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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: So much for having a discussion with Chris Anderson. He just deleted his comment.

      Well Chris, We still haven't heard from the "anonymous science board". You know, the guys who are allowed to attack well-credentialed, invited guests to TEDx talks without having to justify anything they do or take responsibility for their actions?

      The general public doesn't need Jerry Coyne dictating what we are allowed to see. Stop insulting the people who made TED what it is... THE PUBLIC.

      The public isn't stupid, doesn't need to be told what to think or do, and is quite capable of using critical thinking skills. Why doesn't TED understand that?
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        Apr 3 2013: Bad choice.
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        Apr 3 2013: "The public isn't stupid, doesn't need to be told what to think or do, and is quite capable of using critical thinking skills."

        Would you care to debate that? Here's a relevant article from this week's news that I'd present as evidence to the contrary:

        • Apr 3 2013: John, you‘re confusing your own elitism as being a normative form of pedagogy. Not very much dissimilar from the phenomenon pointed out by the late Alan Watts where, in western cultures, a republic can be institutionalized politically whilst simultaneously still adhering to a monarchist religious worldview.

          Everybody ‘suffers’ from such cognitive dissonances to some extent; the secret is to first realize it.
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        Apr 3 2013: I happen to think that the world could benefit from superior pedagogy. I must be an idealist as well as an elitist.
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        Apr 3 2013: Yes, I suppose so. Does that make it bad, or do the details of the pedagogy matter as well?
        • Apr 3 2013: Yes, the details matter, thus: “normative pedagogy.” So, how do you prefer we establish the normativity thereof: democratically or elitistic?

          You obviously know best, so we'll all just have to take your word for it, right?
        • Apr 3 2013: Oh, wow. The irony.
      • Apr 3 2013: I can't believe he deleted his own comment. Does anyone remember what that comment was?
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          Apr 3 2013: The comment I deleted was one about Charles Mackay that I entered twice on my iPhone and both times the upload was truncated. I attempted to edit it and that failed, so I deleted it. I waited and tried again and it uploaded just fine. Your insinuations are becoming as bizarre as Steve's. I think you should consider your inclination towards hyperactive imagination in improving your own skills of critical thinking.
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        Apr 3 2013: So, a pedagogy based on the work of Alan Watts would not be elitist? Just asking. Or is your position one of pure anti-pedagogy?
        • Apr 3 2013: I'm not claiming that any "normative pedagogy" should be solely based on the work of Alan Watts. Don't even think he himself would have claimed that...

          I was simply pointing out his observance as basis for a fitting reference, speaking allegorically. That, also, I think, is pretty obvious.

          No, why would you 'extremize' my views? Based on what?

          I'm simply saying that pedagogy should be approached democratically instead of elitistic. Is this something you struggle to agree with?
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        Apr 3 2013: Sorry, Time Walker. Using an unspecified "his" in these threads is bound to result in error. You may want to use names to avoid future confusion.

        I don't usually delete comments, but was forced to by a hardware/software glitch. Further evidence that we must constantly be on guard for equipment failures, errors of perception, and fallacious assumptions. It was my mistake, some evidence that I'm human. Live and learn.
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        Apr 3 2013: Wian, I don't think I'm extremizing your views. I'm presenting a hypothetical of what would be an extreme view. You, on the other hand, have clearly extremized my views. Based on what?

        Whether pedagogy should be democratic instead of elitist is a significant question. Does it matter whether the democratic decisions are made by a well-informed and educated electorate or by one that has been successfully inculcated with a fallacious ideology? Should the content of K-12 pedagogy be democratically selected by children in grades K-12? Should the content of a university education be determined by students who have not yet received university degrees? Should the content of public education be determined by popular vote? How often? What, specifically, do you mean by "democratic"?
        • Apr 3 2013: Based on you saying that the public is stupid and using that as a reason why invited speaker’s talks should be censored from the public for basically challenging the status quo.

          “Whether pedagogy should be democratic instead of elitist is a significant question.”

          It is a very significant question, yes – one which democracies today institutionally have failed to address properly.

          “Does it matter whether the democratic decisions are made by a well-informed and educated electorate or by one that has been successfully inculcated with a fallacious ideology?”

          Yes, it matters. But should the proposition of whether or not an ideology (say, materialism) is “fallacious” or not, be inquired into transparently (democratically) or just by the special select few who happen to believe that their current worldview is infallible? Keeping in mind that this worldview also happens to presently paradigmatically reign supreme as established law. [Edited: rephrased to make clearer].
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        Apr 3 2013: "Based on you saying that the public is stupid and using that as a reason why invited speaker’s talks should be censored from the public for basically challenging the status quo."

        You are once again mischaracterizing my remarks. I do not think that censorship is the appropriate term and have not said that invited speaker's talks should be censored. I also do not think that any talks should be removed "for basically challenging the status quo." To the contrary, I think that talks that challenge the status quo should be encouraged. However, I do not think that simply challenging the status quo is sufficient.

