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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 22 2013: Experience is not a logical proposition. We can talk about and interpret it, but we cannot prove experience -- we cannot say that an experience is true or false. When somebody tells us that they see a pink elephant... we can call him crazy and analyze why he might seeing a pink elephant, but to him the experience is very real... he sees a pink elephant.

    Mr. Hancock made no scientific claims in his talk. In fact, he was very objective about how what he says might come across. He also, in effect, mentioned that a clergy of 'scientific advisors' are perhaps the last people to turn to for insights into this discussion. But, it seems that this is exactly what has happened.

    I was blown away to discover that "TED’s scientific advisors" were in charge of what can, cannot, should and should not be put up for consideration. It changed my view of TED as a progression platform to one that is, well, subject to... a scientific advisory board... really?

    With this kind of censorship it feels like TED tries to tell its viewers they are naive and need to be fed only industry-standard meals of knowledge. Next, they might well have to challenge talks calling for 'compassion' or 'kindness' because scientists have yet to discover a verifiable basis for these experiences as well.

    Last I heard, scientists don't have clue what consciousness is, and even less 'reality'. They talk about it, try to interpret it... which is all Mr. Hancock is doing. A scientific advisory board... (really?)... has no right to tell him he cannot, or even worse... that we cannot hear what the has to say.

    I love and support what TED does. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother commenting on this issue.
    • Mar 22 2013: I agree with you. You got my vote. I was confused during and after the talk because I couldn't make out what the controversy was. Testimonials from our elders whom have a track record of honesty are not suppose to be taken seriously? Please. I don't even understand how one could or would comment negatively on it unless you've actually tried it yourself. Speaking of which, when is the the next Shaman coming to Sacramento, ca. I'm actually into teas myself......
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      Mar 22 2013: Very well thought and written, Thomas Kruger.

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