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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 27 2013: I am a scientist, and I was posting in favor of Hancock and Sheldrake.

    I have learned that the fringiness of a science- if I can use the term "science"- is usually inversely proportional to the hostility of it's supporters towards the "censorship" and "self-protection" arrayed against them by conventional scientists. Creationists and climate-change denialists are examples of this.

    I don't see anybody trying to shut these people up. But I also don't see them being actively supported in conventional science circles, partly due to the difficulty of experimentally testing their claims, or incorporating them into what is currently known. Which are pretty standard requirements. It does not help when their supporters scream "favoritism" and "censorship". Not many legitimate sites want to encourage those kinds of screaming matches.

    I am glad to see these guys pursuing their ideas in the face of the difficulties. I am sympathetic to their ideas. But attributing their lack of mainstream support to a monolithic bias for materialism is a caricature, and it does not help their cases.
    • Mar 27 2013: Here's some links to help you understand the "monolithic bias for materialism."

      http://web.archive.org/web/20090421174747/http://www.soultravel.se/2009/0409-PSI/parapsychology.shtml

      http://web.archive.org/web/20090421174810/http://www.soultravel.se/2009/0409-PSI/research-parapsychology.shtml

      http://noetic.org/blog/psi-taboo-action/

      http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/411401.article

      Parapsychology funds deliberately re-routed to other sciences; parapsychology chairs "disappearing" and a Nobel Laureate and the leading researcher in parapsychology dis-invited to conferences based solely on their interest in psi. You are leaping to conclusions without actually knowing the facts on the ground.

      Was that enough to convince you that the bias is real and very, very strong? They are up against middle schoolers with advanced degrees.

      And please don't make statements about the quality of the research unless you've actually seen it. Because what you're saying about the difficulty of testing their claims is just so much hogwash. Newsflash! They figured it out. Go read up on some the experiments.

      If you are indeed posting in favor of Hancock and Sheldrake, you have strange way of showing it.

      Please note that my problem with your post is that it contains a whole slew of factual inaccuracies.
    • Mar 27 2013: I should firstly say I understand your point and agree with a lot of it. However, I don't really understand why you say you don't see anyone trying to shut these people up. What's going on here is surely an example of trying to shut these people up. That is, they give talks at a conference associated with an organisation that is supposed to be about new radical ideas and then, after a few ideologues howl in protest, the talks are removed from the main channel and placed, with numerous false statements about their content, where nobody is likely to chance upon them (while blog after blog after blog is set up to try to get enough support for the decision that they can say the community demanded it). In addition, there are self-appointed watchdog organisations which have as one of their main goals shutting people like these up.

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