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Should TED be more discerning?

TED would appear to have the aim of disseminating scientific ideas in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design, and also promoting conversations about these issues.

One of the rules of conversations on TED is to avoid 'pseudo science' which would seem to reinforce the idea that TED has the aim of promoting scientific principles and scientific discussion.

Keeping this in mind, is TED breaking it's own 'rules' by promoting speakers such as 'Pastor' Rick Warren, 'His Holiness' the Karmapa, etc.? Should TED be more discerning about who it invites to speak?

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    Jan 14 2014: Dave, I am a little confused. TED has one goal, as stated, and that being ... Ideas worth spreading. They have allowed many (IMO) Kooks a platform to address and gain their 15 minutes of fame. Those you can view on you tube ... those having merit can be viewed on TED.

    As an example I watched, and wasted my time, on a video by Ben Bratton who admitted he had no point ( I agree ) and promoted his work and his book.

    There are many others ... Of course these Kooks have a following who will attempt to promote their heroes. (My opinion). But their ideas are NOT worth spreading.

    TED is liberal and I am not ... but in my opinion they have went out of their way to be fair and open.

    So here is my advice .... If you do not like the talk ... tune into one you do like. In fairness I listen to talks I disagree with and often find some merit in their argument ... not always. I try to listen with a open mind ... but some of them just tick me off with their .. my way or the highway attitude.

    So it is our choice to accept or reject .... it is TEDs choice to give us that option. Personally I am grateful.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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    Jan 14 2014: Well at least it is very little and almost :) I think it is a question of balance - Rick Warren as Christian teachers go is quite moderate and his books have changed lives for the better, so he obviously has something worth saying. It's not like they are putting Jim Joneses or David Koreshes up to speak. I'm not into Rick Warren and most spiritual speakers, but I'm sure there is something to be gleaned from it.

    Your premise to contradict my viewpoint runs on extremes. The speakers you presented as being inappropriate in my view do not.

    Nevertheless it is a balance I'm sure. My personal viewpoint is I think they are doing it a great job and I love the variety- it's interesting.
    • Jan 14 2014: That was an interesting response and really made me think. Thanks!

      So, what you're saying is, Rick Warren isn't the worst kind of Christian around, and he should be tolerated to bring balance to TED. Following that argument, we should look around and promote a few racist, sexist, and pseudoscientific speakers to appear on TED and give talks, just so we can have some balance... as long as they're not TOO racist, sexist, or too pseudo in their science? It seems to me to be a bit like saying that a lot of murder is bad, but a little now and again? Well, maybe that's good for us as a society, so we should encourage the odd psychopath to go on a killing spree every now and again. Now, war... that would be way too much. We need to keep a balance!

      Yes, my arguments do run on extremes, at least at times. Reductio ad absurdum is a good tool to use sometimes. Not always, but it often shows that an argument is false, or at least has flaws. Whilst your point at first seemed to have some merit in appearing, on the face of it to be quite reasonable, trying to find a compromise, I'm not sue where that would lead.

      If Rick Warren is OK as far as speakers go, then why not Jim Jones and David Koresh? And if them, then who might follow? What would be the standard you'd set for allowing Rick Warren and the likes to speak, but not Jones or Koresh and speakers like them?

      It sometimes crosses my mind that TED as an organisation is trying to be as popular as possible and appeal to a wide audience, which sometimes leads it to have people speak about views that it discourages it's very members from discussing under it's terms and conditions.

      Granted, some people take solace and comfort in some strange ideas, like children believing in Santa and The Tooth Fairy, but does that fit in with the organisation TED seems to be trying to make itself out to be?
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        Jan 14 2014: If they got Jim Jones and David Koresh resurrected from the grave I would actually take a listen :)
        • Jan 14 2014: OK, so Jones and Koresh have passed on. I'd heard of Koresh, a long time ago, but knew nothing about him.

          However, hopefully you got the point I was making.
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    Jan 15 2014: Hi Dave,
    As Robert Winner points out below, TED takes a fairly liberal and inclusive approach. If you don't like a talk and consider it too "pseudo-" after a couple of minutes, you can switch it off. Fortunately there are plenty of other talks for you to choose from.
    Maybe you would like to offer some defining characteristics as to what you understand to be "scientific", and what you consider "pseudo-science"?
    (NB: Today's pseudo-science can sometimes be tomorrow's science)
    • Jan 15 2014: Well, that could really be a long list, and I have only 2000 characters, so Inthink I'll have to forgo the offer to make a list that might in any way be considered 'complete' in any way. Maybe I can just make some general points and offer some examples and see where that leads us.

      On the scientific list I think astrophysics, physics, chemistry, biology, genetics, stem cell research, psychology, free will, consciousness, paleontology, evolution, morality, sociology, philosophy, meditation, history, theology, etc.

      On the list of things I don't think TED should favour or encourage... probably things like homeopathy, parapsychology, generally any pseudoscience, talks by the religious looking to promote their religion, creationism/intelligent design... right now I can't think of any specific examples off the top of my head, but I've only been thinking about it for 5 minutes or so. Oh, acupuncture.

      Like I said, not an exhaustive list, and I'd be happy to see some debates where speakers don't necessarily agree. That's slightly different. When a speaker gets up and talks unchallenged, there could appear to be more value to what the speaker says than is actually the case. In the case of 'pastor' Rick Warren for instance, he spoke at a TED event unchallenged... sort of. Actually, Dan Dennett spoke after and had some significant issues with what Rick Warren said, but you can listen to his talk and have no idea that straight after someone's going to talk and have real issues with what Rick Warren has just said!

