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Discuss the note to the TED community on the withdrawal of the TEDxWestHollywood license.

For discussion: http://blog.ted.com/2013/04/01/a-note-to-the-ted-community-on-the-withdrawal-of-the-tedxwesthollywood-license


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  • Apr 3 2013: I see that Mr. Hoopes has finally completely lost it and is now comparing the proliferation of unorthodox beliefs to Nazi Germany, the solution to which is somehow interfering with the free marketplace of ideas?! The little people can't be permitted to think for themselves because that, what, invites tyranny? The public must be protected from itself for fear of the next authoritarian regime? Am I understanding this correctly?

    Well. My irony meter just caught fire. I'm gonna need a lot more coffee to make it through this thread.
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      Apr 3 2013: "the solution to which is somehow interfering with the free marketplace of ideas?!"

      Yet another utterly bizarre interpretation. Interfering with TED (as has been proposed by so many here) is actually interfering with the free marketplace of ideas. I have not suggested interfering with the free marketplace of ideas at all.

      "Am I understanding this correctly?"

      Absolutely not. That's a significant problem.
      • Apr 3 2013: John, why not just state clearly what relevance the holocaust has here. What, eg, is the analogous situation in Nazi Germany that is represented by TED's decision to cancel the license? What are the causal links here, if any, that you feel are analogous to the causal links in Germany? Nobody can understand the particular mapping between the two situations and every attempt we make you say is wildly wrong. So, how, specifically, are you mapping the events in Germany to the events here?
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          Apr 3 2013: Thanks for asking. Unfortunately, I don't have time to respond at length right now. I won't go into the extensive history of Nazi support of pseudoscience from the Studiengruppe für germanisches Altertum (Thule Society) to the Forschungs- und Lehrgemeinschaft das Ahnenerbe e.V. (Ahnenherbe) to the theories of Aryan superiority and Nazi eugenics that became the underpinnings of the ideology of the Third Reich. People can Google that stuff on their own. The bottom line is that, in the context of the Nazi's rise to power--which resulted in the Holocaust--a whole host of strange and often dangerous theories moved from the fringe to the mainstream, where they were openly and enthusiastically supported by a significant enough proportion of the German people to become accepted doctrines. In the process, academics and others who protested lost their jobs and often their lives. As with Stalin's purges, it's the intellectuals who--even in small minorities--voice dissent about popular opinion who are often the first to be shipped off to the concentration camps and gulags. If there's anything to be learned from history, it's that the spread of wrongheaded ideas (including pseudohistory and pseudoscience) is a legitimate concern.

          Since I don't have time, I'd like to encourage you to read this brief summary of the story of Hanns Hoerbiger's WEL, which explains how a fringe theory moved from the fringe to the mainstream (even after the death of its proponent).

          The Story of Hanns Hoerbiger's Cosmic Ice Theory

          I believe there are actually ideas that are not worth spreading and there are lessons to be learned from what can happen when those ideas become tools in the hands of ideologues and even thugs (intellectual and otherwise).

          History has demonstrated over and over and over again that the general public often makes bad decisions and that knowledge is not something that advances on the basis of popular opinion.
        • Apr 3 2013: Precisely.

          Pithy. Well-stated. I'm out of thumbs, so I had to write it out.
        • Apr 3 2013: At least we know that Godwin's law is a predictable and reliable hypothesis.
      • Apr 3 2013: Mr. Hoopes, I awakened this morning to a stream of comments from you so hyperbolic and deranged I nearly choked on my coffee. I'm gladdened to hear that you are not, in fact, calling for the censorship of ideas... at least not anywhere but on TED.

        And I have noticed that you ratcheted down that hyperbole, about which I'm also relieved.

        Still, seeing this morning that you were still on about eugenics and implying that "people making up their own minds" leads to things like genocide was... concerning. http://www.ted.com/conversations/17348/discuss_the_note_to_the_ted_co.html?c=641676

        Of course reading that opposing materialism leads to things like the Protocols... wow! Now that is some special hyperbole. (You also mischaracterized criticism of the theory as "demonizing" it, but that's just... so... you. And it leads to, you guessed it, hyperbole.) http://www.ted.com/conversations/17348/discuss_the_note_to_the_ted_co.html?c=641821

        But it does give me a wonderful opportunity to play more of that association fallacy game you've popularized.

        John Hoopes: Targeting "materialsim" lead to the Protocols which laid at the heart of the ideology that resulted in the Holocaust. People making up their own minds leads to things like Nazi eugenics and genocide

        Ben Stein: Evolution is a dangerous theory because it's the basis for Nazi Eugenics.

        Pretty solid comparison between you and Mr. Stein I think.

        This, however, remains VERY concerning:

        Hoopes: I happen to think that the world could benefit from superior pedagogy. I must be an idealist as well as an elitist.
        Grobbelaar: Didn't Hitler also think that?
        Hoopes: Yes, I suppose so. Does that make it bad, or do the details of the pedagogy matter as well?

