This conversation is closed.

'Further to Our Last Conversation Here Concerning the TED Treatment of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx Talk'

It seems to me that this issue is far from over and done with.

Closing Statement from Julie Baxter

This is a tough one. The truth is that the proponents on all sides want a resolution to this problem, but there seems to be no response from TED. We're all in state of a quandary as to why there has been a distinct absence of feedback. The overriding feeling here appears to be that Rupert Sheldrake has been treated very shabbily and that a scientist of his qualifications and caliber deserves considerably more respect. Some of us feel sure that Chris Anderson will do the right (gentlemanly?) thing, while others are less inclined to hold their breath.

That aside, it would have been better if this conversation had been allowed a little more time to find its feet. Twenty-four-hours is a very limiting on-line timescale.

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    Apr 2 2013: Anyone here believe that Rupert Sheldrake deserves a full and frank explanation for the behaviour and attitude of TED with regard to his TEDx talk?
    • Apr 3 2013: I have to agree with Barry. The clock ran out on that one and I think it was time for it to end. However, have you been to Craig Weiler's blog? Also, let's maintain a presence here, constructively commenting on other topics or starting new topics of interest. I personally don't plan on leaving this place just yet, because I'm encouraged that there are still many open minded individuals here who believe in free inquiry.
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        Apr 3 2013: I too think it's time for this to end. But I would at least like to believe it might end in the right solution. It would take away that bitter residue of injustice that permeates the place, and which will continue to do so unless there is closure on this important issue.
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          Apr 3 2013: TED's actions were slander & libel, also damaging business & contractual relations, injuring the authors in their careers. It should probably be settled in a legal arena, but at the least TED could actually exchange information with the authors or host a debate they actually participate in--or have I missed anything of substance besides continual veiled insults of the authors and a poor trade for the damage they caused?

  • Apr 3 2013: Having been trained in a scientific discipline including research methodology I find it hard to perceive where Rupert's ideas and work can be categorised as pseudoscience.
    I understand his theories are outside current mainstream thinking but they are of sufficient quality for an enlightened debate.
    I think TED must have been under pressure and lacked the moral courage to resist the unreasonable pressure from whomsoever.
    TED is now in a no win position where to do the right thing and restore the talk would give the impression of weakness and inconsistency.
    Sadly the upshot is that TED now is being seen to have aligned themselves with conservative ideas and of course this damages the brand.
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      Apr 3 2013: I hear you, Jonathan, but it takes a great deal of strength and courage to admit that one might have made something of a mistake and be prepared to put matters right publicly. I, for one, would certainly feel a great deal of respect for the TED brand if they changed their mind about Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx talk.
  • Apr 3 2013: Julie, I do feel a sense of outrage on Rupert Sheldrake's behalf, not only with regard to the recent events, but also the way he has been treated over the years. He seems relatively sanguine himself and says he bears no grudge against Chris Anderson.
    This is typical of Sheldrake - always good humoured and always the gentleman which is why I think he earns so much respect.
    Looking at this whole debate in the bigger picture, I agree that Craig Weiler has summed it up superbly. The ripples now cannot be stopped.
    The conversation will and should go on, but I'm not sure about trying to extract an apology from TED. From what Sheldrake says he feels Chris Anderson is having to do some rethinking. Possiblyy some members of the science team too. Things go on the background, people start to read more widely, question their own beliefs and perspectives. It takes time. This event and the ensuing conversation have been beneficial to many (with the exception of Coyne and Myers ). I agree wholeheartedly that it should be continued in as many ways and through as many media as possible.
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      Apr 3 2013: Very wise words, Marianne. Thank you.
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      Apr 3 2013: sure not. grudge hurts book sales.
      • Apr 3 2013: Oh come on Krisztian, lighten up. Just take a peek through some of these new windows. You don't have to step outside, or even admit that you are looking out of a window.
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        Apr 3 2013: And the behaviour of TED certainly does not hurt book sales for Rupert. Your comment says more about you than it does about Rupert, Krisztian.
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          Apr 3 2013: obviously not. it actually helps a great deal. one tedx presentation won't get you much attention. but being censored! that's much better.
  • Apr 3 2013: I think a debate between Myers & Coyne on the one side and Sheldrake and Hancock on the other would be very welcome. No-one needs be afraid of a debate. And if TED hosted it, all bad feeling about what has happened would dissipate.
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      Apr 3 2013: Well said, Pegasus JM! I think a friendly debate between all parties would be an excellent resolution. There needn't be winners and losers, just a willingness to listen on both sides - followed my a much-needed hand shake.
  • Apr 3 2013: I think Sheldrake does deserve an explanation. He's handled the whole thing with exemplary dignity and even-handedness. Even when the presenter of Skeptiko verged on rudeness about Anderson & TED Shleldrake refused to rise to the bait & was courteous about both.

