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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: I previously commented that I would not post further on this Blog page because it is so clearly designed to distract public attention from the disastrous way TED have handled their attempt to censor my “War on Consciousness” talk and Rupert Sheldrake’s “Science Delusion” talk. That in my view is the important point, for it bears on the future of TED itself as a viable platform for “ideas worth spreading”. I am heartened that so many of the 400-plus concerned people who have now posted here (and the 1000-plus who posted on the original Blog page) have refused to fall for TED’s sleight of hand and continued to press the organization to rethink its policy.

    Since TED have retracted and struck out all their justifications for the original deletion of my talk from the TEDx Youtube channel (http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/14/open-for-discussion-graham-hancock-and-rupert-sheldrake/ ) and since they have published my rebuttal, and done the same re Rupert Sheldrake’s talk, I agree with Rupert on a new post he has made on this page (http://www.ted.com/conversations/17189/the_debate_about_rupert_sheldr.html). There are no more specific points surrounding TED’s misguided decision that he and I need to answer. Nor is it possible to make much progress through short responses to nebulous questions like “Is this an idea worth spreading, or misinformation?”

    But I now make this one further post, simply to add my voice to Rupert’s and to put on record that I, too, would be happy to take part in a public debate with a scientist who disagrees with the issues I raise in my talk. My only condition is that it be conducted fairly, with equal time for both sides to present their arguments, and with an impartial moderator, agreed by both parties.

    Therefore I join Rupert in asking Chris Anderson to invite a scientist from TED’s Scientific Board or TED’s Brain Trust to have a real debate with me about my talk, or if none will agree to take part, to do so himself.
    • Mar 21 2013: Looking forward to watching the debate!
    • Mar 21 2013: Would love to see this debate!
    • Mar 21 2013: Can't wait for the debate. I hope this also leads to fair and open dialogue for a variety of other "controversial" topics that mainstream science has long dismissed or ridiculed because it challenges common core scientific beliefs (dogmas?). A fair, respectful and open debate is a great format.
    • Comment deleted

      • Mar 22 2013: Jerry Coyne and PZ Meyers seem to me more fitting given the circumstances of this whole issue.
      • Mar 22 2013: Lime Crime,

        Sam Harris will not take on Graham Hancock because they are on the same side on the War on Consciousness.

        Graham Hancock's "War on Consciousness" presentation boils down to a similar, if not exactly the same, conclusion as what Sam Harris argued on his blog regarding psychedelics. here's how Sam Harris eloquently put it.

        "The “war on drugs” has been well lost, and should never have been waged. While it isn’t explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, I can think of no political right more fundamental than the right to peacefully steward the contents of one’s own consciousness." ~ Sam Harris on Drugs and the Meaning of Life - http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/drugs-and-the-meaning-of-life

        you're welcome.
      • Mar 24 2013: Lime Crime,

        I specifically said that Harris and Hancock are on the same side on the War on Consciousness (aka War on Drugs)

        anyone who reads Sam Harris' post on psychedelics and watched Hancock's TEDx talk will draw a similar conclusion.
    • Mar 22 2013: Mr. Hancock,

      please invite Chris Anderson to your next ayahuasca journey and see what gives.
    • Mar 24 2013: Graham... maybe you should just make a better talk instead of posting sour jabs at TED for moving your talk. You can't win that fight anyway. What, did you expect them to break down crying and beg for your forgiveness just because you call them censors? (*) That will not happen and you know it.

      If you want to claim a moral highground here, make a better talk and show them that you are right, instead of just throwing names at them for not recognizing your supposed genius.

      (*) By the way... censoring is the act of prescreening an expression and stopping it before it was even conveyed to anyone else. That is not what is happening here... they are framing it in caution but it is STILL viewable.
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        Mar 27 2013: Michael you seem to be the one making the sour jabs. Hancock seems to have supporters in the thousands backing his claims, how many have given your statement a thumbs up even though it is anchored under the most popular comment (Graham's)?

        In a rough count I'd say they are 95% positive. Considering TED has fans in the millions those are pretty telling percentages.
    • Mar 27 2013: Yes, we'd like a debate, but even more we'd like TED to refuse to enter into a rational dialogue here, further proving that actually, in the case of drugs, there is no such thing as science, that we all of us are fallible, dogma-prone cowards.
    • Mar 27 2013: I fully support Graham Hancock's talk. It's controversial but the scientific world should pay more attention
      too his ideas.What a shame to put a censorship on his talk.Science can be great but science can be dogmatic.

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