        As for the other issues, I'm pleased to know that we agree on at least two. I think this discussion and many others on TED are evidence for its support of open and democratic discussion of issues, including whether or not specific ideologies are fallacious. I also think that there is clear evidence--including the success of TED--that groups of select few (such as its "brain trust" and science board) have generally made wise decisions. I'm not certain what you're asking (the phrasing of your question is unclear) but I absolutely do not think that process is infallible. I also absolutely do not think that such decisions should be made by select groups that share a common worldview which "reigns supreme as established law".
        • Apr 3 2013: I rephrased my last paragraph to make it clearer.

          Moreover, the phrase in the brackets in the first sentence reproduced below is my own opinion and I didn't mean to say that it's necessarily yours. Apologies.

          "Based on you saying that the public is stupid and using that as a reason why invited speaker’s talks should be [censored from the public for basically challenging the status quo.]"

          Still, based on your opinion that the public is stupid and these talks' exposure to them should be minimized.
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        Apr 3 2013: Thanks, Wian. I always appreciate clarification.

        My characterization of "the public" as "stupid" is a vast oversimplification of what I actually think. However, I'm not writing an article for a peer-reviewed journal or a book-length exegesis. I'm posting in a threaded online forum. So, reading more into my comments than intended is bound to result in errors.

        To clarify my own comments, I do not think that exposure to these talks should be prohibited nor do I think they should be widely advertised, heavily promoted, and seen by everyone who could possible get access to them. I also do not think that they merit the imprimatur of TED, which implies that they are "ideas worth spreading." I do not think they are worth spreading.

        It is my fervent hope--but probably an unrealistic one--that talks such as these would be seen only by people who are intelligent, well-educated (which includes training in critical thinking skills), well-informed, minimally biased, open-minded, and skilled at developing informed opinions that are not biased by harmful ideologies nor that lead them to cause harm to themselves and others. I hope that their exercise of critical thinking would lead them to undertake significant research and evaluation of primary sources, secondary sources, critiques both favorable and unfavorable, and careful consideration of detailed biographies of the speakers and their work. Virtually all of that material is available online and in bookstores and libraries to people who make an effort to avail themselves of it. Will "the public" do that? Probably not. Is that an "elitist" expectation"? Maybe so. Is it realistic? I think that, in theory, it is. However, as I've acknowledged, I'm an idealist.

        I don't think TED has ever targeted an audience comprised of a "common denominator" of the general public. I would not be surprised if the majority of the public find TED presentations elitist and either boring or incomprehensible. Is that a bad thing?
        • Apr 3 2013: "My characterization of "the public" as "stupid" is a vast oversimplification of what I actually think. However, I'm not writing an article for a peer-reviewed journal or a book-length exegesis."

          Nor are you giving a TED talk, evidently.

          I think Mr. Anderson has made it clear that TED is not interested in this discussion. Congrats, Mr. Hoopes. You've saved the day, yet again.

          EDIT: I would be very surprised indeed to learn that you're an idealist, especially after the effort you have put into defending materialism here. I jest, of course, but I hope you see the potential for confusion.
        • Apr 3 2013: John, for the most part, I agree with your third paragraph if Real pseudoscience, for example, of course, was under question. But I still feel that the inquiry into whether someone’s work is pseudoscience or not should be a wholeheartedly transparent process. This for the simple reason that the current worldviews of the ‘skeptics’ challenging this work may not actually be as infallible as they currently believe it to be (and/or propagate it to be for various reasons).

          (Notwithstanding whether or not the accused actually even claim their talk to be actual science and not a Philosophy of Science talk, questioning this very matter, for that matter).

          You wrote, “I also do not think that [these talks] merit the imprimatur of TED, which implies that they are "ideas worth spreading." I do not think they are worth spreading.”

          Of course everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. But all that’s asked here is for reasonable elucidation on exactly why this opinion is held. TED has failed to do so (and I doubt you would care to bother much) even after the invited speakers have addressed point by point TED’s initial sloppy criticism thereof, and then just left the ‘zealous army’ to debate amongst themselves. Not very transparent.

          Imo this is thus mainly a concern over transparency, as pointed out earlier in a very reasonable request by me to Chris Anderson for more clarification on TED’s ideology here,

          As of yet, he has still failed to address this. Of course he doesn't Have to, and I know that I'm not entitled to such a response. But I just imagine that it would be kinda nice if TED was a bit more transparent regarding their believes so that the community and future speakers can be more aware of the ideologies behind the organization they choose to support with their time and attention.
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        Apr 3 2013: Not deleted. Just moved below the Gary Dudding comment it was replying to. Thanks for noticing.

        And on a side note, congrats to you and your anon friend Time Walker. At 300 comments and counting between you, you're showing spectacular staying power. But at some point, when you insist on having the last (often rude) word on every single thread, you can't be surprised to find the room emptying... Please remember to switch the light off. Thanks!
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          Apr 3 2013: People might be leaving TED, but it has very little to do with my comments. It has a lot to do with censorship, and treating invited TEDx guests deplorably. Not to mention pulling support from a planned event because you are guessing it might somehow be controversial (or might offend Jerry Coyne). For someone so opposed to the possibility of precognition, it's very surprising that you seem to be employing this very device in making policy decisions.
    • Apr 3 2013: So Chris, since you're here, maybe you can answer the question so many have been asking: Why didn't TED put anyone forward to debate Sheldrake and Hancock?
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        Apr 3 2013: The debate took place here and generated 5000+ comments. Enough! Now... back to TEDxWestHollywood.
        • Apr 3 2013: But TED didn't participate. That debate was a bit one-sided. The anti-TED side won it quite decisively, so I'm surprised that TED, or say, you, didn't show up to defend your position.