    I also think there needs to be an end to all this secrecy. Anonymous science boards censoring people is even worse than a Police State. At least if you were sentenced you knew who was doing it. I always feel that if a POV is confident in itself it neither worries about ideological challenges or fears explaining itself.

    And all this for a mere 18 minutes of airtime, as if the whole world of science would come crashing down! Until someone properly deals with Sheldrake openly and fairly, the moral victory is all his. And unlike before, being denounced as a heretic has enhanced his profile rather than reduced it.

    TED wouldn't look weak if they reconsidered their position. Rather it would be a sign of strength and fairness. If need be, they can be more rigorous in their criteria from now on so as to avoid these controversies. What we have here is a bloody mess.
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      Apr 3 2013: "TED wouldn't look weak if they reconsidered their position. Rather it would be a sign of strength and fairness. If need be, they can be more rigorous in their criteria from now on so as to avoid these controversies. What we have here is a bloody mess."

      Hear, hear. There's no doubt that Rupert has come out of this fiasco on top, and I'm sure we'd like Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers to get their comeuppance. But I feel sure that's not going to happen. The polarization within the scientific community right now leads to incredibly passionate and heated arguments; things get out of hand and out of proportion very quickly. Clearly, a mistake has been made - whichever way one looks at it. The only thing that can now resolve the situation is for a gentlemanly shaking of hands and a new platform for discussion and debate between all sides - including those (like me) in the middle who generally prefer to sit under the table with their tin hat on during such events.
  • Apr 3 2013: IMO, it is time to give this topic a rest.

    But if you really think that something needs to be expressed that has not already been expressed, you must be very imaginative.
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    Apr 3 2013: Yes, that's right. And I would like to thank TED for the, albeit inadvertent, help they gave to Rupert's public profile. :)
  • Apr 3 2013: When a position in argumentation is based by a lack of understanding on the topic, that is the foundation of dogma. Psychology exposes that we are not free thinkers as we would like to be, critical thinking skills do help but we always suffer from some form of cognitive dissonance.
    I have read the god delusion and it's not your typical pseudoscience theist novel without references at the end, no this book is almost all backed up by peer review journal articles, however I have never seen it properly debated, what i see are logical fallacies that atheists tell theists about. Extending outside the ted talk many I discussed fall into the trap of not judging the arguments on a case by case basis, instead disproving one of his hypothesis is the same as disproving all of his hypothesis. Now I am not implying that Sheldrake is always right, yet I have gained a different perspective towards mainly the scientific method, and while nobody takes him on a case by case basis without straws and ad hocs I am not agreeing with the atheists simply because I am one but because I am not satisfied with the arguments, but I am open to change my views, isn't this what dogma is not about?
    A debate with Krauss and Sheldrake would be interesting.
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    Apr 3 2013: First of all I'd like to thank TED for allowing the opportunity for this conversation to continue. In view of some of the angry comments made here recently against TED, I regard it as a very magnanimous gesture, I would, therefore, like to apologise for the tone of some of my earlier contributions.

    That aside, I felt that the earlier conversation on the subject ended somewhat prematurely given the Skeptiko interview between Rupert Sheldrake and Alex Tsakiris that has just been broadcast. In the interview (below) Alex does an excellent job of putting forward TED's side of the argument (as far as it is known) and Rupert does an equally sterling job of answering the charges that TED has laid against him:

    In light of the above, is it not time to offer some kind of olive branch: kiss and make up, restore Rupert's talk to its rightful place among his contemporaries here in the TED archives and thereby put this matter to bed, happily, once and for all? It does seem, from what was said in the Skeptiko interview, that there were some misunderstandings which, perhaps, led to hasty decisions on the part of TED in this matter. So why not let bygones be bygones and give this story a happy ending? I'm sure Rupert has the good grace to forgive and forget, and I'm equally sure the rest of us would be prepared to follow his lead over this issue which, as Mr Palmer so rightly suggests, needs to be laid to rest - preferably with dignity on all sides.
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    Apr 3 2013: Then a little voice inside my head said, "And pigs might fly." Yes, I can read the naivety in my own words. But I'm an optimist, and I believe that initial enemies often make the best of friends.
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    Apr 3 2013: Come on, Chris Anderson. From what Rupert said in the Skeptiko interview, you're a decent sort of chap. Please do the right thing. I feel sure that you want to.
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    Apr 3 2013: BTW, anyone who wants to comment here will have to act quickly. They've only given us 24 hours - and we're already down to the last 11 or so!