      In this respect, TED talks seem a little artificial, with each talk sitting it's own little 'bubble', isolated forum other talks and speakers, and any opposing arguments. I'm not sure some speakers would be so willing to talk if they were likely to get challenged, but sometimes I think that would be a good thing. I'm not sure that isolating speakers from one another promotes honest, open, critical debate, and I don't see how that can be a good thing?
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    Jan 13 2014: Many of the conversations wax very philosophically and topics often cover humanities. If you want to be circumspect you need to be open to consider varying opinions. What I like about TED is that is is a forum to provoke thought, not a platform to promote ideologies. So no, I think the opposite, it is necessary to get speakers from varying backgrounds. What kind of scientist does not explore the converse of a theory?
    • Jan 13 2014: So, what you're saying is, there are no topics unsuitable for TED, and scientists should explore the opposite views in any argument?

      So, maybe some scientists or other speakers should talk on how racism, sexism, slavery, etc are actually good for society and we should promote those ideologies? I can't say that I'm convinced that it's always necessary to explore the opposite side of an argument. I'm not sure that it's always helpful. Some arguments have run their course.

      Should we discuss whether the sun revolves round the earth? Maybe we should consider that there is no gravity... the earth sucks? Maybe after the discussion about chemistry we can explore alchemy and what it has to offer modern society? Maybe after the talk on astrophysics you'd like to stick around for the next speaker who will give a talk on astrology in the modern world?

      Whilst I agree that scientists should in general explore converses to theories, there are a multitude of exceptions. I don't mean to belittle your point, but it really makes very little sense to me... almost none.
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    Jan 28 2014: Dave Day,

    I think you having a royal family is cool.
    We have a royal family... our presidents. There are also lower royals, like your dukes, etc., they are our congressmen.... it's not their title, but their royal attitude. Many American's are annoyed with our royals. Sometimes like you, I would like to think that we could do fine without them.

    Most Americans have a judeo/christian heritage, but by law, all religions and non religions are tolerated. Here, it's the non religious that are the aggressive group. Small towns get sued if a Christmas manger is set up in the town square.
    I see no chance for a theocracy ever coming here. It would require the repeal of the constitution. It would take an invasion and a complete domination of what is the USA.
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    Jan 26 2014: Dave,
    I am not sure about how you define pseudo science? Is philosophy a pseudo science? The speakers you mentioned speak from a philosophical position that holds there are moral and ethical conventions that exist on a plane that is above our physical being. Some may even refer to it as a spirituality. I have come to the conclusion after many years that there are two kinds of truths. Scientific truth, well, that is easy, it can be proved,measured, shown, demonstrated, whatever.
    Then there is the other truth. Things that can't be measured or proved. Like love.
    Some say that they believe there is a supreme being that has existed before the existence of the universe and in fact created it. Can it be scientifically proven? Nope. Can it be scientifically disproven? Nope. The best we can do to even prove the creation of the universe is... well, conjecture? I mean is this the first universe, or is it in a long line of universes and/or could there be other universes out there? I have no idea what is truth or not.
    So, why shouldn't TED allow these discussions? Maybe the people that do this for TED are just as conflicted as I am.
    • Jan 26 2014: In modern philosophy there doesn't to my mind seem to be the automatic link that there once was to the ethereal/spiritual. Modern philosophy seems to be more about how you think, rather than what to think. Early philosophers were caught up in religious beliefs and desires. Thankfully that isn't a prerequisite for studying philosophy any more.

      Some say that a supreme being existed before the universe, and created it. Some say that they are Elvis. Some say that they are Jesus, or God, or...

      Science hasn't proved that there isn't a 'God'. I'm not sure it ever could, and most scientists and people with a scientific bent wouldn't even try to. I'm not sure those 'of faith' understand why this is, but never mind.

      There's a very good reason why science hasn't proved that there is no 'God', and doesn't try to! However, it's something quite different to prove that the 'God' of the Abrahamic faiths, and many other 'Gods' aren't what they claim to be. Do we really want to go there? I'm not sure I want to explain why the Torah/Bible/Koran are flawed, and ask why any 'God' would allow it to be so. I think it would be a digression!

      I think somebody like Lawrence Krauss would be good to talk about cosmology and astrophysics, not a pastor. I think I'd have less of an issue with persons of faith on TED if they were to talk in the form of a debate, with the opposite views being put forward. Nothing wrong with that. I'd welcome it. I think I just have issue with people of faith talking on TED completely unchallenged, however illogical or crazy their ideas may be.
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        Jan 26 2014: As I remember my Philosophy 101, the instructor said that the study goes back to before there was even a written word, I learned that in the old days the question was the how and why of all mankind. But, you make a valid point. People speak on TED of religious things and go unchallenged, well not all together, there are mechanisms to comment on each presentation, but, that said...

        I have heard a number of presentations on TED, not by religious commentators but by.... those of a more scientific bent... they left me saying.... "You got to be kidding me, that is the or one of the, dumbest things I've heard". Guess what, there was no one there to challenge them either.
        I get it that you have some problems with a spiritual or religious concept. I understand, it is a hard concept. But, I look at it this way, What have I got to lose, If there is a Divine God and I have lived my life without stepping on too many toes, I could get sent to that nice place the religious talk about... if there isn't, everything goes black and that is all there is.
        I don't see a downside into giving the religious a break and not being overtly hostile.
        • Jan 26 2014: I didn't study 'philosophy 101' and it's probably just as well. Man spoke long before he was capable of philosophical thought, so I think your teacher and I would have disagreed. Many animals speak now (have language) but as far as we know they are not capable of philosophical thought.
          I may be argumentative, but I'm not usually overtly hostile unless given good reason. I'm not adverse to everyone having their religious freedom. I'm adverse to having somebody else thrust their religious freedom down my throat and saying that I should be very thankful of it!

