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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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    The following are my issues with the video:

    1) Drugs are illegal. To achieve altered states, today’s North American shaman use natural technologies include deep breathing, drums, rattles, all night sessions, sweat lodges, deep personal sharing, bodywork, massage and others technologies. American shaman don’t use drugs, drugs are illegal.

    2) The ancient civilizations were not wise. If you do the work to remember your past lives, you’ll remember that ancient civilizations did not have wisdom, they (we) had cruelty. My job in Mayan times was to sacrifice the adolescents, bit of an issue. If you use hypnosis to remember your past lives, I’ll warn you that you will likely go into shock so keep warm. Side note: past life memories are narrative, not semantic (thanks TED).

    3) A shaman experiences the world metaphorically. When Graham tells you a spirit comes dressed as the mother, all your defenses are down. She’s not “your” mother; she’s the destroyer who eats her children. See Jung on the negative side of the mother archetype. If the spirit had appeared as lover, for example, it wouldn’t have gotten him to do what it wants and the audience would not have a positive reaction to his story.

    4) His spirits do not heal. When a person walks into a pseudo-scientist and asks for a healing treatment, subjectively the patient is healed when objectively the treatment can’t possibly work. I’ll explain using acupuncture. A spirit puts a painful feeling in your back, and you go to the acupuncturist. The spirit pulls back, and you say, “I’m healed!” A few weeks later the spirit harasses your back and you return to the “doctor.” If it can’t possibly work, it’s deception.

    A shaman recognizes Graham’s path as the path of the crow, not the eagle. The dark sorcerer debates the white sorcerer. TED isn’t the venue for such a challenge.

    • Apr 2 2013: Is this post meant as sarcasm? North American shaman don't use drugs? The rest of this gobbledy gook? Vague flavor here of certain shamans I've run across. They're sometimes trained to play the oppositional, power grabbing thing. The area where I live once was host to a conference of shaman's, curanderos and indigenous elders from around the globe, over 400 in all. I hosted a group from Guatemala. The head of the contingent was always accompanied by another fellow. When I asked about this, I was told the other fellow was the chief's sorcerer bodyguard. Apparently there were those among the invited who liked to try their mojo out on the others, apparently seeing it as a way to even scores or collect personal power. None of that could be going on here, could it?

    • Apr 2 2013: Laws are made by man and as thus are sometimes imperfect.

      Adrenalin is a drug, coffee is a drug, alcohol is a drug, heck even oxygen by definition is a drug.

      Plus ayahuasca use is perfectly accepted in North America under the proviso that it is practiced within a ritual or ceremonial context. The Santo Daime religion and the UDV have been active in North America for many years.
      • Apr 2 2013: Thank you, Kerry. So very true. I'm sure you followed the court case pursued by the Santa Fe chapter of the UDV all the way to SCOTUS. Even the Native American Church was against them - intruding on their private territory, after all. But the UDV managed to pull it off.
        • Apr 2 2013: I didn't I am afraid i am in the UK an didn't learn about this until last year.

          I would be extremely grateful if you could link me to some good articles about it - and even the government document that was produced.

          The UDV should be very proud of what they achieved. I hope the UK soon follows suit as it saddens me to see genuine religious users (and members of the Santo Daime faith) have to hide their spiritual beliefs for fear of imprisonment.
      • Apr 2 2013: Kerry, sounds like you're doing some interesting research. Don't need to link you, just google UDV Supreme Court. It was interesting, the whole drama. .They were lucky to have a patron wealthy enough to back them.
    • Apr 2 2013: The legal status of drugs is inconsequential in a discussion about their relevance as a medicine. Nobody is suggesting they should be used irresponsibly but if “Big Pharma” gets to offer their remedies why then can’t we have a similar set of rules for traditional medicines that have always bee used. The main cause of its demonisation is the distorted reality these double standards perpetuate. The fact that they are illegal and not regulated like any other medicine is precisely the problem.

      Children are naturally inquisitive. Telling them not to do something often has the opposite effect. So instead of being told at the appropriate age and under appropriate set and setting they can experience something so profound that at times they will feel they are in immersed in of the universe, but you also warn them that if they are not careful these sacraments can put you amongst your worst demons.

      Interestingly you will find this was how many ancient tribes approached these issues and evidence strongly shows this is where our fairy tales and judeo christian values are founded.

      John M. Allegro's The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross http://johnallegro.org/

      Allegro was a man way ahead of his contemporise and was treated in exactly the same fashion only to be vindicated after his death.

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