          TED still hasn't justified its decision since its original justification was refuted and struck through. And, yes, I did read your "fresh take" and, like so many, didn't see where it addressed just how those two talks were "far-removed from mainstream science" or "radical" or not "worth spreading." Calling something pseudoscience doesn't make it so.
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          Apr 3 2013: Calling something science doesn't make it so, either.

          As you know, I was a vigorous defender of TED's various decisions in the debate on Graham Hancock. I jumped in because I'm an archaeologist with more than 30 years of experience in researching and responding to pseudoarchaeology, including Hancock's. I also live in Kansas, where we've been through two rounds of debates in the Kansas Board of Education about whether to mandate the teaching of creationism (first round) and intelligent design (second round) in public school curricula. Most recently, I was a frequent consultant to news media (the New York Times, BBC, CBC, The People's Daily, NPR, Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, Christian Science Monitor, Associated Press, etc., etc.) about the hype surrounding spurious allegations about the Maya calendar and 2012. I've seen pseudoscience from many different angles. The most recent is this week's news that the Kansas legislature is mandating that doctors inform pregnant women about the spurious link between abortion and breast cancer. It never ends.

          While I like to think that my participation in debates and discussions educates and informs people, I do wonder if it actually brings more undeserved attention, fame (or infamy), and especially revenue to purveyors of fringe theories, many of whom make a living by selling books, videos, and lectures.

          In May 2005, scientists boycotted a debate in Kansas on intelligent design rather than give more attention to it.

          Kansas evolution hearings

          I attended the hearings and the strategy worked beautifully. I think Chris has made the right decision in declining direct debate. Thing go well when I and others who think as I do exercise the same restraint, but we all have episodes of weakness. Debate honors one's opponent. That honor is often undeserved and unappreciated.
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          Apr 3 2013: Chris, when is TED actually going to address the issue of censorship? You are treating the public in the most disrespectful manner possible. Just like you've treated Sheldrake and Hancock disrespectfully. The case of what happened to West Hollywood TEDx is just more bad behavior on the part of TED.

          Isn't it time to participate in the discussion and listen to the public? We made your organization what it is. Show some respect.
    • Apr 3 2013: I'm interested in whether or not there's going to be an official follow-up from yourself or Tedstaff now that the debate conversations have closed down. I would like to know how the conversations have been interpreted by TED, and if they will inform TED's future behaviour in any way.
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        Apr 3 2013: Wrap-up comment coming tomorrow, probably...
        • Apr 3 2013: Well, I look forward to reading it. I still don't think such a statement can possibly replace a debate between TED and the speakers it removed. TED was given an opportunity to make its case and let that case stand or fall against the ideas it was suppressing. No ex post facto statement can make up for that. I think avoiding the open debate offered by those two makes TED look really cowardly.
        • Apr 3 2013: Chris,

          looking forward to your wrap-up comment.

          here's mine:

          "As I said in my very first post on this TED controversy: When all is said and done, I’d like to thank TED, PZ Myers, and Jerry Coyne for making Sheldrake and Hancock’s TEDx talks more popular than ever. Congratulations on a job well-done, science boys! I hope you learned your lessons on The Streisand Effect."

          more context here:
          ~ http://www.c4chaos.com/2013/03/the-ted-saga-continues-on-the-sheldrake-and-hancock-debates/
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          Apr 3 2013: Chris, are you finally going to apologize to Sheldrake and Hancock? Will their talks be reinstated to the TED youtube channel? Will TEDx West Hollywood go on as originally planned, with the support of TED?

          If not, then we need an honest explanation. For instance, explain who the anonymous science board is and why they are taking TED in this new direction. TED has taken sides in a debate over world views. TED should be honest and clear about which side it is on and who has ultimately made that decision. If Jerry Coyne is the new voice of TED, why keep that a secret?

          Are we all just a pack of neurons? Chris, if that is what you believe, and that is the POV you want TED to promote, then be honest about it. But don't pretend that work published in peer-reviewed journals that questions that POV doesn't exist. And don't pretend there is no debate.

          The Catholic Church took more than 350 years to apologize to Galileo. How long will it take TED to come clean in these matters?
    • Apr 3 2013: After creating the TED blog pages, Chris, you disappeared from the discussion. You hosted a fair debate, but did not participate in it. The debate, such as it was, was nearly uniformly critical of your decision to censor Sheldrake and Hancock. You retracted the initial set of criticisms when they were demonstrated to be false, but did not follow-up with a replacement. Now you have compounded your misstep by cancelling an event that has been in the works for a year. Once again, the rationale is lacking.

      You may find your audience taking umbrage against you to be unflattering. However, your attempt to host an honest debate is half-hearted and unconvincing.

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