          It's late, I'm tired, but what you speak of with respect to some philosopher's wager, I think... it seems to smack of cowardice, amongst other things. Frankly I think it's irrational anyway. "God, I don't think you're there, but just in case you are... I believe in you!" I think the philosopher was French?

          Of course, the trouble is, and the question still remains... which 'God' is it you're talking to? There are so many, the odds of picking the right one really aren't in your favour. Picking 'gods' is as much about geography and where you were born in the world as it is about anything else!

          As for giving the religious a break, I'm all for that. I be no problem with than, so long as it's the same break that everyone less gets. No special respect, or treatment. They just get treated the same as everyone else. Trouble is, that's not what they actually want. They want, in general, special treatment and favours. Unfortunately, some people give them just what they want. Then, unfortunately, they expect the same from everyone else too!
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        Jan 27 2014: Good Morning, I hope you didn't stay up to respond at this late hour.
        I think you would have benefited by the class. Man came to believe in a higher spirit "God" way before he could really speak. They were still in caves and thinking... Who are we and why are we here? Who put us here? He must be... a God.
        But, this is not important.
        Yes, there are those who will say there are many Gods, my God is the real one and yours is not. Blah, blah, blah.
        I am going out on a limb and say " If there is God who is as He is described, there is only one regardless of your location.
        Again, the religious I have met have always struck me as kind and considerate and do not seek any special favors. Mostly, they seem to want to practice their faith in peace.
        And I will concede that through out history there have been very bad people that have done some very bad things in the name of religion. I see that even today.
        When I made my comment about believing "in case", I was not so much irrational as a bit irreverent.
        However, I fail to see the cause for your emotional response to religion, Why do you care so much if someone has a faith. You come off as almost irrational about someone's beliefs.
        I just don't understand why you care or should care.
        I think the Pope is a nice guy who believes in Christ. OK, that's nice, I don't care. Why do you?
        • Jan 27 2014: Mike, you disagree with me at least in part, apparently, based on what you learned on a philosophy(?) course and say that I would have benefitted from it. You go on to make a pretty grand claim about early man, then say that it's not important! Frankly I think you should have listened less to your lecturer... is it too late to get a refund of your course fees?

          Almost every creature has some form of language. Whether you want to call it 'speach' is rather up to how you feel as an individual, but I see no grounds at all for believing that early man thought about 'God' before having speech. How would anyone be able to think philosophically about anything, including 'God' without first having language first? Unless you have some evidence to the contrary, I think I'd have to say that your teacher/lecturer was wrong.

          As you say, most religious people are as nice as anyone else. 'Nice' people could never be convinced by a religion to attack other people just because they have different ideas, attack doctors and nurses because they carry out medical procedures their religion disagrees with, wave banners and generally be rude and unkind to people because they love someone of the same sex, or don't want to get married, or do want to get married. Religious people could never be convinced to attack free speech, force others to dress certain ways, shoot children because they were the wrong sex and wanted to go to school. You don't know any religious people who'd kill medical staff because they were trying to immunise children against polio...

          No, you just know 'nice' religious people. You know what, and this may surprise you... me too! But I realise not everyone's like your friends and mine. Generally speaking, religious people want special treatment. Generally they'd like everyone to treat them differently and give their beliefs special protection. All religious belief, but no criticism. Then they'd like to run your country and mine.
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        Jan 27 2014: Got it, You are addressing those who are fanatical.and using "God" as their justification for their bad behavior. Further, I am not familiar with people like that. I mean personally.. Now, I hold speaking of your convictions as.... speaking of your convictions. Here in Texas, most people hold a strong religious conviction. OK, some are very vocal. OK. I question their intensity, like I question yours. I ask "Why do you care that the guy down the street is an agnostic?". They tell me that he is going to hell and they am trying to save him. I say, you have told him, now it is his choice, enough said.
        That is how I address these issues.
        Now, we had a situation here, where a religious fanatic shot multiple people in the name of God,...We have a death penalty here in Texas and I have no problem sending this man to see God.
        What am I saying? When I read your words, I see you blood pressure going up 30 points. It isn't worth it.
        As far as your concern of some religious taking over your country, as I remember, doesn't England have a state religion? And doesn't it recognize other religions and recognize some people don't have a religion? I see England is a good place. Are you concerned that someday England can vote to change the nation's view and enforce it's new religious view on all?
        Well, that can happen, in the US it would require a two thirds majority of people/states to change our constitution. Really hard to get 2/3 of American to agree on anything.
        So, back to my original question, Why do you care? It isn't worth getting all upset.
        You have bigger problems in England... like will Charles become King or just pass it on to William....
        • Jan 27 2014: I think you have some slightly misguided views about what's important in Britain. Charles is, like the Queen, a figure head, or would be if he were made king. No real power, other than that he owns a lot of property. Not involved in government in and way, and doesn't have any real power over the Church of England either, so no, not worth worrying about.

          By the way, my blood pressure is fine and not increasing any, so you must be seeing wrong.

