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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: Are there alternatives to TED on anyone's drawing board? A 'uni-TED' which unites all those who have been dissed, marginalised and debunked by current scientific hegemony? Which unites those who welcome and celebrate open discourse? Which provides a platform and open forum for those who are confident enough in their own intellectual and intuitive repertoire to do their own research and manage their own filtering processes?
    This is obviously happening in an informal unstructured way - perhaps this is preferable to the structured TED format which, despite the best of initial intentions, appears to be heavily influenced by certain agendas.
    • Apr 2 2013: There are already multiple alternatives to TED. What they all lack is TED's corporate funding. TED's so-called Science Board is better seen as a Corporate Funders board. They have brought the hammer down on TEDx productions that teach about scientific research that subverts corporate business interests. They have no need to drill into the details of the qualifications of the speaker or the factual validity of the message. The topic of psi phenomenon is forbidden.
      • Apr 2 2013: One of the things that comes out of this discussion is that the viewpoints and data TED are trying to suppress are getting out there anyway. That is, it is clear from the discussion that many here are very well informed about things that previously hardly anyone would have known. Thus the pseudoskeptics have had numerous peer-reviewed sources cited at them when they have claimed there is no evidence for whatever it is they are currently objecting to. This is in stark contrast to pre-internet days when only a few specialists would have had access to the data and someone in a debate would have been unable to just post a link showing that the denied evidence exists alright. Thus pseudoskeptics are now exposed at source and their only recourse, as seen here, are insults. This is an encouraging sign, and it means that TED's decision is of very little consequence in the long run. So TED can, if it wants, become a fully fledged member of the irrational-rationalist movement and never hold a talk that explores fascinating possibilities such as psi, etc, nor even anything that questions any of the dogmatic assumptions of the reductionist-materialist camp as they gradually lose control of science to the evidence. Thus science will be free, since it is too powerful a force for a small zealous band of fanatics to control, and ultimately, even if it takes a little longer, the truth (however strange that may be) will out.
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      Apr 2 2013: "Are there alternatives to TED on anyone's drawing board? A 'uni-TED' which unites all those who have been dissed, marginalised and debunked by current scientific hegemony?"

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    • Apr 2 2013: Alternatives? Try http://www.closertotruth.com/ . I don't know where their funding comes from but they have an impressive team of getting on for a dozen people involved in filming -- totally unlike that of UK TV I've been involved with where about 3 people (e.g. cameraman, interviewer and director) is about the most that are involved at the time. The spectrum of interviewees for Closer to Truth, which is a pretty big enterprise, ranges all the way from Charles Tart (altered states of consciousness, psi) to Steven Weinberg (who believes ESP is so improbable that it is not worth studying the evidence) -- beat that, TED!

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