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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: PART THREE

    But even though I started to be disenchanted by the factual social praxis of science and the way it appears to be conducted in many places, I did take seriously my own phenomenological studies of consciousness and its altered states.

    In the course of my deepening of my self-understanding I participated in several ayahuasca shamanic ceremonies conducted by two different shamans (one from Peru, the other a European who spends half his time in the Amazon, learning from the local shamans). I am also increasingly interested in the so-called contemplative sciences that represent a discipline of awareness, attention, mind, and psychosomatic regulation that in its numerous forms has been practiced in both Asian and European cultures (most notably, such places as India, Tibet, South-East Asia).

    In my counselling and psychotherapy practice I use many references to awareness, consciousness, and spontaneous non-psychedelic altered states of consciousness.

    I also founded altstates.net, an international website devoted to academic studies of altered states of consciousness.

    So, back to Graham Hancock, there is already much literature being published on ethnopharmacology and specifically ayahuasca. I refer you to the works by Dennis McKenna, an American ethnopharmacologist (see, e.g., his article “Ayahuasca and Human Destiny”), Stanley Krippner (Professor of Psychology at Saybrook University), as well as those of others. There has been an upsurge of studies that suggest that the current worldwide politics in regards to psychedelics has been too harsh (see the activities by MAPS). I also recommend listening to what Dr. Gabor Maté has to say on the topic of ayahuasca and addiction: http://beamsandstruts.com/bits-a-pieces/item/1164-gabor-on-ayahuasca

    Cont'd in Part Four

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