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The debate about Graham Hancock's talk

Please use this space to comment on the debate around Graham Hancock's TEDx talk, as described here:



Closing Statement from TED

Thanks to all who participated in this conversation on TED's decision to move Graham Hancock'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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    Mar 19 2013: Part 1: As a TED Senior Fellow and a rock art researcher, I wanted to comment on Graham Hancock’s talk. I think it is important to frame this comment by saying that I am a big supporter of TED (pretty obvious since I am a TED Fellow LOL!) and that I really admire their willingness to let us have this conversation. To me, true censorship would have been if they pulled down the talk and never mentioned it again. I also wanted to say that having done a 4 minute Fellows talk and a 3 minute main stage talk at TED Global 2011 plus recently having done a 18 minute TEDx talk, I totally get how hard it is to get across your ideas clearly and accurately in such a short time span, and I am sure that Graham felt the same way. Much of his talk is about his personal journey and his opinions about governmental control of certain substances (don’t necessarily disagree with a lot of what he said about drugs that are currently illegal – I am from the West Coast of Canada and the legalization debate is alive and well in my part of the world) and I don’t have any comment on that, but I would like to take a couple of moments to clarify some of the remarks he made about Ice Age rock art at the beginning of his talk.

    This art was created between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago by our distant ancestors, and the truth of the matter is that we have no idea why they did the art, nor are we ever likely to know for sure since the people who made it have been dead for at least 10,000 years, so there is no one for us to ask (modern peoples who still make art do it for a variety of reasons, so it’s not like there is some universal explanation that we could easily extrapolate back that far). I was happy to see that Graham was careful in how he mentioned that it was only a possibility that shamanism could explain the art, as this is also the stance taken by rock art researcher David Lewis-Williams (who Graham mentioned).

    Continued below…
    • Mar 19 2013: But they did intend to take down the videos completely. They intended to censor the talks. This is evident in the email that was sent to the TEDx organisers.

      It was only because there was a PR backlash that they reconsidered. And even then they misrepresented the speakers and so far have failed to issue an apology.
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        Mar 19 2013: Not so. The initial letter said explicitly that we were not removing the talks from the web. There was crystal clear intention from the start NOT to censor the talks. Crying 'censorship' on the web is like shouting 'fire' in a cinema. It creates havoc whether or not it's true. Tis a pity.
        • Mar 19 2013: It's RACISM Chris - pure ideological RACISM, wake up!
          Before any discussion about the talks' content they should go up again, don't you get it?
        • Mar 19 2013: The videos were removed from the YouTube channel posted in a corner on your website. On top came defamatory remarks. Sounds more like ideas suppressing rather spreading?

          How many more hundreds of comments do you need? We can think for ourselves, thank you. No need for a judge, evaluator, censor. Be a neutral platform.
        • Mar 19 2013: The video's are removed from your official youtube channel that is plain censorship. They are on vimeo now, but they are restricted so you can not search the video's in vimeo's search engine.

          Which means it is being censored.
        • Mar 21 2013: The TED letter states:

          After due diligence, including a survey of published scientific research and recommendations from our Science Board and our community we have decided that Rupert Sheldrake's and Graham Hancock’s talks from TEDxWhiteChapel >

          Both talks have been flagged as containing serious factual errors that undermine TED’s commitment to good science…

          TED respects and supports the exploration of unorthodox ideas, but the many misleading statements in both Sheldrake’s and Hancock’s talks, whether made deliberately or in error, have led our scientific advisors to conclude that our name and platform should not be associated with these talks.
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        Mar 20 2013: @ Pandeis: I don't think Chris (the self-proclaimed inquisitor) gets it. But perhaps TED staff is lying as they put out their talking points - that by themselves explain the presence of lies.

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