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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: Having read 'The science delusion', I came to this forum looking for serious discussion of Sheldrake's views and the evidence for and against his hypotheses. However, the discussions here mainly centre around TED's removal of the video. I can understand that this is a serious issue for many people, but I wonder if there is an alternative site I could visit for what I am looking for. I note that there is some discussion here, for example the suggestion that cosmologists are open to the possibility that 'constants' may be variable, and also about the interpretation of data around dogs' ability to know that their owners are coming home. There are also links to other discussions involving Sheldrake, but nothing which comprehensively discusses his views and theories.
    Any suggestions?
    • Apr 1 2013: This has been a long discussion, and there have been some good moments though things were fairly quiet here yesterday. I'd suggest changing the "Sort by" to "Oldest first" , or "Highest rated" and skim through. There have been some good discussions these past 2 weeks, but on at least two occasions these were derailed by trolls.
      • Apr 1 2013: Thanks John.
        That's pretty much what I have done. I sorted by 'oldest first' and have skimmed through. I just wondered if there was another discussion more suited to my interests.
    • Apr 1 2013: Re the dogs - there is a discussion of this particular evidence and its interpretation here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtNUIUr4fYw beginning at around the 8 minute mark.
      • Apr 1 2013: Thanks for the link! I like the 11:22 conversation about Richard Wiseman's conclusion that there was no effect, even though clearly his own analysis of the data showed there was an effect! Goes to show you how unscientific debunkers can be, and allow their personal prejudices to carry more weight than the data itself!
    • Apr 1 2013: Sadly roger this is why this debate is so important becuse TED and others dont want us looking there
    • Apr 1 2013: The Journal of Consciousness Studies devoted an entire issue to Sheldrake and his critics. http://www.imprint.co.uk/jcs_12_6.html

      The Skeptiko forum has good two-way discussion on these themes.

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