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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 28 2013: If that's what you think, then you haven't been reading my other comments, in which I've been offering a close and detailed assessment of the argument on its merits.
    • Mar 28 2013: What, the comment in which it turned out that every single thing you said was wrong?
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        Mar 28 2013: No, the comment in which I provided a verbatim quote from Hancock's presentation.

        His discussion of personal revelation and his narration of how ayahuasca freed him from a cannabis addiction by teaching him about death runs from 6:15 to 9:47. That's 3:32 minutes of a presentation that's only 18:45 minutes long.

        At 12:15, Hancock begins his discussion of the "war on consciousness" by stating, "We HATE visionary states in this society." How can that possibly be true? Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism--all of which are parts of "this society"--all honor, promote, value, and teach about mystical experiences from Noah, Abraham, and Moses to the Buddha and Mohammed. Mysticism has been a firm part of the American literary tradition, from Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau to Thomas Pynchon and many others. Mysticism is not something that "we hate," nor are the kinds of visionary states that inspired the Beatles, the Stones, the Grateful Dead, or countless other bands. Visionary states have been a fundamental part of the American (and British) experience from its inception. As Bill Hicks wrote:

        “You see, I think drugs have done some good things for us. I really do. And if you don't believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor. Go home tonight. Take all your albums, all your tapes and all your CDs and burn them. 'Cause you know what, the musicians that made all that great music that's enhanced your lives throughout the years were real fucking high on drugs. The Beatles were so fucking high they let Ringo sing a few tunes.”

        Hancock's premise that "we HATE visionary states" is patently absurd.
        • Mar 28 2013: If that were true then we wouldn't reward people experiencing visionary states with incarceration. Just sayin'.
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          Mar 29 2013: I disagree with the point that contemporary societies' hatred for the 'visionary state' is a fictitious phenomenon. It seems to me that a pertinent example of where the 'visionary state' is frowned upon by society is in the case of the madman. Those with mental illnesses, whom may occasionally experience hallucinations, a type of 'visionary state', find themselves the subject of much alienation and discrimination. Whether or not this is a healthy approach towards the issue of mental illness is not for me to judge. It is nonetheless true that the hallucinating madman is often locked away, and generally rejected by society, due to the fact that he experiences the 'visionary state'.

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