and am only beginning to become familiar with it. I just thought I'd draw your attention to a thread on the Hancock debate in which your comment here was quoted and criticized. It's odd that the individual didn't address you directly so thought you might want to check it out.

    • Apr 2 2013: thank you Mr. Targ for responding!

      why TED has pointed a finger to Russell Targ leads me to speculate that the TED staff are ignorant of the Remote Viewing literature.

      i don't claim expertise on the subject of remote viewing but I've been familiar with the literature for more than two decades now. i understand the RV protocol -- it's double-blind. the late Ingo Swann was instrumental in designing the protocol. then it was taught to a few intelligence personnels (one of them is remote viewer #001 Joe McMoneagle). however, i've always focused my attention to the original people who started it all because they did solid research on the phenomenon and they're the ones who designed the original protocol. Targ/Puthoff had a deal with the CIA/military that in return for the funding they would help the military with intelligence work (e.g. locating people and cites of interests). another condition was that Targ/Puthoff would be free to publish their work on scientific journals. the project lasted for more than two decades. i don't know about you but i don't think Targ/Puthoff/Swann could hoax the Defense Department, CIA, and FBI for a long time, especially when millions of money were involved.

      see also Russell Targ's response on TED Conversations:
      ~ http://www.ted.com/conversations/17189/the_debate_about_rupert_sheldr.html?c=639679

      "Remote viewing is an ability that many people can easily learn. It is a nonlocal ability, in that its accuracy and reliability are independent of distance. Dean of Engineering Robert Jahn has also published extensively on his experiments at Pronceton, (Proc. IEEE, Feb 1982). I am not claiming it is quantum anything. It appears to possibly make use of something like Minkowski's (8 dimensional) complex space/time that he described to Einstein in the 1920s, and is now being re-examined by Roger Penrose. This is not necessarily The answer. But the answer will be some sort similar nonlocal space/time geometry." (read more)

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