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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 20 2013: My own diagnosis here is that TED ended up in an awkward (unwinnable?) position because Hancock's talk is part passionate anecdote, part testable scientific hypothesis, and part supernatural, but all related to a schedule 1 controlled substance.

    Had the speaker been an academic discussing environmental degradation as a symptom of our non-creativity, the loss of dreamers in our society, and research on the psychological benefits of serotonin receptor agonists such as DMT, I think the talk would have faced little resistance from TED. But TED specifically disallows anecdotes about alternative medicine 'cures.' And supernatural contact through illicit substance use is just not a topic in TED's purview.

    TED is a curator, and whether we agree with TED's actions or not, hopefully we can accept that this talk was particularly difficult for them to field.
    • Mar 20 2013: If that is indeed their problem them let them say that and then we can discuss it with an appropriate level of sympathy for the situation in which they find themselves. Up until now such a point has not even appeared on the radar in any meaningful form, or if it did it was drowned under the torrent of hogwash they have chosen to build their two official cases around.

      As regards the unwinnable nature of the situation, I happen to think the situation is actually rather simple to resolve. Reinstate the video(s); apologize to the speaker(s); write a brief non-offensive, non-false disclaimer to accompany the talk(s) (and all TEDx talks); develop a proper internal process of monitoring TEDx based on whatever the brand wants to be; and do it now rather than continuing with the pole-squatting, shilly-shallying and beating around the (burning) bush.

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