TED Conversations

  • TED
  • New York, NY
  • United States


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:



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 2 2013: "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. "

    So, let's hope this will be fixed soon.
    • Apr 2 2013: Almost certainly? I doubt it!

      In fact I did draw the issue to TED's attention quite some time ago, resending it as suggested by marking it URGENT, and nothing has happened. You can draw your own conclusions from that.

      However, I've since seen the part of JC's comment that A. didn't quote, so perhaps JC was correct. Once I got blocked from commenting in Nature's blog and eventually the web people were able to fix that. My blocking once from arxiv, removed when I complained about their 'system error' was something different in character, I believe -- arxiv's behaviour is more sinister and significant even than TED's. See

      http://www. tcm. phy. cam. ac. uk/~bdj10/articles/arxiv_correspondence.html
      • Apr 2 2013: This seems to point to the possibility that TED did not initiate this, but they are somewhat sanctioning it now. Until the pressure would rise, so then they could simply withdraw and say it wasn't their intention.
    • thumb
      Apr 2 2013: Amfortas can you explain this detail more ?I would appreciate information on this. Thanks (Akismet)
      • Apr 2 2013: This looks like there is a ring of blogging websites using the same software on their servers, and they cooperate in marking and blacklisting spam links. So, if some number of organised rogue sceptics would mark links to Professor Josephson's articles about "heretical science" and related issues as spam, it would automatically delete comments containing them, on all connected sites. But they shouldn't have a problem to fix this quickly!

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.