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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 2 2013: Some people are saying that Ted has "banned" or "censored" Sheldrake and Hancock. As exciting as this may sound (gets the blood flowing), the fact is Ted doesn't have the power to ban anything. The talks are still available on Ted (yes, I know via their blog and Vimeo) and YouTube thanks to other Internet posters.

    Personally I have enjoyed both the Sheldrake and Hancock talks as provided by Ted (the fact that the talks were 18 min long forced the speakers to tighten up their presentations). The fact that they are no longer on the regular YouTube channel does not bother me as Ted as the right to put what they want on their channel.
    • Apr 2 2013: TED has the right to do what it wants, but I think for the most part people have agreed that this is the case. The conversation has largely been about criticism of the reasons for their actions and direction, which the TED audience also has a right too.
    • Apr 2 2013: Censor: "To remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable".
      Suppress: "To curtail, keep from being revealed, inhibit the expression of"

      By removing the talks from its YouTube channel, and moving the talks from a prominent part of their website to a less accessible area, is suppression, and could be considered censorship.

      More to the point, TED allowed a tiny minority to dictate their point of view in an unscientific and dishonourable way, that was not transparent, and accountable. ie. it was un-reasonable.

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