        Ideologues scare me because they think they're right and know what's best for other people, rather than believing that people can be presented with a range of ideas and decide.

        Benevolent dictatorship, benevolent pedagogy... It all creeps me out
        • Apr 3 2013: Religion will not advance without the cooperation with science and its purification from outgrown traditional imagery, or "literal truth of the bible". Parapsychology will not advance without the cooperation with sceptics, to protect it against fraud, experimentor bias and so on. I do believe in God (in some sense) and the reality of (at least some) psychic phenomena. This does not entitle me to accept any (for me, so far) outlandish claims, like there are alien bases underground and similar. I prefer to make up my own mind, listen to many views and learn from both sides of the camp, also experiment with these phenomena myself, by doing psi experiments, meditating, training Qigong and other practices. I was, for example, rather sceptical about the effectiveness of homeopathy but I gave it a chance and it now has helped me in so many cases against throat infection (and at surprising - better than antibiotics - timescales) it's beyond reasonable doubt, personally.

          This is also the power of philosophy, it does not have to appeal to authority or external soures, but refers to first-hand inner experiences and rational investigation in matters.
      • Apr 3 2013: "The bottom line is that, in the context of the Nazi's rise to power--which resulted in the Holocaust--a whole host of strange and often dangerous theories moved from the fringe to the mainstream, where they were openly and enthusiastically supported by a significant enough proportion of the German people to become accepted doctrines."

        So you are saying, as I initially suggested, that belief in fringe theories leads to holocausts. Thus, if Targ and Dossey speak, and the public believe them, the bodies will surely pile up. yes, yes, it's an interesting thesis, but not one I am able to subscribe to.
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          Apr 3 2013: "So you are saying, as I initially suggested, that belief in fringe theories leads to holocausts."

          Well, no. That would be what Time Walker calls hyperbole. It's another example of your tendency to commit an either/or (a.k.a. false dilemma) fallacy and to entertain probabilities of only 1 or 0.

          False dilemma

          Belief in *some* fringe theories led to the Holocaust. (Actually, at the time, theories at the basis of antisemitism were quite mainstream.)

          Fortunately for all of us, many fringe theories are relatively benign.
        • Apr 3 2013: I get his argument, but this equally can happen with ideas currenctly acceptable for discussion and theoretical and experimental investigation, both to the scientific mainstream and TED, like that the universe is nothing but a giant computer and that we are literally living inside a computer simulation, or that we are "nothing but chemical scum on a medium-sized planet" (quoting Stephen Hawking), that could potentially lead to gross abuses, gross neglection of the inherent valueness of life. Who cares about life on earth when the universe is effectively dead, anyway? Providing for an easy cop out. Or look at the "artificial life" camp and those claims for providing immortality (for the lucky few, I guess) by technical means soon.

          Or those that like to give up on saving the environmental or social problems here and leave earth, favoring space migration instead.

          Frank Tippler comes to mind, I watched his talk on TED, he proclaims giving scientific proof for the future "singularity", that will all save us as software simulations in some giant computer that will inevitably be developed .. for me this is outlook into a far more dangerous pseudo-religion, which could potentially lead to many people sacrifying their lifes/souls in equating themselves with some computer simulation.

          On the other hand, Rupert Sheldrake with his ideas is giving me much hope for possible reconcilation between these two essential evolutionary forces in human history, science and religion. Maybe Einstein was right in stating that "science without religion is lame", but this can also describe a double-edged sword.

          To give some provoking idea myself:

          At least Hitler had *some* values. As he didn't like the idea of an all-destructive atomic bomb, because he didn't want to destroy the world, but to rule it (and euthanise away all "unworthy life").

          While there is no place for human values in radical materialism. Here the universe is running blind, with no purpose, no good or bad whatsoever.
      • Apr 3 2013: So what was the purpose of bringing up the holocaust? What possible relevance can it have to the situation here? And I haven't offered a false dilemma because I haven't offered an either or. What is your point?
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          Apr 3 2013: Sorry, Steve. I give up. I'm just too dense to pursue this with you any further.
      • Apr 3 2013: I know, but why not just tell us what the holocaust has to do with anything? I ask because it seems to me that you just brought it up as an offensive slur on anything/one you don't agree with by trying to associate your opponents' (position) with those hideous events in some way.

        So, I ask you again: How does the holocaust map onto the situation here? I have no interest in another of your lengthy posts solely about Nazi Germany which avoids any attempt at mapping the events there to the events here. Moreover, if you will not comply then I would ask you to seek out all the posts where you mention the holocaust and delete them because such an associations without justification is outrageous.
        • Apr 3 2013: Godwin's law, association fallacy, argumentum ad misericordiam (yet another logical fallacy)... take your pick. That and more apply. I'd hate to see them deleted though. I have a weakness for dark comedy.

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