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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: 3) COMMENT ON RUPERT’S VIDEO

    I appreciate Rupert as a scientist. A seedling planted more than 100 miles from its parent here in BC grows poorly because trees have become site specific. California’s climate is coming to BC. Now what do we plant? Anyone working on problems of a scientific nature, and Rupert was with auxins, is my friend. The dendrology instructor said when a chunk of tree bark is removed, we have no idea how the tree knows how to heal the injury: Rupert describes fields. I have experienced the immaterial that I thank Rupert for writing about it.

    I do not support Rupert’s behavior. On the hero’s journey when he was to say, “I will not fight you father!” Instead he attacked: “The God Delusion” became “The Science Delusion”; militant atheism became militant immaterialism; genetics explains all became easy answers to really hard problems. He attacked basic scientific research in genetics, suggested perpetual motion machines, and supported alternative medicine that works through deception. He wrote on psychic powers without describing their dangers.

    Comments say remember Galileo. Galileo guessed heliocentric right (Tyco guessed wrong), he guessed wrong about the tides and circular orbits, he insulted the Pope and passed the baton of science to Britain permanently. Newton then took it and poked people in the eye. Yesterday’s scientists demonstrated pride and hubris, let’s not.

    TED is not the forum to attack science, education or design. TED is not a debate forum. Rupert’s offer to debate is not actionable by TED.

    • Apr 2 2013: "and supported alternative medicine that works through deception"

      For a refutation of the idea that "alternative" medicine works through "deception", see the following: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/

      From that you will learn, for instance, that a plethora of randomized, sham-controlled trials have supported acupuncture as superior to placebo, sham treatment (meridian acupuncture points worked better than sham controlled points in a plethora of trials). You will also learn many other things.

      "He wrote on psychic powers without describing their dangers."

      Please elaborate. I have attempted to create a synthesis of his work and Bohm's (the two authors themselves thought their work synthesized) to act as a challenge to materialism, and have also highlighted experiments supporting intention based action at a distance, etc., here: http://www.ted.com/conversations/17189/the_debate_about_rupert_sheldr.html?c=639927

      "suggested perpetual motion machines"

      This does not appear in the video. Your comment was a fabrication. If you can cite him, please do so, but be sure to provide full context. I have his book "Science Set Free", and have not yet seen anything about this.

      "He attacked basic scientific research in genetics"

      This is a misreading of his position. He attacks overbroad claims of the "we have found the answer to everything with genetics" variety. Relevant excerpts appear in the excerpts of "Morphic Resonance" linked to in the amazon comment linked to above.

      As a side note - This is an interesting exploration of dissident science: http://mailstar.net/science.html
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      Apr 2 2013: Militant Immaterialism. Wow new phrase in my lexicon!
      Militant immaterialism it just has a certain ring to it.

      That was pulled from monty Python yes?
      Militant immaterialism expialidocious Even though the sound of it is something quite precocious.
      • Comment deleted

    • Apr 2 2013: Very interesting viewpoint, but I do not see Rupert's talk as an "attack" on science or education but rather as a challenge to what he sees as assumptions that are becoming (or are) fixed dogmas. Yes, hubris is to be avoided but it's important not to take things too personally, I.e.,viewing other contrasting viewpoints as an offence or attack.
      Hopefully, proper scientific research & experimentation can be designed to confirm or deny the validity of his ideas, such as the morphogenic field, for example.
      Let's keep an open mind and not deny forums for challenging viewpoints.
      Thanks to TED for providing this dialog space.

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