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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 5 2013: Continued from above………

    “which preserves the objectivity of the recommendations and also protects the participants from retribution or harassment”

    Secrecy does not preserve objectivity it corrupts it.

    “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.”

    What does “we're also firm believers in appropriate skepticism, or critical thinking.” mean? Scepticism is only dispelled when critical thinking is applied to data. It is only by this method that scepticism can be transformed into certainty. This is something you and your board refused to do.

    “Those two instincts will sometimes conflict”

    I don’t think they conflict the one is the tool by which you transform the other; it’s not its opposing force. The transformation of scepticism into certainty leads to enlightenment.

    Seek the truth for it shall set you free.
    • Apr 6 2013: Well Said Adrian.

      I'd like to comment on this:

      "But we're also firm believers in appropriate skepticism, or critical thinking.”

      This is a bit of a shocker. Where and when in the last three weeks has anyone from TED provided any kind of critical analysis? I've seen no evidence of critical thinking or "appropriate skepticism" from TED. In fact, Sheldrake's talk is itself a shining example of both. He begins with an examination of fundamental assumptions of orthodox science, and asks if these assumptions stand up to closer scrutiny. So he's skeptical of the assumptions, and then critically evaluates them based on evidence he's gathered from various sources. If he's completely wrong, then it should be a simple matter to show where he's wrong. This hasn't happened and won't.

      And then you withdraw support from the TEDx West Hollywood event, citing concerns about the quality of the speakers but rather than looking at each, you've tarred them all with the same brush. You've betrayed one of your own dedicated members who spent a year putting together an event, then decide that they and the TEDx group are not worthy of your support two weeks before the event?

      So much for "appropriate skepticism, or critical thinking.” You should just come out and say that your science board are now the TED equivalent of Wikipedia's (ir)rational skepticism project, making the world safe from "dangerous ideas".
      • Apr 6 2013: Thank you John, and yes I couldent agree more with your sentiments
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      Apr 6 2013: "So much for 'appropriate skepticism, or critical thinking.'"

      What a load of rubbish.
      • Apr 6 2013: Sceptical, critical thinking has to be self-applied to stay scientific. See also the life and work of Wolfgang Pauli, co-founder of quantum theory, the famous "conscience of physics" who became highly interested in psi and psychology in his search for a unified "unus mundus".
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          Apr 6 2013: Yes, and Isaac Newton had a serious interest in alchemy. There are many other examples of prestigious and highly respected scientists whose work crossed the line into pseudoscience.

          For example, Alfred Russel Wallace, whose pioneering work came close to scooping Darwin's in the explanation of descent by natural selection, devoted the latter half of his life to Spiritualism, giving many lectures on contact with spirits of the dead, séances, and the like.

          Louis Leakey, perhaps the greatest paleoanthropologist of the 20th century for his own pioneering work on the fossils and artifacts of human ancestors and Olduvai Gorge, towards the end of his life encouraged credence and support in interpretations of Calico Hills, a geological site in San Bernardino County, California, as the location of evidence for human presence in the Americas at least 100,000 years ago. However, professional archaeologists have explained the evidence at Calico as the result of pareidolia, the spurious identification of naturally broken rocks as artifacts. (Note that the name of this site on Wikipedia reinforces its misinterpretation.)

          Calico Early Man Site

          A less well-known example of a good scientist who later produced pure pseudoscience is Barry Fell, a professor of invertebrate zoology at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology whose credentials on starfish and sea urchins were impeccable. Towards the end of his career, Fell became obsessed with the idea that there had been ancient voyages from Europe to the Americas. Although he had no training in archaeology or epigraphy, he began "translating" hoaxed and spurious texts in support of his theories. His books sold well to the general public but were panned by archaeologists.

          Barry Fell

          I think Fell's case is the most like Targ's. Targ is a physicist whose laser research was high quality but whose psi research is regarded as pseudoscience.
      • Apr 6 2013: Einstein spent half of his life trying to prove quantum theory was wrong, as he didn't like the idea of "God playing dice" with the universe. Well, it looks like he was wrong. Was he also crossing the line to pseudoscience with this?
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          Apr 6 2013: No. Science that comes up with nulls is not pseudoscience just because the results are null.

          The problem is when only probabilities of 1 and 0 are considered valid, rather than probabilities of 0 > p < 1.

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