Nathan Pieplow

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Nathan Pieplow
Posted about 1 year ago
Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx talk: Detailing the issues
"A TEDx talk can be removed from the TEDx archive if the ideas contained in it are wrong to the point of being unscientific." If that's truly the TED standard, then Sheldrake's talk should go. Sheldrake's talk is clearly pseudoscience. It meets the definition of pseudoscience because 1) he uses the rhetoric of science and presents himself as a scientist, but 2) the entire goal of his talk is discredit science as it is currently practiced. It's not a focused surgical strike on particular types of "bad" science, but a massive philosophical broadside that, if accepted at face value, would force all scientists to recant most of what they think they know. Sheldrake's central message is that science is largely wrong and that mainstream scientists should be distrusted. Intentionally or not, it plays into and reinforces unfortunate lines of thinking that can have dangerous consequences, from poor environmental regulation to the fatal mistreatment of disease. It's not a question of censorship. Sheldrake and his fantasies about telepathic rats will live forever on YouTube and elsewhere. (Long live the telepathic rats!) The question is whether his ideas deserve the TED seal of approval -- whether they rise to TED's initial standard. It comes down to what TED is all about. Are these talks supposed to be the best distillations of the best learning achievements of the best modern thinkers? Or is TED a place for society-wide brainstorming, in which everybody tosses out their ideas (good, bad, or crazy) to see which ones have the staying power to survive as memes? If TED's purpose is the former, some serious housecleaning is in order (and not just with Sheldrake). If it's the latter, Sheldrake and his ilk can stay on the stage, but many of us will continue to downwardly revise our expectations of your institution.