          England has it's own church, but not it's own state religion as such. I wouldn't say that I'm just concerned with Britain. I'm rather concerned with Syria and Egypt too, but not just them either. I believe in religious freedom, but not in blasphemy... trying to stop free speech on the grounds that it offends a religious group. I don't believe that religious groups should dictate government policy, or educational policies, etc.

          I thought that I'd stated this quite clearly before, but maybe you missed it. I want to live in a secular society free from interference by religious individuals or groups. Sorry if that wasn't clear. You do seem to be missing the points I'm trying to make and I'm not sure how I can make them clearer. You don't seem to think that I should be bothered that some religious groups would like me to live my life as they decide, rather than living it as I decide, obviously within the law. And I'm not just talking about religious extremists. There are plenty of people who might be described as 'moderates' who would be more than happy to influence both us and governments if they could.

          America has a secular constitution that's been eroded a little by religion, and whilst Britain has no secular constitution, it is broadly secular, but more extreme religious elements have rather taken advantage of Britain's tolerant and accommodating attitude to religions generally, though people do seem to be waking up to the idea that it's not good to have people facing death threats over cartoons, like this week.
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        Jan 27 2014: Couldn't be more clear. I too prefer a secular society without interference from religion. Having said that I lived in Arabia for a year and that is the most religious society I had ever encountered.
        I also am not oblivious to the situation in Southeast Asia and in Africa. World powers are tap dancing around or using the situation to further their own agendas, the UN is holding meetings and passing resolutions, the intolerant religious factions are using suicide as a weapon, leaving the lands and peoples on it the tragedy of war.
        Here is what I am saying... we, you and me, can rant and rage at the top of our voice until we fall with apoplexy, it doesn't matter. Nobody who can fix these situations cares about how we feel. So, my question to you is... why bother?
        I am happy to resolve any problem I can resolve, I make such comments in these TED conversations where a practical solution is requested and I have some insight. Otherwise, why bother, nobody is listening except you and me and I hear you..
        • Jan 27 2014: I understand where you're coming from, and I sympathise, but the situation isn't the same everywhere. It might also be slightly different in reality to how you think it is.

          Over the last week an ex-Muslim who is going to stand for political office in England said on Twitter that he wasn't offended by cartoons of Jesus and Mohammed (Jesus and Mo). That's all. He didn't say anything else that might have been inflammatory. People objected, started to bombard his political party to have him thrown out, he got death threats, etc. His party were going to slap his wrists for upsetting Muslims and being insensitive, etc.

          Turns out they didn't count on all the people that campaigned against someone being punished for saying nothing more hateful than "I don't find a cartoon offensive". People complained, people like you and me. Now the party's saying things like "death threats are unacceptable!" Sanity seems to have returned, thank goodness!

          I have no religious beliefs, but I do gave hope all the same! ;0)
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        Jan 28 2014: I think you are reacting to the cloak of the internet...It happens all the time here in the states.
        Someone makes some off hand comment or even a poor joke. The hateful response on the internet is overwhelming. But most of it comes from unknown or cloaked respondents. Of course, some of these are death threats. Thank goodness for our 2nd Amendment
        Statistically, there are those five at either end of the curve that are the "kooks" in every society
        I pay no mind. I got other issues... you mean Charles is not going be the King?
        • Jan 28 2014: The religious reaction and response were very much in the 'real world', not just the Internet. I think that people are generally very tolerant in Britain, of religion and generally. However, like the US (in my opinion) too much tolerance can lead to religious groups trying to have more than their fair share of influence. I think people are waking up to the fact that this isn't a good thing. I wouldn't call it a backlash, but in Britain at least people are becoming more organised in trying to limit religious power and influence.

          I think Charles may well become king. I'm just not sure it's at all important. If Britain was a car, the king/queen would be a hood ornament. Everything would still run fine without them.
  • Jan 23 2014: I'll go a step further what does Sheryl Sandberg bringing to this forum other than being the one who got the Facebook COO job? I love the way the moderator and her coo at each other for enlightening our understanding of how not to claw your way to the top but just act surprised all the time or how not to invent something really really cool and still claim you are an innovator. Isn't her 15 minutes of TED Cred up.

    I do think you are misguided in thinking TED "promotes" or is "promoting" speakers. Also if they are paying the light bill they can pretty much do what they want which is more of a problem for you than a couple pseudo science lecturers.
    • Jan 23 2014: To answer your point about whether TED is promoting anyone, or not, I'd have to say that TED goes a long way to promote someone and their views by putting a video of them making a speech/lecture up on their site.

      TED has a fair amount of power/control over what is available to a large number of people. It offers a number of things, at least in principle, but I'm not sure the reality is as great as the dream.
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    Jan 21 2014: well, David, has no great religious figure touched your life? Jesus hasn't changed you in any way? Buddha? Has Judaism touched your life, do you think? I'm an atheist, but I think my life has been significantly changed and improved by many of the great religions and religious figures. And I feel very sure that many scientists, including really great ones that are admired by religious and non-religious alike, have been touched by religion and religious figures.

