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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 24 2013: The scientist who first synthesized LSD in 1938 as well as the first person to take it in an act of self experimentation in 1943 was Albert Hoffmann who, at the time, was a highly respected chemist working for Sandoz Pharma. His description of his experience in the first chapter of his book "LSD: My Problem Child" included this:

    "This self experiment showed that LSD-25 behaved as a psychoactive substance with extraordinary properties and potency. There was to my knowledge no other known substance that evoked such profound psychic effects in such extremely low doses, that caused such dramatic changes in human consciousness and our experience of the inner and outer world."

    Like Hancock, his description of his trip was entirely subjective with no peer reviewed certitude. According to TED's implied rules, Albert Hoffmann would have been censored if he had given a talk for them based on his conclusions.

    Hoffmann goes on to say: "I was aware that LSD, a new active compound with such properties, would have to be of use in pharmacology, in neurology, and especially in psychiatry, and that it would attract the interest of concerned specialists. But at that time I had no inkling that the new substance would also come to be used beyond medical science." Claims such as these would have disqualified Hoffmann from a TED presentation.

    Hoffmann died at the age of 102 in 2008; he had taken his last dose of LSD five years earlier.

    His book can be found here; http://www.psychedelic-library.org/child.htm

    I'm afraid that the anonymous censors have done a great diservice to TED and consequently the community at large regarding this issue. And it would appear that they've learned nothing from the experience given their lack of input or explanation here.

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