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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 21 2013: This talk is not scientific, but it is important because it points to a divide in our paradigm that many people choose to ignore. The divide between objectivity and subjective experience. In the tradition of empiricism, science has always striven toward objectivity. This has lead to a pursuit of the laws of nature which has broken through dogmas of the past. Part of this process is the purging of subjectively held belief. A scientist must overcome their own bias, see past cultural presumptions and focus on the empirical data and experimentation. This is how scientific progress is made.

    However, human experience is innately subjective. All of the most important aspects of our life, the joys and pains of childhood, pride in our accomplishments, love of our family, fears and anxieties, grief over our losses, our passions and our vices, are all subjective.

    Consciousness is at the crux of this divide and is still mysterious in many ways. Though neuroscience is getting very advanced in its ability to correlate brain activity with subjective experience, it is still mysterious what subjective experience actually is and why we have it at all. Increasingly our personal struggles are being medicalized into mental illness. Is social anxiety or drug addiction a mental illness or a subjective struggle in the narrative of our lives?

    While many will argue that pharmacology is the only objective cure to mental illness, others believe that subjective journeys such as meditation and self realization give us the means to cope inner struggles. Both paradigms have their place in the diversity of human consciousness, but only one is scientific.

    Graham points to profound subjective experiences that people are having which are empowering them to overcome their problems. They are subjective solutions to subjective problems. Not all truths are scientific truths. Not everything can be understood through objectivity and science.

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