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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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    Apr 1 2013: Well .. this is not my humble opinion:

    if it works, it works.

    I have read a lot of the comments here, and mostly all I see is confused gibberish.

    Here - try this:

    If it works - it works, forget any kind of explanation and just use the method.

    Now I see a lot of posters who haven't got a clue about what the scientific method is. It is simply this - we have observed a phenomenon, we have found numbers that describe it - use the numbers, they will work for you.
    And when the method shows an error margin - this is admitted.

    And here's the difference between opinion and science - science admits only the method and the error.

    These pseudo scientist and con-artist give nothing but charismatic explanation. Scientists do not do that - they describe phenomena with a margin of error to deliver methods that will work when you try them.

    Every now and then, scientists will deliver some attempt at explanation - but I must warn everyone that there is no explanation in science - forget these things, they have no relevance to the use of the description.

    And it has been so since Newton - he, himself admitted that it was absurd that things act on other things at a distance - he just described it and gave us the mathematical method to confirm it.

    So if someone jumps in your face and tries to explain anything - say, that the great cosmic goat will make your lima beans shrivel .. get that guy and bury him up to his neck in guano and see what the cosmic goat has to say about it .. nothing? well there you go!

    And on this score, I'm totally in accord with John Hoopes. Anyone who respects these mystic explanations is a sucker waiting to get exploited. An opinion bearer who complains how badly they have been done by when the "gods" seemingly ignore them.

    Now .. all that said - here is MY opinion (No H in it)

    I have respect for visionaries - but their vision is for them alone - if they have results - accept that gift , forget the explanations - use your own - but keep it to yerself.
    • Comment deleted

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        Apr 1 2013: You see, people read and hear what they want to read and hear.
        I deliberately made my comment in the context of non-humility, and there we go - all the modes of censorship come out in the reactions .. a nice result - well done humans!

        If ayahuasca demonstrates a statistically significant remedy for self destructive behaviours, then it is a scientific result (it works) - and should, as the presenter suggests, be respected - not banned.
        That a kind of spirit goddess appears to those under treatment is no more than a model. Taking some kind of "spiritual" confirmation from such reports is the problem which I allude to. If the patient experiences such things, that's well and good .. it makes for a great bit of entertainment.. However, I doubt if praying to ayahuasca has any reliable outcome.

        The critical point is to keep the dogmas and the observations defined. As you say, having a vision of ayahuasca might make a handy starting point to examine apparent correlations and causalities. But it resolves to no more than a word - just as we use the word "gravity" to describe how things fall.
        You will note that quantum scientists insist that their model is a dogma - that is a balanced stance - it prevents speculation from escaping test and confirmation.

        The makers of models (dreamers) have a place, they expand the horizon of possibility and deliver new angles on old issues - but blind acceptance is a pitfall that few seem to notice.
        • Apr 2 2013: Nobody is asking for blind acceptance, people are simply asking that others be allowed to hear and decide for themselves. What you are asking for is truly blind ignorance and non-acceptance in that you (you of all people) will vet content prior to us getting to know about it. No thanks, but I don't think you are up to the task. I mean, no offence, but you haven't even managed to type your own name properly.
    • Apr 1 2013: Hancock didn't give a single explanation about anything in his talk, he only described his experiences and speculations.
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        Apr 1 2013: Yes, he was careful to hedge against assertion .. except his certainty that everything in our community is broken.
        I tend to agree with him, but one must keep a small margin to consider that humans are supposed to be screwed-up and cannot function any other way. I'd like to think I'm wrong about that, but there's no real evidence that we are better than chimps.
    • Apr 1 2013: Hi Mitch

      If you have anything to say about Hancock's talk please share it. If you'd like me to mark your essay on philosophy of science I'd be happy to but I don't think you'd like the result. Was there anything else?
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        Apr 1 2013: You want a diploma to match your moral high ground?
        I'll send you one - only $99.95.
        • Apr 2 2013: No moral high ground - just pointing out that a) your post said nothing about the subject under discussion and b) as an account of science it was extraordinary (in a bad way). I mean, you come here and announce that virtually everything we have written is confused gibberish, and then proceed to spout unmitigated confused and off-topic gibberish. What do you expect people to say - nice hat?
    • Apr 1 2013: Hancock is a journalist, not a scientist, so... I'm sorry... What the hell are you talking about?
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        Apr 1 2013: I'm exploring the undercurrent of a conflict - science verses spirituality. This is evident in the comments - and in general discourse elsewhere.
        I am curious where it comes from.
        It would also be nice to get it fixed, the conflict is not necessary.
    • Apr 1 2013: This drivel isn't worth responding to. At least Mr. Hoopes has some intelligence, even if it's being used in a lost cause.
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        Apr 1 2013: Nicely un-humble - I like it!
        • Apr 2 2013: Apologies, Mitch. You actually have some sensible things to say, but of course the conflict goes far deeper than science vs.spirituality. Science - real hard science- the methodology, has no beef with real spirituality, and vice versa. Some of the greatest and most rational thinkers and scientists in the world were and are also deeply spiritual and vice versa. It's only when you drop a little lower on the pyramid (metaphorically speaking of course) that the rigidity and close mindedness begin to set in. A defensive measure, really, that unfortunately can quickly turn dangerously aggressive. It can get very,very hot for these sorts when they get too close to that paradoxical place where both modes of perception are seen for what they are. Many perceive that place as life threatening, and react accordingly- fight or flight. And yes, it would be nice to get it fixed, wouldn't it.

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