    I will say that it's hard for me to figure out why religions have so many positive effects. In my mind religion is a delusion, so logically it shouldn't have effects where it inspires scientists. And yet it does have those effects. What does this mean? It might mean there isn't such a hard line between theists and atheists, that we are largely looking for the same things?
    • Jan 21 2014: I wonder what the world would look like now if Socrates and Plato and their successors had had more of a say in our future instead of Jesus, etc. What if the church hadn't persecuted some of the great thinkers and philosophers of the last two thousand years? Maybe our scientific advances would have been more rapid? Scientific advances have in general come despite religion, not because of it. It's difficult to thanks Jesus or find much positive to say about the effects the church has had on our civilisations over the centuries, but I understand others may argue differently. Anyway, it's not possible to turn the clocks back and see what would happen if circumstances were different. There seems little point in backward glances and wondering what might have been.

      It seems logical that religion would inspire people, however ridiculous it might seem, if one does believe in it. It could be the tooth fairy, but if you believe in it and are inspired, then you're inspired.
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        Jan 22 2014: well, I think Socrates and Plato were also religious. Anyway, they also had some cosmic thoughts that were like religion, I would think Dave if they were at the forefront then you would be critical of TED for letting them speak.

        I can't imagine Jesus and Christianity would be so popular and enduring if they weren't tremendously beneficial, positive things.

        I think for you to be inspired the thing has to be genuinely substantial. I guess religion must have a lot of substance, but it's hard for me to imagine how.
        • Jan 22 2014: I understand that Plato and Socrates were a product of their time, and religion was a large part of life then, as it is for some people now. Maybe they weren't the best examples to give, but they did believe in critical thought, from what I understand. However, they didn't have the benefit of the scientific knowledge that we have today, and things would surely have been different if they too had had that knowledge. I believe that they would have been far more critical of religion.

          Personally, I believe that fewer people would have followed the Church had it not been for the consequences of doing so. Let's think now, shall I follow what the church says that I should do, or should I denounce the church, face hours, days, weeks, or longer of being imprisoned and/or tortured, then face an extremely painful death if I don't publicly accept church dogma? Hmmmm.....

          Your last comment seems a little self-contradictory. Religion must have substance... a lot of substance... but you find it hard to imagine how. I guess asking you to give some sort of example of religion having "lots of substance" will be rather difficult then, no?
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        Jan 23 2014: well, Dave, you say psychology is a science. But why is there not an aspect of science when a pastor talks about people from a psychological standpoint, I mean, a pastor meets many people, counsels on relationships, and so on.

        I'm afraid I don't know if the history you present is true or not. I'm a bit suspicious of what I haven't seen with my own eyes. I think sometimes history may be sensationalized to.....sell history books?

        What I mean is that I don't get how people following a delusional belief still get value from the belief and produce value for the world. But they do. Well, here we just celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday. King was a Christian African-American man and pastor who helped increase the civil rights of African-Americans here. I really have to believe that his religion helped and supported him in this quest and task.
        • Jan 23 2014: Greg, I think psychology is a science, unless you have another view? If so, why?

          I think pastors can use psychology just the same as everyone else. In fact, it would be rather strange if they didn't. Pastors are humans too (allegedly). Pastors using psychology to Counsel people doesn't mean that psychology isn't a science. Maybe you need to explain your point in a bit more detail?

          As for being suspicious about believing things you haven't seen with your own eyes, do you think Elvis might still be alive? Personally, I never saw the body after they said he was dead, so I have my suspicions that he might still be around. I hear he's still spotted around Vegas quite a lot!

          During the Spanish Inquisition many Jews were persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church. With so much evidence in the church's own archives and in many academic and historical institutions all round the world, I have no reason to doubt the claims of torture and killings. Sometimes people try to 'sex up' claims about people or periods of history, but sometimes people are just brutal and it's nothing to do with selling books.

          People can accomplish many things if they believe in something fervently enough. The Roman Empire is just one example, and they worshipped their emperors, amongst other gods, and they accomplished quite a lot. The fact the emperor was just a man didn't seem to make any difference. Same goes for Egyptians, and countless other examples.

          Why do you have to believe that King was helped by his religion. I don't want to make any claims, as such, but couldn't it be just as possible that Martin Luther King was an atheist who knew the political power of religion amongst Black Americans and knew that if he spoke from the pulpit more people would follow him and blacks would accomplish more than if he just stood in the street on a soap box?

          You make statements like "I have to believe..." and I just want to ask... Why? Why do you have to believe that? I see no reason why!
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        Jan 24 2014: well, Dave, I haven't heard the talk by Rick Warren that ?bothers you. But is it something about inspiring people, or finding purpose? A pastor would have some solid experience to talk about that, because s/he meets so many people, helps so many people, counsels on relationships, counsels people going through hard times, in fact does many of the same things a psychologist does?

        well, maybe Jews were persecuted, which is bad. But I'd have to think that Christianity has done more good than harm over its 2,000 years. Do you think atheism, or atheist regimes, are so great? Weren't millions of people massacred in atheist China, or atheist Russia?

        I suppose Martin may have been a closet atheist, though it seems pretty farfetched. But even if he was, by preparing a sermon every week, thinking about god, Jesus, the Bible, reading the Bible, I would think his life was still very touched by religion and that it provided him much support as he undertook his cause?
        • Jan 25 2014: Greg, a psychologist will usually help anyone, regardless of age, sex, race, religion... but a pastor usually has an agenda... to proselytise the 'patient'. There are also other issues, like whether a pastor is qualified to give the advice they give. Is it OK to lie to a patient to make them feel better? Is it ethical to offer false hope, or to offer hope in something that is false, or a lie? Personally I think it isn't.

