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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: Just to get another word in before the window closes ...

    Saying TED doesn't want particular videos to appear under TED's banner is one thing, but stopping visitors learning about specific non-pornographic material just because they object to the ideas expressed is censorship de luxe! I gave a lecture to a student group recently about this kind of thing; you can listen to that lecture, 'Heretical Science', at http://sms.cam.ac.uk/collection/664697 (not on our group's web server so it may not be blocked by TED). People interested in moving on from the present paradigm may also be interested in the symposium on 'Shifting Assumptions in Science', which you can find in the same list. We are currently working on developing John Archibald Wheeler's proposal that observer-participation is the fundamental creative mechanism in nature (see the very preliminary paper entitled 'Biological Observer-Participation and Wheeler's "Law without Law" ' in the physics preprint archive).
    • Apr 2 2013: See below. It looks like I was jumping to conclusions. It may not be due to official TED action.

      "John Campbell

      10 hours ago: The answer is Akismet, which is what TED uses. Apparently there is potential for abuse, and a few angry bloggers. The problem from what I can tell is a blogger can mark a legit comment as spam, Akismet then begins to learn that what is non-spam is spam, propagates this information to it's servers, and autodeletes comments on other blogs as well that don't wind up in a blogger's moderation queue. The following link is old but describes what we've been experiencing with the tcm site.


      The problem is almost certainly not TED, so I apologize here for saying that it was. "

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