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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:

http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/19/the-debate-about-graham-hancocks-talk/

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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: I engaged pretty actively (perhaps too actively) on the relevant blog post yesterday. I said some good things, and some less wise (and was rightly called out for them).

    I can't for a moment accept that what TED has done can be labelled as censorship. Any reasonable definition of that word involves suppression and removal of something from the public sphere, stifling conversation about it. TED have done quite the opposite, providing a public place, separate from all other talks, where both this talk and Sheldrake's can be discussed openly. Further, this matter is being widely discussed elsewhere.

    Certainly, I understand the presenters are upset that their talks are no longer on the TEDx channel on YouTube, but now, they've most likely been seen by rather more people than would ever have if they quietly sat where they were (there are talks from my events on that channel that have just a couple of hundred views, as a comparison).

    I support TED's position that talks addressing matters across the sciences must have a reasonable level of veracity and meet minimum levels of scientific integrity. Given the breadth of scientific material published across many disciplines that is both controversial and very early in its development, I don't believe that in any way, these boundaries impose an unreasonable limitation. So too, TED has to be the ultimate decision authority on what they publish or not. Presenters sign an agreement at TEDx events to that end. We as members of its community can agree or disagree, but we certainly can't make the call for them.

    Overall, the discussion over both of these talks has been beneficial, and TED will learn from it, though many chose to comment in a very demanding or intemperate way, damaging the chance for consensus. Agreeing to disagree is also good - it represents a realistic, mature position that is perfectly acceptable.
    • Mar 19 2013: Please stop debating using 'smart' arguments and restore the talks first. Then a real, open, free discussion can start, and why not as a TED conference?
      What happened cannot be supported by people who want to claim that they have integrity and morality.
    • Mar 19 2013: If you don't see it as a problem, then you really aren't following what TED has done here. I personally believe TED is SO important that I feel compelled to speak up, as this action by TED is essentially perpetuating degradation of the will and logic they have built into and with their brand.
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        Mar 19 2013: Mark, not for a moment is this not a problem. It's certainly that. And it needs a better solution all around. But battling through an imperfect one where mistakes are made on all sides is a useful learning experience.
    • Mar 19 2013: But they did intend on censoring it. The email sent to the TEDx organisers demonstrated this. It was ONLY because of the backlash that a concession was made.

      It's like having an art gallery, placing a piece in the basement out of view and then saying "Well we're not censoring it, it's still in the gallery".
    • Mar 19 2013: The video's are removed from your official youtube channel in other words they are censored from your official youtube channel aren't they? They are suppressed from that public domain. (the tedx channel is public isn't it?)
      They are on vimeo now, but with restrictions which mean not visible in the search engine. Google has an excellent way of showing video's that are on vimeo. But this all is not possible because of this restriction.

      So the video is censored from vimeo's search engine / google and your official youtube channel.

      This discussion here is not valid because it is not about whether these talks are pseudoscience.
      The decision that it was (based on flawed premisses) was already made by the scienceboard and dear mr Anderson.
      Purely based on the shallow investigation of the reputations of both speakers not on the content itself which is why no one from TED comes with substantial answers.


      And you didn't even now it.
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        Mar 19 2013: Bart, I'm well across the several processes that have taken place. TEDx organisers as a group (and not all of them agree with TED's actions) have been briefed several times as TED has taken each step.

        I certainly take a different view as to what, in aggregate or in specificity, amounts to censorship. I don't see it here, but I understand and accept others do (though I disagree with them).

        As to the matter of pseudoscience, TED is using an understood and accepted definition. Again, some (like me) accept that the talks in question fall within that definition, and others will not. I don't have a problem with that.
        • Mar 19 2013: Of course and I am glad i hear a reasonable TED voice. And no cynicism this time very appreciated.

          The issue is that no one from TED seem to really invest effort in stating were exactly these talks are pseudoscience. Why are the talks pseudoscience? While the speakers did make an effort to defend themselves with reasonable questions which are never answered. Al we have are cynical remarks by mr Anderson. and three blog pages... the answer from TED is actually: "Well... it just is pseudoscience."
          And of course when someone refers to research which is no where to be found. Yes those are big indicators. And we are not asking to disprove some wild idea like orange dragons orbiting Tau Ceti.

          If these talks are really pseudoscience on the edge difficult to recognize. it should be made very clear why.

          That is all.

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