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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: (2) We operate according to a real and knowable universe, with set rules (gravity is not up for debate). Pseudo scientists are different than real scientists in that most will not change their opinions when faced with a mountain of evidence to the contrary. You all have your opinions, and will not change them based on blog entries here---given that a number seem to be pro-Hancock--- yet I challenge everyone here to think based on scientific evidence versus an instant+ deep gut reaction to an organization that you may consider to be elitist/out of touch/cultish (which, it is not-I teach at a public uni, and was welcomed at TED Long beach). I am open to diverse views, but I also function in a science-based world (e.g., if you understand Egyptian architectural history there is no way you can believe pyramids were built by aliens). The science talks are awesome on ted.com-and heavily vetted (many main stage TED talks don’t make it there for many reasons—and why they are open to amazing TEDx talks for ted.com). Shouldn’t all TEDx material be vetted generally? If you want to say anything go put it on youtube, it is a free country. TED=a brand we associate with high quality. That is the tradeoff.
    (3) There is lots of garbage on “learning” cable TV channels, and few critical thinking programs---which TED talks encourage (how many of you have benefitted from those talks?). However, even top journals make mistakes. Did TED make a mistake by retracting/drawing attention to this talk? Maybe ---but TED is most well known for encouraging dialogue/discussion, and making people think, which is what this dialogue is doing (I hope!). Pseudoscience has no place in archaeology/science-but it is something we deal with daily. Good science wins in the end, every time-that’s what the history books show us. TED is not immune to these debates, yet it is providing a forum for all types (scientists/members of the public/Graham Hancock himself) to engage. That is cool, and very much welcomed
    • Mar 19 2013: They called you a bit late. All of your arguments have been debated very effectively in the forums around here.
      The fact remains that what happened was completely unacceptable, it was a terrible mistake and TED's status will be hurt after this.
      You deelpy know it very well, as all of you TED people who came to the rescue, that it was a monumental mistake to discriminate IDEAS, especially after they have been presented to the public. It makes one cry and laugh at the same time :)(
      • Mar 19 2013: Agreed Pandelis, Sarah you truly know nothing of who Graham Hancock is and what he believes. You come in here with old talking points and ad hominem attacks that have no bearing on who Graham is or his work. It is actually pretty sad and has only furthered my negative opinion of TED. Nice work.
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        Mar 19 2013: On the contrary, anyone who cares both about science and about giving unorthodox thinking a fair hearing can be really proud of what has happened here. It's understandable that people who don't know the full story are upset, but in the end, truth will out.
        • Mar 19 2013: The vast majority of the people arguing here are very respectful of science and I am sure that most of them are in fact scientists. The great dissapointment with TED is that you seem to not respect this at all, that scientists would like to belong to platforms which respect all ideas equally, and let the community decide.
          The handling of the issue by TED was disgraceful to say the least, in terms of moral standards. It has transformed you overnight to a 'media company' (using the words of a supporter of yours here) supporting 'Ideas Worth Marketing' (words of someone in here-Spot ON! )
        • Mar 19 2013: You still haven't explained why these talks are removed from your offiicial youtube channel.
          well you didn't came with valid reasons i have checked youre arguments but I could not find it in the talks,

          There were even logical questions about this from mr Hancock, but you did not answer them...

          Still itchy about the lack of intelligence of your horde mr Anderson? Is that why you magically change the subject of censorship into pseudoscience?

          Nice trick by the way, but a bit transparant though
        • Mar 19 2013: Proud? I certainly would not be proud of those original (now retracted) comments. Your staff, board, whoever it was; created a blatantly false summary of his presentation as an explanation for removing it from your main platform - and this:

          "..it’s no surprise his work has often been characterized as pseudo-archeology."

          It's one thing to be falsly/overly dismissive of his presentation but that's a plainly derogatory and irrelevant remark he's received after giving his time away to share his ideas with those who came for just that - controversial and unorthodox ideas. Do you call this slating a fair hearing?

          I think you'd have a leg to stand on in that regard if the initial review had been remotely truthful, why was it did you say those comments were made? Because of haste or something? It seems absolutely disgraceful to me that someone can devote their time to an event like that and receive something as false and disrespectful as your retracted comments in response.

          Curiously, have you made a public apology for that? It seems your thinking is vaguely along these lines.."At first our board said it was bad/psuedo science and this opinion was made into a defamatory caution sign, now it turns out they were wrong to be so heavy handed and we're not exactly sure what the content falls under - why don't you all have a discussion about it?"

          This is a lot better than dismissing the whole thing, I'll give you that, but it still seems like you're deliberately missing out the bit where you or whoever was responsible for the inital slating needs to apologise for 1) making those false and disrespectful comments in the first place, and 2) the defamation to him and the ideas covered in the presentation that they could have easily caused.
        • Mar 20 2013: I find it strange that you're implicitly characterizing TED as a forum for orthodox thinking (except in designated corners), because that's the opposite of what I thought it was until recently. So many of the other TED(x) talks are unorthodox in so many ways, the actual motivation and influences in this case are pretty transparent. Looking back, I suspect you should have just ordered the removal of the videos with no excuses given. That's probably what the presenters were assuming would happen, anyway.
        • Mar 20 2013: Chris/TED, your comment about your understanding that "people who don't know the full story are upset" sounds patronizing.

          What about all our TED audience who is upset and followed the whole discussion from the very beginning: the three different discussion boards, over 1000 comments, Facebook petitions etc.?

          Are you listening to your audience responding to your call? Have you counted how many demand the resorting of the videos and an apology to Sheldrake and Hancock?
    • Mar 19 2013: TED Exposed...
    • Mar 19 2013: I want you to consider that many people whom are upset about the action TED has taken are upset NOT because they are supporters of the lecturers, but due to the obvious bias that these talks were dealt with, and the damage this type of "pick and choose" publication will cause the TED name. I love TED, I believe they have made a critical error here, not only in initial judgement, but their continuing efforts to reduce the transparency of this great organization.
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        Mar 20 2013: Mark: TED from day 1 has always made decisions about the talks it decides to share. It's always been that way.

        If you go to a TED Conference, you'll see around 80 talks. TED may only post 40 or 50 of those. That's just the way it works as a media company making curatorial decisions about what it wants to share under the TED brand.

        TED would never have become what it is today if it just shared everything with no editorial decisions, just as the New York Times doesn't publish every single article on its front page.
        • Mar 20 2013: So I can assume that if I spend $7,500, only about 50-60% of the content will approach the quality shown on the web? The rest isn't even worth the trivial effort of uploading, and might even make TED look bad? That's useful to know...
      • Mar 20 2013: Pick and choose publication is why TED works.

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