          A good number of wars over the last two thousand years, the crusades, numerous inquisitions, religious persecutions such as Pogroms in Russia, etc. all either condoned by the church or actively undertaken by the church. It's been a while since any Pope strapped on his armour, but it used to happen, and various churches still support military action and war around the world. Just a little research will turn up plenty of examples.

          I'm not sure there's been a truly atheist country/government in the world, so we don't know what one would be like. You mentioned Russia and China, but Mao was worshipped as a god, as was Stalin, and Lenin before him. Stalin trained as a priest and would probably have made a good bishop/pope in the Russian Orthodox Church. He used well what he learned in seminary. He knew how to offer hope, however false, and also knew well how to deal with dissenters. Christian? No! Creator of his own religion and hero-worship? Absolutely!

          It's a good job Martin Luther King didn't follow too precisely what the bible says about crossing into the promised land. The massacre of all those tribes in the Old Testament would not have been a good model for a peaceful American society. I think that there's a fair amount of evidence that King didn't follow quite a few biblical precepts, at least in private. I'm not sure, for that reason, he would have got much support from the bible, but it was a good political tool!
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        Jan 25 2014: well, there is probably some truth to everything you say, Dave. But I still couldn't bar Rick Warren from speaking at TED. He is a beloved thinker and author, and to be so, he must have lots of value, although he is not perfect. I do hope that in evolution humanity will move towards atheism and away from theism, but I would prefer it happen because atheism gives people a happier, more successful life, not just because we bar theists from every public forum. Apparently that's what you want to do, bar theists from appearing at every public forum, or any forum that's not explicitly religious. Would you outlaw churches?

        I don't really like the point that there's no true atheist government, because then a Christian could say, well, there hasn't been any true Christianity.

        I would imagine religion has prevented a lot of wars?
        • Jan 25 2014: So, despite the truth, because you don't like the truth, you'd rather just ignore it, because you don't feel completely comfortable with it... don't agree with it?

          Rick Warren is a beloved thinker and writer? Well, so was Hitler! I guess Hitler was somebody with a lot of value too, then? An ad absurdum argument? Absolutely, but I think it points to the hole in your argument quite eloquently, but feel free to argue otherwise.

          I wouldn't want people like Rick Warren barred from speaking anywhere... but Technology, Enternainment and Design hints at a certain amount of science, and a certain attitude towards it. If Rick Warren were to be barred from TED, I'm pretty sure there'd still be lots of places for him and others like him to talk. I'm not sure some of those venues would be as hospitable to a lot of scientists who could really educate those who might listen and benefit from what some of the most eminent scientific minds of our day have to offer. My point, to make it really plain, is that scientific discussion should happen in a scientific forum. Religious discussion in a religious forum, and debate between the two in a debating forum. Doesn't that make sense? I've never suggested at all that those with religious views should be barred from expressing their views everywhere. I'm not sure whee you got that idea. I think you just imagined it! I wouldn't outlaw churches either. You do imagine some rather strange things!

          Not liking the idea of there having never been a truly atheist government doesn't mean that it isn't true. I'm not sure what you mean when you say "then a Christian could say, well, there hasn't been any true Christianity." Do you mean that there hasn't been any truly Christian government? But there's been plenty of governments run using Christian values. Generally it's not worked out so well.

          Yes, you could imagine that religion has prevented a lot of wars, but I'd like something a bit more concrete than your imagination please!
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        Jan 25 2014: well, TED seems to be a pretty openended org? Look at the variety of TED conversations. But isn't it true that if Rick Warren were speaking at a not-explicitly-religious organization, he would tailor his talk to their approach? Possibly TED wants to practice tolerance and inclusiveness? But, anyway, David, you sure dwell on the negative. In a world where religion has been influential, billions of people have led decent lives, a much smaller number have suffered. True, we want perfection, where nobody has suffered. But it seems very questionable to me that a world without religion would have been that world. Maybe we can listen to religious people to see what they are doing right?I don't know about the Hitler story. Wasn't Hitler advocating violence and intolerance from the start? If Warren were advocating violence and intolerance TED wouldn't have him.Yes, a Christian could say there hasn't been any government truly run by Christian values, rather than lip service. But you know, Dave, a lot of governments run with some religious values or influenced by religious values have been reasonably successful, I think you might be dwelling on the exceptions rather than the rule. People would not keep going to religious services if they weren't getting something of value out of them. Value to me is help in leading a happy, successful, at least somewhat peaceful life.
        • Jan 25 2014: I'm not sure you understand most of the points I've made and you don't seem to be doing anything much other than making vague statements with little or no substance behind them. You definitely don't address the points I've made in any detail. As I suggested before, maybe a little more detail from you would be helpful if you want to make a counterpoint?
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        Jan 26 2014: what is your evidence that I may not understand most of the points you've made? How are any of my statements any vaguer than yours? Where is my lack of detail any greater than yours?

        I'm probably not the best person to debate this topic, Dave, because I'm only moderately interested in it. I believe in my life I have read allusions to studies where scientists talk to religious people and find that the religious people get genuine feelings of happiness, well-being, love, and more from their religion. If a scientist can show that religion has value for a large number of people, would that then justify allowing a religious speaker to speak at TED?
        • Jan 26 2014: I've invited you to 'flesh out' some of your ideas and statements, but you haven't appeared to want to take the opportunity to do so. You've also seen fit not to answer some of the questions I've raised about your comments, which is fine, that's your prerogative.

          However, it does make the discourse between us a little difficult if you on the one hand disagree with me, but on the other, don't want to give any details as to why you disagree with me... other than "I feel", or "I think", etc. Maybe some more concrete examples of why you hold the opinions you do would help on me (and anyone else) understand the points you want to make, and also why you feel that you want to make them?!

