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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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  • Apr 1 2013: I'm refraining from further comments as I feel I have probably said enough. My final observation is addressed primarily to John Hoopes.

    The error here is TED's as they invited the man to speak. If they don't like what he said, tough.

    John, should we not invoke the statute of limitations here? This is beginning to sound inquisitorial. Why dwell on Hancocks past errors? This talk was about growing up, getting over his chronic dependence on cannabis and the fact that Ayahuasca initiated him. All commendable good stuff in my view.

    Just for the record, I'm pasting a previous response to you that got misplaced in the melee.

    ........I don't think that is exactly right John, (with reference to scientology etc) because the overall rationale of TED talks seems to be about respecting Nature and promoting environmental responsibility, so arguably Hancock's (new) ethos and intent might fall nicely into that ecological ballpark while all the others you mention would not qualify. So much contemporary applied science in industry is massively destructive and reprehensible in practice ~ what Polly Higgins another Whitechapel contributor calls ecocidal, so GH is suggesting Ayahuasca remedies are part of the solution.......

    Far better to be part of the solution to our ills than merely further exascerbating the problems, surely? The bottom line has to be this: does what we do and say contribute to civilization (ie planetary well-being) or compromise it?
    • Apr 1 2013: To clear up confusion: TED did not invite Hancock to speak. TEDx Whitechapel did that, and TEDx Whitechapel is an organisation unto itself. That is, until it does something that TED doesn't like, at which point TED can step in and have its way.
      • Apr 1 2013: Thanks for that clarification Lewis. I guess it's the perils of franchising that must be addressed.

        Be that as it may, if TED central disapproves, could they not simply have issued a respectful, sceptical and civil disclaimer? I mean that "website of shame" tactic was hardly appropriate; and as for Rupert Sheldrake being branded a charlatan that is just disgraceful and profoundly ill-considered, actually quite ignorant.
        • Apr 1 2013: What we're witnessing now is a dramatic shift in TED's direction. TED is being entirely reactive, not proactive. And what they're reacting to is an uproar in the rabid atheist wing. They don't even understand their own reasons for deleting these talks. They tried to give some reasons but they crossed them all out when the whole thing was solidly refuted. They have offered no explanation since.

          Their reasons for revoking the license of TEDx West Hollywood in advance of their upcoming conference are also unclear except for some clumsy attempt to explain that it's because of the "pseudoscience struggle" as if that were a real thing. http://weilerpsiblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/ted-not-satisfied-with-current-censorship-tedxwesthollywood-is-taken-down/

          TED has cast its lot with atheist activists and a shadowy "science board" whose identities they won't reveal. From here out you can expect TED to become increasing censorious and increasingly boring.
        • Apr 1 2013: I think Hancock neatly summed this up in an interview about this issue when he said that if one looks at TED's sponsors one can see that TED's job is to help launder the reputation of huge corporations which are a large part of the problem we face.

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