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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: Last night I used an inappropriate word ("sleazy") to describe Sheldrake pitching his book in one part of his talk, which I deeply regret. It is unfortunate that using this word has riled up this already "spirited" group, including that of an alleged "TED Fellow," on here, and that someone would flag that comment as inappropriate. While I believe that folks are a bit "insensitive" in their responses to using that word, I apologize for using it.

    I didn't have to read the deluge of comments I received when I woke up this morning to realize that there are some folks who believe VERY STRONGLY that TED has "wronged" these two presenters. What I can tell you is this:
    1. It appears that a vast majority (not all) of the talks that TED has "flagged" in the past are related to a speaker who has a book published. When last year's talk by Nick Hanauer caused a stir for crossing the political line, his PR agent caused a stir. When these things happen, as a TEDx organizer, I have found that a speaker's true motives for taking the TED stage come out. I question those motives to some degree here. I don't need the "marketers" who responded to my comment to chime in. TED is NOT a trade conference, so speakers who are doing this or business development reasons should rethink their approach for this type of forum.
    2. TED's guidelines are VERY specific about what speakers can/can't do onstage. A speaker can talk about the substance and not even mention the book onstage.
    3. I suspect that TED will work with its staff and TEDx organizers to improve its curation practices and how it can prevent this situation from repeating itself. TEDx organizers had been issued rules about pseudoscience and must share the responsibility in how they select speakers. They are stewards of the brand, and they must do better in this area, or else the TEDx program could be at risk.

    Lets all learn from this episode and ensure TED comes out stronger as a result.
    • Mar 20 2013: While you mention potentially legitimate reasons for removing a talk from the TED video platform, none of these reasons were argued by TED. Instead, the speakers were unfairly defamed for illegitimate reasons that went to the heart of the credibility of their work (full disclosure: I do NOT subscribe to Hancock's 'theories'). These speakers were invited to present in a conference whose very theme was questioning existing paradigms. Their presentation contained absolutely no surprise, in the sense that what they said contained nothing that they hadn't repeated many times before. So while you bring up an interesting new twist, it changes nothing regarding the appalling treatment that these speakers were subjected to by TED, after having graciously donated their time and energy for the benefit of TED. As a former TEDx speaker, I remain appalled not only by the original defamatory statements made before any chance was given to the speakers to defend themselves, but by statements made by Chris Anderson afterwards, towards both the speakers and the people commenting on the TED blog, as well as by the general manner in which TED continues to mishandle this.
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        Mar 20 2013: Bernardo, you raise some very salient points. I reiterate that I suspect TED will be revisiting how this situation unfolded and the manner in which it responded to the incident. The fact that former TEDx speakers are also expressing their disappointment is likely resonating with the TED staff so they can develop a new troubleshooting process. Yes, the organizers had a theme that on the surface, these talks would fit quite well with. However, policy changes were made last fall and communicated with EVERY organizer, so they should have been erring on the side of caution. At the end of the day, I agree with you that this matter was not handled as well as it could have been, and again, I believe that changes will be made to ensure it does not recur. I trust that TED is listening, learning and refining based on this unfortunate situation.
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      • Mar 20 2013: I totally agree Debbie. These people are ruthless deep inside. If they had real morals they would have put back the talks. Then they would have opnely presented the scientific commitee and their rules. But it seems their priority over ideas is their markeitng and sponsprship potential...

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