          Maybe something more objective from you would help me understand you, rather than just subjective comments.

          If someone tells a lie, but believing that lie makes people feel good, how should we respond if we know that what that speaker says is a lie?

          Should we keep it a secret that what's being said is a lie, to preserve the 'good feeling'?

          Should we expose the lie and ignore the 'good feeling'?

          I'd suggest that we maybe expose the lie, seek to understand how/why it works and makes people 'feel good' and then seek to make people 'feel good' without the need for the lie. Is this not a reasonable course of action? I'm not sure if I believe in lying to people in this way. Ignorance is at times forgivable, but not to be nurtured, as if it is something of worth in and of itself. It's one thing to forgive ignorance, but quite something else to promote it!

          Transcendental Meditation has been shown to have much merit. Should we have speakers explaining TM for the good of all? Absolutely! Should we have speakers promote religions just because they have links to TM which has been shown to be benifitial? I'd really have to say no, in my opinion. I don't want to throw the bath water out with the baby, but I also don't want to keep the baby and have to drink the bath water!
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        Jan 26 2014: well, Dave, it seems to me you never answered a question I asked at the beginning of our discussion, so I'll ask it again. Has no great religious figure, or religion, benefited your life? Has Jesus, or Christianity, or the efforts of Christians, helped you in any significant way?
        • Jan 26 2014: Yes, I did answer your question. As I said before (and I'm sorry that you missed it) I believe I said that (to paraphrase) I, and the world, might have been better off without Abraham, Jesus and Mohammad. Maybe there'd have been fewer wars and the like and maybe science would have advanced further/faster without all the religious persecution. Did you not read my previous answers? Maybe you just didn't understand them? Did I waste my time? Was I not clear? If I was unclear, why didn't you ask for clarification before now?i

          I think we'd all have been better off if we'd have been free from religion a long while ago and followed scientific and philosophical enquiry a long time before we were actually free to. Medicine could have advanced further and faster without religious persecution, as could cosmology, and doubtless, many other areas.

          I think it would be I practice to go through every scientific field and every scientist that ever suffered religious persecution throughout history, but I can't think of an instance where we wouldn't have been better off without religion, or where religion has made us better off. We are a retarded race thanks to religion. I'd be interested to see where you could give substantial evidence to the contrary!

          I can't honestly say that any Christian has helped me in such a way as to make me think that there is anything more significant to Christianity than any other religion, or indeed than atheism/humanism.
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        Jan 27 2014: well, technically, Dave, saying we might have been better without religion is not the same as answering whether religion has benefited your life.

        If one is going to say humanity should not have gone in the religious direction, is this like saying all the people who followed religion in the past (billions of them, or tens of billions, or hundreds of billions), plus the ones who follow it today (billions), are stupid? Or through common sense could we say that if billions of people follow something that it has some value?
        • Jan 27 2014: I think the problem is that you're asking questions to which there are no answers, unless you have a way of turning the clocks back a few centuries, running time again without religion, and seeing what happens. Maybe then I could tell you if we've all been better off with religions, or would have been better off without them. I have no means to do that, so can't answer the question. I'm not sure what you want me to do in the circumstances... give you a firm answer without any evidence to back it up? Now, that would seem to me to be really stupid!

          You seem to have this concept, that just because lots of people follow an idea, it must have value. People have followed lots of stupid ideas in the past. Science isn't a democracy where you can vote for an idea and make it work just by force of numbers.

          In the past, people often knew no better than to follow false ideas. This is ignorance, not stupidity. Now we have more scientific knowledge than we've ever had before. People sometimes ignore good science. That's stupidity!
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        Jan 27 2014: yes, you're right, Dave. When I see billions of people following an idea or a practice, and they're doing it for 1,000's of years, I tend to think the idea, or the practice, has value. Does this not make common sense? Plus I also see the idea, or the practice, help people in my own life, I am an atheist but practically everyone in my family is a Christian, and I do think it has helped them succeed in certain areas where I have not succeeded.

        I really appreciate your idea that we have more science than ever before. Yet the numbers I can find indicate that billions of people, the majority of people, are still theists. As I've said, that is perplexing to me. Yet when I see those huge numbers, it seems like the beliefs, or practices, must still hold value?

        One place I think you may be erring is calling someone like Rick Warren "pseudoscience." To me pseudoscience is something really flaky like UFO's or astrology. Rick is in a very mainstream tradition that has succeeded for 2,000 years. Of course he is not a professional scientist, but I can't see him as being flaky like an astrologer is flaky.
        • Jan 27 2014: I think I've answered most of your points, but you're now adding that if an idea's been around for a long time, it's got to be better than a new idea, or something along those lines.

          Give it another 2000 years and UFO's might be as acceptable as Christianity and other mainstream religions?! How long have people believed in The Tooth Fairy? Maybe we should be taking The Tooth Fairy a lot more seriously!

          You seem to think that if stupidity is mainstream, it's better than stupidity that isn't mainstream. I'm not sure about your skills as a critical thinker. Maybe there's a more important question for you that you need answered rather than this conversation?
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        Jan 28 2014: No, I'm not saying that if an idea has been around for a long time, it's got to be better than a new idea. I'm saying that if an idea has been around for a long time, its long life suggests it has value. However, long life by itself might not give it value, in the case of religion I'm looking at the numbers of people who have followed it, which go to the billions, in fact the large majority of the human race. This fact suggests to me it has value as well. Apparently you disagree with this, Dave? But then you're saying that the billions of people who followed religion and gave it a long life were stupid? I guess that's possible, but it's very hard for me to think that the large majority of the human race are, or in the past were, stupid. After all, the human race has been quite successful?
        • Jan 28 2014: You say some funny stuff, Greg.

