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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 20 2013: PART FOUR

    In the West, we clearly have a massive social problem with drug addiction and alcoholism, while much of psychedelics as well as other treatment modalities, if used in a therapeutic setting (as studies suggest), may be effective in overcoming addiction as well as helpful in treating other disorders. In addition to this we have to remember that such sacred drink as ayahuasca may be a part of spiritual or religious practice (and indeed, it has been for centuries in non-European peoples). DMT as an essential component of ayahuasca is prohibited in many countries, while, as Graham Hancock points out, various forms of alcohol (which by some estimates is among the top dangerous drugs including such narcotics as heroin and cocaine) are socially accepted for recreational use.

    In Russia, which has some of the strictest laws and prohibitions regarding psychedelics, there is an epidemics of alcoholism and heroin addiction (with a DECREASING attention being paid to the overall development of the nation’s mental health—each day marks the situation’s becoming worse for psychiatric and psychological institutions there).

    Such anthropologists as Erika Bourguignon and others distinguish between what may be called monophasic and polyphasic societies. In polyphasic societies a perceptual diversity and a diversity of altered states of consciousness (including trance states, sacred states, meditative states, etc. both mediated and non-mediated by plants) is allowed. In fact, it may be argued that this diversity is used by society as a means to offer its members the rites of passage and initiation, which may have been necessary for a healthy growth of consciousness in human beings and their positive involvement with society. The lack of such rituals of altered states of consciousness conducted in a safe setting, in my opinion, may be one of the reason why masses of adolescents undertake drugs use, drinking and other harmful activities around the world.

    Cont'd in Part 5

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