TED Conversations

TED
  • TED
  • New York, NY
  • United States

TEDCRED 10+

This conversation is closed.

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/

Share:

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

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Apr 1 2013: 2) SUGGESTED POLICY FOR TEDx VIDEOS

    I have an issue with the policy as it stands. The issue with the current policy of “no pseudo-science” rather than SCIENCE! is that everyone in TED will have to learn what pseudo-science is so they can “not do it.” To illustrate the problem, think “love children” and a loving image comes to mind. Now think “don’t kill children” and a strong emotional image of children being killed comes to mind followed by the weak word “don’t”. TED wants people to love science and therefore needs a positive affirmative policy.

    The following is the policy I put forward for your consideration: “TEDx videos have integrity, credibility, popularity, and are legal.” Say it so the audience laughs when you say “and are legal.” Here’s the rationale:

    Integrity means the speaker has integrity and believes what they are saying is true. This criterion would refuse a talk by a criminal for lack of personal integrity and the crow vending machines video for lack of integrity in the idea.

    For credibility think the Credit Bureau, the Better Business Bureau and TED. TED is the gold standard for talks on ideas. Rupert’s talk would be refused under this requirement.

    Popularity means customers or traction. Simply, an idea worth spreading spreads. If the video doesn’t get views, TED will pull it even after it has been up loaded.

    Legal goes without saying. If a speaker does not agree with the law, they need to address their talk to the political system. TED uses a contributive model; the legal system uses an adversarial model. Drugs are illegal. Graham’s talk is refused.

    -jr
    • Apr 2 2013: "Drugs are illegal."

      Ayahuasca is not illegal in the UK, where Hancock gave his talk.
    • Apr 2 2013: Hi John, I appreciate your attempt to be civil, and your sincere response to this issue. That said, I am having difficulty agreeing with your many points.

      "For credibility think the Credit Bureau, the Better Business Bureau and TED. TED is the gold standard for talks on ideas. Rupert’s talk would be refused under this requirement."

      I absolutely have no idea what logic you used to arrive at this conclusion. Show your work, please.

      "Popularity means customers or traction. Simply, an idea worth spreading spreads. If the video doesn’t get views, TED will pull it even after it has been up loaded. "

      So you would turn TED into spectacle? Some videos see few views but are absolutely worth spreading. In addition, videos will often languish only to catch on at a later date when their relevance is discovered. This is ultimately TED's call, but I would not agree with this suggestion simply on principle.

      "Legal goes without saying. If a speaker does not agree with the law, they need to address their talk to the political system. TED uses a contributive model; the legal system uses an adversarial model. Drugs are illegal. Graham’s talk is refused. "

      This, combined with your comment about criminals, I find reprehensible. The pursuit of truth via the sciences should trump vestigial legislation, particularly in areas that merit revisiting. Otherwise, TED might conceivably be forced into complicity with some modern equivalent of segregation or miscegenation. I hope you can appreciate how a guideline per your suggestion can put TED into an ethically tricky position.

      That said, there are legitimate studies investigating entheogens, and to suggest those findings ought to be made off limits is preposterous, not to mention anti-science. Discussing entheogens, last time I checked, is not illegal. I would refer you to MAPS, an advocate for this kind of research into the overlooked area of therapeutic value: http://www.maps.org/
    • Apr 2 2013: “pseudo-science”

      The term is so vague and unscientific (there is no generally agreed definition), that ANY subject can be tarred with the pseudoscience brush. Anyone using the term is pretending to be scientific while using a word that is not. I am sure there is a word for this :-)

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.