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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 19 2013: I've taken Ayahuasca many times, and I was also educated to PhD level in theoretical quantum physics. For me, the Ayahuasca experience obliterated the dogmatic, materialistic worldview I had been indoctrinated with over 10 years of physics education. It helped me to see how utterly small and incomplete science is in comparison to the mystery of creation. Rupert Sheldrake is right to call it a 'delusion' - this widely held belief that science has explained everything, and dis-proven even the existence of a creator. I was there, that was me for many years.

    Ultimately, I came to Ayahuasca searching for purpose in my life. Science taught me that the universe is fundamentally random, made up of dumb particles of matter floating around aimlessly, and this existence is just a happy cosmic coincidence, witnessed by an illusory consciousness in my brain. That worldview never felt right to me, i could sense a depth within myself which I had barely explored, as I had spent my life so focused on the outside world. Ayahuasca promised to help me dive within, and boy did it deliver.

    I can only describe it as an infinitely intelligent, infinitely creative, infinitely loving field of consciousness. It has the unique property that when it is witnessed, when it is felt, it is able to transform our understanding of reality in ways we could never have previously imagined. It REMINDS us of our eternal nature, by showing us our truest essence. And it's important to note that this is not like LEARNING - like reading a textbook, or doing an experiment - it's a KNOWING, a REMEMBERING. It is shown to you.

    Once you've been there and seen this thing, you MUST adjust your worldview to accommodate its existence. This is what Hancock is going through now. I applaud him for his profound honesty and bravery, and I KNOW that he speaks the truth. It's a shame so many other people (incl TED) can't yet see that, but it's not surprising. The truth will only reveal itself to those who seek it.
    • Mar 19 2013: Thank-you Steve for sharing your insight. Much needed here. People have little room to judge without any psychedelic experience. Graham was so right to call his video a War on Conciousness and this is what is happening in the NOW with this suppresion. It's actually beautiful to watch and perhaps will all this fuss it is maybe reaching out to those who are seeking some deeper meaning to life.

      Peace
    • D S

      • +5
      Mar 19 2013: Thanks for sharing, Steve! After prominent Canadian psychiatrist Richard M Bucke (who had been a logical positivist at the time) had such an experience, he remarked:

      "The person who passes through this experience will learn in the few minutes, or even moments, of its continuance more than in months or years of study, and he will learn much that no study ever taught or can teach. Especially does he obtain such a conception of the whole, or at least of an immense whole, as dwarfs all conception, imagination or speculation, springing from and belonging to ordinary Self Consciousness, such a conception as makes the old attempts to mentally grasp the universe and its meaning petty and even ridiculous."

      Now, his was of the "spontaneous" variety, but the point remains. You might also be interested in this account, from a scientist who appeared to be feeling similar to how you felt (his, like Bucke's, was a spontaneous happening):

      Turn-Around at Delphi
      http://www.issc-taste.org/arc/dbo.cgi?set=expom&id=00013&ss=1

      And this is one more stunning spontaneous account - from a scientist and (at the time) self-identified "atheistic materialist" - who hadn't been considering such matters at all ("I was not interested in nor was I searching for any sort of transcendent or supernatural experience. I had no idea of what a mystical experience was."):

      My Experience of Cosmic Consciousness
      http://www.issc-taste.org/arc/dbo.cgi?set=expom&id=00004&ss=1

      From the account:

      "Perhaps the most significant element of Cosmic Consciousness was the absolute knowingness that it involves. This knowingness is a deep understanding that occurs without words. I was certain that the universe was one whole and that it was benign and loving at its ground."

      That site is filled with accounts worth reading (not all dealing with those "peak experiences", though):

      The Archives of Scientists’ Transcendent Experiences
      http://www.issc-taste.org/arc/dbo.cgi?set=arc&ss=1
    • Mar 20 2013: Steve, thanks so much for sharing your experience. I had brilliant, insightful experiences with Ayahuasca and San Pedro. They are called entheogens and sacred teacher plants for a reason.

      We humans are multi-dimensional beings. To explore beyond the materialistic-mechanistic paradigm is the quest of our times, at least for the ones with open minds and hearts.
    • Mar 25 2013: Even PhDs can fall victim to the feelies. Guess what: your feelings aren't evidence for anything!

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