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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 26 2013: I understand completely why TED would be spooked about allowing every self-appointed expert, creationist, and flat-earther a voice on their site. TED would soon look like the comments section of most blogs- full of claims and counterclaims, with little actual information.

    I also understand their ambivalence about the talks by Graham and Sheldrake, because both skirt on the edges of mainstream science but- more importantly- ignite a lot of passion among people who are pretty hostile to the "mainstream" science they see as a monolithic, repressive bogeyman. Just witness the passion on this site. Both Graham and Sheldrake suffer- just a little- from this same paranoid, monolithic viewpoint, and that may be what a) makes TED nervous, and b) ignites their most passionate supporters.

    That is a pity, because I think that they both speakers bring up valuable questions and valid areas for further inquiry by other scientists. Yes, other scientists, because I believe that both have acted scientifically in their pursuits of ideas that science has few tools to apply. Many "mainstream" hard-headed scientists are intellectually open to questions that seem to have merit, but are difficult to pursue. I'm a physicist myself, and we are not all the blind materialists that the many critics make us out to be. (You can't be that way and still believe quantum mechanics.) It's just hard to make a living in those areas that are pursued by those two gentlemen. I wish them success, and a continued platform from which to speak.

    I would only expect equal respect for the mainstream scientific viewpoints. They have been hard-won over the past few centuries, and are backed by a lot of data,
    • Mar 27 2013: You are confusing hostility towards censorship with hostility towards science. They are not the same thing. Mainstream science is not under attack and is not in need of defending. Many people posting here in favor of Sheldrake and Hancock are scientists after all.

      Neither Sheldrake nor Hancock are paranoid. They know exactly what they are up against. You're making assumptions without knowing what really goes on. The kind of hostility they encounter has been well documented and you can find papers and discussions of this impenetrable skeptical mindset going back sixty years.
    • Mar 27 2013: I appreciate what you wrote, Mr. Reese. However, the respect for "mainstream scientific viewpoints," may suffer when the study of, and conclusions made in science (in particular areas), holds on for dear life to data that was initially skewed because of dogmatic viewpoints.
      For instance; I remember reading about geologist Professor Robert Schoch’s (Boston University) point of view concerning what he described as water damage to the sphinx in Egypt. Schoch pointed out how scholars, who attribute the building of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids to the Old Kingdom – Khafre, were in error. The erosion damage, he asserted was through water – either rainfall or a deluge, or both, not wind. And further, it is pointed out in Graham Hancock's "Fingerprints of the Gods," that R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz in his Roi de la theocratie Pharaonique, made a reference to the “tremendous floods and rains which devastated Egypt in the eleventh millennium B.C…” He (Lubicz) wrote: “A great civilization must have preceded the vast movements of water that passed over Egypt which leads us to assume that the Sphinx already existed…that Spinx whose leonine body, except for the head, shows indisputable signs of water erosion.”
      As Hancock points out, this could have only happened when the area had a wet climate – around 10,000 B.C., not when Khafre allegedly built the monuments in 2,500 B.C. Mainstream scientists have ridiculed these assertions and yet have not come up with any plausible explanations to the contrary. I didn't hear any of the “mainstream scientists" speak up confirming the initial viewpoint, nor apologizing.

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