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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 6 2013: Thanks for the humor, Debbie. Your wit is obviously biased but clever and appealing.

      Those are also common characteristics of successful pseudoscience and help to explain its popularity. Entertainment frequently trumps knowledge, something well understood by the History Channel and the National Geographic Channel as well as the Weekly World News. It's reassuring to know that TED--at least for now--will not be going down the paths taken by those other enterprises.

      "There never was more woe..."

      Sadly, there was. Lots more. Pseudoscience has resulted in more woe than we can possibly imagine. That's no laughing matter.
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          Apr 6 2013: That's an interesting premise, that the suppression of ideas has caused a lot more sorrow than the allowance of foolish ideas.

          From my perspective, that's incorrect and here's the reason: It is almost impossible to effectively suppress ideas while it is abundantly clear that it is easy to allow foolish ones, many of which go on to thrive. Take, for example, the ideas for which Hypatia was killed or the ones for which Galileo was imprisoned. Those ideas were not suppressed. They are still with us today.

          The Romans went to great extremes to suppress the ideas of early Christians. They utterly failed. The Crusaders and others went to great extremes to suppress the spread of Islam and they failed. Mobs armed with tar and feathers sought to suppress the spread of Mormon ideology and failed. The Nazis (who actually do continue to merit discussion) employed some of the most extreme measures in the history of humanity to suppress the ideas of Judaism and failed. All of the forces that have been mustered to suppress Scientology, including the efforts of Anonymous hackers, have failed. In my field, I have seen constant and continuous effort to suppress the spread of ideas about ancient astronauts, lost continents, pyramid power, and the like. All of them have failed and those ideas now thrive with more vigor than anyone ever imagined.

          Debbie, can you give me examples of the successful suppression of ideas that have truly become extinct?

          On the other hand, the allowance of foolish ideas has been phenomenally successful. This includes foolish ideas about the inferiority of women, blacks, indigenous people and others that have been impossible to suppress, despite massive efforts. They still persist today and in fact continue to thrive. Foolish ideas about economics, industry, and the use of natural resources have thrived. Genocide, ethnocide, poverty, the destruction of the planet's habitats and resources, are those not the result of the allowance of foolish ideas?
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          Apr 6 2013: Furthermore, TED's decisions have not resulted in the suppression of ideas. To the contrary, they have allowed foolish ideas to spread and thrive, as so many people here are pointing out. The reason is quite basic: It is nearly impossible to suppress ideas.

          However, if TED were to allow foolish ideas on its website and in its program, it would be complicit in spreading them and bear some responsibility for their consequences. If I were Chris Anderson or a member of TED's science board, I would not want to have a hand in the spreading of foolish ideas--ideas that are NOT worth spreading. If I were to reflect upon history, I would realize that it is nearly impossible to suppress any ideas and that the merits of good ideas make them as resilient as diamonds. I would also realize that it is extremely difficult to suppress the spread of bad, harmful, and dangerous ideas (racism, sexism, antisemitism, fundamentalism, homophobia, etc.), although one can always strive to mitigate their effects. I would understand that, even if I were to make the mistake of excluding those good ideas from TED content, they would still survive and thrive elsewhere.

          I think that the risk of being complicit in spreading ideas not worth spreading vastly outweighs any concerns about mistakenly excluding some ideas worth spreading. If they are truly ideas worth spreading, they will survive despite TED. Sadly, even if they are NOT ideas worth spreading, they will survive despite TED. I think these discussions have made that abundantly clear.
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          Apr 6 2013: Debbie you write: "I would argue that the suppression of ideas has caused a lot more sorrow than the allowance of foolish ideas."

          Is it a foolish idea that genocide solves problems?
          Is it a foolish idea that some people should enslave others?
          Is it a foolish idea that blacks are inferior to whites?
          Is it a foolish idea that women will never be the equals of men?
          Is it a foolish idea that Jews seek to take over the world?
          Is it a foolish idea that Western civilization is superior to all others?
          Is it a foolish idea that capitalism is the best economic philosophy?
          Is it a foolish idea that the Earth's resources are inexhaustable?
          Is it a foolish idea that the growth of human populations can continue forever?

          If you think that any of these would qualify as a foolish idea, I would like to you explain to me how the suppression of a specific idea has caused more sorrow than allowing that one. The more concrete an example you can provide, the better.

          Of the list I have just provided, do you consider ANY of them to be ideas not worth spreading?
        • Apr 6 2013: Just flip them round and count the suppression of the negation of your claims (as has happened) as the cause. That is, eg, take the suppression of the idea Jews were not trying to take over the world, and then argue that such suppression was in no way involved in the stuff that followed.
      • Apr 6 2013: no more woe
        says Hoopes, I'll go
        the troops to rally-um
        says me, try valium
      • Apr 6 2013: Um, John, you can talk about those ideas surviving only because they have. There are other ideas that we only have fragmentary knowledge of. Christianity survived but only the form that Rome adopted. The Christianities that were suppressed are lost or fragmentary. Much of Gnostic thought is lost, because it was ruthlessly suppressed making it difficult to put what survived in context. What remains of the Cathars, who were the victims of genocide because of their "heresy," is open to wide speculation because we have so little to go by from what was left. There's no telling how many ideas we know nothing of. You can't just point to a handful that survived relatively intact and say, look, ideas survive.

        This is to say nothing of how much time and money are wasted through the suppression of ideas.


        And then, of course, there's the lives that have been wasted or ended violently because of ideas.

        I think, on balance, the suppression is worse.
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          Apr 6 2013: The issue is not whether the suppression is worse, but whether "the suppression of ideas has caused a lot more sorrow than the allowance of foolish ideas."

          If the ideas that were suppressed are lost, unknown, or fragmentary, how would one go about measuring that? You can't just point to a handful of ideas that might have existed and say, "Look, these were great!"
        • Apr 6 2013: Please teach me how one can so "readily dismiss" them. Sheldrake cites experiments that to an extent support that something strange (crystals formation, rat learning) is going on. I personally heard stories from a friend who is professionally working in a lab with crystals and she told that indeed some things going on are difficult to explain. Sheldrake also makes predictions that could be falsified and is doing his own research. It's not his fault that there are so few researchers interested in following up on this.
      • Apr 6 2013: What is so "foolish" about Sheldrake hypothesis except that it remind you at Creationism "young earth" pseudoscience (yes, I said it) in some strange way I cannot trace?
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          Apr 6 2013: Both invoke unknown, invisible forces and can be readily dismissed using Occam's Razor and Popper's falsifiability test.
    • Apr 6 2013: A Jew, an Episcopalian, and a Muslim walked into a comedy club where none of the comics were biased. Nobody was laughing.

      Wait. I told it wrong.

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