          Ok, so an idea that's been around a long time isn't better than a new idea, it just has more value than a new idea? I think you're wriggling! We're getting close to playing semantics.

          People often stick with an old idea because they don't know any better... doesn't mean the idea is the best idea going.

          Are people supremely intelligent because they've been around a long time? I think sharks and crocodiles have been around a lot longer, but I don't think any sharks or crocodiles have a PhD or have won a Nobel Prize. Crocodiles and Sharks have been around for millions of years. In the way you seem to measure things, they're a lot more successful than humans, so they must be more intelligent? Obviously not stupid? They hide their intelligence well, or do you need a different measure of success and intelligence?

          Religion over the centuries has been the source of much superstition, irrationality, persecution, maiming, bloodshed, murder, etc. I'm not sure it's been as much of a boon to civilisation as you seem to think. We're as civilised as we are despite religion, not because of it.

          I tend to think we're skirting around some other question or issue, like how you deal with the rest of your family? Maybe, how you talk to them when you don't have a religious faith and almost all of them do? Should we be having a different conversation, you and I?
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        Jan 29 2014: No, dave, I actually wasn't ranking them. If we say Idea A is an older idea that billions of people have followed and are still following, and Idea B is a new idea, it is possible that Idea B is better than Idea A. But I think Idea A still must have some value to have been followed by so many people by so long, and to still be being followed?

        So far I haven't listened to Rick Warren's talk. Does he specifically mention religion?
        • Jan 29 2014: Memes can take on a life of their own and religion/religious memes are no different. Just because a meme survives, doesn't mean that it's sensible, logical, beneficial (necessarily), etc.

          I can think of few reasons why it might be beneficial to sacrifice one's own child/children to appease imaginary gods. However, this was a popular idea for much longer than any existing religion I can think of that's around at the moment.

          The best antidote to religion may be for people to have to choose. E.g., you have tuberculosis, you can be prayed for and have any religious ceremony you like to help heal you, or you can have antibiotics and other modern medical interventions and treatments to heal you, now choose!

          I think the problem is human psychology. We're not always honest, logical, rational, etc. If we were forced to choose between science or religion (at least in some instances) but couldn't have both, then maybe we'd believe and act differently to the way we do at present. I think religious people want to have their cake and eat it too. Too many people get treatment at the doctors, or in hospital (for instance) but then thank 'God' when they get healed! Not very rational, nor very fair in my opinion. I'm sure they'd think differently though.
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        Feb 2 2014: well, Dave, it looks to me like now the thing for me to do would be to watch Rick Warren's talk, but I just can't get over the hump and do it. I'm pretty picky about what I watch.

        A kind of funny question that occurs in my mind is that although you seem critical of Warren's talk, you're probably promoting more people watching it by hosting this debate, sort of the opposite of what you intended?
        • Feb 2 2014: Well, for one, I'd only watch it if you have tine to kill and don't mind wasting your time. If I was to promote a talk, it would be Dan Dennett's talk he gave in response to Rick Warren. From Dan Dennett's talk you can get a good overview of what Rick Warren said and a measured response from a much respected philosopher.

          Choice is yours, Greg!
  • Jan 20 2014: I tried several times but No use, i even tried to resubmit now,
    • Jan 20 2014: You're posting on a discussion that has absolutely nothing to do with your idea. I'm sorry I can't help you, but this isn't the place to post your concerns. TED staff may also have been away for the weekend, so hang on and your idea may get posted today sometime, but there's nothing I can do for you either way!
  • Jan 20 2014: HI,

    Where is the IDEA i submitted for posting, NOthing told since many days..................................

    send an idea to be reviewed about special toll roads with electric coils by side, But no Information so far

    Can I know why no comment about the Idea I submitted, Either it is not workable etc, or why it cannot be posted, It was told 24 hours I could get a reply But so far 3 day nothing happens
    • Jan 20 2014: I think you've posted to the wrong place. Try contacting TED staff using the 'contact' link at the bottom of the page.
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      Jan 21 2014: did you post it on a Friday, the staff takes the weekend off sometimes so they don't review until Monday.
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    Jan 17 2014: You should not be afraid to listen even if you don't like the speaker or topic. Just don't listen to the topic if it does not fit your fancy.
    • Jan 17 2014: I understand your point, but does that mean that all ideas should be treated equally, however erroneous or ridiculous, and it's up to the audience to choose what's right or wrong? I can see some problems with this method of filtering.
  • Comment deleted

  • Jan 14 2014: Whilst I understand your points and agree with them generally, I do find it interesting that TED would appear to be breaking it's own rules. As you stated, TED's goal is to spread ideas THAT ARE WORTH SPREADING!

    I'd be interested to know who you think the 'kooks' are, their heroes, and which ideas really aren't worth spreading, just to see if we agree.

    It's remit would appear to suggest that by browsing through TED talks, one can circumvent the dross. However, as you say, this is not always true and one is sometimes disappointed. Part of my reason for asking the question/starting the debate was to see if others felt similarly, or at least agreed that I had a point.

    It's been interesting reading the responses, as ever.